What to Watch is a continuing series that showcases some film recommendations in a specific category.  This week, I discuss underrated films.  The topic of underrated films is entirely subjective.  With that being said, these are films that I feel are underappreciated, misunderstood, overlooked, underseen or forgotten and deserve more recognition.  I probably could have kept on adding more films to this list but I had to draw the line somewhere.

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Ace in the Hole (1951): My favorite Billy Wilder film, with an incredible performance from Kirk Douglas.  The film was a box office flop and only recently has been given more positive attention partly in thanks to the Criterion Collection’s video release of the film.

See my full review here:



Trafic (1971): Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953), Mon Oncle (1958), and Playtime (1967) are widely considered Jacques Tati’s masterpieces but I would put Trafic right alongside them.  Trafic is a hilarious film and the last to feature Tati’s immortal character, Monsieur Hulot.


Pixote (1981): Hector Babenco’s neorealist masterwork was well received critically upon its release but has since fallen into obscurity.  The film’s depiction of Brazilian street kids is brutal and may be difficult to watch for some viewers.


Gallipoli (1981): This is easily one of the greatest war films I have ever seen and yet, most people have never even heard of it.  The film, directed by Australian filmmaker Peter Weir, features a young Mel Gibson.


Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984): Considered by most people to be the weakest link in the original Indiana Jones trilogy, Temple of Doom is my personal favorite “Indy” film.  It is a roller coaster ride of a movie that never lets up.

See my full review here:



Blood Simple (1984): The Coen Brothers’ feature film debut is one of my personal favorites from their varied filmography.  An often overlooked neo-noir gem, it is also the film debut of Joel Coen’s wife, Frances McDormand, who would go on to appear in many of her husband’s films.

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The Fox and the Hound (1981) and The Black Cauldron (1985): When discussing Disney’s animated films, two of my personal favorites are rarely mentioned by people.  Both films are nostalgic for me because I grew up watching them on VHS as a kid.  The Fox and the Hound is a beautiful coming of age story about two unlikely friends.  The Black Cauldron, a box office flop that nearly bankrupted Disney, is a classic adventure film with some wonderfully dark elements.

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The Mosquito Coast (1986) and Running on Empty (1988): These are two underrated films featuring one of my favorite actors, River Phoenix.  The Mosquito Coast is the Peter Weir directed film starring a fantastic Harrison Ford as an eccentric inventor who moves his family to the jungles of Central America to begin a new civilization.  Running on Empty is the Sidney Lumet directed coming of age story about the son of a counterculture couple on the run from the FBI.  Running on Empty is the kind of raw emotional drama that feels unmistakably genuine.  Phoenix is a revelation in the film.


Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me (1992): David Lynch’s nightmarish surrealist masterpiece was panned by critics when it was released and did poorly at the U.S. box office.  While Fire Walk With Me has received more positive attention in the years since its release, it still has not been given the recognition that it deserves.  The film is a wonderful extension of the Twin Peaks universe that has no interest in tying up loose ends from the television series.  It is certainly a film that demands to be seen more than once in order to be appreciated and there is no better time than now as the return of Twin Peaks is soon on its way.  This bizarre film will certainly divide viewers but is worth checking out.

See my full review here:



Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993): Emerging from the fantastic Batman: the Animated Series, Mask of the Phantasm is easily one of the best Batman films and many people do not even know of it.  The film did poorly during its brief theatrical run.  As far I am concerned, it ranks right up there with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy.


Zodiac (2007): Easily one of David Fincher’s best films, Zodiac is a meticulously crafted mystery/thriller with some great performances from Jake Gyllenhaal, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr.  The film depicts the hunt for one of Northern California’s most infamous serial killers, who killed during the late 1960s and early 1970s.


Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead (2007): While this Sidney Lumet directed heist film was critically acclaimed upon its release, it was practically ignored during awards season and has since slipped into obscurity.  This is Lumet’s final film and it is one of his best.  The film also features some incredible acting especially from the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.


Changeling (2008): This Clint Eastwood directed drama is based on the true story of a desperate mother (Angelina Jolie) who goes up against the LAPD, who have passed on an impostor as her missing son.  This great film received some harsh critical backlash upon its release and deserves more acclaim.


Revolutionary Road (2008): This Sam Mendes directed drama may be too “depressing” for some people.  It is certainly a heavy-handed film but one that absolutely blew me away.  Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet are fantastic as a young couple struggling with 1950s suburbia.


Shutter Island (2010): I love some of Martin Scorcese’s more recent work, such as The Departed (2006), Shutter Island (2010), and Hugo (2011).  Shutter Island was unfairly criticized upon its release.  The film remains a love letter to the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock and features a fantastic performance by Scorcese regular Leonardo Dicaprio.