Yes, The Shawshank Redemption and Mulholland Drive are both fantastic movies, but what is the point of reminding you of that in every list?
Beyond frequent cult overstatements and box office revenue correlations, we decided to count down the 100 best and most unjustly little-known movies. A list of real suggestions you can make your way through.
Our purpose at agoodmovietowatch is to reference movies you haven’t yet seen, that you can watch immediately and love. To do this, we only recommend movies that have received a high rating on IMDb combined with a high score on Rotten Tomatoes. This means that these movies have been appreciated by both critics and viewers, so you can trust that they’re awesome. We also only suggest movies that didn’t make a huge splash at the box office or which didn’t get the attention they deserved, so there is little chance you have already seen them.
The Last Man on the Moon is a documentary about astronaut Eugene Cernan, Commander of the Apollo 17 lunar landing mission in 1972. Chronicled by Cernan himself as he reminisces on his life, the film follows his early career with the Navy, his recruitment and training as an astronaut, and his participation in 3 trips to space: Gemini 9A, Apollo 10 and eventually Apollo 17—the last of NASA’s six expeditions to the Moon. Cern also delves heartfully into his loss of friends as well as his regretfulness for missing out on so much family time while away. It’s a poignant and inspiring account, with Cern providing a fine lesson in the confidence and diligence in takes to pursue and accomplish one’s dreams
Enough Said is a realistically sweet movie that handles serious emotions without compromising its comedic chops. It portrays the difficulties and doubts that come with post-divorce relations in a somewhat goofy and original way. James Gandolfini is impeccably wonderful in his last lead role, and joined by Julia Louis-Dreyfus they generate exquisite chemistry right from their first scene together all the way until the movie ends.
Like many other beautiful movies such as Your Sister’s Sister, Enough Said is hilarious, romantic, but to that it adds being smart and realistic. You’ll love it.
Based on a true story, The Whistleblower is the biography of a once Nebraskan police officer who volunteers for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in post-war Bosnia. Once there, she uncovers a human trafficking scandal involving peacekeeping officials, and finds herself alone against a hostile system in a devastated country. Rachel Weisz plays the whistleblower in a powerful lead role, but the true star of the movie is its director, Larysa Kondracki, who thanks to near documentary-style film-making delivers a perfectly executed political thriller with utmost authenticity.
The true story of Oscar Grant III, a 22-year-old black man on the last day of 2008, where his will to change is challenged by his past, surroundings, and the police. You’ve probably read and heard a lot about young black men’s sad recent encounters with the police, and for this reason you might feel like skipping this film. Don’t.
Produced by Academy Award winner Forest Whitaker, it is so compassionate and powerfully told, that it surpasses the sadness of its subject matter to almost be a celebration of life. It is an extraordinary and important watch.
In the grand tradition of the ethnographic world tours like Mondo Cane, Samsara hits you in the face with the diversity and wonder of human life on earth. Unlike many of its predecessors, which often descended into colonialist gawping, Samara maintains a non judgmental gaze. This film uses no words or narration to travel the world showing you the breathtaking beauty of various countries, cultures, religions, cities, industries and nature. Shot on 70mm film, the definition and clarity has to be seen to be believed.
City Island is a lighthearted comedy/drama about the Rizzo family, residents of the titular fishing community in The Bronx, New York. Andy Garcia plays the patriarch of the family who works as a corrections officer, and who decides one day to bring home a young ex-con named Tony under somewhat mysterious circumstances. Tony soon becomes entwined in the dysfunctional household as he develops varying relationships with each family member, even as each of them lives their own secret life apart from the rest. This secrecy drives much of the plot, as their personal mysteries play out in an unexpected and often amusing ways. It’s a lively slice-of-life full of boisterous characters, comedic misunderstandings and ultimately a warm embrace of family unity.
Youth is a film about Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) a famous composer vacationing at a resort in the Swiss Alps with his friend Mick (Harvey Keitel), an accomplished filmmaker, and his daughter Lena (Rachel Weisz). While Fred shuns his work (including an opportunity to play for the Queen of England) and muddles himself in disillusionment, Mick works fervently on his final film, intended to be his life’s crowning achievement. Their remaining time is spent intermingling amongst the guests and reminiscing upon their lives, their achievements, their failures and their undying yearnings. From writer/director Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty), Youth is another charming work offering an array of eccentric characters and quirky scenarios, while also serving as a touching examination of age, wisdom and ultimately personal reckoning.
From Steven Spielberg, Munich is the sharp and thrilling depiction of Mossad agents on a mission to avenge the Munich Massacre, the killing of 11 Israeli Olympic team members at the 1972 Summer Olympics. Despite being based on real events, it’s a work of fiction. This allows the film to stand on clear yet nuanced grounds, focusing on the moral dilemmas that may rise for the secret agents and the perpetrators, now targets. The ensemble cast including Daniel Craig and Eric Bana allow Spielberg to deliver the film you can tell he wanted to make. A personal and striking effort.
I didn’t know anything about the movie before watching it (this was my husband’s pick for ‘one of us picks something that the other knows nothing about’ night). It is Korean, sweet, funny, touching, unique, odd, poignant. I think the fact I knew nothing about the movie when I watched made it even more enjoyable so I hesitate to write more details in this review! Since watching it I have read that an American remake may be in the works, so I would recommend watching it before there is too much info out there about what is destined to be a less charming and successful version
Written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan (Manchester by the Sea) and featuring the ever-reliable Mark Ruffalo as well as a fantastic performance from Laura Linney, You Can Count on Me is a beautiful and beautifully told story of siblings growing apart and later finding each other again. Sammy (Linney) helped raise her younger brother Terry (Ruffalo) after they were orphaned at an early age. Now a single mother, her life turns around when Terry comes back after a long time of being absent, with the two having become almost completely different people in between. Such an honest, genuine exploration of unconditional love, think of it as much more hopeful The Skeleton Twins.
When Brian was eight years old he lost five hours of his life to a black out. Now ten years later he is searching for the truth. His search leads him to Neil, a boy who was on his little league team the summer of the blackout. Brian has always believed he was abducted by aliens from the dreams he had with Neil in them. Neil however knows the truth. Neil had just left the small town life and moved to New York. When he comes home for Christmas and meets Brian will he finally tell him the answers he has been looking for? This is the story of one boy who can’t remember and a boy who can’t forget.
A film written by screenwriter Charlie Kaufman, about screenwriter Charlie Kaufman as he struggles to adapt a book about poaching a rare plant into a successful movie. Through Kaufman’s clever writing and Spike Jones’ unique style of directing, the film unfolds using “mise en abîme” as the viewer sees the lessons the writer in film comes across to improve his script more or less subtly influence the events he encounters as the narrative advances. Nicolas Cage’s performance is also particularly good as a highly intelligent and self-obsessed screen writer with low self-esteem.
Ex Machina is the brilliant science fiction film from the writer of 28 Days Later (and 28 Weeks Later). It tells the story of a developer who is invited by his billionaire CEO to participate in a groundbreaking experiment with the artificially intelligent Ava. When the developer starts interacting with Ava, questions of trust and ethics collide with his own views and commitment to give an interesting and thrilling take on artificial intelligence from different angles. The visual effects are not only stunning but extremely efficient making Ex Machina feel as casually futuristic as Her, and in its emphasis on ideas as daringly simple as a David Fincher production.
A very poetic film by Tony Kaye (American History X) about an English Literature teacher (Adrien Brody – “The Pianist”) who only works as a substitute in schools which are located in very poor urban areas. The reason behind his choice is that he doesn’t want to bond too much with his students and colleagues because he is trying to control his dark emotions about life and the triviality of our existences (although it sounds depressing it is absolutely not). He also takes care of his last family connection, his grandfather, to whom he is very close and who lives in an elderly home. Unsurprisingly, their relationship is very emotional and deep. Every time you think about your existence, your place in the world, your interactions with other people; watch Detachment.
A seven year old Bryce (Callan McAuliffe) moves to a new neighbourhood across the street from a very spirited little girl named Juli (Madeline Carroll). She falls in love at first sight much to the dismay of the shy young lad. For the next six years, Juli overwhelms Bryce with her affections until a series of events and misunderstandings leaves her heartbroken and angry at him. Fed up, Juli begins to ignore him. However, her absence triggers a change of heart as Bryce realizes his fondness of her. He will do anything to win her back.
The whole film, set in the late fifties holds the warmth and charm of small town living. With a balance of passion and playfulness, the extraordinary young cast are brilliant in their roles. Based on the novel by Wendelin Van Draanen, this endearing story of young puppy love, will make your heart melt!
An intriguing, funny and rather bizarre movie which serves as a fantastic introduction to ‘new-wave’ German cinema. Featuring a cast of young talented actors and excellent direction, this movie takes place around the time the Berlin wall fell and East and West Berlin were still united. Christiane, a devout socialist activist in East Berlin suffers an accident which leaves her in a coma, during which time the Berlin wall comes down and Western capitalism encroaches on her beloved East Berlin. Fearing that she may relapse into a coma after waking up, her doctors warn that she must remain calm and not endure any shocks. Despite the somewhat contrived premise, the film really takes off from this point as her son Alex and his friend aim to hide this fact from her, by faking news reports on the television, coming up with excuses for a giant Coca Cola banner and a whole host of other amusing exploits to prevent her from knowing. While categorised as a comedy, it is also a moving portrayal of a loving family enduring great, historic change.
Nebraska is a poem distilled into a film. Peter Travers from Rolling Stone says “is it a comedy or a drama? Both at the same time, as life itself.” Everything about it is perfect: the acting, the photography, the story. In case that’s not enough and you need to know the plot to get convinced, I’ll tell you that it’s a road movie about a senile old man and his son. If you still want more information, you can Google it, but come on! You’ll just be wasting time that would be better spent on watching this masterpiece.
Sensibly written and thoughtfully directed, intuitively acted, bitter-sweet like Belgian chocolate, and propelled by incredible bluegrass music, this is one of my coming-home movies. Aside from the beautiful imagery and stunning music, the highly emotional subject matter is perfect for summer nights. It’ll leave you full and empty, it’ll make you cry, value life, and will also more than likely get you back into bluegrass again. Elise and Dedier fall passionately in love despite their differences, but when their daughter falls ill, their future together becomes uncertain.
Undefeated won an Oscar but since it’s a documentary, few sadly paid attention to it. It tells the story of a football team in a poor area in Tennessee. Kids without a bright future, until the new coach arrives. Yes, that sounds like a very old, cliché tale. But keep in mind it is a documentary, and the story it tells is so powerful, so gripping, that any familiarity quickly becomes irrelevant. Even if you have no interest in American football, or in sports in general, you will love it and more than likely find yourself reaching for the Kleenex at least a few times before the credits roll.
Wadjda is a smart, spirited 10-year-old girl who wants nothing more than to own her own bike, something that is frowned upon in the Saudi Arabian suburb where she lives. While it’s not technically illegal for women to own bikes, it is thought of as something that is “dangerous to a girl’s virtue,” and it’s worth noting that this is a society where women are also not allowed to drive their own cars. Wadjda devises numerous schemes to earn enough money to buy a bike (selling bracelets, making mixes of Western pop songs, delivering clandestine messages between men and women), before getting caught by the headmistress at her school. It is then that Wadjda hits on the ultimate money-making scheme: there is to be a Koran-reciting contest at her school with a hefty cash prize, and she’s determined to win. There is a subplot involving a growing rift between Wadjda’s parents; while there is clearly a lot of love between both parties, it becomes increasingly clear that her father may be leaving her mother for another woman who could potentially bear him a son (a common practice). This subplot is handled with respect and little judgement though, as it is simply the way things work in this culture. Yet, as Wadjda is coming-of-age and learning about the limitations placed on her as a girl, she is obviously negotiating ingenious ways of pushing back against those limitations. The film is subtle and humane in how it handles the slowly changing cultural and gender dynamics in a traditionally conservative, patriarchal society. It wouldn’t work without a strong central performance from first-time actor Waad Mohammed though — she is never less than believable as a clever, determined and joyful 10-year-old, and her journey towards adulthood is both heartbreaking and inspiring.
A film by legendary director Werner Herzog where he travels to Antarctica, or rather you travel with him to study the people, the places, and the wild life of the South Pole. And when I say people I mean scientists and researchers but also truck drivers, plummers, and basically everyone with an interesting dream. This is a film for all curious minds, whether suit-trapped in a big city or out there in contact with nature every day. It’s a combination so deep of unbelievable scenery and tangible sequences, that it almost becomes intangible, almost a religious experience.
A fish out of water coming-of-age story with an abundance of charm. Greg Gaines, a kid with few to zero close people finds himself obliged to befriend a girl recently diagnosed with cancer. She enters his seemingly balanced social life and he tries to adjusts to her new predicament, and the story goes from there. There is excellent cinematography and really funny sequences, but to me what is most amazing is that with three perfectly played and perfectly written characters, you are sure to see parts of yourself in either Greg, Earl, or Rachel – if not some parts in each one.
Like Father, Like Son is a profoundly interesting, multi-layered Japanese film about a young couple who come to learn that their son was unknowingly switched at birth with another boy, and begin a complicated relationship with their real son and his family. Both sides struggle to cope with the looming possibility of returning each boy to his true parents, while the differences between the two families in means and lifestyle lend further complications to their attitudes and their ability to find resolution. It’s an even-handed yet poignant story that examines the difficult emotions around parenthood and parental expectation, including a meaningful examination of the “nature versus nurture” argument. Very honest and real — you’ll enjoy it even more if you appreciate the intricate style of Japanese cinema. Winner of the Jury Prize at Cannes.
A sleek revision of the classic Charlotte Brontë novel, the 2011 version of Jane Eyre features Mia Wasikowska as the titular governess and Michael Fassbender as her employer-and-lover-with-a-secret, Rochester — both lending stunningly aggrieved performances to the tale of their burgeoning love affair. The film is somber yet wonderfully polished as it plays out their individual complexities and growing passions. This film is also notable as the sophomore directorial effort of Cary Fukunaga, who would go on to great acclaim for his work on the first season of True Detective as well as Beasts of No Nation. Fans of Fukunaga’s work are just a likely to enjoy this one as are devotees of well-crated adaptations of classic literature.
This is a touching saga based on the plight of the women labelled as “fallen” that the Magdalene Laundries housed in Ireland. The movie grips you by the throat right from the first minute and the sense of injustice to women that characterizes the entire length of the film only rarely eases up to give you room to appreciate the emotional complexities that each individual character represents.
The stories of Margaret, Bernadette and Rose and the people they meet inside the Magdalene Laundry will force you to ask time and again during the movie, “Why?” and “Who are they to?”. You will share in Bernadette’s sense of outrage, in Rose’s compassion and Margaret’s acute fear of the church, of speaking up and asking for justice. So much so, that you may even find yourself identifying with (or at least understanding) Crispina’s questionable grasp on reality. Worst of all, the devout Catholic establishment that this was, hypocrisy and corruption ran through its every vein, adding to the shock and resentment that builds towards the, for the lack of a better word, captors of our protagonists.
The Magdalene Sisters is a tribute to one of the forgotten chapters in a long history of injustice to women and an absolutely moving one at that. It does not fail to utterly horrify while it also warms your heart.
There is a unique emotional approach to Danish films rarely matched by anything else, that has to be seen to be understood. Oscar-nominated After The Wedding perfectly embodies that. Jacob Peterson (played by Mads Mikkelsen) is an idealist who runs a financially struggling orphanage in India. He returns to Copenhagen to seek a large donation when he discovers that in order to get the money he will be unveiling dark secrets about his own personal past. Scenes are stretched, and feel incredibly realistic. But because of the great plot and premise as well as the fantastic cast, they’re never boring — on the contrary, After the Wedding is thrilling and at all times interesting. You will also feel that it is capturing every emotion you’ve ever encountered, or will ever encounter in the short two hours it spans.
TRIGGER WARNING: THIS FILM IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART. CONTAINS VERY GRAPHIC SCENES. In fact, the movie opens with rape. While definitely not an easy watch, it is an incredible story and it should definitely be seen by more people.
Set in the 1970s during the peasant revolts, a group of locals in the rural areas organize a rebellion against the government. The movie starts with the government fighting this insurgency by sending soldiers to the village, where they rape, torture, beat, and kill the villagers. The soldiers unknowingly cut off the locals from their ammunition supply by occupying the fields in which the ammunition is secretly hidden. Don Plutarco, an old man and violinist (who is missing a hand), attempts to pass this checkpoint though, in order to “check on his corn crops.” The soldiers agree, but only if he stays for a daily music lesson.
As Plutarco comes every day, he secretly smuggles the ammunition into his violin case, right under the guards’ noses. The story is incredibly moving, showing the heart wrenching tragedies the peasants go through, as well as the way music moves the guards, despite what they think of the peasants. I’d highly recommend it, but only for those with strong stomachs.
You’ve probably watched and heard about enough Holocaust films to expect a formula, but you might want to put all that aside going into The Boy in Striped Pajamas. Bruno, the son of a WWII Nazi commandant forms an unlikely friendship with a Jewish kid his age in his father’s concentration camp. The film is World War II told through Bruno’s eyes, and while you might not get why this movie is so highly praised in its first scenes, the twisting and profound second half will have you recommending it to everyone in need of a moving story well executed, or quite simply a good cry.
An instant classic, Beast of No Nation is a unique and uniquely-paced war drama which ranges in patterns from explosive visual storytelling to calm character studies. A child joins a rebel group consisting almost entirely of children and led by a charismatic leader credited as Commandant. As you get to witness the conflict through the child’s eyes, his own development and his commander’s, the film unfolds as an exploration of the never ending, pathetic state of war in Africa. From there it takes you to varying conclusions, most of which you will have trouble admitting you’ve reached.
As Commandant, Idris Elba is transfixing, proving once more that he is one of the best actors of our time. The whole cast of almost entirely non-actors, as well as the deeply authentic staging by True Detective and Sin Nombre director Cary Fukunaga, are both mesmerizing. So, while undeniably a tough watch, on a scale of 1 to go watch this movie immediately, this film ranks a million.
Waking Life is composed exclusively of a series of conversations involving the main character, with him sometimes participating and sometimes just as a spectator. The discussions revolve around issues such as metaphysics, free will, social philosophy or the meaning of life. The title refers to a quote from Jorge Santayana: “sanity is a madness put to good uses; waking life is a dream controlled.”, and the whole movie wanders around the state of a lucid dream, emphasized by the rotoscoping technique in which it was filmed. Waking Life is not just a movie worth watching, it is a movie worth watching a thousand times, because you will always notice something that you have previously missed out.
First-time filmmaker Dave Grohl captures nothing less than the full spirit of a place which would otherwise appear as a dump. The spirit of Sound City Studios was fostered by Rock-And-Roll greats such as Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Metallica, Tom Petty, Rick Springfield, Nirvana and many others. In this regard, sound City is a fascinating display of Rock history, from the major talents of the era to how the industry has changed over the years. However it is more than just a well made documentary; its story is a very entertaining thing to watch, and the way it portrays characters is both sweet and intimate.
Dave Grohl’s creation resembles in many ways the F1 documentary, Senna. You do not need to be a fan of their themes or have much knowledge around them to appreciate what tremendous and enjoyable pieces of film-making these movies are.