There are a lot of films that are either neglected or underappreciated by the critics and the mainstream audience. Because of their unique texture, some of these have developed a loyal cult following. Here is a list of some hidden cult gems, that either need to be rediscovered or gain more followers.
16. The Long Good Friday (1980)
Directed by John Mackenzie, “The Long Good Friday” is a breathtaking British gangster movie about the rise and fall of Harold Shand (Bob Hoskins), a fearless mobster who rules London. Although Harold is extremely notorious and powerful, he has a vision of making London great again. Moreover, Harold has to deal with unforeseen threats that aim to terminate not only his business but also his life. Helen Mirren also stars as Victoria, Harold’s mistress who is a classy, educated yet at the same time attractive and tough woman.
The performance by Bob Hoskins is truly outstanding and unforgettable, creating an iconic portrait of a furious gangster. Helen Mirren is also quite remarkable delivering a mesmerizing performance. Furthermore, the depiction of the British underworld culture and the bonus action scenes create not only a suspenseful thriller but also a great character study.
Despite the fact that “The Long Good Friday” is a pure gem of the British cinema, it is criminally underappreciated in other countries. It is an enigmatic gangster film without the cliches of the crime genre. Thus, this cult masterpiece deserves more love and attention.
15. Jabberwocky (1977)
“Jabberwocky” is a delightful medieval journey inspired by Lewis Carroll’s nonsense poem “Jabberwocky” (hence the title). Being the first feature film directed solely by Terry Gilliam, this epic satire focus on Dennis Cooper’s (Michael Palin) misadventure. Dennis is a young peasant, a son of a barrel-maker, who decides to seek his fortune in the city. There he encounters a series of misfortunate events, as well as a horrible monster (Jabberwock) that terrorizes the whole kingdom.
Although, “Jabberwocky” tells the story of a grim, dark and muddy world where everyone is corrupted and filthy, it stands out as a unique and hilarious fairy tale. The movie is filled with jokes, funny scenes and goofy characters that create a satirical depiction of the Middle Ages.
After the collaboration with the Monty Python team, this is Terry Gilliam’s first solo attempt to create his own distinctive style. He has a vision of a surreal yet visually stunning world where everything is deranged.
Despite the fact that “Jabberwocky” is an underrated quirky comedy, it stands out as a remarkable surrealistic depiction of chaos and evil. It is definitely an entertaining “hidden” gem of cult cinema that isn’t visually perfect, but it is warm and hilarious.
14. Sweet Movie (1974)
The director Dusan Makavejev creates another highly political yet quite a controversial and repulsive cult masterpiece. “Sweet Movie” is an absurd collection of bizarre stories with eccentric characters, delusional dreams, shocking scenes and raw war footage.
There are several recurring themes in this film like capitalism, nazism, anarchism, as well as pedophilia, emetophilia and sadomasochism. Although it is an extreme depiction of a mad reality, it is also an avant-garde comedy, a surreal satire with a plenty of funny scenes and wonderful music.
“Sweet Movie” was banned upon its release in several countries including the United Kingdom and Poland due to explicit and controversial content. It is also considered as a comedy version of another quite extreme masterpiece “Salò, or the 120 Days of Sodom” by Pier Paolo Pasolini. Both films are an experimental and shocking approach to subversive cinema. There a lot of graphic, brutal and disgusting scenes as well as non-subtle commentary on social politics and ethics.
Despite the fact that “Sweet Movie” is extremely repulsive, it is also a “hidden” gem of world cinema. If you dare to test this outrageous joyride, you should be prepared for a unique experience.
13. La Vie de Bohème (1992)
The master of minimalism and deadpan comedy Aki Kaurismäki delivers another cult masterpiece titled “La Vie de Vohème” (or “Bohemian Life”). The film follows the story of three eccentric artists who lack money, talent or fame. Through funny and unexpected events, the film depicts their struggle to make ends meet and find the purpose of life.
Although the movie is based on the novel “Scènes de la Vie de Bohème” by Henri Murger, Kaurismäki creates a modern version of the “Bohemian Life” that takes place in a working-class society. It is Kaurismäki’s tribute to the French New Wave and art-house films.
To be more specific this is a satirical look of the artistic French films of the 60s. It is obvious that Kaurismäki is influenced by the movement of Italian neorealism and Yasujiro Ozu’s vision, since he creates a realistic depiction of the “Bohemian Life” and a warm atmosphere.
Lovers of postmodern cinema and Jim Jarmusch’s fans will definitely enjoy this hidden gem of the Finnish culture. A truly existential piece of art.
12. Things Change (1988)
“Honesty is the fastest way to prevent a mistake from turning into a failure.”
“Things Change” is probably David Mamet’s most underrated movie of his filmography. Not only it is a delightful comedy of errors, but also a sophisticated and stylish crime-drama. The film tells the story of Gino (Don Ameche), an Italian shoe-shiner who is hired by the Mafia to take the blame for a murder. Jerry (Joe Mantegna), a gangster who is responsible for watching over Gino until the trial, decides to offer Gino the best weekend of his life at a luxurious resort. The rest of the story is a tragic and hilarious comedy of errors.
Overshadowed by David Mamet’s other works, this hidden gem is quite similar to Hal Ashby’s masterpiece “Being There”. Both films follow a humble main character who is naive, mysterious and extremely lucky. Although it is a paradoxical world where everything looks like a misunderstanding, there is a warm and charming atmosphere that stays with you for a long time.
Overall, “Things Change” is a wonderful world of high moral values and deep emotions. A pure underappreciated gem that deserves more love.
11. Images (1972)
Directed by the legendary filmmaker Robert Altman, “Images” is a neglected masterpiece of the 70s. Not only it is a psychological thriller, but also an intense and shocking drama.
“Images” tells the story of Cathryn (Susannah York) a psychotic and schizophrenic woman with delusional dreams and hallucinations, as well as extremely disorganized and violent behaviour. Being in an isolated country house with her husband, Cathryn has to deal with her suicidal thoughts and her depressed emotions. Her abnormal and violent behaviour leads to a series of tragic and misfortunate events.
Moreover, “Images” is a deep journey through the darkest side of the mind, where nothing looks real. Even the perception of reality looks more like a copy of an image rather than a true depiction. “Images” is quite similar to other psychotic films such as “Persona” by Ingmar Bergman and “Repulsion” by Roman Polanski. Only through a personal experience of pain, you can find the truth about yourself.
Despite the fact that “Images” is a forgotten and neglected masterpiece of Robert Altman’s filmography, it is a unique and challenging view of life. Thus, this outstanding film needs to be rediscovered.
10. The Limits of Control (2009)
“The Limits of Control” is Jim Jarmusch’s underappreciated minimalistic yet stylish version of a film-noir. The film follows a mysterious and lone hit man (Isaach De Bankolé), who is ready to finish another job. On his journey he encounters a lot of people from different countries who provide to him information about his target through philosophical conversations.
This is triumph of postmodernism is Jim Jarmusch’s tribute to French art cinema as well as an existential and poetic view of life. Although it is a film-noir, the movie is filled with meaningful dialogues about philosophy, culture and art. In addition, the colourful cinematography and the minimalistic music create a unique atmosphere. There is also an outstanding performance by Isaach De Bankolé, probably the best of his acting career. Furthermore, a lot of great actors appear as guests such as Tilda Swinton, Gael Garcia Bernal, Luis Tosar and of course Bill Murray.
“The Limits of Control” is a movie about art, a slow paced hidden gem of cult cinema that looks more like a poem than a story. Not only Jim Jarmusch manages to create a stylish film-noir, but also a modern piece of art.
9. Hard Boiled (1992)
The master of action John Woo creates another intense and entertaining crime drama. The film follows the story of a “hard-boiled” police cop, known as “Tequila”, who teams up with another undercover police agent in order to stop one of the biggest gun smuggling gangs of Hong Kong. Not only “Tequila” has to fight against a number of ruthless and violent smugglers, but also to protect his new partner.
“Hard Boiled” is probably one of the best action films of all time. The numerous shootout scenes, the real stunts and the excessive violence create a suspenseful atmosphere that enhances the story. Not only it is a cool police drama with plot twists, but also a powerful action film filled with explosions, epic gun fight scenes and bloody murders.
It goes without saying that this is a triumph of Hong Kong cinema. A cult classic that will offer you an intense and as well as entertaining cinematic experience.