When it comes to movies I don’t really have opinions, but statements of ultimate truth. I’ve called this the top 10 Overhyped and Underhyped Movies for symmetry’s sake but the lists are different.
The first list is movies, generally blockbusters, that are considered awesome movies almost unanimously. Now, there are worse movies than these, but generally those movies are bad by consensus and unnecessary to further downgrade. Should you feel like you have an opinion that counters mine, share your wrong thoughts in the comments section.
The second list is meant to be utilized rather than just bemoan the under-appreciation of awesome movies. You have to be an advanced movie watcher to use the list correctly. In other words if you were more sad about Paul Walker’s death than Phillip Seymour Hoffman, the list is not for you. But if you like to get nerdy and had to teach yourself to say “movies” over “films” so as not to sound like a pretentious dick–check out these movies if you haven’t already. Because I’ve watched a bunch of long (and wack) ass critical darlings, and over-stylized derivative hack-fests to generate this list such that you don’t have to. There are better movies, especially if the list were to extend further into previous decades, but the idea is a matrix between good and unpopular.
Additionally, bear in mind that I believe that there’s a statute of limitations on Spoiler alerts…especially for crappy movies. So proceed with caution.
10. Transformers (2007)
Transformers would be higher than #10 on the list if people generally considered this a good movie. I’ve been surprised, though, by how few people think it was terrible. I get that robots fighting with the strongest graphics 2007 had to offer was something that could be enjoyed no matter how much you had to drink or snort. However, why weren’t people completely offended by the other 1:15 minutes of…whatever that was. Michael Bay basically called the audience the equivalent of a racial slur for every frame that didn’t have an explosion, and I’m not talking about that racist-ass yellow robot.
9. The Butler (2013)
This movie wasn’t one of the top grossing movies and it was “snubbed” for Oscars, so the hype factor keeps this one a little lower on the list. But let’s be real–there was still plenty of hype for this wack-ass movie. Some of my criticism is actually unfair since I couldn’t make it all the way through. However, rapper David Banner gets shot in the face in the opening scene and I realized the heavy-handed schlock being pitched at me. Oprah’s performance was not that good, she just wasn’t Oprah for a second so the Oscar buzz was inevitable. Black history is so dramatic as it is I don’t know why we need to make every narrative manipulative and epic also. Somehow this is The Man’s fault, but I haven’t been able to trace the blame all the way back yet.
8. Atonement (2007)
The first 40 minutes of this movie was actually pretty good. I haven’t seen 2 girls and a cup, but I hear that starts off pretty decent as well, and then takes a quick downturn. Sadly, I did see the last hour plus of this epic train wreck, and two girls playing with fecal matter would have punched this thing up a bit. I’m a much bigger fan of a “Snakes on a Plane” than movie like this that tries so hard to be smart while insulting our intelligence. This movie isn’t hyped up like “The Notebook” which has become chick flick canonical, BUT it was nominated for Best Picture… before they were nominating 10 at a time. Additionally, I’ve heard this thing thrown out in conversations as though it’s picking up steam to be a contemporary classic–and I must protest (imagine the voice of a dog owner house training) “NO, NO, bad ex-sorority girl, bad. Atonement was not good!”
7. Shutter Island (2010)
Shutter Island is not in the same territory as 8-10. If I only had two options between good or bad, I’d give Shutter island a good rating…just barely. However, this movie is talked about like it’s The Usual Suspects. It is rated on IMDB as a top 250 movie of all time (one notch above The Graduate!). Scorsese does an OK job with a weak script that telegraphs a surprise ending from the first frame. I could say spoiler alert on that, but if you watch this and don’t realize it’s a surprise ending type movie, you’ll be too many bong rips deep to remember this blog any way. The run time is 138 minutes and I’m not going to say that I straight up called the ending, but after hour 1, I was like “okay either it’s A, B, or C”. However, it made me watch for another 45 minutes, droning on like we didn’t know something was up and boom: it was pretty much B, but then some dumb ass elements of “D” which I hadn’t considered because it was just too stupid to fathom.
6. Scarface (1983)
Scarface is the best movie to make this list. I like it, and when it’s on I will watch it from time to time. But can we stop jocking the cinematic balls of this movie now? When Future has made not one but two chart-topping tracks in homage to Tony Montana–enough already. Oh and here’s another 11 rap songs that swing from Pacino’s little friends. I can forgive the 170 minute run time, and Pacino’s cartoonish portrayal of a Cuban is inexplicably compelling. However, this “solid” movie has started being treated like way too much more than the simple rise and fall movie it is. Scarface has crept into too many top 10 lists…if it’s in yours, then reserve your opinion for subjects of expertise…like an efficient Gym, Tan Laundry routine.
5. Wall-E (2008)
I’m picking Wall-E, but you could put Up here or one of the plethora of digital animation movies I’ve fallen asleep during. Some of this is that I have an individual problem trying to get immersed in Pixar-esque movies generally. However, Wall-E to me is objectively boring. Like The Butler, I didn’t finish this one, but I tried about 7 times. However, this little gem is cinematic ambien…except I don’t wake up the next day with a melted tub of haagen dazs and text messages I don’t remember sending. The problem is that these movies cost so much friggin’ money that they need to make so much money back from the box office. This creates safe and boring scripts written by 10 factory writers scientifically designed to please the masses…and put me to sleep.
4. The Avengers (2012)
Nerds and comic book movies are like retirees during midterm elections. They vote with their wallets, and the powers that be keep catering to them, ruining the world for the rest of us. This is why the Social Security system will go bankrupt and that’s why movies like The Avengers will not stop being made. Yet this one reached new heights of hype, critics and the audience unanimously agreed that this one was a standout, and it is the 3rd highest grossing film of all time. Excited, I threw it on, and…it was just bad. How many times do we have to watch this movie before we get bored enough to make them try something new?
3. Lord Of the Rings (2001)
The Lord of the Rings series is not objectively bad. However, this movie ranks as #11 on IMDB best movies of all time (above Goodfellas, Silence of the Lambs), and the three movies average 93% on Rottentomatoes. It won 4 academy awards and was nominated for best picture. The 3 movies each rank as top 30 movie grossers of all time. You may have liked this movie…and that’s OK, I didn’t. What bothers me is that people don’t realize that a certain type of person is more interested in this subject matter than others. The joy one gets from middle earth is not from the film making. How do I put this delicately? I liked Diary of a Mad Black Woman and Belly. So did most of my relatives, but that’s because these movies are catered to a certain type of person. From an objective lens however, these movies are bad. LOTR works in the same fashion for a different “kind” of person. Put Olivia Pope and Martin Lawrence in the last of the Hobbit trilogy and maybe that will keep it off the list.
2. The Fast and the Furious (2001)
This movie came out in high school and I remember distinctly watching the movie with my friends. We snuck beer in and that was the main event to me, while this testosterone-fest blared on the silver screen. As many trailblazing Black forefathers had before me, I was talking through it when one of my friends turned to me and said “Shhhh. You’re ruining the movie.” I studied his face incredulously (because NO, Paul Walker was ruining the movie) but this dude was serious. It was high school, but afterward things got weird and I could never look at him with the same respect. However, his kind has won the battle as there’s now been like 10 of these terrible-ass movies. Not even Tokyo Drift could end the franchise. Movies like this will always be made, but a troubling trend has emerged where the movies have started being called “good” in hindsight…but no. I was there. I remember.
1. Star Wars (1977)
Yup, nerd, I went there. This movie is top 20 on IMDB, Top 15 on AFI’s top 100 and (adjusting for inflation) is the highest grossing movie of all time. More than that, saying the movie sucks is considered blasphemy…and why? The acting? The writing? Nope and Nope. The directing? Remember, this is the same guy that directed “The Phantom Menace” also, and had a hand in making Howard the Duck and Red Tails (which was even worse than the Butler). No, you’re mad at me for nostalgia’s sake. You pretended to be Luke Skywalker, you played the video games, bought the toys and got immersed in a nerdy world of corporate marketing and the zeitgeist of fandom. It’s a simplistic hero-cycle narrative that doesn’t even fully make sense at times…Luke passionately kisses his sister. The argument that get’s thrown back at me is that the movie changed film-making forever. And yes it did. For the worse. Half the movies on this list are directly or indirectly the result of Star Wars’ success. Star Wars was the first time everyone realized that special effects can trump all other elements of storytelling if they’re good enough. The way you feel about Jar Jar Binks and that terrible-at-acting version of Baby Anakin from episode 1? That’s the way I feel about the whole damn thing.
10. Bronson (2009)
Bronson is an imperfect movie, but mostly because it swings for the fences and misses a little bit. So yeah it’s a little overambitious but works as a briskly told, viscerally beautiful, character-driven nightmarescape. Don’t come to this one looking for plot, but Tom Hardy’s performance is so good I’ve forgiven him the fact that I see his wiener. Still no one has heard of this movie, and neither had I until it popped up as a recommendation on Netflix.
9. Mary and Max (2008)
This is a fish out of water story inspired by true events…and they decided to tell it in Claymation. I give a lot of points to a movie when I’ve never seen anything like it, and this certainly falls into that category. The ending drags in the way most true stories without a manufactured plot device do, but it’s so charming and refreshing to see someone try something new. Philip Seymour Hoffman shows why he’ll be sorely missed with yet another skill—voice over work. Unfortunately, don’t expect too many other gems like this because everyone went to watch some other garbage the weekend this came out.
8. Michael Clayton (2007)
Yeah it was nominated for best picture and yeah it did fine in the box office, but this movie is that much better than the small amount of hype it received—and has been largely forgotten since. This movie holds a special place in my heart because it’s far more unconventional than it seems as the climax and resolution happens at the same time…all 90 seconds before the credits roll. For me, that moment is better than the Death Star blowing up. I also like movies that talk to me like an adult without making the story more important than it needs to be.
7. Black Dynamite (2009)
Not every movie needs to be high brow, and Black Dynamite certainly isn’t. However it IS funny. One of the ten funniest movies I’ve seen in the last 5 years. Yet, it only took in $300K in the box office…worldwide. It’s the type of movie that you’d think would be a DVD darling, but it came and went and nobody mentions it any more. Michael Jai White (most famous for playing Spawn) is genuinely hilarious and boasts a writing credit, but he’s barely even “black famous” let alone real famous. And that’s not fair.
6. Thirst (2009, Korea)
Korean cinema is pretty awesome over the last decade. If you’re open to reading subtitles I certainly recommend heralded movies such as Oldboy (and the vengeance trilogy), The Host and Yellow Sea. Unheralded however is Thirst which is just as good. Technically it’s a vampire movie (the lamest thing about it), but I believe it’s an allegory for failed college relationships. OK, maybe that’s a stretch but its awesome…and even if you don’t think its a masterpiece–at least it’s super violent.
5. The Celebration (1998, Denmark)
This is the best movie I’ve ever seen come out of late 90s Denmark. OK, its the only movie I’ve ever seen from Denmark at all. I was trying to sound smart. I studied it in a Scandinavian Film class that was supposed to be an easy A in class. I showed up 40% of the time and squeezed a C out of it, but among that 40% was a showing of this gem. To tell you the plot is to ruin it, but it’s indie international film at its best.
4. Winter’s Bone (2010)
I actually think the Jennifer Lawrence bandwagon is a little too full right now, but she was awesome in her debut to the world. She might never beat this performance OR movie and still have a solid career. This WAS nominated for best picture so there was SOME hype, but it was well deserved and probably not enough. Now, you do have to be ready for a slow-moving movie…no ninjas or talking robots. However, if you’re in the mood to watch some backwoods white folk wildin’ out–you will not be disappointed.
3. Let the Right One In (2008, Sweden)
Amazon prime recommended this one to me. After my mind was blown I watched a couple of other well acted snoozefests trying to chase the awesomeness that this was (Like Russia’s The Return)…also recommended by Amazon. I gave up, because it wasn’t going to happen. The story is unlike anything you’ve seen and the ending includes a shot that you’ll remember forever.
2. A Prophet (Un Prophete, France 2009)
Wow France. I always thought you kind of sucked, but I changed my mind. Un Prophete singlehandedly accomplished this turnaround for you. This movie does absolutely everything right starting with the story, character, acting and culminating in some of the most satisfying slow-built action ever of any movie anywhere. Ill, straight ill.
1. City of God (Brazil, 2002)
Ok, Ok, so you can’t mind reading subtitles to really get use of this list. And yeah, if you read subtitles ever, then you probably already know about City of God. Well you’re a hipster–stop being so condescending. This was pretty well hyped, but its still one of my top 5 movies. It’s an important movie without being full of self importance. It’s incredibly poignant and emotional without being manipulative. It’s basically…perfect.
Agree? Disagree? Debate in the comments section.