Here at TheRichest, we like to consider ourselves experts when it comes to entertainment. We could count up the combined hours we’ve spent at the theatre, on Netflix, and watching cable television, but we’re not sure we actually want to know the total. With all that time, we probably could have mastered a few instruments, written a series of novels, visited a dozen more countries… But we might argue that we’ve actually watched people play instruments better than we ever could (Whiplash or Amadeus), learned from biopics of great writers (The End of the Tour or Iris) and visited places that don’t even exist in our world (Lord of the Rings or Star Wars). Film has an ability to transport us to places and events outside the realm of everyday possibility, and we love it for that. And if you’ve made your way to this article, that means you’re probably like us and you appreciate what film offers.
However, it can be difficult to also spend the necessary time trudging through the cinematic oeuvre to find those hidden gems, so we’ve taken the time to do that for you and compiled a list of 15 movies you probably missed but should definitely add to your Netflix queue.
15. Dogma (1999)
Directed by this year’s Comic Con host, Kevin Smith, Dogma is an often-overlooked film starring Ben Affleck and Matt Damon who play the roles of two angels that have been cast out of Heaven, but are trying to return through a particular loophole. Unfortunately, that loophole would destroy the universe. Enter Jay and Silent Bob, two unexpected, probably atypical prophets of the Lord, who try to save our world’s existence. The movie is extremely funny, but it’s also clever and well considered. While this film won’t meet everyone’s religious ideals, it makes some in-depth observations about today’s society, particularly regarding how while humans were supposedly created in God’s image, many groups have conversely created an image of God to suit their own needs based on what they want Him to be. Plus, Alanis Morissette stars as God, which we really enjoyed, although, admittedly, some might find that to be a bitter, jagged little pill to swallow.
14. A Scanner Darkly (2006)
This entry is by far the most bizarre film on our list. Directed by Richard Linklater, who is well known for directing Before Sunrise and its sequels, you would be safe in assuming the movie is very dialogue-driven. Based on the novel by Philip K. Dick, A Scanner Darkly stars Keanu Reeves, Winona Ryder and Robert Downey Junior and is set in a totalitarian future. Citizens are under constant surveillance and don’t know who to trust as anyone could be an undercover informant. As with much dystopian literature, the government also uses a drug to placate the masses, and a large amount of the population is addicted to a psychedelic drug called Substance D, which causes insane hallucinations in its users. What makes the medium so perfect for the plot here is that Linklater uses rotoscoping, which involves animators tracing over the live footage, resulting in an unstable image that moves and flickers, creating a sense of paranoia and uncertainty in the audience that mimics the effects of the drug the protagonist uses.
13. Snatch (2000)
Snatch is an exhilarating and often violent film about London gangsters, an underground boxing ring, Irish “pikeys” and a stolen diamond. The filming has an unusual feel due to its extremely fast pacing, and it’s difficult to describe the plot setup without giving too much away due to this pacing and the multiple intertwining storylines, but much of it involves gangsters attempting to secure the diamond and fixing boxing matches. Brad Pitt puts in an excellent performance as Mickey, an Irish boxer with an accent that is barely decipherable and just crazy enough to be absolutely mesmerizing. He refuses to throw a fight, resulting in gangster-related repercussions stemming from large gambling losses. Eventually, Mickey agrees to fight one last match as restitution and the various storylines converge into an unexpected conclusion full of surprising plot twists. And as an added bonus, if you enjoy watching this, you might be lucky enough to get a show based on the movie soon, as a first season is rumored to be in the works.
12. Pollock (2000)
Pollock is a biopic about the famous American painter, Jackson Pollock. You may not immediately recognize the name, but you would almost certainly know his paintings if shown even a small corner of one. Can you picture those paintings that look like someone got angry at the canvas and flung a bunch of streaks of different colored paint all over it? These “drip paintings” would be the most famous pieces by Jackson Pollock. He actually painted with the canvases on the floor and dripped the painting onto them. To many, they represent a freedom and breaking away from traditional structure and analysis, leaving the viewer to feel rather than think. Regardless of your feelings about his art, the portrayal of his life in this film is engrossing as it examines Pollock’s life in New York City and eventually the Hamptons as he battles inner demons and alcoholism on his way to artistic success. Pollock is expertly directed and starred in by Ed Harris, who got so into the role he even painted all the paintings for the film! His performance is so strong you will find yourself thinking about this movie long after the credits role.
11. Memento (2000)
Memento is one of the earliest films from director Christopher Nolan, who most would recognize as the director of recent hits like Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Inception and Interstellar. Nolan has been remarkably successful in the last 10 years or so, but we would argue that with all those blockbuster hits, he’s never managed to quite reach the level he attained with Memento. The film has a particularly interesting premise involving a protagonist who witnessed the murder of his wife, but was brain damaged in the process, causing him to suffer from anterograde amnesia so that he loses the ability of creating new memories. As a result, he wakes up every day with no memories beyond the moment of his wife’s death. Please, no comparisons to Adam Sandler’s later film, 50 First Dates. We assure you that this one is much better, which is tough considering how strong Sandler’s recent filmography has been… Nonetheless, Memento also pulls off an interesting narrative feat, as it contains two storylines dealing with the protagonist’s search for his wife’s murders, with one storyline moving forward in time and the other moving backward. And with that, we don’t feel the need to say anymore as just the premise should be enough to have you rushing to Netflix before you finish reading this senten…
10. American Splendor (2003)
This is a great film for anyone who loves comic books. American Splendor is an interesting blend of fiction and non-fiction as it chronicles the life and works of comic artist and writer Harvey Pekar, creator of the comic series that shares a title with this film. Paul Giamatti stars as Pekar and gives what we would argue is the best performance of his career, one that is sometimes depressing, sometimes life affirming. The film retells much of Pekar’s journey toward comic success while also interjecting the story with interviews of the real Harvey Pekar. American Splendor has an often somber tone, as it deals with the life of a struggling artist and the difficulties financial burdens can place on relationships, before eventually tackling the issue of Pekar developing cancer. But such tragedies are balanced with the kind of victories that are only won when overcoming such adversity. And the film is shot in a clever way that somewhat mimics Pekar’s comics, with captions appearing on the screen next to real life actors, and Pekar’s illustrations occasionally making appearances. This is a clever film that’s perfect for when you want something that just feels like real life, with all its glorious ups and tragic downs.
9. The Hours (2002)
The Hours tells the stories of three generations of women, all of which have had to deal with suicide. Each of the stories is also interconnected through the life and work of Virginia Woolf. Chronologically, the first story is of Woolf’s life as she writes one of her popular novels, Mrs. Dalloway, leading to a portrayal of her eventual real-life suicide where she filled her pockets with rocks and walked into the water (which, in a morbid way, strikes us as a fittingly poetic way to go for one of the 20th century’s best authors). The second storyline is about a woman in the 1950s who has a family with an adorable son and husband who both love her, but she is unable to be happy with her life and spends time away from the house reading Mrs. Dalloway and contemplating suicide. The final story is modeled after the plot of Mrs. Dalloway and takes place in modern time as it follows a woman who wants to throw a party for her friend. The film is beautiful and succeeds on the merit of three incredibly captivating performances from Nicole Kidman, Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore.
8. City of God (2002)
This is the only foreign-language film on our list and it comes from Brazil, which is also where it takes place, although in the 1960s. City of God is a crime drama that follows a group of poor thieves known as The Tender Trio, as they loot small businesses in Rio de Janeiro. However, because the three thieves steal a chapter from Robin Hood’s book by giving back some of their profit to the city, they are protected for a while. Unfortunately, many youngsters in the area learn their way around crime from the trio and this eventually leads to violent crimes causing mass shootings that change the criminal landscape entirely. The film spans two decades after this, following the ride of organized crime in Brazil, and it is loosely based upon true events. The film has beautiful cinematography, strong acting and a lot of action, so if you can stand subtitles, you will almost certainly understand why City of God received as much acclaim as it did, including four Academy Award nominations.
7. Edward Scissorhands (1990)
When we think about Tim Burton, we like to remember the good old days and we try really hard to forget so much of what he’s done recently. You may disagree, but his recent adaptations of Alice in Wonderland and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory couldn’t have destroyed the originals anymore if Burton had deliberately set out to do so, which wouldn’t surprise us if it were true. But there was a time when Burton was an excellent director, and the high point of that time, for us, is Edward Scissorhands. Starring Burton’s favorite go-to actor, Johnny Depp, alongside Winona Ryder, the film tells a Frankensteinian story of a man brought to artificial life. However, the quirky catch is that he has scissors for hands. He tries to fit into 90s suburban life in a world of pastel houses and fake pleasantries, but is shunned because of his differences. The film is entertaining in both its humor and heartbreak, but its scathing indictment of suburban prejudice is spot on.
6. The Big Sleep (1946)
Here we have the typical one older film we like to slip into our lists (much like the token older person most reality shows like to add but nobody seems to care much about). Directed by Howard Hawks, The Big Sleep is a 1940s cinematic masterpiece. Interestingly, and in strong support of the film’s worth, the screenplay was written by famous American author, William Faulkner. It’s the quintessential film noir and follows the story of a private detective as he is hired by a wealthy family to find their missing daughter. The film’s plot is entertaining and surprising, as it moves through love triangles, criminal elements and all the standard film noir murder you can handle. Humphrey Bogart gives what is, in our opinion, his best performance, and Lauren Bacall does a great job as the prototypical femme fatale. This is one of those older movies that will have you wearing a fedora and going around using terms like “the plot thickens” before you know what’s happened to you.
5. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
One of Paul Thomas Anderson’s earlier films, we wouldn’t argue that Punch-Drunk Love is his best film (we would probably have to consider giving that honor to There Will be Blood, Magnolia, or Boogie Nights), but it’s often overlooked despite how good it really is. It’s a romantic comedy, oddly, starring Adam Sandler. Now we know what you’re thinking: hey, didn’t these people just belittle Sandler films a few entries back? We don’t really have a great response, except to say that there is always an exception or two to every rule. And this movie balances his antics out with the always great Philip Seymour Hoffman and Emily Watson.
Even so, Sandler’s performance is predominantly quite reserved here, by his standards, and even somber for much of the film. Sandler plays a man with rage and self-confidence issues who comes up with a scheme to exploit a loophole that involves buying pudding in order to amass almost infinite frequent flyer miles, all the while being exploited by a small group of criminals. Punch-Drunk Love has an independent film vibe, a reliance on a strong script and patient directing, so try this one out if you’re looking for a low budget, script-driven film with more symbolism than we know what to do with.
4. Being John Malkovich (1999)
We’ve touted the merits of Charlie Kaufman’s scripts before, and this is another strong example, although one that doesn’t get mentioned nearly enough. Spike Jonze directed this film, which stars John Cusack, Cameron Diaz and, quite shockingly, John Malkovich. The premise for Being John Malkovich is one of those ideas that’s just crazy enough to work. Cusack plays a puppeteer who takes a job on the 7½th floor of a building. That’s right, a half floor that’s just a few feet tall, but that’s only the beginning of the beautiful strangeness you’ll find here. On that floor, he finds a door that turns out to be a portal into the mind of the actor, John Malkovich, where he can watch everything through Malkovich’s eyes. Giving anything else away would be a shame, but that should be enough information for you to decide whether or not this is the kind of film you’d enjoy.
3. Wonder Boys (2000)
Wonder Boys is a movie about writer’s block (we can relate!) that stars Michael Douglas, Katie Holmes and Tobey Maguire. Katie Holmes has received a lot of negativity for her recent roles, but she is charming in this film as a creative writing student who befriends her writing professor, Grady Tripp (Michael Douglas), an acclaimed writer who has been living off the success of his only novel while spending most of his time smoking marijuana and writing his second novel that seems to have no end. Grady also becomes close with another student, James Leer, who has written a book that has drawn the interest of Grady’s publisher. We don’t want anyone going into this movie with any illusions, so we should be clear that this is really gong to only be your type of movie if you would enjoy watching something about writers. If you would, this movie is one of the best movies you’ve probably never seen!
2. Magnolia (1999)
We didn’t intend to have Paul Thomas Anderson appear twice in the top 5 of our list, but we couldn’t justify bumping him down any lower. Magnolia is one of those movies that you love and put in your top movies of all time list when talking with friends, but no one ever knows what you’re talking about. It does have Tom Cruise, which may warn off a lot of cinephiles, but that would be a mistake. The film has a large cast, which also includes John C. Reilly, Julianne Moore, Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H. Macy and others. Every single actor puts in a career-defining performance in this powerhouse movie that Anderson even said is probably the best movie he will ever make, which is saying a lot. The script is extremely literary and deals with the theme of fate versus chance, while also involving a lot of surrealism, such as a scene where it rains frogs. It would be easy to write off the film as pretentious, but we strongly recommend you give it a try with your analytical cap on and enjoy it for what it is: an intelligent movie that forces you to think by not feeding you with any more answers than it has to.
1. Barton Fink (1991)
The Coen brothers have found a lot of mainstream success lately, and for the most part, they have maintained their high standards over the years. Barton Fink is one of their early films that no one seems to talk about, but it’s arguably their best. Even though it didn’t make much money, it received a lot of critical acclaim and won a Palme D’or at the Cannes Film Festival. That might make it sound as pretentious as our previous entry may have sounded, but one of the major themes of this film is its exploration of the differences between what is considered true art and what is not high brow enough to make its way into the inner circles of artistic worth. Mild spoiler: Hearing John Goodman running down a burning hallway with a gun in his hands while screaming, “I’ll show you the life of the mind!” is one of our favorite cinematic moments ever!
The film focuses on Barton Fink (played by John Turtorro), a playwright who is hired to write a wrestling movie for Hollywood. After arriving, he befriends a travelling salesman played by John Goodman. But trust us, that somewhat dull sounding premise leads to a movie that slowly escalates in suspense, moment by moment, leading to an action-packed climax that’s wrought with emotion. Not only did this make it to the top of our list of great films you’ve probably never seen, but it’s one of our favorites of all time!