Hello! Max here. I put this list together for a special radio show I did a little while back. What makes a movie underrated? The divide between the critical and popular perception of the film, and it's actual quality. The bigger the difference, the higher the ranking.

 Remember, it's not a list of the best movies, it's a list of the most underrated...

  • 10. Spanking the Monkey

     This little gem was David O. Russell's first feature, made for nickels on the Sex Lies and Videotape template. Great performances and charm, despite a less-than-complete plot.

  • 9. Empire of the Sun

     Yeah, it's Steven Spielberg, but this film holds its own with some of his greatest. It is especially overlooked when placed along side his other WWII films, which tend to be considerably overrated.

  • 8. Happiness

     Todd Solondz's sophomore effort was adored by critics, but where were the audiences? One of the best films of the last 25 years.

  • 7. Three O'Clock High

     For some reason, people forget this also-ran from the John Hughes era of 80's teen movies. This little masterpiece puts High Noon in High School, then turns it inside out. Hilarious, subversive, and directed with intense visual style.

  • 6. Kicking and Screaming

     The dead-on-the-money view of after-college post-partum depression. The wit is dryer than a saltine and sharper than a cheese knife. Another no-budget gem that somehow missed audiences.

  • 5. Dogma

     This entry just proves how relative "underrated" is-- Dogma did well at the box office but by Kevin Smith standards, failed to ignite the kind of passion (misguided or not) that his other films provoked. Dogma is not taken seriously enough for its brains or its entertainment value.

  • 4. Trees Lounge

     The directorial debut of everybody's favorite indie actor, Steve "Mr. Pink" Buscemi. This slice-of-life tale finds strange poignancy in the often-futile lives that most people lead, and reminds us that sometimes our little splashes can be tidal waves... or is it vice-versa?

  • 3. Brain Candy

     The Kids in the Hall movie, which mysteriously vanished without a trace upon release. I've always said that happy people ought to be quarantined, and this film, about trying to find the cure for depression, really speaks to that idea. Plus, it's gorgeously shot and hysterically funny.

  • 2. Before Sunrise

     Richard Linkletter has inspired devoted cult followings for every movie he's made, except possibly this one. Why? Because, in the perverse logic of indie film lovers, this film is his most commercial, most successful, and oh yeah, the most consistently well-written, well-acted, and above all, entertaining.


  • 1. Purple Rose of Cairo

     I bet a lot of you thought Annie Hall would be picked. I mean, who can deny that not enough people take to heart that film's cautionary tale about the futility of romance? However, it did win three Oscars and gross 25 times its budget. Purple Rose, on the other hand, is a perfect little gem, about a lady obsessed with a film to the point it takes over her life. But life isn't like the movies... or rather, movies aren't like life. Except, of course, when they are. Like Annie Hall is. Which is the point of Purple Rose. I think. Wait, let me start over...

 

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