My all-time favorite is probably The Right Stuff. It got some great reviews (I think Siskel and Ebert both had it top-3 in their best-of-the-decade lists) and was nominated for Best Picture, but it never seemed to catch on as a “great movie”. Maybe it didn’t follow any formula closely enough; it’s not by-the-numbers, rah-rah heroic, but it’s not ironic and detached, either. It punctures the image of astronauts as mythic cold-warriors, but once they’re off their pedestals, that makes them more heroic and not less. There are a lot of people who know the title as a catch phrase, but not a lot who have seen it.
I saw Pleasantville again recently and was reminded how good it was. There are so many efforts to romanticize the past as a better, more innocent time. I think it took some guts to make a movie that argues in favor of corruption, in the sense that we want to learn new things and push ourselves to find new art, or passion, or growth. Yes, it’s scary, but there are things in the world that make it worth it to face our fears. The idea of doing that as a black-and-white sitcom world turning to color was brilliant, and the special effects were worthy of the idea. There’s a scene of a car driving through the trees, and it’s black-and-white except for the pink blossoms that are raining down and dancing in the car’s wake; it’s absolutely breathtaking. Really, the whole movie is amazing to look at.
Network was a great movie when it came out, and it has gotten better as the things it satirized have come true.