Everyone has their list of under-rated or unappreciated movies. Two of my favorites are Moby Dick (1956) and Rollerball (1975). The critics have always hated Moby Dick partially because of the casting of Gregory Peck in the role Captain Ahab. Gregory Peck was a heroic handsome leading man and critics were horrified by Peck playing the vengeful personification of Hate and Revenge with dignity. Moby Dick was directed by John Huston and the screenplay was written by Ray Bradbury. The attention to detail, the realism, and the honest attempt to use dialog direct from the book make this movie one of my all-time favorites. Rollerball (1975) is another one of my favorite films that the critics hate. The main character Jonathon E, played by James Caan, is an inarticulate thug. He is the most brutal athlete in a brutal sport and he plays the role with great subtly. I think this is what the critics didn’t like. The plot alternates between violence and subtly, violence that in 1975 was shocking. Critics only saw the violence and missed the social criticism and the highly symbolic aspects of character and plot development. Seeing past the surface is critical in understanding the film and the director Norman Jewison does not spoon feed the plot to the audience. In my opinion Rollerball and A Clockwork Orange were two of the best Dystopian Science Fiction movies ever made.
This is a partial list of some of my other favorite under the radar films. They were not top at the box office, award winners, or movies of critical or historic importance. They didn’t change movie history but they are entertaining.
The Stunt Man (1980) is a movie a movie about making movies and it messes with your head. It stars Peter O’Toole as a movie director manipulating his cast & crew to try and get a movie made.
Dragonslayer (1981) is one of those movies Disney made after it lost its way and before the Disney Renaissance. It’s a sword and sorcery fantasy film that was too dark for the typical Disney fan so it flopped under barrage of bad reviews.
Cannery Row (1982) is taken from the John Steinbeck novel. This movie has a dry sense of humor with a lot of moments of laugh out loud funny.
My Favorite Year (1982) is not necessarily an unknown movie. Peter O’Toole was nominated for best actor for his role as Alan Swann and it is often mentioned as one of the best comedies but it is not nearly famous enough.
Without a Clue (1988) Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley reverse the roles of the old Sherlock Holmes movies with Sherlock being the comic relief and Doctor Watson being the actual brilliant detective. It is a very funny movie every Sherlock Holmes fan should see.
Tremors (1990) you could call this film a cult classic. It is a comedy/horror film with the emphasis on comedy.
Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993) is just a wonderful film. The acting, directing, writing, in fact just about everything about this movie is excellent. It’s a movie about a father trying to cope with a son who may be a chess prodigy.
Sandlot (1993) has kids, and baseball, and growing up and a big scary dog and the sandlot and its a great funny movie about growing up. And it’s a good baseball movie that doesn’t star Kevin Costner!
Galaxy Quest (1999) if you are a Star Trek fan you will love this movie. Actually if you hate Star Trek you will love this movie since it is the perfect parody of Star Trek. It has a fabulous cast including Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman, and Tony Shalhoub.