10) Cube (1997)
Before Saw there was Cube, a cold-blooded thriller about a group of strangers who wake up inside a cuboid room with no knowledge of how they got there. The exit is hidden between a maze of cubed rooms, each with potential booby traps. But there’s a catch. An unseen machine is switching the cubes at specific intervals like a Rubix moving of its own accord.
Terrified and confused, the strangers decide to work together to get out. But Cube cleverly plays on our fears, our selfish interests, and provides a forensic examination of the human condition. It’s a cat-and-mouse game of the highest order with a story refreshingly resistant to the idea of explaining itself. Cube is from the show not tell school of storytelling, and as the characters work out the magnitude of their situation, the stakes are heightened while forks in the tale keep you guessing.
Before you watch this one, make sure you don’t catch a trailer online as that’ll no doubt put you off. Cube looks perilously close to a B-movie and some of its acting is admittedly ham-fisted. But for whatever reason, that only adds to its bootstrapping charm. This is one thriller you won’t soon forget.
9) One Hour Photo
Of all the roles Robin Williams brought to life on the silver screen, germ-phobic Sy must rank as one of the best. One Hour Photo marks a dramatic departure for the comedic powerhouse, seen here playing a lonely photo technician in the most unsettling performance of his abridged career. With peroxide-blonde hair and neutered clothing, Sy is living a suppressed existence, but is at once charming and chilling. His life gains a modicum of color when he grows obsessed with a local family whose photos he develops.
Struck by a desire to become “uncle Sy,” he begins to stalk them, growing increasingly fixated with the pretty young wife and her young son. The obsession soon turns unhealthy though, with unforeseen consequences.
Ultimately, One Hour Photo was hampered by strict studio intrusion and the end product never quite matched Williams’ performance. But if you want to see a chameleon change his spots, give this a try.