Never Heard of It

The Best Movies You’ve (Probably) Never Seen


With apologies to Poe, at some point our picture pendulum swung from pit to plenty. In the span of a millennial fart, we went from having to scour shelves at a Blockbuster video to spending 6-7 hours scrolling through streaming options before falling asleep exhausted. Finding something good to watch that you haven’t already seen has switched from a needle in a haystack to a haystack made of needles.

No worries, I got you.

Using a criterion of having made less than $5 million at the domestic box office as a standard for “little-seen,” I have identified the best flicks you haven’t yet peeped across the four major genres and overall. I realize that Netflix has created eleventy billion sub-sub genres. If you want a recommendation for some nice theme like “passive-aggressive, purple, tragicomedies featuring sentient plants and German nihilism,” email me at film@thereader.com.

Best Action Movie You (Probably) Haven’t Seen

The Night Comes for Us

  • Box office – $0
  • Available on Netflix

Provided you have a high threshold for really, exceptionally terrible things happening to human bodies, this is among the greatest fight flicks ever made. This Indonesian ode to violent delights does have a plot. I’m sure of it. It’s something about gang wars, corrupt cops and a young girl in the crosshairs. Whatever. There’s a fight in a butcher’s shop that will wick John’s floor any day of the week. The number of severed appendages cannot be counted on one viewer’s attached digits, even if they have never played with fireworks fists closed. This is not for folks reared on Van Damme and Stallone so much as it is an insanely choreographed kick-punch-stravaganza staged on a slip-n-slide slicked with blood.

Best Comedy You (Probably) Haven’t Seen

What We Do in the Shadows

  • Box office – $3.5 million
  • Available to rent on pretty much all the rental services

Perhaps the last great mockumentary, writer/director Taika Waititi’s brilliant vampire satire recently got its own TV adaptation on FX. This is really a twofer, as once you have a laugh-splosion with the film, you can then get all up in the equally genius series. If you’re unfamiliar with both, the premise is that Nosferatu housemates moan about the mundane aspects of their existence, pick fights with douchebag werewolves and contemplate the inequities of life’s purpose. It also features the funniest visual gag to ever involve a jugular vein and fastidiousness.

Best Horror Movie You (Probably) Haven’t Seen

Under the Shadow

  • Box office – $30,000
  • Available on Netflix

Although you’d never know it judging by American flicks alone, zombie movies aren’t the only horror movies that can parable the crap out of you. Set in Tehran in the 1980s, this film is as much about legitimate real-world fears faced by millions as it is about an ultra-creepy monster. A woman tries to protect her daughter from missile strikes and a djinn (shape-shifting supernatural beings that became the inspiration for Aladdin’s genie), whose appearance at one point is among the most singularly terrifying frames of cinema I’ve seen. Any hacky director can quick-cut and jump-scare folks into pee dribbling. Iranian writer/director Babak Anvari’s debut hits you calmly with the lights still on. Given how much it has stayed with me, I wish I had done more than put it on my honorable mentions for best films of 2016.

Best Sci-Fi Movie You (Probably) Haven’t Seen

Attack the Block

  • Box office – $1.1 million
  • Available on Starz or to rent on streaming services

Considering how much everyone I know loves this movie, I tend to forget most folks have never seen it. Writer/director Joe Cornish’s often-hilarious, frequently bad-ass alien invasion film features the current title holder for Doctor Who (Jodie Whittaker) and Finn from Star Wars (John Boyega). Better than that, it follows inner city youth in England who find themselves on the front lines of a war against extraterrestrials. Whereas most sci-fi these days is content to nostalgically reminisce about flicks that ensorcelled 1980s adolescents, Attack the Block is that exact type of movie.

Best Movie (Full Stop) You (Probably) Haven’t Seen

Upstream Color

  • Box office – $500,000
  • Available to rent on pretty much all the rental services

I could have put writer/director Shane Carruth’s other movie, Primer, here. I could also have re-hyped Beasts of the Southern Wild in this spot, as that remains my all-time favorite movie. Yet, having just rewatched Upstream Color for the umpteenth time, I worry I haven’t given it the appropriate space it really deserves. Lightly sci-fi, intimate and sparse, and full of haunting commentary about both the beautiful and cruel things we do to each other as people, this is the kind of film you can talk about for a lifetime. I’m not exaggerating. I can think of at least three people with whom a mention of this movie will launch us into a sprawling, ongoing discussion. If you’re looking for diversionary fun, look elsewhere on this list. But if you want a movie that could be the best one you’ve never seen, this is it.


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