Have you ever seen a film and question why it’s not as well known or gets the respect it deserves? I consider myself a film geek and have seen several films throughout the years, while some I saw deserves all the accolades it received and many deserves to be forgotten. But I thought these films on the list deserves to be seen by more people and shouldn’t have been forgotten.
In no particular order, below are some films that I believe should be given second look:
Year of the Dragon (1985)
After the disastrous Heaven’s Gate, it’s a miracle that Michael Cimino was able to make this film. A story about a NYC cop taking on the Triad Chinese mob has everything you need in this kind of genre, great cinematography, strong performances and enough action to satisfy the 80s action hungry audiences. It starred the young upcoming and coming actor named Mickey Rourke as the cop who’s trying to take down the mob in NYC’s Chinatown. John Lone was excellent as the ambitious mobster who’s trying to become the Godfather of Chinatown.
The film’s not perfect but I think it’s one of the best in that decade. Even though he’s very good in the role, Rourke’s character was written as someone in his late 40s or early 50s and Rourke was only 33 at the time. So in order to make him appear older, they applied really bad makeup and dyed his hair gray; I have to admit I found it to be distracting at times while watching the film. Apparently, the leading role was offered to both Clint Eastwood and Paul Newman, but they turned it down because they didn’t want to be anywhere near Cimino.
When the film came out, the Chinese community started calling the film racist because they didn’t think it depicts Chinatown in a good light. According to Cimino, the studio folks loved the film and planned to release it in the Holiday season but with the controversy, they decided to dump it in late summer. The film is available on Amazon video and DVD, it has yet to be released on Bluray here in the States. I’m hoping Criterion will release it some day.
Dead Presidents (1995)
The Hughes Brothers second film is maybe the most under-appreciated film of the 90s. It’s a combination of different genres, heist, action and war drama. Larenz Tate stars as a young man who served in the Vietnam War and tried to adjust to normal life after he’s back in the States. It’s one of the few films in Hollywood that addresses the issues of African Americans who has to deal with harsh reality of living in the society after the war. It’s well written, directed and the performances were great by the actors. It’s not available on Bluray yet but you can find it on DVD, please seek it out.
I can guarantee that a lot of people have never heard of this film starring Gene Hackman and Al Pacino. A story about two men who’s trying to correct their lives, Hackman played an ex-con who’s trying to start a new life after being released from prison and Pacino played a sailor who’s trying to get home to see his child. It’s kind of a road movie but I thought it’s a great character study of these two men. The film was an indie produced and when it failed critically and financially, Hackman refuses to work on future indie projects; he’d only worked on studios financed films after this one. It’s one of the rare gems from the 70s and you should see it for the great performances by the two legendary actors. I think maybe the film failed is because the title suggests it’s some sort of a super natural thriller or horror. But despite its failure, both actors have said it’s one of their favorite films that they starred in.
Carlito’s Way (1993)
Another film starring Al Pacino that I thought should’ve been well received when it came out. Pacino stars as a Puerto Rican gangster named Carlito who’s trying to go straight after being released from prison. It also stars Sean Penn as his lawyer and best friend; I think it’s Penn’s best performance. Unlike most films on the list, this one received full support from the studio and released in the prime Holidays season. But for whatever reason, it failed to click with audiences and were dismissed by most critics. Of course the film’s not perfect, I think the love story didn’t work and the lead actress Penelope Ann Miller was a miscast. According to director Brian De Palma, he auditioned several young actresses at that time and wanted to cast a then unknown actress named Sandra Bullock. But the role requires that she must be willing to do a topless scene because the character is a ballet dancer and stripper. Bullock refused to take her tops off and De Palma went with Miller since she has no problem taking her clothes off.
It’s available on DVD and Bluray for a very cheap price, I highly recommend people to see this one ASAP. Personally, I thought it’s one of the best films of the 90s. Several years after the film came out, De Palma did an interview and said he knew the film was going to fail. He’d just made Bonfire of Vanity; one of the biggest box office bombs of the 90s and people were still hated him for it. Also, Pacino had just won an Oscar for his performance in Scent of A Woman in the previous year and many people thought he didn’t deserve it. So a lot of people were against Pacino at that time too.
Extreme Prejudice (1987)
A modern day western that’s full of action and great performances yet somehow it failed miserably. It’s quite surprising since the film came out in the 80s and this was the kind of film that would bring in huge box office numbers in that era. My fellow FlixChatter contributor Jack gave an in depth review here so I won’t go into why you need to see this hidden gem.
After back-to-back success with The French Connection and The Exorcist, director William Friedkin was on top of the food chain in Hollywood. In what he thought was going to be another box office hit, he decided to make an adventure film set in the jungle. It’s remake of a French film called Wages of Fear and I think this one is even better than the original version. Released in the summer of 1977, the studio thought it’s going to be another hit for Friedkin but it failed and has been forgotten for years. Just a few years ago, Quentin Tarantino mentioned that it’s one of his favorite films ever and that gave the film some well deserve recognition. The film was finally available on Bluray last spring and it’s one of the best discs of a classic film. It’s available for a very cheap price, so you should buy it and see this excellent action/adventure film.
The Vanishing (original 1988 version)
If this Danish film came out in our current time of online social media sharing, I believe it would’ve been much more well known and many people would consider it one of the best thrillers ever made. But it came out in the late 80s, several years before the internet and it’s sort of been forgotten since then. This is one of the few films that I would consider a masterpiece. The story about a couple who decided to take a road trip, while stopping to get food at a local gas station somewhere in the French country side, the girlfriend was abducted. For three years, the boyfriend is obsessed with finding out what happened to her. Unlike most suspense thriller, this film didn’t rely on violence or cheap scares to keep the audience engage, with the exception of a small fight scene, there were no violence depicted in the film.
The film’s brilliantly written and directed by the late George Sluizer and beautifully shot. You need to know as little as possible if you’ve never seen it. But be prepare for a gut punch of an ending that will likely haunts you for a long time. Unfortunately, Sluizer got talked into directing a remake for American audiences a few years later and it’s inferior to his original version in so many ways. Avoid the remake at all cost.
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969)
For a long time this film was considered the black sheep of the Bond franchise. Many of the Bond film fans called it the worst in the series but then a few years ago, Christopher Nolan said it’s his favorite Bond film and since then, it has gotten more attention and now some say it’s one of the best Bond films ever made. It’s not widely known but Sean Connery said that he regret not coming back to reprise his role as 007, because he thought the script for this film was great.
I’ve gotten into some heated discussion with some people about how this is great Bond picture and that it’s the only film in the series that’s faithful to the original Fleming’s source novel. This was before Nolan said it’s his favorite Bond film, of course those people have switched gear and said it’s a great Bond film. Now I understand why the film didn’t click with audiences when it first came out, a new actor is playing 007 and it’s quite dark in tone comparing to the previous Bond films at the time. Of course the shocking ending probably turned off a lot of Bond fanatics and paved way for the Roger Moore’s silly Bond pictures throughout the 70s and most of the 80s.
But I thought what made the film great was that the filmmakers decided to make Bond more of a human rather than some sort of superhero. For example, a scene in which Blofeld’s henchmen were chasing Bond and he realized he might not get away and they showed fear in his face. That’s never been done in any of the Bond films and we didn’t see fear in Bond’s face again until Casino Royale where he’s being tortured. Then there’s Diana Rigg as the cool Bond girl, I would’ve liked to see more of her in the film but she’s definitely one of the best Bond girls in the franchise. Of course she’s one of the few women whom Bond did fall in love with and he finally married her.
The film was such a big box office failure that the producers considered hiring an American actor to play 007 in the next one. They thought this one failed because it’s too European and that American audiences didn’t “get” it.
Judgment Night (1993)
The early 90s were full of cheesy action pictures and when I saw a trailer for this film, I thought it’s just another silly action thriller that would be forgotten once it hits local movie theaters. Sure enough that’s what happened, it barely made a dent at the box office but when I saw it on home video, I thought it’s great. The premise of the film is pretty simple; a group of friends are attending a box match somewhere in downtown Chicago. On the way there, they got stuck in traffic and decided to take an alternate route through a rough neighborhood. Unfortunately for them once they’re in the hood, they got lost and witnessed a murder by a ruthless drug dealer and his men. With no weapons to defend themselves, they have to use their wits to survive the night.
What I really like about this film is that they cast actors who actually look like regular people. Emilio Estevez, Cuba Gooding Jr., Stephen Dorff and Jeremy Piven aren’t the kind of actors you think of in an action picture. But here they fit what the story requires, regular guys with no special skills trying to stay alive. Denis Learly, who at the time is better known for his comedic role, plays the main villain here. He totally surprised me and I thought he’s excellent as the relentless killer who won’t stop until his pray are all dead.
The Assassination Of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (2007)
Almost ten years since the release of this film and it’s pretty much forgotten by many people. But to me it’s one of the best westerns ever made and should be in discussion as one of the best in that decade. Since the film wasn’t an action picture, the studio didn’t know how to promote it and pretty much just released it with little marketing. Now 2007 was a very good year for films, it came out around the same time as the other two more memorable films, No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood.
Even though Brad Pitt played the title role, he’s pretty much a supporting actor. The film belongs to Casey Affleck who I thought was excellent and should’ve won the Oscar for his performance. It’s beautifully shot by the great Roger Deakins and the soundtrack is one of my favorites ever. I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve listened to this film’s soundtrack. If you’ve never seen it, I would highly recommend you see it.
So those are some older films I thought deserves to be seen my more people. Did you see any of them and do you agree with me?