To say that I’m from a movie loving family would be an understatement. We thoroughly adore movies. When it comes to evening entertainment, nine times out of ten, we’ll put on a movie. On top of that, we don’t rent movies or pay for a streaming service. We personally own all of our films. We’ve got so many, my mom has catalogued every single one into three tiny booklets in alphabetical order along with their rating, runtime, and whether it’s on VHS or DVD. We’re practically film junkies.
With that being said, I enjoy tons of the most famous films in cinema. I’ve also cringed through some of the dumbest plot mashed disasters ever put to screen, but sometimes we also get the genuine pleasure of finding those movie gems that either have been forgotten or never truly got their due. So while I cannot possibly list all of those underrated masterpieces today, I still see no harm in sharing a few that come often to my mind. Perhaps I’ll share more in the future.
(Take note. The movies I’m listing aren’t all entirely kid friendly, so I’ll be sure to place warning labels so you’d know what’s in there and what bits you’d either want to censor or skip.)
Alexander Dumas’s 1844 novel, The Three Musketeers, has been adapted to film many many times. Even those CGI Barbie films took a crack at it, but for me, The Musketeer, which released in 2001, is one of my favorites. Which is kinda funny; because this version’s plot is unremarkable to say the least. However, the part I love about this film are the fight sequences. They’re fan-flipping-tastic! How they pieced their combat choreography together and found people athletic enough to handle it is beyond me. They’re among the most intense, imaginative sword duels ever. They’re so amazing, even before I was considered old enough to watch the whole thing, my parents fast forwarded the VHS tape just so they could show me the barroom barrel fight and the ladder duel. They’re that good. It’s not the most compelling retelling of the classic, but The Musketeer is excellent, high-action fun.
Warnings: Suggestive Content, Mild Violence, and Mild Language.
2. Rat Race
What happens when you wave two million dollars in front of eight highly driven individuals then make them race for it? Probably nothing as wild and rip-roaring as 2001’s Rat Race. Comedies often lose fifty percent of their funny factor after the first viewing, but this movie still gets hard laughs out of me. Where else can you get such stuff like: a crazy squirrel sales-woman, somebody ramming into cows while hanging off an air ballon, or a driver dealing with a bus full of Lucy Ricardos? That barely scratches the surface. The whole thing is a riot! My favorite scene involves two guys and a radar tower, and I won’t spoil it. You’ll just have to see the glorious absurdity for yourself. Now, this movie is not the most family appropriate. It’s got some crass language. Some sensual stuff is joked about too, and there’s one particularly raunchy scene when a couple starts showing off body piercings. You’ll want to skip that part. Still, if you’ve got a tv guardian and fast forward button handy, Rat Race is relentlessly hilarious with its mounting ridiculousness.
Warnings: Language, Inappropriate Gestures, Language, Sensual Content, Partial Nudity
3. The Mask of Zorro
Every family has at least one movie everyone is eager to re-watch no matter what. My family has several of those, but one of our top favorites is 1998’s The Mask of Zorro. Now, the character of Zorro has existed since the 1920’s and enjoyed countless adaptations in books, comics, shows, movies, and even musicals. However, this particular incarnation, starring Antonio Banderas and Anthony Hopkins, is (to me) the classic adventure experience. It’s got it all. A mentor passing the torch. Proactive bad-guys you love to hate. A leading lady who’s not just filler eye candy. Legit drama with some tragic consequences. Add in some lighthearted wit and quieter charms, and you’ve got a very well balanced package. There are a couple of graphic scenes you wouldn’t want the littlest viewer watching, though. This is a PG-13 film, but to my family, The Mask of Zorro continues to be a classic and a treat. I can only imagine we’ll be popping it in again sometime soon.
Warnings: Violence, Implied Nudity, Brief Graphic Images
4. The Fugitive
Admittedly, 1993’s The Fugitive received accolades upon release, but considering how seldom its mentioned anymore, I feel it’s rather under-appreciated by recent generations. The story centers around Dr. Richard Kimble, a man wrongfully sentenced to death for his wife’s murder. After a major accident with his transit bus, Kimble escapes then races to expose the real murderer before Deputy Gerard finds him first. You never know where the story will go, and it’s refreshing to see two fantastic leads who are equally likable despite being each other’s opposition. Both roles are played masterfully by Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. Their both smart, and their dialogue is gold, which is doubly impressive considering how much of it was ad-libbed on set. Speaking of which, the production value in The Fugitive is near unprecedented. Nowadays you’d animate a train crash. These producers literally derailed a real, full-sized train and captured the fiery wreckage in one take! That’s something that’s simply not done anymore. If you love murder mysteries or films in general, I can’t recommend The Fugitive enough.
Warnings: Mild Language, Violence
I don’t know how 2000’s Frequency slipped under the radar. In this story, a policeman named John discovers that a temporal phenomena generates a frequency in his radio that connects him to his Dad’s radio. The kicker is, his Dad died thirty years ago, and as far as his Dad is concerned, it is still the sixties. John takes this opportunity to warn his Dad and save his life. However, this altering of the past somehow allows a serial killer to further his victim spree. So it’s up to father and son to communicate across time to stop the murderer before the frequency that connects them ends. How did this movie not get its due? From how our leads interact to their resourcefulness in their unique situation, this movie is heartwarming and wonderfully original. Not to mention the ending is an edge-of-your-seat ride with a satisfying end. If you haven’t seen Frequency, go find it. Put it on. It’s remarkably clever, touching, and a thrilling blend of multiple genres that definitely deserves more recognition in my book.
Warnings: Mild Language, Violence, Graphic Images
So what are some of your favorite underrated films?