Opinion: 12 forgotten movies that are outstanding
Somehow, a few gems get buried now and again.
Don’t worry, you won’t be reading about movies regularly praised by college kids. If you’re tired of hearing about “V for Vendetta,” “Fight
Club” and “Donnie Darko,” then this list is for you.
I’m also emphasizing ambiguity, original writing and characters with complexity. Filmmakers who strive to be as realistic as possible seem to produce the most thought-provoking work, since real life cannot be reduced to a formula.
Let’s get this party started:
“The Wrestler” (2008) — Darren Aronofsky, the man who brought us “Requiem for a Dream,” is talented at making us feel sympathy for the most pathetic people. Meet “The Ram,” a wrestler whose days of fame have long ended. He injects steroids into his 50-year-old body, tans, works at a grocery store and is obsessed with his long-gone career.
After a severe heart attack and failed attempt to make peace with his abandoned daughter, The Ram realizes that his persona as a wrestler is what destroyed him.
“Blue Velvet” (1984) — exotic and disturbing, surrealist and funny.
Welcome to David Lynch territory, where nightmares manifest themselves in the most realistic way imaginable. When a young man stumbles upon a rotting human ear in a field, the darker side of life begins to unfold in front of him. A murderous cult seems to lurk in a perfect suburb of America. Dennis Hopper plays a sex-crazed psychopath with a fetish for his mother. Morbidly curious yet?
“Midnight Cowboy” (1969) — This is an oftentimes heartbreaking movie about a homosexual with an identity crisis and traumatic past. When the man befriends a homeless cripple (Dustin Hoffman) in New York City, they begin to develop a dependence on each other. As a terrible illness begins to slowly end the life of Hoffman’s character, the grim realities of poverty, sickness and isolation are shown.
“Sling Blade” (1996) — This might be the most iconic film on this list, but for good reason. Billy Bob Thornton’s performance is something that you must see to believe. Set in Arkansas, the story begins with his character being released from a mental hospital, and then he meets a young boy who struggles to cope with his mother’s abusive boyfriend. One of the final scenes involves the man sharpening a lawn mower blade, and he has an intention to use it on someone.
“Leon: The Professional” (1994) — This is an unusual action movie that focuses on the relationship between a hit man and a 12-year-old girl played by Natalie Portman. Although the hit man, Leon, is excellent at being a killing machine, the young girl begins to bring out his affectionate side when she falls in love with him. But the girl is like an adult, and Leon, who has been isolated his whole life, is like the child. Gary Oldman plays an awesome villain, a pill-popping, nut-job Drug Enforcement Agency agent.
“Crimes and Misdemeanors” (1989) — If you like black comedies, then you’ll probably like this one. This Woody Allen movie also has a philosophical flavor, since it centers on a man who tries to live his life normally after murdering a woman to cover up the affair they were having. Is it possible to live guiltlessly after killing someone?
“Unforgiven” (1992) — Want to watch a classic Spaghetti Western with gun duels, rugged cowboys and Indians? I’m afraid you’ve come to the wrong place. Clint Eastwood deconstructs the Western genre, which often glorified the Wild West, and brings it into a much darker perspective. Eastwood’s character, an alcoholic full of regret for the numerous people he murdered and robbed in the past, is an emblem of the real West, which doesn’t involve heroic cowboys.
“Badlands” (1973) — Terrence Malick’s debut feature focuses on a killing spree committed by two runaway teenagers. After a young girl (Sissy Spacek) is seduced by a slightly older boy (Michael Sheen), her life transforms dramatically. The boy shoots her father dead, and they embark on a road trip across America. The subject matter is haunting, yet no explanation is given for their actions. In closing, I’d like to honorably mention “City of God” (2002), “Lawrence of Arabia” (1962), “Safe” (1996) and “Eyes Wide Shut” (1999).
Wow, I seem to gravitate toward movies centering on sex and death. I just realized this. Either way, if I get one person to enjoy any of these, then my job here is done!