Most Underrated Movies of All Time
For every movie that's celebrated at the Academy Awards, hundreds of others go unnoticed and into the $5 bin at Walmart.
Sure, many forgotten movies are downright terrible, but some don't deserve the bad reputation that comes from poor box-office takes, unfair critical thrashings or weak marketing.
These films are more than just overlooked or misunderstood. They are the most underrated movies of all time.
50. Cloud Atlas
Directed by: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski, Tom Tykwer
Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving, Jim Broadbent
Budget: $102 million
Worldwide box office: $130.48 million
Opposing Takes: Cloud Atlas
"A daring extravaganza of images and themes, a film that asserts itself as worthy of repeated viewings, not only for its quality, but its generously expansive scope and theme." — Nicholas Bell, IONCINEMA
"This is the Bermuda Triangle of sci-fi — where logic and clarity vanish without a trace." — J. Olson, Cinemixtape
Bottom Line: Cloud Atlas
"Cloud Atlas" deserved more than the complete bomb at the box office that it was. This nearly three-hour science-fiction/fantasy epic based on David Mitchell's bestseller is one of the most divisive films of the 2010s.
Depending on who you're asking, "Cloud Atlas" was either one of the worst films of 2012 or one of the best. It was either a confusing reel of tripe or a thoughtful near masterpiece. The only thing most people agreed on was the film's rich cinematography and beautiful visuals.
The film takes place within five eras, from the mid-19th century to 2321. The people we meet are all interconnected. What one person does in the past ripples into the future, and we see how. It's a hugely ambitious movie that takes a while to digest long after you've seen it.
Plus, Hugo Weaving plays an incredible villain (or villains, in this case).
49. American Made
Directed by: Doug Liman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Domhnall Gleeson, Sarah Wright
Budget: $50 million
Worldwide box office: $134.9 million
Opposing Takes: American Made
"One assumes that Cruise got this film made, yet he's a terrible fit for the role: he's always done his best work portraying smart, insightful characters in dramatic stories, but Seal was a yahoo whose sorry escapades are played here for cynical laughs." — J.R. Jones, Chicago Reader
"It skitters and jumps, shivers and boot-scoots, never, ever sitting still. You could say it's like 'Blow,' on well, blow. But there's a breezy sunniness to this film, which looks like a faded snapshot reclaimed from an '80s photo album." — Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service
Bottom Line: American Made
Tom Cruise stars in this biopic about Barry Seal, a real-life drug smuggler responsible for transporting loads and loads of coke for Pablo Escobar.
Unlike "Blow," "American Made" doesn't glamorize the hard and fast lifestyle (Seal wasn't a drug user). Instead, it's a fast-paced and sympathetic look at Seal, who by many accounts was a good guy (minus that whole drug smuggling thing).
"American Made" went largely ignored when it was released in 2017, but it's worth a watch.
48. The Black Cauldron
Directed by: Ted Berman, Richard Rich
Starring: Grant Bardsley, Susan Sheridan, Nigel Hawthorne, John Hurt, John Byner
Budget: $25 million-$44 million
Worldwide box office: $21.29 million
Opposing Takes: The Black Cauldron
"The characters, though cute and cuddly and sweet and mean and ugly and simply awful, don't really have much to do that would remain of interest to any but the youngest minds." — Variety
"By the end of 'The Black Cauldron,' I was remembering, with something of a shock of nostalgia, the strength and utter storytelling conviction of the early Disney animators. 'The Black Cauldron' is a return to the tradition." — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Bottom Line: The Black Cauldron
"The Black Cauldron" was panned by critics and was a total box-office failure when it was released in 1985. Its budget was supposed to be $25 million but ballooned to an estimated $44 million and nearly killed Disney. To this day, it still bears the stigma of being Disney's worst animated film. It didn't even hit home video until 1998.
"The Black Cauldron" isn't bad, though. It's a pretty dang good high fantasy movie about a group of kids who must defeat an evil undead king. Also worth noting is that Gurgi, the weird creature that joins the crew, was the inspiration for Andy Serkis' portrayal of Gollum in "The Lord of the Rings."
The themes are darker than most other Disney pictures, and the animation is fantastic (it was Disney's first film to use CGI). It's an interesting movie that is now on Disney Plus and worth a watch.
47. The Rules of Attraction
Directed by: Roger Avary
Starring: James Van Der Beek, Shannyn Sossamon, Ian Somerhalder, Jessica Biel, Kate Bosworth, Kip Pardue
Budget: $4 million
Worldwide box office: $11.8 million
Opposing Takes: The Rules of Attraction
"A disagreeable and unrewarding expose of what spoilt college students get up to in expensive New England colleges." — Phillip French, The Guardian
"[Bret Easton] Ellis' satire, filtered through Avary's harsh lens, is hard to stomach, harder to ignore." Peter Travers, Rolling Stone
Bottom Line: The Rules of Attraction
Many people missed the point of "The Rules of Attraction." Yes, this movie is about vapid, wealthy college kids and their exploits. The characters are mostly unlikeable, but that's the idea.
This is a movie based on the Bret Easton Ellison novel of the same name. The main character, Sean Bateman, is the drug-dealing little brother of Patrick Bateman from "American Psycho."
We're not supposed to empathize or connect with these people, but we're supposed to laugh at their wicked lifestyles and horrid behavior.
46. Treasure Planet
Directed by: Ron Clements, John Musker
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levit, Emma Thomspon, David Hyde Pierce, Martin Short
Budget: $140 million
Worldwide box office: $109.6 million
Opposing Takes: Treasure Planet
"The addition of an insufferable robot named B.E.N. (Martin Short) cripples much of the film's momentum and renders many of the latter scenes unwatchable (a friend once dubbed B.E.N. 'the Jar-Jar Binks of animation,' and she was absolutely right)." — Matt Brunson, Creative Loafing
"This is Disney animation at its best: a witty and swashbuckling tale of adventure." — Jim Shelby, Palo Alto Weekly
Bottom Line: Treasure Planet
"Treasure Planet" is one of the biggest box-office flops ever. Which is a shame, because this futuristic reimagining of Robert Louis' Stevenson's "Treasure Island" didn't deserve to bomb so hard.
The movie was initially criticized for being too much like a Saturday morning cartoon than a Disney film, which may have turned off audiences in the early 2000s but now seems like a breath of fresh air. The animation is awesome (and a big reason why the budget swelled to $140 million), and the movie is just fun.
It's no masterpiece, but certainly entertaining.
45. Fire in the Sky
Directed by: Robert Lieberman
Starring: D.B. Sweeney, Robert Patrick, Craig Sheffer, Peter Berg, Henry Thomas, Bradley Gregg
Budget: $15 million
Worldwide box office: $19.9 million
Opposing Takes: Fire in the Sky
"'The X-Files' could have done this story in 42 minutes flat, though in reality, it probably would have deemed it too boring to bother with at all." — Christopher Null, Filmcritic.com
"Features one of the most harrowing sequences (maybe) ever. I get chills just thinking about it." — Scott Weinberg, eFilmCritic.com
Bottom Line: Fire in the Sky
"Fire in the Sky" is a predictable alien abduction story. But it's also the perfect alien abduction movie, complete with it being based on a "true" story.
Driving home from work, a group of loggers stop to investigate something strange in the sky. One man, Travis Walton (D.B. Sweeney) gets out of his truck to check it out and is hit by a beam of light. The other truckers flee, and Walton disappears for several days, then reappears buck naked at a gas station.
Eventually, he starts to remember what happened to him — which ends up being the best alien abduction scene in movie history.
The special effects in "Fire in the Sky" are top-notch, and the aliens look more menacing than big-headed grey men (though you'll probably still chuckle). The great thing about this sci-fi flick is that the subject material is treated with the utmost seriousness. The alien ship is creepy and organic, rather than a steel saucer. These aliens are mean, and that experimentation scene is terrifying.
The biggest knock against the movie is that there should have been more scenes in the UFO.
Directed by: James Gunn
Starring: Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Nathan Fillion
Budget: $2.5 milion
Worldwide box office: $422,618
Opposing Takes: Super
"Where it completely fails is when the in-your-face amorality is contextualized with an icky epilogue which tries to justify what came before as some kind of 'spiritual journey' It doesn't convince." — Mayer Nissim, Digital Spy
If you're a comic book lover looking for something bleak and disturbing (but also amusing), 'Super' should prove to be an unforgettable experience." — Marc Nix, IGN
Bottom Line: Super
"Super" is a movie that supposes these things: If a regular guy tried to be a superhero, what would actually happen? How insane would someone have to be to do so?
Rainn Wilson plays Frank Darbo, a pathetic short-order cook who is pushed past the brink of emotional stability when his wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him for a drug dealer. Darbo has a vision telling him he's meant to be a superhero. He teams up with a young store clerk named Libby (Ellen Page), and Darbo invents the Crimson Bolt persona.
"Super" is a dark comedy that a lot of people didn't like. It's extremely violent and nihilistic, but isn't that what would happen if someone tried to make comic books a reality?
43. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Starring: John C. Reilly, Jenna Fischer, Tim Meadows, Kristen Wig
Budget: $35 million
Worldwide box office: $20.6 million
Opposing Takes: Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
"Like the drunk guy who squeezes your arm and tells the same joke over and over until you laugh, goddamn you, laugh!" — Fernando F. Croce, CinePassion
"The entire film has three repetitive jokes: Dewey cut his brother in half, Dewey can't smell, and he's going to take drugs. So it's kind of amazing how well the film works." — Jeff Bayer, The Scorecard Review
Bottom Line: Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story
"Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story" is a mid-2000s spoof biopic that only works for people who like movies filled with stupid humor (which was most comedies made at the time). John C. Reilly plays a Johnny Cash-esque character who accidentally cuts his brother in half with a machete, loses his sense of smell, becomes a rock star and does tons of drugs.
There are a number of fictional portrayals of various musical artists and other industry heavyweights, including a fantastic scene with The Beatles with Paul Rudd as John Lennon and Jack Black as Paul McCartney.
"Walk Hard" was panned by critics and completely bombed at the box office. However, it gained traction at home with DVD sales and now regularly streams on Netflix.
42. Freddy Got Fingered
Directed by: Tom Green
Starring: Tom Green, Rip Torn
Budget: $14 million
Worldwide box office: $14.3 million
Opposing Takes: Freddy Got Fingered
"Green ... is perhaps the only person on earth who could make a moviegoer actually nostalgic for the subtle intellectual brilliance of Pauly Shore." — Jim Lane, Sacramento News and Review
"Heinous, tiresome, does things with large mammals that are just plain wrong and includes some of the funniest scenes in memory." — John Zebrowski, Seattle Times
Bottom Line: Freddy Got Fingered
"Freddy Got Fingered" is unique because the hate it received was understandable. The jokes are gross, the movie is totally pointless, and the movie seeks to offend at every take. And that's what makes it good! It's pointless absurdity.
Tom Green had $14 million to make "the stupidest movie we could think of," he said, adding that when the film came out, he received so much criticism that he felt like he had murdered someone.
Go into it with that expectation, and you're in for a good time. Probably.
41. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Directed by: Lorene Scafaria
Starring: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley
Budget: $10 million
Worldwide box office: $9.6 million
Opposing Takes: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
"[It] unfortunately invites a lethal dose of skepticism toward its cutesy last-ditch matchmaking, obligatory road-trip plotting, and thinly funny jibes at the rest of humankind." — Nigel Andrews, Financial Times
"It's a genre-defying melancomedy that manages to be good science fiction and a moving romance at the same time. Best of all, it never cheats you with false optimism about the fate of the world." — Annalee Newitz, io9
Bottom Line: Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
"Seeking A Friend for the End of the World" is a relatively low-budget comedy-drama (with an emphasis on the drama) about two people looking for some kind of love and closure as a meteor hurls toward earth.
It flopped at the box office, not even making back its $10 million budget after theaters took their cut and received a mix of positive and negative reviews, and struck a chord with some critics. Those who hated it, really hated it.
The movie is surprisingly subdued given the cataclysmic stakes, but it works. Steve Carell and Keira Knightley give solid comedic performances, and it's certainly not as bad as most of the critics made it out to be. Cutesy? Yes. But it's also bittersweet and watchable.
40. The Babysitter
Directed by: McG
Starring: Samara Weaving, Judah Lewis, Hana Mae Lee, Bella Thorne, Robbie Amell
Worldwide box office: $404,923
Opposing Takes: The Babysitter
"It may be manic enough to amuse some horror fans, but it's so immature — even about its own immaturity — that it's difficult to recommend." — William Gibbiani, IGN
"Doesn't break the rules we've come to abide in the genre, if anything it follows them to a tee, but it's delight in being supremely distasteful earns the film a charm that's sorely been missed." — Peter Gray, AU Review
Bottom Line: The Babysitter
"The Babysitter" is a made for Netflix movie about a kid too old for a babysitter who accidentally sees what the babysitter does when he's sleeping upstairs. Hint: It's sacrificing people to Satan. Now, trapped in a house with her and her Satanic buddies, he has to escape.
"The Babysitter" is crass, self-aware and comically gory. It's a good time for those who love bloody schlock, and this film bathes in it.
A sequel is in the works.
39. The Signal
Directed by: David Bruckner, Dan Bush, Jacob Gentry
Starring: A.J. Bowen, Anessa Ramsey, Justin Welborn
Worldwide box office: $1 million
Opposing Takes: The Signal
"It doesn't take long for the 'The Signal''s promising beginning to fade into a haze that leaves the viewer exhausted and irritated." — James Beradinelli, ReelViews
"Funny, terrifying and haunting all at once, this tripartite vision of postmodern alienation, societal breakdown and mental disintegration is as arresting as a baseball bat to the head — while still cutting to the heart." — Anton Bitel, Eye for Film
Bottom Line: The Signal
"The Signal" (not to be confused with the 2014's "The Signal" with Laurence Fisburne) is a low-budget horror movie told in three chapters (called "transmissions") in a world where a mysterious signal, emitted through all forms of communication, drives people insane and murderous.
It's gruesome, humorous and exceptionally well done given its shoestring budget, even if it does gas out at the end.
Unfortunately, most people haven't even heard of it.
Directed by: Francis Lawrence
Starring: Keanu Reeves, Rachel Weisz, Shia LaBeouf, Tilda Swinton
Budget: $100 million
Worldwide box office: $230.9 million
Opposing Takes: Constantine
"Most of the script consists of speeches explaining too many intricate rules of supernatural battles between good and evil. Even the cast seems bored." — Michael Compton, Bowling Green Daily News
"'Constantine' deserves a cult following and should be remembered for all the things it did right instead of its perceived wrongs." — Drew Dietsch
Bottom Line: Constantine
A comic book movie before comic book movies were the only thing Hollywood produced, "Constantine" is about an occult detective who can commune with the supernatural spirit world. Keanu Reeves plays a wonderful John Constantine, a brooding man with terminal lung cancer condemned to hell because he attempted to take his own life.
"Constantine" was panned by critics when it came out in 2005, but has since become more appreciated for the movie it is and not what the movie people were expecting. It's not a brilliant adaptation of the "Hellblazer" comics, but it's a thoroughly enjoyable movie that didn't deserve the hate.
37. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Directed by: Tom Twykler
Starring: Ben Whishaw, Alan Rickman, Rachel Hurd-Wood, Dustin Hoffman
Budget: $64 million
Worldwide box office: $133 million
Opposing Takes: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
"'Perfume: The Story of a Murderer' is another nauseous example of style over content: a toxic tale of serial homicide set in 18th-century France that creeps you out faster than it makes you think." — Rex Reed, Observer
"Plenty of high profile movies are about the tormented lives of artists. 'Perfume: The Story of a Murderer' takes it up a notch: It's a legitimate artwork." — Mark Palermo, The Coast
Bottom Line: Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
"Perfume: The Story of a Murderer" is one of the most expensive German films ever made. It's also one of the most interesting. "Perfume" is set in 18th-century France and chronicles the life of Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, a (fictional) master perfumer and serial killer.
Any good movie that makes the audience walk in a villain's shoes is a difficult one to watch, and a difficult one to market. Many people felt uneasy watching this film, but that shouldn't be a knock against it. It's an absolutely gorgeous film to watch and makes the story easier to digest.
36. Kung Pow! Enter the Fist
Directed by: Steve Oedekerk
Starring: Steve Oedekerk
Budget: $10 million
Worldwide box office: $17 million
Opposing Takes: Kung Pow! Enter the Fist
"Not since 'Freddy Got Fingered' has a major release been so painful to sit through." — Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune
"Steve Oedekerk's ode to bad '70s Hong Kong cinema is a gleefully bizarre combination of loving homage and merciless satire, bad special effects and unexpected jokes." — Betsy Bozdech, DVDJournal.com
Bottom Line: Kung Pow! Enter the Fist
We trained him wrong on purpose as a joke.
Critics hated "Kung Pow! Enter the Fist." That doesn't they were right. The movie stars Steve Oedekerk (who also wrote and directed) in a series of scenes taken from old (and bad) Hong Kong kung ffu movies. Lines are overdubbed to make a semi-coherent story with a ton of good one-liners and funny moments.
Just forget about the cow fight. It never happened.
35. Robin Hood: Men in Tights
Directed by: Mel Brooks
Starring: Cary Elwes, Richard Lewis, Roger Rees, Amy Yasbeck, Dave Chappelle, Mark Blankfield
Budget: $20 million
Worldwide box office: $35.7 million
Opposing Takes: Robin Hood: Men in Tights
"Marvelously funny even for those who didn't see the film it hilariously parodies — 1991's 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves' — this Mel Brooks comedy is one sprightly spoof." — People Magazine
"A most disappointing Mel Brooks movie parody that suggests that the once hilarious Brooks has completely lost his way." — Gene Siskel, Chicago Tribune
Bottom Line: Robin Hood: Men in Tights
An underappreciated movie when it was released in 1993, "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" has become something of a cult classic over the last two decades.
But when it came out, "Robin Hood: Men in Tights" bombed at the box office and was excoriated by critics. It's not as clever as Brooks' classics, but it's fun to watch.
"Tell everyone that when the day is out we shall have a wedding. Or a hanging. Either way, we're gonna have a lot of fun, huh?"
34. The Night Eats the World (La Nuit a Dévoré le Monde)
Directed by: Dominique Rocher
Starring: Anders Danielsen Lie, Golshifiteh Farahani
Budget: $4 million
Worldwide box office: $95,208
Opposing Takes: The Night Eats the World (La Nuit a Dévoré le Monde)
"No matter how spare and arty 'The Night Eats the World' is, there's nothing here that hasn't been done before." — Simon Abrams, Village Voice
"The most innovative zombie movie since 'Shaun of the Dead.'" — Eric Kohn, Indie Wire
Bottom Line: The Night Eats the World (La Nuit a Dévoré le Monde)
"The Night Eats the World" is a French end-of-the-world zombie film set in Paris that has gone largely ignored or unseen by most. It's a foreign film with subtitles, so that's working against it, but you won't do a lot of reading when watching TNETW — it's the quietest zombie flick ever made.
Instead of people mulling over what they need to do to survive, our lone survivor quietly walks through an apartment building, figuring out where supplies might be, and fills the roof full of cups and pots to catch rainwater.
The zombies don't snarl or moan, they snap and chatter their teeth. It's a creepy, isolating movie heavy with existential dread that deserves much more attention from horror and zombie movie fans than it ever received.
Directed by: Kurt Wimmer
Starring: Christian Bale, Taye Digs, Emily Watson
Budget: $20 million
Worldwide box office: $5.37 million
Opposing Takes: Equilibrium
"Bale is too self-conscious an action hero, and although the script may have the virtue of transparent plagiarism, it teeters both dramatically and conceptually." — Wally Hammond, Time Out
"Despite often being preposterous and heavy-handed, there are enough slick visuals to offset the overall silliness, and the displays of 'Gun-kata' — a blend of martial arts and gunplay — provide some blistering action scenes." — Adam Smith, Radio Times
Bottom Line: Equilibrium
"Equilibrium is a mix (some might even say rip-off) of ideas from Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" and George Orwell's "1984" with awesome kung fu/firearm fights (called "gun kata"). It utterly tanked at the box office, and most critics thought it was stupid.
Is it a little silly? Yes, and more than a little. Is it fun? Absolutely. Christian Bale takes the role seriously (as he always does), which gives the movie some believability. Another actor would have hammed it up.
32. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
Directed by: Akiva Schaffer, Jorma Taccone
Starring: Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, Akiva Schaffer, Sarah Silverman, Tim Meadows
Budget: $20 million
Worldwide box office: $9.7 million
Opposing Takes: Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
"'This Is Spinal Tap' was able to turn the knob up to 11 — with 'Popstar,' 4 on the dial is the best one can reasonably expect." — Matt Brunson, Film Frenzy
"Handing Lonely Island $20 million and unleashing them onto the pop music landscape is a no-miss proposition." — Chris MCoy, Memphis Flyer
Bottom Line: Popstar: Never Stop Stopping
"Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping" is a music mockumentary made by The Lonely Island people that's a cross between "This Is Spinal Tap" and "Justin Bieber: Never Say Never." Andy Samberg plays Conner4Real, an obnoxious child pop star who has fallen out of popularity and is trying to make a comeback.
"Popstar" bombed at the box office, was scorched by critics and almost forgotten. Luckily word of mouth still matters, and those who have seen this film know it's a gem in a box.
31. Killing Them Softly
Directed by: Andrew Dominik
Starring: Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Ben Mendelsohn, Scoot McNairy
Budget: $15 million
Worldwide box office: $38 million
Opposing Takes: Killing Them Softly
"The anvils of obviousness rain down so hard and fast in New Zealand-born/Australian-based director Andrew Dominik's meditation on low-rent crime and American decline, that it might as well be a Coyote-Road Runner cartoon." — Cary Darling, DFW.com
"The dialogue is sharp and so are the performances. Andrew Dominik directed this neo-noir in a low-key comic style that's alternately gritty and fancy. The gritty stuff is best." — Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor
Bottom Line: Killing Them Softly
"Killing Them Softly" is a gangster movie with a dose of dark comedy. It has an unusual tone, which didn't win the favor of many critics, nor did the film's overt commentary on capitalism.
It's also kind of difficult to describe. It's not a fast-paced gangster movie like "Goodfellas." It's a slower, quieter movie with flashes of gunplay.
It also has the best closing lines of dialogue in recent movie memory.
30. Crimson Peak
Directed by: Guillermo del Toro
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Tom Hiddleston, Jessica Chastain, Charlie Hunnam, Jim Beaver
Budget: $55 million
Worldwide box office: $74.7 million
Opposing Takes: Crimson Peak
"All the carefully orchestrated color schemes and all the dark corridors and secret chambers and all the flowing red metaphors in the world can't accelerate the slow patches, or make us care about lead characters." — Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
"There's nothing else like it out right now, and if you've got an inner Goth or English major, this will be right up your alley. It's utterly unique, and could only have been made by Guillermo del Toro." — Tim Brennan, About Boulder
Bottom Line: Crimson Peak
"Crimson Peak" is a gothic horror/romance film with some of the most stunning visuals in the genre. But "Crimson Peak" limped away from the box office with a mediocre take due to poor marketing.
The film was advertised as a straight-up horror movie, which probably left fans confused. It's not a straight horror film. It's gothic horror — a genre that relies more on atmosphere and tone than scares.
And it absolutely nails the tone and atmosphere. "Crimson Peak" is transfixing to watch and is one of Guillermo del Toro's most underrated films.
Directed by: Jorma Taccone
Starring: Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, Ryan Phillippe, Powers Boothe, Maya Rudolph, Val Kilmer
Budget: $10 million
Worldwide box office: $9.3 million
Opposing Takes: MacGruber
"An action-comedy-thriller (although the term 'dud' is better), 'MacGruber' is based on a recurring American 'Saturday Night Live' sketch — a joke funny for 20 seconds, but not 99 minutes." — Times UK
"Any fans of satire who haven't checked out MacGruber yet, prepare to be converted into believers like the man himself when he finally uses a gun for the first time." — Joe Berkowitz, Vulture
Bottom Line: MacGruber
Based on a "Saturday Night Live" sketch, "MacGruber" is one of those rare SNL skit-turned-movies that's actually funny.
Ignore the terrible reviews on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. If you like absurd, "dumb" comedies and action parodies, this movie is a winner.
Panned by critics and ignored by audiences when it was released a decade ago, "MacGruber" finally found appreciation on streaming.
Directed by: Peter Farrelly, Bob Farrelly
Starring: Woody Harrelson, Vanessa Angel, Randy Quaid, Bill Murray
Budget: $27 million
Worldwide box office: $25 million
Opposing Takes: Kingpin
"The combination of the overkill factor and a basic mean-spiritedness finally sinks it for me." — Ken Hanke, Mountain Xpress
"Some of the gags don't work, and yet I laughed at the Farrellys' audacity in trying them. And the humor isn't just gags and punch lines, but one accomplished comic performance after another." — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Bottom Line: Kingpin
In "Kingpin," Woody Harrelson plays an alcoholic, down-on-his-luck ex-bowler with a prosthetic hand who sets out to hit the pins once again, this time for $1 million in prize money.
The film was trashed by critics and bombed at the box office, making $2 million less than its production budget. It would be eclipsed by the Farrelly brothers' next comedy, "There's Something About Mary," and by "The Big Lebowski," a better bowling movie released two years later (which is unfair — what movies are better than "The Big Lebowski"?).
"Kingpin" is a damn funny film, with Bill Murray in top form as a grade-A jerk and Harrelson giving a hell of a performance. It's crass, sometimes gross, and some of the skits feel lifted out of "The Naked Gun" franchise and don't quite fit. Overall, though, it's a ridiculous and fun film.
27. The 13th Warrior
Directed by: John McTiernan
Starring: Antonio Banderas, Diane Venora, Omar Sharif
Budget: $85 million-$100 million
Worldwide box office: $61.7 million
Opposing Takes: The 13th Warrior
"'The 13th Warrior' is a brazen attempt to brand Antonio Banderas as an A-lister with a C-grade script. Failure attends." — Cole Smithey, colesmithey.com
"Exciting battle sequences, intriguing period costumes, fascinating cinematography, and stirring background music contribute to the epic nature of 'The 13th Warrior.'" — Betty Jo Tucker, ReelTalk Movie Reviews
Bottom Line: The 13th Warrior
"The 13th Warrior" was one of the biggest box-office disasters ever, costing an estimated $160 million all-in (including promotional expenses) and only bringing in $61.7 million worldwide. It's a violent film based on Michael Crichton's "Eaters of the Dead," which is a retelling of Beowulf.
It's certainly flawed (the movie went under numerous reshoots and was poorly edited), but "The 13th Warrior" is captivating in a weird way, has an awesome soundtrack and is a solid action movie.
26. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Directed by: Ben Stiller
Starring: Ben Stiller, Kristen Wiig, Shirley MacLaine, Adam Scott, Kathryn Hahn, Sean Penn
Budget: $90 million
Worldwide box office: $188 million
Opposing Takes: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
"It has little narrative interest and requires that the director latch onto a very specific airy tone of whimsy, lest the whole souffle collapse." — Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle
"Stiller delivers an enjoyable take on the modern man's existential crisis, aided greatly by stunning cinematography." — David Brake, One Room With a View
Bottom Line: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
Ben Stiller's "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" is a whimsical, feel-good dramadey about a daydreaming middle-aged man who wants more out of life. It's a tender movie with excellent cinematography, although many critics derided it for being overly sentimental and unrealistic.
Maybe it is, but it works. Even if Walter's journey is wholly implausible, the movie is a nice escape from reality, like a feature-length daydream.
25. Death to Smoochy
Directed by: Danny DeVito
Starring: Robin Williams, Edward Norton, Danny DeVito, Catherine Keener, Jon Stewart
Budget: $50 million
Worldwide box office: $8.4 million
Opposing Takes: Death to Smoochy
"This is a particularly toxic little bonbon, palatable to only a chosen and very jaundiced few." — Ann Hornaday, The Washington Post
"'Death to Smoochy' is often very funny, but what's even more remarkable is the integrity of DeVito's misanthropic vision." — J. Hoberman, Village Voice
Bottom Line: Death to Smoochy
"Death to Smoochy" is a black comedy with an all-star cast that made an astoundingly pitiful amount of money at the box office. It features Robin Williams as Rainbow Randolph, a devious children's show host who is fired over a bribery scandal. He's replaced by Smoochy (Edward Norton), whom he then sets out to murder.
A wave of harsh critical reviews — including one from Roger Ebert, who also awarded "Death to Smoochy" the worst film of 2002 — drowned out the film's smattering of positive reviews. The movie would have died in obscurity if it were actually bad.
Instead, the film gained an audience at home and then streaming, and has since earned its place as a cult comedy.
24. The Fall
Directed by: Tarsem Singh
Starring: Lee Pace, Justine Waddell, Catinca Utaru
Budget: $30 million
Worldwide box office: $3.67 million
Opposing Takes: The Fall
"'The Fall is an encounter with the mythic in human history and you want to give Singh a pat on the back for his chutzpah, even if the film itself registers as terrifyingly self-indulgent and often incoherent." — Felicia Feaster, Charleston City Paper
"[A] movie that you might want to see for no other reason than because it exists. There will never be another like it." — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Bottom Line: The Fall
"The Fall" is an exceptionally imaginative and visually stunning movie. It's a vanity project — which rubbed critics the wrong way — but it's just fascinating to watch. "The Fall" was mostly financed by the director, Tarsem Singh, took four years to make and was filmed in 28 countries.
"The Fall" is a fantasy tale told to a child and played out on screen, like "The Princess Bride," although that's pretty much where the similarities end. Six heroes venture into exotic lands, seeking revenge on an evil governor. It's told from the hospital bed of a paralyzed stunt man to a little girl with a broken arm, whom he has steal morphine for him.
Like a book of art, you can skip to any scene in "The Fall" and become engrossed. It's so visually amazing that you'll forgive it for its flaws.
23. The Fountain
Directed by: Darren Aronofsky
Starring: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn
Budget: $35 million
Worldwide box office: $16.5 million
Opposing Takes: The Fountain
"Ambitious? You bet, but also a towering, tumultuous folly. It's the movie equivalent of a prog-rock double album, short on humor, long on pomposity, and as for what it all means — you might well ask." — Anthony Quinn, Independent
"Although some may find the ping-pong time travels as distracting or even annoying, this is definitely my pick as the most beauteous and emotionally exquisite films of the decade. 'The Fountain' speaks volumes." — Debbie Lynn Elias, Behind the Lens
Bottom Line: The Fountain
"The Fountain" is a sprawling fantasy/science-fiction drama about love, death and what's beyond it. It's abstract, overly ambitious and sometimes confusing. It's also visually stunning and deeply thoughtful with an incredible soundtrack.
It's a difficult film to grasp, and some argue it's ultimately pointless. Yet if this film connects with you, it really connects. There's nothing else quite like it.
22. The Mist
Directed by: Frank Darabont
Starring: Thomas Jane, Marcia Gay Harden, Laurie Holden
Budget: $18 million
Worldwide box office: $57.5 million
Opposing Takes: The Mist
"The last 30 minutes play like a dismissive ambush, leading to a final scene so utterly misguided that I wanted to hurl obscenities at the screen." — David Keyes, Cinemaphile
"Unusually dark and gritty, with ace B-movie writing and direction from Darabont and a collection of full-on performances from a gifted cast." — Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
Bottom Line: The Mist
"The Mist" almost entirely takes place in a small-town grocery store, whose denizens are trapped inside by a mysterious fog concealing deadly creatures.
The monsters in "The Mist" are not the movie's draw (their CGI was bad even for 2007). Instead, the film is really about the complete breakdown of society, with one woman (Marcia Gay Harden) going full zealot and becoming a cult leader in short order. Things get bad, real fast.
The film moves along at a fast clip and pretty much everything is enjoyable to watch, although some people really hate that ending. But that's what makes it memorable.
21. Last Flag Flying
Directed by: Richard Linklater
Starring: Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Laurence Fishburne
Worldwide box office: $1.87 million
Opposing Takes: Last Flag Flying
"What a bland and sugary texture there is to this very conservative, undemanding oldster roadtrip." — Peter Bradshaw, the Guardian
"'Last Flag Flying' tackles what goes on the minds of not-so-happy veterans without serving the jingoistic conservatism that so many military films find themselves worshipping." — James Clay, Fresh Fiction
Bottom Line: Last Flag Flying
"Last Flag Flying" is a slow-paced drama about three Vietnam veterans reunited after one of their sons is killed in the Iraq War. It's based on the novel of the same name by Darryl Ponicsan (the novel is the sequel to "The Last Detail," also made into a film, and "Last Flag Flying" is considered a spiritual or unofficial sequel to that movie).
This film was financed by Amazon Studios and released on Amazon Prime after a short run at 110 theatres. Despite its cast of Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston and Laurence Fishburne — all of whom give stellar performances — this film seems to have disappeared among all the other releases of late 2017.
Like the movie's subject matter (albeit to a much less important degree), it doesn't deserve to be forgotten. "Last Flag Flying" is a subdued, bittersweet movie that manages to be sincere and funny. Cranston gives a memorable performance.
20. The Skeleton Key
Directed by: Iain Softley
Starring: Kate Hudson, Gena Rowlands, Peter Sarsgaard, Joy Bryant, John Hurt
Budget: $43 million
Worldwide box office: $94 million
Opposing Takes: The Skeleton Key
"The voodoo lore is sketchy (it can't hurt unbelievers, except when it can), the plot obviously did little but build-up to the big reveal." — Rob Gonsalves, eFilmCritic
"This is a moody, creepy thriller with some genuinely scary moments and a couple of twists that took me completely by surprise." — Richard Roeper, Ebert & Roeper
Bottom Line: The Skeleton Key
"The Skeleton Key" was, and is, mostly panned by critics, who wrote it off as cliched, bayou voodoo mumbo jumbo. But it's not, though. Not really.
Sure, there are some terrible Southern accents and a rambling, haunted plantation in Louisiana inhabited by a creepy family. But that's what ghost stories are all about.
"The Skeleton Key" plays those tropes unusually well. Often overlooked is its portrayal of hoodoo. It can't hurt you if you don't believe in it, which is exactly how hoodoo priests and priestesses present the magic in real life. The spells are accurate, too.
19. Kingdom of Heaven
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Starring: Orlando Bloom, Eva Green, Ghassan Massoud, Jeremy Irons, Liam Neeson
Budget: $130 million
Worldwide box office: $218 million
Opposing Takes: Kingdom of Heaven
"The miscasting of the lightweight Bloom proves fatal: instead of galvanizing this epic, he sucks the energy out of it." — David Ansen, Newsweek
"Is Orlando Bloom enough of a star to sustain a $100 million costume drama? The answer turns out to be yes." — Stephen Hunter, The Washington Post
Bottom Line: Kingdom of Heaven
"Kingdom of Heaven" is an epic war drama set during the 12th-century Crusades. Orlando Bloom plays the lead. Admittedly, the film probably would have benefited from a different actor, but the film should have enjoyed more success than it received.
The flick has some awesome battle scenes, and its enormous budget is well spent. It shouldn't have been marketed as a historical epic — the movie is historical fiction— but it didn't deserve to crash, burn and go ignored.
Director Ridley Scott released a director's cut with nearly an hour's worth of additional footage (bringing the running time to 194 minutes), and it is overwhelmingly better than the theatrical cut.
Directed by: James Gunn
Starring: Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, Michael Rooker, Tania Saulnier, Gregg Henry
Budget: $15 million
Worldwide box office: $12.8 million
Opposing Takes: Slither
"This writing-directing debut from the guy who concocted that rip-off known as 'Dawn of the Dead'  isn't that scary, and it isn't nearly as funny as he seems to think it is." — Roger Moore, Orlando Sentinel
"A hilariously gonzo, self-referential neo-Body Snatchers that takes the mickey out of the alien-monster genre the way 'Scream' did slasher films." — Jim Slotek, Jam! Movies
Bottom Line: Slither
"Slither" was James Gunn's directorial debut and a box-office bomb, failing to catch audiences as a smart, slimy B-movie tribute.
Luckily, it found an audience on at home (it picked up about $8.2 million in DVD sales within two weeks) and is something of a cult favorite.
"Slither" is a genuinely intelligent and funny movie. It's a film that should appeal to more audiences than only B-movie horror fans and deserves more attention from a wider audience.
17. The Frighteners
Directed by: Peter Jackson
Starring: Michael J. Fox, Trini Alvarado, Peter Dobson, John Astin
Budget: $30 million
Worldwide box office: $29.4 million
Opposing Takes: The Frighteners
"Story was originally conceived as an episode of 'Tales From the Crypt,' and that is perhaps what it should have remained, as the thinness of the conceit shows throughout, painfully so in the first half." — Todd McCarthy, Variety
"Fortunately director Jackson, at home with all kinds of excess, keeps everything spinning nicely, not even losing a step when the mood turns increasingly disturbing." — Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
Bottom Line: The Frighteners
"The Frighteners" is Peter Jackson's seventh film and the last one before he was catapulted to legend status with "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy.
In "The Frighteners," Michael J. Fox plays a guy who can commune with the dead. He can commune with spirits so well he has his own corrupt ghostbusting service and uses his undead buddies to go "Poltergeist" in his client's houses, then "cleanses" the home for a payday. Things get darker when a hateful spirit starts killing people off one by one, and Fox goes to investigate.
"The Frighteners" is the peak of the 1990s ghost camp. It's fun to watch all the way through, and the special effects were cutting edge for its time and still pretty good today. Weta Digital, Jackson's special effects company, went on to win six Oscars for all three "Lord of the Rings" movies, "King Kong," "Avatar" and 2016's "Jungle Book."
16. The Blob
Directed by: Chuck Russell
Starring: Shawnee Smith, Kevin Dillon, Donovan Leitch, Jeffrey DeMunn
Budget: $10 million
Worldwide box office: $8.25 million
Opposing Takes: The Blob
"All we get is sullen Kevin Dillon subbing for Steve [McQueen] and a bigger, nastier lump that bloodies up its victims in stomach-churning close-ups." — Peter Travers, People Magazine
"Stunning practical effects work, a great story with great characters, and a huge sense of fun, it's a shame that 'The Blob' doesn't have as big of a following as it should have." — Meagan Navarro, Bloody Disgusting
Bottom Line: The Blob
Director Chuck Russell took his "Blob" remake in a much gorier direction than the 1950s camp classic.
In this film, the blob isn't an alien. It's a government experiment gone wrong, and it has a whole lot of fun devouring and melting its victims from inside its acidic, translucent body.
It's a bloody monster movie romp with gelatinous murder-slime and awesome practical effects taking center stage. It bombed at the box office, but now you can watch it on streaming.
15. Demolition Man
Directed by: Marco Brambilla
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Wesley Snipes, Sandra Bullock
Budget: $57 million-$97 million (with marketing costs)
Worldwide box office: $58 million
Opposing Takes: Demolition Man
"A noisy, soulless, self-conscious pastiche that mixes elements of sci-fi, action-adventure and romance, then pours on a layer of comedy replete with Hollywood in-jokes." — Emanuel Levy, Variety
"The pleasant surprise about 'Demolition Man' is that both the script, and Stallone, are funny; the film blends big-budget action and tongue-in-cheek humor in the way that 'Last Action Hero' tried, and failed, to do." — TV Guide
Bottom Line: Demolition Man
The premise of "Demolition Man" is basically a fantasized hellscape from the far right of the political spectrum. In the future, the populace has become so subdued into political correctness, the entire country has been so sanitized that even swearing results in a fine. And all of this happens within maybe 30 years after the initial scene set in a crime-overrun 1996 Los Angeles.
"The Libs" have won. Everyone has gone soft. The radio plays children's cartoons back to back in self-driving cars. When a criminal mastermind (Wesley Snipes) is released from cryogenic sleep, no one, not even the police, can handle it. So they defrost tough-as-nails Sgt. John Spartan (Sylvester Stallone) to take him down. With HGH-fueled veins, he's here to bring violence back to America and this arch-criminal to his coffin.
But "Demolition Man" is a satire, not a screed. It's silly fun that's totally self-aware.
"We're police officers. We're not trained to handle this kind of violence!" Rob Schneider cries after watching a squad of LAPD officers get manhandled by Snipes, in a movie released one year after the Los Angeles riots.
Also, fun fact: According to Dennis Leary, who has a cameo, Snipes insisted on doing all of his own stunts. The director waited until Snipes went back to his trailer and then reshot them all with professional stunt doubles.
14. Hobo With a Shotgun
Directed by: Jason Eisner
Starring: Rutger Hauer, Gregory Smith, Molly Dunsworth
Budget: $3 million
Worldwide box office: $748,453
Opposing Takes: Hobo With a Shotgun
"It stomps over any notions of good taste and credibility after roughly five minutes." — Anthony Quinn, Independent
"There are two kinds of people in the world, people who will watch a movie called 'Hobo With A Shotgun,' and people who will avoid it at all costs. I fall in the former category, and if you do too, I have to believe that you will fall in love." — Ed Travis, Hollywood Jesus
Bottom Line: Hobo With a Shotgun
"Hobo With a Shotgun" is one of the most ridiculous, violently over-the-top and funnest movies made in recent memory.
The film stars the late Rutger Hauer, who travels into Scum Town on a boxcar. He dreams of mowing lawns for a living, but the city is so overrun with criminals that he makes the choice to buy a shotgun instead of a mower, opting to cut down scumbags instead of grass.
The movie was spawned from a fake trailer for Robert Rodriguez's "Grindhouse" SXSW competition, and somehow it overdelivered. As Nigel Andrews from the Financial Times wrote, it's "designer trash."
Directed by: Mike Flanagan
Starring: Kate Siegel, John Gallagher Jr., Michael Trucco
Budget: $1 million
Worldwide box office: N/A
Opposing Takes: Hush
"Silence is golden in 'Hush,' one of the more inspired concoctions to emerge from the busy Blumhouse horror-thriller assembly line in recent years." — Geoff Berkshire, Variety
"Formulaic horror movie has gore, violence, cursing." — Brian Costello, Common Sense Media
Bottom Line: Hush
A serial killer hunts a deaf woman in her own home in "Hush," a low-budget slasher film made for Netflix.
"Hush" does what hardly any slasher flick does — it makes you root for the main character. And it does it without a thumping soundtrack or thrashing jump scares. "Hush" is a quiet movie, which keeps you glued to the screen.
Director Mike Flanagan doesn't waste a second of the film's tight 81-minute run time.
Directed by: Jonathan Lynn
Starring: Tim Curry, Eileen Brennan, Christopher Lloyd, Madeline Kahn, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren
Budget: $15 million
Worldwide box office: $14.6 million
Opposing Takes: Clue
"It's not the least bit scary or suspenseful but instead quickly grows tedious. The more you struggle to keep track of the constantly multiplying plot developments, the harder it gets to care who did it." — Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times
"If you're open to a weirdly atmospheric comedy that dashes from deadpan to manic and back again, it's a delight." — Jeffrey M. Anderson, Combustible Celluloid
Bottom Line: Clue
Mix camp and madcap humor with some Agatha Christie tropes and a twisted, tawdry take on a classic board game. That's "Clue," a box-office stinker that may be the only movie to have been distributed with three different endings.
"Clue" was a box-office disaster and received lukewarm to bad critical reviews when it was released. It wouldn't be until much later, perhaps a decade or more, that "Clue" gained an audience.
For those who love the film, you can read all about how it was made.
11. Edge of Tomorrow
Directed by: Doug Liman
Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
Budget: $178 million
Worldwide box office: $370.5 million
Opposing Takes: Edge of Tomorrow
"'Edge of Tomorrow' is a decent time waster, but if you're the sort of person who watches a movie every day, you should probably look for something better." — J.R. Jones, Chicago Reader
"'Edge of Tomorrow' deserves praise and viewers. It is proof that calculated cynicism and recycled content aren't the only ways to deliver big-budget, mainstream entertainment," Ryan Syrek, The Reader
Bottom Line: Edge of Tomorrow
While it was generally well-received by critics, "Edge of Tomorrow" floundered at the box office due to marketing mismanagement. Which is tragic, because Warner Bros. put in $100 million just in marketing to try and make "Edge of Tomorrow" its 2014 tentpole film.
The studio renamed the movie from "All You Need Is Kill" to "Edge of Tomorrow" before releasing it in theaters, and then renamed it "Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow" on Blu-ray and DVD.
Most audiences couldn't figure out what the plot was due to poor marketing, but it's pretty simple: It's "Groundhog Day" with world-destroying aliens, and Tom Cruise dies over and over again as he tries to figure out how to fight the extraterrestrials (called mimics) and stop the time loop.
"Edge of Tomorrow" is one of the most fun blockbuster action sci-fi films made in the past decade. Not that it found an audience at home, there's a chance for a sequel.
10. Wet Hot American Summer
Directed by: David Wain
Starring: Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Micahel Ian Black, Bradley Cooper, Amy Poehler, Christopher Meloni, Michael Showalter, Ken Marino
Budget: $1.8 million
Worldwide box office: $295,206
Opposing Takes: Wet Hot American Summer
"This is supposed to be funny? It was so depressing I almost started to cry." — Stephen Hunter, Washington Post
"This shamefully under-promoted, gloriously silly romp made me laugh harder than any other movie this summer...this blissfully unimportant movie starts in a deceptively low key, gradually unveiling its total lunacy." — David Ansen, Newsweek
Bottom Line: Wet Hot American Summer
"Wet Hot American Summer" was a total wipeout when it was released in 2001. Which is sort of unsurprising because nothing like "Wet Hot" had come before it. It was a pioneer in absurdism and on another level of parody. Describing it as a teen sex comedy parody doesn't do it justice.
Critics absolutely hated it because they didn't get it, but "Wet Hot" slowly picked up a following and has since become a cult favorite.
Netflix's prequel series "Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp" manages to be just as funny 14 years later, as is the sequel series, "Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later."
9. Death Becomes Her
Directed by: Robert Zemeckis
Starring: Meryl Streep, Goldie Hawn, Bruce Willis, Isabella Rossellini
Budget: $55 million
Worldwide box office: $149 million
Opposing Takes: Death Becomes Her
"If there were something resembling genuine satire of human behavior beyond the simple pretexts for fancy special effects and relentless sadism, I might have found some of this funny." — Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
"Insistently grotesque, relentlessly misanthropic and spectacularly tasteless, ''Death Becomes Her'' isn't a film designed to win the hearts of the mass moviegoing public. But it is diabolically inventive and very, very funny." — Dave Kehr, Chicago Tribune
Bottom Line: Death Becomes Her
Two miserable women seeking eternal youth delve into the dark side when they drink a magic potion which gives them what they desire — with a bunch of caveats.
"Death Becomes Her" is witty, often hilarious and has rock-solid special effects. The film did OK at the worldwide box office (although it only made $58 million domestically), but was not reviewed particularly well and has largely gone forgotten.
However, it has become a favorite in the LGBTQIA community.
8. Angel Heart
Directed by: Alan Parker
Starring: Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, Lisa Bonet, Charlotte Rampling
Budget: $17 million
Worldwide box office: $17.2 million
Opposing Takes: Angel Heart
"Metaphysical and emotional anemia is an important tradition in cult horror/mystery, a category the daffy plot twists and crimson, incestuous excesses of 'Angel Heart' sit quite cozily in." — Joseph Jon Lanthier, Slant Magazine
"'Angel Heart' is a thriller and a horror movie, but most of all it's an exuberant exercise in style, in which Parker and his actors have fun taking it to the limit," Roger Ebert, Chicago-Sun Times
Bottom Line: Angel Heart
"Angel Heart" is a horror-noir film about detective Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke), who is tasked with tracking down a missing singer in 1950s New Orleans. As he investigates her disappearance, grisly murders follow him, and all the victims bear the mark of a Satanic cult.
"Angel Heart" is a phenomenal horror film with style and substance that never received the attention it deserved. It did poorly at the box office and often goes overlooked, but it's one of the best devil movies ever made, with Robert De Niro playing Satan himself.
Directed by: Pete Travis
Starring: Karl Urban, Olivia Thrilby, Wood Harris, Leana Headey
Budget: $50 million
Worldwide box office: $41 million
Opposing Takes: Dredd
"My notes are as follows: 'Shoot bad guy.' 'Shoot bad guy.' 'Shoot bad guy.'" — Kyle Smith, New York Post
"Surprisingly, this flashy facelift happens to be one of the best action films to be made in quite some time, its gritty adult humor and narrative aptitude recalling the best works of genre stalwarts like Verhoeven and Carpenter." — Nicholas Bell, IONCINEMA.com
Bottom Line: Dredd
"Dredd" is a violent futuristic flick stuffed with satire, schlock and a good dose of humor based on the Judge Dredd character from the Dark Horse comics series. But that didn't translate well to ticket sales. "Dredd" underperformed at the box office and received mixed reviews from the media. It also didn't help that the 3D print of the movie was prioritized over the 2D version, hurting its potential audience at theaters.
The movie takes place in the post-apocalyptic city, MegaCity One (which is essentially the entire Eastern seaboard) that has 17,000 serious crimes reported daily among its 800 million people. To keep the peace, judges have taken the place of cops. They are judge, jury and executioner.
The baddest of them all is Dredd. He's been tasked with clearing out a 100-story tall apartment building/shopping mall hybrid, which is where almost the entire movie takes place. For those who love movies like "Robocop," "Starship Troopers" and other similar films from the 1980s and 1990s, "Dredd" is a comfy throwback to those wonderful films.
6. Turbo Kid
Directed by: Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell
Starring: Mauro Chambers, Laurence Lebeouf, Michael Ironside
Worldwide box office: N/A
Opposing Takes: Turbo Kid
"'Turbo Kid' isn't really more mature than its raw generic parts, nor is it clever enough to disarm viewers who want to regress to childhood without feeling guilty for that naive impulse." — Simon Abrams, RogerEbert.com
"A pitch-perfect pastiche that never mocks its inspirations, the picture is silly fun to warm the hearts of aging fanboys and delight hipsters who weren't yet born the first time Mel Gibson donned Max's leathers." — John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter
Bottom Line: Turbo Kid
"Turbo Kid" did receive positive reviews almost across the board. The problem? Not enough people have seen it.
Writer-directors Francois Simard, Anouk Whissell, Yoann-Karl Whissell made this movie with just $60,000, and it only played in a few theaters on the same day that it was made available on streaming. The release was so limited there aren't any ticket sales numbers available.
"Turbo Kid" is set in a post-apocalyptic, water-scarce world of 1997. Our hero, the BMX bike-riding Kid, searches the wasteland for old comic books. He meets a girl, they team up, and then she's kidnapped by the typical post-apocalyptic maniac gang. Kid then sets out to take revenge on their leader, Zeus.
"Turbo Kid" is an homage to 1980s post-apocalyptic movies. It's gory, funny and a blast to watch.
5. Dark City
Directed by: Alex Proyas
Starring: Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connely, Richard O'Brien, William Hurt
Budget: $27 million
Worldwide box office: $27.2 million
Opposing Takes: Dark City
"A mishmash of iconography lifted from better movies." — Lisa Alspector, Chicago Reader
"'Dark City' trades in such weighty themes as memory, thought control, human will and the altering of reality, but is engaging mostly in the degree to which it creates and sustains a visually startling alternate universe." — Todd McCarthy, Variety
Bottom Line: Dark City
"Dark City" is one of the most underrated sci-fi movies ever made. It's visually amazing (the special effects still hold up) with a surreal story that includes a thought-controlling subterranean race of supernatural beings called the Strangers, who can manipulate the entire city when they make the clock strike midnight. It makes "The Matrix" look like a children's movie.
"Dark City" didn't make a huge splash when it came out in 1998, but it has since become a recommended movie and fan favorite among fans of the genre. It should have at least been nominated for an Oscar for best visual effects ("What Dreams May Come" won in 1999).
Directed by: Alex Garland
Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Lee, Gina Rodriguez, Tessa Thompson
Budget: $40 million-$55 million
Worldwide box office: $43 million
Opposing Takes: Annihilation
"Making movies steeped in vagueness these days is proving to be an excellent way to earn critical praise, but being artfully ambiguous strikes me as a way to cover for not being able to finish the job." — Kyle Smith, New York Post
"Annihilation shares the ambiguous dream logic found in David Lynch's best work, but mixes it with the type of horrific imagery seen in 'Alien' and 'The Thing.'" — Victor Stiff, Goomba Stomp
Bottom Line: Annihilation
"Annihilation" is a science fiction horror movie that turned out to be one of the best sci-fi flicks of the last decade, up there with "Arrival." But it didn't earn nearly as many accolades as the latter and bombed at the box office.
It probably bombed because "Annihilation" is in a genre that typically does not perform too well at the box office, and is difficult to market. Plus, studios released it in February, a dump month for films they don't think will do well. And then was dumped on Netflix everywhere but the U.S.
Which is a shame, because "Annihilation" is a smart, dark and slow-paced horror movie that's much deeper than a mutated bear. Four scientists and one paramedic must venture into the shimmer, some kind of expanding alien bubble from space, find out what happened to the previous, now-MIA team, and see if they can figure out what the hell is going on.
It's worth watching for anyone even remotely interested in science fiction or horror.
3. The Grey
Directed by: Joe Carnahan
Starring: Liam Neeson, Frank Grillo, Dermot Mulroney
Budget: $25 million
Worldwide box office: $79.8 million
Opposing Takes: The Grey
"'The Grey' is about raging against the dying of the light but also about accepting it with peace once the fight has been lost." — James Berardinelli, ReelViews
"Somewhere along the line, apparently, it was decided that having men fight for their lives is not enough to hang a movie on. It has to be a movie about Big Ideas." — Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger
Bottom Line: The Grey
"The Grey" turned a modest profit at the box office and received generally favorable reviews. Then it sort of disappeared. It deserved so much more.
Ostensibly, "The Grey" is about a group of men who crash-land in the Alaskan wilderness and must survive the harsh landscape while being stalked by a group of wolves. But underneath the macho action premise, "The Grey" is a philosophical film about death, God and nature. It's a hauntingly beautiful and brutal movie that warrants multiple viewings.
Critics were quick to point out that in reality, wolves avoid humans, not hunt them, and there's not really such a thing as an alpha wolf. That's true. But the wolves in this movie aren't just wolves. They're death symbols.
2. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Starring: Forest Whitaker, John Tormey, Cliff Gorman, Henry Silva
Budget: $2 million
Worldwide box office: $9.4 million
Opposing Takes: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
"A handsomely shot, cool-sounding head-scratcher of a film that probably isn't worth the wear on the fingernails." — Liam Lacey, Globe and Mail
"You don't have to 'get' 'Ghost Dog' to enjoy it; it's an experience more open to interpretation." — David Rollison, The Spool
Bottom Line: Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai
Ask anyone — or at least anyone with decent taste— who has seen "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai," and they'll gush about how great a movie it is.
It was widely lauded by critics when it came out, and it made nearly five times its production budget back at the worldwide box office. Yet this is one of those movies that isn't just a hidden gem. It's a diamond that never seemed to reach its potential audience. Worse, its streaming availability is spotty at best, and it's difficult to purchase digitally.
Forest Whittaker stars as Ghost Dog, a samurai hitman for the mob. The movie flows impeccably, elevated by both RZA's killer original score and Whittaker's performance. It's just flat-out cool and wholly original.
Directed by: Todd Solondz
Starring: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Jane Adams, Elizabeth Ashley, Dylan Baker
Budget: $2.2 million
Worldwide box office: $2.98 million
Opposing Takes: Happiness
"...seduces us with subtle humor and then hammers us with unpleasantness; it seems as selfishly opportunistic as anything committed by the perverted characters it portrays." — John J. Puccio, Movie Metropolis
"Even in the darkest, sickest moments, there's always some kind of humor [but] what makes this comedy superior to most is that it remains painfully sincere." — Kevin N. Laforest, Montreal Film Journal
Bottom Line: Happiness
"Happiness" did receive critical acclaim when it debuted in 1998, but its ability to find an audience was stunted by the MPAA's rating of NC-17. Producers opted instead to go the unrated route, and the movie had a limited release.
Which is unfortunate, because "Happiness" is one of the most biting and darkest comedies of all the time, if not the darkest. The film follows three sisters and the men involved in their meandering lives. Terrible things happen.
It's not for the squeamish, yet even though there are distasteful and absolutely dreadful characters, Todd Solondz gives them humanity — even if we may think they don't deserve it.
To this day, "Happiness" is impossible to find on a streaming service or even to purchase digitally. You'll have to find the DVD, which is also out of print. Given it's unavailability to audiences and the sheer quality of the movie, "Happiness" is the most underrated movie of all time.