Top 5 Sleeper Hit Films: The Ones That Got Away

October 8, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Features

Whilst we always keep you up to date with the latest blockbusters and chart topping movie goodness, there are some gems which just seem to slip through the net.

Case in point, the Philip Seymour Hoffman-starring Synecdoche, New York (out on DVD Monday 12th October – win DVDs and more at our comp here) which is a masterclass in creativity, humour and intelligent film-making. But, of course, no-one actually went to see it.

Generic Hollywood Blockbuster No 327 was on instead. Sigh.

So here are our selection of movies that we think are awesome but didn’t quite achieve the commercial success at the box office, as well as the ones that truly exploded when they hit DVD….

The Proposition (2005)

The Proposition is a gritty western set in the Australian outback in the late 19th century and written by Nick Cave.

The Captain of the local town (Ray Winstone) has captured two brothers of the notorious Burns Gang, Charlie (Guy Pearce) and the mentally slow Mikey (Richard Wilson – not that Richard Wilson) after a vicious gun fight. He offers Charlie a proposition: Charlie and Mikey can go free if he hunts and kill his older, more nefarious brother in nine days. If he fails, Mikey will be hung from the gallows.

Colonial Australia is depicted as uncompromisingly harsh, everything is sun-baked and flies are everywhere, but swathed in a natural beauty (vast epic sunsets and barren rocks). Performances are strong across the board; Guy Pearce as the conflicted, filthy Charlie, Ray Winstone as Captain Stanley desperately trying to civilise a savage land and Danny Huston is eerie as Charlie’s calculated psychopathic older brother.

If you have any interest in the genre or even if you just want to see a damn good unflinching drama, The Proposition is worth tracking down.

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)

Tommy Lee Jones’s directorial debut sees him in the lead role as a rancher, Pete Perkins in West Texas.

Irresponsible border patrolman Mike Norton (Barry Pepper) shoots and kills Melquiades (Julio Cedillo), a Mexican illegal immigrant and Pete’s best friend. Mike buries the body in a shallow grave but the body is found and reburied at the town cemetery. When Pete discovers that his best friend was killed by Mike, he makes him dig up the body. In order that he honour his friend’s wish to be buried in Mexico, he rides on horseback with Mike in tow and the body strapped to a mule.

It’s a harsh and brutal tale of revenge and responsibility and any movie fan should see it immediately.

The New World (2005)

Set in colonial America in the early 17th century, The New World is a gorgeously photographed epic by acclaimed director Terence Malick. It depicts the founding of the first English colony of Jamestown in Virginia and the adventures of Captain John Smith (Colin Farrell) as he encounters and falls in love with a Native American woman (understood to be Pocahontas and played by the beautiful Q’orianka Kilcher).

Initially criticized for being slow-paced, if you give The New World a chance, it’s a beautifully shot and sumptuous film with characteristically strong performances from Christian Bale, Colin Farrell and Christopher Plummer. Terence Malick reportedly shot of a million feet of film and followed everyone around with handheld cameras – now there’s obsessive dedication for you.

It’s a beautifully constructed and epic tale which no one should miss – see it on the largest screen you can.

Highlander (1986)

Now widely regarded as a cult classic, when it first screened in cinemas it grossed less the 6 million dollars.

Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) is immortal, born in 1518 in Scotland, he can only die if someone cuts off his head. He’s tutored by Ramirez (Sean Connery) and is told about the Kurgan (the imposing Clancy Brown) a bloodthirsty warlord who will stop at nothing to wipe out all other immortals. Jumping between Connor’s historic memories and 1980s New York, it’s a gloriously original and exciting movie, shamefully overlooked by the movie going public at the time.

It’s got everything you want from a fantasy classic: sword fights, immortality and a pounding Queen soundtrack – what’s not to love? It’s spawned four terrible sequels and two fairly decent TV series but nothing compares to the 1986 original. You can get it for about three quid on DVD these days, so there’s no excuse if you haven’t seen it before.

Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery (1997)

It was only moderately successful at the cinema but when it came out on DVD, its popularity sky-rocketed; Austin Powers is a quintessential spoof comedy classic.

Swinging 60s super spy, Austin Powers (Myers) and his arch-nemesis Dr. Evil (also Myers) are cryogenically frozen and revived in 1997. Dr. Evil hatches a diabolical plot to destroy the world by driving a nuclear bomb in the earth’s core (after his original plans of blackmailing the British Royal Family and punching a hole in the ozone layer are revealed to already have happened). Only Powers and his shagadelic sidekick Vanessa Kensington (Liz Hurley) can stop Dr. Evil’s plans but Evil’s secretary Alotta Fagina and his henchman Random Task stand in the way.

Wildly funny, Austin Powers has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek (insert appropriate double entendre). It’s spawned two more commercially successful sequels but it’s the original that remains the finest of the three and it’s well worth a revisit. Yeah baby.

Jez Sands

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