Underrated Movies

Not every movie is a timeless classic and not every film is a forgettable flop.  Cinema doesn't have to fall into the either/or classification.  There are plenty of flicks inbetween, mostly mediocre, not brilliant yet not unwatchable either, stuck in the middle of cinematic history.  Yet, among those seemingly average movies, there are some true gems that many folks may not have seen. 

I have already written about some of them: Carlito's Way, The Iron Giant, Gattaca, Beautiful Girls, Sunshine.  These are movies that may not have broken box office records, they may not have garnered mainstream attention from a string of awards, but they still managed to become some of my favorite films.

Here are some more under-rated movies I recommend.  Although I wouldn't label them "the best of all time," I still enjoy watching them whenever I have the chance.

Cop Land - Sylvester Stallone gives one of his finest (and most under-stated) performances as a suburban New Jersey sheriff who uncovers a cover-up by corrupt city cops and reluctantly decides to bring them to justice.  The super cast includes Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro, Peter Berg, Janeane Garofalo, Robert Patrick, Michael Rapaport, Annabella Sciorra, Noah Emmerich, Cathy Moriarty, and others.  It has action, suspense, drama, and some really great tender moments.  

Desperado - This is one of the best films Robert Rodriguez has directed.  I don't care what anyone says, this is an awesome movie from beginning to end.  The cast is terrific, from Antonio Banderas as the vengeance-seeking El Mariachi, Salma Hayek as the lovely Carolina, Joaquim de Almeida as the villainous Bucho, Cheech Marin as the bartender (one of his finest roles), and a nice bunch of cameos by Steve Buscemi, Quentin Tarantino, Danny Trejo, and others.  It's all here: great cinematography, great music, fun script, and solid performances.

Doc Hollywood - This little fish-of-water comedy about a city boy physician (played perfectly by Michael J. Fox) who gets stranded in a seemingly ho-hum hick town, has a lot of heart.  I love the opening title sequence and the supporting cast is magnificent: Julie Warner, Woody Harrelson, David Ogden Stiers, George Hamilton, and Bridget Fonda.

Flatliners - Joel Schumacher's little thriller is definitely a guilty pleasure.  It's silly premise deals with medical school students conducting dangerous experiments to research near-death experiences, but it is executed nicely, delivering some good chills and thrills from the fine actors and actresses on the screen: Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts, Oliver Platt, and William Baldwin.  Good stuff!

In the Line of Fire - A Secret Service agent (the always awesome Clint Eastwood), still guilt-ridden all these decades later by the death of John F. Kennedy, finally redeems himself by stopping another would-be presidential assassin, played chillingly by John Malkovich.  The rest of the cast isn't too shabby either: Rene Russo, Dylan McDermott, Gary Cole, Fred Thompson, and John Mahoney.

Jacob's Ladder - I appreciate this quirky film more and more every time I see it. Tim Robbin plays a traumatized Vietnam War veteran who starts hallucinating and thinks that the government conducted some kind of experiment on him and other vets. Others in the movie include Elizabeth Pena, Danny Aiello, Matt Craven, Macauley Culkin, Jason Alexander, Eriq La Salle, Ving Rhames, and others. I don't want to give anything away -- just watch it and judge for yourself. 

Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves - Okay, this has some laughable moments, including star Kevin Costner's elusive and eventually abandoned British accent, but it's still compellingly watchable, especially the scenes with Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham.  The movie also boasts the star power of Morgan Freeman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, and Christian Slater.

Sleepy Hollow - Tim Burton is one of my favorite living directors and even though this is considered one of the lesser films in his filmography, I still love it.  Johnny Depp plays Ichobod Crane and Christina Ricci plays the love interest.  The film also stars Miranda Richardson, Michael Gambon, Casper Van Dien, Jeffrey Jones, Richard Griffiths, Ian McDiarmid, Michael Gough, Christopher Walken (as the Headless Horseman), Lisa Marie, and the brilliant Christopher Lee.

We're No Angels - Robert De Niro and Sean Penn play convicts on the lam who hide out in a church where they are mistaken for two priests.  It has some excellent moments and fine appearances by Demi Moore, Bruno Kirby, Ray McAnally, Wallace Shawn, John C. Reilly, and others.  Catch it if you can.

Those are some of many.  Which under-rated film holds a special place in your heart and memory?