With the surplus of content hitting us not looking like slowing down, you’re unlikely to go back and watch movies from the beginning of the year, let alone 20 or 30 years ago, without some prodding. But sometimes it’s necessary to put down the phone, grab a DVD with some popcorn and settle in with an old classic. The greats are greats for a reason. So we’ve taken the time to source three fantastic movies from great directors that you’ve likely never seen, lightly sprinkled across the past five decades that may have gone over your head. You’re welcome.
Duel Steven Spielberg, 1971
Duel is Steven Spielberg’s directorial feature film debut, and it is as tense and blisteringly fast-paced as it was upon its initial reception. First released in 1971 as a made-for-TV road thriller, the premise is giddily simple: a lone motorist, David Mann – played spectacularly by Dennis Weaver – sparks the ire of a 40-tonne trailer truck driver and proceeds to be hunted down across the California highwayscape over 90 minutes of seat-clawing, high-octane cinema. There are no distracting subplots or cloying meta-themes: just a series of vignettes of increasing danger and excitement as the motorist and trucker tear across the desert getting closer and closer to a final showdown. In short, this is one of the finest road movies ever made. All killer no filler, and it still holds up even 50 years on from its first release.
After Hours Martin Scorsese, 1985
A lost classic of Scorsese’s, Griffin Dunne plays Paul Hacket, a charmingly clueless word processor (yeah, that was a job), who’s invited downtown to Manhattan’s SoHo district by the pouty bombshell Marcy (Rosanna Arquette) for an initial rendezvous that quickly spirals awry. An arresting and surreal black comedy that careens dangerously close to thriller, After Hours is as much fun for the anachronistic little touches (Paul smoking in a restaurant, the slow dial phones, his inability to access cash from an ATM) as it is for the brilliant and distinctly Scorsese colour palette, courtesy of cinematographer Michael Ballhaus. There’s a moment when one of the many women who seem to plague his night, Kiki, throws down a set of keys: the shot is an Arts film student’s wet dream, and the film is full of them. Look out for the Cheech and Chong cameo.
Jackie Brown Quentin Tarantino, 1995
One of Tarantino’s less renowned but, in fact, more brilliant films, Jackie Brown eschews the post-modern structures of some of his more well-known work, as well as most of the graphic violence, while retaining the classic surfer/blaxploitation feel so predominant in his early work. It’s also the vehicle for what might be Samuel L. Jackson’s most badass line of all time: “AK-47: when you absolutely, positively gotta kill every motherfucker in the room…” It’s essentially a heist film about a down-and-out flight attendant running cash for Jackson’s character. There’s lots of shooting, a couple of twists and turns and a love interest, all composed in that trademark laissez-faire/occasionally terrifying Tarantino style. If you like your female protagonists tough, sexy and packing a nine, this one is priceless.