21st Century’s 100 Best Overlooked Movies

21st Century’s 100 Best Overlooked Movies

May 21, 2024

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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.

71. A Hidden Life (2019)

8.2

Country

Germany, Italy, United States of America

Director

Terrence Malick

Actors

Alexander Fehling, Alexander Radszun, August Diehl, Bernd Hölscher

Moods

Slow, True-story-based

Terrence Malick (The Tree of Life) is back in full form with this three-hour movie based on a true story. His creation has one of the most beautiful depictions of happiness ever seen in film, portraying the simple yet joyous life of a farmer in the Austrian mountains. You’d have to see it for yourself to understand, but how Malick depicts this character’s love for his wife (and her love for him), their children, and even their farming rituals are nothing short of cinematic wizardry. 

This peaceful existence changes when World War 2 intensifies and this farmer is called to serve for the Nazis. He refuses to enroll out of principle and puts himself and his family at great danger and alienation from their village. The question at the center of the film is one that other villagers and the church ask him a lot: what good can his actions do? And the title of the movie is taken from A George Eliot quote: “The growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.”

72. Uppity: The Willy T. Ribbs Story (2020)

best

8.2

Country

United States of America

Director

Adam Carolla, Nate Adams

Actors

Adam Carolla, Al Unser Jr., Bernie Ecclestone, Bobby Unser

Moods

Discussion-sparking, Inspiring, Instructive

“They called me uppity. Uppity n*****. And I loved it”. That’s how this excellent documentary, about the first professional black racing driver Willy T. Ribbs, starts. It summarizes the strong personality of a champion who excelled in tracks that were filled with confederate flags.

The documentary explains the details of the difficulties that Ribbs went through in the 70s and 80s, but also the people who supported him and recognized his talent. It’s by no way a sad movie, on the contrary, even when Ribbs is talking about people spitting wherever he walks or about the death threats escalating, his unharmed determination is at the center of the story.

This is an inspiring documentary about a character who never got his worth in the history books. I was full of shivers by the first half-hour mark.

73. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

best

8.2

Country

France

Director

Céline Sciamma, Céline Sciamma

Actors

Adèle Haenel, Adèle Haenel, Armande Boulanger, Christel Baras

Moods

Heart-warming, Romantic, Well-acted

This unique romance is set during a time when a man would be sent the painting of the woman he was to marry before the wedding could take place. Héloïse, secluded with her mother and a maid on a remote island, doesn’t approve of her upcoming wedding and refuses to be painted. Her mother sends for a new painter, Marianne, to try to paint her without her noticing. Marianne has to take on this near-impossible task when she starts having feelings for Héloïse. This makes for a riveting romance where Marianne has to choose between her heart and her art while keeping a huge secret from her love interest.

74. Rosie (2019)

best

8.2

Country

Ireland

Director

Paddy Breathnach

Actors

Clare Monnelly, Eva-Jane Gaffney, Johanna O'Brien, Killian Coyle

This emotional and moving story is about a mother of four who is forced into homelessness in Dublin. With her husband working in a demanding restaurant job, Rosie is left to take care of the children while trying to find anything resembling accommodation. She starts by seeking the help of the city council, but every facility she calls is full or refuses to welcome them.

As a viewer, the heartbreaking reality of the situation sinks in quickly: Rosie and her husband are priced out and there are too many people in their condition. Their car doesn’t fit them. But to her children, relatives, and school officials, Rosie keeps up appearances and doesn’t compromise on her overwhelming child care tasks. 

75. Good Time (2017)

best

8.1

Country

United States of America

Director

Ben Safdie, Benny Safdie

Actors

Barkhad Abdi, Ben Safdie, Benny Safdie, Buddy Duress

Moods

A-list actors, Intense, Mind-blowing

A fast-paced thriller, and “actually dangerous” movie as envisioned by its directors, Good Time is about a bank robbery gone wrong and one brother trying to get his other brother out of jail in its aftermath. It’s a deep and fast dive into New York’s criminal underworld that will not give you the time to catch a single full breath. The rhythm here is, without exaggeration, unlike anything I’ve seen before. It’s anxiety-inducing and very… primal. Incredible work featuring a career-pivoting performance from Robert Pattinson as the loose criminal that will do literally anything in the pursuit of seeing his brother free.

76. Columbus (2017)

best

8.1

Country

United States of America

Director

Kogonada

Actors

Alphaeus Green, Jr., Caitlin Ewald, Erin Allegretti, Haley Lu Richardson

Moods

Easy, Feel-Good, Romantic

What goes well with a love story? Creative architecture. Columbus the movie is such a great and genuine exploration of this idea, filmed in Columbus the city – a weird experimental hub for architecture that actually exists in real life! After his architect father goes into a coma, Jin (John Cho), a Korean-born man finds himself stuck in Columbus without a foreseeable end. In Korean tradition when a parent dies, the son should be in the same place physically otherwise they can’t mourn. While waiting to see what will happen to his father he meets Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), an aspiring architect herself, who’s also stuck in Columbus because of her mother. This is a beautiful movie with real-life issues and situations, to be especially appreciated by viewers who don’t mind a slow narrative in exchange for a meticulously-crafted movie.

77. Private Life (2018)

best

8.1

Country

United States of America

Director

Female director, Tamara Jenkins

Actors

Alyssa Cheatham, Amaya Press, Caroline Martin, Danny Deferrari

Moods

Grown-up Comedy, Romantic, Slice-of-Life

Paul Giamatti, man. Ever watched Win/Win? What a performance. I didn’t think he could do any better than that. But here he did.

This movie is now on Netflix. It’s about a couple that is trying to have a kid but can’t. Their frustration grows, but so does their willingness to do whatever it takes to become parents. They try to adopt, go to fertility clinics and ultimately ask their niece to donate her eggs. To really work, such a plot requires well-written, multifaceted characters one can relate to. I did, and it really worked.

78. The Tale (2018)

best

8.1

Country

Germany, United States of America

Director

Female director, Jennifer Fox

Actors

Chelsea Alden, Common, Daniel Berson, Deana Deatherage

Moods

Challenging, Dramatic, Emotional

Sometimes you can just tell a movie means way too much to the people who made it. That makes me want to watch it more than once, which is what I wanted to do with The Tale. But while I think it’s such an amazing movie and everyone should watch it, I don’t think I can stomach a second watch.. It is based on the director/writer Jennifer Fox’s own story – recounting her first sexual experience at a very young age. It’s about the stories we tell ourselves to deal with trauma, and in that sense, and with utmost honesty, it invites grief and closure for similar experiences. A powerful movie led by a powerful performance by Laura Dern as Jennifer.

79. Wildlife (2018)

8.1

Country

United States of America

Director

Paul Dano

Actors

Avery Bagenstos, Bill Camp, Blaine Maye, Carey Mulligan

Moods

A-list actors, Depressing, Sunday

A powerful but quiet movie directed by Paul Dano and based on a novel of the same name by Richard Ford. It stars Carey Mulligan and Jake Gyllenhaal as a couple who move to a new town with their only child during the 1960s. Their relationship transforms after Gyllenhaal’s character loses his job as a butler and chooses to leave for a more dangerous profession, firefighting. This movie is about his wife’s response to this event and the implications of both parents’ behavior on their kid. There are no twists or turns, exciting action or plot; but Wildlife doesn’t need any of that. This moving story about a decaying family unit is portrayed in the sadness that comes with such events. The only joy comes from watching the outstanding (but expected) performances of the cast.

80. The Death of Stalin (2017)

best

8.1

Country

Belgium, Canada, France

Director

Armando Iannucci

Actors

Adam Ewan, Adam Shaw, Adrian McLoughlin, Alla Binieieva

Moods

A-list actors, Discussion-sparking, Funny

This is a hilarious political comedy starring the ever-great Steve Buscemi. Set in the last days before Stalin’s death and the chaos that followed, it portrays the lack of trust and the random assassinations that characterized the Stalinist Soviet Union. Think of it as Veep meets Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator. Although to be fair, its dark comedy props are very different from the comedy that comes out today: where there are jokes they’re really smart, but what’s actually funny is the atmosphere and absurd situations that end up developing.

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