still from "Seconds"

The 30 Most Underrated Movies Of All Time Part 3

Welcome to The 30 Most Underrated Movies Of All Time Part 3!

Be sure to check out  Part 1  and Part 2 if you haven’t done so already to see what other underrated films I’ve already covered.

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.

And now for the Top 10:

10. “Ed Wood” (1994)

[amazon_image id=”B008BSM1GO” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Ed Wood [Blu-ray][/amazon_image]

Tim Burton greatest film was a box office flop. A comical, touching tribute to failed director  Ed Wood, it’s a biopic that celebrates the joy in Wood’s inept films, including “Plan 9 from Outer Space”, often considered the worst movie ever made. Martin Landau is magic as “Dracula” star Bela Lugosi (He won a much deserved Oscar) and Johnny Depp gives one of his best performances. It’s fitting it lost money though; Ed Wood can doom a project even from the grave.


9. “Blue Sunshine” (1978)

[amazon_image id=”B004MZ5OVY” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Blue Sunshine[/amazon_image]

Truly one of weirdest flicks ever. A bunch of 60’s hippies turn into bald killer zombies due to violent acid flashbacks from a potent strain of LCD. It also has the wackiest performance I’ve ever seen from a leading man (Zalman King). It’s amazing, scary, and ridiculous all at the same time. You’ll feel like you’re tripping after you’ve seen it!

(Available on Netflix Streaming)


8. “Straight Time” (1978)/”The Escapist” (2008)

[amazon_image id=”B000N3SROU” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Straight Time[/amazon_image][amazon_image id=”B002TZS5N8″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The Escapist[/amazon_image]

2 equally great prison dramas from 2 different eras:

“Straight Time” stars Dustin Hoffman as an ex-con trying to go straight. But his abusive parole officer (M. Emmett Walsh) is doing everything he can to put him back behind bars. Featuring awesome supporting performances from Harry Dean Stanton and a pre-crash Gary Busey, it’s the epitome of dark 70’s cinema.

Brian Cox plays an inmate in “The Escapist”, who needs to break out so he can see his critically ill daughter. He hatches a scheme to escape, but must not dodge prison guards and evil crimelord inmate Rizza (“Homeland’s” Damien Lewis). A throughly intense thriller directed by Rupert Wyatt (who also helmed the excellent “Rise Of The Planet of The Apes”), “The Escapist” will have you glued to your seat until the final frame.

(Available on Netflix Streaming)


7. “Marcy, May, Martha, Marlene” (2011)

[amazon_image id=”B006OV7S1I” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Martha Marcy May Marlene [Blu-ray][/amazon_image]

Martha (Elizabeth Olsen) has fled from an abusive cult. She reconnects with her estranged sister who is confused by her troubled behavior. She’s unaware that she’s brainwashed and about the abuse she suffered at the hands of a terrifying Charles Manson’ish cult leader Patrick (John Hawke).

The juxtaposition of Martha’s suffering with serene, beautiful surroundings is truly disconcerting (kudos to cinematographer Jody Lee Lipes). Olsen gives an amazing Oscar-worthy performance, but got snubbed.


6. “Angel Heart” (1987)

[amazon_image id=”B002NPY7E0″ link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Angel Heart [Blu-ray][/amazon_image]

A visually slick combination of film noir and voodoo horror, it features Mickey Rourke as NYC Private Detective Harry Angel. He’s contracted by Louis Cypher (a sinister Robert DeNiro) to find Johnny Favorite, a missing singer and WWII veteran who has suffered amnesia. But he owes Cypher a mysterious debt. Angel’s findings take him to New Orléans and into a hellish nightmare.


5. “Manhunter” (1986)

[amazon_image id=”B005CM1ICK” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Manhunter [Blu-ray][/amazon_image]

A Hannibal Lecter film predating “Silence Of The Lambs”, “Manhunter” is based on Thomas Harris’s novel “Red Dragon”and directed by Michael Mann (“Heat”). ( Factoid; He also wrote “Straight Time”).  It has the distinction of being the first serial killer profiler film. William Petersen (“C.S.I.”) is pitch-perfect as profiler Will Graham, a man who gets too wrapped up in the minds of the serial killers he hunts down.

The aforementioned Brian Cox plays Lector. He’s more understated than Hopkins, but still charmingly evil. And Tom Noonan will make your skin crawl as serial killer Francis Dolarhyde. The 80’s soundtrack and Mann’s love of day glow pastels have dated this film a bit, but it still packs a sinister punch.

*Mann’s 1999 Nicotine whistleblower film “The Insider” is another overlooked film, with a great performance from Russell Crow.



4. “Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story” (1987)

Karen Carpenter, Barbie style

Never officially released, this is the story of the life and death of singer Karen Carpenter. It’s shot using Barbie dolls instead of live actors. This may sound ridiculous, but it gives the film a unique, unsettling texture that keeps you captivated, and it’s an odd yet fitting tribute to the anorexia plagued singer. Director Todd Haynes (“Velvet Goldmine”) was sued by Carpenter’s brother and band mate Richard, and lost his film rights. I saw it years ago via a bootleg VHS tapes. Even through that degraded quality, the film was striking.

But thanks to YouTube you can check it out for yourself by clicking here.


3. “The House Of The Devil” (2009)

[amazon_image id=”B002OVO17Q” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]The House of the Devil [Blu-ray][/amazon_image]

Easily my favorite horror film of the 00’s, director Ti West cleverly shoots, edits, and scores “House Of The Devil” so that it looks and feels just like an early 80’s slasher pic. What makes the film so chilling are the long, interminable moments of quiet. The premise is simple. College girl goes to babysit for a mysterious couple and bad things happen, but it’s perfect execution makes it a must see for old-school horror fans.

*Keep an eye out for Tom Noonan again, playing another creepy character.

(Available on Netflix Streaming)


2. “Zodiac” (2007)

[amazon_image id=”B0013BCWEW” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Zodiac (Director’s Cut) [Blu-ray][/amazon_image]

Director David Fincher  mentioned in an interview that he was annoyed that he won an Oscar for “The Social Network” and not for “Zodiac”. He’s right. It’s an epic portrayal of America’s first taste of domestic terrorism via the Zodiac killer, who flustered cops, obsessed journalists and made everyone lock their doors at night.

In the end, I think audiences want a wrapped up ending, and the fact that the Zodiac Killer was never caught made people disinterested. But for those who enjoy a brain teaser of a film with great performances from a stellar cast , “Zodiac” makes for a gripping thriller and is an unsung masterpiece.

(Get The Director’s Cut if you’re buying DVD/Blu-ray. Awesome extras and extended scenes).

And check out where Zodiac ranks on my 11 Best Movie Commentaries.


1. “Seconds” (1966)

[amazon_image id=”B00CUKTGEE” link=”true” target=”_blank” size=”medium” ]Seconds (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray][/amazon_image]

Above is the link to the brand new Criterion Blu-ray edition. Click here for my Blu-ray review.

Director John Frankenheimer’s “Seconds” plays like a full length “Twilight Zone”. Middle-Aged Arthur Hamilton (John Randolph) is dissatisfied with his work and his family. He desires to be young again and start over. Well He gets that chance when he consults with the shadowy organization “The Company”. They fake his death, give him a new identity and transplant him into a new body.


Instead of feeling renewed, Arthur (now played by Rock Hudson) unravels, unable to adjust to his new life and regretful for abandoning his wife. It’s a pointed reminder to “be careful what you wish for” and builds to a disturbing conclusion.

So that’s my Top 30 Most Underrated Movies Of All Time! I hope you enjoyed, and that I’ve named some of your favorites as well as exposed you to some new films worthy of your time.

What films would you add to the list? Sound off below.

And for you Horror Movie Fans; make sure you check out my list of 40 Great But Forgotten Horror Movies, for more underrated films to watch over Halloween or whenever you need a good scare.

About SLIS

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

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24 Responses to The 30 Most Underrated Movies Of All Time Part 3

  1. Dave Dierksen August 17, 2012 at 10:17 am #

    Great list. I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last year and had started compiling my own list. I don’t know what I was planning on doing with it, but now I’ve got a sort of forum here.

    These flicks are not ranked in any order. This is just stream of conscious thoughts on some flicks that I think are not given enough attention (and a few that are maligned universally but fuck it, I like them). I removed any flicks you already listed, but I found it interesting that there was little overlap with your list, even though I agree with a TON of the flicks on your list. I just didn’t think of them.

    1. Dancer, TX Pop. 81 – Love this movie because so many small-town movies focus on the negativity inherent in that environment, but this one focuses on the quirky, sweet nature that many southern small towns have. Reminds me of Shiner.

    2.Dream with the Fishes – David Arquette wants to kill himself. He meets up with a dude with cancer who agrees to kill him if he funds his bucket list adventure. Funny and sad. Killer soundtrack.

    3. Zero Effect – One of my all-time favorite movies. A Sherlock Holmes homage without being a Sherlock Holmes movie. Ben Stiller actually plays a competent, non-neurotic straight man, and is still funny. Stiller was at his best as an actor during this timeframe.

    4. Moonlight Mile – Jake Gyllenhaal’s fiancé gets shot in a random freak shooting, days before their wedding, but right after Jake has broken up with her – except her parents (Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon) were not yet aware of the break-up. So Jake, riddled with guilt, stays with the girl’s parents. It’s actually a funny movie. Very schmaltzy and sentimental, but based on the real-life experience of the writer/director. Takes place in the 70s. Killer music.

    5. Safety Not Guaranteed – This JUST came out. It may even still be in the theater, but I don’t see it getting much attention. A dude posts a classified ad looking for a partner to go back in time with. A magazine reporter with issues goes under cover to see what this dude’s deal is – romance and sweetness happen. Quirky indie that I found lovely.

    6. Pacific Heights – Michael Keaton will ruin your fucking life.

    7. Wonder Boys – Another all-time fave. Not exactly underrated because it got nominated for a shit ton of awards, but it has the distinction of being a box office failure TWICE. My favorite Michael Douglas role, and Downey Jr. kills it as always.

    8. Cedar Rapids – This is just a year or so old. Ed Helms is a socially awkward insurance agent who has to represent his branch at a multi-day conference taking place at a hotel in Iowa. I think this speaks to me because it reminds me of the kinds of conferences I had to go to while in Japan and the weird friends you make and the weird shit you get up to. It’s like camp for adults. This had a critically mixed reception, so I’m not sure I can recommend it to everyone.

    9. A Simple Plan / The Gift – Two underseen Raimi gems. Simple Plan is fucking BRILLIANT.

    10. Elizabethtown – I am the only person who likes this movie. It’s got stunted acting from Orlando Bloom, a TON of cheesy romance, a clichéd quirky dream girl, but it also (1) takes place in a small southern town with loveable characters (2) involves a lost soul, and (3) I fucking like cheesy romance with clichéd quirky dream girls. This is a comfort movie for me.

    11. Adventureland – Don’t know if this is underrated, but I feel like it gets ignored. Kind of a Dazed and Confused type thing for the 80s involving young college kids working a summer job at a crappy amusement park. I could relate for some reason.

    12. Stranger Than Fiction – Thought this was a sweet, clever movie – one of the rare movies where Will Ferrell turns in an understated, well-acted performance.

    13. Jacob’s Ladder – Is this underrated or ignored? I don’t know. But I’m throwing it down.

    14. Club Dread – Again, I think I’m the only person on earth who finds this movie funny. I like the Broken Lizard guys, and they did a Shaun of the Dead type riff on the slasher genre. Way more clever than the Scary Movie movies. Silly, sophomoric, but also clever – taps the same nerve that makes me love Electric Six.

    15. Flirting With Disaster – The template that Stiller has based most of his recent career on. But this is R-rated and hilarious.

    16. Dummy – Before Lars and the Real Girl, which I liked a lot, and The Beaver, which is batshit and ultimately not that good, there was this movie about a socially awkward loser (there’s a trend to a lot of these movies) who gets real into ventriloquism. Sweet and funny.

    17. Thumbsucker – Teen angst. Haven’t watched it in a while, but it made me feel better in a time when I was depressed.

    18. Mystery Men – Another movie that gets shit on, but like Club Dread, I find it a nice mix of silly and smart. I wonder if it would do better now in a time where super hero movies are widely accepted.

    19. Mystery Team – This movie is fucking funny and weird.

    20. Made – Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau doing their second movie together after Swingers. Not nearly as good as Swingers, but I like how it takes Vaughn’s character from Swingers and amps it up so that he’s a total fuck-up in this. I think this is pretty funny.

    21. Layer Cake – Badass Brit crime

    22. The Baxter – Another “sweet” romantic movie from the State/Stella guys.

    23. Four Lions – This movie is pretty recent, and British, but it’s fucking funny, smart and really really skin-crawling if you think about it. A comedy about suicide bombers.

    24. Living in Oblivion – One of the first “indie” movies I saw after moving to Austin. Buscemi kills as a director trying to deal with all the bullshit surrounding getting his little movie shot.

    25. Box of Moonlight – Same director as Living in Oblivion. John Turturro is going through a mid-life crisis and meets up with feral hippy Sam Rockwell. Kind of schmaltzy, but I dig it. Another lost soul movie, which is probably the kind of movie I gravitate to most.

    26. Nightbreed – Del Toro needs to make the sequel – not a remake. The sequel.

    27. American Movie – Great documentary about the making of a low budget horror movie. Funny as hell.

    28. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – Totally ignored on release. Highly loved now.

    29. Slither – Fantastic horror comedy.

    30. Bandits – OK. Forget Club Dread and Elizabethtown. I AM the only one who likes this movie. Saw it in a vacuum, another word for South Korea. It’s a silly, improbable bank robber film with some sketchy writing, but Billy Bob Thornton, Bruce Willis, and Cate Blanchett are clearly having a blast. There’s no phoning it in. This kind of reminds me of 80s films, where logic was often thrown out the door. Again, I’m a sucker for “sweet”, and this has it in spades. But I also think it’s funny. I remember getting home from Japan talking about how much I liked this film, only to find that critics and audiences HATED it. Weird how that works sometimes.

    31. Swimming with Sharks – Another Hollywood insider film. Spacey chews scenery like it’s going out of style.

    32. Citizen Ruth – Alexander Payne’s first movie (?). It at least precedes Election, which is when folks usually start talking about Payne. Really dark comedy about abortion.

    33. Dudes – I have not seen this Penelope Spheeris flick in probably 20 years, and I know it’s probably not all that great. But FUCK if I didn’t love it when it didn’t pop up on Showtime one night real late when I was in junior high. Jon Cryer, Flea, and Artzt from Lost are three punk rockers. Lee Ving from Fear shows up and kills Flea. Cryer and Artzt travel to redneck-ville to get revenge. Fucking great music. Great gateway movie to punk for a young teen growing up in a small town.

    34. Sneakers – Very 80s film. Light, funny, pretty illogical. Very little edge. And just a pleasure. Redford, Poitier, Aykroyd, River Phoenix, David Straithairn, Ben Kingsley. Great cast having a great time.

    35. Moon – Great low budget sci-fi.

    36. Monsters – Great low budget sci-fi.

    37. Fish Story – Ignored because it’s Japanese. Very cool movie told in like four different time periods, about a punk rock song that will save the world.

    • SLIS August 17, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

      Well those are all some really cool selections and reminded me of several that slipped my mind!

      So glad you mentioned “Moon”. I shit you not, last night when I got ready for bed, I looked over at Molly and said “I can’t believe I forgot “Moon”!!

      “Monsters” was on my short list. If I had done a longer one it would have sure been in there. Cool story and awesome visuals.

      Agree on both of the Raimi’s, as well as “Flirting With Disaster”, “Jacob’s Ladder”, “Layer Cake”, “Kiss Kiss”, “American Movie”, “Swimming With Sharks” and “Nightbreed”. All cool. I just blanked out on them for some reason.

      I didn’t think “Wonder Boys” was as good as Hanson’s previous “L.A. Confidential”, but Douglas is so good. I also think his work in “The Game” is underrated.

      I’ll have to check out “Mystery Team”, “Zero Effect” and “Four Lions”. I’ve wanted to check them out for awhile, but wasn’t sure if they’d deliver.

      I think a movie marathon is in order!

      • Dave Dierksen August 17, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

        Yeah, definitely check out Zero Effect and Four Lions. Four Lions… man, that movie really got to me on a weird level. Felt kind of ick. Very smart satire. Mystery Team used to be streaming on Netflix but not sure anymore; it’s pretty strange, and not for everyone, but I got a good laugh out of it.

  2. SLIS August 17, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

    Did your ever see “Brain Dead” with Bill’s Paxton and Pullman? Fun old sci fi flick on streaming. And I’d love to get your reaction to “Blue Sunshine”. It is soooooooo out there.

  3. Jack Sommersby August 18, 2012 at 7:08 am #

    “Seconds” is indeed an awesome pick. A Frankenheimer film I’d cite on this list is 1982’s “The Challenge,” which was scripted by John Sayles and is a livelier version of “The Yakuza” with American boxer Scott Glenn getting involved in a bloody battle for an ancient sword by two warring brothers. Great action, but also some very good humor, too.

    Way to go on “Straight Time,” which I rewatched just a couple of months ago. Who’d have thought Hoffman had it in him to play such a badass? Gene Siskel named it the best film of 1978.

    And you know my love for “Angel Heart,” which was very tricky material brought off with complete mastery. The book it was based on was amazing, too, and actually stayed in New York the whole time. Still my favorite Alan Parker film. I like how Parker, who wanted to shoot it in B/W, had it lit so there were practically no primary colors except the red of blood.

    You also know we disagree on “Zodiac,” so I’ll throw in “The Game” as the most underrated Fincher. I just can’t understand why a lot of critics ragged on it for being unbelievable when clearly it was meant as a fantasy-thriller.

    Thanks to your bootleg tape I was able to see “Karen Carpenter,” and it’s stayed with me ever since. In fact, I don’t think Todd Haynes has made a better film.

    You’ve given me motivation to check out “The Escapist” and a couple of others.


    Some underrated ones:

    “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc” (1999)
    “True Crime” (1999)
    “Eye of the Beholder” (2000)
    “Confidence” (2003)
    “Harsh Times” (2005)
    “Rambo 3” (1988)
    “Supernova” (2000)

    “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc” (1999)
    “Eye of the Beholder (2000)
    “The Challenge” (1982)

  4. SLIS August 18, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

    I totally forgot about “Confidence”. That was pretty good. I’ll check out “The Challenge”. Sounds like my kind of flick. I thought his film “Ronin” was pretty good too. The description of “Eye of the Beholder” on imdb sounds so weird that I gotta check it out. Speaking of McGegor did either of you like “Ghost Writer” or “Beginners”? I enjoyed both of them a lot.

    • Jack Sommersby August 18, 2012 at 3:18 pm #

      Nah, but it’s been forever since I liked a film by Roman “Child Rapist” Polanski. And I’m also a fan of “Zero Effect” — Stiller’s never been better, and Bill Pullman deserved an Oscar nomination for his brilliant portrayal of the most eccentric private detective ever to grace the silver screen. Sorry, I wasn’t a fan of “Ronin,” but I am one of the few who found Frankenheimer’s “Island of Dr. Morau” remake pretty enjoyable.

  5. SLIS August 18, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

    Well I’m gonna have to see if “Zero Effect” is on Netflix. I’m intrigued given you guys both like it. “Dr Moreau” was a true cinematic train wreck and I couldn’t look away. “Prophecy” is another weird one from Frankenheimer as we’ve discussed. David Thewlis is an interesting actor. What happened to him? I thought he was excellent in Mike Leigh’s “Naked”.

  6. SLIS August 19, 2012 at 2:08 am #

    @Jack; And what about Parker’s “The Life Of David Gale”? A mixed effort but still caught my interest at the time. Why hasn’t he directed a film since?

    @Dave: And I forgot about “Slither” too! That was a fun flick.

  7. Jack Sommersby August 19, 2012 at 8:24 am #

    I was *very* unkind to “The Life of David Gale”…

  8. SLIS August 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm #

    Wow, you certainly weren’t a fan of that movie lol.
    Well at least he gave us “Angel Heart”, “Mississippi Burning”, and “Midnight Express”. Did you hear that the author of of the book the latter was based on was upset about the films depiction of Turkish prison guards and officials? Interesting given he was imprisoned there for so long:

  9. Deb Galarza April 8, 2014 at 1:06 am #


    I was perusing the internet yesterday looking for a list of overlooked or underrated movies and luckily happened upon, The 30 Most Underrated Movies Of All Time, on your site.

    Today, I started at the bottom of your list to scope out something interesting to stream on Netflix. 30 through 15 are not either not currently streaming on Netflix or I’ve already seen them.

    I came across, “Tell No One” and decided to give it a shot. Because it is foreign, I didn’t think my husband would want to watch it since he dislikes watching movies with subtitles. I’m going to tell him about it anyway because it is an excellent movie. You’re right – underrated is almost understated. “Tell No One” is a great recommendation that I wouldn’t have watched otherwise. So, thank you.

    The only other movie on your list currently streaming on Netflix is, “The Escapist” which we’ll be watching tonight.

    This list can still turn people on to good cinema.

    I copied the movie titles of your list and some of your notes for my personal use. However, I belong to a writer’s web site, My Writer’s Circle and would like to give you kudos and link your website in one of our threads at the MWC forum, if you don’t mind. When I get my website back up and get my blog going, I’d like to tag you in there as well. I’ll wait to hear from you.
    But, who is, SLIS?

    Here are a few recommendations for you but make sure you put on your suspended belief shoes. You’ll need them. The following recommendations are love ’em or hate ’em films.

    “Safety Not Guaranteed” (2012)
    Fun, quirky, underrated. Jeff (Jake Johns) is a reporter with questionable morals but heart who takes interns, Darius (Aubrey Plaza) and Amau (Karan Soni) on a working, self indulgent vacation to get a story about Kenneth (Mark Duplass) an oddball who took out a classified ad asking for a partner to time travel. The actors are subtle, revealing characters with poignant aplomb.

    Directed by Colin Trevorrow, this was his feature debut at Sundance. He is currently directing, “Jurassic World” the sequel to, “Jurassic Park”.

    Written by Derek Connelly, the film won Best First Screenplay at the Independent Spirit Awards and the Waldo Salt Screenwriting Award. Derek Connelly is in collaboration with Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver on Michael Crichton’s, “Jurassic World”.

    “Troll Hunter” (2010)
    Norwegian, “found footage” mockumentary about, what else? A troll hunter. A group of college kids set out to get the scoop on an eccentric troll hunter and end up getting in over their heads. Christians beware.

    “Rare Exports” (2010)
    A Finnish movie directed by Jalmari Helander about the real Secret Santa. Described as a horror-fantasy-thriller. ” It’s not my favorite but the three guys living in my household and all of the guys in my screenwriter’s group, like it a lot.

    I recommend “Noah”, in theaters now. I foresee several Oscar nods for this film. Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, and Russell Crowe give stellar performances in this epic movie. I liked it so much more than I thought I would.

    I’ll be reading you again soon.

    Deb Galarza

    • SLIS April 8, 2014 at 5:11 pm #


      I’m glad you enjoyed ‘Tell No One!’ When I wrote that piece, more titles that I listed were playing on streaming, but you know how they will remove them from time to time.

      I absolutely loved ‘Troll Hunter’ and ‘Rare Exports.’ And I’ll give ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’ a shot; looks interesting!

      And yes, please link me to the Writer’s Circle forum and to your blog when you have it up and running. Glad you enjoyed the piece.


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