John Carpenter's "They Live"

The 30 Most Underrated Movies Of All Time Part 2


Welcome to The 30 Most Underrated Movies Of All Time Part 2.

Be sure to check out  Part 1 of the series if you haven’t done so already to see what other underrated films you’ve missed.

If you’d like to add any of these DVD/Blu-Rays to your collection, just click on the image to go to Amazon. I’ll be sure to mention what titles are on Netflix streaming as well.

Let’s begin:

20. “The Lady In White” (1988)

After seeing the ghost of a girl at his school, young Frankie Scarlatti (Lukas Haas) discovers she was killed by a serial killer, and he’s still out there. An old school understated ghost story, it went unnoticed during the slasher film craze of the 80’s, but it’s vintage chill is well worth rediscovering.


19. “Take Shelter” (2011)

[amazon_image id=”B006PGL7OQ” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Take Shelter [Blu-ray][/amazon_image]

Michael Shannon plays Curtis, a family man plagued by apocalyptic visions. Believing this a premonition, he begins working on a bomb shelter to protect his family. His wife thinks he’s gone off the deep end. But has he? This guessing game will leave you riveted, but don’t expect easy answers. This should have been an Oscar contender on all fronts and Michael Shannon’s performance is stellar.


18. “Dead Calm” (1989)

A couple John (Sam Neill) and Rae (Nicole Kidman) are enjoying a vacation on their yacht when they notice a sinking ship. They rescue Hughie Warrant (Billy Zane) who says the rest of the crew have died of food poisoning. But it turns out Warrant is not being honest and things are about to go very wrong. It’s a lean, mean, seasick suspense machine, expertly directed by Phillip Noyce and anchored by riveting cast performances.


17. “Point Blank” (1967)

John Boorman (“Deliverance) directed this gangster tale. It’s disjointed narrative and surrealistic tones caused confusion with moviegoers and critics expecting a more straightforward crime drama. But it’s off-kilter charm is powerful. Lee Marvin is primal badass as Walker, a hardened man hellbent on revenge.   A truly unique piece of twisted film noir, it’s vastly superior to the lame remake “Payback”.


16. “Miracle Mile” (1988)

One nail biter of a film, this concerns Harry (Anthony Edwards), who finds out via a mis-dialed phone call that Russia has launched nuclear missiles that will hit America in an hour. What would you do? Well he panics, but then tries to form a plan of escape with his new-found love Julie (Mare Winningham).

Like the show “24” it’s shot in “real-time”, which creates massive tension (aided by an awesome score from Tangerine Dream). The bleak tone of the movie made it box office poison, but if you like a dark thriller, this is for you.


15. “The Mothman Prophecies” (2002) /”Arlington Road” (1999)

Mark Pellington was a successful 90’s music video director, but his 2 feature films have been criminally ignored.

“The Mothman Prophecies”  focuses on John Klein (Richard Gere) a reporter investigating if the “Mothman” creature is real or an urban myth. It’s lack of gore and more internal psychological pace failed to excite genre fans, but it gives it an eerie paranoid texture like “The X-Files”.

“Arlington Road” stars Jeff Bridges as Professor Michael Faraday, a domestic terrorism expert who suspects his new neighbors (played by Tim Robbins and Joan Cusack) are covert terrorists. It pre-dates 9/11, but it perfectly foreshadows the hysteria which followed.

(“Mothman” is Available on Netflix streaming)

14. “Tell No One” (2006)

This film is a French adaptation of an American crime novel by Harlan Coben. Alexandre Beck is a doctor who has spent years recovering from his wife’s murder in a serial killing. But things begin to unravel again when he’s implicated in a double homicide. While fighting for his innocence he’s given another rude awakening when he gets an email. From his wife. But how is she still alive? Sound intriguing? It is. Go watch it. Now.

(Available on Netflix streaming)

13. “THX-1138” (1971)

Before THX was a sound system, it was the title of George Lucas’s first feature film. And while it’s science fiction, it’s miles away from “Star Wars”.

In this dystopian future having sex is a crime, and citizens are kept subservient through medication. THX-1138 (the name of the main character played by Robert Duvall) decides to break both rules and escape from his oppressive reality. It’s a strange film. Dialogue is minimal and the plot is abstract. But its compelling and fascinating to see Lucas working in a more adult vein.


12. “Blow Out” (1981)

Jack Terry (John Travolta) is a sound effects artist, recording noises in a park for a horror film. He witnesses a car drive into the lake, and saves a woman from inside. But her companion is dead. Turns out he was a presidential candidate. Upon listening back on his recording, Terry hears a gunshot before the crash and realizes it was an assassination. He’s just gotten himself into a world of trouble. Director Brian De Palma’s films are often hit or miss with critics and audiences. This should’ve been the former, not the latter.


11. “They Live” (1988)

John Carpenter’s “They Live”

John Carpenter’s commentary on mass consumerism is more timely than ever. Cleverly he gives it a sci-fi twist; aliens have humans enslaved through their materialism by using subliminal messages in advertising. But  down and out “Nada” (Rowdy Roddy Piper), has found a special pair of sunglasses that not only reveals the messages but also the aliens, who are posing as humans. It’s now up to him to stop their scheme.

“They Live” is a bit over the top, but it’s very entertaining. Check out this clip to get a taste:

(Available on Netflix streaming)

Shout Factory‘ just released a special edition Blu-ray which you can pick up below from Amazon. (FYI, I got this for Christmas and it rules! Lots of good special features in addition to an amazing HD transfer.)

Hope you enjoyed The 30 Most Underrated Movies Of All Time Part 2. Check out The Top 10 in Part 3.

Save Over 25% on Box Sets at the TCM Shop!


About SLIS

Middle Aged Gen-Exer obsessed with Alternative rock, metal, cult movies, comic books and cable TV.

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11 Responses to The 30 Most Underrated Movies Of All Time Part 2

  1. Jack Sommersby August 15, 2012 at 4:51 pm #

    Mark Pellington is a master. I couldn’t believe how visually alive “Arlinton Road” was being that his only previous feature was an art-house coming-of-age tale. And in “Mothman,” he proved himself one of the best in his field. Too bad he hasn’t done more work since!

    “Dead Calm” remains my favorite Phillip Noyce-directed pic, and it’s one of the few movies where I can stand Kidman! And “Point Blank” my favorite Boorman!

    Of course, you know Ilike “Blow Out” a lot despite its many logic loopholes. Still my favorite De Palma? Yep.

  2. SLIS August 15, 2012 at 5:33 pm #

    Have you seen the Criterion of “Blow Out”? Saw it when I was making the Amazon links; looks very cool.

    I still don’t get the meh reaction to “Mothman”. I thought it was so well done.

  3. Jack Sommersby August 16, 2012 at 5:16 pm #

    Ugh! The Missoula Public Library had a Criterion of “Blow Out,” but some asshole checked it out and replaced the Criterion disc of the movie with the old MGM/UA home video version of it! Yeah, I got to watch the special-feature disc, but the non-Criterion one was seriously flawed — hell, I think my LaserDisc of it looked better. Wish I could kick that guy’s ass!

    And I don’t understand the mediocre reception to “Mothman,” either! Suspenseful, imaginative, with a brilliant visual style from start to finish. And I liked that the Mothamn wasn’t explained — because how to do explain the unexplainable? And the bridge-collapse sequence was a frigging masterpiece. Re: “Arlington Road,” in the audio commentary Pellington and Bridges expressed their anger at the thearical trailer, which they thought gave way too much story information away.

    I’m sorry, but I’m still not a fan of “They Live” — a great premise, but 20 minutes in I thought the whole thing ludicrous.

  4. SLIS August 16, 2012 at 6:07 pm #

    “They Live” is a love it or hate it movie I think. The bridge scene in “Mothman” is so badass. I just posted the Top 10. Let me know what you think!


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