30 Sleepers

This is a list of 30 of the most underrated or at least under appreciated, under the radar, cinematic treasures from the 30's through the present. The list is an assortment of screen gems, not necessarily unnoticed, but never appreciated to the extent of the quality of the entertainment, at least in the opinion of this writer. Enjoy!
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1.
Seconds (1966)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
An unhappy middle-aged banker agrees to a procedure that will fake his death and give him a completely new look and identity - one that comes with its own price. (106 mins.)
“ Haunting and provacative, from the first moment; the suspense never lets up through to the last reel of this fine film. The acting is superb --easily Rock Hudson's finest performance, and John Randolph is awesome in support and should have received Oscar consideration.
A great list of character actors, including Jeff Corey, Will Geer, Richard Anderson, Wesley Addy and Salome Jens lend eerie support to the mood piece. Finally, the music is beautifully crafted to support the whole surrealistic experience. A great film and sleeper extraordinaire! ” - John Jacoby
 
2.
Straight Time (1978)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
After being released on parole, a burglar attempts to go straight, get a regular job, and just go by the rules... (114 mins.)
Director: Ulu Grosbard
“ This excellent film never comes up in a discussion of Dustin Hoffman's finest films (Midnight Cowboy, The Graduate, Tootsie, Rain Man, Kramer, etc.), but it should. Dustin is his usual flawless, and the film creates true suspense, start to finish. It is a wildly entertaining movie with an awesome supporting cast including Gary Busey and Harry Dean Stanton, both fabulous, and Theresa Russell, perfect and perfectly alluring as the romantic interest in this gritty, way under the radar, crime drama.
A real sleeper treat! ” - John Jacoby
 
3.
The Doctor (1991)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Jack McKee is a doctor with it all: he's successful, he's rich, extremely self centred and he has no problems... (122 mins.)
Director: Randa Haines
“ Wonderful, Oscar worthy performance by William Hurt, somewhat overlooked in the great year for fiilms, which was 1991 (Silence of the lambs, JFK, Bugsy, Prince of Tides), etc. This movie is
beautifully told and unfolds in a rich, suspenseful, yet compassionate telling expertly crafted by Director, Randa Haines. The supporting cast is excellent with Mandy Patinkin and Christine Lahti absolutely flawless, and Elizabeth Perkins, just perfect in arguably her best performance. The film is pleasing on so many levels, and it makes my underrrated "sleeper" top five. ” - John Jacoby
 
4.
The Grifters (1990)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
A small-time conman has torn loyalties between his estranged mother and new girlfriend--both of whom are high-stakes grifters with their own angles to play. (110 mins.)
Director: Stephen Frears
“ Compelling, pefectly cast off beat drama from 1990, somewhat lost amidst the buzz of great films of the year (Goodfellas, Dances with Wolves, Awakenings, Reversal of Fortune, etc.). But this films delivers on several levels. It's sexy, provocative, and suspenseful
and a great view of the little known world of small time and big time
Con artists. A real treat with the three leads mesmerizingly good! ” - John Jacoby
 
5.
The Lady Vanishes (1938)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
While traveling in continental Europe, a rich young playgirl realizes that an elderly lady seems to have disappeared from the train. (96 mins.)
“ Rarely in the discussion of Hitchcock's top ten films but should be
counted in that great list of classics, reputed to be Orson Welles'
favorite film, this entertaining gem from 1938, is light but suspenseful, well acted, and beautifully crafted. This marvelous film is full of quirky, funny, Hitchcockian black humor flourishes, and Margaret Lockwood is luminous. A real treat. ” - John Jacoby
 
6.
Scarecrow (1973)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Max, an ex-con drifter with a penchant for brawling is amused by Lion, a homeless ex-sailor, and they partner up as they head east together. (112 mins.)
“ This 1973 film slipped through the cracks of wider appreciation due to the timing of the runaway successes of it's two great lead actors, Al Pacino and Gene Hackman. Hackman was between the wildly popular French Connection and his 1974 acting tour de force in The Conversation, while Pacino was in the midst of arguably the most amazing 4 year run of classic film appearances; Godfather '72, Serpico '73, Godfather II '74 and Dog Day afternoon '75! Nonetheless, Scarecrow is a well acted, well paced, pleasing on many levels, movie. Pacino and Hackman are magical together and a
measuring rod for excellence among "buddy film" vehicles. A true
under the radar classic. ” - John Jacoby
 
7.
Larceny, Inc. (1942)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Three ex-cons buy a luggage shop to tunnel into the bank vault next door. But despite all they can do, the shop prospers... (95 mins.)
Director: Lloyd Bacon
“ Delightful, light, crime caper romp with the incomparable Edward G. Robinson, never better. My favorite EGR film is Double Indemnity (1944), but my very favorite movie with the great Eddie G. in a starring role is Larceny, Inc. The supporting cast is exceptional with Broderick Crawford and Edward Brophy at their comic best along with Jack Carson, Harry Davenport and John Qualen also very good.
Jane Wyman is adorable and perfect in her part and Anthony Quinn appears in a very early role. Finally, a very young Jackie Gleason appears in two scenes and steals every minute in each. This film is
wildly entertaining, start to finish, and is a comic treasure. Don't miss this one! ” - John Jacoby
 
8.
The Train (1964)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
In 1944, a German colonel loads a train with French art treasures to send to Germany. The Resistance must stop it without damaging the cargo. (133 mins.)
“ This wonderful movie from 1965 is rarely included in discussion ofthe best films of Burt Lancaster (The Killers, From Here toEternity,Sweet Smell of Success, Elmer Gantry, Birdman of Alcatraz, Atlantic City, et. al.), but really should be. This film is a brilliant action drama and yet another successful collaboration of Director Frankenheimer/ Actor Lancaster, and the effort results in a very entertaining movie. Co -starring talented, brilliant Paul Scofield and lovely Jeanne Moreau, this film is a showcase for the acting talents and athleticism of Burt Lancaster. It's a winner all the way. ” - John Jacoby
 
9.
Tin Men (1987)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
A minor car accident drives two rival aluminum-siding salesmen to the ridiculous extremes of man versus man in 1963 Baltimore. (112 mins.)
Director: Barry Levinson
“ From the deft handling of the always brilliant Barry Levinson, Richard Dreyfuss and Danny De Vito are delightful in yet another "Baltimore story" in this 1987 comic romp. Barbara Hershey is always great and always underrrated co -stars, and a host of classic versatile character actors lend perfect support. Very entertaining sleeper. ” - John Jacoby
 
10.
School Ties (1992)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  
Set in the 1950s, a star-quarterback is given an opportunity to attend an elite preparatory school but must conceal the fact that he is Jewish. (106 mins.)
Director: Robert Mandel
“ Entertaining story of young Jewish football star recruited by elite New England prep school. The movie is a showcase for modern stars, Chris O'Donnell, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Cole Hauser and Brendan Fraser, who is excellent in the lead role. Well acted, engrossing film. ” - John Jacoby
 
11.
Frenzy (1972)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A serial murderer is strangling women with a necktie. The London police have a suspect, but he is the wrong man. (116 mins.)
“ Solid, underrrated Hitchcock thriller rarely ranked by critics in the top ten of Hitchcock, but clearly should be and is very high in my personal rankings. This is Hitch's penultimatte film (1972) with only one more movie (Family Plot 1976) to his astounding list of Directing credits. This movie is entertaining, well crafted and loaded with clever and satisfying Hitchcockian black humor flourishes. A gem! ” - John Jacoby
 
12.
Out of the Fog (1941)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
In Brooklyn, fishing is the hobby of the workers Jonah Goodwin and Olaf Johnson and they use to fish every night in their old boat... (85 mins.)
Director: Anatole Litvak
“ Delightful, entertaining showcase for three great actors of the 40's: Ida Lupino, John Garfield and Thomas Mitchell. ” - John Jacoby
 
13.
Match Point (2005)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
At a turning point in his life, a former tennis pro falls for an actress who happens to be dating his friend and soon-to-be brother-in-law. (119 mins.)
Director: Woody Allen
“ Not often included in a discussion of the best films of Woody Allen, it is my absolute favorite. Very absorbing, well acted drama with beautiful glimpses of the City of London. ” - John Jacoby
 
14.
Fat City (1972)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Two men, working as professional boxers, come to blows when their careers each begin to take opposite momentum. (100 mins.)
Director: John Huston
“ Wonderful atmospheric John Huston look at down and out in the Central Valley cities of California. Stacy Keach and Jeff Bridges are wonderful and Susan Tyrell is amazing. ” - John Jacoby
 
15.
Warlock (1959)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
A famous gunman becomes the marshal of Warlock to end a gang's rampages, but is met with some opposition by a former gang member turned deputy sheriff who wants to follow only legal methods. (122 mins.)
Director: Edward Dmytryk
“ Solid, entertaining, heavily plotted Western drama with stars
Widmark, Fonda and Quinn excellent. ” - John Jacoby
 
16.
Between Two Worlds (1944)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Passengers on an ocean liner can't recall how they got on board or where they are going yet, oddly enough, it soon becomes apparent that they all have something in common. (112 mins.)
Director: Edward A. Blatt
“ John Garfield, at his best, with a large many of the Warner regulars, in an eerie, entertaining fantasy. ” - John Jacoby
 
17.
The Whole Town's Talking (1935)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
A meek milquetoast of a clerk is mistaken for Public Enemy #1, and the notorious killer takes advantage of the situation. (93 mins.)
Director: John Ford
“ Edward G. Robinson at his best with great support from Jean Arthur, all under the deft Direction of the one of the great masters, John Ford. Entertaining treasure from 1935. ” - John Jacoby
 
18.
The Bedford Incident (1965)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
An American destroyer captain is determined to confront a Soviet submarine caught violating territorial waters. Perhaps too determined. (102 mins.)
Director: James B. Harris
“ Widmark never better. Very suspenseful with great support from Sid Poitier, Martin Balsam, Eric Portman and James MacArthur. ” - John Jacoby
 
19.
Just One of the Guys (1985)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
Terry Griffith has got it all -- looks, popularity, the perfect college boyfriend, and an article that's... (90 mins.)
Director: Lisa Gottlieb
“ Very cute comedy from 1985 with the three leads performing
very well, especially Hyser. Familiar comedy plot gets a really
fresh treatment in this sleeper comedy. ” - John Jacoby
 
20.
The Little Giant (1933)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
When Prohibition ends, a beer baron sees the writing on the wall, quits the rackets, and tries to break into California society. (76 mins.)
Director: Roy Del Ruth
“ One of my favorite Edward G. Robinson early movies, with the incomparable Eddie G., at his rough and tumble, comic and likeable
best. A gem. ” - John Jacoby
 
21.
My Bodyguard (1980)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
When a boy comes to a new school and gets harassed by a bully, he acquires the services of the school's most feared kid as a bodyguard. (96 mins.)
Director: Tony Bill
“ Pleasing comedy with fine performances, especially Adam Baldwin.
Very entertaining. ” - John Jacoby
 
22.
The Reincarnation of Peter Proud (1975)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  
When college professor Peter Proud begins to experience flashbacks from a previous incarnation, he is... (105 mins.)
Director: J. Lee Thompson
“ Eerie, supernatural thriller, well handled, with Margot Kidder, just great in support. ” - John Jacoby
 
23.
One, Two, Three (1961)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
In West Berlin during the Cold War, a Coca-Cola executive is given the task of taking care of his boss' socialite daughter. (115 mins.)
Director: Billy Wilder
“ Cagney and Wilder clashed, but the film is pure gold. Cagney's last film before his 20 year retirement, returning in 1981 for Ragtime.
This fast paced political satire has wit and pace, and the four leads
are great under the deft handling of the wonderful Billy Wilder. ” - John Jacoby
 
24.
Win Win (2011)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A struggling lawyer and volunteer wrestling coach's chicanery comes back to haunt him when the teenage grandson of the client he has double-crossed comes into his life. (106 mins.)
Director: Tom McCarthy
“ Paul Giammati, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale and Jeffrey Tambor --
recipe for a pleasing little drama with wit and charm. ” - John Jacoby
 
25.
Shake Hands with the Devil (1959)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
In the 1920's Ireland, IRA members are being lead by the war mongering Dr. Sean Lenihan, as they fight oppressive British forces. (111 mins.)
“ Solid drama set in war torn Ireland is well crafted and Cagney's intense performance elevates the film considerably. ” - John Jacoby
 
26.
The Jackpot (1950)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  
Bill Lawrence wins a slew of prizes on a radio quiz program. His happiness is short-lived when he discovers... (85 mins.)
Director: Walter Lang
“ Under the radar James Stewart comedy is very pleasing and the performances (including Nine year old Natalie Wood) make for an entertaining movie. ” - John Jacoby
 
27.
Strangers When We Meet (1960)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A suburban architect loves his wife but is bored with his marriage and with his work, so he takes up with the neglected, married beauty who lives down the street. (117 mins.)
Director: Richard Quine
“ The Kirk Douglas/Kim Novak chemistry is the story in this 1960
soaper. With Barbara Rush, Ernie Kovacs and Walter Matthau in support, it's quite entertaining. ” - John Jacoby
 
28.
The Street with No Name (1948)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A covert FBI agent infiltrates a ruthless gangster mob, but his life is at risk from a mysterious informant who funnels inside information to the hoodlums. (91 mins.)
“ Widmark is menacing in this documentary style story. Well acted, well crafted crime drama. ” - John Jacoby
 
29.
Call Northside 777 (1948)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Chicago reporter P.J. McNeal re-opens a ten year old murder case. (112 mins.)
Director: Henry Hathaway
“ One of my favorite James Stewart movies, this film holds up very well and is well acted and suspenseful story of a Newsman going to great lengths to find justice for a man, wrongfully accused. ” - John Jacoby
 
30.
Disclosure (1994)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.0/10 X  
A computer specialist is sued for sexual harassment by a former lover turned boss who initiated the act forcefully, which threatens both his career and his personal life. (128 mins.)
Director: Barry Levinson
“ Really well paced drama with a fine cast, and Michael Douglas, his usual excellent, in this heavily plotted entertaining story set in the
high tech computer industry. ” - John Jacoby