Five Unknown Yet Awesome Movies With Well-Known Actors



When you fall in love with a certain actor or director, the first thing you do is watch everything they’ve ever done.  Invariably, you’ll come across some movies you’ve never heard of.  There are just too many movies out there for all of the good ones to be part of the zeitgeist, so it’s entirely possible that you’ll run across a movie that a) Has an actor you really dig, b) is actually a good movie, and c) you’re the only person you’ve met who’s actually seen it.

That’s a pretty good day, if you ask me.  Here are five movies that meet all three criteria.  Not only that, but all five are available to stream on Netflix!  So there’s really no good reason why you can’t watch these immediately unless, you know, you have better things to do.  But let’s face it, you’re scrolling through Unreality when you should be doing something productive, so you obviously have some time on your hands.  There’s absolutely no reason the next movie you watch (today!) shouldn’t be…

The Frighteners

IMDB Synopsis: “After a tragic car accident that killed his wife, a man discovers he can communicate with the dead to con people but when a demonic spirit appears, he may be the only one who can stop it from killing the living and the dead.”

Why it’s great:  First, Michael J. Fox.  I mean, that should be enough right there.  Second, from watching the clip, there’s a very definite Ghostbusters vibe going on, except that Fox’s Frank Bannister is basically a scam artist.  Second, Jeffrey Combs.  He’s a “that guy” actor who’s been in everything.  If you’re a Star Trek fan, you’ll recognize him as Weyoun in Deep Space Nine.  In this movie, his frenetic, creepy FBI agent is just priceless. (“Sheriff!  You are violating my territorial bubble!”)  Third, it was directed by Peter Jackson.  What more do you need to know?


Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead

IMDB Synopsis: “Two minor characters from the play, “Hamlet” stumble around unaware of their scripted lives and unable to deviate from them.”

Why it’s great: Gary Oldman and Tim Roth as the title characters.  The play it’s based on was written by Tom Stoppard, one of the greatest living playwrights in the world.  (And if plays aren’t really your thing, you’ll be interested to know that Stoppard did the final rewrite on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  Boom.)  Did I mention Tim Roth and Gary Oldman, playing off each other like it’s their goddamn job?  Plus, if you think Inception had depth, then sink into this mind-hole.  One of the greatest meditations on identity and metaphysics that there is, period.  Also, it’s funny as hell.


The House of Yes

IMDB synopsis: “A mentally unbalanced young woman (who thinks she’s Jackie Kennedy) flips into a murderous rage when her brother returns home to reveal he’s engaged.”

Why it’s great: The dialogue cuts like a knife in all the best ways.  A truly, truly dark comedy.  Parker Posey’s portrayal of Jackie-O is spot on, alternatively hilarious, creepy, and unbalanced.  You’ll be waiting on the edge of your seat for her to snap.  Freddie Prinze Jr. has a great role as the bumbling yet still creepy younger brother.  And the inestimable Geneviève Bujold has a small yet incredible role as the twisted family’s mother.  One of her lines, when asked “This is how you raised them?” by someone outside the family: “People raise cattle.  Children just happen.”



IMDB Synopsis: “A cynically selfish TV executive gets haunted by three spirits bearing lessons on Christmas Eve.”

Why it’s great: Bill Murray.  Also, Bill Murray and Bill Murray.  It’s a modern adaptation of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol with Bill Murray as Scrooge.  OK, you want more?  Carol Kane’s Ghost of Christmas Present has one of the funniest physical comedy bits I’ve ever seen.  The role of the arrogant TV exec fits Murray like a glove; no one can do funny/cruel like him.  You’ll root for him even though he’s a total, complete bastard.
Safety Not Guaranteed

IMDB Synopsis: “Three magazine employees head out on an assignment to interview a guy who placed a classified ad seeking a companion for time travel.”

Why it’s great: Three of the best current television comedies have actors represented here: Mark Duplass (The League), Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation), and Jake Johnson (New Girl).  The story is heartwarming and clever, and ultimately where most movies would be ambiguous, refreshingly emphatic and clear.  I saw the premier of this movie last summer, and when it was over the audience stood up and cheered. (Full disclosure, there was a fair amount of wine served at the event).  The movie is very, very well paced, balancing several character arcs very well.  It has a sincerity that feels almost painful at times, and the comedy is quiet and rueful, a background piece rather than the force of the movie.  The ending is a breath of fresh air.  All the other movies on this list are older; this movie is modern and it resonates with modern problems and concerns.  I can’t recommend it enough.  If you watch just one of these five, make it this one.

  • “Stay” Featuring Ryan Gosling, Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts, “Everything is Illuminated” featuring Elijah Wood, “Layer Cake” featuring Daniel Craig, but probably the best example is “11:14” featuring Hilary Swank, Jason Segel, Patrick Swayze and Clark “Coulson” Gregg, among others, and a pretty cool movie too.

  • DaveyJ

    My watchlist on IMDb just got a bit bigger. Nice article and some nicesuggestions Hallamq.

  • Charlotte

    Only Scrooged is available in the UK. Not fair!

  • Steve

    I wanted to laugh at you for having Scrooged (a very popular Bill Murray vehicle based on A Christmas Carol) and Frighteners (a Michael J. Fox classic starring Reanimator and helmed by that Hobbit guy from New Zealand) on a list of “undiscovered gems,” (the others are at least less mainstream, and Safety… is probably an unknown if you don’t watch trailers on Hulu Plus) but since the first few comments seemed to be unfamiliar with these films, bravo I guess. I went into this feeling like it was a Remy post talking about not enough people seeing Oldboy, but it looks liek thsi was better received.

  • IngridToday

    As someone who loves Frightener’s, I’ve yet to meet another person who’s seen it. I refuse to believe a film as amazing as “Scrooged” is unknown! They just never show it during December, because it’s too good.

    I would add “The Fall” with Lee Pace. Gorgeous film with great, memorable characters (Lee Pace and the little girl is adorable/talented/wonderful), and an interesting story:

    A stuntman (Lee Pace) seriously injures himself trying to perform a stunt to impress an actress. He meets a little girl who broke her arm falling out an orange tree on her family farm. He tells a fantasy story (I don’t think there’s any CGI, it’s all elaborate costumes, sets, and filmed in a dozen different countries) about a group of men trying to take revenge against an evil tyrant. We see the story as the girl understands it, so many of the side characters in the movie, because main characters in the fantasy story, she misunderstand (or correctly understands) the word Indian to mean a guy from India verse a Native America. Anyway the point of the fantasy story is to earn the girl’s trust so she’ll get Lee Pace’s character Morphine so he can overdose (not a spoiler).
    It’s one of my favorite movies.
    Just watch the trailer on youtube

  • Angela

    YES YES YES! Thank you for the shout-out to The Frighteners, I’ve liked it ever since it first came out in the 90s and I have never met another person who’d even heard of it. It is so fun and zany and creepy all at once. I also did enjoy Safety Not Guaranteed but I’m still trying to convince hubby it’s worth his time. I was surprised to see Scrooged on the list though; seriously, are there really people who haven’t heard of Scrooged?

    I would add Mumford to the list. It’s not well known but it has some terrific character actors and it’s a really quirky comedy about an unconventional psychologist who has inappropriate feelings for one of his patients. Faces you’ll recognize include Ted Danson, Hope Davis, Jason Lee, Mary McDonnell, Alfre Woodard, and a very young Zooey Deschanel.

  • cosyish

    Bit shocked with the inclusion of Scrooged have watched it many times at Christmas in the UK. Two to add to the list , Ghostdog and Copland.

  • FunkySonicO

    lol, these aren’t unknown, if you love bill and michael you know scrooged or frighteners! love them!

  • Alex

    I loved Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead. I’ve always called heads on any toss of a coin since I saw that film.

  • Tony

    I’ve seen all but the last. I’ll have to check it out.

  • Buggrit

    Bought Frighteners on VHS back in the mid 90’s and loved it. Bought it on BluRay a few months ago when had a sale.
    Went to see Scrooged at the cinema when it came out… great film.
    Have heard nothing but good things about Rosencrantz And Guildenstern Are Dead from anyone that’s seen it.
    Would really like to see Safety not guaranteed.

  • Fern S.

    Haven’t heard of most of those actors. And by “most” I mean any of them that aren’t Bill Murray. 😛

  • Jessica

    RandGareD is the BEST movie ever. I saw a friend in a school version of the play a few years ago, and she told me it was a movie with GARY FREAKIN OLDMAN, I had to watch it. Over and over again. It’s on Netflix now!? Gotta go watch, bye!