Lesser Known Hits That Can't Be Missed
Everybody knows names like Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, and Wes Anderson. Each director has a plethora of popular titles to their name, which have a global following, fanbase, and army of supporters. The issue with the luck of the movie industry is that some films fall under critics’ radar. Most come from directors without a name for themselves, but sometimes even the major magic makers have underrated flops.
Without further ado, here are ten of the less appreciated gems from the directors that everybody knows and loves. Each pick has been denoted for being wonderfully moving and impactful yet not having an impact on the everyday. That said, there will be no repeat of any director, as the film denoted will be their most underappreciated.
10. Tim Burton: The Storyteller and his Big Fish
Tim Burton kicks off the list as one of the most unique well-known directors. His style consists of hazy morals and a grim yet unique style. He is not the only director on this list known for recreating Batman. Other than Batman and Batman Returns, Burton’s fanbase adores his stylistic films such as the heartbreaking romance of Edward Scissorhands, the classic Beetlejuice, the claymation phenomena Corpse Bride, and the adapted musical Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. His lesser known film, lesser most likely because it does not emphasize Burton’s style nearly as much as some of his other films, Big Fish has a magnificent cast, story, and works as a completely solid adaptation of the novel by Daniel Wallace.
Big Fish involves Hollywood greats such as Billy Crudup, Helena Bonham Carter (a Burton favorite), Marion Cotillard, Steve Buscemi, Danny DeVito, and Ewan McGregor as the main character. The script was almost given to Steven Spielberg, but he passed after considering it to focus on Catch Me If You Can. Burton took the film in a whole new direction, one that he quickly gave his brilliant imagination to. Richard Bloom’s quest to understand his father’s outlandish stories takes the audience through a mystical forest and to a wild circus where he falls in love. The story has Burton’s signature passion and almost distant sort of style that feels like a fairytale. The themes of love and imagination could not be clearer, and if moviegoers are looking to ease into Burton’s style with a beautiful film, Big Fish is the clear option.
9. David Fincher: One Intense Panic Room
David Fincher has some serious titles to his name. His most famous hit is easily Fight Club, but Gone Girl, The Social Network, Se7en, even The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo are known at minimum by name by any basic moviegoer. With Se7en and Fight Club to his name, Fincher took on David Koepp’s script (Spider-Man, Jurassic Park, Mission Impossible) and perfected the thriller aspect that the film needed. The film stars the remarkable Jodie Foster at the height of her career as well as Kristen Stewart in her first notable role. The film acts as a single location thriller following a single mother (Foster) and her daughter (Stewart) as three burglars (Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam, and a young Jared Leto break into their home to steal the former owner’s belongings.
As for why Panic Room lacks a cult following like Fincher’s other hits, the film has considerably less depth than the usual hardcore stories Fincher tells. While the mainstay of his films include flashbacks, deep character motivation, and intense unique choices, Panic Room has a simple and clear plot with few complications beyond the thrill of a mother-daughter duo surviving three robbers. That said, the film adheres to Fincher’s great use of suspense and intensity with impressively realistic stakes. Panic Room is worth any Fincher fan or just any general fan of solid suspense.
8. Quentin Tarantino: His Lady Jackie Brown
Few people today do not know Quentin Tarantino’s name. Because of his wide following, finding a film of his that does not receive full appreciation is difficult. In a room full of people, someone is going to know a specific Tarantino film. Tarantino makes movies inspired by history’s greatest and most fascinating events and movements. Based around peak Hollywood, Nazi controlled France, the harsh West, the Japanese warrior films, and the American frontier during the slave trade, Tarantino takes already unique history and propels it with violence. Jackie Brown pays homage to the blaxploitation genre from the 70’s while increasing adrenaline.
Jackie Brown stars Robert De Niro, Michael Keaton, Bridget Fonda, Chris Tucker, and Tarantino’s resident favorite actor, Samuel L Jackson, as well as Pam Grier as the film’s namesake. Grier shines as the airline hostess moving half a million dollars, stuck in a calamity where a plethora of criminals are after her. The film combines the expected violence and blunt comedy for a treat of an afternoon watching these all stars get a chance to explore truly unique characters. Jackie Brown deserves more attention but gets overshadowed by Taratino’s awe inspiring lineup.
7. Ridley Scott: Driving with Thelma and Louise
Ridley Scott is one of those directors whose films are bigger household names than the director himself. His powerful classics include groundbreaking Blade Runner, the enticing Gladiator, and the simply perfect Alien, but he has returned to the public spotlight in recent years with The Martian, The Last Duel, and House of Gucci. Thelma and Louise is overlooked as an in-between era for Scott before his modern return to theaters and his classics era. Yet, the film, despite its lack of everyday appreciation, was a cultural phenomenon, receiving six Academy Award nominations and winning Best Original Screenplay. Even the United States Library of Congress chose to preserve the film in the National Film Registry.
The movie stars Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis and Louise and Thelma respectively but also includes the likes of Harvey Kietel, Michael Madsen, and Brad Pitt. The inciting action sees Thelma nearly raped, so Louise shoots her assailent, leading to a cross country chase where the two women get closer in a stunningly written female relationship. The story is a refreshing taste of a wonderfully unique and beautiful development of two deep characters. The film has Scott’s usual grim outlook that requires a mature audience but is worth the time.
6. Martin Scorsese: After Hours
A general warning, After Hours does not include Robert De Niro or Leonardo DiCaprio. That being said, it’s set in New York. Scorsese’s lineup has recently gotten attention by his modern group of fans, those fans praising The Wolf of Wall Street, Goodfellas, The Departed, Shutter Island, and Taxi Driver especially. He released another one of his organized crime stories in 2019 with The Irishman which kept him in modernity. As for After Hours, the frustrating calamity-centric centers on Scorsese’s favorite locale, this time specifically around Soho. A young Griffin Dunne plays Paul, a simple word processor who gets stuck in a mess of a situation when he goes to a stranger’s apartment.
As attributed to Scorsese, the film has the signature dark humor that sees a generally rough side of life and strange people coming together. This film is not for those that get overly empathetic as Paul’s journey has numerous slopes and roadblocks, leaving him in worse and worse situations until he has a whole mob after him. After Hours has a strong pessimistic yet entertaining story that likely remains largely unappreciated due to its simplicity of plot and rough around the edges story that is difficult beyond the screen. Yet, the film has great merit both in filmmaking technique and as a story for those yearning for their pessimistic view to be understood.
5. The Coen Brothers: Raising Arizona to the Fullest
The Coen Brothers are the duo behind a unique range of films with a similar style but wildly different stories. They have a western attitude that birthed films like No Country for Old Men, The Big Lebowski, Fargo, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and True Grit. When choosing the underrated Coen film, options such as Hail, Caesar!, Barton Fink, and Miller’s Crossing came up, but Raising Arizona stands out clearly as pure joy and style. In their usual mixture of crime and comedy, the Coen Brothers craft an endearing yet laugh out loud story following criminal H.I. McDunnough, played by Nicolas Cage, as he kidnaps a rich furniture magnate’s newborn child for his infertile wife Ed, a former police officer played by Holly Hunter. If that does not sound zany enough, they are joined by John Goodman playing H.I. ‘s old cellmate who kidnaps the baby from H.I. Frances McDormund, a Coen usual, joins the cast as well as Dot, the chaotic mother of three and friend of Ed.
The Coen Brothers usually adhere to subtle and random comedy, preferring wacky characters to obvious jokes. Raising Arizona dials that humor to eleven and rolls with it. It gets overlooked for lacking a serious aspect that gives it deep potential, like a number of their other hits. As the main couple is chased around their home by a monstrous biker named Leonard Smalls, they fall in love all over again and really give a sweet meaning to a simply entertaining movie. Raising Arizona is good for any Coen fan or just anybody wanting to endlessly laugh and smile.
4. Ron Howard: The Return of Willow
In 2022, a streaming series based off of Ron Howard’s most unappreciated film came to Disney Plus. Willow 2022 was received with a split reception, whereas the original, which came out in 1988, has its own minor fanbase. As for Howard’s other hits, he directed Solo: A Star Wars Story, Apollo 13, The Da Vinci Code, and the Oscar winning A Beautiful Mind. Willow gets overlooked today due to the raging success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the similar storyworlds between the two, both following a little person’s journey from mediocrity alongside a dashing rogue in an attempt to save a medieval land’s magic and future.
Willow (1988) has a complete charm that makes it a worthwhile adventure for any fan of magical stories. It stars Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer as Willow and Madmartigan as well as Kevin Pollak and Rick Overton as their trusty sprites. The script was written by none other than George Lucas, so it has plenty of originality and incredible fun. As for Howard’s direction, the film takes on fresh life with an all around stunning set and action, completed only by James Hornor’s joyous score. Willow is for any fan of adventure to the fullest.
3. Christopher Nolan: The Misdirection of The Prestige
Today, few directors have more Oscar worthy credits than Christopher Nolan. His films include Interstellar, Inception, Memento, Dunkirk, and the Dark Knight Trilogy. He even has a new film, Oppenheimer, coming to theaters next month. With that many household names, it becomes easy to overlook even a film as impressive as The Prestige. The film is led by Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale portraying opposing magicians, joined by Nolan’s resident wise character in Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, Andy Serkis, and even the legendary David Bowie as Nikola Tesla.
The Prestige may not have the draw of arguably the best Batman series, but it makes up for it with a stunning interaction of plot devices and artistic beauty. In the usual Nolan spirit, the film has a mash of a timeline that easily confuses. Nolan takes on the magician code of secrecy as a thematic technique which only creates a greater excitement for audiences to adore. Follow along as Jackman’s Robert Angier competes with Bale’s Alfred Borden as these two actors create an intense animosity that is wildly compelling. The Prestige has all the merit of any Nolan film with an extra special mystery.
2. Wes Anderson: The Royal Tenenbaums Arrive
Another popular director with a film in theaters right now, Wes Anderson has a number of well-known easy to enjoy movies. From The Grand Budapest Hotel to Fantastic Mr. Fox to Moonrise Kingdom to the recent The French Dispatch, there is no limit to Anderson’s great lineup of hits. As for his underappreciated runs, some solid options included Rushmore, Isle of Dogs, and The Darjeeling Limited but The Royal Tenenbaums is the best of the lesser known films.
Anderson has no limit of recurring actors, in this film specifically Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, and Bill Murray. Otherwise, they are joined by Ben Stiller, Anjelica Huston, Danny Glover, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Gene Hackman. The cast does not necessarily make the movie but this one certainly does not hurt. Each actor brings a joyous childish flair to the story, only increased by Anderson and Owen Wilson’s combined writing of a phenomenal screenplay. For fans of Anderson’s usual wit and style, The Royal Tenenbaums will not disappoint with a touching yet comical story of a wild family.
1. Steven Spielberg: The Terminal
Steven Spielberg may be the greatest known director to this day. His running list of noteworthy films includes the Indiana Jones trilogy, Jurassic Park, Jaws, E.T. The Extraterrestrial, Saving Private Ryan, Catch Me If You Can, Schindler’s List, Ready Player One, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and the recent Oscar nominee The Fabelmans. He does not miss with his directorial style which accidentally drags attention away from some of his lesser known incredible films. In this case, The Terminal is the best example of a popular director’s unappreciated film.
Starring the likes of Stanley Tucci, Diego Luna, Zoe Saldana, Catherine Zeta Jones, and Tom Hanks as Viktor Navorski, a traveler stuck in an American airport. When his home country goes to war, he finds himself without access to a flight home or to New York just outside. Nearly the entire film takes place in Kennedy Airport which Spielberg takes and ignites with his usual flair and passion. Teaming up with John Williams for the score, Spielberg creates a beautiful story for any fan of film.
The Terminal (2013) Official Paramount Trailer
|I am a Film student at Stetson University in Florida. I am a screenplay writer and filmmaker with a heart for storytelling. I discovered a love for film at a young age and am working hard every day to expand my deeper knowledge of technique and detail. Currently, I am on the team in charge of Spooky Empire in Orlando in October, so I spend a lot of time around the horror genre.|