city of god

Big blockbusters and high budget films of the past few years have often missed the mark in terms of quality, I’m looking at you James Cameron’s Avatar. But here are my top five lesser known films that you can use as a shoulder to cry on next time Hollywood produces another atrocity like Iron Man 3. Welcome to big school.

City of GodFernando Meirelles’ 2002 masterpiece depicts the rise of organised crime within a Rio de Janeiro favela, Cidade de Deus (City of God).

Through the eyes of Rocket, the protagonist and narrator, the biopic takes place between the 1960’s and 1980’s. By using a gritty and oftentimes brutal style that reflects many the lives in the favela, as well as being entirely in Portuguese, the viewer is completely immersed within the lifeblood of Cidade de Deus.

This film has won critical acclaim in the past, for its writing, direction and especially its cinematography, and is therefore worth one hundred and thirty minutes of your time to watch. For those who want to know the crushing reality of being oppressed by drug lords, living under a cloak of fear and fighting for life every day without having to actually experience it, City of God is about as close as it’s possible to get.

Mongol-As with any film depicting the life of Genghis Khan, Mongol has some epic battle scenes and truly displays the ruthless ruler who nearly destroyed China. But the 2007 movie does more than this; it actually makes a concerted effort to depict Mongolian life, rather than simply war.

Following the life of Temüjin, who would later on in life be known as Genghis Khan, the viewer develops an emotional attachment to the man who would later go on to command the slaughter of fourth million people. This sympathy towards one of the basest individuals in human history is the true beauty of this film, as it reinforces the message that everything has a reason, all in the name of honour.

So if you feel like prying yourself away from the drivel that is Ted or Man of Steel, and want to watch something that will actually educate you and question the very nature of the human condition, then hop on your horse and whip out the scimitars because Mongol is the film for you.

Maniac-Elijah Wood stars in this gripping thriller following the life and times of a serial killer, the experience is enhanced by the first person narrative the film takes on, in that the viewer can only see what the protagonist sees.

Franck Khalfoun uses low budget special effects very well by using quick cuts to disguise the films less than stellar CG. This combined with the peep show esque first person view creates some truly disturbing and gruesome kills, this stands in stark contrast with the sensitive and sweet serial killer that Wood portrays.

Whilst Elijah Wood may be more famous for destroying rings and football hooliganism, in Maniac he shows more subtlety in his acting which more than merits a break from pretending to do university work and watching Teen Mom 2.

The Hunt-2012 might be the year best known for Snooki’s marriage and Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez breaking up, but it was also the year Denmark finally made up for the army of Vikings they sent over in the 9th century, with The Hunt. This film follows a teaching aid who is wrongfully accused of molesting a child, which causes an entire Danish hamlet to turn against him.

Mads Mikkelsen, best known for his role in Casino Royale, takes the lead role with excellence and grace, showing a much wider range in emotion than previously seen from him. Moving on from the travesty which was Valhalla, in which he played a Viking with all the charisma of a goat tied to a pole. His acting in this is stellar and it’s reason enough to watch it off its own merit.

The story portrayed here is one of personal loss and a tragedy that is all too real in modern society, and takes a less grandiose way of portraying the main character. This distances it from the grey slop of a lot of other crime thrillers, *cough* Dexter *cough*.

Hero-Last on my list is my all-time favourite martial arts movie, which tells the story of three assassins from the perspective of Jet Li, the protagonist. However, the interesting thing here is that the story is also told from two other perspectives (no spoilers) each of which changes key elements and takes on a different style through the highly stylised use of colour.

Classically over the top martial arts scenes typical of Chinese cinema showcase Jet Li’s amazing skills, and the romance storyline done in tandem to the fighting creates excellent contrast within the film highlighting the strengths of both. If great acting and an intelligent storyline goes over your head, just watch it for the pretty colours.

So there are my top five films you probably haven’t seen but should. The next time you’re bitterly disappointed by a disgusting regurgitation of a Fast and Furious film, or are questioning your faith in humanity after the five thousandth edition of Step Up, please, for your own sake watch an underappreciated classic.