No one really has enough time (or money) to see every movie released every year, but shamefully too many great films are left in the dust. Sure, maybe you’ll see a couple of those indies that are making the rounds on the year-end top ten lists, but even those critics missed a few good ones. This is about those movies that were phenomenal yet hardly anyone saw, so now we’re giving them one final moment in the spotlight. I want to encourage you to maybe stop and ponder the next time you come across one of these and wonder why you didn’t catch one in theaters – because they were worth that ticket price, guaranteed. If anything, you’ll at least discover something new and something great from this list.
If you spent the few hours it would take to watch even one of these movies mentioned, it would mean that much more to the filmmakers. This isn’t about getting kudos for mentioning certain films, this is about pointing out those movies that don’t deserve to be forgotten and are begging to be watched.
Across the Universe
Opened September 14th, 2007
Directed by Julie Taymor
A dock worker Jude travels to America in the 1960s to find his estranged father. There he falls in love with sheltered American teenager Lucy. When her brother Max is drafted to fight in the Vietnam War, they become involved in peace activism.
Why it’s Great: This Beatles-infused musical features over 30 Beatles songs modernized and sung beautifully right into the story by an immensely talented cast. It wasn’t the greatest film – it got hacked to pieces in editing – but the songs and a great love story combined with some profoundly unique visuals make it one of the most memorable films this year that shouldn’t have been missed.
Air Guitar Nation
Opened March 23rd, 2007
Directed by Alexandra Lipsitz
Air Guitar Nation chronicles the birth of the US Air Guitar Championships and the personal journeys of those talented contestants who are vying to become the first World Air Guitar Champion from the United States.
Why it’s Great: We’ve all had that moment – dancing around our house in our undies rocking out to some old school rock and roll. It is those moments of glory that spawned the worldwide sport of Air Guitar, the subject of Alexandra Lipsitz’ fast paced, energetic and deeply respectful documentary. Showing off the silliness and the seriousness of the sport, this documentary left audiences both in stitches and filled with great respect for these wannabe rockers.
Opened May 25th, 2007
Directed by Luc Besson
A beautiful woman helps an inept scam artist get his game together.
Why it’s Great: Despite being in black & white (which this actually uses to its advantage), it’s a fantastic morality tale about a down-on-his-luck guy who thinks he meets his lucky ticket but eventually discovers she is helping him get on the right track. It’s not overflowing with visuals, besides the gorgeous streets of Paris, instead it focuses on the story and morals at hand. I came out of this a much better person and realized that it’s yet another wonderfully cinematic film from Fifth Element director Luc Besson that sadly not enough people have discovered.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Opened September 21st, 2007
Directed by Andrew Dominik
Robert Ford, who’s idolized Jesse James since childhood, tries hard to join the gang of the Missouri outlaw, but gradually becomes resentful of the bandit leader.
Why it’s Great: One of the most gorgeous looking films of the entire year, The Assassination of Jesse James is an absolute masterpiece with critically acclaimed cinematography and some of the best performances in any movie. Despite it’s epic length and mediocre reviews, you’ll find yourself drawn into the detailed world of the old west and won’t be ready to let go of the story until that final moment. Even if you’re not a fan of westerns, this is still a phenomenal film that shouldn’t be passed by without a second glance.
Death at a Funeral
Opened August 17th, 2007
Directed by Frank Oz
Chaos ensues when a man tries to expose a dark secret regarding a recently deceased patriarch of a dysfunctional British family.
Why it’s Great: The funniest farce and best British humor you’ll see in a movie in years. Death at a Funeral takes us back to Frank Oz’ comedic roots with a great film that builds momentum as time goes on and turns a typically morbid event into the most hilarious mishap ever. Fans of “Firefly” star Alan Tudyk won’t be able to stop laughing once he’s on the drugs – and it never lets up, it only gets better and better as the story goes on.
Opened August 15th, 2007
Directed by Tom DiCillo
An offbeat drama focused on a homeless youth, a pop music siren and a member of the paparazzi.
Why it’s Great: A little indie comedy that has so much warmth found amidst some solid comedy. The more I watched this the more I started to appreciate both Michael Pitt and Steve Buscemi’s performances and their story within. The final scene with Buscemi on the red carpet is still one of my favorites. This is such a happy-go-lucky comedic gem that many people will appreciate and enjoy, but it never got traction enough to make it to the mainstream.
Everything’s Gone Green
Opened April 13th, 2007
Directed by Paul Fox
Ryan, a good-natured slacker, is tempted into a money laundering scheme while working for a lottery magazine. A capitalistic comedy that asks the question – when is “enough” enough?
Why it’s Great: A Canadian indie comedy about everything from money to marijuana. It’s not about how over-the-top it can get nor is it a stoner comedy, it’s an incredibly smart drama with some great comedic moments all lead by one of the finest up-and-coming actors of this generation – Paulo Costanzo. This is such a “chill” and down-to-earth film that I’ve suggested it to more of my friends than almost anything else.
Opened July 6th, 2007
Directed by Andrew Currie
Timmy Robinson’s best friend in the whole wide world is a six-foot tall rotting zombie named Fido. But when Fido eats the next-door neighbor, Mom and Dad hit the roof, and Timmy has to go to the ends of the earth to keep Fido a part of the family.
Why it’s Great: This is as hilarious and as awesome of a take on the zombie genre as Shaun of the Dead. Once you actually see it you’ll know why it deserves a spot in your collection next to Shaun of the Dead. It’s smart, it’s funny, it’s got a great cast, and to top it off, director Andrew Currie pays such close attention to detail that every scene looks lush and vivid. I don’t know anyone who saw it who didn’t end up loving it.
Directed by Martin Hynes
When his mother dies, a teenager takes a road-trip in a stolen car to find his long-lost brother. Along the way he discovers a profound connection with the car-owner and with himself as well.
Why it’s Great: Although this was never actually picked up by a distributor after its debut at Sundance in January, I still haven’t forgotten it. The best road trip movie I think I’ve ever seen with a great soundtrack and an unforgettable, and often funny, plot. This should’ve been in theaters this year and it’s likely that if it would’ve made it out it probably would have become a cult hit by now.
Gone Baby Gone
Opened October 19th, 2007
Directed by Ben Affleck
Based on the Dennis Lehane novel about two Boston area detectives investigating a little girl’s kidnapping, which ultimately turns into a crisis both professionally and personally.
Why it’s Great: It had a poor run at the box office and yet was one of, if not the, best movie of the year. Not only are Casey Affleck and Ed Harris awards-worthy, but the plot has so many perfectly executed emotional twists and turns that I was very moved at the end. Don’t be fooled, Ben Affleck is an immensely talented director who has succeeded brilliantly with his first feature film.
Opened April 6th, 2007
Directed by Robert Rodriguez & Quentin Tarantino
Two full length feature horror movies written by Quentin Tarantino & Robert Rodriguez put together as a two film feature. Including fake movie trailers in between both movies.
Why it’s Great: I’m not sure how so many people missed this set of two of the best movies the year. Planet Terror is quite grotesque yet a finely crafted small-town zombie fiasco directed by Sin City’s Robert Rodriguez. Death Proof contains not only Kurt Russell’s greatest performance, but the best car chase ever filmed, hands down. Forget the length, watch each individually and you’ll still find they’re equally awesome. The best experience I’ve had at the movies my entire life.
Opened March 9th, 2007
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
A monster emerges from Seoul’s Han River and focuses its attention on attacking people.
Why it’s Great: Subtitled or not, The Host is one of the most gripping films of the entire year. Forget about Cloverfield, this is what a monster movie should be – a huge slimy sea monster created by American ignorance that terrorizes Seoul. It’s at times ridiculous, at others intensely scary but always entertaining. There is no other movie that redefined its genre the way The Host gave a makeover to the monster movie in ’07.
Opened July 13th, 2007
Directed by Steve Buscemi
After falling out with his editor, a fading political journalist is forced to interview America’s most popular soap actress.
Why it’s Great: If you truly appreciate independent film, then there’s no way you won’t find something incredible in Interview. It’s a two-person back-and-forth interview piece without a moment of boredom. I never would have thought I would enjoy Steve Buscemi and Sienna Miller talking for nearly two hours, but I’ll be damned if they didn’t pull it off and still had me amazed at the ending. Be brave and take a risk with Interview, the pay off will be sweet.
King of California
Opened September 14th, 2007
Directed by Mike Cahill
An unstable dad who after getting out of a mental institution tries to convince his daughter that there’s Spanish gold buried somewhere under suburbia.
Why it’s Great: Another indie gem that I don’t understand how so many people overlooked. Michael Douglas is great as a crazed institutional lunatic who’s searching for Spanish gold underneath a CostCo in California. This is such a fun movie on top of being very well-made and I can’t suggest it enough. It’s not the best comedy nor is it the best drama, but it is a very fun flick and one of the better movies that was missed this year.
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Opened August 17th, 2007
Directed by Seth Gordon
Diehard video game fans compete to break World Records on classic arcade games.
Why it’s Great: Probably the greatest underdog story ever told on film, The King of Kong was loved by both critics and all who saw it play in limited release. It’s the story of two gamers, both determined to hold the world record in the classic arcade game Donkey Kong. Edited to perfection, this one plays out to be just as epic a battle as Jedi v. Empire. If you’ve ever played a video game or loved a geek, you will be easily captivated by this enchanting documentary.
Opened March 30th, 2007
Directed by Scott Frank
Chris is a once promising high school athlete whose life is turned upside down following a tragic accident. As he tries to maintain a normal life, he takes a job as a janitor at a bank, where he ultimately finds himself caught up in a planned heist.
Why it’s Great: The opening scene alone with the fireflies is enough to suggest this, but it’s much more than that. In fact, The Lookout is even much more than a small-town heist movie, as they thrown in Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who has trouble remembering things, into the mix. Too many people missed a great indie thriller from early in the year that I’m sure a lot will find fulfilling and thoroughly enjoyable.
Opened August 31st, 2007
Directed by John August
A troubled actor, a television show runner, and an acclaimed videogame designer find their lives intertwining in mysterious and unsettling ways.
Why it’s Great: Although it’s hard to suggest this as I wasn’t too fond of it, I can’t help but include it because of how unique it is. Ryan Reynolds is outstanding as three different people in three almost unrelated plots. If you end up catching this, I’m certain you’ll find yourself drawn in to figuring out exactly what’s going on as well as searching for all of John August’s cartefully placed nuances. By the end you’ll be a changed person for experiencing The Nines.
Opened July 20th, 2007
Directed by Danny Boyle
A team of astronauts are sent to re-ignite the dying sun 50 years into the future.
Why it’s Great: One of the most incredibly envisioned sci-fi movies of this entire decade, Sunshine is a fascinating adventure through the cold and lonely depths of space. What Danny Boyle did for the zombie genre with 28 Days Later he has done again for sci-fi with Sunshine. The production design and visual effects look and feel incredible, and the performance of the small cast and hugely thrilling plot all deliver.
Talk to Me
Opened July 13th, 2007
Directed by Kasi Lemmons
The story of Washington D.C. radio personality Ralph “Petey” Greene, an ex-con who became a popular talk show host and community activist in the 1960s.
Why it’s Great: Talk to Me is as powerful and profound of a biopic as Ray or The Pursuit of Happyness. Don Cheadle absolutely deserves an Oscar for his portrayal of Petey Greene and not only makes it emotional but also injects the perfect amount of humor in the right spots. Talk to Me is both charming and inspiring and does not deserve to be so easily passed by. It’s musically inclined and wonderfully filmed and tells a powerful story in our country’s history. I can’t say enough good things about it and yet how depressing it is to see such a phenomenal movie be forgotten so easily.
I hope you consider yourself educated on 19 more movies that you now need to see. You may not like all of them, but I guarantee you’ll find something great in at least one of them.