For those unaware, The Criterion Collection is essentially the film equivalent to Penguin Classics. Every month they release between two and seven films on DVD and Blu-Ray that are considered, by their staff, to be “important classic and contemporary films.” That criteria was promptly disregarded when they received the opportunity to release Michael Bay’s Armageddon and David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button but hey, nobody’s perfect. In spite of the Collection’s occasional misstep, the vast majority of their films are what cinema snobs around the globe would consider ‘necessary viewing.’ I tend to agree with that notion.
Without further ado, I present to you ten movies in the collection (which, for the record, spans nearly 700 films) that are worth your attention, time, and money and are unfortunately frequently overlooked for one reason or another.
10. The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)
This adaption of George V. Higgins’s critically acclaimed novel of the same name is currently only available on DVD in the Collection. Starring a young Peter Boyle and a seasoned Robert Mitchum, The Friends of Eddie Coyle is an entertaining and highly underrated hardboiled Boston crime drama.
You can see traces of inspiration from the film in Ben Affleck’s The Town and Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines.
9. Tiny Furniture (2010)
It’s very likely that Tiny Furniture’s inclusion on this list will result in poor reception, much like the announcement of its inclusion in the Criterion Collection did.
However, Lena Dunham’s debut feature is truly the first film to capture this generation’s youth accurately portray it on film. Admittedly, this movie will not be everyone’s cup of tea but it is worth a viewing.
8. Good Morning (1959)
Good Morning is classic Ozu.
Unfortunately, nobody seems interested in watching it or buying it. Because of that, it has yet to receive a proper upgrade from the Collection in DVD or Blu-Ray.
Centered around two young boys with aspirations of owning a television set, Good Morning is a fun, somewhat satirical, family feature.
7. The King of Marvin Gardens (1972)
The King of Marvin Gardens is a movie about two brothers (Bruce Dern, Jack Nicholson) that reunite and link up with a mother-daughter duo to pull off a ‘fail-proof’ real estate scam.
This movie was poorly received when it was initially released, having failed to meet the same public response as director Bob Rafelson’s preceding film, Five Easy Pieces, but is really more than what it has been made out to be. Marvin Gardens features Nicholson at his most subdued, Bruce Dern at his best, and Ellen Burstyn in a fantastic supporting role.
6. George Washington (2000)
George Washington served as director David Gordon Green’s debut feature and, in many regards, is somewhat surprising given the fact that Green went on to direct the likes of Pineapple Express, Your Highness, and the god awful Jonah Hill comedy The Sitter.
The film focuses on a small group of children that live in poor, lower to middle class, conditions and attempt to cover up the accidental murder of one of their own.
5. Andy Warhol’s Blood for Dracula (1974)
Don’t let the title fool you; Andy Warhol had fuck all to do with this film.
Blood For Dracula is an absolutely hilarious, totally schizophrenic piece of filmmaking. Udo Kier stars as a sexual ambiguous Count Dracula that requires virgin blood to avoid aging and, of course, death. When he relocates to Italy, he runs into one big problem: sex.
All the women in this film are either putting out or getting raped by some blonde fuckface with a Brooklyn accent. Due to all the puss getting pounded, Dracula gets sick every six to fifteen minutes and spends at least a quarter of the film vomiting blood. It’s a completely bizarre black comedy and I assure you, it’s worth all 103 minutes of your time.
4. Shallow Grave (1994)
Danny Boyle is one hell of a director and when paired with semi-retired scribe John Hodge, he can do no wrong. (Except A Life Less Ordinary and The Beach…) Anyhow, Shallow Grave was Boyle’s first full-length feature film and many Criterion enthusiasts shrugged off its inclusion as nothing more than a back up for Boyle’s masterpiece, Trainspotting. In actuality, Shallow Grave is a rich, darkly comedic satire about grungy Gen Xers transitioning into what they oppose—yuppies.
Greed takes center stage after a trio of unlikable characters stumble upon a lump sum of cash belonging to a dead man and, over the course of 90 some odd minutes, turn on each other.
Though it is not Danny Boyle’s most polished work, Shallow Grave is an impressive first film from one of the brilliant directors working today.
3. Billy Liar (1963)
Billy Liar is brilliant… and quite unfortunately, forgotten.
Tom Courtenay’s spellbinding performance as Billy Fisher in John Schlesinger’s adaption of the novel of the same name is truly remarkable and something to gander.
Much to my personal dismay, the current Criterion Collection DVD is out of print and there do not appear to be any plans for a future re-release—possibly due to licensing issues.
2. Paths of Glory (1957)
When the name ‘Stanley Kubrick’ is brought up in a conversation, one immediately thinks of The Shining, A Clockwork Orange, or 2001: A Space Odyssey. However, the one film in Kubrick’s depressingly short filmography that deserves more attention and acclaim than it gets is Paths of Glory.
The heartbreaking World War I masterpiece perfectly captures the decay of human morality within pre-established structures. Between masterful performances from Kirk Douglas, Timothy Carey, and Adolphe Menjou, one could argue it’s one of, if not the, most well acted film that Kubrick ever directed.
Paths of Glory is a cinematic tour-de-force and highly recommended to anyone that watches movies.
1. House (aka Hausu) (1977)
Take an episode of Scooby-Doo, replace the human cast with Japanese school girls, its namesake talking dog with a demonic cat named Blanche, add DMT to the mix, and you have Nobuhiko Ôbayashi’s House. There has yet to be a crazier movie made than this 1977 haunted house film. It’s best viewed when having little knowledge about the content of the film, so I’m going to keep my mouth shut and simply say: WATCH IT IMMEDIATELY. It’s on Hulu Plus Streaming and readily available on both DVD and Blu-Ray. And if you don’t want to shell out cash to stream or purchase it, then steal it. Just watch the movie at all costs. You’ll become a better person for doing so.