Mike’s Top Hidden Gems of the Decade (170-161)
Of all the lists I’m making for this Top Tens of the Decade feature, I need to explain this one the most. Since the phrase ‘hidden gem’ can apply various different ways to a film and can mean different things: a) a movie you don’t know about that’s great and should be seen; b) a movie you may have heard of but probably haven’t seen that you should see; c) a movie you know and may have even seen, but is being underrated by the film community; d) a movie that straight up just needs to be seen by more people.
Obviously there are way more than just 200 gems from this decade. In my first run-through, simply compiling a list of things I might have on this list, before I considered whether they fit the criteria I wanted to use for it while also trying to be as exclusive as possible, I had over 250 films. I get that this isn’t a be-all, end-all list. These are just the 200 I chose to talk about because they’re the ones I felt deserved the most notice in this particular article and are the ones I wanted to shout out the most.
Now, how I went about the rankings was more vague. Part of it had to be how much I liked each of the films. I don’t see how it couldn’t be. But it’s not just that. Because that’s just a top films list, which I’m gonna do after this one’s done. This one’s also about just how much of a hidden gem I felt the movie is, or how much I wanted to give you that nudge in the direction of, “Hey, maybe you’re wrong about this and should give it a (or another) shot.” Or how much I wanted to emphasize, “You need to see this movie.”
I think it goes without saying – just because something is on this list doesn’t mean I assume you don’t know it. It’s because I figure (or know) there’s a larger percentage of people than I want to guess that either haven’t seen the movie or don’t fully appreciate the movie, and the goal is to introduce it to them. If you’re already in the camp of having seen it, good for you. I’m pretty sure most people reading this will have at least a quarter of this list that they haven’t seen. I suspect it’s more, but I truly don’t know how crazy most people are in relation to me in terms of seeing everything. I think most people will get some cool movies out of this.
170. Cop Car
What a simple, fun movie this is. Real basic plot: two kids find an abandoned cop car and take it for a joy ride. Unfortunately, the cop whose car it is… let’s just say he really needs to get that car back. It’s one of those movies made for no money but has some amazing stuff in it that will entertain almost anyone who watches it. There’s a scene without dialogue where Kevin Bacon dangles a string inside the window of a car trying to use it to unlock the door. It’s one of the most riveting things you’ll see. That’s how well-directed this movie is.
169. The Public
A movie I am certain nobody knows about unless they’ve read me talking about it on this site. Emilio Estevez wrote, directed and stars in it. It’s about a library in Cincinnati in the middle of a brutally cold winter. Libraries have become pseudo homeless shelters throughout the days now, and the film is about a group of homeless people, with the shelters full, deciding they don’t want to sleep out on the streets, refusing to leave the library after closing hours. Because they don’t want to die. And pretty soon it turns into this giant city-wide standoff with police, agitated by an ambitious DA, and Estevez plays the kind librarian who gets caught up in the middle of all of it. It’s really solid. And you don’t immediately suspect it’s going to be. It feels like a throwback to a movie I’d have watched in the 90s. I think it deserves an audience. This is one of those movies you might randomly catch on cable, despite knowing absolutely nothing about it, and come out going, “I thought it was pretty good.” Those, to me, are the best discoveries.
The goal of this list is mostly to sell the films, so this one is one I can sell pretty easily and won’t require me to say all that much: it’s about a pregnant woman (who is also the writer-director of the film, adding a complete extra layer to everything) who starts to hear the voice of her unborn child speaking to her and telling her to murder people. That’s it, that’s the film. It’s dark, it’s funny and I think a lot of people will enjoy it.
167. Army of One
There’s my Cage again. Another one I can sell pretty easily. It’s directed by Larry Charles (who did Borat and a lot of Seinfeld and Curb episodes) and stars Cage as a man (based on a real guy, who you can see here) who believes Jesus has told him to go to Afghanistan and hunt down Osama bin Laden. Watch that video I linked to of the real guy and then watch this trailer. You’ll know from that whether or not this is for you. If you’re one of those people looking for the proper Nicolas Cage stuff and don’t wanna sift through the forgettable thrillers with the uninspired performances — this is one of the ones for you. It’s hilarious.
Another one I’m pretty sure most people don’t even know exists. It’s written and directed by Paddy Considine and stars Peter Mullan and Olivia Colman. It’s… it’s a movie about anger, and violence. It’s not an easy film. Bad things happen to people, and there’s not a lot of hope. But there’s some. Mullan and Colman are fantastic, and it’s just a really well-acted film. I can’t really sell it on anything more than that. It’s not an easy sell as compared to other films. So just go with the cast and go with the fact that it’s really good.
165. Vox Lux
Brady Corbet is a filmmaker who seems to want to make anti films. His Childhood of a Leader is almost an exercise of a character study trying desperately not to have a plot. This film almost is the same thing. And every time it threatens to become a movie, it does something else. So it’s not an easy sell, but you have Natalie Porman and Jude Law. And even then, they don’t show up to the second half of the movie, so even then the movie thwarts your expectations. It’s interesting. I’m not gonna say it’s the best movie ever, but there’s a lot of good stuff in it. I think it’s interesting that it’ll be one of those films that sticks with you whether you love it or not. And those are always worth seeing.
Just your average movie about a grandmother helping her granddaughter raise money for an abortion. It’s really awesome. It’s only like 75 minutes long too. So it’s not that big an ask to watch. You also get peak Lily Tomlin, which we get so rarely anymore, and Julia Garner in one of her early roles. There are nice surprise cameos along the way as well. It’s a really simple movie, like I said. The plot is the plot, and it’s them driving around trying to get the money and having their characters revealed along the way as they ask people for the money. It’s really nice, and it’s truly 75 minutes long and worth every minute. I don’t see why you wouldn’t give this a shot.
163. Premium Rush
The epitome of the fun B movie. This types of movies almost never get seen properly and are always just fun as hell. It’s Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a bike messenger in Manhattan who ends up with the wrong envelope and ends up being chased around the city by Michael Shannon, a corrupt cop. Simple premise, great execution, and just a nice ride for 90 minutes.
162. Ruby Sparks
Really great movie from Paul Dano and Zoe Kazan (written by her as well). He stars as a lonely novelist who starts writing a female character that he thinks would fall in love with him…. and then she comes to life. So the film is about him being with this dream woman he invented, and who he can change at will just by typing words on a page. So it goes from this sweet rom com to this meditation on controlling relationships. It’s really well-done, and one of those movies that’ll never be on any lists that’ll get people en masse to go see it. But it’s worth it.
161. 99 Homes
Another movie I’d solidly put into the ‘adult drama’ category. Great performances from Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon, and it’s about a guy whose house is foreclosed on, so he decides to go get revenge against the shady real estate developer who takes advantage of situations like this for profit. Only the developer takes a liking to him and takes him under his wing. So now, in order to get his own home back, he has to evict other people from their homes until he reaches the value of his home and ‘pays it off’. This is a movie built on human drama and great performances. And unfortunately that’s usually not flashy enough for most people to go see it. But it’s really worth your time and features two great actors at the top of their game.
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