Favorite older film discoveries during 2016

Happy New Year! Below I watched for the first time in 2016. All rated 4.5/5 or 5/5 on letterboxd. I'm counting films that are from before the 2010s.

The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) (Robert Wise)
I loved the way the story unfolded and there are a few surprises.
Why she didn’t jot down the words in order to remember them is a little odd though, considering what was at stake. Afterwards I obviously had to google the alien language.
The dangers of nuclear weapons is of its time during the cold war era, but the threat of extinction still feels vital. Set the template for films such as Starman (1984), ET (1982), and of course the 2008 remake.

3-Iron (2004) (Kim Ki-duk) 
Confused me with its genre, is it a drama, comedy. But I really enjoyed what is an almost silent film. Kim Ki-duk is known for this style. Of his work, I had already seen Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring (2003), The Bow (2005), and Time (2006).
Clearly breaking and entering is wrong, but there’s a feeling it’s therapeutic for the characters.
Probably a message is we don’t need a lot of words to be happy. The main character breaking into people’s homes reminded me of Christopher Nolan’s debut film Following (1998). Just my interpretation, but possible there’s a subtle critique of Korean society. Shining a light on the problems with arranged marries and maybe other societal issues too. With so little explanatory dialogue, there are things about their past left unanswered, so there will be different opinions of what it all means.

Raven's End (Kvarteret Korpen) (1963) (Bo Widerberg)
Swedish classic nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Included in the Danish edition of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
Set in the 1930s, a family yearns for a better life. The husband misuses their funds on gambling and alcohol so they have fallen behind with the rent. His son still lives at home and wants to be a writer but is constantly interrupted. The filmmakers show solidarity towards the less fortunate, yet also depict the father as someone who is keeping them stuck in this rut. I cared about the characters, even though the themes of poverty and birth control are a bit dated and would probably appeal to my grandparents generation.
The aspect that has aged the best is the budding author trying to make a mark, and the changing relationship you have towards your parents as the years go by. The most powerful scene is about 70 minutes into the film when the son cries when confronting his father. A film that gets better the more I think about it. Great performances and the film feels ahead of its time.
Favorite quote: ”Sometimes you need to feel that you are not the strongest one”

A Simple Plan (1998) (Sam Raimi)
Almost perfect neo noir. Great storytelling. I couldn’t look away. Perhaps even better than Fargo.

Sense and Sensibility (1995) (Ang Lee)
A captivating adaptation of Jane Austen's book. The scene when Emma Thompson breaks down is very moving, and I was glued to the screen the entire time. These are characters that stayed with me long after the film was over. There are also comedic moments which I wasn't expecting.

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (1974) (Joseph Sargent)
This is how suspense thrillers should be made. The tension is held until the nail-biting conclusion. The rare film when you root for both sides.
Inspired the color names in Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992). The criminals call themselves Mr Blue and so on.

The Decline of Western Civilization (1981) (Penelope Spheeris)
Gives context to punk music and what audiences were like who went to see the shows. Punk is described as “real music, no bullshit rock stars” Various groups talk about life in a punk band. You can be loved by fans and hated by others. A band member explains the punk songs are short, but actually have as many verses/lyrics as normal songs, because they are played faster. Black Flag made very little money when expenses had been paid, only enough for food and cheap accommodation.
The film ends with a concert by Fear in which the audience misbehaves and the band provoke the crowd by calling them names.
Favorite quotes:
Band member: “The only performance that makes it, and is a success, is a performance that causes total madness” Promoter: “Well I don’t want to be a party to that”
Audience member: “That’s why I do it, just to get aggression out”
“Why do you think they act like that? “It’s an energy outlet, they are really nice kids but they just have to be doing something different, it’s a release from their daily tensions I guess”

An Angel at My Table (1990) (Jane Campion)
The scene with the chocolates is very cinematic and stayed with me. Her trip to Europe was my favorite part. The film does a good job of showing us a person who is in that grey area, not crazy, but not normal. Kerry Fox gave an amazing performance as the author Janet Frame, someone who you root for and want to see lead a happy life. Also, it’s well-paced, so despite a running time of 2 hours 38 min, I was never bored.

Bill Hicks: Relentless (1992) (Chris Bould)
The beach, rotten teeth, the waffle house, delivering food to the starving via military equipment were my favorite parts. There's never a dull moment in this stand up show. He has a way of pulling faces in the sketches, which heightens the comedy. Still feels daring and controversial despite recorded in 1992. He confronts issues so the viewer questions the world with him.

Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008) (Kurt Kuenne) (documentary)
Thanks to Nostra at myfilmviews for the recommendation! An unforgettable and surprising real-life story of injustice and love. In an interview, Kuenne says that the documentary began as a project only to be shown to friends and family of Andrew Bagby. But as the events unfolded, Kuenne decided to release the film publicly. For the full impact, go into this one knowing as little as possible.

Ms .45 (1981) (Abel Ferrara)
Visually remarkable, there is hardly need for any dialogue, everything is told with images. Set in the 80s, the story could have been about a big city in America today. Zoë Tamerlis plays the mute, a complex and memorable character who gets a kick out of her vengeance. This is a woman who just wants to be left alone.
The scene of the street harassment is realistic and reminded me of the recent viral video "10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman". Men are creepier and more offhandedly predatory than they think. Other specific scenes had an American Psycho-ish vibe.
A suspenseful and well-paced exploitation flick that glued me to the screen, and which at only 80 minutes doesn't outstay its welcome. My only complaint is the last act at the party when the guests behave illogically. I should explore Abel Ferrara's filmography.

Scarlet Street (1945) (Fritz Lang)
Film noir classic. A well-told story which I became emotionally invested in. I don't really want to go into specifics as it's best to discover the film for yourself. I will say though that the performance of Edward G. Robinson (pictured at the top of the poster) is one I will probably never forget.

Danish films:

Zappa (1983) (Bille August)
An early international breakthrough for its director, Bille August.  Considered one of the best Danish coming of age films. Very well-acted by the three teenage boys and compelling from beginning to end. A realistic depiction of testing boundaries and power games. Almost every scene is memorable. The bird and the fish symbolic for the characters. Despite Steen’s bullying ways you pity him because of his selfish and neglectful parents. A tad heavy-handed in how the parents are depicted, yet a powerful story.

Et Rigtigt Menneske (aka Truly Human) (2001)
Surprisingly funny Danish dogme film, especially the tooth brushing by the mirror, when he has his first meal and doesn't know what to do with cutlery, the asylum seeking scene, and also laugh out loud is the car wash.
Obviously criminal acts are unacceptable. I think the filmmakers are saying society becomes a dark place when we fear the worst and show no sign of wanting to understand. It's interesting the foreigners are the most welcoming towards him. Added to my Best films from Denmark list

Olsen-banden går amok (aka The Olsen Gang Runs Amok) (1973) (Erik Balling)
 Light family entertainment. I’ve only watched a handful of the 14 Olsen Banden films and you could argue if you've seen one, then you've seen the formula. This is my personal favorite so far. Especially the robberies are suspenseful and memorable.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Tuborg (which is often a product placement in the series) made a contract with the producers. I like the fact "Amok" shines a light on alcoholism because the series tends to be too carefree about drinking.

Seen any of these? Agree or disagree they are great? Have I tempted you to watch any?


  1. Some nice discoveries, there. I'm a big fan of Scarlet Street and The Day the Earth Stood Still. If you haven't already seen the remake of the latter, avoid it at all cost. Same goes for the very solid The Taking of Pelham One Two Three. I need to see 3-Iron, A Simple Plan, Ms. 45, myself. Happy New Year!

    1. @Wendell: Belated Happy New Year! I agree those two are great, classics of their separate genres. I’ll skip the remakes. Will keep an eye out if you should review any of these films

  2. I'm glad you saw The Decline of Western Civilization as it is just incredible and still my favorite of the three films. I hope you have a good 2017.

    1. @thevoid99: Thanks for the well wishes for 2017. I agree the first ‘Decline’ film is the best, though I haven’t watched part 3.
      I just saw an exhibition about punk at the Museum of London, which was mainly about the UK movement. Very interesting subculture.

  3. I haven't seen all of these but there are some great films here.

    Taking of Pelham One Two Three is just fantastically made pulling in a real feeling of the pulse of New York in the 70's as another component of the story. Every actor seemed right in their part, Matthau is tremendous, and Sargent keeps the tension tight. The remake is alright IF you've never seen this but once you have it's just sort of meh.

    Scarlet Street is a great noir and Edward G. is customarily terrific but I was most impressed with Joan Bennett's cunning portrait of the worthless Kitty.

    Even if the look of it is dated that's about the only part of The Day the Earth Stood Still that is. It's message is very current and the acting very good.

    Finally, Sense & Sensibility is a big favorite. So beautifully done in every aspect and it's a real showpiece for Alan Rickman's versatility.

    1. @joel65913: Agree the actors were well-cast in Taking of Pelham One Two Three, Scarlet Street and Sense & Sensibility

      The Day the Earth Stood Still has a timelessness thematically, and I think holds up well despite a few dated aspects.

  4. I've seen a few of these, and I like the ones I've seen. A Simple Plan is a surprising film--for me, the darkness of the story turns on the changes in Bridget Fonda's character. As she goes darker, so too does the movie.

    3-Iron is a really beautiful film in many ways. I like the silence of it so much--dialogue would make it so much less than it is.

    While I do love The Day the Earth Stood Still, that kid Bobby might well be the dumbest kid ever put on film. There are so many goofy little '50s sci-fi tropes in it that it's hard not to love, though. Everything from that dumb kid to Professor Barnhardt, whose specialty is evidently SCIENCE! Still, it's a charmer.

    The Taking of Pelham One-Two-Three is a tight little thriller, and the remake didn't do it any favors.

    I love Sense and Sensibility. I expected to hate it and I found it engaging, charming, and wonderful, and can't wait to watch it again.

    If you like Bill Hicks, Sane Man is worth a watch, as is American: The Bill Hicks Story. Neither is quite as good, but both are very much worth your time.

    1. @SJHoneywell: Sorry for the late response. I do appreciate your comment even though I was slow to react.

      I like a neo-noir with twists and turns. A Simple Plan is that.

      Kim Ki Duk is a master visual storyteller. To me, among the most important art-house filmmakers of the 21th Century

      I think the kid Bobby bothered you more than he did me.

      Thanks for the Bill Hicks recommendations. I definitely want to see more of that guy.

  5. Seen a few, others sound interesting. The Day The Earth Stood Still is one of my favourite sci fi films. The remake was awful.

    1. @Rol: The Day The Earth Stood Still is a great film, an instant favorite. Hope you found something among these to watch. I’ll take your advice and skip the remake

  6. Just discovered your blog recently but intrigued by this list as know some of them well but some not at all. Fond memories of watching The Day the Earth Stood Still on TV as a youngster. My favourite older movie watched this year was The Long Good Friday with Bob Hoskins. Will revisit.

    1. @Alyson: Thanks a lot for checking out my blog! I’ve been absent in the blogosphere so far in 2017. I intend to get back to regular posting.
      The Long Good Friday (1980), I especially remember the music. If you loved that film I recommend Mona Lisa (1986) also w/Bob Hoskins.

  7. A lot of great choices on this list. The Taking of Pelham One Two Three does such a good job of taking its time. Modern thrillers could learn so much from it. Sense and Sensibility clicks because the actors lift the material, especially Thompson and Winslet (who was so young!). A Simple Plan is also a great throwback noir films. Nice choices!

    1. @Dan Heaton: Thanks, yes, The Taking of Pelham One Two Three lets the narrative unfold in an unhurried pace yet is still gripping. Sense and Sensibility is a Jane Austen story that is quite moving and as you say the film is well-acted.

  8. Hi Chris, Happy New Year! This is a GREAT idea for a post, it's a coincidence that my friend Ted just posted a guest post on older films that deserve a second look. Check it out and see if there are some you've missed.

    I'm thrilled that you saw Sense and Sensibility (1995) this past year and loved it. That is one of my fave films of ALL TIME. It just never gets old for me, so well-written, no wonder Emma Thompson won an Oscar for the screenplay. Eleanor and Col. Brandon are two of my all time fave characters.

    1. @Ruth: Belated Happy New Year! I’ve been on holiday and busy, but now I have time to blog again.
      I’ll take a look at Ted’s older films list, love reading those type of posts.
      I recently watched acceptance speech Emma Thompson gave when she won for screenplay for Sense and Sen at the Golden Globes in 1996, a unique, funny speech because she uses language Jane Austen might have :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BD_9RyiRe_o

  9. The Day the Earth Stood Still is such a classic sci-fi. If you liked it you should try Forbidden Planet.
    Happy New Year, Chris

    1. @TSorensen: Forbidden Planet is a well known sci-fi which I'm curious to rewatch. Happy New Year to you too.

  10. Hey Chris,

    It's been a long time since I last tried to stay involved in the blog community. I'm trying to get myself reacquainted and I'm glad you've decided to post again to bring 2016 to a close.
    Per usual, your choices as well as the range of your picks surprise me and make me envy your dedication to film watching.
    I've seen only ONE of these films: Dear Zachary. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much. It's one of those hidden treasures that kind of takes your breath away. I discovered it after reading an article about the best hidden gems in Netflix and I was floored. It may not lend itself to repeat viewings due to the emotional toll it likely has on you, but it's certainly worth highlighting it and bringing attention to it. What stayed with me was precisely how personal the film was, and how the anguish Kuenne pours onto the screen.
    As for the rest, I haven't seen any even if I've heard about Scarlet Letter, Sense and Sensibility, The Taking of Pelham (I watched the remake with John Travolta and it was pretty forgettable), and the original film take on The Day the Earth Stood Still.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. @niels85:
      Thanks for keeping in touch. I’ll try and visit your blog soon.

      Agree Dear Zachary is a knock-out and the doc made me angry at the system. I also watched the 14-minute sequel which is worth your time.

  11. Lots of great flicks. Still need to see Decline of Western. Ms. 45 looks awesome especially with American Psycho comparisons. Glad you enjoyed Day Earth stood stll

    1. @The Vern: Thanks, I loved these films. Will look out for your reviews of Ms .45 (1981) and The Decline of Western Civilization (1981)

  12. You are welcome! Glad you watched it and was as shocked by it as I was. Such an emotional documentary and one of my favorites.

    1. @Nostra: Yep, Dear Zachary was both shocking and emotionally involving. Great when recommendations work! Thanks again.


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