The top 30 underappreciated films of 1999

Odd List Ryan Lambie Simon Brew 21 Nov 2013 - 05:51

The underappreciated films of 1999 are the focus in our last list of 90s overlooked greats...

The year 1999 was a significant year for film in many ways. Apart from being the year that George Lucas began his Star Wars prequels with The Phantom Menace, it also saw the release of The Blair Witch Project, a horror film which became one of the first to use the internet as a marketing tool, resulting in a massive hit. The Matrix ushered in a new age of special effects filmmaking, arguably paving the way for the superhero blockbusters crowding into multiplexes today.

Mainly, though, 1999 was simply a brilliant year for film. Justly lauded movies like Fight Club, The Green Mile and Eyes Wide Shut aside, there were a huge number of films that didn't get the critical or financial success they deserved - so many, in fact, that we opted to choose 30 instead of our now customary 25...

30. The Thirteenth Floor

We can't sit before you and declare that The Thirteenth Floor is a lost classic. But what we can vouch for is that it's a movie bustling with ideas. It covers areas that 1999's breakout hit, The Matrix, would also explore (although the two are hardly interchangeable), but it certainly didn't deserve to get lost as a consequence of that. It's an interesting movie this, based on a 1964 novel from Daniel F Galouye called Simalcron-3.

Widely slated on its original release, the film is an ambitious one, and it's certainly worth digging into the abundance of articles online that dissect it far better than we have here. But then the joy of a film like this is discovering it as fresh as possible. It's got a solid old-school science fiction feel to it, and is ripe for discovery.

29. Drop Dead Gorgeous

We decided in the end to leave Election off this list, as it's rightly regarded as one of the best teen movies of its era, and its legacy endures. But Drop Dead Gorgeous is another example of a film with far more bite than its box cover may originally suggest.

Kirsten Dunst (who was having a great run of movies at this point), Denise Richards (who was on the cusp of her infamous James Bond role), Allison Janney (peerless), Ellen Barkin and Kirstie Alley lead the cast here. The film revolves around a beauty pageant where some competitors will, er, go further than others in order to prevail.

It's a surprisingly dark and gleefully enjoyable comedy, played excellently by the cast. Taking happy swipes at the culture of beauty pageants, you still wouldn't call Drop Dead Gorgeous a vintage teen movie, but it a strong entry in a field that was brimming with quality come the end of the 1990s. And, trivia fans, there's a young Amy Adams in the cast for this one too.

28. Deep Blue Sea

A group of scientists holed up in a top-secret medical facility find a way to make sharks smarter, but appear to sacrifice a fair amount of their own intelligence in the process. Renny Harlin's quirky killer shark movie is all the more entertaining because the cast and crew appear to be in on the joke; the script is full of cheesy lines ("Did someone order the fish?"), and the cast - including Samuel L Jackson, LL Cool J, Saffron Burrows and Stellan Skarsgard - appear to be having a whale of a time. Oh, and look out for one of the finest surprise deaths of all time - it's perfectly timed and sure to raise a nervous giggle.

27. Stir Of Echoes

This brilliantly tense adaptation of the Richard Matheson novel did only modest business on release, and we can't help wondering what might have happened if it hadn't come out within weeks of The Sixth Sense. About a blue-collar worker (Kevin Bacon) who begins to experience paranormal visions after he's hypnotised by a friend, Stir Of Echoes gradually dials up the suspense, with some great performances and a mystery that will keep you guessing until the end.

Stir Of Echoes may not have made as much money as M Night Shyamalan's hit, but it has the advantage of relative anonymity - thankfully, this is one movie you probably won't have spoiled for you down the pub. With effective writing and direction from David Koepp, some atmospheric music courtesy of James Newton Howard, and one of Kevin Bacon's best performances at its centre, Stir Of Echoes is well worth scaring up.

26. Ravenous

The production behind this blackly comic period horror was more than a little troubled - one director was fired, and another rejected by the cast before Antonia Bird was finally brought in - but Ravenous remains a nastily effective little movie. Guy Pearce plays a US captain during the 1840s war between America and Mexico, who's packed off to a remote mountain fort by his superiors. There, the captain discovers that the fort's inhabitants have a worrying taste for human flesh.

Robert Carlyle is on magnificent form as a colonel with a mighty appetite, while the supporting cast is rounded out by David Arquette, John Spencer, Neal McDonough and Jeffrey Jones. Perhaps a bit too grim and quirky for mainstream audiences, Ravenous is the very definition of a hidden gem - and certainly one of the better cannibal black comedies yet made.

25. EdTV

Had The Truman Show not happened earlier, then Ron Howard's EdTV would have felt a lot, lot fresher than it ultimately did. As it happened, it took similar themes to Peter Weir's classic, and did slightly different, less ambitious things with them. But it still made its points, and it's still a good, overlooked film.

It stars Matthew McConaughey, just before he would begin his descent into less ambitious rom-com-infested waters (thankfully, he's re-emerged, but we'll still stick up for How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days). Here, he plays Ed, a video shop worker (remember them?) who agrees to have his life filmed for a television programme. It's a very different film from Truman, similar perhaps in its examination of fame, but EdTV is a broader comedy, not without some points to make. If watching this makes you wonder what other Ron Howard film was overlooked by many, seek out a copy of The Missing. That's an absolute corker...

24. Payback

Whether you opt for the original cut, or the better version that was eventually released on DVD, Brian Helgeland's Payback (based on the novel The Hunter, by Donald E Westlake, that also inspired Point Blank and Parker) is a quality piece of work. It's tainted now by having Mel Gibson as its star, although there's little denying that his central performance is one of the factors that makes Payback work so well.

It's witty, brutal and undeniably improved by the director's cut of the movie. After production had wrapped, Helgeland was replaced, with production designer John Myhre reportedly reshooting nearly a third of it. At that stage, Kris Kristofferson was drafted in too.

In truth, either version of Payback has merits, and it's surprisingly that the original release turned out so well. But if you're discovering the movie for the first time, that's also the one to avoid.

23. Mystery Men

Years before films like Kick-Ass and Super played around with the staples of the superhero genre, the lavish Mystery Men attempted the same thing - and despite a sterling cast (Ben Stiller, Geoffrey Rush, Greg Kinnear) and some laugh-out-loud moments, it somehow failed to charm critics or audiences.

Mystery Men's main problem, perhaps, was that it came out too early - had it appeared a couple of years later, after X-Men and Spider-Man revitalised the comic book genre, this amiable comedy may have found a more receptive audience. With the superhero blockbuster currently riding high, it's arguably time that Mystery Men gets the reappraisal it deserves.

See also: rethinking Mystery Men

22. Boys Don't Cry

A film that won Hilary Swank her first Best Actress Oscar, Boys Don't Cry is a gut-wrenching, brilliant piece of cinema from director Kimberly Peirce (who, most recently, directed the new take on Carrie). Swank's performance dominates the film as Brandon Teena, bringing to the screen a tragic true story of a genetic women who lives life as a man.

Transexuality is rarely tackled on screen, and Peirce doesn't paint the story of Teena with any gloss whatsoever. It would be fair to say that Boys Don't Cry is not an easy film to watch. But it is an excellent one, that's fallen off the radar a little since Swank's Oscar success. An important story, told exceptionally well on screen.

21. The Muse

Albert Brooks has directed a series of quality comedies, and his body of work as a whole in that regard seems to get scant attention now. If you're looking for a starting place, then you might be better off with something Lost In America or Defending Your Life. But The Muse is a quiet, impressive comedy, that gained what little attention it once had by the names it attracted to its cast. You'll find cameos from James Cameron, Cybill Shepherd, Rob Reiner and Martin Scorsese in here.

The main thrust of the feature is the story of a screenwriter - Brooks - who's struggling with his neuroses and writing - who finds a muse to help give him a creative spark. The muse in question is played by Sharon Stone, and it'd be fair to say this wasn't one of her better performances. Still, Brooks' script is frequently witty, and the broad collection of characters mean that he's got plenty of places to go as he tells his story.

It's not the easiest film to track down, and some fans of Brooks' work tend to be more dismissive of this one than his earlier features. But we've always had a soft spot for The Muse, hence its inclusion here...

20. The Straight Story

David Lynch took a very different turn with The Straight Story, whose title doesn't lie. Considering we're used to films from Lynch dripping in subtexts, ideas and jigsaws (metaphorical, not literal), The Straight Story is about as accessible as his work gets to a broader audience. As a consequence, there's an argument that it's his least interesting film, but that doesn't make it a bad one.

Richard Farnsworth takes the lead here as Alvin, a man who undertakes a lengthy journey to reconciliation with his sick brother. That journey is not shortened in any sense by his decision to travel by tractor, and much of the reason the film works as it does is down to the pathos of Farnsworth's performance. The actor, who died the year after The Straight Story's release, remains the oldest person to ever be nominated for Best Actor at the Oscars. He was 79 at the time.

Lost amidst more interesting projects in any David Lynch boxset, The Straight Story is nonetheless a welcome class in telling a story slowly, at the pace the narrative requires. There's a tinge of sadness underpinning the film, and Lynch isn't shy of that. A smaller film, perhaps, but a very human one.

19. October Sky

It might just be us, but modern cinema doesn't do badly when it comes to films about relationships between fathers and their sons. October Sky, directed by Joe Johnston, doesn't hide the fact that it's pushing a couple of emotive buttons as it goes about its business, but it's nonetheless a delightful movie.

Chris Cooper and Jake Gyllenhaal - there's a good start - play the father and son here, with the latter ignoring the former's wishes. His rebellion? That he's making rockets rather than following his father into coal mining. Johnston's camera explores the dark, chilly mines too, as much as it does exploring the dream of the son. And whilst stories of hardened men and their sons taking different paths are regularly told, this is a good one. Get swept along with it, and it's genuinely heartwarming stuff, wonderfully played.

18. Go

Interweaving three plot lines all wound around a central drug deal, Go is an unremittingly urgent thriller with a great script from John August, who would later write Big Fish, Corpse Bride and Frankenweenie. Written off by some critics as just another indie film aping Quentin Tarantino's hip style of filmmaking, the humour and pace of Go give it an atmosphere all of its own. Sarah Polley, Timothy Olyphant and Katie Homes are among the young ensemble cast, but the movie is arguably stolen by William Fichtner, who plays a predatory detective to an unforgettable tee.

17. Ghost Dog: The Way Of The Samurai

Few 90s gangster thrillers are as quirky and original as Jim Jarmusch's Ghost Dog, in which Forest Whitaker stars as a hitman who becomes the target of his own mob bosses. Whitaker is fantastic as the title character, a modern-day samurai who lives by his own code of ethics and kills with lethal efficiency.

On a low budget, Jarmusch writes and directs with real creativity and humour, and Ghost Dog somehow manages to be comic, poetic, exciting and melancholy all at the same time. Like an elegant Japanese dinner, it takes all these elements and arranges them in perfect balance.

16. Idle Hands

We come back to this film every now and then at Den Of Geek, but it's one of the most fun horror movies of its era. Devon Sawa, Seth Green and Jessica Alba come together for the film, which has the brilliantly batty premise of a possessed hand wreaking havoc.

It plays it for laughs as much as it does for horror, and it amps up the violence as well. It's director by the brilliantly-named Rodman Flender, who also helmed the first Leprechaun sequel, and it screams as being perfect fodder for a 90s horror movie marathon. Mainly because it is. It also avoided the curse of being bastardised by lots and lots of sequels...

15. Bringing Out The Dead

Martin Scorsese's 1999 drama appeared to have everything going for it, yet it was ignored almost entirely at the box office; even today, Bringing Out The Dead is seldom mentioned when the topic of Scorsese's finer work comes up. Nicolas Cage plays Frank, a paramedic left depressed and emotionally exhausted by his job as a paramedic. Convinced that he's being haunted by the patients he's failed to save, his nightly patrols around the streets of New York become yet more stressful when a new form of heroin causes a spate of cardiac arrests among its users.

Boasting a fantastic script from Paul Schrader, adapting Joe Connelly's novel of the same name (the author was himself a paramedic), and one of the last scores from the great Elmer Bernstein before his sad death in 2002, Bringing Out The Dead is a pitch-black yet witty drama with a great cast, including Ving Rhames as a particularly dangerous ambulance driver.

There are parallels between this film and a more successful Scorsese-Schrader pairing, Taxi Driver, but Bringing Out The Dead is a companion piece rather than a retread. Featuring one of Nic Cage's best performances and some beautiful photography from Robert Richardson, the film's overlooked status is little short of criminal - surely, this is one of the great, undiscovered Scorsese films.

14. Limbo

It's time for another John Sayles chat. There are few better investments if you're looking to dig out some forgotten 90s gems than a John Sayles boxset, and Limbo is a further example as to why. The wonderful David Strathairn stars in this one, and Sayles is once again in a small town, one that's bustling with secrets. His ensemble cast here also features Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Kris Kristofferson and Vanessa Martinez, and Sayles - again to his credit - is willing to give his film the time and space it needs to breathe.

Is it entry level Sayles? Probably not, in truth. Lone Star is a great place to start with the great man's work. But this is a provocative, quietly ambitious drama, from one of the best, unheralded filmmakers working in America.

13. Office Space

We figure quite a lot of you know about Mike Judge's exquisite Office Space already, but on the off-chance you don't, let us take this opportunity to extol its merits another time.

Comfortably one of the most quotable comedies of the 1990s, this is a biting satire focusing on a group of workers who simply can't stand their jobs. Thus, they plan to rebel, and show their boss what's for.

Enter Gary Cole, in yet another outstanding comedy performance. His passive aggressive Bill Lumbergh has a right to be called one of cinema's best 100 comedy characters of all time, and he dominates any scene he's near. A shout-out to the brilliant Stephen Root, too.

The very epitome of a film ignored on its theatrical release and finding its life on video, then DVD, Office Space is exquisitely petty, and very, very funny.

12. Audition

Relatively restrained by director Takashi Miike's horror standards, Audition is still a difficult film to watch, with a plot that tiptoes to a harrowing climax. It's about a widower whose producer friend stages a fake movie audition to help him find a new wife, and who later learns that the woman he meets as a result isn't quite as demure as she appears. What's interesting about Audition, especially after a repeat viewing, is that it isn't quite as horrendously graphic as some critics suggested.

Instead, Miike skilfully builds up a growing sense of dread, playing with audience expectations, even as the central character finds that his own assumptions about the seemingly harmless Asami (Eihi Shiina, who's terrifying) are utterly wrong. Seek it out if you dare.

11. Topsy-Turvy

A comedy drama about the writing of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado was never going to get audiences queuing up at their local multiplex, but Mike Leigh's film is far less niche than it sounds, with some fabulously pompous performances from Jim Broadbent and Allan Corduner and a very funny script.

At around 160 minutes, the film could be described as a touch too long, but its sense of period detail is perfectly captured, and this is what makes the film so much more than a simple story about the writing of a light opera - really, it's a well-observed portrait of 19th century middle-class life in all its arrogance and gilded luxury.

10. eXistenZ

eXistenZ was the last of David Cronenberg's gloriously icky body horror films before he embarked on such dramas and thrillers as Spider, A History Of Violence and Eastern Promises. Depicting a future where people interface with biological consoles to play ultra-real virtual reality games, eXistenZ deals with familiar Cronenberg themes - the incursion of technology into our bodies, and fiction versus reality - and does so with real wit and pace.

Jennifer Jason Leigh stars as Allegra Gellar, a games designer who becomes the target of anti-videogame extremists, while Jude Law plays a slightly ineffectual security guard who emerges as her protector. With disquieting violence and a great ending, eXistenZ is one of Cronenberg's most satisfying films, with some of his best visual ideas, such as a gun assembled from fish bones which uses human teeth as bullets.

Largely ignored by the movie-going public in the year when The Matrix dominated the box-office, eXistenZ has aged remarkably well, and its points about videogames, and what it will mean when the worlds they create are almost indistinguishable from our own, make it as relevant today as it was in 1999.

9. Arlington Road

Let's start with our regular plug for Red Rock West. Job done, and we can shoehorn that in because Arlington Road is yet another example of the brilliant forgotten thrillers of the 1990s. It also comes very, very firmly marked with a label - or it should do - stating 'do not let anyone spoil this film for you at all'.

It's that kind of movie, for a couple of reasons. The founding principle of the film is that Jeff Bridges - a college professor - believes his neighbour, played by Tim Robbins, may be a terrorist. Plot-wise, that's all your getting here. We can safely say that Mark Pellington's thriller - which also stars Joan Cusack, incidentally - is a real bolt from the blue. Granted, we can think of one 70s movie that follows a not dissimilar path (again, we're not naming said movie for fear of spoiling this one), but the bubbling cauldron of paranoia and tension is expertly managed.

So: no more words. Arlington Road is great. And don't let any bugger spoiler it for you.

8. Bowfinger

It's been a while since an Eddie Murphy performance has flirted with greatness, and his dual turn in Bowfinger may be his career best. Then again, everyone's on form in Frank Oz's incisive and howlingly funny film about filmmaking, with Steve Martin utterly perfect as schlock movie producer Bobby Bowfinger.

With just $2,000 to make his next film, Bowfinger isn't deterred by the reality that Hollywood's most famous action star, Kitt Ramsey (Murphy) doesn't want to be in his movie. Instead, he films Ramsey in secret and fills in the gaps with footage of a desperately awkward man called Jiff (also Murphy) who looks uncannily like the erstwhile star.

Jiff is an adorable creation, while Murphy gamely sends up his own 80s megastar status as Ramsey, whose paranoid tendencies are brought out by the secret filming going on all around him. The moments where he's accosted by wildly overacting wannabe star Carol (Christine Baranski) are simply sublime, and the film as a whole works so well because it's such an accurate, incisive satire of Hollywood moviemaking.

7. Rushmore

Wes Anderson's second feature marked the first of his regular collaborations with Bill Murray, who's perfect in this comedy drama about a teenager's experiences at an exclusive private school. Shy Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) is a scholarship pupil at Rushmore Academy, where he forms a crush on one of his teachers (Olivia Williams) and also befriends a wealthy businessman (Murray) who comes to the school to give a presentation. An awkward, impossible love triangle forms between the three, with the teacher caught between the affections of two feuding eccentrics.

Brilliantly written and acted, Rushmore failed to find the box office success that it deserved, but like most Anderson films, it crackles with wit and warmth, and as an added bonus, contains a particularly funny stage production of Serpico.

6. Man On The Moon

Milos Forman's second biopic of the 90s after The People Vs Larry Flynt, Man On The Moon is another underappreciated piece of filmmaking from the director of One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and Amadeus. Jim Carrey gives the performance of a lifetime as the comedian Andy Kaufman, creating his own interpretation of Kaufman's delivery and personas - including ornery singer Tony Clifton - rather than a slavishly accurate impression.

Supported by Danny DeVito, Courtney Love and Paul Giamatti, the film follows Kaufman from his early days as a struggling entertainer in comedy clubs, to his TV success with Saturday Night Live and the series Taxi, to his battle with cancer in the 1980s.

Some critics accused Man On The Moon of being too superficial, and they may have a point, but it's hard to argue with the skill and commitment in Jim Carrey's performance. Mystifyingly ignored in cinemas, Man On The Moon is another funny, poignant Forman film worth rediscovering.

5. Three Kings

Writer and director David O Russell made Warner Bros extremely nervous with his improv-heavy handling of this expensive war movie, and his on-set clashes with star George Clooney are infamous. But all that chaos and conflict somehow contributed to the greatness of this distinctive and very angry Gulf War One satire, about three soldiers who decide to steal a cache of gold during the 1991 Iraq uprising.

Exciting and clever, Three Kings provides a cross-section of American society through its characters - among them Spike Jonze's unemployed southerner, Mark Wahlberg's former office boy, and Ice Cube's religious ex-baggage handler - and explores how they interact in the turbulence of war. Moreover, the film explores how people dehumanise one another in conflict, all the while pursuing their own self-interest - making it akin to Joseph Heller's equally satirical Catch 22.

Just about making a profit for Warner Bros, Three Kings wasn't exactly a hit, and it's a shame that its writing and direction didn't receive much awards attention, either. At any rate, Three Kings remains one of the best war films of the last 20 years, and arguably the finest film about the conflicts in Iraq yet made.

4. The Insider

After the heist classic Heat, Michael Mann made a slightly surprising decision to make a true-life drama about corruption in the tobacco industry, thus confounding the hopes that Mann would continue making tough thrillers. To his absolute credit, Mann brings all his filmmaking prowess to bear on The Insider, making a potentially dry topic into a truly gripping, detailed story.

Crowe is excellent as Jeffrey Wigand, the corporate whistleblower who agrees to go on the TV programme 60 Minutes to help expose the added chemicals put into cigarettes to make them more addictive, while Al Pacino plays the show's producer, Lowell Bergman. Mann expertly conveys all the menace and stress Wigand underwent, as tobacco company bosses put pressure on him to keep quiet. Indeed, the amount of tension and style Mann wrings from the subject is little short of extraordinary.

3. Magnolia

Were this a list of outright best films of 1999, then Magnolia in all probability would have a higher placing. But there are a couple of other movies we've ranked above it, as we're keen to shine a light on them.

For this writer, I went to see Magnolia at the cinema with my brother. I walked out thinking it was one of the best films I'd ever seen. He fell asleep halfway through, complaining it was about as boring a movie as he'd ever endured. That's a fair summation of how polarising the film is.

It's an incredibly ambitious ensemble piece, even more so than writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson's previous project, the wonderful Boogie Nights. When it does get attention these days, it tends to be for Tom Cruise's show-stopping 'respect the cock' monologue. But there are so many wonderful performances here. Philip Seymour Hoffman, William H Macy and Julianne Moore are heartbreaking, Phillip Baker Hall complex and challenging. And then there's Melora Walters and John C Reilly, a pair of struggling characters, both looking for some light in their lives.

Anderson juggles this so expertly, it's little surprise he's not done a full-on ensemble movie like this since. Because how can he top it? Aimee Mann's music is woven expertly, the three hour running time breezes by, and the DVD release has one of the best making-of documentaries we've seen. Appreciating that not everyone sees eye to eye on us with this, Magnolia is a modern classic.

2. Summer Of Sam

1999 was not short of outstanding films. Magnolia, American Beauty, some of the other features we've discussed and are about to discuss on this list. But it's criminal that there's not enough love in the world for one of Spike Lee's best ever films, Summer Of Sam.

Set during the summer of 1977 in New York City, as the Son Of Sam serial killer is on the loose, this is a complicated, dense piece of cinema. It homes in on a bunch of residents living in fear of the killer on the loose, with simmering tensions, a lack of trust and a community very much on edge. Lee assembles a big cast for this one too, including Mira Sorvino, Adrien Brody, John Leguizamo and Anthony LaPaglia.

There's grit and realism very much at the heart of Lee's film, and it requires a level of concentration at times that you can't help but fear not everyone's willing to give it. But if you do, this is intelligent filmmaking, juggling a succession of themes and relationships under the umbrella of a very real and pronounced threat. It's an excellent film, this , and deserves to rank up there with Lee's very best.

1. The Iron Giant

It is a firm, immovable, carved in stone piece of Den Of Geek policy that The Iron Giant is saluted, bigged up and championed at every possibility. We've done an in-depth look at the film here, but it remains a miscarriage of DVD selling that it's still not been seen by so many people.

Director Brad Bird has gone on to make superb films such as Ratatouille and The Incredibles since. But thoughtfully, he made his masterpiece first. Not a masterpiece that Warner Bros knew what to do with either, which accounts for its piss-poor marketing campaign, and its subsequent box office underperformance. We still don't even have a Blu-ray, either, although that may be Bird's fault: he once told us he wanted to animate another minute or two to add into a new cut of the film.

But let's work with what we've got. Ostensibly an adaptation of Ted Hughes' The Iron Man, Bird's film takes just a few crucial ingredients from the original text and fleshes them out. The relationship between young boy Hogarth and the big metal man from outer space is lightly dealt with in the book, for instance, but it's core here. As is Bird's decision to set the film against the backdrop of the cold war, which adds legitimacy to the feeling of paranoia that underpins the film, and explains the military's aggressive behaviour.

Basically, this: you can have as many words as you want on The Iron Giant, but in under 80 minutes, it does more than 99.9% of animated features wish they could do. If you want to know just how good it is, find one person who's watched it, tell them the name of the film, utter the word 'Superman', and then console them for the next 10 minutes.

Brad Bird, we salute you. Just writing about this film has the goosebumps up on our arms, and it seems a fitting film to close our lookback at the underappreciated movies of the 1990s with. If there's enough interest, we'll continue into the 2000s. For now, that Iron Giant DVD is only a couple of quid...

See also:

The top 20 underappreciated films of 1990

The top 25 underappreciated films of 1991

The top 25 underappreciated films of 1992

The top 25 underappreciated films of 1993

The top 25 underappreciated films of 1994

The top 25 underappreciated films of 1995

The top 25 underappreciated films of 1996

The top 25 underappreciated films of 1997

The top 25 underappreciated films of 1998

Follow our Twitter feed for faster news and bad jokes right here. And be our Facebook chum here.

Disqus - noscript

Oh Den of Geek you disappoint me. Not the list, that was bang on the money as always. No it's John Cusack in Arlington Road that bothers me. Wasn't that Joan Cusack, not John who played Tim Robbins wife?

Couple things.

In what world is Rushmore considered an under appreciated film? It's a Criterion release! As well, film snobs across the West seem to gobble up any twee nonsense Anderson produces. I find his visual style cold and overly deliberate and his characters and dialogue to be as stilted as a children's school play. Anderson leaves me utterly cold. He's one of the most overrated directors I can think of.

Also, and this is just a personal thing, but I always thought the theatrical release of Payback to be far superior. I like the blue tint, I like Kris Kristofferson's small bit, and I like the ending that ties things up a bit better. The director's cut felt less funny and witty and more by the numbers. I understand, on a technical level, the director's cut to be superior, but I'll always prefer the theatrical cut.

For god's sake yes, do the 2000s.

Seen most of these and it contains a few of my personal favs. Ghost Dog is one of them. Top top film and top soundtrack from RZA of Wu Tang (who, of course, like Ghost Dog aint nothing to f--k with). Not seen that IDLE HANDS though. Will check that out.

really enjoyed these lists. so many of these films cemented my love of cinema. i think a 2000s list will be even more interesting.

Head hung in shame. Worse typo of the week, and that's saying something! - Simon

We deliberately chose the word 'underappreciated' to cover films that either didn't get the attention or box office they deserved. What I've found is that outside of a small circle of people who actively champion Rushmore, it's surprisingly unknown, hence its inclusion here. It's vague criteria certainly. but the intention of these lists was to alert people to films they may have missed that are worth checking out. Rushmore just snuck in under the line for us. - Simon

I remember being really excited when I found there was a movie of 'The Thirteenth Floor'. And then the subsequent disappointment when I realised it had nothing whatsoever to do with the comic strip from Scream/The Eagle.

RE: number 26, usually you hear of directors dismissing actors and not the other way round. Pretty strange

Ravenous is one of my favourite movies. SO atmospheric and brilliant soundtrack too.

Why hasn't there been a Blu Ray release of The Iron Giant? Its a travesty! I've bought about 20 copies of this film for presents for my boy's school mates, most of the parents usually come over to say how good a film it is a week or so later! Because its a "period" piece it will never age like some animated movies. Its easily my favourite non Pixar film! Great lists by the way, there are some real lost gems on here!

I liked Idle Hands...when I was 17. Wonder how well it holds up now. I seem to remember it was very hit and miss gag wise, but Seth Green is great in it.

It also has a ludicrously gorgeous Jessica Alba in there too.

Also, I really must seek out The Iron Giant. Although after years of being told about the devastating final moments I may have steeled myself against it.

Had forgotten about Arlington Road. Great film, probably due a rewatch. Bowfinger is also a must see. Was a really great reminder of just how good Steve Martin and Eddie Murphy could be at their peaks

On the other hand Magnolia is one of the most pretentious and depressing pieces of rubbish I've ever seen. Three hours of my life utterly wasted

I saw Deep Blue Sea in the cinema and at 'that moment' the entire audience - every single person in the theatre which, considering this is Britain and a public show of emotion is not 'our thing', is amazing - leapt out of their seat and screamed.

I'd never seen anything like it before and certainly haven't since.

I don't cry at films. Ever. Except the Iron Giant. Every time. Good luck!

Please, please, please continue with these lists, I thoroughly enjoy reading them every week.

I was ready to disagree with you on this one, as I thought Magnolia deserved the top spot. For me, it has the best ending shot ever! However, once I saw the Iron Giant was in number 1, I was in complete agreement. Wonderful film!!!

Great list, bit narked by your throwaway comment about Mel Gibson in Payback though. Why is that film besmirched by having him in it? Is that true of Lethal Weapon, Braveheart, Mad Max or many of the other classics he's made? Whatever happened off screen with him, he was a true 80s/90s movie star capable of elevating something like Payback and I don't think that's changed in any way whatever he's said or done since. That's just cheap bandwagon jumping in my opinion, DOG should be above that sort of sensationalism.

We sat and watched in with our four year old and had to leave the room as we were both in floods. Even now, thinking about it I'm welling up.

Deep Blue Sea was awful. Just awful.

It's an absolute gem - my 5yr old daughter has watched it more times than any other dvd in the house

Looking through this list and realising that I own 14 of these on dvd/blu-ray reminds me that 1999 turned out some pretty decent cinema. It's also sorted which movies I'll be introducing my better half to this weekend.
Two thumbs up - a job well done DoG!

O/T, but that's a fantastic avatar Seb!

Couple of things:
1) Arlington Road: Greatest horror movie (that isn't actually a horror movie) ever! Seriously, go watch it again. It's shot and scored pretty much as a high-end horror movie from the 70's rather than a thriller.
.
2) Are we allowed to call Jeffery Jones 'great' now? I thought there was an issue a few years ago with errrrmmmm ........ photo's of an illegal kind? Or was that all sorted out?

Go was and is truly immene. If you haven't seen it you are missing out.

Office Space and Bowfinger (the only good film Eddie Murphy or Steve Martin have done in many many years).

Would love to see a film about that

This is SUCH a good pick! Some of my absolute favorites on this list. Payback ExistenZ, Magnolia, Office Space, Idle Hang, Ghost Dog, Go. All some of the first DVDs i ever bought in this list!

The music was fantastic in that film. Love the OST.

I watched it the other day oddly enough, forgot how much it was actually a kind of horror film.

With you there, I know a lot of people who haven't seen it.

Great to see some love for Ghost Dog, one of my all-time favourites. Sad to see the end of these lists, they've been required reading for me. Do the 2000s next!

... yeah, that was one the greatest "Holy F" moments I've ever experienced in a theater

I was hoping "two hands" would be in there somewhere but great list, I need to watch Existenz again, I remember loving it at the time.

For the same reason as there hasn't been an Incredibles 2. Brad Bird is too busy. real shame

Office Space, alongside Withnail and I, is possibly the finest comedy film ever made. When you consider it has Jennifer Aniston in, that's quite an achievement.

Fear not I still hold you and your website in the highest regard!

Forever waiting for The Iron Giant to come out on Blu Ray.

Arlington Road and The Iron Giant are easily in my top 10 films ever. Great list.

... haven't heard anything other than it was Brad Bird's and it was animated... and something to do with a robot. Must look for it

Best list of the bunch so far. You covered most of my favourite films from that year. I am very fond of "Cruel Intentions" and "Election", and certainly feel the latter should have appeared on the list.

Well, your criteria for this list states "there were a huge number of films that didn't get the critical or financial success they deserved."

Rushmore - like many films on this list - received plenty of critical praise. You really should have renamed this series.

Loved the Iron Giant growing a rewatched it not long a go.... and the craziest thing... finding out that it is Vin Diesel. :|

The Iron Giant is my favourite animated film of all time. Period. So happy to see it topping this list - I got goosebumps reading about as well!

I wrote that entry, and maybe I was the wrong person to do so. The problem is that I read and saw material that can't help but make me feel awkward watching some of his films now. I agree with you: at his peak, he was a terrific leading man. Heck, I quite liked What Women Want. Maybe it's me, though: every now and then I find it quite hard to detach the actions of a human being from what they put on the screen. I'd argue that's not sensationalism - it's not like I've made a huge song and dance and removed the film from the list - just my personal human reaction to an actor I used to like a lot and now have lost all respect for. His films remains strong, though. Hence, Payback's inclusion. - Simon

I do acknowledge your point, but I still argue that the vast majority of people have overlooked Rushmore, Criterion edtiion or otherwise.

And we spent a long time trying to come up with a name that dealt with what we wanted to cover in these lists. Again, I acknowledge your argument - genuinely - but the key thing for us was that some really good films got some more exposure. - Simon

1999 was an absolute GEM of a movie year... so many great works in a single twelve-month period, was there something in the water that year, and if so, where can we get it again?

'The Iron Giant' has the single best climax of ANY film, if you're not an emotional wreck as the Giant flies up through the clouds, you have no soul... emotionally devastating and I'm tearing up here just thinking about it!

Brad Bird for Episode VIII...

I second the brilliant soundtrack, however for me the film is more of a ... curiosity...

But in a GOOD way. ;-)

I would humbly suggest that a blanket rule to not comment on the real world antics of actors/directors would be better. Otherwise, it brings up all sorts of inconsistencies - if Gibson, why not Jeffrey Jones? What about Polanski or Victor Salva or Charlton Heston? It just goes on and on...

What did poor Chuck Heston do to be mentioned in the same breath as Jones or Polanski or Salva? He was for civil rights when it was both unpopular and dangerous to do so, but if you mean his involvement with the NRA, what's wrong with that? The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights and the Founding Fathers are all on the NRA's side... whther you agree with them or not!

Sorry, I guess that was a little gauche. I was trying to ask the question of when do you stop? If you have to draw a line, where should it be? Is Winona Ryder's shoplifting okay to ignore?
With regards to Heston, I was specifically thinking about turning up to headline an NRA rally in the vicinity of Columbine High School right after the shootings. But I take your point - putting them in the same sentence was misleading.

No problem, Stuart, although I didn't know about the post-Columbine NRA rally, probably not the best example of appropriate timing if true! One would think they could have at least moved it to another state and at most maybe postponed it altogether as a show of solidarity towards the victims... not the political Right's finest hour if it indeed happened that way!

After investigating that NRA rally in Denver that took place ten days after Columbine in 1999, here's the facts;

Yes, it took place a mere ten days after that terrible shooting but it was planned years in advance and couldn't have been either re-scheduled or cancelled because U.S. corporate law mandated a meeting of the executive board of directors, that meeting was the ONLY event that took place during that convention, all other planned events were cancelled out of respect for the victims.

Them's the facts, now back to movies...

Very good list. I, however miss Galaxy Quest in there. But perhaps it was only underappreciated in my country?

I went to see it at the cinema upon release. Was excited for it. How could a film about (almost) immortal cannibals not be awesome? I don't think I've ever hated a film so much in my entire life. Closest I've ever come to walking out, and that's saying something when I saw Steve Zissou at the cinema too.

i love 1999/2000 they were great years for movies. it was the time i truly fell in love with cinema . it seemed like for a 6 month period or so there was something great released every week- fight club, iron giant, election, gladiator, three kings, being john malkovich, maganolia.. it was like a golden era for intelligent auteur driven but also studio backed films.

Would like to mention 'The Cradle Will Rock', a brilliant ensemble piece directed by Tim Robbins that explores American theatre in early 20th Century America. It's a film worth watching if you're a fan of Bill Murray.
Also the scene with the dog in high heels as Steve Martin is shooting his film covertly in Bowfinger may be the one I have laughed most at in a cinema...

The Limey was deeply missed on this list. I also enjoyed The Corrupter very much.

I usually stick up for Mel whenever I can, but fair enough if you have problem. He seems to be a troubled man who has an addiction problem, but also starred in some fantastic films and entertains constantly when on screen! Like Tom Cruise, he brings baggage but he is rarely 'bad' onscreen. People are quick to dismiss some of his recent output as well which is a mistake as How I Spent My Summer Vacation and Edge of Darkness are solid, enjoyable films.

But aside from all that Payback is a deserved entry, and all these articles have been great and should totally continue into the 2000's!

Great film. Surprised the quality of the soundtrack wasn't mentioned

I know what you mean about Bringing Out The Dead. I absolutly loved it and thought it deserved much more acclaim. It's the first time I've ever seen it mentioned since its release. Iron Giant deserves number one though. I can't heap enough praise on this one.

Hmmm... Love for GO but no mention of the film it totally ripped off, Human Traffic. Those two films are proof that there are some things that you Brits just do better.

We need a 'Holy F' moments list DoG!! I

That is what's wrong with the U.S.

That may well be. However, in your 1996 list, you included "The Cable Guy" and "Joe's Apartment," while omitting "The Long Kiss Goodnight". That is unforgivable!

Thought Go was the film of the year. The 13th floor however must be one of the worse movies of all time. Loads of really good films on this list. 1999 was a vintage year for movies - made Star Wars look all the worse for it.

Also, while people will always have an opinion on Mel Gibsons private life, it shouldn't be forgotten he's an incredible director too.. Apocalypto was a genuinely breathtaking achievement and an incredible film. I often wonder how good his Viking epic with Di Caprio might've been, were it not for his implosion.

I was so excited about that film when it was announced. He's added such a level of grit and realism to both Apocalypto and Braveheart, a Viking movie in that vein and original Norse could've been incredible. Maybe it can still happen somehow someday, he just needs to keep out of trouble for a few years.

Great List, please continue in the 21th era as soon as possible and up to 2013 :-)

Sponsored Links