Updated: January 23, 2017
Fun and Quirky Films You’ve Never Heard Of
I’ve spent the better part of my life watching movies. My first job was at a small town video rental store. I was paid $5.35 an hour, but I got unlimited movie rentals. Nearly every night I would grab whatever was left on the new releases shelf and bring them home. I would watch between 3-5 movies a night before my next shift in the morning. I don’t nearly watch that many today (although there are days when I wish I could), I like to share great film recommendations with the world when I can.
The following list is in no particular order. I will not include movies that I think everyone is already aware of, unless it’s one of the “classics” that people put on their list, but generally haven’t made it around to watching. I will try to put some sort of notes in each one to help categorize by mood or topic, which may help.
Safety Not Guaranteed (2012)
This is a fun date movie, or just a fun story to watch on a Friday night. It’s smartly written and wonderfully acted. If you’re a fan of quirky movies that make you smile, laugh, and think about the possibility of time travel, this is for you.
It’s Kind of a Funny Story (2010)
Stressed by adolescence, 16-year-old Craig Gilner (Keir Gilchrist) checks himself into a mental-health clinic. Unfortunately, the youth wing is closed, so he must spend his mandated five-day stay with adults. One of them, Bobby (Zach Galifianakis), quickly becomes his mentor — and protege, while Craig finds himself drawn to a fellow teen, Noelle (Emma Roberts), who just may be the cure he needs to forget an unrequited crush. Great quirky film that makes you laugh and smile.
City of Ghosts (2002)
This is one of my favorite movies of all time, but I admit that it’s not for everyone. It’s raw and gritty and reminds me of my early travels to Thailand and Cambodia. This film’s portrayal of this time is spot on. The characters are amazing and the filming is wonderful. The movie’s slow burn pace will be respected by lovers of film, hated by those who want immediate action and explosions.
Jimmy Cremming (Matt Dillon) finds himself in Bangkok after fleeing the investigation of an insurance scam in the United States. Having discovered that his partner and mentor Marvin (James Caan) has surfaced in Cambodia, Jimmy sets off to get his promised cut of the action. What he finds, however, is a bizarre, ominous environment where cleverness is bait. The further Jimmy searches for Marvin, the deeper he plunges into torment – and the farther he gets from getting out alive.
The Director (Sean Ellis) of Cashback started as a UK fashion photographer, which shows up in his unique style and attention to cinematic detail. It also shows up in some of the scenes filled with naked women. But that’s not why I love this movie. I love it because it started off as a short film, won some awards, and then was greenlit to be finished as a feature. This is pretty much every young filmmakers dream.
Rotten Tomatoes: When art student Ben Willis is dumped by his girlfriend Suzy, he develops insomnia. To pass the long hours of the night, he starts working the late night shift at the local supermarket. There he meets a colorful cast of characters, all of whom have their own “art” in dealing with the boredom of an eight-hour shift. Ben’s art is that he imagines himself stopping time. This way, he can appreciate the artistic beauty of the frozen world and the people inside it–especially Sharon, the quiet checkout girl, who perhaps holds the answer to solving the problem of Ben’s insomnia.
Rocket Science (2007)
I will admit that I was in High School Debate. I was good at it and I loved it. Between movies and debate, that pretty much filled my early years. Maybe that’s why I’m so weird today. I was completely unaware of this movie until a few days ago when it came on as I was leaving the room. As soon as I heard, “Resolved ….,” I did a Risky Business sock slide and immediately turned around and rewound the movie for the opening scene. Long story short: this movie is about how awesome High School Debate is and how cool the kids were. Ok, maybe not.
But it is a fun and playful love story, which featured Anna Kendrick in the leading role. I had no idea until she came on the screen as a young teenager. I won’t spoil the movie for anyone, other than to say (for the debate fans) the topics were farm subsidies and abstinence teaching in schools.
If you love Wes Anderson movies, you’ll love Submarine. Is it a direct rip off? Or a cinematic tribute? Who cares … it’s an awesome movie you must watch.
Rotten Tomatoes: Fifteen-year-old Oliver Tate has two big ambitions: to save his parents’ marriage via carefully plotted intervention and to lose his virginity before his next birthday. Worried that his mom is having an affair with New Age weirdo Graham, Oliver monitors his parents’ sex life by charting the dimmer switch in their bedroom. He also forges suggestive love letters from his mom to dad. Meanwhile, Oliver attempts to woo his classmate, Jordana, a self-professed pyromaniac who supervises his journal writing – especially the bits about her. When necessary, she orders him to cross things out. — (C) Weinstein