21st Century’s 100 Best Overlooked Movies

21st Century’s 100 Best Overlooked Movies

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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.

40. Waves (2019)

best

8.7

Country

United States of America, USA Canada

Director

Trey Edward Shults

Actors

Alexa Demie, Avis-Marie Barnes, Bill Wise, Carter Harcek

Moods

Gripping, Slice-of-Life, Suspenseful

A beautifully shot movie about a high-schooler who’s pushed by his father to always work and exercise the hardest. He aces his exams and always wins at wrestling, but nothing is ever good enough for the father and there is no margin for error. When things with both his body and his relationship start going wrong, his existence comes crashing down. This movie has two parts, and it takes a lot of narrative risks, but the beautiful camera work and believable characters land every single risk. It’s an incredible achievement and a movie that should have gotten much more attention than it did.

39. Pain and Glory (2019)

best

8.7

Country

Spain

Director

Pedro Almodóvar

Actors

Agustín Almodóvar, Antonio Banderas, Asier Etxeandia, Asier Flores

Moods

A-list actors, Emotional, Romantic

This is the latest Oscar-nominated movie by Spain’s highest-regarded director, Pedro Almodóvar. It’s his most personal work to date, being a slightly fictionalized account of his youth and then the last couple of years. He is mostly portrayed by Antonio Banderas, who was also nominated for an Oscar for this role; while another star performance comes from Penélope Cruz who plays his mother in the flashback scenes. Pain and Glory is about life in the arts: how a tormented artistic personality is formed, the days of focusing on work over relationships, and dealing with the consequences later in life. It begs the question: in Almodóvar’s life, was the glory that got him to making as great of a movie as this one worth the pain?

38. Upgrade (2018)

8.7

Country

Australia, United States of America

Director

Leigh Whannell

Actors

Abby Craden, Arthur Angel, Benedict Hardie, Betty Gabriel

This film really satisfied my craving for an original thriller, despite the fact that I spent most of it thinking about how Logan Marshall-Green looks like a budget Tom Hardy.

He plays a guy whose wife is killed during a violent mugging that also leaves him paralyzed in the aftermath. When a billionaire approaches him with an Artificial Intelligence solution that would “upgrade” his body, he has a chance to take vengeance.

This is Robocop meets Ex Machina meets Blade Runner. It’s original, low-budget without feeling low-budget, and honestly just so thrilling. It gives the genre of sci-fi a much needed upgrade.

37. Angry Inuk (2016)

best

8.8

Country

Canada

Director

Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Female director

Actors

Aaju Peter, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Instructive, Mind-blowing

Like all great documentaries, Angry Inuk is about way more than its tagline. At first glance, it’s about how anti-sealing activism has been harming Inuit communities since the 1980s, to the point of instituting the highest rates of hunger and suicide anywhere in the “developed” world. But beyond, it’s about the complicity of the government of Canada. A crushed seal-based economy means that the Inuit have to agree to oil and uranium mining in the Arctic.

Angry Inuk is also about the corrupt behavior of animal rights organizations like Greenpeace: seals are actually not on the endangered animal list but NGOs focus on them because they make them money.

It’s an infuriating but incredibly important documentary. One that is not about how Canada has a bad history, but about how Canada is harming the Inuit right now.

36. Arrhythmia (2017)

best

8.8

Country

Finland, Germany, Russia

Director

Boris Khlebnikov

Actors

Aleksandr Samoylenko, Aleksandr Yatsenko, Anna Ichetovkina, Anna Kotova

Moods

Depressing, Dramatic, Slice-of-Life

This is an excellent Russian movie about an ambulance unit and the paramedic that leads it. 

His long-time relationship starts suffering from a combination of alcoholism and his devotion to his work, which are also linked together. This is set in a country where ambulances are underfunded and the health-care system is frail. 

As a consequence, the story of Arrhythmia is one of a worker dedicated to saving their patients’ lives in a system that seems not to care. This is portrayed in the ambulance’s everyday missions, but also in the paramedic’s decaying relationship. It’s Blue Valentine meets an Andrey Zvyagintsev movie like Elena. Sadly, it might be more realistic than both those movies, and added to the fact that it’s Russian, it has stayed severely under-watched since it came out.

35. First Reformed (2018)

best

8.8

Country

United States of America

Director

Paul Schrader

Actors

Amanda Seyfried, Bill Hoag, Cedric the Entertainer, Christopher Dylan White

Moods

A-list actors, Discussion-sparking, Thought-provoking

When asked about starring in First Reformed, Ethan Hawke said it’s the kind of role he would have never dared to audition for 10 years ago. This is coming from the same goatee icon who did Gattaca 22 years ago, and Training Day 18 years ago. 

Needless to say that his performance in this movie is exceptional, and we hope that it will be rewarded with an Oscar. The film centers around his character, a reverend of a church in New York, who is trying to help a couple with marital issues (deciding the fate of a pregnancy). Instead, he uncovers a deeper story and becomes unexpectedly involved. 

Religion intersects with ethical questions on activism, abortion, and environmental issues. I know that sounds like a lot, but First Reformed delivers on everything. The writing by Paul Schrader is delicate yet ensures that the movie keeps a gripping pace.

34. Struggle: The Life And Lost Art Of Szukalski (2018)

8.8

Country

Poland, United States of America

Director

Irek Dobrowolski, Ireneusz Dobrowolski

Actors

Charles Schneider, Gabriel Bartalos, George DiCaprio, Glenn Bray

Moods

Mind-blowing

This is an amazing documentary but be warned, the main character has some weird characteristics.

By coincidence, an art collector stumbles upon an undiscovered collection of sculptures and paintings that can only be described as the work of a genius. There was almost no reference to the artist, but upon research the collector finds that they are by a man called Stanislav Szukalski. He traces him down and finally locates him living anonymously in a California suburb. 

The documentary, Struggle: The Life And Lost Art Of Szukalski, is a collection of tapes from numerous interviews in the 1980s between the collector and Szukalski. He was helped by George DiCaprio, who would later produce this movie with his son Leonardo (!). 

In these interviews it becomes clear that Szukalski is pure genius. The funny thing is that he seemed to be well aware of this fact himself. 

Remember the weird characteristics I mentioned in that first sentence? Here we go. Szukalski’s past is full of a lot of antisemitism, sexism and bigotry. 

The question that lingers is how exactly can this forgotten-genius story be reshaped by the discovery of his twisted opinions. Can the artist be separated from the art? It’s a personal matter for the people who found Szukalski and later made this movie. It might never get as personal for you, but this movie will sure try to provoke an answer.

33. Operation Odessa (2018)

best

8.9

Country

N/A, United States of America

Director

Tiller Russell

Actors

Juan Almeida, Kristy Galeota, Ludwig Fainberg, Nelson Tony Yester

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Dramatic, Thrilling

The movie opens with a guy called Tarzan, saying in a Russian accent: “I called my friend Michel, and I said can I buy a submarine, a used one?” Apparently, two days later he called him back asking: “With, or without missiles?” This should give you a decent idea of how the protagonists of this Tiller-Russell-directed documentary roll. Operation Odessa is the crazy true story of how the FBI, Pablo Escobar, and the Russian Mafia were played by three criminal outsiders in a $35 million submarine deal. Strictly speaking, it belongs in the true crime documentary genre, but it can also be treated as a real-life black comedy. The protagonists are so audacious, it is hard to believe that most of this story is true. The submarine deal story is only the tip of the iceberg here. Crazy, funny, and just really well done!

32. BPM

best

8.9

Country

France

Director

Robin Campillo

Actors

Adèle Haenel, Aloïse Sauvage, Antoine Reinartz, Arnaud Valois

Moods

Character-driven, Instructive, True-story-based

Autobiographical in nature, 120 BPM is French screenwriter Robin Campillo’s first feature film. It revolves around the Parisian chapter of the AIDS advocacy group ACT UP, which Campillo was a member of in the early 1990s, and the love between Nathan, the group’s newest member, who is HIV negative, and Sean, one of its founding and more radical members, who is positive and suffers the consequences of contracting AIDS. Using fake blood and spectacular direct action, ACT UP advocated more and better research of treatment, prevention, and awareness. This was at a time when many, implicitly or explicitly, viewed AIDS as a gay disease, even as a punishment for the gay community’s propensity to pleasure and partying. The latter is reflected by the film’s title, 120 bpm being the average number of beats per minute of a house track. Arnaud Rebotini’s original score echoes the ecstasy-driven house music hedonism of the time with some effective original cuts, albeit with a melancholic streak. Because, for all the love, friendship, and emotion of the ACT UP crew that BPM so passionately portrays, anger and sadness pervade the lives of these young people as the lack of effective treatment threatens to claim the lives of their loved ones.

31. Klaus (2019)

best

8.9

Country

Spain, UK

Director

Sergio Pablos

Actors

J.K. Simmons, Jason Schwartzman, Joan Cusack, Neda Margrethe Labba

Moods

Easy, Uplifting

Shot by Sergio Pablos, a weathered animation film creator, here’s a future holiday classic to be reckoned with. Klaus is a beautifully old-school-looking, 90s Disney-style animation movie about the origin story of the world’s most beloved toymaker, Santa Klaus. Dispatched to a bleak arctic town, because he really wasn’t very good at his job at all, mailman Jesper stumbles upon the now-famous Klaus, making an acquaintance that will change the town forever, and, with it, the way Christmas is celebrated around the world. In addition to its homely warmth, funny moments, and nostalgic hand-drawn animation style, you will recognize many famous voice-overs in this festive family film, including the always amazing J.K. Simmons, Rashida Jones, and Jason Schwartzman, to name a few.

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