Monday, July 16, 2012

A List of "Fifteen Lesser Known Movies" Worth Watching This Summer

Fifteen Movies to Stay Inside and Watch Instead of Melting Outside In The Kansas City Summer Heat

While the heat and humidity of mid-summer bears down on Kansas City, many of us are choosing to hibernate indoors with our trusty air conditioners.

If you are feeling bored while you spend time inside, below is a list of fifteen lesser-known movies that are worth checking out to help you pass the time. 

Note that they are not all necessarily new movies, but all are definitely worth viewing.

Taking Chance

Based on the true story of Marine Lt. Colonel Michael Strobl, this drama requires at least one box of Kleenex while watching. 

A 2009 HBO original film starring Kevin Bacon, Taking Chance follows Strobl’s journey as he accompanies the body of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, a fellow Marine killed in Iraq, back home for burial.  

Truly touching, this film is not rated and runs 90 minutes.

October Sky

This 1999 gem, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Laura Dern, and Chris Cooper, is based on the memoir Rocket Boys by Homer H. Hickam, Jr.

Set in a dead-end West Virginia coal-mining town, the story begins in 1957 with the launching of Sputnik.  High-schooler Homer is so inspired by this event and determined not to become a coal miner like his father, that against all odds and his father’s wishes, he succeeds at his dream of becoming a rocket scientist.   

This uplifting movie lasts 108 minutes and is rated PG.

State of Play

This tense political mystery/thriller stars Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams and Helen Mirren. 

Crowe plays an aging Washington, D.C. reporter assigned to investigate the murder of an up-and-coming politician’s assistant.  What Crowe uncovers is far more devious and dangerous than he ever dreamed. 

Released in 2009, State of Play is rated PG-13 and runs 127 minutes.


By second grade, Juli is convinced that her neighbor and classmate, Bryce, is the man of her dreams – but he is not so easily convinced. 

Directed by Rob Reiner, this sweet coming-of age romantic comedy set in the 1960s, follows Juli and Bryce as they grow into teenagers and Juli begins to question if Bryce truly is the “man for her.” 

Funny, poignant, and tender, Flipped was released in 2010, is rated PG and lasts 90 minutes.

Raggedy Man

This little known film from 1981 is an “oldie but a goodie.” 

Taking place in the 1940s, Sissy Spacek plays a divorced mother of two young boys who meets a charming sailor on leave, played by Eric Roberts. 

The movie grows dark as rumors about their romance circulate around the small Texas town she resides in, but gets even darker when Spacek has a scary encounter with “the raggedy man.”

It is rated R and runs 94 minutes.


If you are a sucker for animals, you’ll like Hachi

Loosely based on a story from Japan, Richard Gere plays a college professor who finds a lost Akita puppy on his way home from work. The loyalty and unbreakable bond that grows between the dog and the professor is what makes this movie so heartwarming and heartbreaking. 

Hachi was released in 2010, is rated G and runs 93 minutes.

Music Within

Quirky would be a good description of this 2007 movie starring Ron Livingston, Rebecca De Mornay and Melissa George. 

Also based on a true story, Livingston plays Richard Pimentel, a Vietnam War vet who returns from his combat duty practically deaf.  This experience leads him to his life’s work, helping other people with disabilities. 

With a wicked sense of humor and a large dose of inspiration, Music Within is highly entertaining, runs 94 minutes and is rated R.

Return To Me

In this little treasure, David Duchovny plays a widower mourning the loss of his wife when he meets Minnie Driver, a shy waitress in need of a heart transplant.  What happens to them when they meet is truly unexpected for them both. 

Return To Me also stars Carroll O’Conner, Bonnie Hunt and Robert Loggia. As an added bonus, this romantic selection is sprinkled with Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin music. 

From 2000, it is rated PG and runs 115 minutes.

The Edge

Fasten your seat belts for this suspenseful action thriller.   

Anthony Hopkins plays a reserved billionaire who is stranded in the Alaskan wilderness when a plane crash leaves him and fellow passenger, a smug fashion photographer played by Alec Baldwin, fighting the elements and a man-eating grizzly bear. 

The “edgy” part of this movie, however, is the realization that for Hopkins and Baldwin, the greatest danger comes from each other. 

The Edge is from 1997, runs 117 minutes and is rated R.

The Music Never Stopped

Based in fact, The Music Never Stopped begins in the late 1960s with teen Gabriel Sawyer rebelling against his parents and eventually running off to Greenwich Village to become a hippie musician. 

Then fast forward approximately 15 years to 1986 when Gabriel’s parents receive a call that their son, whom they haven’t heard from since he left home, is in a local hospital with a brain tumor.  The tumor is removed, but leaves Gabe with no ability to retain memories.  Through music therapy, Gabe reestablishes his life and his relationship with his parents. 

A great soundtrack accompanies this film, including The Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan and more.   

A Sundance Film Festival favorite from 2011, The Music Never Stopped is rated PG and runs 105 minutes.

Pay It Forward

The premise of this movie is simple – for every kind act someone does for you, in turn, you should do something good for three other people – in other words, “pay it forward.”   

Haley Joel Osment plays the seventh-grader who comes up with the idea, which is inspired by his teacher, Kevin Spacey.  Helen Hunt also appears in the movie as Osment’s alcoholic, cocktail waitress mother. 

Inspiring and sad at the same time, this 2000 flick has a running time of 123 minutes and is rated PG-13.

The Express

This 2008 film tells the story of Ernie Davis, the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy. 

Davis, who was a star athlete at Syracuse University, has a bright future ahead of him, until the unimaginable happens. 

Starring Dennis Quaid, if you watch this movie without shedding a tear or two, you must not be human. 

The Express is rated PG and runs 130 minutes.

The Way

This newest addition to my “favorite lesser known movies” list stars Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez.  Estevez also directs the film. 

Sheen plays a doctor who must travel to France to claim the remains of his son, killed while traveling the Camino De Santiago on a historical pilgrimage.  Once Sheen arrives, he decides to finish the journey in place of his son. 

Along the way, he encounters adversity and meets new friends.  Ultimately Sheen learns that life is not what comes to you, but what you decide to make of it. 

Released in 2011, The Way runs 121 minutes and is rated PG-13.

Gifted Hands

Oscar winner Cuba Gooding, Jr. takes the lead role in the true story of Ben Carson, an incredible brain surgeon who overcame a fractured family life, prejudice, and poverty to become one of the world’s best neurosurgeons. 

With the help of his determined mother, Ben tackles whatever obstacles are put before him to become more than he ever thought he could be. 

Gifted Hands is based on the book by the same name, is not rated and runs 86 minutes.

The Ultimate Gift

I saved my favorite “lesser-known movie” for last, The Ultimate Gift, starring Drew Fuller, James Garner, and Abigail Breslin. 

In this 2006 winner, Fuller plays a shallow, selfish young man who feels he is entitled to his dead grandfather’s fortune.   The grandfather has other ideas and puts Fuller through a series of tests in his will, which in the end teach his grandson that the ultimate gift in life is not money, but something much more enriching. 

Lasting 114 wonderful minutes, this “cinematic lesson in humanity” is rated PG.

Hopefully, some of these films will help you pass the time inside while you are waiting out the hot, humid Kansas City summer, but keep in mind, if you don’t get through the entire list now, a cold, bitter Kansas City winter will be here before you know it, and that would be the perfect time to finish up this list of fifteen lesser known movies worth watching.

Additionally, all of the movies are available from Blockbuster online, Amazon, and best of all the Kansas City Public Library.  DVD feature films  from the library cost $1 each and have a seven-day rental.

So, turn off the cell phone, get the popcorn ready and let your super summer film fest begin – and if you know of any movies you think belong on this list, leave me a comment and let me know!



  1. My Aunt Trish recommended some additional movies for my "!5 Movies" article. She sent them to me through Facebook, so I am pasting her post in below. By the way, I agree with her, these are some good movies!

    The Boy in the Striped Pajamas - about a boy whose Nazi father was in charge of a concentration camp. Winters Bone - set in the Missouri Ozarks, a girl searches for her lost father. Chocolat - a candy maker in France who goes to a small village where wonderful things happen to people who eat her chocolates. Fireflies in the Garden - a writer who tries to make peace with his abusive father. Answers to Nothing - converging stories as a young girl is missing. Passion Fish - an older movie about a TV star who is injured and the people in the south who try to help her come to terms with her new reality. Tender Mercies - another older film with Robert Duvall and Tess Harper. Snow Falling on Cedars - a mystery adapted from a book - the book is better but the movie is still good. House of Sand and Fog - another adaptation from a book. An immigrant purchases a house at an auction, but the original owner tries to get it back. Not really an indie film, but one of my favorites is Crash where peoples' lives intersect with interest results.

  2. Can't wait to watch "The Music Within"...sounds good. Another lesser known one that I like is "The Man in the Moon" with Reese Witherspoon when she was younger. Its a tearjerker.

  3. I've seen the Man In The Moon, and it is good. Nice recommendation!

  4. Amy, I would LOVE it if you would create a list for audiobooks along the same line as the movies you chose. Not sappy, but intriguing books with some substance. Something good to listen to while I'm embroidering.


  5. I don't normally listen to audiobooks, but I will take that as a challenge and work on putting something together for you. Thanks for your suggestion!

  6. or meanwhile

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