Highly-rated yet little-known movies

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

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agoodmovietowatch
spotlightEuropean Film

Streaming audiences are eager to be introduced to excellent cinema, and this section’s goal is to guide them to the vast array of high-quality European films available on streaming services. European movies are often acclaimed but under-watched in North America. And in Europe, Brexit and similar nationalistic movements increase the need for finding what’s common in European storytelling.

Keira Knightley stars in this incredible true story of an Iraq War whistleblower who remains relatively little-known in the U.S. Katharine Gun was working for the communications office for the British government when she received a memo in the months leading to the war that showed that the U.S. requested illegal wiretapping assistance from the U.K. on U.N. diplomats. In a heroic act, she chooses to share this memo, hoping that it would stop her government (then led by Tony Blair) from going to war. Spoiler alert: didn't happen, but this decision, which first seemed like a personal sacrifice, has severe implications on her family as the government finds out that she was behind the leak. A compelling political mystery of a case that deserves much more attention than it once got.

8.0

In a small Italian town, a dog cleaner’s wholesome days dealing with elderly owners and eager children are balanced with a series of messy nights. The small and frail man finds himself targetted by the town’s black-sheep, a strong and fearless ex-convict. Dogman is about the line between being bullied and wanting to be part of something, it’s a beautiful and often thrilling character study from Italian genius filmmaker Matte Garone. Won the main actor the Best Actor award at Cannes.

7.5

This movie is pretty much in every regard a Norwegian Kill Bill. It’s a dark gory comedy where, naturally, the substitute for Uma Thurman doing damage is an emotionless Stellan Skarsgård.After his son is killed by a drug gang, Skarsgård’s character, fresh off a win of a “citizen of the year” award, embarks on a ruthless journey to track and kill the murderers. This takes place in one of the most remote areas in Norway, where the main character works as a snowplow driver. You guessed it, some people will get snowplowed.Seems familiar? That’s because this year it was turned into a horribly sub-par American movie called Cold Pursuit, with, ugh, Liam Neeson.

7.3

The Young Offenders is a comedy about two Irish teenagers who go on a 160km bicycle trip to salvage 7 million euros worth of lost cocaine.As they sit on a hill overlooking their city, they imagine what they would do with that money. The answer is building a house that has lava lamps, “big gold walls”, Spanish girls, and an English butler to wake them up every morning with the phrase “what’s happenin’?”.You get the vibe. It’s is a silly movie, although the premise is actually based on a real-life event where cocaine from a capsized smuggling boat washed up on the Irish coast.The Young Offenders wears its heart on its sleeve. It’s a sweet funny movie, half slapstick and half plot, which sports an infinity of highly quotable one-liners.

8.0

This is a slow but well-made movie about a Jehovah’s Witness family, directed by a former member of the organization.The family is made of Alex, her mother, and her older sister. Alex follows her mother and her religious teachings with the utmost loyalty, especially as she refuses a blood transfusion that is crucial to her health. Her older sister starts showing signs of independence by lying to her friends about her family’s faith and dating a Muslim man.Apostasy is about family bonds versus belief bonds. It’s not a movie that judges or preaches, rather it simply portrays the complex situations that structured religion creates.

7.1

I can’t get a song out of my head from this movie: the 1985 UK hit Desire As from Prefab Sprout.It plays when the two main characters, a sensitive kid who’s bullied by his school for not liking rugby, and the school’s rugby star; talk over the “Berlin Wall” that separates their dorm room.The song echoes “It's perfect as it stands, so why then crush it in your perfect hands?”. These two seemingly incompatible personalities form a friendship that comes under threat from their school’s traditional authority, especially as one of them is revealed to be gay. It might seem like a tough premise, but Handsome Devil is actually a comedy. It’s a sweet and easy coming-of-age comedy.

8.0

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

If you like: weird movies and / or Scandinavian mythology, this movie is for you. It's about unusual looking border agent with super-human abilities (such as smelling fear and shame) who meets someone like her for the first time There is a big revelation in Border that I can't share but while this movie was directed by an Iranian (Ali Abbasi), it's deeply rooted in Swedish folklore. Themes of identity, gender, and otherness intersect through a thrilling script and beautifully-shot nature scenes.

7.4

Shia Laboeuf and Stellan Skarsgård star in this true story about one of the greatest tennis matches in history: the 1980 Wimbledon final. The movie dissects what drives both competitors (one played by Laboeuf and the other by Sverrir Gudnason). Their personalities, considered opposites, are studied through their paths and how they got into tennis. All this leads to that one match, in this beautiful story of dealing with competition and fear of failure. Don’t stop watching when the credits roll, read what they say!

8.0

Set in 1970s Italian countryside, this is a quirky movie that’s full of plot twists.Lazzaro is a dedicated worker at a tobacco estate. His village has been indebted to a marquise and like everyone else, he works without a wage and in arduous conditions.Lazzaro strikes a friendship with the son of the marquise, who, in an act of rebellion against his mother, decides to fake his own kidnapping. The two form an unlikely friendship in a story that mixes magical realism with social commentary.

8.0

Girl won four awards at the Cannes Film Festival last year and was nominated to 9 Magritte Awards. It was also Belgium’s entry to the Oscar for best foreign-language film. When a dance school accepts her, Lara has the opportunity to realize her dream and become a professional ballerina. The dancing takes a toll on her body, but her biggest obstacle is that she was born into the body of a boy. Girl illustrates the trans teenage experience with sensitivity, slowly and humanly making Lara’s anguish become the viewer’s. Based on a true story.

7.6

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).

7.1