The hidden gems are out there. You’ve just gotta know where to look. Netflix has a seemingly endless menu of films, but what to choose? Many movie fans base their choices on actors. “If KEANU is in it, I’ll see it!” But what happens if your favorite actor is in some smaller movie you’ve never heard of? Is it worth seeing? Well, these are:
1. ‘Mississippi Grind’ (2015)
Big star: Ryan Reynolds
Also starring: Ben Mendelsohn, Sienna Miller, Analeigh Tipton, Alfre Woodard
A movie about pushing your luck, Mississippi Grind stars Mendelsohn and Reynolds as new gambling partners who travel down the Mississippi on a last ditch trip to make their fortune. Reynolds rarely plays characters like this. He shows a vulnerability along with his usual life-of-the-party charms as a poker hustler with big dreams.
2. ‘Locke’ (2013)
Big star: Tom Hardy
Also starring: Tom Holland, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott
On the surface, Locke sounds like a dumb joke. It features one actor, Hardy, as a man driving his car… the whole movie. However, don’t judge the book by its cover. If a movie can only have one actor, it might as well be Hardy, one of the most compelling names in cinema. And there are other actors, actually. We just never see them. Hardy’s title character spends the movie making phone calls as he tries to manage his crumbling work and personal lives amidst a crisis and an affair.
3. ‘Hostiles’ (2017)
Big star: Christian Bale
Also starring: Rosamund Pike, Wes Studi, Ben Foster, Jesse Plemons, Stephen Lang, Timothée Chalamet, Rory Cochrane
Set in the post-Civil War west where a legendary pony soldier (Bale) must escort a hated chief (Studi) back to his Montana home, Hostiles is an authentic, unsentimental story of death and forgiveness. It’s about old grudges coming back later in life and hard feelings that bely orders from above. It has great moments of peace, and horrible moments of violence. Bale inhabits them all in a complicated performance of many layers.
4. ‘An Education’ (2009)
Big star: Carey Mulligan
Also starring: Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Rosamund Pike, Dominic Cooper, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson
Mulligan debuted in Pride and Prejudice, but it was An Education that made her famous (and an Oscar nominee) in 2009. If you haven’t seen it, you’re in for a movie about youth and naïveté, as well as age and sophistication. Mulligan plays a high schooler in 1961 London who’s whisked into a glamorous new world when she’s seduced by an older guy (Sarsgaard).
5. ‘Half Nelson’ (2006)
Big star: Ryan Gosling
Also starring: Shareeka Epps, Anthony Mackie
Another low-key Oscar movie, Half Nelson stars Gosling as a middle-school teacher and girls basketball coach who develops a close relationship with a student named Drey after she catches him shooting heroin in a locker room stall after hours. He’s got problems, but Gosling remains entirely charismatic throughout, acting as a friend and guardian to Drey as she’s pressured by a neighborhood drug dealer to work for him. This is a sweet, emotional film of great performances that made Gosling with critics. It was also the first feature for Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, who later directed the first movie on this list, Mississippi Grind.
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