The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
While Oscar Wilde’s Picture of Dorian Gray is a classic of literature, one of its best cinematic adaptations is less well known by far than it deserves. The dark gothic look befits the tale in a way that would be hard to replicate in the modern era, and the final painting of Dorian Gray was specifically created for the film by Ivan Le Lorraine Albright (now part of the collection at the Art Institute of Chicago). It lost money on its initial theatrical run, and consequently never fully reemerged in the popular consciousness even after horror films became increasingly prominent in the U.S. Nonetheless, an underrated early film that deserves a second look.
9) Peeping Tom (1960)
8) A Woman Under the Influence (1974)
The world-class director (and one of the founders of independent cinema) John Cassavetes directed this drama film, following a wife struggling with the increasing onset of mental illness and her blue-collar husband attempting to keep everything together for their family. The film had critical acclaim but its focus on mental illness and gender issues in the middle of the 1970s meant funding was hard to secure (he mortgaged his house and solicited money from Hollywood friends to finance the film) and distribution was as well. Cassavetes personally called theatre owners to book the film, toured at colleges, and found an audience that way—but never as wide an audience as the film deserved. Containing themes that resonate widely with modern concerns, this is a film ripe for popular rediscovery.
7) Manhunter (1986)
6) That Thing You Do! (1996)
Marking Tom Hanks’ directorial debut, That Thing You Do! follows the rise and fall of a 1960s Beatles-esque one-hit-wonder band, the Oneders. Critically well regarded, the film turned a (very) minor profit but never achieved the widespread acclaim Hanks wanted… for most moviegoers, the most widely known part of the film was indeed its hit title track. The film is nonetheless as charming as the song, and it is vastly overdue for a fair shot with modern audiences.
5) Event Horizon (1997)
Another movie too early for its time, Event Horizon (dir. Paul W.S. Anderson) is a science-fiction epic following a crew’s investigation into a missing spaceship whose experimental drive took it on a journey through hell. A cavalcade of surreal violence, the film’s over-the-top commitment to its plot and mind-warping nightmares found little critical or commercial love in its debut. In an era more accepting of innovative and experimental horror, the film is far more likely to find appreciation today for its clever scenes and setting and its top-notch acting.
4) Timecrimes (2007)
3) Detachment (2011)
Tony Kaye’s Detachment follows Adrian Brody as a morose, lonely substitute teacher who flings between temporary jobs to avoid emotional attachment. Brody’s performance is nuanced and emotional, and thoroughly displays the challenges that face teachers in the modern era via experimental and effective camera-work and editing techniques that often blend a variety of kinds of film-making. The very elements that make the film emotionally effective and stunningly unique, however, have contributed towards its relative obscurity (and the occasional unsatisfied critic). With the challenges faced by both teachers and other kinds of temporarily employed workers so prominent today, it’s a film that speaks to our era.
2) Stoker (2013)
With South Korean cinema becoming more widely known on the world scale, the English-language debut of one of the masters of South Korean cinema, Park Chan-wook (Oldboy), perhaps should have debuted to more fanfare. Adapting his style for American audiences, however, made Stoker a hard film for American audiences to connect with on a wide level despite its Hitchcockian influences and top-notch acting. With the director’s future successes (e.g. The Handmaiden) and increasing visibility for other South Korean luminaries like Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, Okja), the time is ripe for another look at this underrated gem.