The Best Movies You’ve Never Seen

“There’s nothing to watch.”

How many of us have said that? More importantly, how many of us have made that complaint while scrolling through hundreds of options on our television? The problem really isn’t that there’s nothing available—only that there’s nothing good available.

That’s the elusive nature of visual media—finding something good to watch. Movie trailers can be helpful, but they can also be misleading. A particular trailer might steer you away from a film you wouldn’t like, but it won’t necessarily provide a guarantee of what you will like.

That’s one reason why I follow a small handful of film critics. Reading their collective thoughts on a film of particular interest can help me better ascertain whether or not said movie will please my emotional and mental palette.

And one of those critics has just made finding the right movie a lot easier.

A NEW AND WELCOME RESOURCE

There’s a new book in town: The Best Movies You Never Saw. Recently released by film critic Joseph W. Smith III, it acts as a guide that points you to a stellar list of films, both the past and present, that are worthy of your time and attention. Smith sought to compile a list of 300 films, a majority of them cursed with under-the-radar status, that are “overlooked, unjustly trashed—or just plain terrific.” To quote from the book,

   In our media-saturated culture, I dare say we can watch any Christmas special as often as we wish at holiday time…or in August, for that matter. And of course the same goes for movies—just about any title we want: Any movie, any time.

   It’s not too much to suggest that we film fans are living in an era of unprecedented abundance and availability: a cinematic paradise, as it were.

   But we need a map.

This book is that map. Alphabetized for easy reference, with appendices to find films by genre and actor names, The Best Movies You Never Saw provides plenty of pre-selected options to whet your appetite, whether you’re a cinephile or a casual moviegoer. Smith has done a lot of leg work so we can reduce the time necessary to navigate and select something new (or, at least, new to us) to watch.

NOT YOUR AVERAGE JOE

You may be wondering, “So who is this Joseph Smith?” I met Joseph through a mutual friend last year. At the time, I was deep in the process of producing my online course on the long-forgotten secret to making Scriptural entertainment choices. Smith graciously agreed to be a beta reader, and I found his feedback both encouraging and helpful. Getting to know him has been a rewarding experience.

Smith’s film reviews have become something I keep my eye out for. In fact, Smith is one of only a handful of critics whose movie recommendations automatically make me sit up and take notice. Through his writing, he has pointed me toward several films, both from yesteryear and the more recent past, that I otherwise would still remain woefully unaware of.

It might help to provide a couple examples: one new and one old.

For the new example, consider The Highwaymen (2019). This superb film follows two former Texas Rangers as they seek to apprehend the notorious Bonnie and Clyde. The movie handles some violent content (where it gets its R rating) without glorifying or sensationalizing the violence. In fact, through its use of cinematography, The Highwaymen artfully and subtly indicts the actions of Bonnie and Clyde—as well as the praise they received from the surrounding culture. Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson are often a pleasure to watch in their own right, but it's a special delight to see them interact.

Something of a modern-day Western, The Highwaymen hits that sweet spot where there’s an overlap between “films of a high caliber I respect” and “films I fully enter into and enjoy.” I’m still mulling over the composition of the opening and closing shots (as well as a symbol established near the beginning), analyzing all of their insinuations and implications.

And apart from Smith’s recommendation, I might have missed out on this wonderful film entirely.

For an older example, consider Double Indemnity (1944). Smith pointed to this film, among others, as an example of director Billy Wilder’s acumen. Considered one of the best film noirs of all time, Double Indemnity has it all: a femme fatale, a sleazy salesman, an adulterous relationship—and yet all are portrayed with respect for the dignity of the film’s actors (not to mention the audience), expertly demonstrating the truth of Numbers 32:23b. Throw in some excellent acting and an appropriately ominous musical score by Miklós Rózsa, and this story is a recipe for cinematic gold.

I wouldn’t have known about Double Indemnity if not for Smith’s recommendation. In fact, this movie—as well as two other Billy Wilder films—ended up being so great that I included them in my online course.

SOMETHING WORTH WATCHING

No two people think exactly alike. I’m sure there will be some movies Smith and I don’t see eye to eye on. And I’d quibble with a few of the films selected for inclusion in The Best Movies You Never Saw (mostly because of content issues). But there’s a wealth of options to choose from in this book, and they can help you get that much closer to selecting a film you’ll actually like.

So, regardless of how much we’d like to complain about there being “nothing to watch,” there really are plenty of options. We just need to know where to look. The Best Movies You Never Saw is an excellent resource that will help you do just that. I, for one, will be referring to this book for years to come. I encourage you to do the same.

You can purchase The Best Movies You Never Saw through Amazon.


Photo by Eric TERRADE on Unsplash

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