20 under-the-radar films for the folks stuck at home

This local movie critic will use time stuck at home to finish his forthcoming book on “under-the-radar” movies — that is, worthwhile films that were either poorly attended or unjustly trashed; it also includes older flicks that are now largely unknown or ignored.

So while everyone else is likewise hunkering down in the face of limited entertainment options, here’s a selection of 20 such movies from my book:

For Heaven’s Sake (1926)

From silent star Harold Lloyd comes this tale of a pampered millionaire falling for a lovely lass who works in a soup kitchen — and doing his best to help both her and her unsteady clients. Available free on YouTube, “For Heaven’s Sake” boasts nonstop sight-gags, corny jokes and jaw-dropping stunts; and unlike a lot of silent slapstick, it doesn’t have a mean or hurtful bone in its body. 58 min. Not rated

Hero (1992)

Dustin Hoffman plays against type as a two-bit loser who, almost against his will, saves dozens of passengers from a downed jetliner. Wishing to keep a low profile, the sleazy savior swiftly vanishes — until someone else gets the credit, along with a $1 million reward. Funny and exciting, with a fiendishly clever script from David Peoples (“Blade Runner,” “Unforgiven”). Co-starring Andy Garcia, Geena Davis and Chevy Chase. 119 min. PG-13

Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)

In this New Zealand import, a crotchety old farmer gets stuck in the wilderness with his overweight but gutsy teenage foster child. Written and directed by Taika Waititi (“Jojo Rabbit”), “Wilderpeople” somehow manages to be a comedy, a manhunt, a road movie, an outdoor adventure and an inspiring family drama all rolled into one. 101 min. PG-13

A Little Romance (1979)

This is the movie that made a star of Diane Lane. The now-famous actress plays an American teen who falls in love while vacationing in France. But with most adults frowning on their romance, the young pair take it on the lam with an older man (played by Laurence Olivier) — heading for Venice to seal their love under the Bridge of Sighs. A wonderful sleeper from director George Roy Hill (“Butch Cassidy,” “The Sting”), it prompted Olivier to dub Lane “the next Grace Kelly.” She was only 13 at the time. 110 min. PG

Matchstick Men (2003)

Nic Cage plays an obsessive-compulsive con-man who suddenly learns he has a teenage daughter — and she wants in on his latest hustle. Comical, clever and unpredictable, with a dandy ending and two cool codas. Co-starring Sam Rockwell; directed by Ridley Scott. 116 min. PG-13

Matinee (1993)

Delicious coming-of-age comedy set in Key West during the Cuban Missile Crisis — with a schlocky Hollywood director (John Goodman) visiting the local theater to host his latest thriller about a half-man, half-insect — hilariously titled “Mant!” Focused on kids attending the premiere, this one-of-a-kind satire has a surprisingly feel-good ending. 99 min. PG

Moon (2009)

Handsome and ingenious sci-fi about a lone worker watching over a lunar mining base. Ready to head home after three years alone, the man begins to wonder if he’s losing his mind when he encounters another version of himself. Starring Sam Rockwell; directed by Duncan Jones — who is David Bowie’s son. 97 min. R (language)

The Navigator (1924)

Another silent gem — this one from director Buster Keaton, who also stars as a witless dandy stuck on a massive cargo ship alone with his fiancÈ. Inventive and funny, with Keaton’s distinctively poetic visuals. Like many other works from this genius, “The Navigator” is currently free on YouTube. (See also “The General,” “Our Hospitality,” “Seven Chances,” “Sherlock Junior.”) 59 min. Not rated

Nothing in Common (1986)

Tom Hanks, Jackie Gleason, Eva Marie Saint and Sela Ward star in this eighties dramedy from director Gary Marshall (“Mork and Mindy,” “Happy Days,” “Runaway Bride”). Hanks plays a hot-shot ad writer struggling with his parents’ divorce and his father’s illness — both of which will force him to grow up fast. 118 min. PG-13

The Others (2001)

Chilling and virtually bloodless ghost-story set in a sprawling British mansion just after World War II. Features a truly hair-raising finale — and a fine lead performance from Nicole Kidman. 104 min. PG-13

The Palm Beach Story (1942)

The inimitable Preston Sturges wrote and directed this screwball comedy about a flighty wife who flees her rocky marriage, pursued by her husband from Manhattan to Florida, where the two get in over their heads with an assortment of love-lorn oddballs. There’s no one quite like Sturges, and this is my favorite of his many madcap masterpieces. (See also “Hail the Conquering Hero” and “The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek.”) 88 min. Not rated

The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)

Underseen delight about a 22-year-old with Down syndrome who — convinced he can become a professional wrestler — flees his ill-suited institution and sets out on a road trip with a likable but luckless refugee (Shia LaBeouf). Co-starring Dakota Johnson. 93 min. PG-13

Prisoners (2013)

Quintessential under-the-radar thriller — with a gut-wrenching child-abduction plot and a cast to die for: Hugh Jackman, Jake Gyllenhaal, Terrence Howard, Viola Davis, Maria Bello, Paul Dano, Melissa Leo, Dylan Minnette and Len Cariou. Directed by Denis Villeneuve (“Blade Runner 2049”). Don’t start this unless you’ve got time to finish, because you won’t want to turn it off. 153 min. R (violence and language)

Richard Jewell (2019)

Last year’s criminally neglected “Richard Jewell” tells the true story of the Atlanta security guard who became a national hero after pinpointing a bomb at the 1996 Olympics — and then almost as quickly, he became instead the prime suspect. Thanks to director Clint Eastwood and lead actor Paul Walter Hauser, we can tell Jewell didn’t do it — and the resulting tale of slander and redemption is simply spellbinding. Co-starring Sam Rockwell, John Hamm, Kathy Bates and Olivia Wilde. 131 min. R (language)

The Rider (2017)

Heads up, fans of rodeos, riding and real life: This little-seen tale recounts the true story of modern-day cowboy Brady Jandreau, who fought to find his way in life after a near-fatal injury in the ring. Jandreau plays himself, as do his father and comically opinionated autistic sister. A slow, low-key film about living with brokenness — thoughtful and beautifully filmed. 104 min. R (language, drug use)

Short Term 12 (2013)

Brie Larson, Rami Malek, Lakeith Stanfield and “Last Man Standing’s” Kaitlyn Dever star in this story of workers and patients struggling with trauma at the titular center for troubled teens. Bitterly real and painful, yet ultimately a film of transcendent hope. 96 min. R (language)

Sing Street (2016)

In 1980s Ireland, student Conor Lalor throws together a ragtag band of fellow musicians to impress the girl he’s fallen for — and they quickly start turning out tunes so clutch and catchy you will want to download the soundtrack before the movie even ends. A romantic, joyous and soaring ode to music from writer-director John Carney (“Once,” “Begin Again”). 106 min. PG-13

Support Your Local Sheriff! (1969)

James Garner stars as the titular officer, who whips into shape a frontier town plagued by gold fever and held in the grip of a cruel but brainless family gang. Entertaining comic Western was actually quite a hit in its time, despite the corny-sounding title. 92 min. G

The Switch (2010)

Terrifically funny and engaging story of a neurotic Manhattanite (Jason Bateman) who attends an awkward “insemination party” for his gal-pal (Jennifer Aniston) — where he winds up so soused that he “hijacks” her pregnancy. I’m sure this sounds both dumb and disgusting, but it’s handled quite tastefully, and the resulting child is irresistibly cute — though it takes Wally a while to figure out the boy is his. With Patrick Wilson, Juliette Lewis and Jeff Goldblum. 101 min. PG-13

The Walk (2015)

True story of tightrope walker Philippe Petit, who in 1974, while the World Trade Center was still under construction, illegally strung a wire between the towers in the middle of the night — and then walked it at dawn, to the amazement of countless Wall Street commuters below. For reasons I still can’t figure out, this film from veteran director Robert Zemeckis — starring then-red-hot Joseph Gordon-Levitt — netted less than a third of its modest $35 million budget. Its dazzling high-wire climax — both wondrous and terrifying — should be seen on the biggest screen possible. 123 min. PG

Under-the-radar films for kids: “The Adventures of Milo & Otis,” “Beauty and the Beast” (1946 version), “The Emperor’s New Groove,” “Fantasia 2000,” “Follow That Bird,” “Holes,” “The Journey of Natty Gann,” “Klaus” (Netflix), “Lassie” (2005 version), “Meet the Robinsons,” “Monster House,” “The Pagemaster,” “The Phantom Tollbooth,” “The Point.”

And for a few deranged friends who asked about “virus movies”: “The Andromeda Strain,” “Contagion,” “I Am Legend,” “Outbreak,” “The Satan Bug.”


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