Are you hip? Are you cool? When someone asks what movies you like do you reel off a list gritty films by important directors like David Fincher, Christopher Nolan and Martin Scorsese because they’re awesome and make you look like you don’t just like movies for the explosions? Well, I’m sorry to break it to you, but when everybody likes a movie it kind of loses that specialness. It’s just not hip enough in a manner of speaking. It’s time to shake up that default list of awesome movies. Here’s a list of excellent alternatives (personally, I think they’re all better options) and will make you look a little more unique and out-of-the-box.
Instead of The Wolf of Wall Street… American Psycho
Okay, so admitting you like this adaptation from 2000 of Bret Easton Ellis’ infamous 1991 book might not win you immediate points with the ladies, what with its (perhaps misdirected) reputation as a misogynistic tome. But consider for a moment that this satire starring pre-Batman Christian Bale was in fact written and directed by a woman (Mary Harron) and that it’s actually a blisteringly funny take on the world of mergers and acquisitions (or “murders and executions” to Bale’s Patrick Bateman), consumerism and the disposability of women in said culture. And unlike Martin Scorsese’s Wall Street wonder, it’s not three-hours long and doesn’t actually use its female characters as mere window dressing for its sexist boorishness.
Instead of Django Unchained… El Topo
I wouldn’t be so cruel as to recommend something like Andy Warhol’s Lonesome Cowboys (1968) with its marauding hordes of cowboys and their assortment of various sexual proclivities, but if you really want to show off your hip cred then try shouting out to Alejandro Jodorowsky’s famed psychedelic cult western, El Topo (1970). The original midnight movie, a sensation in the marijuana-hazed underground, and beloved by John Lennon, El Topo is set south of the border and follows a mysterious man on horseback as he sets out to defeat the four gunmasters. The second half, however, is something altogether hallucinogenic and filled with a cast of deformed outcasts and abundant Christ imagery. Tarantino’s ego would appreciate the comparison.
Instead of Fight Club… Dressed to Kill
It’s arguable as to whether Brian De Palma’s slick and sick Dressed to Kill (1980) is even a good movie – the Razzie voters clearly didn’t think so, nominating it for three awards in their first year of existence – but there’s something altogether fascinating about this movie, which very obviously riffs on Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960). That it even exists feels like a miracle given how grotesquely lurid it is, taking any and every opportunity to leer at star Angie Dickinson and stoke controversy with its blend of sexuality and violence. This is ‘80s erotic thrills at its most composed and crassly satisfying.
Instead of The Dark Knight… Darkman
Hard to believe there was a time when comic book movies weren’t considered the fertile ground of big name directors playing with big budgets and even bigger celebrity-filled casts, but the times of changed. When director Sam Raimi – who would later go on to make the first three Spider-Man movies – was unable to get the rights to The Shadow or Batman he invented his own superhero. A scientist out to avenge the evil and corrupt villains who disfigured him and left him for dead. It’s a wonderful film, and above all stylish and retro in a way that modern day movies don’t even attempt lest they been as frivolous and childish. Yes, I’m looking at your Christopher Nolan.
Instead of Inception… Dark City
Alex Proyas’ dark yet beautiful blend of science fiction and film-noir murder mystery, Dark City (1998), was over-shadowed by The Matrix (1999) one year later – The Wachowski’s even re-used many of Dark City’s sets and it’s easy to notice – but to this day it remains the best sci-fi film of the last couple of decades. The gothic design of its world where it’s always night time and the dark city itself morphs and shape-shifts around its inhabitants on a daily basis is full of intricate details, many of which you will only begin to notice on repeat viewings.
Instead of The Usual Suspects… The King of Comedy
Martin Scorsese’s career was really strange for a while. If all you knew him from was his post-2000 work you would probably be surprised to see movies like New York, New York (1977), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and Cape Fear (1991) on his resume. Potentially the best of them all is this look at the world of stand-up comedy from 1982 starring Robert DeNiro, Jerry Lewis and a bonkers Sandra Bernhard giving one of the greatest performances of all time as a mentally unbalanced sidekick in a scheme to kidnap a popular TV host. Its satire is brutal, it’s power undeniable. It doesn’t share much if anything with The Usual Suspects (1995), I just wish more people would look at The King of Comedy because it’s utterly brilliant and should have the same reputation.