ONTD Movie Night: The 50 Best Movies You've Never Seen



What if we told you there was a great Christian Bale flick out there that hardly anyone knows about? Or that Richard Gere starred in a must-see tearjerker opposite a dog? Hopefully you'd want to hear more, because we've spent a ridiculous amount of time compiling a list of the best yet least-seen films from the past two decades (featured alphabetically in order). No matter how dedicated a movie you are we bet at least some of these will be new to you. By the way, Sam Rockwell stars in three of them.



24 Hour Party People (2002)
You might think that a movie about obscure U.K. music label Factory Records that delves into the cost effectiveness of using four-color printing on a 12-inch single sleeve would not be all that interesting or funny. And you would be utterly wrong. —Clark Collis



Backbeat (1994)
A miraculously authentic rock & roll biopic about the early days of the Beatles told from the perspective of Stuart Sutcliffe, the charismatic ''fifth Beatle'' who died of a brain hemorrhage just before the band got famous. As Sutcliffe, Stephen Dorff shows you what a tough, sly actor he was in his raw-boned youth, and Ian Hart is a revelation as John Lennon, whose punk rage may have led, inadvertantly, to Sutcliffe's death. The musical scenes have an energy that just about singes the screen. —Owen Gleiberman



Bamboozled (2000)
Spike Lee's most misunderstood film is a scandalous satire about a self-loathing black TV writer (Damon Wayans) who creates a modern variety/minstrel show. His message — and it's a visionary one — is that even in our relatively enlightened era, the racist images that have defined America are still very much alive, encoded in the DNA of our pop culture, with its fetishization of African-American ''otherness.'' In Bamboozled, an entire society paints itself in blackface to be ''cool,'' and that, Lee suggests, is a new form of slavery. —Owen Gleiberman



Box of Moon Light (1996)
Chill out, maaaan — you don't have to take every movie so seriously. Sometimes it's nice just to kick back and watch an affable coming-of-middle-age tale about an electrical engineer (John Turturro) whose unlikely friendship with an off-the-grid hippie (Sam Rockwell) finally gets him to loosen up. It'll have you wondering whether you should take up therapy by way of cliff jumping. —Grady Smith



Broken English (2007)
Parker Posey has built a career on playing high-strung, hard-edged characters. Buthere, she's softer than ever before as Nora, a single New Yorker who falls for a Frenchman (Melvil Poupaud) on vacation in the Big Apple. Her refreshing performance is reason enough to catch up with this understated romantic indie. That she has terrific chemistry with Poupaud makes the deal that much sweeter. —Missy Schwartz



Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
In this wonderfully absurd horror-comedy, two geezers (Bruce Campbell and Ossie Davis) in an old folks' home take on a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy. The twist? Campbell's character ¬believes he is Elvis Presley, while the African-American Davis is con¬vinced he is JFK (''They dyed me this color!''). —Clark Collis



The Century of the Self (2005)
Adam Curtis's mind-opening documentary looks at how our consumer culture re-coded who we are inside. The movie is a vast and fascinating essay-mosaic about how the inventor of modern PR, Edward Bernays, drew on the theories of his uncle Sigmund Freud to create a new kind of human being — not a rational citizen but an irrational consumer, ruled by unconscious appetites. It reveals how ''individuality'' has become the ultimate conformist desire. —Owen Gleiberman



Chuck & Buck (2000)
Mike White stars in a riveting creep-out of a comedy (which he also wrote) about a gawky arrested-development case who decides to stalk his boyhood best friend, whom he still obsessively adores. Unsettling? You bet. But also hilarious and suspenseful — and, in the end, touchingly true to the way that our childhood dreams can refuse to let go of us. White's amazing performance may be the ultimate expression of geek love. —Owen Gleiberman



Cold Comfort Farm (1995)
Are you a Downton Abbey devotee? Well then, now more than ever you need to see this adaptation of Stella Gibbons' deliciously warped comic 1932 novel, a sharp send-up of all things British and pastoral. A walloping bundle of Brit talent participates in this production: Look, there's Kate Beckinsale, Stephen Fry, Ian McKellen, and Ab Fab's Joanna Lumley! —Lisa Schwarzbaum



The Daytrippers (1996)
A quirky, marvelously populated comedy about a woman (the sublime Hope Davis) who drives from Long Island to Manhattan to sleuth out whether her husband (the also very good Stanley Tucci) is cheating on her. By the way, the woman takes her entire extended family with her. In a station wagon. —Jeff Giles



Devil's Playground (2002)
When Amish kids turn 16, they're allowed a rite-of-passage year in the ''devil's playground'' — the religion's name for the outside world — before committing to their community. Oscar-nominated documentarian Lucy Walker (Waste Land) follows a few likable teenagers — girls in bonnets passing cigarettes, a drug-addicted boy unsure of his place in the world — as they come tenderly of age. It's like Dazed and Confused, with a poignant spin. —Karen Valby



DIG! (2004)
Even if you've seen your share of rock docs, nothing will prepare you for the unchecked golden-god ego of Anton Newcombe. Ondi Timoner's fantastic film traces the rivalry between the Dandy Warhols and Newcombe's band, the Brian Jonestown Massacre — a rivalry that existed almost exclusively in Newcombe's paranoid, drug-sozzled mind. —Chris Nashawaty



Enter the Void (2009)
A psychotropic cinematic trip that draws heavily from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, Gaspar Noé's dreamlike melodrama follows the disembodied spirit of a drug dealer as he drifts over and through a candy-colored Tokyo. It's like seeing the world held under a black light: This is a film that's meant to be experienced, not watched. —Keith Staskiewicz



Eve's Bayou (1997)
''The summer I killed my father, I was 10 years old.'' So begins this fluid, feminine, African-American, Southern gothic beaut, an outstanding directorial debut from actress Kasi Lemmons that'll lure you in with its shimmering, dream-state visual elegance. The characters are unique — a well-to-do Creole family in the early 1960s; the themes are universal. —Lisa Schwarzbaum



Fish Tank (2009)
A year before Michael Fassbender battled the X-Men, his onscreen magnetism was already on display in this drama, which cast him as the object of affection for both a mom (Kierston Wareing) and her daughter (Katie Jarvis) in a poor British suburb. But even Fassbender's charm won't distract you from Jarvis, who packs a lifetime of heartache into her movie debut. —Adam Markovitz



Fly Away Home (1996)
A girl (Anna Paquin) who just lost her mom learns to raise geese while her sweetly hapless dad (Jeff Daniels) learns to raise her. Fly Away Home is the rare family movie that's so lovely and genuine your kids will ask to watch it 10 times — and you'll ask it watch it 11. —Jeff Giles



George Washington (2000)
In his hauntingly poetic debut, writer-director David Gordon Green (Pineapple Express) tracks a group of working class kids in rural North Carolina. Every gorgeous frame, every line of dialogue, feels fresh and revelatory. There's romance, tragedy, lost innocence, and hard wisdom in this small indie that leaves an epic impression. —Karen Valby



Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)
That silver-haired Beat poet of a filmmaker, Jim Jarmusch, does a twist on the traditional hitman genre that allows for detours into mysticism, action, samurai philosophy, and an homage to Jean-Pierre Melville's Le Samouraï. Forest Whitaker defines Jarmuschian cool as the title hitman, a philosopher/killer in cornrows. —Lisa Schwarzbaum



Hachi: A Dog's Tale (2010)
Chances are you missed this Lasse Hallström weepie when it bypassed U.S. theaters and limped straight to DVD. Which is a shame, because it's terrific. Richard Gere plays a professor who adopts a lost Akita puppy who turns out to be the most loyal dog ever, especially after tragedy strikes. We won't say any more, except this: Have a box of tissues ready before you press play. —Chris Nashawaty



Happy Accidents (2000)
Brad Anderson's sci-fi/rom-com mind-bender is proof that a film can simultaneously make your heart swell and your head hurt. Vincent D'Onofrio and Marisa Tomei fall in love even though he claims to be time-traveling back from the year 2470. Is he mentally unhinged or telling the truth? When a love story is this beautiful and weird, does it even matter? —Chris Nashawaty



Idiocracy (2006)
In Mike Judge's satiric vision of a dumbed-down future, Luke Wilson plays an average Joe who wakes up after a 500-year cryogenic slumber to find he's the world's smartest man. Twentieth Century Fox dumped this mash-up of Sleeper and Beavis and Butt-head in a handful of theaters with zero fanfare, resulting in less than $500,000 in grosses. Now, that was dumb. —Josh Rottenberg



The Iron Giant (1999)
We know some of you probably saw this remarkable animated sci-fi/fantasy movie when it was first released, but now is the time to revisit the story of a robot whocrash-lands off the coast of Maine in the Cold War 1950s. Why? The more oneknows of today's crazy world, the more piercing the political overtones. Plus, it was directed by Brad Bird, before he made The Incredibles and the recent Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol. —Lisa Schwarzbaum



I've Loved You So Long (2008)
French director Philippe Claudel's drama has an abhorrent subject: a mother's killing of her own child. But you'll be drawn in by the haunting power of the movie's slowly unraveling mystery and Kristin Scott Thomas' magnificent turn as a woman struggling to reintegrate into society after 15 years in prison. —Josh Rottenberg



Last Night (2011)
Keira Knightley and Sam Worthington play a New York couple who, over the course of one night, face temptation — she with an old flame who might be her soul mate (Guillaume Canet) and he with a colleague (Eva Mendes). The story is mature, the direction (by Massy Tadjedin) expert, and the acting superb. Knightley's final scene just might leave you gutted. —Missy Schwartz



Layer Cake (2004)
The film that landed Daniel Craig the Bond role also proved that Guy Ritchie's producer Matthew Vaughn is a first-rate director in his own right. It might take a few viewings to sort out the plot, in which a London drug dealer (Craig) gets lost in a labyrinth of double crosses. But it's worth the effort if only for the crackling opening monologue: ''Life is so f---ing good, I can taste it in my spit.'' —Dave Karger



Lilya 4-Ever (2003)
Lukas Moodysson's great, lyrical, wrenching tale of an abandoned teenage girl whofalls through the cracks of her crumbling town in the former Soviet Union and into the hands of a Swedish sex trafficker. The movie takes us perilously close to the terror and tragedy of her experience. In doing so, it captures, withextraordinary intensity, why sex trafficking has become one of the definingcrimes of our era. —Owen Gleiberman



Love & Basketball (2000)
Strong-willed tomboy Monica (Sanaa Lathan) and boy-next-door Quincy (Omar Epps) evolve from rivals into best friends and lovers. Sure, it's ''boy meets girl'' with a heavy helping of hoops, but this isn't a chick flick masked as a sports film. Brimming with clashing dreams, intense family dynamics, and the subtly sweet chemistry between Epps and Lathan, Love & Basketball, at its core, is about growing up. —April Daley



The Magdalene Sisters (2002)
Scottish actor/filmmaker Peter Mullan (War Horse) wrote and directed this portrait of a group of teenage girls cast out of their hometowns in Ireland and sent to a Catholic asylum after committing such ''crimes'' as being raped. With an impressive young cast including Anne-Marie Duff (Nowhere Boy), the amazingly true story will shock, outrage, and eventually inspire you. —Dave Karger



Marwencol (2010)
After suffering a near-fatal beating that resulted in brain damage, photographer Mark Hogancamp coped with his pain by creating Marwencol, a fictional WWII-era Belgian town populated with Barbies and G.I. Joes. With sensitivity and respect, this moving doc from filmmaker Jeff Malmberg invites viewers into Hogancamp's remarkable world and serves as a testament to the healing powers of art. —Missy Schwartz



Memories of a Murder (2003)
Based on the true story of South Korea's first documented serial killer, this is more than a mere crime drama. It's also a nuanced investigation into Korean politics and a gripping (and sneakily humorous) examination of man's behavior when confronted with evil. Director Bong Joon-ho would go on to make the it-came-from-the-Han-River creature feature The Host, but this slow-simmering dead-end mystery is his real monster movie. —Keith Staskiewicz



Moon (2009)
An astronaut (Sam Rockwell) has been in space for three years when his health mysteriously starts to deteriorate around the same time as he meets a healthy version of himself (also Sam Rockwell) at his lunar station. Director Duncan Jones delivers a stellar film that harks back to sci-fi's golden age of the 1970s and answers the question, What's better than one Sam Rockwell performance? —Sara Vilkomerson



Murderball (2005)
Despite glowing reviews and a big marketing push by MTV Films, this Oscar-nominateddocumentary about paraplegic rugby players never expanded beyond 97 theaters. That's too bad, since the story of the U.S. team's battle to win gold at the 2004 Paralympic Games is as exhilarating and crowd-pleasing as Rocky. Like the gladiatorial wheelchairs wielded by these aggressive athletes, the film packs an unexpected wallop. —John Young



My Summer of Love (2004)
The intensity of teenage love, in this case between two girls on the Yorkshire moors, has rarely been captured more knowingly and sensually. And what a stunning debut for both actresses! Meet the amazing Natalie Press, with thefreckled allure of a young Sissy Spacek, and the then-unknown Emily Blunt as the posh half of the duo. —Lisa Schwarzbaum



Next Stop, Wonderland (1998)
Cupid's arrow takes a roundabout route before eventually hitting its target in Brad Anderson's exquisite samba-fueled rom-com. Hope Davis gives an adorably exasperated performance as a lonely-heart Boston nurse looking for Mr. Right after getting dumped. The setup is sitcom simple, but the film sidesteps obvious Sex and the City single-girl stereotypes for something smarter and more honest. —Chris Nashawaty



The Orphanage (2007)
In this chilling but beautiful and heartfelt ghost story, a woman's plan to reopen the orphanage where she was raised goes horribly awry when her own child disappears. Exec-produced by Guillermo del Toro, the movie is in the same ballpark, and league, as his much-better-known Pan's Labyrinth. —Clark Collis



Perfect Blue (1997)
Don't make the mistake of thinking anime is just about giant robots and squid monsters. Echoing Vertigo and prefiguring the psychological identity games of Black Swan, this schizoid-thriller about a pop star with a murderous stalker dives into the murky depths of mental illness, fame, and obsession, where reality and fantasy intermingle. —Keith Staskiewicz



Prime (2005)
Meryl Streep is a Manhattan therapist whose patient (Uma Thurman) is dating a younger man (Bryan Greenberg). Turns out the younger man is also Meryl's son. Good rom-coms are hard to come by, and this one's a breezy pleasure with irresistible charms: the comic genius of Streep as a Jewish mother, the romance of New York, and the glowing presence of Thurman. —Jess Cagle



Primer (2004)
Bending its celluloid into a Möbius strip, this miraculously low-budget (only $7,000) sci-fi thinker — about a pair of friends who accidentally discover time-travel — has a labyrinthine, paradox-studded plot that works like a treadmill for your brain. Luckily it's also fun, so you won't mind when you inevitably have to rewatch it. —Keith Staskiewicz



Rare Exports (2010)
If you're a fan of movies about creepy life-forms awakened from long burials, and if you like your Santa Claus stories with a dash of vinegar, then you need to add this freaky-fabulous Finnish tale to your annual holiday viewing. Here's a beautifully made, inventively ghoulish horror movie involving monsters, blocks of ice, and a worldwide market for Christmas myths. —Lisa Schwarzbaum



The Ref (1994)
A cat burglar (Denis Leary) holds an unhappily married couple (Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey) captive in their suburban Connecticut home during the holidays. Thescenario might not immediately sound like comedy gold, but Ted Demme's twisted and hysterical film — with stellar supporting turns by Christine Baranski and Glynis Johns — make this one of the very best anti-Christmas movies. —Sara Vilkomerson



Rescue Dawn (2006)
Actor Christian Bale and director Werner Herzog are both known for going to extremes for their work. Put the two together in this incredible-but-true survival story of a downed combat pilot who escaped a brutal Laotian prison camp during the Vietnam War, and the result is a kind of gonzo art-house Rambo movie, as harrowing as it is thrilling. —Josh Rottenberg



The Rules of Attraction (2002)
Upon its release, this cheeky adaptation of Bret Easton Ellis' novel about a group of bored, privileged college kids (led by James Van Der Beek) was known as themovie where Dawson turned devilish. Featuring a cast of rising stars like Jessica Biel and Kate Bosworth, Attraction also boasts a standout performance by Ian Somerhalder as a (literally) bed-hopping bisexual student. —Dave Karger



Safe Men (1998)
Two incompetent singers (Steve Zahn and Sam Rockwell) are mistaken for expert safecrackers in Providence. The supporting cast of lunatics — including a disconsolate Mark Ruffalo and Paul Giamatti as a Jewish gangster — keep the madcap story spinning, but it's Zahn and Rockwell who make it hugely entertaining. —Marc Snetiker



Smiley Face (2007)
Dude, there's no one better at playing stoned than Anna Faris. Her immensely likable wastoid character, who's daft without being dumb, eats a batch of her roommate's laced cupcakes and gets herself into a series of ridiculous scrapes. The whole goofy trip is a showcase for an actress at the top of her game who deserves more movies this fresh and funny. —Karen Valby



Surfwise (2007)
Nine siblings (two champion surfers, two members of '90s one-hit wonders the Flys, their swimsuit-designer/model sister, and four other bothers) grew up together in a 24-foot RV under the iron fist of a surfing-obsessed father. This unforgettable documentary about the wave-riding clan becomes an exploration of family bonds and the American dream. —Adam Markovitz



Together (2000)

It's easy to turn people who live on communes into ponytail-wearing hippie caricatures (see: Wanderlust). But director Lukas Moodysson's bittersweet dramedy (featuring Michael Nyqvist, who'd play Mikael Blomkvist in the Swedish adaptation of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo) pulls off something more difficult and rewarding, finding the beautifully messy humanity in the screwed-up residents of a 1970s Stockholm commune. —Josh Rottenberg



Two Family House (2000)
A wisecracking Staten Island native (MichaelRispoli) can't get the pregnant Irishwoman (Kelly MacDonald) squatting in his newly acquired apartment to vacate, but when he provides her with new housing, her feelings start to change. MacDonald expertly conveys the transition from prickly to smitten, and Rispoli exudes an innocent dreamer's charm. —Grady Smith



Walking and Talking (1996)
Writer-director Nicole Holofcener's debut film about a pair of twentysomething best friends(Catherine Keener and Anne Heche in their breakout roles) dealing with love, heartache, and the bumpy road to adulthood has everything you look for in romantic comedy and rarely find: whip-smart dialogue, bracing honesty, and spot-on performances. When people wax nostalgic about the '90s heyday of indie film, this is the sort of movie they're talking about. —Josh Rottenberg



Wendy and Lucy (2008)
A girl (Michelle Williams) with nothing to her name besides a no-good car and a faithful dog must travel from Oregon to Alaska to find work. Director KellyReichardt (Old Joy) says more about the precariousness of life on America's margins than any politician will ever pretend to understand. And in a career defined by her subtle, pained grace, Williams delivers her most heartrending work yet. —Karen Valby



Wristcutters: A Love Story (2006)
The ragged chemistry between Patrick Fugit (Almost Famous) and Shannyn Sossamon (A Knight's Tale) keeps this backdoor romantic comedy breezy — no small feat, considering its title. The movie is just dark enough to woo the cynical half of any sweetheart couple searching for something between The Notebook and Blue Velvet. —Kyle Anderson

I myself have seen:
Chuck & Buck (a cute but odd film starring a Brandon Routh lookalike and the geeky guy in the pic)
Idiocracy (kinda silly and often on Comedy Central)
Layer Cake (you're typical Guy Richie film which was pretty decent)
The Magdelene Sisters (a haunting foreign period piece)
Moon (a great sci-fi flick in the vain of 2001)
Rescue Dawn (a decent war flick)
The Rules of Attraction (you're typical BEE movie)




Entertainment Weekly

Just a sample of some movies to pick from in case anyone is looking for the weekend and are tired of Spider Man & Scientology.
What films did you see ONTD? Any others you suggest?