Highly-rated yet little-known movies

agoodmovietowatch suggests excellent movies (and recently shows) that you might not know about.

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Penélope Cruz and Javier Bardem star in this mystery by Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian Oscar-winning director of A Separation and The Salesman.When Laura returns to her small Spanish hometown with her two daughters, she is greeted with the warm welcome worthy of someone who once was a loved member of the community.However, when an event concerning one of her daughters happens at a wedding, secrets come to the surface about her history that threaten the fabric of the whole village.Laura is masterfully played by Penélope Cruz, who seems to shift gears in this Spanish-language movie. Farhadi is outside of his usual territory, but he does what he does best: deliver a rich, thrilling family drama.

7.2

Jessica Chastain and Oscar Isaac star in this slow-burning but impeccable crime thriller.Abel Morales (Isaac) owns a fuel distribution company in 1980s New York. His competitors are violent and corrupt, and the feds are after him. The temptation to resort to unlawful methods is high, especially that his wife (Chastain) is the daughter of a mobster.A Most Violent Year is about how this temptation of corruption unfolds and whether Abel will surrender to it or not.

8.0

This crazy heist movie is told in a very original way. Because it's based on a true story, the movie (with actors and a story) is sometimes interrupted by the people it's about. The opening scene even reads: "this movie is not based on a true story, it is a true story".Two friends decide to rob their local library from rare books worth millions. They're driven by money but also by wanting something different than their monotonous everyday lives in Kentucky. The need for a change is a big theme in this movie, but the story and the way it's told never cease to be breathtakingly thrilling.American Animals stars amazing actors like Barry Keoghan (Dunkirk), Evan Peters (Kick-Ass), and many more; but perhaps equally as notable is the director: Bart Layton, who is fresh from his amazing 2012 sleeper-hit The Imposter.

8.0

Here is a TV show where the performances are so good that it's hard to give any credit to the story. Patricia Arquette as a prison employee, and Benicio Del Toro and Paul Dano as inmates are an unbelievable trio. They all shine in their own right in this true story of escape from a prison in Upstate New York. Arquette is almost unrecognizable in the role of a frustrated middle-aged woman who gets romantically involved with the inmates. Dano plays the young one, a smart but easily excited guy. Del Toro plays an experienced, shrewd, and boss-type prisoner. Together they take an already exceptional story and create one of the most realistic mysteries in recent memory. Because of this, the pacing might be slow for some - but remember, it's not like the cast is difficult to follow.

9.3

Patriot is about a secret agent who is assigned meddling with the Iranian elections to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. Sounds serious? It is and it is not. What Patriot is really about are the bureaucratic pitfalls that involve such work. The secret agent’s team parks on the wrong street and he ends up killing the wrong guy. The bag of money he wants to use to meddle with the elections gets stolen by an airport worker in Luxembourg. Etc, etc. For all of this, Patriot is a funny and clever show. the best part is that the secret agent in question is also a folk singer - and sometimes sings awfully honest and descriptive songs of his missions in open mics. Patriot is a mix between real-life thrills and real-life laughs, and it's a near-perfect TV show.

9.0

This is a fantastic BBC thriller series. Perfect writing, exceptionally well-developed characters and great actors across the board make this production a classic crime show. A middle-aged Yorkshire Police sergeant is coming to terms with the release from prison of a man who had caused her great harm. His comeback coincides with a kidnapping attempt by a local drug kingpin. A seemingly quaint small town reveals its crime underbelly in a plot that mixes personal vendettas with life-threatening crime. Happy Valley has a great sense of suspense, it’ll keep you on edge at all times. It might not seem like much at the start of the first episode but grows on you. It also follows the BBC tradition (think Luther, Line of Duty, Broadchurch) of addressing the darker side of police work.

9.0

This is the perfect dark TV show. It’s no surprise that Julia Roberts’ performance is amazing here. She is the former director of a mysterious program for rehabilitating war veterans. She perfectly blends into her first ever TV show and the world created by the show’s director Sam Esmail (Mr. Robot). That is a world of dark colors and seemingly twisted motivations. Her supporting cast is nothing short of amazing. Shea Whigham is BRILLIANT as the sad but honest detective trying to get to the bottom of things. Bobby Cannavale is also great as Julia Roberts’s old boss, a busy and eager man. This show’s surprise star is newcomer Stephan James, who plays one of the war veterans. At around 30 minutes per episode, time goes by quickly and your hunger to figure out what’s happening increases with every episode.

9.0

Netflix is stopping at nothing to collect the best true crime stories around, a bit like an African dictator looking for aid programs. The latest addition is the incredible thriller mini-series, “The Staircase.” It originally aired in 2004, but Netflix took the same director and allowed him to add new episodes in 2018 to complete the story. The plot: A famous American novelist’s wife is found dead, and he is accused of killing her. His life comes under scrutiny as everyone asks whether she died in an accident or was murdered. If you liked their other hit, “Making a Murderer,” you will love this. You should also definitely check out “The Keepers” or Netflix’s binge-worthy crime documentary, “Evil Genius.”

8.2

Icarus starts with director Bryan Fogel deciding to inject himself with doping substances and participate in a biking race undetected. By accident, he ends up in contact with a Russian scientist. This man transforms the movie from a personal experiment to a highly relevant political thriller. Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, the scientist is at the center of accusations in Russia of a virtually impossible state-sponsored doping scheme. With links to the Russian president Putin himself, the movie keeps getting more and more interesting as the relationship between Fogel and Rodchenkov develops. Aside from all the madness that unfolds, Rodchenkov’s likeable personality makes the story more relatable and humane, and gives an insight into the pressures of working in the regulatory body in a country like Russia. You will be astonished by how much material this movie has. A must-watch.

9.4
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