Throwback Thursday is a new series here at The Nerds Templar where we take an old article written for the site (or we’ve personally written for previous sites that no longer exist) and update it with new information or selections that make sense to the article now. A “Best of” list that adds some new movies that were released after the original article was written for example. Up next in the series is Throwback Thursday: Slighted Movie Gems.
We’ve written numerous articles on underrated/underappreciated films usually as an end of the year recap. This time around I want to talk about slighted gems. These are movies that probably come from a great director that just don’t get talked about as much as their other work or movies with big names in it that maybe you haven’t seen or somehow the film disappointed at the box office. Maybe it didn’t get the sequel it deserved. You’ll see what I mean.
The Game – David Fincher is probably my favorite director going today. Yes I loved Gone Girl, The Social Network and Fight Club as much as everyone else, but I honestly don’t understand how The Game doesn’t get the love it deserves. Seven put Fincher on the map and yet no one remembers The Game came out after that. It’s beautifully layered and Michael Douglas is simply fantastic in the movie. Fincher fans love it, but all movie buffs should as well.
3:10 to Yuma – Yes westerns are nowhere near as popular as they were decades ago, but this James Mangold remake is the best western since Tombstone. The most mind boggling thing about the film is that it stars both Russell Crowe AND Christian Bale, actors who have both won Oscars. Add in the underrated Ben Foster and Alan Tudyk plus a young Logan Lerman and this is a film that should play monthly on cable. Somehow you can probably find The Quick & the Dead more often on TV than this!
Made – Before becoming a huge director with Iron Man and Elf, Jon Favreau was an indie darling to those in the know. Sure even non-movie nerds know Swingers yet nobody talks about Made. Written and directed by Favreau, Made may not be as quotable as Swingers, but if you’ve seen it, you know Favreau somehow got a strong performance from Screech! If you haven’t seen his underrated film Chef either, you should watch that one as well.
Smokin’ Aces – To me Joe Carnahan himself is underrated. Stretch should have been a hit in 2014 if the studio didn’t screw it up and The Grey and Narc are both fantastic. But to me his best film is Smokin’ Aces. I saw a test screening of it way back when and was hooked from that night on. With a cast that includes Ben Affleck, Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Jason Bateman, Chris Pine, Jeremy Piven, Common and more, there’s no reason this film isn’t listed among the best action movies of the 2000s. Seriously, look at that cast!
The Friends of Eddie Coyle – Yeah I’m going back a bit for this one, but this truly is an underappreciated film. From director Peter Yates (Bullitt), Eddie Coyle CREATED the Boston Crime Drama genre. Robert Mitchum, Alex Rocco and Peter Boyle are fantastic in a film that for whatever reason just doesn’t get the respect it deserves. It’s just as good if not better than Mean Streets. Yeah I said it!
Memento – Like Fincher, Christopher Nolan is one of the best in the business. Everyone has seen his Dark Knight Trilogy, Inception and Dunkirk, but for my money, Memento is probably his smartest film. With a mind blowing performance from Guy Pearce, you can watch Memento 20 times and catch something different every time. Don’t watch it for a few years, pop it on and you’ll view it again like it’s the first time.
Go – Doug Liman may be known for big action films like Edge of Tomorrow (also underrated), Mr. & Mrs. Smith and The Bourne Identity, but it’s Go that always stood out to me. I loved Swingers, but for him to follow that up with a trippy, multi-layered, huge ensemble cast drug/party movie seemed way out of left field. Katie Holmes was a Dawson’s Creek darling when this came out and the soundtrack is still great. Sarah Polley, Jay Mohr, Scott Wolf, Timothy Olyphant, William Fichtner, Taye Diggs, Jane Krakowski, Melissa McCarthy, and more star. You want us to sell Amway?
Singles – Sure he’s had a few misses lately, but Cameron Crowe was once a top line director. With films like Vanilla Sky, Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous, Crowe went to the big time, but it’s his homage to Seattle in 1992 that I love. I’m a grunge nerd and to this day still listen to Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, but take away the music and Singles is still a genuine film about relationships and friends. Live performances from Alice in Chains and cameos from Seattle’s best certainly help and I still listen to the soundtrack very often, but it’s probably Crowe’s most honest film after Say Anything.
Reign Over Me – Almost every comedic actor makes an attempt at a dramatic role and most film nerds will say Adam Sandler’s best attempts were Punch-Drunk Love and now Uncut Gems. I didn’t love those movies, but I really liked Reign Over Me. Sandler plays a New Yorker who loses his family on 9/11 and can’t cope with life afterwards. 9/11 can be a very touchy subject, but the film handles it well and that event is used more for a backstory than it is an emotional ploy. Sandler gives an amazing performance and Don Cheadle and Liv Tyler round out the cast. Plus Pearl Jam’s cover of The Who’s Love Reign O’er Me is perfection.
My Blue Heaven – I can’t do a list without some comedies and this Steve Martin/Rick Moranis straight man/wild card comedy is truly underappreciated. Written by Nora Ephron, the film, to me, gets more laughs than My Cousin Vinny. Martin is in Witness Protection and plays the classic fish out of water character flawlessly. Moranis walked away from Hollywood, but man was he brilliant and Joan Cusack is always a great addition. Rewatched this comedy companion of Goodfellas about two weeks ago and it still holds up and gets huge laughs.
Clue – An all-time favorite of mine since I was a kid, I recently rewatched it for the first time in years and it’s still laugh out loud funny. Based on the board game, the cast includes underrated stars Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, and Martin Mull. With multiple endings, it’s the perfect comedy Whodunit. Communism was just a red herring.
The Mist – I know so many people who hate this movie, but man is that ending one of my favorite “Middle Finger to the Audience” moments in film. Based on the novel by Stephen King, director Frank Darabont weaves an ensemble cast that has you rooting for and against characters in this small town. Darabont is known more for The Shawshank Redemption and The Walking Dead, but The Mist has a special place in my heart because of that gut punching, anger inducing ending so many people cringe over.
Those were some picks from the original article I wrote years back so now for some newer ones!
Seven Psychopaths – In Bruges and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri landed Martin McDonagh Oscar nominations, but Seven Psychopaths is just as good in my book. Sam Rockwell, Colin Farrell and Christopher Walken are fantastic along with Woody Harrelson and others. The dark comedy about a screenwriter getting involved with a gangster after his two friends kidnap a dog works on so many levels and it’s one of Rockwell’s best performances. Rewatched it about a month or two ago and still laughed hard.
The Nice Guys – It’s been four years since the film came out and to this day I still can’t explain how this wasn’t a box office juggernaut with multiple award nominations for Russell Crowe, Ryan Gosling and writer/director Shane Black. It is laugh out loud hilarious with two consistently great leading men. Shane Black is well respected in the industry and the film is about Los Angeles in the 1970s. All those are usually checkmarks for award nominations. I genuinely love this movie and laugh every damn time Gosling screams in it. It should have gotten at least one sequel if not a franchise like Lethal Weapon.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. – This should have been a hit leading to a franchise as well. Guy Ritchie’s movie remake of the TV show stars Henry Cavill, Armie Hammer, Alicia Vikander, Hugh Grant, Elizabeth Debicki and more, but barely made a dent at the worldwide box office only making $45 million in the US. It’s smart, funny and every bit the spy caper you want it to be. It’s easily Henry Cavill’s best performance and it’s filled with lavish costuming and backdrops. Rewatched it this year and I’m still dumbfounded it disappointed. If you’ve ignored it, give it a try.
Upgrade – If you read me consistently you know I’ve been praising this mix of sci-fi and horror since day one. I interviewed director Leigh Whannell for it and think it’s Logan Marshall-Green’s best performance to date. With Whannell’s The Invisible Man being a big hit earlier in the year hopefully more people will check out this flick. I love everything about it, its style, its tone, its violence. I’ve easily watched it 4 or 5 times since it came out. It should turn into one of the biggest cult sci-fi flicks over the next decade.
Dredd – Besides The Nice Guys, this might be the film that pains me the most for not being a box office hit with multiple sequels. Karl Urban is chilling as Judge Dredd and you never see him take his helmet off unlike the Sylvester Stallone version. It has a ton of style with slow motion that works and loads of violence. If you like The Raid: Redemption and haven’t seen Dredd you should. If I could go back and make one genre film a bigger hit than what it was, it would be Dredd.
The Losers – A movie that stars Captain America, Gamora, Negan and potentially the next James Bond barely broke even at the box office. The Losers is a comic book movie that just hit at the wrong time. It stars Chris Evans before Captain America, Zoe Saldana before Guardians of the Galaxy, Jeffrey Dean Morgan before The Walking Dead and Idris Elba before he really became a household name in the US. It’s a fun action/comic flick with a very talented cast that you should check out if you aren’t familiar with it.
Overlord – It’s probably the least known film with the least known cast (for now) on the list, but like Upgrade, it’s a movie I’ve been praising since day one. The opening scene in the sky could rival the intensity of any big name war movie. Then the men get on the ground and it starts to go off the rails. If you are expecting just a World War II film are you in for a surprise. Like Upgrade it also mixes genres and this film has some great horror/monster moments along with intense war scenes. I firmly believe Wyatt Russell could be as known as his dad Kurt one day and Jovan Adepo is also putting together a solid resume. John Magaro, Bokeem Woodbine, Iain De Caestecker star with others.
So I Married an Axe Murderer – How slighted is this Mike Myers film? I didn’t even think of it when I wrote the original article five plus years ago! In between Wayne’s World and the Austin Powers franchise Myers made one of the best rom-coms of all-time. With a stellar soundtrack, it’s all very 1990s with coffee shops and poetry readings. Those who know it love it and I did a rewatch during lockdown and laughed throughout. Let’s get pissed!
Miami Vice – The Michael Mann film remake of the hit 80s TV show stars Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx yet disappointed at the box office. It doesn’t have the comedy aspect of Bad Boys, but has all the style, action and vibe of that franchise.
Paul – When you think of Simon Pegg & Nick Frost movies you immediately think of Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy (and deservedly so), but their attempt to break into a bigger American audience barely made a blip on the radar in the States. With Seth Rogen as the voice of the alien Paul and a supporting cast of Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader, Jason Bateman and more, the sci-fi comedy has lots of laughs and heart. If you like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End and haven’t seen Paul, give it a try.
Sing Street – If this wasn’t coming to Broadway it would have made the main part of the article. Covid has delayed the stage version, but the movie is charmingly delightful. John Carney’s Once and Begin Again both took home Oscars for music, but Sing Street is my favorite of all of them. I recently rewatched it with another underrated Irish music movie, The Commitments.
Sunshine – Danny Boyle’s flick is an underrated sci-fi thriller starring Chris Evans, Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Michelle Yeoh, Cliff Curtis, Benedict Wong and more. It has all of Boyle’s signature touches yet seems to be forgotten as one of his films.
Logan Lucky – It took the craftsmanship of Steven Soderbergh to make a movie starring Channing Tatum I’ve seen multiple times. I have nothing personal against Tatum, but this is easily my favorite film of his. Adam Driver, Daniel Craig, Riley Keough and more star in Oceans 7/11 (if you’ve seen the movie, you get the joke).
Free Fire – Another ensemble cast of big names like Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson, Sharlto Copley and Armie Hammer, if the movie didn’t have some gun name errors in it, it would be in the main part of the article. I’ve watched it a couple of times since its release and it’s one of those A24 films that slid under the radar before they started winning awards and got bigger pushes.
The Invention of Lying – This was in the original article when I first wrote it, but it’s been years since I’ve seen it so I don’t know if it still holds up. Ricky Gervais wrote, directed and stars in this film where lying isn’t possible. There’s no made up stories, no religion, everyone knows what rung on the ladder they belong on socially and economically. A huge cast including Jennifer Garner, Louis CK, Jonah Hill, Rob Lowe and more bring laughs and brutal, brutal honesty. If I had seen it within the past 5 years it probably would have made the list.
So what are your favorite slighted gems by big name directors or jam packed with A-list talent?