12 Underrated Films You Need To Watch

Movies That Deserve Your Attention

Gene Siskel, a luminary film critic of the 20th century, held a significant role in shaping cinematic discourse. Partnered with fellow critic Roger Ebert, Siskel’s influence stretched from 1969 to the mid-’80s. However, their harmonious resonance didn’t always mean unanimity; Siskel championed numerous films that went unappreciated by his peers. Delving into Siskel’s lesser-known favorites reveals an eclectic collection of cinematic gems that warrant a closer look.

1. Unearthing ‘Lone Star’ (1996)

In “Lone Star,” Chris Cooper takes the lead in this neo-Western as Sam Deeds, the sheriff of a small town at the Mexico border. A long-buried skeleton found in the desert leads Sam to unearth secrets linking his family history to the town’s tumultuous past.

An ensemble cast shines, with Matthew McConaughey making an early impression. Siskel, in an episode of “Siskel & Ebert,” praises the film’s portrayal of America through a mysterious lens, acknowledging its seamless integration of a captivating mystery plot.

2. Embracing ‘King of the Hill’ (1993)

“King of the Hill,” directed by Steven Soderbergh, offers a coming-of-age drama set against the Great Depression. Jesse Bradford portrays Aaron Kurlander, a resilient 12-year-old navigating life’s trials while his family grapples with financial hardship.

Siskel commends the film’s refreshing portrayal of a young boy facing varied pressures. He credits Soderbergh’s treatment of the protagonist as more than just a child, celebrating the inventive ways Aaron navigates his challenges.

3. Discovering ‘Pretty Poison’ (1968)

“Noel Black’s “Pretty Poison” blurs psychological thriller and black comedy, starring Tuesday Weld and Anthony Perkins. The film revolves around Dennis (Perkins), who manipulates his high school sweetheart (Weld) into aiding his criminal endeavors.

Despite its lackluster box office performance, the film has garnered cult status over time. Siskel’s early recognition of its quality, coupled with endorsements from contemporary directors like Edgar Wright and Quentin Tarantino, adds to its allure.

4. Unveiling ‘A New Leaf’ (1971)

Elaine May’s directorial debut, “A New Leaf,” enlists her alongside Walter Matthau in a dark comedy centered on a wealthy yet eccentric lawyer who must marry to secure his inheritance.

While it struggled to find an audience upon release, Siskel appreciates the film’s clever scripting and deft handling of themes like greed and self-discovery. His endorsement elevates this hidden gem from oblivion.

5. Experiencing ‘Ragtime’ (1981)

Miloš Forman’s “Ragtime,” based on E.L. Doctorow’s novel, navigates the lives of characters in New York City during the early 20th century. Amid an ensemble cast, Howard Rollins portrays Coalhouse, a Black pianist entangled in the drama of a wealthy white family.

Despite facing financial setbacks at the box office, Siskel lauds the film’s ability to encompass a multitude of great performances within a sweeping narrative. His endorsement brings attention to its often-overlooked brilliance.

6. Navigating ‘Moonlighting’ (1982)

Jerzy Skolimowski’s “Moonlighting” follows Jeremy Irons as a master electrician embroiled in illegal building operations amidst Poland’s trade union protests.

Siskel’s interpretation emphasizes the film’s exploration of power dynamics within political societies. His assessment underscores the movie’s timeless relevance, resonating with audiences across generations.

7. Delving into ‘Straight Time’ (1978)

Dustin Hoffman’s portrayal of Max in “Straight Time” centers on a parolee’s struggles to reintegrate into society after release from prison. Tempted by his criminal past, Max faces moral dilemmas in his quest for redemption.

Ulu Grosbard’s realistic depiction of criminal life resonates with authenticity, revealing a human side to characters that transcends stereotypes. Siskel’s recognition places the film among the year’s standout works.

8. Unveiling ‘Sisters’ (1972)

Brian De Palma’s “Sisters” employs Hitchcockian horror to weave a tale of intrigue, featuring Margot Kidder in a dual role. The film delves into the macabre journey of Danielle, a model with a murderous identical twin sister.

De Palma’s innovative use of split-screen techniques enhances the narrative’s tension, culminating in a nightmarish experience. The film’s influence on subsequent works, even sparking parallels in Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” solidifies its significance.

9. Acknowledging ‘Dodes’ka-den’ (1970)

Akira Kurosawa’s “Dodes’ka-den” departs from his signature works, spotlighting a slum’s residents outside Tokyo. Their tales of survival offer a heartfelt exploration of poverty and resilience.

While the film faced commercial failure, Siskel’s admiration reinforces its value. His placement on his top ten list of that year emphasizes its impact as a poignant depiction of the human condition.

10. Unraveling ‘House of Games’ (1987)

David Mamet’s neo-noir thriller “House of Games” marks his directorial debut. Lindsay Crouse stars as a psychiatrist drawn into a world of con artists and gambling after treating a compulsive gambler (Joe Mantegna).

Mamet’s script delves into the complexities of manipulation and deception, showcasing his signature sharp dialogue. Siskel’s acknowledgment of its brilliance aligns with its continued recognition by subsequent filmmakers.

11. Immersing in ‘The Ice Storm’ (1997)

Ang Lee’s “The Ice Storm” navigates the tribulations of two families in a Connecticut suburb during the 1970s. As societal shifts unfold, relationships between parents and children become strained.

Siskel’s recognition of the film as his favorite of 1997 emphasizes its universal resonance. Lee’s ability to depict complex family dynamics with sensitivity earns the film a place among his masterful creations.

12. Experiencing ‘Stay Hungry’ (1976)

“Stay Hungry” boasts a star-studded cast, including Jeff Bridges, Sally Field, and Arnold Schwarzenegger, in a sports comedy-drama exploring bodybuilding and self-acceptance.

Despite its multi-faceted narrative, the film’s charm lies in its amalgamation of genres. Siskel and Ebert’s praise elevates it, highlighting its authentic portrayal of subcultures and deeper themes of identity.

Gene Siskel’s keen eye for underappreciated films uncovers a trove of cinematic treasures deserving of a second glance. As these films continue to captivate new audiences, Siskel’s legacy endures, guiding us toward hidden gems that enrich our cinematic experiences.

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Stevie Flavio
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