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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Kutztown chapter.

I love searching for movies that often go unloved, hidden gems buried within vast media libraries. There’s something so satisfying about finding a film that the general public hasn’t spammed social media with, although it’s hard to love a piece of work that no one in your friend group knows about. In an attempt to bring more masterpieces to light, here are some dramatic films that you’ve probably never heard of but should definitely watch:

1. Mustang

Oscar-nominated, yet relatively unknown, Mustang is a 2015 Turkish-language film that mourns the loss of childhood. It explores the lives of five sisters who’ve been locked inside their house by their conservative family members. As they grow older and begin to be married off one by one, the younger siblings begin to look for a way to escape. 

Bearing a large resemblance to The Virgin Suicides, albeit with a slightly more optimistic ending, this film is not for the faint of heart. It deals with mature topics like suicide and off-screen sexual abuse, so it would be best to look elsewhere if such topics are triggering to you. But if you do decide to watch Mustang, you’ll be rewarded with an atmospheric piece that has a lot to say about the war between societal expectations and individual freedom. The main actresses give stellar performances, and their rebellious unity is what really ties this film together. There is some redundant narration, but Mustang’s overall atmosphere makes it near impossible to tear your eyes away from the screen until the credits begin to roll.

2. The Tribes of Palos Verdes

Documenting the slow destruction of an American family, The Tribes of Palos Verdes is a melancholic coming-of-age story that will leave you reeling. The narrative is shown through the eyes of Medina Mason, played by Maika Monroe (It Follows), whose parents are divorcing after her father falls in love with another woman. She struggles to keep herself afloat as her mother Sandy, played by Jennifer Garner (13 Going on 30, The Adam Project) and twin brother Jim, played by Cody Fern (American Horror Story) fall into a downward spiral. 

There’s some very dark themes at the center of this film, and there are triggering topics like mental illness and addiction present. Despite its rather depressing nature, The Tribes of Palos Verdes has an alluring atmosphere, gorgeous cinematography, and an outstanding soundtrack. All of the actors deliver heartbreaking performances, and Alicia Silverstone (Clueless) makes an appearance in a smaller role. It’s a movie that perfectly showcases the deterioration of the human mind, and it delivers it in such a way that you can’t help but watch the entire thing.

3. My Blueberry Nights

Flaunting a unique visual style, My Blueberry Nights follows Elizabeth, played by Norah Jones, a heartbroken young woman who takes a road trip to rediscover herself and the meaning of love. 

The film boasts a large star-studded cast. In addition to Jones, Jude Law, David Strathaim. Rachel Weisz, and Natalie Portman all play major roles in the narrative. Every character stands out, largely in part to the actors’ dedicated performances. There’s definitely some issues with pacing, and the fetishization of American culture can make the characters feel a bit detached; but the unique presentation of the story makes all of its flaws seem minor. 

4. Collateral Beauty

Absolutely obliterated by critics but received more positively by general audiences, Collateral Beauty is an underrated, if a bit flawed, film about emerging from grief. The movie follows advertising executive Howard Inlet, played by Will Smith (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, King Richard), who has been in a deep depression since the death of his daughter. He is confronted by Love, Death, and Time in A Christmas Carol fashion, where the trio of entities attempt to convince him that life is truly worth living.

The best way I can describe this film is it’s like one of those overly stuffed holiday movies. Think Love Actually or Valentine’s Day. I mean, this is a super stacked cast. In addition to Smith, Kate Winslet, Helen Mirren, Keira Knightley, Naomie Harris, and Edward Norton all play major roles. However, the sheer amount of characters involved unfortunately leaves them feeling a bit flat and cliche. Despite being a bit bloated, it’s still immensely enjoyable, quite quotable, and has a heartfelt message at its core. I truly believe that Collateral Beauty deserves better than its dismal reviews, and you could definitely put it on and have a pleasant movie night.

5. A Vigilante

More of an action-thriller, A Vigilante follows Sadie, played by Olivia Wilde (House M.D., Meadowland), a vigilante who helps people escape their abusive homes. Simultaneously, she is attempting to track down her missing husband, a psychotic survivalist who killed their son. Jam-packed with action and suspense, this movie is definitely a must-see.
Wilde’s performance absolutely carries this film. There’s a lot of psychological and social themes at play, and they’re handled masterfully. A Vigilante is tense yet nuanced enough to make its tough material palatable. In a reversal of Collateral Beauty, it was lauded by critics but panned by general audiences, and it deserves to be given another chance in the public eye.

Sianna Swavely is a Cinema, Television, and Media Production major, with minors in Professional Writing and Communication Studies. In her free time, she can be found video editing, playing the piano, or watching Youtube videos while pretending to study.