You know how when you start trying to think of stuff, days later more stuff keep popping into your head? It’s the cousin phenomena to thinking of a clever comeback the day after the party when it’s way too late to use it.
The first few movie I thought of after the fact were added as ‘honorable mentions’ to my first list of The 10 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, but in the weeks that followed, I was able to come up with ten more, some equally as good as on the first list. Which I guess makes the first list bunk. But I don’t know how official these rankings really are.
Again, I know it’s audacious of me to suggest you haven’t seen these. I hope you have. And if you haven’t, I hope these become some of your new favorite movies!
10. The Karate Kid, Part III (1989) | Dir. John G. Avildsen | 112 min.
Okay, this is on here because you all think you’ve seen this, but you haven’t. The Karate Kid Part III is NOT the one with Hillary Swank. That’s the fourth one. That one is called The Next Karate Kid, and it isn’t good.
But Karate Kid III is awesome! It’s way better than the forgettable Part II. The third one revolves around Marty Kove getting together with his evil friend to get back at Danny—who’s still annoying as fuck, and a little fatter now.
The villain is as villainous as you can get. He literally sits in a hot tub smoking cigars and tells people to dump toxic waste. That’s him in the picture, grinning evilly.
9. Microcosmos (1996) | Dirs. Claude Nuridsany & Marie Pérennou | 80 min.
This movie is quite literally just a bunch of footage of bugs. But it’s really good footage. And it does a much better job of being just a bunch of footage than its just a bunch of footage counterparts Baraka and Koyaanisqatsi. Those movies are good too, but they can’t offer as human a look at our world as this one about bugs can.
Microcosmos provides a wonderful intimacy like no other movie ever. Plus the footage is really fucking awesome. The same dudes made a more Baraka-type one called Genesis, and it’s good, but Microcosmos is better.
8. Pirates of Silicon Valley (1999) | Dir. Martyn Burke | 95 min.
This is unequivocally the best made-for-TV movie ever made. I actually watched it on TV in 1999 with my mom when it aired. It’s a biographical dramatization of the business dealings of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
Anthony Michael Hall and Noah Wiley are perfect as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. (I’ll let you figure out who plays who.) The scenes where they argue with each other are epic. But Joey Slotnick, who expertly portrays Steve Wozniak, really steals the show.
Some of the drama is a tad underdone, namely Steve Jobs’ relationship with his estranged wife and daughter. But what it lacks there, it makes up for in compelling, realistic scrutiny of its subjects.
7. Who the Fuck Is Jackson Pollock? | Dir. Harry Moses | 74 min.
Here’s another documentary where I’ll just tell you what it’s about and you’ll immediately want to go see it.
A tough-as-nails old woman truck driver finds a Jackson Pollock painting at a garage sale, but the art world won’t accept that it’s a real Pollock.
See? You want to see it. Now go see it.
6. Hitman Hart: Wrestling With Shadows | Dir. Paul Jay | 93 min.
This is a documentary about Bret ‘the Hitman’ Hart. Just shut up and listen. This is not some fake and fluffy WWE documentary, it’s a real thing.
Like any great documentary, this is a very insightful and deeply interesting portrait of an interesting subject, which offers as much heart as it does biography. It also has the good fortune of being a vérité piece that was in production during the major turning point of Bret’s career. Plus, since it’s about wrestling, it has tons of unintentionally funny moments brought to you by the world’s kookiest subculture.
5. World’s Greatest Dad (2009) | Dir. Bobcat Goldthwait | 99 min.
Who know Bobcat Goldthwait was capable of making one of the best movies ever made? It seems weird, doesn’t it?
World’s Greatest Dad stars Robin Williams as a single dad trying to deal with his obnoxious adolescent son and his put upon-ness at work. Sounds mundane, but what unfolds is a hilarious and touching ordeal that I certainly won’t spoil, since you haven’t seen it. This is one where it’s definitely best to not know much of anything going in.
4. This Is Not a Film (2003) | Dir. Michael A Nickles | 88 min.
The guy who played Jim Morrison in Wayne’s World 2 made a movie called This is Not a Film. I caught it on TV about twenty minutes in and couldn’t turn it off. It’s tiny. It looks like it was made for eight cents, and never has a small, rustic aesthetic been utilized more effectively (well, okay, maybe The Blair Witch Project).
I hate fake documentaries because real documentaries are so good. The great thing about a real documentary is that when you hear a great line, there’s an extra greatness to it because somebody really said it in earnest. Faking that is awful, because you lose the honesty that made the line so effective.
However, Michael Leydon Campbell’s performance in this is so honest and natural that you completely forget you’re watching acting.
3. Beyond the Mat (1999) | Dir. Barry W. Blaustein | 102 min.
Another fucking wrestling documentary. I know.
I get why nobody has seen The Backyard and Wrestling With Shadows because nobody has ever even heard of them. Beyond the Mat is a little more popular (if you ever rented a video in 1999, then you saw a preview for Beyond the Mat—it was the one where Vince McMahon is screaming “he’s gonna puke, he’s gonna puke!” in his office) but because it’s directly about WWE (F at the time) I get why everybody would avoid it.
Beyond the Mat was written and directed by Barry W. Blaustein, screenwriter of the Police Academy sequels and The Nutty Professor. Blaustein presents himself as an unapologetic and intelligent wrestling fan, whose goal is to explore the world and understand its inner workings.
His documentary does just that and does so with clinical precision, unprecedented intimacy, and exquisite care. The movie juggles many plot balls (one of which follows Jake ‘the Snake’ Roberts, who was the inspiration for Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler) and weaves them into a gigantic wrestling mosaic that treats the sport fairly and objectively.
Terry Funk and Mankind come off as grounded heroes, while The Rock, in one short scene, exposes himself as a bit of a dick. The beautiful thing about large, warts-and-all documentaries like this is that they have a tremendous power to be much more satisfying than written narratives. The reason being that they are informative while being entertaining. By having a thesis, and by letting that thesis be explained organically via vérité footage, you allow your audience to soak up information, follow stories, and really be affected by them. Because they’re real, they’re all the more interesting, and prone to amazing bouts of unintentional comedy, which the wrestling world is a vast well of.
Ultimately what’s documented here is one man’s love of pro wrestling and all the quirky characters that populate that world. Blaustein’s passion for his subject is only equalled by Mark Moskowitz’s in his documentary, Stone Reader. (I reviewed that one a few months ago.)
2. Startup.com (2001) | Dir. Chris Hegedus & Jehane Noujaim | 107 min.
It’s the turn of the century, the Internet is opening the door to the other side of the universe, and Kaliel and Tom have an idea—to put simple government processes like paying traffic tickets on the Internet.
There’s a great scene when Kaliel wants to call the website untoceasar.com. It became govworks, and was one of many startups competing for space on the digital frontier.
The movie itself is a beautiful vérité masterpiece by prolific documentarians Chris Hegedus and Jehane Noujaim.
It’s a shame that everybody focuses on trite, sensationalist pieces like King Corn and An Inconvenient Truth when it comes to documentaries. It’s wonderful that the form is experiencing such success, but a shame that the better ones are squashed by the so-called ‘important’ ones that are ultimately much more shallow and ironically have much less to say.
Startup.com is about business. It’s about the future, and the internet, but most importantly, it’s about friendship. It’s a small and tender story that would triumph in front of a much wider audience.
1. The Baxter (2005) | Dir. Michael Showalter | 91 min.
Contrary to popular belief, romantic comedies aren’t crappy. Most movies are crappy, so it’s only logical that most romantic comedies would be too, but as a genre, it’s produced some of the best stuff of all time. But in our modern era where melodrama is in and natural drama is passé, simple, effective movies are thought of as lame. I guess when your modern incarnation is The Vow, it makes sense. But When Harry Met Sally, Annie Hall, Love Actually, As Good as it Gets, and Jerry Maguire are all transcendent works that are proof positive that romantic comedies are high art as much as anything else.
The Baxter is no different. Well, maybe a little. Like many great works, the Baxter is brilliant in both its steadfast adherence to the rules of its genre, and also its subversion of them.
It was apparently inspired by the Bill Pullman character in Sleepless in Seattle, who is a good guy that loses out to Tom Hanks. Michael Showalter, the film’s writer, director, and star (and an alumnus of the absurdist, cult comedy group The State) termed the Bill Pullman phenomena a ‘Baxter’ and fashioned himself into one in this wholly original take on the genre.
Showalter’s character, Elliott Sherman, narrates the movie, which is continuously ornamented with bizarre comedic forays that are beyond ingenious. My mind goes immediately to a made up game that Justin Theroux and Paul Rudd’s characters are playing during a night out where they seem to simply be dueling or exchanging imitations of ideas (you have to see it). However, as bizarre as it all is, what’s refreshing is how grounded the movie is and how closely it sticks to all of the romantic comedy conventions. In the words of the late great screenwriter Blake Snyder: it’s something new, but different.