Film is a great medium that suffers from a major problem, which is that so little of film is revisited by people. Most people end up seeing about four to twelve movies a year and rarely, if ever, revisit them. This leads to a hole where some great films never get the due credit they deserve outside of film buff circles. So with this list, I would like to shed light on some films I feel have been unfairly missed by the general public.
Things to come: Based on a book called The Shape of Things to Come by H.G. Wells, this is an early take on the post-apocalyptic genre. The movie tells the tale of England engaging in a large war that tears the government apart and eventually leads to a dark age. As time moves on, humanity eventually rebuilds society in futuristic underground cities. The movie seems kind of dorky and unrealistic in a modern time with humanity going from normal to wearing animal skins in 30 years, but it’s a fun bit of speculative sci-fi that Wells was a master at. The movie is a lot more fun than the book’s rather dry and serious portrayal of the future. The acting in the movie is okay; it’s decent for the standard set by the 1930s but for the most part, the film is interesting largely for its setting and not its characters
Battle Royale: We’ve heard this premise before: “a corrupt government sends a group of teenagers to fight each other to the death in an elaborate game.” It’s the same premise as the Hunger Games movie/book series, a near ubiquitous pop culture force in this decade. Battle Royale isn’t one of the numerous Young Adult Hunger Games knockoffs, though, given that it is both good and created before the Hunger Games. Battle Royale is a Japanese film that came out in 2000 and functions on a very similar premise to Collins’ book series but for my money, does nearly everything better. The film is about a class of Japanese students sent to an island to participate in a battle to the death. The class numbers around 40 and with that number, manages to make nearly every student a well-rounded and interesting character. The main plot follows two star crossed lovers, but the film also manages to have time for a group of students trying to break free from the island, a student discovering she is actually someone who enjoys the chaos, and numerous vignettes that are darkly ironic and clever. The director Kinji Fukasaka drew from his own experiences working as a teenager in a factory during World War II and his long standing distrust of the Japanese government to craft a movie that has a strong message of being wary about your leaders. It’s a movie that I could spend all day writing about because I absolutely love it, but I sadly am on a time crunch here. Before I move on, there are two things to note, the first of which is that you should be sure to watch the theatrical cut and not the special edition (which added bad cgi and unnecessary scenes to kill the pacing) and the second is that the film is R-rated.
Snowpiercer: This film is a very fascinating production coming from a Korean studio and director but with a large budget and starring American actors. The premise is also interesting, taking place on a luxury train after the world has been covered in ice with the lower class in the back of the train and the upper class in the front. Curtis Everett (played by Chris Evans) leads a revolution to overthrow the oppressive government and from that premise various twists occur. Bong Joon-Ho, the director, manages to pull some really creative ideas for action scenes on a train with it taking on a sort of Aliens room to room type of feel. Politically the film centers squarely as a call to revolt against oppressive rulers and with some later reveals, it takes on a whole new meaning. The acting is all fantastic but the really standout role is Tilda Swinton as an evil bureaucrat who is a kind of a demented cross between Ayn Rand and Margaret Thatcher.
Donnie Darko: This is the weirdest film to ever make it through the studios to the masses and is also one of my favorites. Donnie Darko tells a really weird tale of a mentally disturbed teenager who sees images of a giant horrific giant rabbit after a near death experience. It feels like a lot is lacking with the film combining elements of a coming of age story, psychological thriller, and metaphysical sci-fi. Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as Donnie is truly something else he captures the spirit of an unhinged teenager who still is quite likable. There are two caveats to add that are actually pretty much the same as the Battle Royale: This movie is rated R and there is a preferred cut to watch, which is the Director’s Cut, making the film understandable and doesn’t drop a major plot thread out of nowhere.