Neal Damiano, our resident expert in all things “cult film“, again looks at those lesser known classics everyone should see.
Shirking mainstream sensibilities and avoiding genre categorisation, these films see their characters operating on the fringe of society, often playing by their own rules. They make for captivating, offbeat character studies that mix dark humour, eccentric people and drama derived from the human condition into a concoction begging not to be pigeonholed. Bold and brilliant, these are the movies you’ve probably never seen but really should check out…
10. Where The Day Takes You
One of the grittiest and most realistic depictions of life on the streets. Where the day takes you is a journey through a group of runaways living and squatting in the abandon buildings of Los Angeles. Starring Lara Flynn Boyle as a runaway from the midwest trying to escape the abuse of her dysfunctional parents. She hooks up with King played by Dermot Mulroney the leader of the runaways. He takes her under his wing and they form a romantic bond. A very intense real look at lost kids just trying to find a sense of family. Dermot Mulroney is exceptionally convincing. I’d say it’s one of his best performances.
9. Swimming With Sharks
A hilarious and twisted look at the dark side of the entertainment industry. Kevin Spacey plays Buddy Ackerman an obnoxious, snarky, and ungrateful hollywood mogul who likes to put his office assistants through hell. Frank Whalley plays his willingly assistant trying to get ahead in the grueling show business game. After taking abuse on a daily basis from Ackerman he finally snaps beyond his threshold planning a revenge that includes being tied to a chair, papercuts, and salt.
8. The Last Seduction
A conniving New York woman cons her medical-student husband into planning a lucrative drug deal, then flees with the money, hiding out in a small town in upstate New York. Master minding an insurance scam, she talks a lovesick claims adjuster into murdering her vengeful husband. What is so fascinating about this film is just how relentless and ruthless Linda Fiorantino’s character is in getting what she wants. One of the most sociopathic, manipulative characters in film history.
7. Before The Devil Knows Your Dead
Sydney Lumet’s last film two brothers played by Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman devise the robbery of their parents’ jewelry store. The job goes terribly wrong the unthinkable happens when their father gets shot and dies during the heist, spiraling off a series of shattering events that send them and their family diving towards a horrible climax. A very suspenseful caper film with themes of greed and betrayal.
6. Welcome To The Dollhouse
Larry Solondz quirky film about a misunderstood and very eccentric smart girl Dawn Weiner in middle school in suburban New Jersey, that has no friends. Dawn tries hard to smile and be friendly as she struggles through the hardships and pain of being a preteen. Life is grim. Nevertheless, she finds her way through the embarrasment and maintains she soon begins to wonder if life might not be better outside New Jersey. Standout performance by Brendon Sexton and Heather Matarazzo.
5. Living In Oblivion
A funny and satirical look at low-budget filmmaking. Steve Buscemi plays a neurotic independent filmmaker in the process of making his indie movie everything imaginable that could go wrong does from the lead actors in a love quarrel to a midget actor quitting in the middle of a scene. Filled with the quirkiest characters Living In Oblivion is a must see for anyone that has an interest in independent filmmaking.
4. The Last Supper
Stacy Title wrote an incredibly original script . The story of five left wing liberal grad students in Iowa share a house together and every Sunday they have supper together discussing left wing politics /socialism and ways they can change the world. They come across a drifter truck driver (Bill Paxton) who comes to their door. Inviting him in for the ritual supper, he turns out to be a fascist,mysoginistic hitler loving ex marine. In an argument with one of the hosts he breaks their arm. They stab him in the back killing him then hide the body in their garden. Deciding this is the only way to make a difference they come up with a twisted idea to start inviting known conservative right wingers for last suppers allowing them to plead their choice of political and social views. Like judge and jury if not up to agreement with the hosts a little poison goes in their wine. One of my favorite dark comedies.
3. 24 Hour Party People
Covering the Manchester music scene from 1970 to the 1990s Tony Wilson played by Steve Coogan is an ambitious but frustrated TV news reporter looking for a way to make a name for himself. After witnessing a performance by an unknown band called the Sex Pistols, he convinces his station to air one of their shows and soon Manchester’s punk groups are asking him to manage them. Wilson and his friends start the legendary Factory Records and the Hacienda Club. Bands like Joy Division, New Order, and the Happy Mondays emerge to change the music scene forever. The film does a great job of showing just how vibrant and energetic that scene was in England at the time. Coogan’s adaptation of Tony Wilson is nothing short of amazing.
2. 13 Conversations About One Thing
The film centers around a group of people living their lives, unaware of the connections that bring them together. A cocky lawyer who becomes a fugitive following a hit-and-run incident, a math professor whose wife is the victim of a mugging, an insurance company manager who is jealous of an over optimistic coworker and dealing with problems from his ex-wife and delinquent son, and a young woman trying to get over a car accident. All of them dealing with their own problems but somehow intertwine together by a common thread that makes us human and that is emotion. A very intelligent well written film with exceptional acting.
1. The Wackness
The Wackness is such an intelligently crafted film with the most eccentric characters. Luke Shapiro played by Josh Peck is a 17 year old who sees the world as dull and takes nothing seriously in his life. His parents constantly fight about money and he is not popular at school and can’t wait to move out. To finance this goal he comes up with a plan to become a drug dealer who pushes his product through an ice cream vendors pushcart.
He’s about to finish high school and hopes he graduates virginity too. The summer before college Luke deals with his world – weariness by trading his psychiatrist marijuana for extra therapy sessions. Jeffrey Squires (Ben Kingsley) an aging hipster takes the marijuana to help him cope with his mess of a marriage and moody stepdaughter Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby)
Spending time with Luke makes the bong tapping Dr. Squires feel his youth again. Hanging out with Dr Squires brings Luke closer to the desirable Stephanie. All the quirky characters misunderstand themselves and give each other wrong advice, assistance, and friendship.
Doctor and patient become pot selling partners and the therapist – client relationship reverses several times before the story is through. Luke searches for his first real romance, Dr Squires regresses back to childhood but learns like us all no matter how much money you spend or time you spend with the young you can’t get back your youth. A very original entertaining script. The acting is phenominal, amazing performances by Ben Kingsley and Josh Peck.
Written and compiled by Neal Damiano
Your turn – what are your favourites? Which films will you now be checking out?
Discover More on Top10Films.co.uk:
Search our collection of Top 10 lists sorted by type:
THEME | ACTOR | DIRECTOR | TIME PERIOD | GENRE | COUNTRY | SPECIAL INTEREST | FUNNY
See the A – Z of films featured on Top 10 Films / Check out our film review database