The Most Underseen Films of 2016
Onto my final list for the year in terms of films, before we break it down into more individual merits.
This is a list of the films that I felt needed bigger audiences than they got. Simple as that. I’m not even gonna tell you they’re great movies (though obviously I recommend them if I’m putting them on this list). I’m not saying you’re going to love all of them. I’m just saying — they should be seen by more people and are worthy of your time.
Plus, I’m pretty cool, and I have good opinions, so you’re probably gonna like most of these.
Here are the films I feel are the most underseen films of 2016:
1. American Honey
I’m so surprised that I’ve been stumping for this film as much as I have. This is such a “not me” kind of movie. But it’s an utterly captivating kind of movie, and I really liked it. I feel like no one knows what this is, but they’ve sort of heard of it. And then it’s a movie you can’t really explain. “Oh, it’s about magazine sellers.” “No thanks.” This is one you gotta say “trust me” on. Not everyone’s gonna love it, but it deserves an audience. Because it’s really watchable. One of the most original films of the year.
2. A Bigger Splash
I need to keep myself from saying that all these films flew under the radar, because I know they all did. Whether it means people haven’t heard about them, or knew about them but just never saw them. This one I think is more the second category. I think people sort of knew about this, but never actually exerted the effort to go see it. It’s a pretty awesome movie. Ralph Fiennes is a scene-stealer, and the rest of the cast is good too. This one made a little noise around when it came out (though most people couldn’t even tell you when that was), and then was forgotten about. And this is one of the more solid films of the year.
3. Blood Father
This counts as one of those that almost nobody knows about that everyone should. Mel Gibson is on the comeback trail with Hacksaw Ridge. That’s the public one. This is the other one, that no one paid any attention to. He so rarely gets acting gigs anymore, and people forget what a great screen presence he is. But when he does get roles, a lot of them are in the Liam Neeson kind of vein, and they’re all pretty awesome. The one before this was Get the Gringo (not Machete. That was a different thing entirely. As was The Expendables), which no one also saw. This one is basically a “Taken” variation, with Mel saving his daughter who is wanted by the cartel. And it’s a down and dirty badass action movie. Something we don’t appreciate enough and something we don’t have enough of. At least ones, anyway.
4. The Confirmation
One of the more completely charming films of the year that absolutely no one saw because it went on VOD (more of those still to come). Written and directed by the guy who made Nebraska, and basically the same amount of stakes as that movie. It’s about a dude who loses his toolbox and drives around town with his son to figure out who stole it. There’s a bunch more going on, but that’s the basic premise of the film. And it’s really entertaining. Definitely one of the hidden gems of 2016 that people ought to look up.
5. The Edge of Seventeen
I’m glad this is getting some awards attention where it can, because this was a really smart and funny movie. I had zero expectations for this going into the year, as did I’m sure everyone else. But Hailee Steinfeld reminds everyone what a great screen presence she is, and Woody Harrelson practically steals every scene he’s in. It’s really one of the best high school comedies I’ve seen in a number of years, and this definitely needs more people to check it out.
6. Hardcore Henry
Oh, people knew what this was… but no one saw it. People skipped it because they thought the POV style would be too much for them to handle, or because the reviews were bad, or because… I guess that cycle of no one else went to see it, so they figured it wasn’t worth seeing? I remember that happened with Scott Pilgrim. I went to see that opening weekend, even though it only made like $13 million and was thought of as a huge failure. But even so, I trusted my convictions that I was getting something good. And apparently everyone else stayed away because of… whatever. And then it was slowly discovered to be great after the fact. This isn’t quite Scott Pilgrim, but it’s a really fun, insane action movie in the vein of Shoot ‘Em Up. People should see this. It’s so much fun. This is the kind of movie made for the Netflix watch, but even still, there’s no excuse for straight up ignoring something as innovative and fun as this movie.
7. Hunt for the Wilderpeeple
People definitely know about it. It’s one of the cult films of the year. But even still, more people need to see it. We need to start getting the word of mouth out there more than we have. This is such a great movie that people need to see. It’s the epitome of that random comedy that people have on their favorite movies list that they can constantly share with people who know nothing about it.
8. The Infiltrator
I underrated the shit out of this movie. I thought, “Oh, generic drug action movie. Cranston is a cop. Lot of procedurals and shootouts, etc.” But this is Donnie Brasco with the cartel instead of the mob. Did you know that? Because that actually makes it much more interesting. It’s a drama first. No real action at all. Great performances, really engaging. Good, good stuff. And I know nobody saw this because it came out over the summer and didn’t really make a whole lot of money. You’re gonna be surprised how solid this is when you watch it.
9. The Light Between Oceans
It’s a damn shame this movie got buried upon release. Which may or may not have had something to do with studio politics, but that’s beside the point. This is a wonderful drama. Maybe not something everyone will love, and not something that automatically would have been an awards contender had more people seen it, but it’s still a really well made film. An adult movie. For adults. So few movies feel like smart adult-oriented films. And, like the movies I tend to gravitate toward, one geared toward more classical filmmaking. If they made this sixty years ago, it would have been a classic.
The prevailing word on this movie is, “Is it good? I don’t know anyone who saw it.” And that’s for a movie on the verge of a Best Picture nomination. (And possibly Best Director too, based on yesterday.) I feel like this went under everyone’s radars. I don’t even think it’s the potential Slumdog comparisons. Because those go out the window pretty quickly. I think it’s the preconception I had — “Generic uplifting Oscar movie.” And in a way it is. But there’s a lot of warmth to it. Sometimes Oscar movies feel too formal and sterile. But this one grounds you in the situation and really makes you invest in the journey. It helps that the kid they cast is adorable, and that Dev Patel delivers a career best performance. But this is a movie that’s gonna be deserving of its nominations, and not enough people will have seen that to know how true it is.
11. The Lobster
You’ll see this on a lot of “best of” lists this year, and with good reason. It’s a fucking hilarious movie. Hilarious, melancholic, and weird as fuck. That’s the best part. It’s such a weird, unique and brilliant little movie. Not for everyone, but everyone should see it. Just see it to say you have. It’s like Dogtooth. People are still discovering what a weird, fucked up movie Dogtooth is. And this should be the same, only I want to speed the process along. Chances are you’ve sort of heard of this, so now we have to take it a step further and make sure you’ve seen it.
12. Little Sister
This is the goth nun movie we all deserve. The Citizen Kane of goth nun movies. I’ve been on about this one for a few months, because it’s so goddamn unique and interesting, it has to be seen. I made sure to give a copy of this film to as many friends as would listen to me, because when you hear the general idea of the movie, you can’t not be at least a little interested. A girl who was full on goth in high school (like, white painted face, all black, piercings, the whole deal. Like real goth. Not that bullshit goth girls try to get away with. And now, inexplicably, she has decided to become a nun, and has essentially cut off all contact with her family. Now, about to take her first set of vows, she is told by the head nun that she should go home and see her family again. Kind of because they don’t fully believe her conviction to become a nun and also because her brother is now coming home from the hospital. He was in Iraq and had his face blown off in battle. So now he basically looks like what Deadpool looked like without the mask. And the film is about her coming back home to her childhood home and dealing with her family again. And it’s really wonderful. The thing that I always sell it with — aside from “goth nun movie,” is the centerpiece musical number, in which she, trying to get her brother to connect with the world again and with her again, does a choreographed musical number about dead babies. And if that’s not enough to get more people to want to see this movie, then nothing will.
13. The Monster
How often do I pound the table for a horror movie? You know something’s up when that happens. This movie quietly came out on VOD, as did the two around it, and no one really knows what it is or why it’s so good. Even the people that liked this movie never really put it out there enough to get more people to see it. Here’s the premise: Zoe Kazan is a horrible mother. An alcoholic who constantly abuses her daughter when drunk. She is taking her daughter to see her father, as its his turn to have custody, and quite probably dumping her daughter to live with her father full time, since she wants nothing to do with the kid (slash, maybe has a heart and realizes she’s unfit to care for this child). And their car breaks down on the side of the road, and they are then attacked by a beast in the woods. It’s a simple premise. And there are so many great things about it. Zoe Kazan is incredible in this movie. The fact that there are only three actors in it (basically three) and it takes place in basically one location is great. And it’s a horror movie that I can look at and say it’s not actually a horror movie. That is to say — the element of the monster is one that most would consider supernatural. Because obviously. And I tend to not like when movies stray from realism in the horror genre. To me the scariest stuff is stuff that can actually happen, not a vengeful spirit possessing a house and trying to kill people. So I can look at this movie and go, “It’s not about the monster attacking these women, it’s about motherhood, and addiction, and it’s all about the journey of this woman to both prove herself to be a fit mother and also metaphorically get rid of this ‘beast’ that’s ruining her life.” And I love when I can do that with a horror movie. Especially when that movie is actually good. All that said, I know most of you have no idea what this movie is, and you really ought to, because it’s a really solid film.
14. Morris from America
God I loved this movie so much. One of the most underrated and underseen films of the year. A black kid being raised by a single father… in Germany. A great premise, and one that could be wasted in the wrong hands. But this is a really wonderful coming of age movie, with great performances all around (Craig Robinson — what a boss), and just a great vibe that wins you over. I cannot recommend this movie highly enough, and I know nobody knows about this one. If there were three movies from this year I’d tell people they needed to see that they didn’t know about, this would be one of those three.
15. Sing Street
This is one of the absolute infectious films of the year. I can’t fathom anybody not liking this movie. It’s the kind of movie that, fifteen years ago, would have got all sorts of acclaim and made bank at the box office. Think The Full Monty or Four Weddings and a Funeral. The kind of movie that just wins you over. It’s so great. It’s by the guy who did Once, which I think everyone now knows and loves. And he also did Begin Again, which not everyone loved, but some people did. This is one of the absolute best movies of the year and one guaranteed to make most people smile. Oh, and it’s on Netflix now, so you have no excuse to not have seen this and to not show this to people.
I’m gonna end this article with the perfect reason to check out this movie, because tell me this isn’t one of the catchiest goddamn things you’ve ever heard:
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