The 100 Must-Watch Movies You Haven’t Yet Seen

Far too often, cinematic masterpieces get overlooked –– and it’s us cinema lovers who suffer the loss. While some can’t seem to draw crowds upon their box office release, others simply don’t get the critical attention they merit. Whatever the reason, the result is that the streaming landscape is overflowing with hidden treasures that deserve to be unearthed, enjoyed, and duly celebrated. From political thrillers to quirky romances and everything in between, we’ve rounded up the top 100 underrated movies that are on their way to becoming cult classics. 

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011)

A slow-burning spy thriller set within the British intelligence service during the height of the Cold War, this complex drama is highlighted by Gary Oldman’s acutely understated performance. As a high level agent brought out of retirement to ferret out a mole within the MI5, he exudes intensity and intellect with unerring precision. The story itself is exceptionally complicated and yet highly engaging. I felt that casting and corresponding screen time made it clear whom the mole would turn out to be…but you may disagree.

Genre: Drama
Actor: Benedict Cumberbatch, Ciarán Hinds, Colin Firth, David Dencik, Gary Oldman, John Hurt, Kathy Burke, Mark Strong, Peter Kalloy Molnar, Simon McBurney, Stephen Graham, Toby Jones, Tom Hardy, Zoltán Mucsi
Director: Tomas Alfredson
Rating: R
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen (2011)

A light and simple feel-good movie with great performances from an impressive cast. Ewan McGregor plays the country’s best fisheries expert who is approached by a consultant (Emily Blunt) to help bring the sport of fly-fishing to a desert in the Middle-East, a place at the peak of tensions. The Prime Minister’s office, with the help of the media, try to then bring this story to the public as a show of something good happening in the region. It’s a quirky movie with a beautiful love story and a few interesting ideas on the current state of journalism. Both leads are absolutely charming together.

Genre: Comedy, Romance
Actor: Amr Waked, Catherine Steadman, Conleth Hill, Emily Blunt, Ewan McGregor, Kristin Scott Thomas, Rachael Stirling, Tom Beard, Tom Mison
Director: Lasse Hallström
Rating: PG-13
Mistress America (2015)

This is a slightly weird and not so slightly quirky movie to be avoided by anyone with a low tolerance to the weird or quirky. Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird, Frances Ha) and Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale, also Frances Ha) write the story, while Gerwig plays a lead role. Two girls, one a New Yorker and the other having just arrived in New York for a writing program, get in touch because their parents will marry. The writer is fascinated by the personality of the New Yorker and follows her everywhere to understand her more, and eventually write about her. Mistress America is their journey through friendship and through New York. Stick around the first 40 minutes or so, because the second half of this 82-minute movie is hilarious.

Genre: Comedy, Drama
Actor: Andrea Chen, Cindy Cheung, Dean Wareham, Greta Gerwig, Heather Lind, Jasmine Cephas-Jones, Juliet Brett, Kathryn Erbe, Lola Kirke, Matthew Shear, Michael Chernus, Nat Baldwin, Noah Baumbach, Shana Dowdeswell
Director: Noah Baumbach
Rating: R
The Art of Self-Defense (2019)

Watch this if you like weird movies. And don’t be fooled by the first half, which serves just to set Jesse Eisenberg’s character and the monotone life he leads. It’s the calm before the storm, during which that character is attacked by a violent gang and decides to take self-defense classes in an unusual club. This is a movie about modern manhood and how it can lead to some pretty strange situations. Great performance from Eisenberg as usual.

Genre: Comedy
Actor: Alessandro Nivola, David Zellner, Imogen Poots, Jason Burkey, Jesse Eisenberg, Mike Brooks, Phillip Andre Botello, Steve Terada
Director: Riley Stearns
Rating: R
On the Basis of Sex (2018)

An uplifting and inspiring movie with Felicity Jones and Armie Hammer. Jones stars as Supreme Court Justice Associate Ruth Bader Ginsburg in this biopic centered around her hallmark case against sex-based discrimination. While it doesn’t feel like it truly conveys the power of Ginsburg’s story, her determination, or all the odds that were stacked against her, it serves as a mellowed-down preview of her remarkable story. Watch this if you’re in need of a good dose of inspiration.

Genre: Drama
Actor: Angela Galuppo, Armie Hammer, Arthur Holden, Cailee Spaeny, Felicity Jones, Francis X. McCarthy, Gary Werntz, Holly Gauthier-Frankel, Jack Reynor, Joe Cobden, Justin Theroux, Kathy Bates, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sam Waterston, Stephen Root
Director: Mimi Leder
Rating: PG-13
Pavarotti (2019)

A biopic is only as big as the personality at its center, and what a personality Pavarotti had. The Opera singer that crossed into the mainstream from his humble upbringings in Modena, Italy, exuded happiness and had a great outlook on life. And even as the attention he would eventually attract takes its tole, he’s able to maintain his positivity and his dedication to his art. This documentary on his life and his work will be even more interesting to you if like me you didn’t know who Pavarotti was, or the impact he’s had.

Genre: Documentary
Actor: Andrea Griminelli, Luciano Pavarotti, Nicoletta Mantovani
Director: Ron Howard
Rating: PG-13
Climax (2018)

This twisted movie is actually two movies, the credits even roll in between. The first half is gorgeous: talented dancers get together for a party and perform beautiful contemporary dance sequences. They introduce themselves through their audition tapes to join the dance group, but also through conversations at the party. The second half is less fun. It turns out someone had laced the sangria they’ve been drinking with a psychedelic drug. Not for the faint of heart or anyone who didn’t like director Gaspar Noé’s past movies (Enter the Void, I Stand Alone, etc).

Genre: Horror
Actor: Alaia Alsafir, Claude Gajan Maull, Gaspar Noé, Giselle Palmer, Kiddy Smile, Lea Vlamos, Romain Guillermic, Sharleen Temple, Sofia Boutella, Souheila Yacoub, Taylor Kastle, Thea Carla Schøtt, Thea Carla Schott
Director: Gaspar Noé
Rating: R
The Mustang (2019)

A quiet movie about an unpredictable convict who gets enrolled in a wild mustang taming program. These initiatives, common around the country, offer fascinating parallels: both the horses and the inmates are emprisoned, both innately fight against their condition but are actively being made to comply. The central performance by Matthias Schoenaerts is nothing short of a masterpiece. He doesn’t speak much and you almost don’t want him to: everything else he does communicates so much more than words. Watching this movie just for him is reason enough.

Genre: Drama
Actor: Bruce Dern, Connie Britton, Gideon Adlon, Jason Mitchell, Josh Stewart, Kieth Johnson, Matthias Schoenaerts, Thomas Smittle
Director: Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre
Rating: R
Take this Waltz (2012)

Take this Waltz is a movie that wants you to have a problem with it. It’s about a woman (Michelle Williams, Blue Valentine) torn between her husband (played by Seth Rogan) and a new man who entered her life. It’s an emotional and honest account as well as a mature slice-of-life film that you will appreciate either if you are familiar with a similar situation in real life, or if you give the film a chance, which I recommend you do.

Genre: Drama
Actor: Diane D'Aquila, Graham Abbey, Jennifer Podemski, Luke Kirby, Michelle Williams, Sarah Silverman, Seth Rogen, Vanessa Coelho
Director: Sarah Polley
Rating: R
Kill The Messenger (2014)

Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Town, Arrival) plays Gary Webb, a journalist in investigating the American government’s possible involvement in cocaine trafficking in Latin America. Based on a true story, it’s in the same vein as other recent movies on investigative journalism. Jeremy Renner’s performance is the main reason to watch this movie. Even as the story spins into deeper levels of complexity, he remains a coherent, steady point of reference. It was his chance to prove to directors that he can carry a big-budget movie and he nailed it.

Genre: Mystery
Actor: Andy Garcia, Barry Pepper, Jena Sims, Jeremy Renner, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Michael Cuesta, Michael Kenneth Williams, Michael Sheen, Oliver Platt, Paz Vega, Ray Liotta, Robert Patrick, Robert Pralgo, Rosemarie DeWitt, Tim Blake Nelson
Director: Michael Cuesta
Rating: R