All of Christopher Nolan‘s Batman movies have had one absolute thing in common – an all-star cast. These high-profile actors have some pretty impressive resumes. So, with The Dark Knight Rises hitting theaters tomorrow and Nolan’s trilogy finally coming to a close, we decided to look through Batman & Co.’s body of works and pick out the best, most-underrated and unwatched films of their careers.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Hesher (2011)
Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a great young actor. But, to be fair, 500 Days of Summer didn’t prove that: Brick did. Hesher is the most underrated and unappreciated movie on this list (and Levitt’s resume). You might’ve heard of it back in 2010/2011, but chances are you haven’t watched it. It was made on a minuscule budget and yet still made less than $500K. When I first watched this movie late last year, I was angry at myself for having waited so long to see it. Levitt plays a fallen angel-type character who abruptly barges into the lives of a miserable family of three. Rain Wilson plays the beat-up and depressed dad of T.J., (played astoundingly by Devin Brochu) a pre-teen kid who can’t seem to catch a break. The film is very bleak and dark, but that’s part of its brilliance. Hesher isn’t the conventional hero-type: He rides around in a van, is shirtless 99% of the time, makes dirty, obscene jokes, head-bangs to heavy metal, chain smokes, and has a thing for setting stuff on fire. But the movie is hilarious, well-acted and original. And there’s some very funny and inspirational allegories in it too. Of all the films on this list, this is the one to hunt for.
Morgan Freeman – Johnny Handsome (1989)
Johnny Handsome is another undervalued movie. The excellent cast stars Mickey Rourke (pre-boxing) as a hideously disfigured (how ironic, we know) crook who teams up with his best pal Mikey (Scott Wilson) and a pair of criminals, Rafe (Lance Henriksen) and Sunny (Ellen Barkin), to rob a coin shop. A very young Forest Whitaker also stars as a sweet plastic surgeon. And Morgan Freeman plays a tough and sly police officer. The year Johnny Handsome was released (1989), was the same year that one of his most notable movies, Driving Miss Daisy, also debuted. This movie has style, high-energy and originality. It’s a good, entertaining drama, and almost good enough to be called an 80s classic. It’s definitly got “the 80′s look”. Once you see, you’ll see what I mean.
Gary Oldman – State of Grace (1990)
Tom Hardy thinks very highly of Gary Oldman. He’s gone as far as saying he’s “the best actor that ever lived.” And he wouldn’t be entirely wrong. Mr. Oldman has one heck of a resume. But looking through it, State of Grace isn’t a movie that stands out, though it should. This little neo-noir crime gem came out around the same time as Goodfellas and The Godfather 3, but unlike those two, did not do well at the box office. State of Grace is a forgotten classic with an all-star cast. Besides Oldman, you’ve got Sean Penn, Ed Harris, John C. Reilly and Robin Wright. Oldman pulls off a convincing New York accent that you’d never guess he was an Englishman. If you feel like watching a good gangster drama, this is it. Rent this, if only to see two great actors sprint through a burning building. It’s pretty exciting actually.
Tom Hardy – Bronson (2008)
Bronson is a buried treasure. It tells the true-life tale of small time hooligan Michael Paterson who spent 30 of his 34 years in prison locked in solitary confinement. Let’s just say he wasn’t that easy to get along with. Tom Hardy gave a star-making performance (seriously, before this he was known as Picard’s clone in the wretched Star Trek: Nemesis) and transformed his body for the role – yet other than casting directors nobody seems to know/appreciate that. It was made by the now popular Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive). It’s likely that more people have seen Bronson since its release in 2008, but if you haven’t, then go do that. It’s streaming on Netflix.
Anne Hathaway – Havoc (2005)
Anne Hathaway‘s first film was a Disney movie, which means that she’s had a lot of high-profile gigs. I’d argue that Havoc is mostly known just for her nude scenes. Yes, she was exceptional in the indie Rachel Getting Married, but that got her her first Oscar nomination so it’s a notable film in her career. Havoc is a different story. It’s not a great movie, but she gives a shocking and raw performance. This isn’t the Anne Hathaway that made us yearn for the day our grandmothers would show up at our doorstep, telling us we’re a princess. It’s a topless, wanna-be-ghetto, rebellious teenager that looks like Anne Hathaway. What’s even more shocking is that this movie came out only five years after The Princess Diaries and a year after the sequel. It’s also got her Dark Knight Rises co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt. When Havoc came out in 2005, it went straight-to-DVD so many might’ve missed it. It’s not Hathaway’s greatest movie (no where near actually), but her performance is different and worth watching.
Michael Caine – Blood and Wine (1996)
Pauline Kael once compared Michael Caine to Jean Renoir. That’s a heck of a compliment. Caine’s body of works goes way beyond me and my knowledge of movies, as he’s appeared in over 100 films over fifty years. But one underseen gem is Blood and Wine, also starring another great actor in Jack Nicholson. This film tells the story of a middle-aged man who plans a heist with the hope of escaping his hum-drum existence and run off with his mistress (played by Jennifer Lopez). Caine takes a back seat in this crime film, but still shines as the vicious and unpredictable Vic. It’s a great movie and people should regard it as such.
Christian Bale – Metroland (1997)
Metroland has a sort of Woody Allen-esque vibe and humor to it. Christian Bale plays a married dad who suddenly starts daydreaming about his Paris-past (very Mr. Allen) when his free-and-easy friend Toni (played by Lee Ross) comes for a visit. Chris (Bale) begins to wonder whether settling down was the right thing to do, and Toni constantly tells him that it wasn’t. This movie tells a pretty simple story about growing up, coming to terms with adulthood and relationships. It’s not the very best of Bale, but there’s this sweet innocence about him and his character that pulls you right in. He looks so young and beautiful too. There’s some great dialogue that’ll get you thinking. At one point Emily Watson‘s character Marion tells Chris, “I think you’ll get married… You’re not original enough not to.” That socked me in the stomach and left me a bit breathless. So go check this out if you haven’t. It’s on Netflix.
Do any of these movies interest you? Which have you seen?