Earlier this year I did an article about underrated and/or under-appreciated games which seemed to go down quite well and attract a fair amount of people to the blog. Even now it still gets a certain amount hits per day.
So, influenced by a poll on a football forum to try and find the best film of all time, I’ve decided to do a similar article about movies.
A lot of these films are actually rated quite highly on sites like IMDB, but based on that poll and just from speaking to who I know, it seems some of them just aren’t all that well-known in general.
So, in no particular order, here are the first five…
1. The Day The Earth Caught Fire (1961)
I came across this film by chance when searching for The Day The Earth Stood Still on LoveFilm. The plot looked interesting, so I gave it a chance and ended up really enjoying it.
When the Earth’s weather starts to take a funny turn and strange meteorological events occur throughout the world, a journalist for the Daily Express does some digging (and since it was filmed 36 years before the Death of Diana it’s not about that) only to discover that by chance both the US and USSR set off test nuclear devices at exactly the same time on opposite sides of the globe. By doing that, the world has been knocked off its axis and is spinning out of control towards the Sun.
The interesting thing about this film is that it’s told from the point of view of Fleet Street; nobody in this film is a hero who is going to sacrifice himself to save humanity. Instead, it’s about how the news is initially covered up, reported and then addressed as the Earth begins to wilt under the heat and freak weather.
It also has a human element to it. While a modern-day telling of this story would no doubt focus on 3D effects and millions of dollars worth of CGI, the fate of the Earth is almost secondary to the relationships between the journalists covering it, and their families. While most modern films would focus on the fact that martial law has been declared and food and water become rationed, this instead explores how that makes the average person feel.
It’s a good story that is both acted and directed well, and also finishes on a cliffhanger, which is a brave thing to do in my opinion.
2. All About Eve (1950)
From time to time my social circle likes to start up ‘Film Night’ where each week one of us selects a film for everyone else to watch that they probably haven’t seen.
One such film that I brought to the table was All About Eve.
Initially I could sense that everyone was inwardly groaning because I’d brought ‘Another Old Film’ to the table rather than been as adventurous as to present The Goonies or Back to the Future. They clearly weren’t expecting much from it.
Until they actually watched it…
At the end, every one of them said “I’m surprised, but I really enjoyed that”.
So what is All About Eve all about? Well, to quote Wikipedia, ‘the film stars Bette Davis as Margo Channing, a highly regarded but ageing Broadwaystar.Anne Baxter plays Eve Harrington, a willingly helpful young fan who insinuates herself into Channing’s life, ultimately threatening Channing’s career and her personal relationships’.
I can’t speak highly enough about this film; everything about it from the casting and acting (both leading actresses are perfect for the roles they play) to the slow burning storyline are perfect. And I’m not alone in thinking that – this film actually received 14 Oscar Nominations, which is a record never surpassed (only equalled by Titanic). And yet it’s not a particularly well known film by my generation or probably the generation before me. When people talk about classic films it’s always The Godfather, The Shawshank Redemption, Star Wars etc.
I suspect that the age of the film (it’s 61 years old) will have something to do with it. There are no effects, no masterful direction and a dated style of music that you stopped getting in films during the 60s, but ultimately I don’t think any of that should detract from what is a very special movie.
Even the most sceptical of my friends considered it a terrific watch, so I urge you to give it a chance as well.
I should point out that this is not the original theatrical trailer, but one done by a fan on YouTube. It’s very well done and he deserves a lot of credit for it.
3. Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1939)
Speaking of old films, this is one of the oldest films in my collection at an astonishing 72 years old. It’s also the first of three films on this list to star one of my favourite actors of all time – James Stewart.
Made before Stewart fought in World War 2, this is almost a different actor to the one that starred more famously in films like Vertigo, It’s a Wonderful Life and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. He certainly looks younger, and in my opinion acts younger as well. It’s actually considered to be the film that really launched his career.
As is the case with most trailers made back then, the one below does absolutely nothing to tell you what the film is about, so to be concise about it, Stewart’s character is the traditional American ‘Good Old Boy’ – a scout leader from back in the days before they were considered creepy. He is invited to replace the recently deceased Senator of his mid-Western state in political office in Washington. But he’s picked because the politicians in charge believe he’ll be an easily manipulated stooge who will help them pass through a selection of self-serving bills that would usually prove unpopular.
When Stewart realises he’s been had for a mug it’s almost too late, as he’s ended up being framed for all the dodgy dealings that have been going on. The only way he can save himself is to prevent a motion being passed in the Senate to have him removed, and the only way to do that is to stage a filibuster (i.e. if he keeps talking without stopping then nobody else can have their say without his permission).
This turns out to be one of the finest scenes in a movie I’ve ever seen. The acting is tremendous and it is most likely the reason why Stewart became such a popular actor.
There’s no doubt the film has dated elements to it, some bad (some of the direction/music/acting is a bit old school) but some brilliant (there’s a scene you just won’t believe where some hired goons deliberately crash their car into another car being driven by children).
Much like all About Eve, this is a film that my friends were very sceptical about, but ended up really enjoying.
4. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
When people are asked to rate their favourite Disney films, the chances are the list will include the likes of Snow White, The Lion King, Pinocchio, Aladdin, The Jungle Book, Toy Story etc etc etc
You can see the films that Disney themselves rate highly by what gets marketed in the Theme Parks.
One film that won’t be on many lists and has probably been forgotten about completely over in Orlando is The Emperor’s New Groove, an oddly animated film about an arrogant young emperor who gets turned into a wise-cracking Llama.
Now, I’m not going to tell you that this is a film of the standard of such classics as The Lion King and Toy Story, because it’s not, but it’s still very good. Unusually for a Disney film, it doesn’t have any songs and I laughed all the way through it.
It’s witty, it’s smart and has a unique look. It also has good voice acting as well, with David Spade and John Goodman playing the lead roles.
And yet despite all of this I think I must be one of the few people who actually remembers it.
5. Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (2009)
I’m sure anyone who reads this blog knows that I’m a fan of Doctor Who, and so it shouldn’t surprise you that a film with a name like that would be on my list.
I would certainly say though that this film is incredibly under-appreciated because I don’t think it got any press at all. I stumbled across it by accident when looking at a list of films made by BBC Films (which is a sign of quality if ever there was one).
One of the things that surprised me about the film was the cast. I really didn’t think I’d enjoy a film starring the guy off the IT Crowd and Anna ‘I’ve starred in more crappy comedy movies than Leslie Nielson’ Faris, but I did…I really did.
The plot is incredibly clever, flows, makes sense (even for people who probably don’t understand this type of thing like my mum) and is funny. It’s also got a great soundtrack to it as well.
The sad thing for Anna Faris is that this is probably her finest ever film role, one in which she’s not playing a clown or taking part in the most crude humour imaginable. Why is that sad? Because nobody seems to know about it, yet Scary Movie 2 made millions world-wide.
Five down, ten to go. Come back for more James Stewart, more Old Films, another animation and a TV movie made purely for ITV.