The Most Underseen Films of 2015

Today, we’re gonna talk about the most underseen movies of 2015.

The way I differentiate underseen from underrated is — underseen means, you know about them, you’ve heard of them, you maybe even saw them. But not enough people have overall. You can think about them whatever you want, but you should see them. With underrated, I’m saying that maybe you saw it maybe you didn’t, but you’re not giving it a fair shake because you think (or thought) one thing about it, but it’s better than that and deserves another look.

This list are films that I’m sure people may have heard about or come across at one point, but they’re really good and should be seen by more people, because they deserve it.

Here are the most underseen films of 2015:

1. 99 Homes

I’m actually not sure this doesn’t count as a film people haven’t heard of. But we’re here so we trudge on. This is one of those movies that, if you sit down and watch it, you go, “This is actually really good.” But they have to sit down and watch it. And with a limited release, no real awards attention, and adult-oriented subject matter, this isn’t going to be a movie that gets a lot of people watching it anytime soon without people to urge them into it. It’s really good. Strong central performances and timely subject matter makes for a film that almost anyone can sit down and enjoy. It actually would make a good double feature with The Big Short because it’s the other side of the coin. That crash is why all these people are losing their homes. This movie deserves a bigger audience because it is one of the better movies of the year.

2. Bone Tomahawk

Holy fucking shitballs. You may have heard of it. You may have seen the poster. You may think this is just a western and you don’t do westerns and you just skip it. Don’t do that. Trust me. If you watch or like horror movies. If you like all that bullshit they put out there each year, with possessed kids and haunted houses and ghosts and shit, you’re going to like this movie. This movie is a horror movie that just happens to take place in the old west. The last forty minutes are so thrilling and terrifying at the same time. This is one of those movies you show people and they WILL have a reaction. It’s impossible to get to “the scene” and not have a reaction to it. This deserves a wider audience and should not be discounted because you think you know what it is.

3. Cop Car

Oh fuck yeah. I literally had someone tell me today that they saw this movie and loved it. And they were not the kind of person I’d expect to want to see this movie or one I’d even think to recommend this movie to. It’s so good. Simplicity works. This movie was so good it got the director Spider-Man. I know it has crossed some people’s radars, but identity think this is out there all that much. Usually I hear that people have heard about it, maybe heard it was good, but they haven’t seen it yet. But it’s terrific. I guarantee you, put this on, you will enjoy it. It’s so simple and situates you so well within the situation and the characters that you get it, you’re with it, and you’re along for the ride.

4. The Diary of a Teenage Girl

I know people have heard of this. It just feels like they have. Maybe because Kristen Wiig is in it? Maybe because it got some notices out of Sundance. Whatever it is, I know it’s sort of out there. But I know not a lot of people have actually seen it. And you should. Because it has one of the year’s best discoveries in Bel Powley, who is absolutely phenomenal here. And you have a smart, adult film written and directed by a woman, which is just spectacular, and it’s one of those movies that deserves an audience. And that’s coming from someone who didn’t love it. This movie should have more of an audience because it’s unflinchingly honest and does not try to sugarcoat anything that happens in it. And trust me, Bel Powley is worth the price of admission alone.

5. Dope

You had to have seen posters for this everywhere. I know around Los Angeles, I saw posters every time I stopped at a light for two months. So people are definitely aware this exists. But did you see it? Do you really know what this is about? I feel like a lot of people think of it as an “urban” film or one of those types of movies. But it’s not. It’s by the guy who did The Wackness, which I think is starting to creep up as one of those cult movies people are enjoying from Netflix and cable and so forth. And it’s about smart kids trying to get into college who get into some shit. Mostly it’s just a lot of fun. Great music and great performances. I find it difficult to believe that anyone who liked Straight Outta Compton wouldn’t like this.

6. Grandma

This got a little bit of awards attention, though by and large I don’t think most people have even heard of it. Either way, it deserves more of an audience. Lily Tomlin is fantastic, and most people don’t know how great she is or how important she is to comedy. The movie is also really terrific. It’s the female equivalent of A Better Life (written and directed by the other Weitz brother). It’s very simple, takes place over the course of one day, and features a lesbian grandmother trying to raise $600 for her granddaughter so she can get a “reasonably priced abortion.” It’s so good. I went in with no expectations for this and came out loving it. This deserves to be seen. It’s gonna entertain a lot of people.

7. It Follows

The horror movie of 2015. (I have a sneaking suspicion that The Witch (which — pun ridiculously intended — I mentioned yesterday) is going to be the horror movie of 2016.) By far. It’s such a brilliant conceit. So easy to explain, too. It’s a horror movie about STDs. But also not really. Here’s the premise — you sleep with someone who has “it” and then they pass it onto you. Someone, who will look like any old regular person, will start walking toward you at a regular walking pace, no faster. If they catch you, they will kill you. It is great. What they manage to get out of this movie with so little is astounding. Trust me when I say, as someone who does not like the horror genre, this movie is incredible. And more people need to see it, because it has not gotten the type of audience it should get. I see the bullshit money these horror movies make. This didn’t make that. So it’s underseen.

8. Slow West

I know almost no one’s heard of this. But it’s a western starring Michael Fassbender. So some people have come across this. It’s good. Westerns need to be given a chance. It’s very slow-paced and looks great, but more importantly, it’s a western. And westerns need audiences. This was very well-received, and I think of it like Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, a few years ago. Just give it a chance. You can look it up and see that it’s good. So just give it a chance. You never know.

9. Son of Saul

If you haven’t heard of this, you will. It’s going to win Best Foreign Language Film. And it’s one of the absolute best films of the year. It’s a masterpiece. It’s so crazy good. Some people might not watch this because it’s a Holocaust film and because either you think it’s too much to handle or because you assume they’re all the same type of movie. Trust me, you haven’t seen anything like this. The reason this film works is because it selects its rules and sticks to them steadfastly. The one rule being that the movie is to be shown solely from our character’s point of view, and it will not deviate from that. Which means that almost every shot of the film is shown incredibly tight on our character’s face, maybe only slightly wider, and we’re not gonna see anything that’s not going on in his general periphery. And that’s it. So scenes you’d expect to see in this type of movie — violent deaths, the showers, etc — it all happens just outside the frame, and you’re left to imagine what it looks like from your rich history of other Holocaust films. It’s really brilliant. This is one of the best film experiences of the year, and more people need to see this. I know they haven’t, because it’s foreign, it’s Holocaust, and it’s barely been out. But you shouldn’t skip this, because this is one of the fifteen best movies of the year.

10. The Stanford Prison Experiment

This is one of those movies that maybe you heard of, maybe you haven’t. You will be riveted by this. Because it’s a sociology experiment. You watch the train wreck that is people in crazy situations doing crazy shit. If you don’t know what this experiment was — they took a bunch of college kids over break and signed them up for an experiment. They took a wing of a building and turned it into a “prison.” The kids were split up into two groups, prisoners and guards. And they set up rules and fake “arrested” the kids, and they decided to see what would happen. And within a day, the whole thing gets crazy. The guards get way too into it, and pretty soon the whole thing becomes like an actual prison. And the professors doing the experiment just let it happen. There’s a point in this movie where something really fucked up happens and it looks like all hope for humanity is lost. And then you realize they’re like two days into a two week experiment. It’s really well done, and I know no one’s seen this, otherwise people would be talking about it, because it’s impossible not to be captivated by this movie and the insanity that is what people are capable of if you put them in the right (or wrong) situation. (Note: The film Experimenter explores very similar themes to this and is also worth seeing.)

11. Tangerine

I almost put this on the “Movies You Haven’t Heard Of” list, but I feel like this has been the indie movie of the year that everyone is talking about that you caught wind of that you still haven’t seen and maybe don’t even really know what it’s about. This is the movie they shot entirely on iPhones starring transvestites. It’s great. It’s so full of energy and somehow, despite not really having a plot, keeps you interested throughout. It has an added bonus to it if you live and work in Los Angeles, as I do. (The Donut Time store where much of the action takes place is minutes from my office.) This is one of those movies that doesn’t sound like you’d be interested in it, but everyone I’ve shown it to has found themselves laughing at it and being charmed by it. If you’ve sort of heard of this but didn’t think it was for you, give it a shot.

12. The Voices

I’ve been wanting to see this as a film for at least five years now. Maybe I’m deluding myself, thinking people have heard of it, but I think it’s at least somewhat out there. If not, it doesn’t matter. It’s still underseen. Here’s the premise: Ryan Reynolds is a factory worker who is awkwardly trying to romance a girl at the office. Oh, and he’s also mentally unstable and his pets talk to him. And what could be a really nice romance turns into a couple of fucked up murders and one of the most darkly comic stories I’ve ever read. It’s really fucked up and deserves an audience so badly.

13. The Walk

This didn’t make a whole lot of money in theaters, and it’s gonna do real well once it’s out on video (which it probably is by now) and Netflix, because people are gonna realize that the last forty minutes of this movie are riveting. The first half is what it is. It’s fine, and doesn’t ruin anything. But the last portion of this movie is just — wow. This deserved more of an audience because it’s so entertaining an so well made. It’s gonna please a lot of audiences and really shouldn’t have been as ignored as it was.

14. When Marnie Was There

If it’s not Miyazaki, the world largely ignores Ghibli movies. (And even kinda when it’s Miyazaki.) This movie was gorgeous. Ghibli movies always are. And it just got nominated. Which should help it a bit. Still — foreign animated movies don’t go over well, and even when Disney translates it into English, these movies don’t get that much of an audience. People go see shit like Minions or whatever bullshit the studios are pumping out. And yet this is one of the three best animated films of the year. It’s lovely. You can never go wrong with a Ghibli film, and you’d never be wrong saying a Ghibli movie is underseen. Even Spirited Away, which everyone knows about, is underseen. Because I guarantee you a bunch of people will go, “Oh yeah, I’ve been meaning to watch that.” Fucking watch that. Watch them all. They deserve it, because they’re some of the best artistry out there.

15. Z for Zachariah

I originally had this on the Movies You’ve Never Heard Of list, but then I figured — Margot Robbit, Chris Pine, Chiwetel Ejiofor — people have had to have at least heard of this. Maybe they don’t know it came out or maybe haven’t thought to watch it, but I know people have are at least aware of this being in existence. And it’s really good. It’s simple. And apparently based on a YA novel. Which it doesn’t feel like at all. So kudos to them for taking a YA premise and making it into a really good movie. It’s literally just three people and only three people, and they’re trying to survive post-apocalypse. That’s it. Really well done. All actors you know and like from other things. I don’t see why most people wouldn’t give this a shot. I feel like they will, once this hits ancillary markets. This should have a wider audience than its had so far.

– – – – – – – – – –

It’s Oscar nominations week, so we’re gonna get into that tomorrow. I’m going to pick the movies that I’d nominate in all of the categories in advance of my guesses for what actually is going to be nominated on Thursday.

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One response

  1. This is a really great list. I would only have added “45 Years”, yes it is a movie about old people and can get melodramatic, but it is so much more than people realise, and it is very thought-provoking and powerful.

    January 16, 2016 at 6:14 pm

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