10 Great Movies With Famous Actors That You Probably Overlooked

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There are many great movies over the course of time that have featured major actors before they got famous which can be fun to go back and watch years later, while some films don’t even get the attention they deserve after a star has become big.

In no particular order, here is a list of 10 great movies that should have been loading up with awards and popularity, but for some reason never achieved that status.

10. The United States of Leland (2003)

The list begins with a film that is jam packed with star talent that when looking back today, you wouldn’t believe how good of a cast it is, but in 2003, most people had never heard of just about anyone in this film’s cast. The United States of Leland featured Ryan Gosling in the titular role, while joined by Don Cheadle, Kevin Spacey, Jena Malone, Chris Klein, Michelle Williams and Kerry Washington. What was the problem with it not becoming a huge hit? With the exception of maybe Kevin Spacey, the cast was unheard of at the time and matched with an unknown director who has done nothing since, the film has gone unnoticed to most people.

9. Manic (2001)

Manic is another early film featuring stars years before they made it big featuring a director with his debut, who also hasn’t been heard from since. The film was set in a mental institution, and features Don Cheadle in the role of a therapist dealing with teens who are experiencing psychological problems, becoming more relevant all the time. It featured performances from teenagers played by Zooey Deschanel and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and it is definitely worth checking out.

8. Higher Learning (1995)

Higher Learning is an important film that everyone needs to see. It deals with the issue of racial violence on a college campus and it is as relevant now as it was then. It was directed by John Singleton, who made some brilliant films earlier in his career such as Boyz N The Hood and Poetic Justice, while this film featured performances from future stars such as Laurence Fishburne and Jennifer Connelly, among others.

7. Murder By Numbers (1997)

Murder By Numbers is not your average cop thriller and it has brilliant twists throughout. It centers around two intelligent high school students who find a way to pull off the perfect murder and soon find themselves in an intellectual battle with a homicide detective, determined to expose them. The detective is played brilliantly by Sandra Bullock years before her Miss Congeniality role and the film features early roles for both Ryan Gosling and Michael Pitt.

6. The Soloist (2009)

The Soloist may be the most mainstream  and surprising film on the list given that it was released when both of its stars had already been nominated for awards. However, the incredibly touching true story of a journalist who befriends a homeless Julliard-trained musician when looking for a new story went completely unnoticed during awards season. It was based on the memoir by Steve Lopez and starred Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx, with Catherine Keener as a co-star.

5. Freedom Writers (2007)

The reason why Hilary Swank did not receive an Academy Award for her role in Freedom Writers will always be an unsolved mystery, but it is an important film that should be seen by everyone. Similarly to Higher Learning, it deals with race relations between students, but it is set in the high school setting. It tells the true story of Erin Gruwell and that profound effect that she has on her students, and also stars Patrick Dempsey.

4. Conviction (2010)

Conviction is another amazing film and true story starring Hilary Swank. Despite being one of the greatest actresses of our generation, mainstream Hollywood and the Academy seem to very selective in her films that they give praise to. This film went unnoticed by just about everyone after it was released, although it featured one of the best casts in recent years with several current stars. Swank played a lawyer who was determined to get her brother off for the crime that he was convicted of, and it co-starred Sam Rockwell, Minnie Driver, and Melissa Leo.

3. The Place Beyond The Pines (2012)

The Place Beyond The Pines’ lack of popularity and award recognition is about as mysterious as how Bradley Cooper’s recent film Serena’s release went. This film also starred Bradley Cooper, and it was just released a few years ago, but perhaps the unknown status of the director had something to do with it? In addition to Cooper, the film boasted an excellent ensemble composed of Ryan Gosling, Ray Liotta, and Eva Mendes.

2. This Boy’s Life (1993)

This Boy’s Life is a disturbing tale based on the memoir of the same name by writer and professor Tobias Wolff. You can talk all you want about how Leonardo DiCaprio deserved an Oscar for Titanic, The Aviator, or The Wolf Of Wall Street, but to not include this film when he was only a teenager would be a shame as well. In addition to his powerful performance at a young age, the film featured stars such as Robert De Niro, Ellen Barkin, Tobey Maguire, and Chris Cooper.

1. The Other Sister (1999)

Saving possibly the most obscure for last, The Other Sister features excellent performances from a handful of stars, most of whom gained fame after the film’s release. It was directed by Garry Marshall, the prolific director known mostly for his comedies. The film centered on a mentally challenged young woman who proves herself to be just as capable as her sister when she goes off to college, gets her own apartment, and falls in love. The film stars a young Juliette Lewis and also features performances from Giovanni Ribisi, Diane Keaton, and Sarah Paulson.

Tell US: Which of the great movies that some people overlook would you add to this list?

About The Author
Tobias Roth
Tobias Roth received his bachelor's degree in English with a concentration on Film Studies from Michigan State University. He loves movies, being outdoors and enjoys a good game of ultimate frisbee. He also has a passion for animals, the environment, and learning new things.