Some movies you just don’t get right away. That happens. It can be two or three viewings in before something clicks and you think, Wow, that is amazing! On the 15th anniversary of Martin Scorsese's "Gangs of New York," a movie that was largely overlooked but garnered widespread support in the years after its release, we look back at other movies that you might have missed the first time but have grown into your favorites.
As a director, Mel Gibson was coming off the biggest hit of his career, the bloody religious epic "The Passion of the Christ," and decided to follow that up with something even weirder (and more amazing). Shockingly released by Disney, "Apocalypto" followed a Mayan warrior as he fights for the life of his wife and evades enemies on all sides. It's dizzying and surreal, an action movie of unequaled caliber. And yet, when it first came out, nobody paid much attention. Through the years, though, a critical reappraisal and cultish following have lifted the movie out of history (and past the quagmire of Gibson's bad behavior). Good luck watching the movie, though, it's unavailable on digital platforms and Blu-ray copies go for around $100.
'The Shawshank Redemption' (1994)
While "The Shawshank Redemption" certainly garnered critical acclaim during its initial release (and picked up several Oscar nominations), it didn't reach the threshold of beloved favorite until it was played, incessantly, on TNT. That's when things really took off for the film, written and directed by Frank Darabont and based on the story by Stephen King. Since then, it's become one of those unimpeachable classics that regularly top the IMDB poll of favorite films.
'Blade Runner' (1982)
Admit it -- the first time you saw "Blade Runner" was years after its theatrical release. That's okay. You probably loved it. And the original release was notoriously compromised, leading to a number of successive edits in the years that followed, so it's easy to understand why it didn't catch on initially. In the years since its release, the film has been widely recognized as the classic that it is, inspiring a nearly-as-good 2017 sequel.
'Children of Men' (2006)
This is the kind of movie that, when you finally saw it, you couldn’t believe that it wasn't in your life before that moment. Alfonso Cuaron's dizzying "Children of Men," set in a dystopian future where women are unable to have children, is an impressive technical accomplishment, full of stunning unbroken shots and visceral action set pieces. But it's the startling emotional core of the film that has kept it afloat for more than a decade.
'Out of Sight' (1998)
Now largely considered one of the greatest Elmore Leonard adaptations of all time (as well as the marked return of director Steven Soderbergh after a decade in obscurity), when "Out of Sight" came out in 1998 -- nobody much noticed. Everything about the movie strained for credibility -- to much of the moviegoing public, George Clooney was still a TV star and Jennifer Lopez remained a crossover pop star. They couldn't buy into either of them being a part of a hardboiled pulp crime thriller. Looking back on it, it's not hard to understand why it didn't make $1 billion.
'The Warriors' (1979)
'Phantom of the Paradise' (1974)
Yeah, it seems a little ahead of its time -- a rock and roll musical with genre trappings released before "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" (but without that film's progressive message of inclusion and hope), with music from Paul Williams, who was probably best known at that time for his work with the Muppets. Still, the movie (and, in particular, its soundtrack) have remained part of the zeitgeist and "Phantom of the Paradise" is cited as an influence by everybody from Guillermo del Toro to Edgar Wright to Daft Punk. It's one of Brian De Palma's very best films.
'The Thing' (1982)
When John Carpenter's boundary-pushing remake of "The Thing" was released in 1982, audiences were indifferent and critics were savage. It was too dark, too disgusting, too much of a deviation from the original! But these days, its widely regarded as a classic horror and sci-fi film. And, really, it's shocking that the movie wasn't heralded at the time of the release, if not for its incredible suspense set pieces but at least for its special effects, which at the time were downright groundbreaking. Sometimes the only thing people can see is the goo.
1999 was an embarrassment of riches when it comes to quality movies. And there were bound to be some buried gems. "Election" is one of those gems. Co-written and directed by Alexander Payne, who would go on to be an Oscar darling, the movie features Reese Witherspoon and Matthew Broderick in what might still be their all-time best performances. It's easy to see why mainstream audiences could be turned off by the movie (its pitch-black humor and frequent inappropriateness) but its odd that critical/guild approval was still out of reach. In the almost 20 years since, of course, more and more people have seen (and loved) the movie and can quote it regularly.