Can’t think of what film to watch? Fancy seeing a hidden gem to recommend to everyone you know? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I’m here to help, with another 15 brilliant movies you haven’t seen (probably).
(Check out the previous 15 movies I’ve recommended in this list here.)
Eyes Without A Face (1960)
That haunting picture is enough to tell you what sort of a film Eyes Without A Face is. A French horror that has far more gore and terror than anything you’d expect from the 1960s, it’s an exceptionally eerie and unnerving watch, let alone looking at Christiane, whose disfigurements from an accident are covered by an emotionless mask.
It’s a short but punchy cult horror, complete with some utterly chilling sequences, incredibly frank gore, and even some clever twists here and there, making it the perfect sort of film for horror fans to add to their collection.
Never Let Me Go (2010)
Independent sci-fi isn’t so common nowadays, but Never Let Me Go, a romantic drama set in an alternative history. On the whole, it’s a pretty heartbreaking and soul-destroying watch, as we see a friendship fracture because of an emerging love triangle, as well as the devastating nature of the world in which they live.
It’s a beautifully atmospheric and elegant film, and features three fantastic and still unmatched central performances from Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield. Yes, it’s very heavy-going, but with a screenplay by Alex Garland, the writer of Dredd and Ex Machina, you can be assured it’s an enthralling watch.
Waterloo Bridge (1940)
A remake of a 1931 film of the same name, you’d think that 1940’s Waterloo Bridge, starring Vivien Leigh and Robert Taylor, would be better-known nowadays. However, it seems to have been obscured by some of the early 1940s’ biggest hitters, so that’s why I feel I need to point it out here.
It’s a story of a woman who, whilst her newfound husband is on leave in World War I, begins to lose control of her life and descends into a world of prostitution. That may sound pretty depressing, and whilst it’s not an entirely joyful watch, because it was made in an era with such high censorship, the film is actually a very beautiful and poetic tale, and manages to deal with its subject matter brilliantly without ever mentioning it out loud.
Linda Linda Linda (2005)
Normally, a teen drama about Japanese schoolgirls playing Japanese pop music would put me right off, but the oddly-titled Linda Linda Linda is a different story. Far more mature and deep than you can imagine, the film is a brilliantly moving coming-of-age story as we see a group of teenage girls deal with the problems that come about in their later teenage years.
What’s more is that it’s a completely down-to-earth and relatable film. It doesn’t try to be melodramatic and make you cry, but instead use its realistic and heartfelt atmosphere to move you, which works wonderfully. The leading quartet have excellent chemistry, and the music isn’t all that bad either, which makes it a hugely entertaining as well as emotionally riveting watch.
Short Term 12 (2013)
I’ve not heard a bad word about Short Term 12 from anyone who’s seen it. The problem is, not enough people have seen it. It’s easily one of the most emotionally enthralling films of recent years, featuring a touching story of a young woman working in a home for troubled teenagers, and facing up to the problems in her own life.
Starring Oscar winner Brie Larson in her breakout role, the film is a consistently riveting and poignant affair, taking on some difficult subject matter throughout. With a unique directing style that adds to the film’s emotional impact in leaps and bounds, as well as the odd moment of good humour, Short Term 12 is nothing short of an indie masterpiece, and one you should definitely seek out as soon as possible.
A Short Film About Love (1988)
Krzysztof Kieślowski is well remembered for the likes of his Three Colours Trilogy, but the film that I think trumps all of them is his masterful drama, A Short Film About Love. Clocking in at just 86 minutes, the film tells the story of a young man who spies on a woman in the building adjacent to him through a telescope.
What makes the film so enthralling, however, is that it takes a completely unique perspective on the story. Rather than portraying the peeping tom in a wholly negative light, we see the young man go about his spying for almost completely innocent reasons, and the ensuing story in which he occasionally brushes past the woman in daily life becomes an emotionally riveting story, with a powerfully unnerving yet truly beautiful atmosphere, in one of the most unique and memorable films you’ll ever see.
Song Of The Sea (2014)
Animation is going through a real revolution at the moment, becoming more and more able to bring some exceptionally beautiful and touching stories to the big screen, and Song Of The Sea is the perfect example of that.
Its storybook-style animation and folktale story, about a boy and his sister who run away from their grandmother’s house to be at home with their family again, makes it a wonderfully pleasant and therapeutic watch, as well as making it a fine film for children. But Song Of The Sea is more than just a cute storybook, as it brings some amazingly powerful and emotional storytelling to the table, growing consistently in stature as it develops into an incredibly poignant drama, whilst its use of music is second-to-none. Nominated for an Oscar in 2015, the film is beloved by all who have seen it, but if you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend it.
Battle Royale (2000)
Japanese cinema seems to have all the bases covered. Studio Ghibli comes out with some wonderful, family-friendly animations, and then you have hyper-violent thrillers like Takeshi Kitano’s Battle Royale.
Set in a dystopian time when students have lost all respect for their elders, the government introduces a programme to rein them in, sending one class every year to compete in a fight to the death on an isolated and dangerous island. It’s a completely insane film with endless violence and brutal killings, but it’s not quite as brutal as it sounds. The violence is deliberately comical at times, and detaches the film a little from reality, but the central story about the difference between those who fight like savages to survive and those who remember their friendships in the past is absolutely enthralling to watch all along.
The Lobster (2015)
Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Lobster is yet another excellent original sci-fi that not enough people saw. With an A-list cast including Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Léa Seydoux, John C. Reilly, Olivia Colman and more, the film is filled to the brim with talent, but even that doesn’t match up to simply how bizarre the whole affair is.
It’s set in a world where single people are taken to a hotel and given 45 days to find a partner, otherwise they will be turned into an animal. As ridiculous as it sounds, The Lobster is in fact an exceptionally-told story, full of hilarious mishaps as well as dark and shocking events. Completely unique in its atmosphere, it’s the sort of film that you’ll raise your eyebrows at, but will definitely keep watching because of its powerfully weird vibe, dark humour and spellbinding story.
A Matter Of Life And Death (1946)
A Matter Of Life And Death (known as Stairway To Heaven in the US) was highly praised upon its release over 70 years ago, and is still held in high esteem by many. That said, it’s not considered one of cinema’s greatest classics, even though it’s actually one of the most ambitious and modern movies of its time.
Following the story of a pilot who dies in a crash, but wakes to find he’s still alive, the film is a fascinating take on the concept of the afterlife, dealing with some incredibly complex issues regarding fate. It’s a wonderfully-directed film, with the combination of groundbreaking special effects for its time, as well as the stark contrast between the passionate romance that develops on Earth, all shown in Technicolor, and the cold and mechanical afterlife, all shown in black-and-white. Emotionally exhilarating, thrillingly complex and massively entertaining, A Matter Of Life And Death holds up brilliantly to this day.
The Little Prince (2015)
I’ve been raving like mad about The Little Prince ever since its release on Netflix in August 2016, but I seem to be very alone in my praise for the film. Overlooked for awards left, right and centre, the film is criminally underrated, given its exceptionally powerful and mature story, as well as its beautiful style.
Following a young girl whose childhood is stripped away by her pushy mother, the film has some of the most poignant and powerful things to say about the modern world and growing up, whilst also working brilliantly as a hugely entertaining adventure film. Hans Zimmer’s score is utterly perfect, the animation is crisp and beautiful, and the film’s joyful and positive message always makes me burst into tears with joy. As far as independent animated cinema goes, you don’t get much better than this absolute work of art.
Open Your Eyes (1997)
You may have seen Vanilla Sky starring Tom Cruise and Penélope Cruz, but the original version, a Spanish film called Open Your Eyes directed by Alejandro Almenábar, is far superior.
Featuring some incredibly intense emotional drama emanating from exceptional central performances, the film tells the story of a man whose face becomes heavily disfigured following an accident, sending him into a deep depression. Although it is at times an emotionally draining watch that requires heavy concentration, given the film’s ingenious blurring of the lines between reality and the dream world, Open Your Eyes is an exhilarating watch, continuously surprising you with thrilling twists and turns that make it absolutely riveting right up to the last gut-wrenching moment.
Mary And Max (2009)
If there’s a film out there that does dark, depressing humour well, it’s Mary And Max. Set in the gloomy 1970s and following the story of a young Australian girl living in a dysfunctional household who becomes pen pals with an overweight and mentally unstable middle-aged New Yorker, the film is full of hopeless and desperate characters, which it uses brilliantly to make an absolutely hilarious watch.
From the deliberately shoddy animation to the extensively dull visuals, the film has barely a flicker of hope, as we watch an innocent girl come face to face with all the problems in the world, and a middle-aged man struggle through his mental illness. That said, everything about the film is so depressing that it can’t help but being brilliantly funny, and continues to pummel you with dark humour from start to devastating finish. The story is very tender and at times even heartbreaking, but the film is so dispiriting throughout that you won’t forget it in a hurry.
Force Majeure (2014)
I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I first saw Force Majeure, and I think that’s definitely the best way to go about it. All I’ll say is that it follows a family whose skiing holiday begins to take a turn for the worse when they witness an avalanche.
The greatest thing about Force Majeure is that it’s brilliantly subtle. The film completely transforms itself by the end, after two hours of completely unexpected but enthralling drama and black comedy. The main story comes out of absolutely nowhere, but really gets under your skin as a powerful emotional dilemma, presenting one of the most unexpectedly thought-provoking, and even guilt-provoking stories you’ll ever see.
The lead actors brilliantly carry out the subtleties of their characters increasing distress, whilst director Ruben Östlund creates some of the most powerful and crisp images with his long takes throughout that play a significant part in allowing you to see where you stand come the end.
Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011)
Makoto Shinkai, the director of 5 Centimetres Per Second and Your Name, is one of the leading lights of modern anime. His best film so far, however, has to be the magical fantasy drama, Children Who Chase Lost Voices.
Incredibly imaginative throughout, and featuring some of the most jaw-dropping and beautiful animation you’ll ever see on the big screen, the film’s story of a school girl who travels into a mysterious underworld along with her teacher to follow a sound left on a radio by her late father is a thrilling adventure. Its fantasy elements are hugely exciting, whilst its subtext centring on personal loss and grief is incredibly powerful. It has the hallmarks of a massively entertaining anime, but its exceptional intelligence and power could make it one of the classics of the genre.