Ten Films You’ve Likely Never Heard Of But Need To Watch

Ten+Films+You%27ve+Likely+Never+Heard+Of+But+Need+To+Watch

By Kellen Nicholson

Many people out there still are unsure of film as a medium for artistic expression, and indeed, it can be downright intimidating to sort through the Jumanji’s, 2 Fast 2 Furious’s, and Trainwrecked’s of the world to get through something that’s more than bad to mediocre time filler. For a lot of folks, the artsiest films they’ll ever watch are Taxi Driver and Django Unchained. And while those films have most certainly earned their place as some of the best of the best, I’d like to give a helping hand to those who are curious about exploring the possibilities that the medium allows. These are all types of films, though they have a surrealist and existential lean and little action sequences, due to the bias of my interests. Even if you don’t end up enjoying any of these, hopefully they’ll spark an interest in other films.  In addition, the barrier of entry for a couple of these films is quite high, so do not feel like you are worse off for not being able to “get” it. While I consider these films must watches for everybody, they are not always the easiest to sit through for people who are used to more casual media consumption.

I would also like to make clear that my goal here is not to prove that “I’m the biggest film nerd”, because I still have a lot to learn, especially when it comes to film theory and techniques. I simply wish for more folks to feel comfortable entering the scene, due to the fact that it can seem incredibly pretentious. I would like to note that the first few entries on this list are quite popular amongst the film buff crowd, however, I decided to include them as this list is not geared specifically towards said people. Instead, it’s a small overview of lesser known masterpieces that deserve the spotlight. I have ordered them in popularity on Letterboxd, from most to least popular.

If you choose to watch all of them at once, I will provide a letterboxd link to my recommended order. That said, I believe you should intersperse these with other movies, as it can be a lot to take in, and can easily become overwhelming.

 

 

 Stalker (1979) ‘Andrei Tarkovsky’

“Near a gray and unnamed city is the Zone, a place guarded by barbed wire and soldiers, and where the normal laws of physics are victim to frequent anomalies. A stalker guides two men into the Zone, specifically to an area in which deep-seated desires are granted.”

The masterwork that quite literally killed its director, Stalker is an incredibly methodical, beautiful film that begs to be analyzed. The air of tragedy lingers over the experience, as the extensive filming in a chemical plant caused the death of Tarkovsky and his wife, along with a lead actor. 

Runtime: 162 mins

 

 

Melancholia (2011) ‘Lars Von Trier’

“Two sisters find their already strained relationship challenged as a mysterious new planet threatens to collide with Earth.”

To call Melancholia one of the greatest films of all time would be selling it short. This unique piece of film uses a limited amount of sci-fi to truly represent the experiences of someone dealing with depression, and although there are some issues with noticeable cuts in dialogue, and the last couple minutes of the first hour feeling a little bit rushed, it remains the prettiest and most emotionally devastating film I have ever seen. 

Runtime: 135 mins

 

 Daisies (1966) ‘Věra Chytilová’

 

“Two teenage girls, both named Marie, decide that since the world is spoiled they will be spoiled as well; accordingly they embark on a series of destructive pranks in which they consume and destroy the world about them. This freewheeling, madcap feminist farce was immediately banned by the government.”

This is my favorite movie of all time. Indeed, this IS the greatest movie of all time. This Czech New Wave Dadaist masterpiece plays with what a film can be, and even allows the girls to play with the universe itself. This is pure, existential joy wrapped up into a brief 70 minute package. 

Runtime: 76 mins

Andrei Rublev (1966) ‘Andrei Tarkovsky’ 

“An expansive Russian drama, this film focuses on the life of revered religious icon painter Andrei Rublev. Drifting from place to place in a tumultuous era, the peace-seeking monk eventually gains a reputation for his art. But after Rublev witnesses a brutal battle and unintentionally becomes involved, he takes a vow of silence and spends time away from his work. As he begins to ease his troubled soul, he takes steps towards becoming a painter once again.”

What, you thought my grubby little film buff paws would avoid a historical drama? You thought wrong. As it turns out, you can’t become one of the most revered directors of all time without at least one masterful historical piece. The runtime may turn off many, but if you watch just one HD in your lifetime, make it this one.  

Runtime: 205 mins

Satantango (1994) ‘Bela Tarr’

“Inhabitants of a small village in Hungary deal with the effects of the fall of Communism. The town’s source of revenue, a factory, has closed, and the locals, who include a doctor and three couples, await a cash payment offered in the wake of the shuttering. Irimias, a villager thought to be dead, returns and, unbeknownst to the locals, is a police informant. In a scheme, he persuades the villagers to form a commune with him.”

Satantango is mainly known as “the film I really want to watch but don’t have time for”, and I can’t fault anyone for that. I first watched it back in 6th grade, and it quickly became one of my favorite films of all time. The 7.5 hour length can be a turn off for most, and as someone who despises pausing films, it’s the reason I’ve only seen it once. Many an essay has been written on the masterful direction and cinematography, so I won’t bother here. All I can do is recommend that you allow yourself to reach the meditative state that Tarr wants. Unfortunately no sites work to pirate it, so you’ll be forced to buy the criterion collection blu-ray for 25 dollars. 

Run Time: 432 mins

El Topo (1970) ‘Alejandro Jodorowsky’ 

“El Topo decides to confront warrior Masters on a trans-formative desert journey he begins with his 6 year old son, who must bury his childhood totems to become a man. El Topo (the mole) claims to be God, while dressed as a gunfighter in black, riding a horse through a spiritual, mystical landscape strewn with Christian and ancient Eastern religious symbols. “

A surreal, shocking, and controversial masterpiece, El Topo is the first midnight movie, and has kept a huge cult following since its release. John Lennon loved the movie so much that he demanded to give Jodorowsky a million dollars to fund his next film, The Holy Mountain. With little focus on plot, and an emphasis on some of the strangest images put to film, it’s earned its place as the perfect work of art it is. 

Runtime: 125 mins

Angel’s Egg (1985) ‘ Mamoru Oshii’

“A mysterious girl wanders a desolate, otherworldly landscape, carrying a large egg.”

Two words: Hauntingly beautiful. 

Run time: 71 mins

Belladonna of Sadness (1973) ‘Eiichi Yamamoto’

 

“After being banished from her village, a peasant woman makes a pact with the devil to gain magical abilities.”

The stunning watercolor visuals make for a stunning, hauntingly sad and surreal film which is unmistakably Japanese in the best way possible. Belladonna represents the newfound sexual and artistic freedoms of the late 60’s through mid 70’s that marked the greatest artistic period to date. Unfortunately, it wasn’t officially released in the United States until 2016, and its limited appeal concept and animation style means it’s remained an underground hit. On top of that, Kanashimi no Belladonna contains the most perfect ost ever put to film.

Run time: 86 min

 

Son of the White Mare’ (1981) ‘Marcell Jankovics’

“In this dreamlike Hungarian folk myth, a horse goddess gives birth to three powerful brothers who set out into the Underworld to save three princesses from three evil dragons and reclaim their ancestors’ lost kingdom.”

How many times can I describe these films as beautiful? Visually scintillating and aesthetically pleasing, this incredibly creative film takes an old Hungarian folk tale and adapts it into a psychedelic and compelling journey unlike any other. Some gender roles may feel incredibly outdated, but that’s down to the age of the story involved.

 

Run time: 81 mins

Time Masters (1982) ‘René Laloux’

“On planet Perdide, an attack of giant hornets leaves Piel – a young boy – alone in a wrecked car with his dying father. A mayday message reaches their friend Jaffar, an adventurer travelling through space. On board Jaffar’s shuttle are the renegade Prince Matton, his fiancée, and Silbad who knows the planet Perdide well. Thus begins an incredible race across space to save Piel.”

This one has probably aged the most noticeably, but it’s still an excellent sci-fi adventure made by the same pioneering man as the visionary masterpiece “Fantastic Planet”. Although budgetary constraints mean this film should not be compared to his previous work, it still holds up as a fantastic experience well worth the time. 

Run time: 75 mins

 

Suggested Watch Order: https://letterboxd.com/milliethedemon/list/top-10-films-youve-never-heard-of-that-you/