Note from Nick: This article ran in an old issue of MOVIE INSIDER in an abbreviated (translation: crappy) format,
and Dan was kind enough to send over the original text for us to run it in its
full sexiness here. Here’s the gist: These are films we feel don’t get enough
love. They’re films from our lifetime of experience, which is why you won’t see
deserving films from the pre-1970 era. That’s an article for another time. For
now, enjoy this first installment in a four-part series that will run every day
until Thursday.

For all the attention spurted across the chests of a
handful of movies each year, there are dozens more that are shunted aside,
trampled underfoot or otherwise treated to the shitty end of the stick by the
grinding gears of the movie machine. Many of these movies deserve to languish in
obscurity, but there are plenty that are worth more than that and that’s why
we’ve rolled up our sleeves to retrieve some unloved and under-appreciated gems
from the dustbin of history. Within this countdown you’ll find hated
blockbusters and underseen cult classics, you’ll find A-list megastars, and
unsung C-list heroes. You’ll find an alarming amount of Kevin Dillon and Renny
Harlin, plus Donald Sutherland as a monk. You’ll find great movies that you were
sure only you knew about, and you’ll find movies that you’ve never heard of.
Most importantly, you’ll find that shining a light into the dark corners of
movie history almost always unearths something special!

51. Universal
Soldier (1992)

Remember that DeNiro/Pacino coffee house moment in
Heat? Two legends onscreen together for the first time? The same can be
said for this pairing of Dolph Lundgren and Jean-Claude Van Damme. Not without
earning a short stay at “Roddy Piper’s Home for the Mentally Defeated”, but
physically it can be said. Roland Emmerich’s film has good action, some fun
ideas, and a great performance by Dolph.

Seriously.

The Defense: It’s one of those
good bad films, something we need more of. You know you’re someplace fun when
Van Damme keeps trying to eat popcorn in the middle of a barroom brawl and
Lundgren’s “Supermarket Speech” is hilarious. The sequel deserves a harpoon to
the chin, but this film’s a keeper.

NN

52. In The Line of Fire
(1995)

Clint Eastwood has now crossed that career line where
he’ll get praised for tackling meaty adult drama, but draw disapproving tuts for
indulging in the kind of unpretentious pulp that made him a star. This Wolfgang
Petersen thriller probably represents the last crossover between these two sides
of Clint, and remains a riveting watch for that and many other reasons.

As an over-the-hill Secret Service guy, Clint brings all
the gravitas you could ever want to a plot against the Prez – especially when
the villain is John “Nutbag” Malkovich and his dinky self-assembly sniper
rifle.

The Defense: Shamelessly
entertaining, but with the added attraction of enjoying proper acting to boot,
there’s no sane reason on Earth why this isn’t more
respected.

DW

53. Liberty Heights
(1999)

Barry Levinson has already made some wonderful films,
but this little gem got avoided like a filet mignon bearing the likeness of Lou
Diamond Phillips. Adrien Brody and Ben Foster are Jewish brothers dealing with
growing up, finding love, and getting by and the film’s just a sly, charming
couple of hours. Levinson’s always in his element with films like this and it’s
a shame this one’s ignored.

The Defense: When Foster dresses
up as Hitler for Halloween, it sinks in that Liberty Heights is something
special, and seeing his parents’ reaction is priceless. Good work by all
involved, and it’s nice to see Joe Mantegna get good roles now and
then.

NN

54. Shadow of the Vampire
(2000)

What if the star of F.W. Murnau’s 1922 movie
Nosferatu was a real vampire? That’s the reality-warping premise behind
this clever and humorous look at the foibles of old time movie folk, while
offering up a smidgeon of metaphor as the lead actor literally sucks cast and
crew dry. The conceit works thanks to the powerhouse pairing of John Malkovich
as the feverish Murnau, and Willem Dafoe, unrecognisable as the sinister Shreck
(no, not the green ogre). Add in support from the always-fun Udo Kier and Cary
Elwes, plus Eddie Izzard as a camp silent movie star, and you’ve got a modern
lost classic.

The Defense: A movie that not
only offers laughs and chills, but gives you something to think about as well.
See? Everyone wins.

DW

55. One False Move
(1992)

Quite often, the most underseen movies are the ones that
earmark new actors, writers and directors for great things further down the
line. This tense slice of Southern noir is a perfect example. Written by, and
starring, a certain Billy Bob Thornton (then still slogging away in clag like
Chopper Chicks In Zombietown) and directed by Carl “Devil In A Blue
Dress
” Franklin, this tale of criminals and lawmen clashing in smalltown USA
deals up some fantastic dialogue, nailbiting stand-offs and a few choice
insights into racism and crime but coming out hot on the heels of Reservoir
Dogs
, it fell foul of skittishness about movie violence and got treated like
a bad dose of ball-warts by theaters. Another one bites the
dust.

The Defense: The chance to see
the early promise of some now-popular faces, and also a damn fine hard-boiled
thriller to boot.

DW

56. The Money Pit
(1986)

I remember when this first came out and all the
marketing was geared towards Steven Spielberg’s presence as a producer on the
film. Expectations went up. The box office went down. While hardly a classic of
modern cinema (what film with Shelley Long could be?), this is a cute and at
times laugh-out-loud funny movie that features Tom Hanks in top form. Plus, I’m
sure it paved the way for porn flick The Money Shot.

The Defense: If the image of Tom
Hanks trapped at the torso in the 2nd storey floor of his house
tossing little paper airplanes isn’t your cup of tea, you might be drinking
sausage.

NN

57. Drive
(1997)

Hollywood got a renewed hard-on for martial
arts after the combination of Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker delivered a fat
payout in Rush Hour, but rewind to the year previous if you want to see
just how well American action and Asian skills can work together. The movie is
Steve Wang’s Drive, the star is the woefully underused Mark Dacascos, and
the fun pitch is that he has a stolen biotech engine in his chest and must flee
from murderous Chinese mobsters with the help of an unwitting musician (Kadeem
Hardison) and a kooky motel clerk (Brittany Murphy). Honestly one of the best
martial arts movies to come out of the west in the last ten years, this B-list
puncher offers A-list thrills. Guaranteed.

The Defense: The sort of
pitch-perfect martial arts actioner that Joel Silver keeps trying “and failing”  to recreate. Those who’ve seen it, love it. Those who haven’t, are
stupid.

DW

58. Things to Do in Denver When You’re
Dead (1995)

Forget the fact that this film came out amidst a storm
of Pulp Fiction wannabes and pay attention to the cast that Gary Fleder
assembled. Stellar, and for some of them it was much needed quality work after
being trapped in career Purgatory. Great dialogue, great acting, and crime flick
fun all around.

The Defense: Treat Williams is
Godzilla and Steve Buscemi is Tokyo. Christopher Walken’s quadriplegic is just a
head “and still scary as shit. The child of Treat Williams and Fairuza Balk is
the unholy offspring of two bags o’ smashes. Gold.

NN

59. Rounders
(1998)

Not enough films feature their main character choosing
to play poker over keeping their girlfriends. Not by a stretch. Matt Damon,
Edward Norton, Famke Janssen, and John Malkovich shine in John Dahl’s sly movie
about high stakes poker and a pair of friends who ride chance a bit too far. A
guy’s movie.

The Defense: Written by our
buddies Brian Koppelman and David Levien, this film makes you want to grab a
huge bottle of something strong and lock yourself in a smoky room with just your
best pals and a deck of cards. Why? Because it’s cool. If you�re feeling really
courageous, bring a RealDoll along too.

NN

60. Birdy
(1984)

This film doesn’t feature Andrew Divoff, but it’s still
great. Before they were big stars, Nicholas Cage and Cutthroat Island‘s
own Matthew Modine appeared in this powerful Alan Parker film about two friends
whose close bond is shattered by war injuries and the attempts by Cage to bring
his friend back. Extremely sad, but surprisingly uplifting

The Defense: The very last scene
in this movie completely pushes it over the hump, and I won’t spoil it. The
bottom line is that Birdy is a wonderful film that’ll definitely get the tear
ducts working. Of course, some of us get all misty when we see a Battlestar
Galactica episode.

NN

61. City of Hope
(1991)

John Sayles has lived on the cusp of cinema since his
early days of helping Roger Corman, but more often then not his movies are
enriching and intelligent. This one is all that and more, a sprawling look at
lives that cross paths in the big city and the troublesome ramifications of
their decisions. A great cast of smaller name but familiar actors is kept afloat
by Sayles’ sure hand and inventive storytelling. An unseen
masterpiece

The Defense: Before chewing on
his teammates’ dead asses in Alive, Vincent Spano starred in this film. For fun,
watch this film and visualize Vincent Spano heading off to chow some frozen
man-ass every time the camera cuts away. Spano or not, this is an edgy and truly
special film.

NN

62. Stir of Echoes
(1999)

If this film had come out any time but right after the
sensation around The Sixth Sense it not only would have been beloved but
also a hit. Kevin Bacon’s in top form as a man obsessed with a ghostly mystery
that somehow involves his house. Based on a Richard Matheson story, David
Koepp’s film is chilling and classy.

The Defense: If you only know
Kevin Bacon as ‘that guy in the movie about the bike messengers’, may I suggest
a lead pipe to the stomach? This is a classic supernatural story, one told
without winking at the audience and without Haley Joel
Gimmick.

NN

63. Society
(1989)

This
movie is notable for several reasons. Firstly, it’s the only Billy Warlock movie
worth watching (aside from possibly Halloween II). Secondly, it’s the
only movie in the history of the artform to feature a man being pulled inside
out through his own anus (aside from possibly Air Bud 7: Rectal Ruin).
Thirdly, Billy Warlock is the only man on Earth named after a Julian Sands movie
(aside from possibly Bruce Boxleitnering-Helena). Spat from the slimy vision of
director Brian ‘Bride of Reanimator‘ Yuzna, this gloriously grisly
heavy-handed social satire casts the wealthy elite of Beverly Hills as a
shape-shifting cabal of pauper-devouring hedonists, and only a hapless (and
adopted) rich kid knows their secret. It trudges slightly for the offbeat
opening, but once the special effects break out, it’s a movie that you will
never, ever, ever forget. Ever.

The Defense: Not the goriest
movie ever, but certainly one of the most sickening. Weird, twisted and utterly
wrong’ we love it, and so should you.

DW

64. Hollywood Shuffle
(1987)

These days, of course, “black movies” (or “urban” as
Hollywood so euphemistically calls them) are pretty common. The same wasn’t true
back in the 80s, when if your surname wasn’t Murphy or Washington, you just
didn’t get hired. This is the inequity that writer/director/star Robert Townsend
set about tackling in a series of comic skits and scenarios as struggling black
actor Bobby Taylor. From the slave lessons of Black Acting School, to the
surreal sight of an audition room full of braying Eddie Murphy clones (Townsend
directed Murphy in Raw), it’s a movie of its time, but no less funny for
it. Ironically, Townsend’s career remains in a limbo of TV movies while his
one-time collaborators, the Wayans brothers, soil our screens with monotonous
regularity.

The Defense: Sharp as a knife,
but never spilling over into unfocussed anger, it’s one of the best-yet-unseen
pioneers of modern black cinema.

DW

65. The Mosquito Coast
(1986)

Watching a disinterested Harrison Ford mumble and drone
his way through ineffectual tat like Hollywood Homicide, it’s hard to
imagine him appearing in a risky and artsy drama about the perils of
colonialism. Yet that’s just what he did in this undervalued 80s eco-thriller
from Peter Master & Commander Weir. As the driven and idealistic
Allie Fox, Ford portrays a man so disenfranchised with modern American life that
he scoops his family off to the jungles of Central America where his patronising
dream of bringing ice to the native tribes soon sours in the face of grim
reality. It’s a dark and brave portrayal of an arrogant and stubborn man (and a
metaphor for the country he’s so determined to flee) and the sort of challenging
role that the former Corellian smuggler seems to have left behind for
good.

The Defense: Lavishly shot,
compellingly acted and with a moral centre you can chew over for days
afterwards. Harrison Ford, sadly, really doesn’t make ‘em like this any
more.

DW

66. Ed Wood
(1994)

Martin Landau may have snagged an Oscar for his layered
portrayal of Bela Lugosi in Tim Burton’s love poem to a kindred spirit, oddball
B-movie legend Edward D. Wood Jr, but since that brief flurry of critical
attention, a dusty shroud seems to have fallen over the movie, overshadowed by
Burton’s more blockbustery successes (Sleepy Hollow) and his high profile
failures (Planet of the Apes). Shame, as Ed Wood is one of his
most heartfelt and personal offerings as funny and weird as you’d expect, but
carrying a bitter-sweet undercurrent that nudges it out of “quirky oddity”
territory and into the “all time greatest movies about movies” category. It also
features Johnny Depp’s finest pre-Sparrow comedy performance.

The Defense: A sweet and warm
tale that reminds us that self belief “even when it’s almost psychotically
deluded ” is a preferable character trait to cynicism and
greed.

DW

67. 13 Days
(2000)

What the heck happened with this film? It was poised to
be a real challenger, but it came and went in cinemas faster than you can say
“William Katt”. Kev Costner’s accent notwithstanding, the performances by all
three leads are terrific in this gripping tale about the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Not to be confused with the Magic Missile Crisis, an event that ruined a
Dungeons & Dragons session for youths in Edinburgh in
1983.

The Defense: There’s no action in
the entire film yet Roger Donaldson manages to keep you on the edge of your seat
throughout the film. What makes it even cooler is that everyone knows how the
story is going to end and it’s still tense. That’s filmmaking,
folks.

NN

68. Big Night
(1996)

Food porn. That’s two words to describe Stanley Tucci
and Campbell Scott’s film. Food erotica, if porn’s too awesome a word for you.
We never have gotten so hungry from watching a film before, aside maybe the time
we saw Pink Flamingos. A story about a restaurant that is all about the
food and the struggle they face from their more commercial rivals, Big
Night
is a small film with a rich appetite.

The Defense: When they get their
big risotto dish going in the film’s latter moments, we defy anyone to not admit
that their stomach started speaking little Sumerian chants begging for food. A
great little flick, and one of Tony Shalhoub’s best
performances.

NN

69. A Midnight Clear
(1992)

Holy crap. ANOTHER KEVIN DILLON FILM! That’s some kind
of record. We don’t think Kevin Dillon’s been mentioned this many times even in
the Dillon household. Keith Gordon’s subtle adaptation of William Wharton’s book
is one of the quintessential anti-war flicks you’re liable to run across. A
great cast of young actors seals the deal, a wonderful and haunting little
film.

The Defense: This is just plain
good. Ethan Hawke’s in top form, Peter Berg shows no residual Shocker damage,
and Arye Gross delivers his best performance since House II: The Second
Story.

NN

70. 25th Hour
(2002)

We really can’t pimp this movie enough. If
the rumours are true, it’s Spike Lee’s last theatrical movie, but what a curtain
call. For one thing, it shows that Spike is just as much a New York director as
he is a “black director”. For another, it’s probably the most shattering drama
of recent years for twenty-something men anyway. Ed Norton stars as Monty, a
small-time drug dealer coming to terms with his last day of freedom before
starting a long prison sentence. Making peace with his father, hanging out with
old friends and struggling to figure out what to do about his girlfriend, who
may be the one who sold him out to the cops, he chews over his bitterness and
rage before confronting an ending that delivers an emotional roundhouse to the
guts. Full of great actors playing believably flawed characters, and taking
place in the shadow of 9/11, this may well be one of the best films about
America and Americans in the early 21st Century. And no bugger has
seen it. Shameful.

The Defense: Not only ignored by
viewers, but also (predictably) by critics who invariably shrink from Spike Lee
movies fearful of angry black men and social rhetoric. They’re all fools.
Spike’s best movie, and quite possibly the best movie of
2002.

DW

71. Jackie Brown
(1997)

Aaah, yes. It’s the Tarantino movie that nobody likes.
Apart from the people who say they like it best, just to look cool and contrary.
The weird thing is, in many ways, Jackie Brown really is Tarantino’s best
movie. Or at least his most interesting. Shorn of most of his trademarked pop
culture riffing, displaced timeframes and pretty much violence-free, it’s no
surprise that it failed to connect with an audience primed for Pulp Fiction
2: The Blaxploitation Years
. Instead, you get a slow-burning movie about
middle-aged people fumbling around the fringes of society. It’s a movie for
grown-ups, stewed in funky 70s jerk seasoning, and still the most rich and
mature movie to sprout from the QT Mental Archive.

The Defense: Forget it’s from
Tarantino. Forget what you expect from him. And just enjoy a movie that’s as
mesmerisingly languid as a cloud of bong smoke.

DW

72. Super Troopers
(2001)

This is one of the sneakiest comedies ever. It was kind
of amusing the first time. It was pretty damn funny the second time. Now, we’ve
seen it about thirty times and it just gets better and better and better. Sex
with bears, giant cotton candy, bulletproof underwear, and much more highlight
the first film from the wonderful Broken Lizard comedians. See
it.

The Defense: Kevin Heffernan’s
Officer Farva is one of the best comedy jerkoffs you’ll ever see. That’s a good
thing, because his hilarity is offset by an unflattering shot of his powdery
manhood. Sometimes you have to suffer for what you love. At least Lynda Carter
kept her kit on.

NN

73. Beautiful Girls
(1996)

While there’s no law that forbids it, we believe no film
with this title should have Rosie O’Donnell anywhere near the cover. And yet
Natalie Portman’s nowhere to be seen! Travesty. The late, great Ted Demme (well,
he was right on time for the Reaper we guess) delivered a wonderfully talky
relationship film with a terrific cast of pretty faces (and Michael Rapaport)
and created a nice little cult film that most of the guys we know hold very
dearly.

The Defense: Natalie Portman
wasn’t old enough to ride a roller coaster when she made this film, but her
innate charm and Scott Rosenberg’s great dialogue made her into a rather
alluring gal. The term jailbait isn’t strong
enough!

NN

74. Casino
(1995)

It takes a certain kind of genius to
overshadow yourself, but that’s precisely what Scorsese did when he unleashed
Casino in the shadow of his previous epic gangster drama, and promptly
got written off as Goodfellas in the desert. But to do that is to vastly
underestimate the skills of those involved. Yes, DeNiro is back as a coldly
professional mobster. Yes, Joe Pesci plays a pint-sized dynamo of spite and
violence. Yes, it’s written by Nic Pileggi. Yes, it’s a slowly unfurling
tapestry of criminal lives over the years. But’if Goodfellas was a study
of mob guys working up from the gutter, Casino is a study of successful
mob guys fighting for survival in the surreal limbo world of Las Vegas, trapped
by their own lurid lifestyle and the rapid law-enforced gentrification of the
gangster’s paradise. It’s the hot, itchy flipside to Goodfellas urban
steel. And it’s great.

The Defense: Adding James Woods
and Sharon Stone to the mix stirs things up enough to avoid retreading old
ground, but ultimately Scorsese + DeNiro + Gangsters = A Movie That Deserves
Respect.

DW

75. Clean and Sober
(1988)

Michael Keaton’s best chance at an Oscar came with this
tiny movie about rehab patients, and considering award magnet Morgan Freeman was
in the film it should have happened. Beetlejuice himself delivers a wonderfully
nuanced performance as a man with a problem who’s the last to know it and it
makes one wonder why on Earth Keaton didn’t move on to greater things. Oh,
Jack Frost. Never mind.

The Defense: If the marketing for
this film carried the blurb “Featuring Claudia Christian of The Hidden fame!” we
think this film would have been huge. Regardless, this is a winner for both
Keaton and anyone who sees it.

NN