Highly-rated yet little-known movies

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

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Spotlight

agoodmovietowatch Spotlight is a series of sections that shine a light on excellence in under-represented cinema.

Authentic and filled with great performances, Mud is a beautiful tale of love, loss, and growth. While you had probably thought you couldn't be more impressed with him than in Dallas Buyers Club, Interstellar, or True Detective, Mathew McConaughey's performance here is probably his best, and is nothing short of a masterpiece. It takes the entire movie to an unprecedented level of authenticity and power as well as give his character's interaction with two young boys in the South the perfect balance between uneasiness and sorrow. The story is also very thrilling, and will keep you at the edge of your seat more times than not.

8.9

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

It’s 1984 and miners in England are on strike against Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s plans to close pits. Their cause has unlikely appeal for Mark Ashton, a human rights activists who decides to take a group of people who had joined an early Gay Pride parade in London to rural England to show support for the (often socially-conservative) miners.You can see how things might go wrong, but in this case they didn’t. This heartwarming tale is based on a true story. An easy, funny, and relevant movie about the bond that oppression brings to the oppressed. Super earnest, too.

8.1

This is an HBO dark comedy that was intensely loved by anyone who knew about it before it was inexplicably canceled. Laura Dern plays a corporate executive who has a full-blown meltdown. I’m talking mascara streaming down her cheeks and screaming “I’m going to destroy you” to a coworker. When she comes back from a retreat in Hawaii she is forced to take, Den’s character is no longer filled with corporate rage but with inexplicable and almost obnoxious positivity. She tries to spread her new outlook around by giving people books like “Flow Through Your Rage” and telling them about sea turtles. Things get more real when she decides to take on her old company’s abuses. I think the reason this show has such hard-core fans is that they fell in love with Laura Dern’s character. Watching this show is like letting in a flawed, dependent, but extremely determined and well-meaning person into your life. Enlightened is funny, engaging, and all-around near-perfect TV.

8.0

Craving mystery? This is the film for you. A writer (Ewan McGregor) is given the lucrative task of bringing to life the memoirs of Adam Lang, the former British Prime Minister. Lang, now retired in an island in America, was once one of the world's most influential politicians. When a scandal erupts about him, which reveals details about his approach to the relationship between America and Britain, the ghost writer finds himself in the possession of highly sensitive material and dealing with many interested parties.

8.0

Authentic and filled with great performances, Mud is a beautiful tale of love, loss, and growth. While you had probably thought you couldn't be more impressed with him than in Dallas Buyers Club, Interstellar, or True Detective, Mathew McConaughey's performance here is probably his best, and is nothing short of a masterpiece. It takes the entire movie to an unprecedented level of authenticity and power as well as give his character's interaction with two young boys in the South the perfect balance between uneasiness and sorrow. The story is also very thrilling, and will keep you at the edge of your seat more times than not.

8.9

A revelation of a movie, both in filmmaking and commercial success. While little-known abroad, it has made more than $42 million in US Box Office revenue out of a tiny $5 million budget. Kumail Nanjiani, stand-up comedian and star of the show Silicon Valley, tells his own story of romance with his now-wife Emily V. Gordon (who co-wrote the movie). Because it is based on a true story, and because it is the product of the love of both its writers and stars, this movie is incredibly heartfelt. It is also timely, addressing heavy themes such as identity, immigration, and family relationships. Not to mention it is absolutely hilarious. And it's produced by Judd Apatow. Trust me and go watch it.

8.2

Based on the book by John Le Carre, this slow-burning thriller tells the story of a half-Chechen, half-Russian immigrant suspected of terrorism, who is suddenly spotted in a big German city trying to get his hands on money that was left to him. Gunter (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) is the head of an international counter-terrorism unit created after 9/11 to spot threats like these early on. Whether this man is a terrorist or not, what he is doing in Germany, how he fits in the grand scheme of things, and whether Gunter will succeed in his efforts - all of these are questions you will be begging to find answers for. Witty, supremely acted, and with a very provocative story line, A Most Wanted Man is perfect if you're in the mood for a sharp thriller.

8.0

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.

8.8

The Guardian’s lead critic said of Trapped: Seductive, involving, gripping...I am already, thoroughly, trapped. I’m quoting a publication to give some grounding to my overly excited claim: Trapped (or Ófærð) is one of the best TV shows ever made. I am obsessed with it. The plot is simple: a cop tries to solve a murder before a storm arrives, but the way it gets stretched is exceptional, and can only be compared to Scandinavian classics like The Hunt, The Guilty or Headhunters. And the fact that Trapped is from Iceland (not Norway or Denmark) adds a more chilling twist to the Scandinavian thriller genre. I don't want to say more and ruin the show for you, but this is an amazing binge.

9.0

Every once in a while there are movies that expand the definition of quality film-making. This is one of those movies.Here is an incredible, yet delicate film that follows three children from poor families who are stuck living in subpar motels. Their lives and friendships are portrayed with honesty and precise aesthetics. It’s a story that at first seems as plot-free as life itself.It succeeds in capturing an innocence that is usually reserved to a child’s imagination: a precarious living condition full of adventures and fun. It’s hard to describe it beyond that; it’s the kind of film that must be seen to be fully understood.And it ends on a very high note.

8.3

At 20 minutes per episode and boosting a funny and witty script, this show is such a pleasure to binge-watch.Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who you may know from Broadchurch, writes and stars in the series. She plays a freethinking young woman trying to deal with grief in big-city London.Her relationship with the city is complicated to say the least, but her relationship with her business might be even worse. The hipster-plagued café she runs is always on the verge of bankruptcy, her support system is almost nonexistent, consisting of a high-achieving sister and a nonchalant father, she has a lot to navigate on her own.Her show is guaranteed to stay with you for a long time.

8.0

The best way to watch this movie is to be completely unprepared; it's a super indie (sub 1 million dollar budget) Canadian thriller that completely wowed critics and audiences, even as it (and we're being honest here) totally freaked them out. So, no spoilers, we can let you know it's an internet thriller with shades of Little Red Riding Hood, hyperrealistic violence, and extremely surprising plot twists. Also, there's less than 9 minutes of music in the entire film, which instead uses creepy ambient noises and breathing, so, yeah, it gets a bit tense.

8.1