Have you ever been talking about movies with a friend and suggested one of your personal favourites enthusiastically, only for them to respond with a blank face? This has happened to me all too often for me to be able to let it go, so instead, I decided I’d write an article about several movies I think are vastly under appreciated. This doesn’t mean they’re necessarily underrated – many of this list were met with deserved positive reviews, if not critical acclaim. However, only the minority of the mainstream movie-watching population seem to have never heard of them, let alone love them. This article is dedicated to giving them some rightful praise.
1. Treasure Planet (10/10)
Ever heard of this 2002 Disney classic? I sincerely hope so; it’s a criminally under-appreciated, despite a voice cast including Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Emma Thompson. Main character misfit teen Jim Hawkins sets out across space to find the mysterious Treasure Planet in an engaging and wickedly original plot that still entertains, especially with several elements that make it one of Disney’s boldest and most exciting, innovative ventures, such as its futuristic, headlong hurdle into sci-fi regions it’s never quite dared to explore before (ever experienced a cyborg, talking canine with a PhD and a hyperactive amnesiac robot in a Disney movie before? Me neither). What’s more, its comedic turns vary from potty humour to pop culture references that make it accessible to all age ranges, with much more intelligence and warmth than the common Disney feature. It’s time to ditch whatever the reason is for you not seeing this film before and just watch it, regardless if you’re five, fifteen or fifty. You won’t regret it.
2. Stuck In Love (9/10)
The fact this 2012 romantic comedy-drama was an independent movie, sadly meant in today’s Hollywood madness, its chance of reaching the top of the box office was automatically diminished. But, with a highly skilled cast including Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Lily Collins, and Logan Lerman, this film doesn’t deserve to be forgotten any time soon. The trials and tribulations of a year in the life of the Borgens family is foretold with a warm, bittersweet tone, focusing on the interactions of the loveably realistic characters and the relationships they have formed or lost. It has intelligence, wit, subtlety and a heartfelt plot that allows you to feel touched and positive by the closing credits without being overloaded with typical movie cheesiness. Highlights include Kristen Bell’s overwhelmingly energetic neighbour-cum-relationship guru, Greg Kinnear’s midnight stalking through his ex-wife’s garden, and the competitive yet caring rapport glimpsed, yet never fully explored, between the Borgens siblings (Collins and Nat Wolff).
3. The Way Way Back (8/10)
This understated comedy-drama flick presents Duncan, a shy and awkward fourteen-year-old boy preparing to spend an uncomfortable summer holiday with his well-meaning mother (Toni Collette) and snide, horribly cruel stepfather Trent – played terrifically by a surprisingly dislikable Steve Carrell. Supported by memorable one-liners from comedy veteran Allison Janney as the overbearing neighbour never seen without a drink in her hand, and previous child star AnnaSophia Robb playing the moody, sarcastic teenager to an almost too-clichéd degree, this cast’s central delight comes from Sam Rockwell, the ingeniously immature and hilarious water park owner who strikes up an unlikely friendship with Duncan when the latter strays dolefully into his path. Its endearing plot walks the line well between sentimentality, comedy and family drama, resulting in a fantastically satisfying coming-of-age movie that at its core observes the struggling relationship between our frustrated teenage protagonist and his shy, caring mum.
4. Frances Ha (8/10)
This dreamy, aesthetic movie drifts and skitters pleasingly in as much a way as its dizzy central character Frances (Greta Gerwig) does, whilst grasping at the ideal life of a stable job and friends whose lives are moving at the same pace as her own. It is much less a coherent and tightly-wound plot than it is an ode to New York, modern adult friendship and confusing human emotion, hailed by critics as a black-and-white, lighter alternative to HBO’s Girls, complete with Adam Driver as womaniser Lev Shapiro. The visuals are entrancing, whilst the dialogue – the film’s main drive – flits from inane to natural to profound to hilarious, as is expected from a product of the mumblecore film movement. Though our protagonist, well-meaning and ditzy Frances, struggles with many familiar issues addressed in any Manhattan-based media (pressure from her parents, restricted at work, maintaining constant friendships), here they are portrayed with distinctive sensitivity and authenticity. Characters come and go, but this in itself is an accurate representation of Frances’ perception of her own life and not-so career, with frequent, enjoyable digressions in plot that lead her to anywhere from Paris to dance college.
5. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (7/10)
Take a well-worn ancient legend and add Emperor’s New Groove-style bold, blocky cartooning, an ‘adorkably’ loveable main character Milo, and a fun twist on the well-versed story of Atlantis that sees a submarine-driving mole navigate a misfit crew of mystery-seekers towards a lost nation (though some of the crew’s intentions may be less savoury than others’). Much like this list’s other Disney offering, Atlantis is one of the more kooky and inventive adaptations to fill childhood screens, whilst adults may recognise the leading voice acting by Michael J. Fox and a near-cameo from Leonard Nimoy. What I personally enjoyed much more as an older teen than when experiencing this film as a youngster, is the central message of accepting other cultures and individuals without exploiting or abusing them, something very much relevant to today’s society, and portrayed strongly by Milo’s budding relationship with Princess Kida (an underrated badass Disney woman, by the way) and his rejection of his greedy crew’s plot to corrupt Atlantis’s hidden nation.
Words by Megan Harding