Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Ten Favorite Movies You've (Probably) Never Heard Of | Worth Watching

When I make a new friend, one of the first things I do is introduce them to a specific list of my favorite movies. I don't know why or how, but a lot of the movies my family would watch over and over again when I was growing up are incredibly obscure titles that almost no one has heard of, but they are so Worth Watching.

1.) Undercover Blues (1993)

Genre: Action/Comedy
How I Discovered It: Growing up, a local store had a $5 VHS movie bin -yes, VHS tapes- and my family would raid it for new flicks. None of us had ever heard of this one, but it had Dennis Quaid and Kathleen Turner and that fantastic cover so we took a chance.
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Kathleen Turner, Stanley Tucci, Saul Rubinek, Larry Miller, Obba Babatunde, Fiona Shaw, Tom Arnold.

Jane and Jefferson Blue work for the FBI. Or is it the CIA? While on a long-earned break for maternity leave to spend time with their newborn, these espionage eccentrics wind up taking a case involving stolen explosives and Czech terrorists in scenic New Orleans with their little girl, two suspicious police detectives, and a vengeful second-rate mugger in tow.

Jane and Jeff are one of my favorite movie couples EVER. Seriously, if I could pick any fictional relationship for myself, it would probably be this one.

Plus, Stanley Tucci! Tucci is a magnificent character-actor and this was the first thing I ever saw him in. He plays a low-life, back alley mugger who insists on the name 'Muerte', vows to take the Blues down if it's the last thing he does. No matter how many teeth he might lose in the process.

Only one friend was already familiar with this movie. When we sat down to watch it, she kept saying pieces looked familiar. Come to find out, it's a favorite of her dad's played in the background at home a lot. She doesn't watch very much television, so she'd never actually seen it all the way through.

2.) My Blue Heaven (1990)

Genre: Comedy
How I Discovered It: That $5 movie bin again.
Starring: Steve Martin, Rick Moranis, Joan Cusack

Gold-hearted mobster Vinnie Antonelli winds up in Witness Protection in his own special brand of hell -the suburbs. While waiting to testify, Vinnie keeps himself amused simultaneously infuriating and playing matchmaker to his uptight FBI handler and the local DA. Can the clean-living locals handle this not-so-reformed, smooth-talking mobster?

Martin and Moranis are a fantastic duo and their characters Vinnie and Barney an interesting twist on the 'buddy cop' story.

3.) Oscar (1991)

Genre: Comedy
How I Discovered It: Friends of the family. This was an all-time favorite of theirs and they loaned it to us, insisting we watch it. We didn't want to give it back and found a copy of our own as soon as possible.
Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Tim Curry, Peter Riegert, Kurtwood Smith, Don Ameche, Chazz Palminteri

Angelo 'Snaps' Provolone is one of Chicago's big-name gangsters in the 1930s but to make amends with his father he swears to fulfill the old man's dying wish -to go straight.

The movie takes place over the course of this momentous day, when Snaps does everything he can to stay on the straight and narrow but everything insists on going wrong. Between suit fittings and elocution lessons parades a hilarious madhouse of misadventures and revelations from his daughter's secret suitor coming to ask for her hand, to the police stakeout watching his every move, to the arrival of a woman pretending to be his daughter, to rival gangsters.

Snaps is determined to keep his promise but, even hardened gangster that he is, the stress of his first day going straight just might kill him.

The only trailer I could find for this I didn't like very much; it only focused on one aspect of the movie, so instead here's a clip of the beginning, to give you a taste of what you're getting into:

4.) Last Action Hero (1993)

Genre: Action/Comedy
How I Discovered It: When my sister and I were about 14/15 and the family desperately needed something new to watch, my parents decided we were old enough to pick a movie from The Drawer. In one of their dressers, they kept all the movies we weren't allowed to watch yet and as we aged, they'd pull out whatever movies they deemed now appropriate. This one of the first.
Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, F. Murray Abraham, Austin O'Brien, Art Carney, Charles Dance, Tom Noonan, Robert Prosky
Bonus: Ian McKellan appears in a small role as Death

Tagline: This isn't the movies anymore.

Thanks to a magic ticket, Danny Madigan is transported into the world of his favorite movie series, the Jack Slater action films! All kinds of chaos ensues while Danny and Slater try to thwart the schemes of the latest film's villain and wind up bringing all that silver screen trouble into the real world. Danny gets a dose of real life amid the fun and explosions; after all, the good guys might always win in the movies, but what happens after the credits roll?

I like this one not only for the fun concept and great action, but because it handles really well some darker aspects of what life would really be like in an action movie.

5.) The Medallion (2003)

Genre: Fantasy/Adventure/Comedy
How I Discovered It: A locally-owned video rental store featured $1 Monday Movie Rentals and we went through a lot of their films. This was one of the good ones.
Starring: Jackie Chan, Lee Evans, Claire Forlani, Julian Sands, John Rhys-Davies

JACKIE CHAN! My family are big fans of Jackie Chan and this is one of our favorites. It's a little ridiculous, featuring supernatural elements and melodramatic bad guys and lots of Matrix-esque fight scenes and special effects, but it's so much fun.

The Medallion is a source of supernatural power that can only be used by a child born every 1000 years and the villain Snakehead is determined to get his hands on both. Hot on Snakehead's trail is Hong Kong cop Eddie Yang, grudgingly reunited with an old partner, the slightly bumbling Interpol agent Arthur Watson, and an old flame, tough and high-kicking Interpol agent Nicole James. When Eddie dies protecting the child, the boy uses the Medallion to resurrect him and, with his newfound powers, Eddie hopes to save the people he cares about and stop Snakehead once and for all.

6.) Mickey Blue Eyes (1999)

Genre: Comedy/Crime
How I Discovered It: This was another obscure favorite of family friends. I only first saw this a few years ago, but it's definitely a favorite. I think this is actually the only one on the list I don't own yet.
Starring: Hugh Grant, James Caan, Jeanne Tripplehorn

In the same comedic vein as Oscar, an innocent art-house auctioneer determines to get on good terms with his future father-in-law -he just wished he'd realized the man was a major mobster before he agreed to do a 'favor'. Mistaken for a fellow mobster, 'Mickey Blue Eyes' gets in deeper and deeper with the mob as he unwittingly opens up the auction to launder money, tangles with the FBI, and tries to keep it all a secret from his fiancee.

The taglines alone for this film should make you want to grab it!
"They've created a mobster." & "A romantic comedy you can't refuse."
But adding to that Caan's brilliant and easy tough-guy persona and Grant's hilarious attempts at the same makes this a golden comedy.

7.) Silverado (1985)

Genre: Western
How I Discovered It: This was a favorite film of a friend's family and I fell in love with it. One of the rare films I've discovered that my family doesn't actually like. Why, I have no idea. I should make them re-watch it because they love Linda Hunt in NCIS: LA.
Starring: Scott Glenn, Kevin Kline, Danny Glover, Kevin Costner, Jeff Goldblum, Linda Hunt, Rosanna Arquette
Bonus: John Cleese as a Sheriff. In a western.

Growing up on a steady diet of John Wayne films, classics and obscure titles, I ate up this more modern attempt at the Wild West. What I love most about it is how authentic it remains to the John Wayne-style western, in story, character, and feel. Each of our four cowboys have great depth, personality, and back stories and that, above all else, is what really makes this film work for me. While the story is good -villainous cattlemen, revenge, and a crooked sheriff- it's the characters that make it great. It's a refreshing new(ish) Western that isn't all shoot-em-up, with plenty of action, shady characters, a dry sense of humor and, at it's core, the classic western theme of standing up to make your own justice when it can't be found anywhere else.

8.) Main Hoon Na (2004)

Okay, so we've gone from simply 'obscure' to foreign flicks, so I don't fault you for not knowing this one.
Genre: Action/Comedy/Drama Oh, and Bollywood
How I Discovered It: I mentioned to a friend that I always wanted to watch Bollywood and it turned out she was something of a connoisseur. This was the first she introduced me to and it's still my favorite. ^_^
Starring: Shah Rukh Khan, Sushmita Sen, Sunil Shetty, Zayed Khan, Amrita Bao

I adore this film! It's something like True Lies meets Grease, I kid you not. Like the trailer says, this movie has EVERYTHING. When Major Ram Sharma's father is killed by a terrorist scheming to frustrate relations between Pakistan and India, he is assigned to protect the school-age daughter of a General working to ease tensions between the countries. Sent undercover as a student in the school, Ram is vigilant for attack but has an ulterior motive. Before his father died, he revealed that Ram has a stepmother and a younger brother, who attends the same school. Between battling terrorists, cheesy action scenes, and even cheesier explosions, Ram tugs at our heartstrings as he struggles to form his own relationship with his estranged family without revealing his identity as the older son who ruined their family. Oh, and he falls in love with the new chemistry teacher, complete with violins and music numbers.

The title means I'm here now/Here I am. This is both the best Bollywood film I've seen and one of my favorite films ever, Bollywood or not. Loosely based on the legend of Ramayana, this is a fantastic genre melder, switching between ultra-military action film to a family/school drama, which sounds ridiculous, but they make it work so well.

Not all of this is in English, but you get a good gist of the film from it.  

9.) Clue (1985)

There's a 50/50 chance you've seen this because it's something of a cult classic. However, I'm sure there's a lot of people younger than me who have not had the pleasure of watching it.
Genre: Mystery/Comedy
How I Discovered It: Family favorite, definitely from Mom's side, but possibly from Dad's too.
Starring: Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Lesley-Ann Warren, Eileen Brennan, Christopher Lloyd, Micheal McKean, Martin Mull

It's not just a game anymore.
It was a dark and stormy night... Based on the board game, Clue is a ridiculous murder mystery about a dinner party turned deadly. When seven guests are invited to a reclusive mansion, they realize they all share the same secret: they're the victims of a blackmailer getting rich off their hard-earned money.
The lights go out. A shot rings out.
When the blackmailer is murdered in the dark, panic and hysteria ensues as the guests ban together to find the murderer and survive the night. But who's the killer? And where's the weapon?
This zany, darkly hilarious, screwball comedy is one of the most quotable films of all time -at least, for my family- with brilliant performances by an all-star cast, three separate endings, and a script that plays with every mystery trope it can and never, ever gets old.

10.) Rio Bravo (1959)

Another 50/50, simply because it's an older movie and for some people that seems to be synonymous with 'bad' or 'outdated', which is a shame. John Wayne westerns were standard fare growing up. This one and McClintock! were our go-tos, but this is the one people don't always recognize.
Genre: Western
How I Discovered It: I believe this was a recommendation from my grandpa when he heard we were going through John Wayne movies.
Starring: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, Walter Breannan, Ward Bond, John Russell
Bonus: With Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson on the docket, you got to know there's singing.

The whole town thinks Sheriff John T. Chance has bitten off more than he can chew when he arrests the brother of a powerful and amoral rancher for murder. While assassins and hired gunmen stream in for the final showdown, Chance hires the only two men crazy or desperate enough to pin on a deputy's star -the town drunk Dude, once a deputy and good shot before he got his heart broke, and Colorado, a wet-behind-the-ears gunslinger with good aim and little experience. The crew rounds out with Stumpy, an elderly deputy with a limp, Feathers, the card playing former girl of a cheat, and Carlos and Consuela, who run the local inn. It's a small force to take on a powerful rancher, but boy do they do it in style!

So there they are! Hopefully, there are a few titles here that intrigue you. These are my golden favorites and they're gems that definitely shouldn't stay hidden. If you watch any, I'd love to hear what you think of them!

What are your favorite obscure films?


  1. Haven't seen Moon Hain Na or Undercover Blues. Might rent them.
    The description of MHN: true lies meets grease - sound intriguing tho.
    All the others are great and I think Tim Curry is one of those unsung heroes of cinema.

    A few I'd like to add:
    Adventures of Natty Gann
    Blind Fury (warning: language and violence)
    The 'Burbs
    ... well, not a few. Sorry got carried away.

    1. Tim Curry rocks! I loved when he guest starred in that Psych episode, too. XD
      Undercover Blues is in the same vein as most of the other comedies on the list, so if you enjoyed them, you'll probably like it.
      I think of your list Ladyhawke is the only one currently on my radar, but I'll have to look into some others. Thanks for sharing!

    2. Cool.
      Fair warning about Ladyhawke: It's a rough portrait of a medieval fantasy/fairy-tale.
      I've asked a few friends, which would they rather choose: The Princess Bride or Ladyhawke, they almost always choose Princess Bride.

      ... just a friendly fyi. =)

    3. Good to know! But really, given the choice between The Princess Bride and almost anything else, shouldn't the answer always be The Princess Bride?