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Top 10 Overlooked Gems from Well-Known Directors

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script written by George Cimurt. As Mae West famously said, it’s better to be looked over than overlooked, and we feel that no truer words could be spoken. Join as we count down our picks for the top 10 overlooked gems from well-known directors. For this list, we’re taking a look at those brilliant and critically-acclaimed movies from famous directors that somehow slipped under the radar and are largely forgotten and unviewed today. Special thanks to our users Tudor Baltoiu, Edward Howard, Deathmatch1959, Vigilante Will, Andrew A. Dennison and TheDude for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest

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Script written by George Cimurt.

Top 10 Overlooked Gems from Well-Known Directors

As Mae West famously said, it’s better to be looked over than overlooked, and we feel that no truer words could be spoken. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 overlooked gems from well-known directors.

For this list, we’re taking a look at those brilliant and critically-acclaimed movies from famous directors that somehow slipped under the radar and are largely forgotten and un-viewed today.

#10: “The Straight Story” (1999)
David Lynch

Most famous for his surrealist and often disturbing films, David Lynch surprised audiences with his emotional and heartfelt drama based on the true story of 73-year-old farmer Alvin Straight. When he learns that his brother is dying, he embarks on a 240-mile journey while riding a lawnmower to see him one last time. Following the simple, stubborn man’s trip and the strangers he meets along the way, the movie didn’t make as much money as filmmakers would have hoped. And yet there’s no denying it tugs at the heartstrings, its screenplay is beautiful, and Richard Farnsworth’s Oscar-nominated portrayal of Straight is as close to perfect as you can get.

#9: “Sorcerer” (1977)
William Friedkin

Though most know him as the director of “The Exorcist” and “The French Connection,” William Friedkin’s favorite of his own movies has actually been called one of the last undeclared masterpieces of the ‘70s. Considered a remake of the 1953 French film “The Wages of Fear” by some, this suspenseful thriller follows four tough guys who meet in a remote village in South America and are commissioned to drive a truckload of nitroglycerin down rough jungle roads. With Roy Scheider leading the international cast, the film – which was a box office failure at the time of its release - is unusually gripping. Add a haunting score and frightening imagery and you’ve got a cult film.

#8: “A Perfect World” (1993)
Clint Eastwood

Certainly one of Clint Eastwood’s best, although underestimated efforts as a director, this tense drama follows Kevin Costner’s character as he takes a boy hostage and is pursued by Eastwood’s Texas Ranger. Praised for its depth and brilliant acting, the film analyzes each of the characters and provides an emotional arc as the fugitive begins to form a bond with the boy. Although noted for some inaccuracies in its portrayal of the boy’s faith, this sensitive, atmospheric crime flick was called one of 1993’s finest.

#7: “THX 1138” (1971)
George Lucas

Before George Lucas helped bring to life “Indiana Jones,” “Star Wars,” and “American Graffiti,” there was this science fiction beauty. Although commercially unsuccessful upon its release, it gained a cult following with its story of a bleak, oppressive future where citizens are force-fed drugs that inhibit any emotions, feelings, or desires. However, two citizens cut down on their supply and find themselves in love and in trouble, and thanks to this dystopian thriller’s unsettling visuals and sound effects, the film has a disquieting ambiance that has been able to win critics over through the decades.

#6: “Manhunter” (1986)
Michael Mann

The first film to bring the character of Hannibal Lecter to the big screen, this crime thriller directed by the same genius behind films like “The Insider” and “The Last of the Mohicans” was criticized upon release. Although it was originally seen as overindulgent and excessively stylish, its synthetic style, suspenseful story, and intense acting have thrown it into the limelight more recently and rebranded it as a cult classic. Featuring an excellent cast and a focus on forensic science that inspired countless TV shows and movies to come, it’s even been called one of the best of the Lecter series.

#5: “Strange Days” (1995)
Kathryn Bigelow

Although films like “Zero Dark Thirty” and “The Hurt Locker” have recently established Kathryn Bigelow as a directing titan, it was this science fiction thriller that helped show her as a force to be reckoned with. The movie stars Ralph Fiennes and Angela Bassett in a gritty, crime-torn Los Angeles, where the greatest high is an illicit device that allows a person to experience someone else’s memories and feelings. Tense, fast-paced, and frantic, this box office failure still managed to make Bigelow the first woman to win a Saturn Award for Best Director.

#4: “The Game” (1997)
David Fincher

There is little that David Fincher has done that he hasn’t received award nominations for; “Gone Girl,” “The Social Network,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and “Zodiac” were all nominees for multiple honors. This film, although not one of them, stars Michael Douglas as a wealthy and detached banker who finds his life turning into a nightmare after he becomes a part of something called The Game. Critics called the casting perfect, the pacing relentless, and the sense of paranoia exquisite; in short, it’s a thriller that keeps you guessing and sweating.

#3: “25th Hour” (2002)
Spike Lee

Ever since his Oscar-nominated “Do the Right Thing,” Spike Lee has made some cinematic masterpieces, although not all of these have enjoyed the same success. A perfect example is this 2002 drama about a drug dealer, played by Edward Norton, who enjoys one last day of freedom with his girlfriend, father, and friends before going to prison, all while settling some unfinished business. With some critics calling it one of the best of the decade, the film triumphs with its deep themes, real characters, raw acting, and hypnotic style.

#2: “The Limey” (1999)
Steven Soderbergh

With box-office hits like the “Ocean’s Eleven” series and “Erin Brockovich” to his name, it’s a wonder that Steven Soderbergh’s critically acclaimed 1999 crime drama didn’t have the same success. Starring Terence Stamp as a London criminal who travels to Los Angeles seeking vengeance for the death of his daughter, the film was praised as one of the best of the year, despite its lack of commercial success. With a first-rate screenplay and top-notch direction and acting, the complex flick hit home for lovers of the genre, especially with its unconventional editing and use of flashbacks.

Before we unveil our top picks, here are a few honorable mentions:

- “Insomnia” (2002)

Christopher Nolan

- “Tape” (2001)

Richard Linklater

- “Sweet and Lowdown” (1999)

Woody Allen

- “Drunken Angel” (1948)

Akira Kurosawa

- “F for Fake” (1974)

Orson Welles

#1: “After Hours” (1985)
Martin Scorsese

Although “The King of Comedy” is another underrated classic from Martin Scorsese, it’s this black comedy of the highest caliber that we’ve chosen to honor. Since opening to less than popular acclaim from audiences, the movie has become a cult classic and is now viewed as one of the legendary director’s most under-appreciated works. Following Griffin Dunne as a man who experiences the worst night of his life when he goes to visit a girl he met in Soho, this hidden masterpiece is as fiercely funny as it is painful to watch.

Do you agree with our list? Which overlooked gems from famous directors are your favorite? For more awesome top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to

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