Movies are an art form that has captivated audiences for over a century. While some films become instant classics and are widely recognized for their cinematic excellence, there are many others that are hidden gems that have not received the recognition they deserve. These cinematic masterpieces often go unnoticed, even by the biggest movie fans.
But, just because a film is not well-known does not mean it lacks artistic merit. In fact, many of these lesser-known films offer a unique and unforgettable viewing experience that is worth discovering.
1. Aniara (2018)
Based on Harry Martinson’s novel-length poem, Aniara tells the story of a massive spaceship transporting thousands of people from Earth to Mars that is moved off its course after evading a collision. It’s an incredible film that explores how people respond to crises, what kinds of hope we seek, and how long that hope lasts.
2. Happiness (1998)
Happiness is one of the darkest black comedies ever made. The film follows a large ensemble cast, including Philip Seymour Hoffman, Lara Flynn Boyle, and Dylan Baker, as they navigate their lives and perversions. It’s a movie that will dare you to laugh but also ensures you it’s laughing with you.
3. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai is an incredibly unique movie that deserves far more attention than it gets. The film follows the titular Ghost Dog (Forest Whitaker), a hitman for the mafia who follows the teachings of the samurai warrior codebook Hagakure as he is marked for death.
Yet, despite that premise, the film is remarkably light and atmospheric, full of scenes of Ghost Dog with his pet pigeons and best friend, an ice cream man who can only speak French (Ghost Dog cannot speak French).
4. The Wolf House (2018)
The Wolf House (La Casa Lobo) is a must-watch for any fans of stop-motion animation. As the movie lover who recommends it says, “the animation looks great and is super trippy the way sculptures and paintings almost grow out from the walls in the house.” The film follows a woman who escapes a cult and finds refuge (or is it) in a mysterious house.
5. The Great Silence (1968)
While The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Django are rightly lauded as some of the best westerns ever made, they often overshadow other fantastic Spaghetti Westerns like The Great Silence. The film, by Django director Sergio Corbucci, centers on a snowbound town as two ruthless bounty hunters attack.
6. Tetsuo: The Iron Man (1989)
Often left out of discussions of the greatest science fiction and body horror films, Tetsuo: The Iron Man is a cult classic that deserves the same recognition as Alien and The Thing. It’s a movie that’s more built on visual and aural assault than narrative but is so full of incredibly creative and disturbing visuals that it’s carved out a dedicated (if too small) fanbase.
7. The Endless (2017)
Writing and directing duo Aaron Moorhead and Justin Benson have made a name for themselves working on MCU shows like Loki and Moon Knight. However, their high-concept science fiction films are still massively underseen. The best of those films is The Endless, which follows two brothers (played by Benson and Moorhead) returning to the cult where they grew up and discovering overlapping and potentially inescapable time loops.
8. Out of the Past (1947)
Major film noirs like The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, and Double Indemnity get far more attention than other, just as deserving films. One of the best of those often-overlooked films is Jacques Tourneur’s Out of the Past, starring Robert Mitchum. The film follows Mitchum as a private investigator who has left that life behind but is dragged back in by an old acquaintance. It’s a gorgeous movie with significant flashbacks, a voice-over, and a great femme fatale played by Jane Greer.
9. Near Dark (1987)
Kathryn Bigelow may be the first woman to have won an Oscar for Best Director (for The Hurt Locker). But much of her earlier filmography is still hugely underseen. Near Dark is one of her best; the film features a fantastic ensemble cast, including Lance Henriksen and Bill Paxton, and brings together the Western and vampire genres in a delightfully unique way as it follows a group of vampires across the American Southwest.
10. The Fall (2006)
Several movie lovers agree that The Fall is one of the best movies that isn’t widely recognized. One calls the film about a man who tells a young girl fantastical story that we see play out “visually stunning,” while another says the film is so striking that “Visually stunning is a complete understatement.”
11. Dope (2015)
Dope is a coming-of-age crime comedy that centers on three friends who find themselves in possession of cocaine and have to offload it quickly. The movie is a joyous and emotionally impactful ride that beautifully weaves in themes of race, class, and social mobility.
12. Mysterious Skin (2004)
In Mysterious Skin, Joseph Gordon-Levitt delivers what may be the best performance of his career as a young gay hustler struggling to come to terms with the abuse he suffered as a child. The film isn’t easy, but it is incredibly powerful and doesn’t get the attention it deserves.
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This article was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Kyle Logan is a film and television critic and general pop culture writer who has written for Alternative Press, Cultured Vultures, Film Stories, Looper, and more. Kyle is particularly interested in horror and animation, as well as genre films written and directed by queer people and women. Along with writing, Kyle organizes a Queer Film Challenge on Letterboxd.