2018 has treated us kindly with big-budget releases like Deadpool 2, Black Panther, and Mission: Impossible – Fallout. It’s even more impressive to see more modestly budgeted movies performing exceptionally well at the box office.
Movies like Crazy Rich Asians and A Quiet Place don’t seem like guaranteed successes, but they have managed to make quite a splash following their release. With so many commercially successful motion pictures being released, it may be easy to overlook certain movies. Movies that were quietly given a limited release or VOD release are easy to overlook in favor of the movies everybody in the world seems to be talking about.
That’s not entirely fair though. Box office success and word-of-mouth don’t necessarily overshadow actual quality. The fact is, there are too many movies to keep track of which means too many people are missing out on quality filmmaking. That’s why this list exists.
Below, you’ll read about ten movies that have flown under the radar. The mission is to give these movies some exposure so that people can throw them into cinema-centered conversations. There’s only so much Black Panther talk people can feasibly handle. Let’s move onto something a little more underground.
1. The Endless
It’s kind of odd to make a spiritual successor to a movie nobody saw, but the directing duo behind The Endless decided to make their own film universe following the release of the criminally underseen Resolution.
It feels weird to call this movie a hidden gem when its “predecessor” is even more under-the-radar, but let’s be real: not a lot of people saw this movie either. The people who have seen it seem to agree that it’s a thrilling mindbender that boggles the mind one weird twist at a time.
Unfortunately, we’re going to have to keep things brief in regards to the plot. This is really a movie that people need to go into blind. Exposure to aforementioned sister film would help viewers appreciate this one, but that’s about all people need to know before pressing the play button.
Because of the secretive nature of the movie, talking about specifics is a no-go. Instead, let’s just say that The Endless is a highly intelligent sci-fi horror movie that brings to mind movies like Predestination and Coherence. It’s a low-budget sci-fi movie with high-budget concepts and ideas.
The complexity isn’t going to work for everyone. In fact, some people will be quick to label it downright nonsensical. That’s completely untrue though. Each subsequent watch results in more information being revealed. The more information, the more the movie starts to make sense. Everything exists in this movie for a reason. Just trust the filmmakers and let your brain do some extra work.
Revenge is one of the most visceral and hypnotic rape revenge movies to come out this century. Hell, it may be one of the best in the genre, period. This particular genre of movies mostly died out after the 1970s, but there have been some solid releases since the popularity died down.
Still, none of them offer the kind of ultra-violent satisfaction one can get from Revenge. Although the heavy reliance on tropes could be considered a crutch, it’s easier to say that the movie just does an excellent job of paying homage to the greats.
While movies like Last House on the Left provide viewers with plenty of gruesome violence, Revenge feels far more in touch with the sentiments of 21st century viewers. It doesn’t feel quite as exploitative. On the contrary, the movie sensitively approaches the stomach-turning subject matter. That may be hard to see when buckets of blood are metaphorical thrown at the audience, but careful scrutiny reveals that this movie actually has something smart to say.
Then again, the commentary is only a small part of what makes Revenge special. Truthfully, the grindhouse thrills are just as satisfying. Viewers who wish to ignore the underlying message are plenty capable of having fun with gritty tone and fast-paced action. Sure, it’s smart, but it’s also a ton of fun. That combination is a match made in heaven.
3. Sweet Country
Folks that like character studies need to watch Sweet Country. Folks that like history need to watch Sweet Country. Who are we kidding? Folks that like movies need to watch Sweet Country. If you, like many people, read the synopsis and think “wow, this sounds boring,” stop what you’re doing and reevaluate. True, a movie about an aboriginal farmer isn’t exactly a guaranteed success, but this movie knows how to captivate even the most cynical of moviegoers.
That’s because there’s undeniable craftsmanship behind and in front of the camera. Warwick Thornton is anything but a household name, but his skill as a director is obvious from the beginning. Similarly, the mostly no-name cast is consistently excellent.
There are some bigger names like Sam Neill, but in reality, everyone onscreen is at the top of his or her game. This all works incredibly well with a story that’s touching and insightful. It’s hard to get into too much depth, but be aware that there’s a lot worth reading into throughout Sweet Country.
The early and limited release date essentially doomed Sweet Country. It missed the awards-crazy crowd that would really appreciate it because it came out at the wrong time. This may sound like high praise, but this is a movie that really could’ve picked up some awards if only it was marketed better. Don’t let the poor marketing deter you. This is a movie you won’t soon forget.
4. Ghost Stories
Ghost Stories is one of two (very different) anthology movies featured on this list. This one slightly edges out the other, but in reality, the comparison begins and ends with the storytelling format. Beyond that, they’re completely different beasts.
The real joy comes not from the anthology format but from the non-stop thrills that come from a horror movie that’s genuinely scary. It’s great to give props to horror movies that have intelligent social commentaries, but sometimes you just want to sit down and watch a horror movie that can actually scare the pants off of you.
Maybe “scare the pants off of you” is a reach. Ghost Stories is hardly the scariest movie out there, but it’s surprising to see a movie that can make your skin crawl to this degree. Like all anthology movies, some of the stories are better than others, but all three of the main stories are more than capable of making the most fearless moviegoers watch through their fingers. This, combined with technical prowess and ace acting, results in a movie that’s hard not to recommend. This is especially the case if you’re a fan of the genre.
It’s not flawless, but it ranks up there with Hereditary and A Quiet Place as one of the best horror films to come along this year. The ending may not work for everyone. The overlapping stories may not work for everyone either. The amount of commitment behind the camera, however, certainly satisfies.
Those of you who were upset by the the indefinite delay of the Heathers TV show have nothing to worry about. For one, that show looked like absolute garbage. More importantly, there’s a (presumably) far more entertaining alternative that might bring you the joy that Heathers did way back when. It’s called Thoroughbreds, and it’s a damn blast.
This darkly comedic movie revolves around two unlikely friends who decide to plan an even more unlikely murder. Like Heathers, a stereotypically “normal” person is introduced to someone a little less normal. From there, all hell breaks loose. It’s generally a pretty fun movie, but it’s also whip-smart thanks to clever dialogue and strong character development.
The only issue may stem from the fact that the movie doesn’t handle mental health as well as it should. Some may leave the movie feeling as though people with mental illnesses are somehow lesser. Amanda, Olivia Cooke’s character, is often treated as some sort of “other.”
To be fair, this is a bit of an extreme viewpoint, and it’s something that doesn’t seem intentional. Still, there will be people who misunderstand what the movie is trying to say, and that’s a shame. Let it be clear that this is a very minor gripe, especially since it has just as much to do with people’s interpretation as it does the movie’s message. Basically, Thoroughbreds is a darkly fun, if occasionally messy, time at the movies.