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

Updated November 30, 2021 • Staff

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. 

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30.

Manchester by the Sea (2016)

Winning him Best Director at the Academy Awards, Kenneth Lonergan's drama Manchester By the Sea is a delicate and profound study of loss and grief—and a true triumph. Its focus on characters, well-paced unfolding as well as world-class acting are only equal to the very best of European dramas. This type of quiet exploration of the possibility that grief cannot be overcome has rarely been successful in American cinema, if ever. The last best attempt was probably You Can Count on Me. Originally a playwright, this is Lonergan's third film and Manchester by the Sea is where he unveils his full potential. It follows a depressed handyman, Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck), who leads a quiet but angry life. After his brother dies, he returns to his hometown only to discover that he is the only left to take care of his teenage nephew. There, he is confronted with his past and the blue-collar community from which he was raised. Co-produced by Matt Damon, it grossed around $80 million on a budget of $8.5 million. One of the most noted films of 2016.

Genre: Drama
Actor: Anna Baryshnikov, Ben O'Brien, C.J. Wilson, Casey Affleck, Erica McDermott, Gretchen Mol, Heather Burns, Joe Stapleton, Josh Hamilton, Kara Hayward, Kenneth Lonergan, Kt Baldassaro, Kyle Chandler, Lucas Hedges, Matthew Broderick, Michelle Williams, Missy Yager, Quincy Tyler Bernstine, Richard Donelly, Robert Sella, Stephen Henderson, Stephen McKinley Henderson, Susan Pourfar, Tate Donovan, Tom Kemp, William Bornkessel
Director: Kenneth Lonergan
Rating: R

Free Watching Options:

Watch Manchester by the Sea (2016) on Amazon Prime for free
29.

McQueen (2018)

If you don't know much about him or high fashion, don't fret because this intelligent and informative film by Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui will chaperone you into this world with ease. Simply titled McQueen, this documentary is a poignant portrait of the British fashion icon that goes to great lengths to do him justice. With a reputation for shock tactics and controversy, McQueen grew from humble beginnings in a British council flat with three sisters into a world-famous enfant terrible of the 1990s for his quote unquote unwearable fashion and extravagant shows. Music fans might recognise his designs from Bjork's album Homogenic or the music video to her song Alarm Call. Despite the documentary's scope and depth, this is the type of film that leaves you wanting more and you might find yourself browsing through Wikipedia and YouTube for another hour to stay in the vibe. Alexander McQueen died of suicide in 2010.

Genre: Documentary
Actor: Alexander McQueen, André Leon Talley, Bernard Arnault, Detmar Blow |, Grace Jones, Ian Bonhôte, Isabella Blow, Janet Jackson, Jodie Kidd, Joseph Bennett, Kate Moss, Naomi Campbell, Peter Ettedgui
Director: Ian Bonhôte, Peter Ettedgui
Rating: R

Free Watching Options:

Watch McQueen (2018) on Hulu for free
28.

Capernaum (2018)

Capernaum is both the highest-grossing Middle Eastern movie of all time and the highest-grossing movie in Arabic of all time. Lebanese director Nadine Labaki was the first female Arab director to be nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards. Capernaum is thus duly considered a masterpiece, as it follows an angry 12-year-old kid in Lebanon, who leaves his negligent parents and tries to make it in the streets on his own. It's a tale of grinding poverty as experienced by a boy with a good heart, who meets many kindly people on the way as well as sinister characters. An acting tour de force by the fierce child actors, especially Zain Al Rafeea, Capernaum is harrowing, emotional, and, maybe, a touch melodramatic. However, it doesn't compromise when asking some hard questions about parental failure and love, putting them into the context of the bigger regional picture. It can be a tough watch, but the furious acting and pitch-black humor, ultimately, make this an uplifting movie, likely to stir up some debate.

Genre: Drama
Actor: Boluwatife Treasure Bankole, Nadine Labaki, Yordanos Shifera, Yordanos Shiferaw, Zain Al Rafeea
Director: Nadine Labaki
Rating: R
27.

Booksmart (2019)

Do you keep re-watching Superbad when you're hungover? Next time you are, try the film that has been praised as 'the female Superbad”: the amazing Booksmart. Yes, it's coming-of-age comedy, but, like Superbad, it tried something a little different. Like its two main characters, one could say it's a bit smarter than Greg Mottola's seminal bromedy. Molly (Beanie Feldstein, incidentally, Jonah Hill's younger sister) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are best friends, class presidents, and academic overachievers. Nice girls, too. With excellent grades in their pockets, they head off to college only to find that the same in-crowd from high school that was doing nothing but partying, now goes to the same college as them. Why, oh why, did they choose academic success over partying, when, clearly, they could have had both? On their last day in high school, now here's a trope, they decide to make up for all the years of lost partying on one night. This sets off a raucous, raunchy, and wildly entertaining ride. And with a feminist twist!

Genre: Comedy
Actor: Austin Crute, Beanie Feldstein, Billie Lourd, Billie Lourde, Diana Silvers, Eduardo Franco, Jason Sudeikis, Jessica Williams, Kaitlyn Dever, Lisa Kudrow, Mason Gooding, Maya Rudolph, Michael Patrick O'Brien, Mike O'Brien, Molly Gordon, Nico Hiraga, Noah Galvin, Skyler Gisondo, Victoria Ruesga, Will Forte
Director: Olivia Wilde
Rating: R

Free Watching Options:

Watch Booksmart (2019) on Hulu for free
26.

The Edge of Democracy (2019)

In this powerful documentary, Brazilian filmmaker Petra Costa intertwines her own family history with the democratic journey of her home country. As she says herself, Costa and her country's democracy are of the same age. This is not the only reason why she was uniquely positioned to make a film like this: her parents were left-wing activists in the 1970s, who went to jail for their beliefs, while her grandparents were part of the ruling class have made Brazil's strong-man politics and right-wing backlash possible. Her mother was held at the same prison that ex-president Dilma Rousseff (2011-2016) was sent to. Costa tells the story of Rousseff's demise as well as that of Luiz Inácio da Silva (2003-2011) aka Lula, whose future remains up in the air. The Edge of Democracy is thus a gripping and urgent warning that democracy in the world's sixth most populous country is under attack. In content and form, Costa is obviously opinionated, but she makes a strong point.

Genre: Documentary
Actor: Barack Obama, Dilma Rousseff, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Marisa Letícia Lula da Silva, Petra Costa, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom
Director: Petra Costa
Rating: TV-14
25.

Boy Erased (2018)

Russel Crowe, Nicole Kidman, and the immensely talented young actor Lucas Hedges (Manchester By the Sea) form an amazing pack of talent in this excellent drama. The story is based on the memoir by Garrard Conley, a true story. Set among deeply pious Christians in Arkansas, Hedges plays 18-year-old Jared Eamons, who discovers that he is gay. Crowe plays the father, a car dealer and a preacher, and Kidman the mom, who is a sweet-natured hairdresser with traditional values. When their son comes out to them after concealing his sexuality for some time, they pressure Jared into going to a Christian conversion camp, where his “lifestyle choice” is to be “prayed away”. The unspeakable camp is led by the Victor Sykes, who is as sinister as he is stupid, played with aplomb by Joel Edgerton, the writer and director. It's a funny sidenote to a serious movie that many actors in this Southern drama are from Australia, including Edgerton, Crowe, and Kidman as well as Red Hot Chili Peppers bass player extraordinaire, Flea, who plays a drill-instructor-type PE teacher at the camp. The powerful performances are indeed what drive this drama and they contribute significantly to telling a story that needed to be told.

Genre: Drama
Actor: Britton Sear, Cherry Jones, Drew Scheid, Flea, Frank Hoyt Taylor, Jason Davis, Jesse LaTourette, Joe Alwyn, Joel Edgerton, Joy Jacobson, Lucas Hedges, Madelyn Cline, Matt Burke, Nicole Kidman, Randy Havens, Russell Crowe, Théodore Pellerin, Tim Ware, Troye Sivan, Will Kindrachuk, Xavier Dolan
Director: Joel Edgerton
Rating: R
24.

The Guilty (2018)

Before you press play on this movie, we highly recommend you take a few very deep breaths. This 2018 thriller is wound so tight, you will need the extra oxygen to get through it without fainting. In his directorial debut, Swedish-danish filmmaker Gustav Möller uses very little in terms of resources to create this breath-taking atmosphere. While The Guilty feels like it was made on a $100 million budget, all it physically brings to the table is one man in a dark room. It plays with our imagination instead of blinding it with special effects. Similarly, the plot is also short and sweet: a police officer is temporarily sent to do emergency dispatch, when he receives a call that turns an ordinary shift into a hell ride. This is all we are going to give away before you've completed your breathing exercises. The movie's minimalist approach is held together by great acting from Jakob Cedergre, a screenplay to match, and incredible sound design. A real white-knuckle ride.

Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Actor: Anders Brink Madsen, Camilla Lau, Gustav Möller, Gustav Möller, Jacob Lohmann, Jacob Ulrik Lohmann, Jakob Cedergren, Jessica Dinnage, Johan Olsen, Katinka Evers-Jahnsen, Laura Bro, Morten Suurballe, Omar Shargawi, Peter Christoffersen
Director: Gustav Möller
Rating: R

Free Watching Options:

Watch The Guilty (2018) on Hulu for free
23.

The Broken Circle Breakdown (2012)

Bittersweet like Belgian chocolate, this is a coming-home movie. It will leave you raw and empty as well as full of life, and it will most certainly have you appreciate the mournfulness of bluegrass music. Based on a play co-written by Johan Heldenbergh, who also stars as Didier, the male lead, this is intricately written, thoughtfully directed, viscerally acted cinema. Bluegrass enthusiast and band leader Didier falls passionately in love with Elise, a spirited tattoo artist. They sing together, start a life together. But when their little girl falls gravely ill, everything changes. Because this gem of a film by director Felix van Groeningen excels at creating intimacy and empathy between us viewers and this beautiful family's fate, you will feel everything you see. Incredibly well-made and gut-wrenching drama.

Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Blanka Heirman, Geert Van Rampelberg, Jan Bijvoet, Johan Heldenbergh, Nell Cattrysse, Robbie Cleiren, Veerle Baetens
Director: Felix Van Groeningen
Rating: Not Rated
22.

Zero Days (2016)

Told in urgent fashion with first-hand accounts from cyber professionals from around the globe, Zero Days is a fascinating and alarming documentary about the Stuxnet computer virus. Originally codenamed “Olympic Games” by the people that fathered the worm, Stuxnet is a virus in the true sense of the word. It not only maliciously feeds off the host, but it also replicates itself as soon as it is implanted, which is exactly what it did when it was used by the US and Israeli secret services to sabotage centrifuges inside Iran's Natanz nuclear plant—making them spin out of control. All this is brilliantly unpacked by renowned documentary maker Alex Gibney (Going Clear, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room), who manages not only to detail the complexities of advanced coding in a remarkably evocative manner, but also to send out a well-researched alarm call about the future of war. Ultimately, the message here is that cyber warfare is very much part of our new shared reality. This film deserves to be seen by anyone who is even remotely concerned about global security in the 21st century.

Genre: Documentary
Actor: David Sanger, Emad Kiyaei, Eric Chien, Eugene Kaspersky, George W. Bush, Hillary Clinton, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, Sergey Ulasen, Vitaly Kamluk
Director: Alex Gibney
Rating: PG-13
21.

Blue Jay (2016)

Being an intimate, black-and-white portrayal of just two people, it is worth mentioning the two leads in the very first sentence: Blue Jay stars the incredibly versatile Sarah Paulson, who most of you will know from her depiction of Marcia Clark in The People vs. O.J., and Mark Duplass from Creep. In this incredibly intricate dialogue-driven drama, he is of course named Jim, a regular guy with some issues, who runs into his high-school sweetheart Amanda at the grocery store. She is only in town briefly because her sister is having a baby. Amanda agrees to have coffee with him, later they get beer and jellybeans, and find themselves recreating silly tapes at his late mother's house that they use to make when they were still at school. This could quickly become a soppy affair if it wasn't for the heart-felt realness of the acting, for lack of a better term, and all the fine details that the two leads bring to the screen. The chemistry between them is something to behold!

Genre: Drama, Romance
Actor: Alex Lehmann, Clu Gulager, James Andrews, Mark Duplass, Sarah Paulson
Director: Alex Lehmann, Alexandre Lehmann
Rating: Not Rated, Unrated

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