Thursday, May 7, 2009

Top Hidden Gem Movies - Part I

Surely at this point you've seen the IMDb Top 250. There are definitely some films in the list that are overrated (The Usual Suspects at #22!), or just don't belong at all (Planet of the Apes, Big Fish). And as evidenced by the internet fanboys who parlayed their budding crushes on a recently deceased Heath Ledger to mess with the numbers, it's an imperfect system. But it is also an extremely useful tool for any movie fan looking to (A) find something new and interesting to watch or (2)see how many of the "classics" they've taken in. I'd love to see that I've seen all 250, but as yet, there are more to go.

But today, using an extremely complex mathematical algorithm (uhhh... the average between the rank of the movie and the # of votes it has received), we're going to look at the top 20 movies that have been overlooked - or at least don't have as many votes as they should. If you have any thoughts on these, let us know!

Note - movies released in the last year are not counted because (A) newer movies always have inflated ratings and (B) obviously many people may not have had the opportunity to watch them yet. But we still recommend getting out there to see The Wrestler (actually the clear #1 in our formula), Slumdog Millionaire, and Gran Torino.

#20: Witness for the Prosecution
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.2, 128
Number of Voters: 14,416
Why more haven't seen it:It's a bit old, from 1957, but considering that it is a Billy Wilder directed adaptation originally penned by Agatha Christie, it's surprising that this classic mystery/thriller doesn't get more attention. In all honesty, I haven't seen it, and even though the name rings a bell, until I did some research I didn't know much about it. But I'm adding it to my list today.
Gushing IMDb user comment:"At the end of the day the films you give top marks are those films that become constant companions. You can see them again at the drop of a hat, you show them to people who have never see them and it's always a triumph. 'Witness For The Prosecution' is one of those wonders. Suspend your disbelief for a couple of hours and enjoy this banquet of a romp." - M.J.Arocena

#19: 12 Angry Men
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.8, 9
Number of Voters: 89,961
Why more haven't seen it: I was honestly surprised that this made the cut, but is largely here due to its distinction as the 9th highest rated film of all time. We covered it a bit in the Top Ten Underdog Movies feature from last year. Completely taking place in one room, it signaled the arrival of Sidney Lumet as a master filmmaker. It is alternately melodramatic and realistic. Anyone who hasn't seen this movie needs to set aside a couple hours to do so.
Gushing IMDb user comment:"This film deserves to be on anyone's list of top films. My problem is that it is so perfect, so seamlessly polished, it is hard to appreciate the individual excellences." - tedg

#18: The Seven Samurai
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.8, 13
Number of Voters: 82,241
Why more haven't seen it:Well, it's in Japanese and in black and white, but much like 12 Angry Men above, it's that the film has such a high rating. There have been a lot of voters, far more than its also beloved American, color counterpart, The Magnificent Seven. It's a very long movie that takes its time to develop, but even passive viewers find themselves drawn into the story, feeling pity and empathy for all the characters involved.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "Words cannot sum up the experience you have while watching Seven Samurai. It makes you laugh at the antics the samurai bring, cheer when the village accomplish a goal, bit your fingernails in suspense when bandits appear, and cry at the tragedies that occur in life. If you have yet to see this movie, find it and watch what is without a doubt in my mind, the greatest movie ever made." - Obvlivous93

#17: Rashômon
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.4, 72
Number of Voters: 32,215
Why more haven't seen it: Akira Kurosawa, the same director as above, created a film that was groundbreaking and risky. The story is told three times by three different characters, one of whom is already dead. Kurosawa implemented various techniques which had never been performed previously. It's also black and white and in Japanese, and depicts a rape. So it's understandable that this isn't shown on TBS after "House of Payne". This is probably my favorite foreign film of all time, and I recommend it highly.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "Rashomon is one of the most powerful and emotional movies that I have ever seen. The way the story is told has become a arch type that has been incorporated into countless American films and just for that this movie deserves a 10." - ninerjayd

#16: The General
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.3, 126
Number of Voters: 16,446
Why more haven't seen it: Let's start with the fact that it's a silent, black and white comedy. But it is also Buster Keaton's most renowned effort. Count me among the throng that have missed it. Can it really be funny if it's black and white and silent? I imagine it must be.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "There aren't too many words to describe this film other than 'amazing.' I am embarrassed to admit that I am 23 and this is the first time I've seen this film, however now that I have I will be certain to go out and purchase any Buster Keaton film I can get my hands on. I was lucky enough to find this film packaged along with Steamboat Bill Jr. and two Charlie Chaplin films (The Kid and Tillie's Punctured Romance) at my local Wal-Mart for a measly $5.50 and decided to give it a try. Heck, a dollar can't even buy a popsicle now-a-days, but can purchase one of the greatest comedies I've ever seen. Go figure." - hoserhound

#15: All About Eve
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.4, 74
Number of Voters: 29,842
Why more haven't seen it: From 1950 and black and white, but beyond that I haven't the faintest idea. It features big stars, a famous director in Joseph L Mankiewicz, and the screen debut of Marylin Monroe. Not only that, it's a superb story about fame, jealousy and morality. What's lacking is a clear love story, but there's no reason why more people haven't seen this one.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "What a genius Joseph L Manckiewicz was. A literary script that is totally accessible. A melodrama for the thinking man. A film that is as engrossing and entertaining every time you see it. Bette Davis touches all the raw nerves of her mythological career. Anne Baxter never went this far. Thelma Ritter became a sort of icon. Marilyn Monroe gives us a preview of forthcoming attractions as a graduated from the "Copacabana" academy of dramatic arts. Celeste Holm represents us, all of us and George Sanders creates a prototype for a cultured monster that is immediately recognizable. I don't recall another film in which the nature of selfishness is so wittily dissected. A total triumph." - marcosaguado

#14: Rebecca
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.4, 78
Number of Voters: 29,531
Why more haven't seen it: I honestly have no clue. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Laurence Olivier, it is Hitch's only film to have won Best Picture. You'd think this would be a renowned, smash hit movie. It's the kind of movie that should be on TCM and late-night cable all the damn time.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "I spent the majority of this film thinking about how lucky M. Olivier really was. To be able to wrap his arms around Joan Fontaine and kiss her. Oh my. She's one of the most beautiful women I've ever seen (almost, but not quite as beautiful as Veronica Lake). She's also absolutely perfect in the role of the second Mrs. DeWinter, taking a character that could have become a cloying bore in less capable hands and transforming her into a sympathetic and interesting figure." - Jason Forenstein

#13: The Third Man
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.5, 54
Number of Voters: 43,113
Why more haven't seen it: There are a few goofy things about this suspense mystery, the most prominent being the soundtrack which features only a zither. At the time, the soundtrack was actually a huge hit, but it's very distracting as the movie plays along.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "Unrelenting fascination is what I have every time I watch this movie. It never seems old. It's in my mind, haunting me, with its unearthly music and its dark, oblique photography. And that great Orson Welles' speech, and also the best entrance in movie history to go along with the best exit in movie history. It couldn't be better. I can't even express how I feel in words. Watch it again and again, and you'll be dazed!" - Matt Hintze

#12: The Bicycle Thief
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.4, 97
Number of Voters: 21,633
Why more haven't seen it: First, it's very old, black and white, and in Italian. Second, the movie is a major, major downer. It's basically all about life beating the piss out of you and not apologizing for it, leaving you with no way of fighting back. At the risk of pissing off the film snobs, I have to say that I liked this movie, but didn't understand what the big deal about it is. Yet, the IMDb has spoken. The people who watch and rate have scored it very highly. I'm just saying I can see why more haven't sat back to have their nuts kicked by this one.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "Neither reductivist outlook adequately deals with the many subtleties and nuances this great film portrays, and the fact that The Bicycle Thief is shorn of Freudian psychobabble and preaching is one of its strengths. Yet, it is not pure cinema, either, as many European critics have labeled it. Although the visuals convey the milieu well, they do not get inside the characters. This is where the writing and acting ability of Maggiorani and Staiola works magic. Great art is simply not so easily reducible as political panderers want it to be, and one can be thankful for that, lest The Bicycle Thief would not be what it is, nor would we still be watching it with such easy appreciation for its simple virtues." - Cosmoeticadotcom

#11: Nights of Cabiria
IMDb Rating, Rank: 8.4, 143
Number of Voters: 8,655
Why more haven't seen it: Federico Fellini's fifth-most voted upon movie, it's the only one that makes our list. The story of course takes place in Rome and is about a prostitute that wanders the streets looking for love. To be honest, I don't know a damn thing about this film beyond the fact that Fellini directed it. But that's reason enough to go and see it.
Gushing IMDb user comment: "I've never seen the face so alive, changing its expression every moment. If the face is the soul's mirror, Cabiria's (Masina's) face reflects her every single emotion and how effortlessly she goes from bitter cynicism to wistful yearning, from despair to hope, from tears to smile. While there's life there's hope. As long as Cabiria smiles in the end of this tragicomic masterpiece, there is hope for all of us." - Galina

If you're not pumped up enough to head to your local Netflix and get your hands on some of these, come back for Part II next week!

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