Misunderstood gems: the most underrated, unknown and overlooked films

by yajji | created - 02 Dec 2011 | updated - 11 Mar 2017 | Public

This is a list of absolute masterpieces and generally great films that are overlooked/neglected and far too underrated on IMDb (as well as in the general public).

Most of the films included range from those that were hailed as masterpieces when they were initially released, made a huge or minor but recognisable impact at the time (with critical acclaim or box office earnings or both) but are sadly forgotten OR under-appreciated today.

Other titles range from obscure, little seen independent and foreign productions to the more well known, critically acclaimed, star-studded fare. A lot of these films have average ratings on this site, around 6-7/10, but in my opinion each of them deserve a place on the top 250... which is a flawed list anyway (but we won't get into that here).

Hopefully the inclusion of these films here will provide a new legion of fans to discover and unearth their greatness.

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1. 3 Women (1977)

PG | 124 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

71 Metascore

Two roommates/physical therapists, one a vain woman and the other a mysterious teenager, share a bizarre relationship.

Director: Robert Altman | Stars: Shelley Duvall, Sissy Spacek, Janice Rule, Robert Fortier

Votes: 11,901

One of the greatest, most hypnotic films to come out of the 1970s. Sadly over-looked due to being out of print on home video for the 1980s and 1990s.

2. Blue Velvet (1986)

R | 120 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

76 Metascore

The discovery of a severed human ear found in a field leads a young man on an investigation related to a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer and a group of psychopathic criminals who have kidnapped her child.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Isabella Rossellini, Kyle MacLachlan, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern

Votes: 159,957 | Gross: $8.55M

"The last real earthquake to hit cinema was David Lynch's Blue Velvet —I'm sure directors throughout the film world felt the earth move beneath their feet and couldn't sleep the night of their first encounter with it back in 1986—and screens trembled again and again with diminishing aftershocks over the next decade as these picture makers attempted to mount their own exhilarating psychic cataclysms. But no one could quite match the traumatizing combination of horrific, comedic, aural, and subliminal effects Lynch rumbled out in this masterpiece—not even Lynch himself in the fun-filled years that followed before he recombined with himself to invent The Straight Story and Mulholland Drive." - Guy Maddin

3. Mulholland Dr. (2001)

R | 147 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

83 Metascore

After a car wreck on the winding Mulholland Drive renders a woman amnesiac, she and a perky Hollywood-hopeful search for clues and answers across Los Angeles in a twisting venture beyond dreams and reality.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Naomi Watts, Laura Harring, Justin Theroux, Jeanne Bates

Votes: 286,732 | Gross: $7.22M

4. George Washington (2000)

Not Rated | 89 min | Drama

82 Metascore

A group of children, in a depressed small town, band together to cover up a tragic mistake one summer.

Director: David Gordon Green | Stars: Candace Evanofski, Donald Holden, Damian Jewan Lee, Curtis Cotton III

Votes: 7,141 | Gross: $0.24M

5. Boys Don't Cry (1999)

R | 118 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

86 Metascore

Female-born Teena Brandon adopts his male identity of Brandon Teena and attempts to find himself and love in Nebraska.

Director: Kimberly Peirce | Stars: Hilary Swank, Chloë Sevigny, Peter Sarsgaard, Brendan Sexton III

Votes: 86,257 | Gross: $11.53M

6. Days of Heaven (1978)

PG | 94 min | Drama, Romance

93 Metascore

A hot-tempered farm laborer convinces the woman he loves to marry their rich but dying boss so that they can have a claim to his fortune.

Director: Terrence Malick | Stars: Richard Gere, Brooke Adams, Sam Shepard, Linda Manz

Votes: 45,021

7. Badlands (1973)

PG | 94 min | Crime, Drama

93 Metascore

An impressionable teenage girl from a dead-end town and her older greaser boyfriend embark on a killing spree in the South Dakota badlands.

Director: Terrence Malick | Stars: Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates, Ramon Bieri

Votes: 57,380

8. The State of Things (1982)

121 min | Drama

On location in Portugal, a film crew runs out of film while making their own version of Roger Corman's Day the World Ended (1955). The producer is nowhere to be found and director Friedrich... See full summary »

Director: Wim Wenders | Stars: Allen Garfield, Samuel Fuller, Isabelle Weingarten, Rebecca Pauly

Votes: 2,476 | Gross: $6.00M

9. Leaving Las Vegas (1995)

R | 111 min | Drama, Romance

82 Metascore

Ben Sanderson, a Hollywood screenwriter who lost everything because of his alcoholism, arrives in Las Vegas to drink himself to death. There, he meets and forms an uneasy friendship and non-interference pact with prostitute Sera.

Director: Mike Figgis | Stars: Nicolas Cage, Elisabeth Shue, Julian Sands, Richard Lewis

Votes: 105,597 | Gross: $31.97M

10. At Close Range (1986)

R | 111 min | Crime, Drama

67 Metascore

In 1978 Pennsylvania, an absentee father is reacquainted with his estranged teenage sons who become intrigued with his romanticized life of crime.

Director: James Foley | Stars: Sean Penn, Christopher Walken, Mary Stuart Masterson, Chris Penn

Votes: 12,651 | Gross: $2.35M

11. Salt of the Earth (1954)

Not Rated | 94 min | Drama, History

Mexican workers at a Zinc mine call a general strike. It is only through the solidarity of the workers, and importantly the indomitable resolve of their wives, mothers and daughters, that they eventually triumph.

Director: Herbert J. Biberman | Stars: Juan Chacón, Rosaura Revueltas, Will Geer, David Wolfe

Votes: 2,610

12. Paris, Texas (1984)

R | 145 min | Drama

78 Metascore

Travis Henderson, an aimless drifter who has been missing for four years, wanders out of the desert and must reconnect with society, himself, his life, and his family.

Director: Wim Wenders | Stars: Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassja Kinski, Dean Stockwell, Aurore Clément

Votes: 72,481 | Gross: $2.18M

13. Barry Lyndon (1975)

PG | 185 min | Adventure, Drama, History

An Irish rogue wins the heart of a rich widow and assumes her dead husband's aristocratic position in 18th-century England.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Ryan O'Neal, Marisa Berenson, Patrick Magee, Hardy Krüger

Votes: 129,867

14. Out of the Blue (1980)

R | 94 min | Drama

A young girl whose father is an ex-convict and whose mother is a junkie finds it difficult to conform and tries to find comfort in a quirky combination of Elvis and the punk scene.

Director: Dennis Hopper | Stars: Linda Manz, Dennis Hopper, Sharon Farrell, Don Gordon

Votes: 1,984

15. Repulsion (1965)

Not Rated | 105 min | Drama, Horror, Thriller

91 Metascore

A sex-repulsed woman who disapproves of her sister's boyfriend sinks into depression and has horrific visions of rape and violence.

Director: Roman Polanski | Stars: Catherine Deneuve, Ian Hendry, John Fraser, Yvonne Furneaux

Votes: 42,910

16. Lolita (1962)

Not Rated | 153 min | Crime, Drama, Romance

A middle-aged college professor becomes infatuated with a fourteen-year-old nymphet.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: James Mason, Shelley Winters, Sue Lyon, Gary Cockrell

Votes: 81,371 | Gross: $9.25M

17. Black Snake Moan (2006)

R | 116 min | Drama, Music

52 Metascore

A God-fearing bluesman takes to a wild young woman who, as a victim of childhood sexual abuse, looks everywhere for love, never quite finding it.

Director: Craig Brewer | Stars: Christina Ricci, Samuel L. Jackson, Justin Timberlake, S. Epatha Merkerson

Votes: 57,796 | Gross: $9.40M

18. Blow Out (1981)

R | 108 min | Mystery, Thriller

85 Metascore

A movie sound recordist accidentally records the evidence that proves that a car accident was actually murder and consequently finds himself in danger.

Director: Brian De Palma | Stars: John Travolta, Nancy Allen, John Lithgow, Dennis Franz

Votes: 36,418 | Gross: $13.75M

19. Patton (1970)

GP | 172 min | Biography, Drama, War

91 Metascore

The World War II phase of the career of the controversial American general, George S. Patton.

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner | Stars: George C. Scott, Karl Malden, Stephen Young, Michael Strong

Votes: 87,083 | Gross: $61.70M

20. My Own Private Idaho (1991)

R | 104 min | Drama

77 Metascore

Two best friends living on the streets of Portland as hustlers embark on a journey of self discovery and find their relationship stumbling along the way.

Director: Gus Van Sant | Stars: River Phoenix, Keanu Reeves, James Russo, William Richert

Votes: 43,774 | Gross: $6.40M

21. Jackie Brown (1997)

R | 154 min | Crime, Drama, Thriller

64 Metascore

A middle-aged woman finds herself in the middle of a huge conflict that will either make her a profit or cost her life.

Director: Quentin Tarantino | Stars: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster, Bridget Fonda

Votes: 276,691 | Gross: $39.67M

22. Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975)

PG | 115 min | Drama, Mystery

81 Metascore

During a rural summer picnic, a few students and a teacher from an Australian girls' school vanish without a trace. Their absence frustrates and haunts the people left behind.

Director: Peter Weir | Stars: Rachel Roberts, Anne-Louise Lambert, Vivean Gray, Helen Morse

Votes: 29,898 | Gross: $0.23M

23. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

Unrated | 127 min | Horror, Thriller

71 Metascore

Following an ever-growing epidemic of zombies that have risen from the dead, two Philadelphia S.W.A.T. team members, a traffic reporter, and his television executive girlfriend seek refuge in a secluded shopping mall.

Director: George A. Romero | Stars: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger, Gaylen Ross

Votes: 102,272 | Gross: $5.10M

24. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)

R | 134 min | Drama, Horror, Mystery

28 Metascore

A young FBI agent disappears while investigating a murder miles from Twin Peaks that may be related to the future murder of Laura Palmer; the last week of the life of Laura Palmer is chronicled.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, Mädchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook

Votes: 75,304 | Gross: $4.16M

25. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

R | 83 min | Horror

75 Metascore

Two siblings and three of their friends en route to visit their grandfather's grave in Texas end up falling victim to a family of cannibalistic psychopaths.

Director: Tobe Hooper | Stars: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger, Paul A. Partain

Votes: 118,500 | Gross: $30.86M

26. The Elephant Man (1980)

PG | 124 min | Biography, Drama

77 Metascore

A Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak. Behind his monstrous façade, there is revealed a person of intelligence and sensitivity.

Director: David Lynch | Stars: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, John Gielgud

Votes: 197,579

27. Heavenly Creatures (1994)

R | 99 min | Biography, Crime, Drama

Two teenage girls share a unique bond; their parents, concerned that the friendship is too intense, separate them, and the girls take revenge.

Director: Peter Jackson | Stars: Melanie Lynskey, Kate Winslet, Sarah Peirse, Diana Kent

Votes: 55,541 | Gross: $3.05M

28. Open Your Eyes (1997)

R | 117 min | Drama, Mystery, Romance

A very handsome man finds the love of his life, but he suffers an accident and needs to have his face rebuilt by surgery after it is severely disfigured.

Director: Alejandro Amenábar | Stars: Eduardo Noriega, Penélope Cruz, Chete Lera, Fele Martínez

Votes: 59,153 | Gross: $0.37M

29. All the Real Girls (2003)

R | 108 min | Drama, Romance

71 Metascore

Small-town love story of a young man with a reputation for womanizing and his best friend's sister.

Director: David Gordon Green | Stars: Zooey Deschanel, Paul Schneider, Patricia Clarkson, Shea Whigham

Votes: 9,930 | Gross: $0.55M

30. Interiors (1978)

PG | 92 min | Drama

67 Metascore

Three sisters find their lives spinning out of control in the wake of their parents' sudden, unexpected divorce.

Director: Woody Allen | Stars: Diane Keaton, Geraldine Page, Kristin Griffith, Mary Beth Hurt

Votes: 16,489

31. Happiness (1998)

Unrated | 134 min | Comedy, Drama

81 Metascore

The lives of several individuals intertwine as they go about their lives in their own unique ways, engaging in acts society as a whole might find disturbing in a desperate search for human connection.

Director: Todd Solondz | Stars: Jane Adams, Jon Lovitz, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Dylan Baker

Votes: 62,043 | Gross: $2.81M

32. 9½ Weeks (1986)

R | 117 min | Drama, Romance

50 Metascore

A woman gets involved in an impersonal affair with a man. She barely knows about his life, only about the sex games they play, so the relationship begins to get complicated.

Director: Adrian Lyne | Stars: Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger, Margaret Whitton, David Margulies

Votes: 34,076 | Gross: $6.73M

An overlooked, grossly underrated work of art. Some incredible cinematography. Complex and fascinating with a wonderful performance by Mickey Rourke.

33. Detour (1945)

Not Rated | 68 min | Crime, Drama, Film-Noir

Chance events trap hitch-hiker Al Roberts in a tightening net of film noir trouble.

Director: Edgar G. Ulmer | Stars: Tom Neal, Ann Savage, Claudia Drake, Edmund MacDonald

Votes: 11,965 | Gross: $0.02M

34. To Die For (1995)

R | 106 min | Comedy, Crime, Drama

86 Metascore

A beautiful but naïve aspiring television personality films a documentary on teenagers with a darker ulterior motive.

Director: Gus Van Sant | Stars: Nicole Kidman, Matt Dillon, Joaquin Phoenix, Casey Affleck

Votes: 39,634 | Gross: $21.28M

35. Kids (1995)

Unrated | 91 min | Drama

63 Metascore

A day in the life of a group of teens as they travel around New York City skating, drinking, smoking and deflowering virgins.

Director: Larry Clark | Stars: Leo Fitzpatrick, Justin Pierce, Chloë Sevigny, Sarah Henderson

Votes: 66,838 | Gross: $7.42M

36. Paprika (2006)

R | 90 min | Animation, Drama, Fantasy

81 Metascore

When a machine that allows therapists to enter their patients' dreams is stolen, all Hell breaks loose. Only a young female therapist, Paprika, can stop it.

Director: Satoshi Kon | Stars: Megumi Hayashibara, Tôru Emori, Katsunosuke Hori, Tôru Furuya

Votes: 59,558 | Gross: $0.88M

And you thought "Inception" was original.

37. The Last Days of Disco (1998)

R | 113 min | Comedy, Drama, Music

76 Metascore

Story of two female Manhattan book editors fresh out of college, both finding love and themselves while frequenting the local disco.

Director: Whit Stillman | Stars: Chloë Sevigny, Kate Beckinsale, Chris Eigeman, Mackenzie Astin

Votes: 11,207 | Gross: $2.99M

38. Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

R | 159 min | Drama, Mystery, Thriller

68 Metascore

A New York City doctor pushes himself on a harrowing and dangerous night-long odyssey of sexual and moral discovery after his wife admits that she once almost cheated on him.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Tom Cruise, Nicole Kidman, Todd Field, Sydney Pollack

Votes: 268,547 | Gross: $55.69M

39. The Gigolos (2006)

95 min | Comedy

Sacha is an aging, well-established London 'male escort' with a select clientèle of weekly socialite ladies, such as baroness James, who expect an impeccable service he can only provide ... See full summary »

Director: Richard Bracewell | Stars: Sacha Alexander, Trevor Sather, Susannah York, Anna Massey

Votes: 228

40. Office Space (1999)

R | 89 min | Comedy

68 Metascore

Three company workers who hate their jobs decide to rebel against their greedy boss.

Director: Mike Judge | Stars: Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, David Herman, Ajay Naidu

Votes: 224,137 | Gross: $10.82M

41. Midnight Run (1988)

R | 126 min | Action, Comedy, Crime

78 Metascore

An accountant is chased by bounty hunters, the F.B.I., and the Mafia after jumping bail.

Director: Martin Brest | Stars: Robert De Niro, Charles Grodin, Yaphet Kotto, John Ashton

Votes: 63,521 | Gross: $38.41M

42. Boogie Nights (1997)

R | 155 min | Drama

85 Metascore

The story of a young man's adventures in the California pornography industry of the late 1970s and early 1980s.

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson | Stars: Mark Wahlberg, Julianne Moore, Burt Reynolds, Luis Guzmán

Votes: 217,385 | Gross: $26.40M

43. Desert Blue (1998)

R | 90 min | Drama

An academic obsessed with "roadside attractions" and his tv-star daughter finally discover the world's largest ice cream cone, the centerpiece for an old gold-rush town struggling to stay ... See full summary »

Director: Morgan J. Freeman | Stars: Casey Affleck, Brendan Sexton III, Kate Hudson, Christina Ricci

Votes: 2,041 | Gross: $0.10M

44. Ghost World (2001)

R | 111 min | Comedy, Drama

88 Metascore

With only the plan of moving in together after high school, two unusually devious friends seek direction in life. As a mere gag, they respond to a man's newspaper ad for a date, only to find it will greatly complicate their lives.

Director: Terry Zwigoff | Stars: Steve Buscemi, Thora Birch, Scarlett Johansson, Brad Renfro

Votes: 106,025 | Gross: $6.22M

45. Short Cuts (1993)

R | 188 min | Comedy, Drama

79 Metascore

The day-to-day lives of several suburban Los Angeles residents.

Director: Robert Altman | Stars: Andie MacDowell, Julianne Moore, Tim Robbins, Bruce Davison

Votes: 39,216 | Gross: $6.11M

46. The Sweet Hereafter (1997)

R | 112 min | Drama

90 Metascore

A bus crash in a small town brings a lawyer to the town to defend the families, but he discovers that everything is not what it seems.

Director: Atom Egoyan | Stars: Ian Holm, Sarah Polley, Caerthan Banks, Tom McCamus

Votes: 29,790 | Gross: $3.25M

47. Heathers (1988)

R | 103 min | Comedy, Crime