‘The Grey Fox’ and other overlooked films

Film critic Ken Turan is joining us Friday to talk about films you need to see that are largely overlooked. We want to get some suggestions of little-seen gems that you think other people should see.

My recommendation: “The Grey Fox”. It’s a little unethical to choose this film since you can’t get it on DVD. But look for it on TV. Put it on your DVD queue on Netflix and maybe someone will make it available digitally.

“The Grey Fox” is based on a true story of a stagecoach robber who gets released from prison after three decades into a modern world of trains. He doesn’t know how to do anything but rob, so he is inspired by “The Great Train Robbery” and becomes a train robber.

The film won the Best Film Genie, the Canadian version of Oscars, and Richard Farnsworth won the best foreign actor award (he was American.)

It’s got a great love story and scenery that will have you booking a ticket to British Columbia.

What little-seen gem would you recommend? We’ll discuss them on Friday.

Stephanie Curtis, social media host

  • Robert Moffitt

    My pick is the “Enchanted Cottage,” starring Dorothy McGuire, Robert Young, Herbert Marshall, Mildred Natwick. A film that blends fantasy, romamce and pathos perfectly.

  • Eric B

    One of the best, but lesser known film noirs, is “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers.” It’s a noir rendition of Macbeth with Barbara Stanwick, and Kirk Douglas in his first role. He is simply stunning as the besieged Macbeth / politician figure. Also, and yes I know this is a weird, I’ve always thought Spielberg’s “Always” is an underrated movie. Very much in the sentimental style of classical Hollywood movies (it’s a remake of the Spencer Tracy flick “A Guy Named Joe”), if you like tear jerkers, I defy you not to need more than one tissue. Also some very funny moments. One instance in which the remake is better than the original.

  • Nancy

    October Sky is a wonderful movie from 1999, about a boy living in a coal mining town who is inspired by the first space launch. It is a real charmer. I believe it is based on a true story, which makes it even better.

  • Tracy

    Local Hero.

  • Steve

    “Wild River” is one of the best movies I’ve seen. For some obscure reason, it has not been issued in DVD form and it doesn’t run often on cable. It tells the story of a TVA bureaucrat sent down to buy an island occupied by a resilient old woman who doesn’t want to sell her land so the Tennessee River can be dammed to control it. The performances and writing are top quality. Directed by Elia Kazan. Stars are Montgomery Cliff, Lee Remick, Jo Van Fleet and a superb supporting cast.

  • Wendy McCormick

    Movies: The Princess and the Warrior (2000) Franke Potente, dir Tom Tykwer, so humane; Funny Bones (1995) with Oliver Platt, set in Blackpool, England. Absolutely wonderful, lovely last scenes.

  • stephanie

    Let’s hear it for Local Hero!

  • Nancy

    Ah yes – Local Hero is magical.

  • Kryssy Pease, associate producer

    My pick is Boy A. Andrew Garfield (now of Spiderman fame) won the 2008 BAFTA for Best Actor for his starring role, and it garnered great reviews but it didn’t really make much of a mark stateside (it only grossed $113,000 in the U.S.).

    It’s a downer, for sure, but I found it mesmerizing.

  • My picks are Bernard Rose’s Paperhouse (1988), Alex Proyas’ Dark City (1998), and Fritz Lang’s silent film Metropolis (1927).

  • Laura

    Shattered Glass is a great movie that more people need to see!

  • Chris

    “Overlooked” is a pretty vague term. Overlooked by whom? Is it simply lack of commercial success or is it something else? By Stephanie’s example, it appears to be some film that I saw that establishes my hipster cred and remains unchallenged because you can’t see it. In that case, I’m thinking of this excellent film I saw on Azerbaijani TV a few years back. You’ll have to take my word for it, but it was the best thing ever made. Now that’s what I call overlooked.

  • Mitch

    I’ll second the “Dark City” reference. Beautifully creepy film that actually served as a large inspiration for the Wachowski Brothers’ “The Matrix.” My other overlooked film: “Thank You For Smoking,” a black comedy about a tobacco lobbyist in Washington D.C. during the federal crackdown on cigarette companies in the 1990’s. Independently financed and released, so it didn’t get a very wide release. But it’s the film that launched Jason Reitman’s career as a director (“Juno,” “Up in the Air”) and bumped Aaron Eckhardt up to leading man status.

  • Jennifer

    “Sita Sings the Blues” – an animated movie from 2008 that tells the Indian story of Ramayana (paralleling it with the story of the artist’s own divorce) narrated in part by the 1920s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw. The parallel narratives, beautifully artistic animation, and orignal concept weave together to make one stunning film. It was well received on the festival circuit and since the artist doesn’t believe in copyrights, the entire film is free to view and download online.

  • Kristin

    Shirley Valentine, 1989 movie starring Pauline Collins

  • Joe Schaedler

    My #1 pick is “Sweetland” – a warm & wonderful 2005 movie about a 1920s MN rural farming community that is aghast when a German mail-order bride arrives in their Norweigan community.

    It has a Prairie Home Companion feel, elements of Grapes of Wrath style social comentary (“farming and banking don’t mix”) and a top-grade happy romance story to boot.

  • Kate

    Little Manhattan (2005) – a cute romantic comedy about young love. Great setting, adorable actors, and an authentic take on first love. Warms the heart.

  • Chuck

    “Carmen” (1983) with Paco de Lucia and others. An opera company is staging a version of the opera “Carmen,” and the backstage story begins to parallel what’s going on in the opera. Mesmerizing.

  • Dominique

    “I’ve loved you for so long” (“Il y a longtemps que je t’aime”) – a beautiful French film starring Kirstin Scott Thomas in an emotionally raw performance. Her depiction of sadness, grief and reawakening to joy is absolutely breath-taking. And her french is perfect (this coming from a native speaker).

  • Chuck

    I just heard the caller mention “Saint Ralph.” Great, great movie. Very funny.

  • Kate

    Little Manhattan (2005) – Sweet story of first-love. Great for families, romantics and anyone looking for a romantic comedy.

  • Lucy

    Easy A. (2010) Yes it was a comedic teen film, but the script, acting and storyline transcended the generations.

  • Shelly

    The Best of Youth (2003)

    An Italian epic that follows the lives of two brothers, from the 1960s to the 2000s.

  • Chris

    Want to throw a nomination out for “The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra”. It’s a mid-2000s black-and-white spoof of a 1950s B-movie Sci-fi / horror flick. It’s one of those movies that is campy fun and hilarious in how “bad” it is. It’s definitely worth a watch!

  • frank wright

    ‘America, America’ by Elia Kazan

    ‘The Black Balloon’ for families with an autistic child

    ‘The Black Butterfly’ for those dealing with friends or family members who have been sexually assaulted

    ‘Work Is A Four Letter Word’ a film in the late 60s is one I laughed at more than any other at the time

  • Monte

    I suggest “Grave of the Fireflies”, here is a link to the IMDB listing… http://m.imdb.com/title/tt0095327/ it is a Japanese anime that portrays more humanity than just about any movie I have ever seen!

  • I absolutely loved The Station Agent. Such a lovely film that I stumbled on several years ago. Should have gotten much more recognition as far as I’m concerned.

  • Barclay

    Local Hero was the first film to pop into my mind, and obviously others thought of it as well. I still laugh about the joke that everyone in the town has two jobs!

    And I’ll second the vote for October Sky, although I wish they’d used the title of the book it was based on – Rocket Boys. The book is a gem also.

  • Howie

    Big Night (1996) with Stanley Tucci. I still get hungry just thinking about that movie.

  • Ellen

    “Away From Her” starring Julie Christie. She is succumbing to Alzeimers. Beautiful love story.

  • Jane

    Documentary BEING ELMO. Just watched this with my 13 yr.old son. Captivating. Great film. It can be hard to find films we both like.

  • Amy

    The Waking of Ned Devine – absolutely endearing and very funny.

  • Pam

    “State and Main” is a hilarious satire/farce/comedy of errors about a struggling movie production trying to film in a conservative small Northeastern US town. Sarah Jessica Parker, Alec Baldwin, and more. Everything that can go wrong does, and it hits on almost every Hollywood cliche. Should be able to find it on DVD/Netflix.

  • Mark Brull

    Gene Hackman? How about “The Conversation” (by Coppola).

    Films about filmmaking: “The Stunt Man” with Peter O’Toole, Barbara Hershey, & Steve Railsback. Also, “Day For Night” (La Nuit Americaine) by Francois Trauffaut. Both delightful.

    And, of co0urse, “The Grey Fox” and “Local Hero.”

    Best regards,

    Mark Brull

  • Kathi

    We recently saw and LOVED the film “Zelery” — Czech/Slovacian/Austrain, about a woman fleeing the Nazis who is moved to a small village and marries a kind man. The way she grows to love him and the village is esp moving. We got it on Netflix. Highly recommended!

  • rick

    If you like Gene Hackman you must see the 1973 movie the Scarecrow. Rally good!

  • Nancy Kaminski

    “Breaker Morant” was a wonderful movie about the Boer War and the court martial and execution of an Australian officer, who is blamed for killing a Boer settler. Amazing acting from Edward Woodward and Jack Thompson.

  • Margo Oleson

    Little Voice

    Wonderful music, acting, plot

    Michael Caine, Ewan McGregor, Brenda Blethyn, and starring wonderful Jane Horrocks – who doesn’t talk much but sings her viewpoints by mimicking Marilyn Monroe, Judy Garland, etc.

  • Chris Pierskalla

    Every Time We Say Goodbye [1986]

  • Penny M.

    In the Name of the Father-1993 Daniel Day Lewis and family imprisoned-falsely accused of IRA bombings-Pete Postalwaite plays his father-excellent, tragic performance.

  • Angie

    “The Station Agent” is always the one movie I recommend because people usually haven’t seen it, but they love it once they do. Stars Peter Dinklage (of Game of Thrones), Patricia Clarkson and Bobby Cannavale.

  • Tom Heffron

    The Red House w/Edward G. Robinson

    The Rail Roader with Buster Keaton

  • Doris Tyldesley

    Water – not the Indian film, but the 1985 British comedy with Michael Caine, Leonard Rossiter and others. Michael Caine plays the British governor of a small island in the Carribean – an island under threat of “closure”. Not many people in the US seem to have seen it but I love it.

  • Marie Kauten

    I took a film class in college 20+ years ago and there was a movie I wanted to watch again, but can’t recall the title (guess that could make it obscure). I think “That Cold Day in the Park.” Maybe from ’60s or ’70s about a woman and man who meet in the park and end up in a relationship which becomes somewhat warped. Hopefully someone out there knows the film and can share the title with me!

  • Dan Hicks

    Purlie Victorious, also called “Gone are the days”. 1963. Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Godfrey Cambridge, Sorrel Brooke, and a very young Alan Alda. Fantastic.

  • Teresa

    French film called “The Chorus” based on a true story and “Adventure” with Clark Cable and Greer Garson some great lines by Thomas Mitchell.

  • Allison Koster

    “The Fall” — absolutely gorgeous, plus an unusual story.

  • Jason

    The Signal

    One of the best pseudo-zombie movies I’ve seen. It’s made broken down into three separate sections by three separate directors in three very different styles. Intense, campy and emotional. Made for $50,000…Amazing

  • Primer is a story about a group of enterprising entrepreneurs on the cutting edge of scientific research. They accidentally invent a method of time travel (to the past only) and must deal with the issues that they create while interfering with their own lives. Strange loops abound as these two learn about causality.

    Primer is one of those movies that mandates that you watch it again, and again. Each recursion leads to greater understanding and more questions. I’m on my eighth time watching it, and I’m sure I’ll find something that I didn’t quite understand the last time.

  • Gwen Johansen

    “The Fall” starring Lee Pace. Just a visually stunning film!!

  • Brian

    What Dreams May Come with Robin Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr. Wonderful story about death and what comes after. A beautiful idea of what heaven could be like.

  • Erin Kratochvil

    “two for the road” with audrey hepburn and albert finney… one of my all time favorite movies… film about the timeline of a marriage. great acting, fashion and of course audrey 🙂

  • susanne

    Love the movie Saved & recommend it frequently

  • Barbara

    Departures (2008)

    A newly unemployed cellist takes a job preparing the dead for funerals.

    Daigo Kobayashi is a devoted cellist in an orchestra that has just been dissolved and now finds himself without a job. Daigo decides to move back to his old hometown with his wife to look for work and start over. He answers a classified ad entitled “Departures” thinking it is an advertisement for a travel agency only to discover that the job is actually for a “Nokanshi” or “encoffineer,” a funeral professional who prepares deceased bodies for burial and entry into the next life. While his wife and others despise the job, Daigo takes a certain pride in his work and begins to perfect the art of “Nokanshi,” acting as a gentle gatekeeper between life and death, between the departed and the family of the departed. The film follows his profound and sometimes comical journey with death as he uncovers the wonder, joy and meaning of life and living. Written by Regent Releasing

  • Steve Share

    Help! I can’t remember the name of this film but it was great. Mid to late 1970s. A guy rounds up his cohorts to pull off one last caper. Great scenes as he visits each of them to take them away from what they’re doing now. One guy is always showing up in odd costumes to save the day. They rob a bank or something. The police are closing in as they are on an airplane trying to taxi down a runway and make their getaway. Suddenly a shot rings out. And… well I don’t want to give away the ending but it involves horses. Anybody know the name of this film?

  • Wilma Richter

    The queen of the Stardust Ballroom

  • Shelley

    Sweet Land – filmed in MN A love story with beautiful visuals and more…

  • Patrice

    I would have to say Delicatessen, (same director as City of Lost Children & Amelie). I also love Big Night.

  • Johnny

    “Mindwalk” with Sam Waterston (a politician), John Heard (a poet), Liv Ullmann (a physicist). Reviewed by the LA Times in 1991 here:


    It begins with Waterston’s loss of a presidential primary. He invite himself to visit Heard, his former speechwriter, in France. They walk around a medieval island and bump into Ulmann. A deep discussion about politics, art and science — and the tensions between them — ensues.

    It’s not everyone’s fare, but I loved it.

  • Joanne

    I recommend “The Dish” a 2000 movie, based on a true story about a small town in Australia that had a satellite in the middle of a sheep pasture and the satellite was the only one one on earth that could pick up the broadcast signals of the 1969 moon landing. Quirky characters, good acting, fun contrast between Aussie and US culture, entertaining and educational.

    Also “Hands on a Hardbody” a 1997 documentary about an endurance contest in TX to win a Nissan Hardbody truck. The 24 contestants were required to keep one hand on the truck in order to win the truck and the documentary captures the emotional and physical exhaustion of each person as tries to “hang on” to win the truck! I cannot find this movie anywhere but it is a really amazing movie.

  • Bob

    Madam Satan (1930) is a dramatic pre-Code musical film produced and directed by Cecil B. DeMille for MGM, one of the few DeMille made for the Culver City studio. It has been called one of the oddest films DeMille made and certainly one of the oddest MGM made during its “golden age.

  • Stephanie

    Marie – It’s one of Altman’s first films.

  • Shelly

    I think a lot of people have seen it, but Cinema Paradiso – perfection.

  • Sue Leahy

    Waking Ned Devine

    Grace Is Gone

    The Stoning of Soyra M

  • Marian Larson

    A film recently shown at the Intl film festival in Minneapolis, called “Wild Bill’s Run” tells the story of Bill Coopers Transworld Snowmobile Expedition from Minnesota to Greenland back in the early 70’s. My husband was one of the members of the expedition.

  • Wilma Richter

    Panic in the Streets with Jack Palance, Richard Widmark. NOIR

  • Stephanie


    Not trying to be cool/hipster. It is a totally unhip film. It kills me that The Grey Fox is not on DVD. I want people to put it on their list so that when it comes up on TCM or AMC, they’ll watch it.

    I love living in a time when so much is available. I love when people can see movies that I love.

    I am incredibly unhip.

  • Danielle Johansson

    I recommend these films:

    Two screwball comedies:

    1) “The Lady Eve,” by Preston Sturges, starring Henry Fonda and Barbara Stanwyck.

    2) The Awful Truth, starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne and the same fox terrier that starred in the “Thin Man” series written by Dashiell Hammett.

    Smaller films which are hard to find:

    1) “The Public Eye,” a British film directed by the same director as The Third Man, Sir Carol Reed. Stars Mia Farrow & Topol. Released under the title “Follow Me” in Britain.

    2) Forty Carats staring Liv Ulmann, Edward Albert and Gene Kelly.

  • Kaare

    Where do I begin! I did a two week discussion of this on my blog a couple years ago on this very topic. Lets see, there’s the little seen Sergio Leone written comic-western, “My Name is Nobody,” Orson Welles’ fantastic documentary “F for Fake,” the recent drama-comedy “Waitress,” and the very under-appreciated “Psycho II.” I could go on & on; this is one of my favorite topics!

  • Tracy

    I second Station Agent, and I just thought of one of Michael Hoffman’s early films: Some Girls, where Patrick Dempsey goes to visit his girlfriend’s (Jennifer Connelly) very very odd family, and gets seduced emotionally or physically by nearly all of them.

  • Renaldo

    I had a suggestion, but was distracted by “Grave of fireflies”. Very heartbreaking, my wife and i were both deeply touch.

    My suggestion is “Higher Ground”. Pretty new, from 2011. Staring, and directed by Vera Farmiga. One of my wife and my new favorite actresses. Basically, follows the life of a woman, and her struggles with her spirituality/faith. Really poignant, and honest about this issue.

  • Joshua G.

    Moon (2009)

    Sam Rockwell’s performance is amazing.

    Astronaut Sam Bell has a quintessentially personal encounter toward the end of his three-year stint on the Moon, where he, working alongside his computer, GERTY, sends back to Earth parcels of a resource that has helped diminish our planet’s power problems.

  • dave gardner

    Love Actually -eplores love, kinda fluffy

    Night at the Blue Iguana

    Barbershop – simple themes, not real good editing

    Waitress – uplifting

  • Peter Losacano

    Exit Through the Gift Shop A documentary which may be a work of fiction, but gets to the question of What is Art with a capital A?

  • kurt nelson

    Diva – a suspense drama from 1983 or 84. Mostly in French, but some English.

    Great story line, with stunning opera, a young fan of the soprano, Japanese mafia, and twists you do not see coming.

    Second on Sweetland, Station Agent.

  • Susan

    The Lives of Others – a German film from 2006 about a member of the Stasi and the arts people that he has under surveillance.

  • Alan Hoffman

    Three films that showed at the 17th annual Rochester International Film Festival (most of these films were also shown at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival are recent films and all quite wonderful. They are “Journey on the Wild Coast” a documentary that is remarkable and a delight to watch. My second is an inspiring documentary that showed at Sundance and was produced in part by HBO. It is that story of Harry Belafonte and it is called “Sing My Song”. In addition to many songs song in his prime, it highlights the many courageous position Harry has taken for Civil Rights and Human Rights over the years. It is a tour de force. The third is a narrative independent film called “Mighty Fine.” It really surprised me how well the story was told and how good the acting is. A very patient telling.

  • Susan

    I was driving yesterday and couldn’t write down all of the titles that sounded interesting. Stephanie – what was the movie that was about a man going to a small Scottish town ? and – the one with Nick Nolte and Kathryn Hepburn.



  • Michelle

    Mary & Max

    Lake Mungo

  • Nancy

    Loved the movie “The Visitor” for its authentic feel in a story about a man who discovers a foreign couple living in his NYC apartment. Inspires empathy for the complexity of asylum and immigration. After viewing, I kept thinking of the characters, as though I’d met them. Few movies these days seem to create that effect.

  • Gerry Gilchrist

    A Thousand Clowns with Jason Robarts as a reluctant and anti-establishment caregiver for the nephew left on his doorstep by his mother.Wonderful and refreshingly witty interplay between Robarts and the nephew.Unfortunately still not available on Netflix.

  • Bill

    Five good French films to see:

    Lacombe, Lucien


    400 Blows

    Nettoyage a Sec

    The Grocer’s Son

  • David Ritsema

    “Into the West,” starring Gabriel Byrne, Ellen Barkin, David Kelly (from Waking Ned Divine), and two little boys who remain some of the best child actors I’ve ever seen. It”s a fairy tale for all ages. Hilarious and heartbreaking. Absolute must see.

  • Donnie Darko – A dark and thought-provoking movie, at least in my mind. I’ve only seen the original, but from what I’ve heard the original is much better than the director’s cut version.

    Das Experiment – An interesting look into human nature based on the book “Black Box” by Mario Giordano, which was loosely based on the Stanford Prison Experiment. Be warned, it is a violent movie. I prefer the German version released on DVD in 2003. However, if you’re not a fan of subtitles, the American version released in 2010 is ok. There are some differences, but you still get the main ideas behind the plot.

  • Christine

    My Neighbor Totoro is an often over-looked family movie (or really any Hayao Miyazak movie – Totoro is just our favorite) with a lot of love and humor. In this world of fast-paced blockbuster Disney movies, it’s nice to have such a charming children’s movie in our home library. Note – you’ll see a Totoro stuffed animal in Bonnie’s house in Toy Story 3!

  • Treasure Omdahl

    I recommend “What Dreams May Come” with Robin Williams, Cuba Gooding,Jr and Annabaella Sciorra. It’s focus is what happens after death with William’s character dying and with his wife committing suicide afterwards. There is some stunning yet jarring photography in the movie.