National Treasure (2004)A myth about priceless treasure hidden by the U.S. government has been passed down through generations of the Gates family. Recognized in the archaeology world as an unhinged conspirator, Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) is dedicated to discovering the truth, even if that means stealing the Declaration of Independence from a competing treasure hunter (Sean Bean).
Franchises like superhero movies and popular book adaptations aren't considered nerdy anymore. We geek out about comic books, sci-fi, and fantasy, but their mainstream appeal has made them less secular as they used to be. National Treasure fully basks in the subject of history to be unapologetically nerdy. Similar to but also entirely unlike the adventures of Indiana Jones, the story is essentially a cat-and-mouse chase through history, dropping conspiracy theories and clues about the U.S.'s founding fathers and international antiquities. Though the film's concept relies on dropping clues over and over again, it's wonderful to just sit back and enjoy the action, comedy, adventure in all its social studies obsessed glory.
Tremors (1990)A small town in Perfection, Nevada is overrun by giant worm-like monsters that tracks its prey through the use of sound and heat signatures. Two of the local scrappy repairmen (Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward) and a seismologist (Finn Carter) help their neighbors escape.
It's easy to say this is unapologetically cheesy because, let's face it, it is. But it's better constructed than most movies on SYFY and teems with more vitality than some of Dwayne Johnson's biggest blockbusters. A big reason for why the film succeeds is the use of practical effects. By seeing the monsters move through the sand and buildings shake from their attacks, it raises the stakes and gives movie goers the chance to believe in what's happening in the story. It's refreshing that every scene isn't a green-screen shot of a desert and the creatures themselves don't look flat and unrealistic. More than that, the cast bounces off each other well, especially Bacon and Ward. None of the characters feel like a throw-away, even if there are a few redshirts. The suspense of the A Quiet Place monsters starts slow but builds up to an action-packed finale that displays how well the script shows what the heroes are up against and how they have to outmaneuver the monsters. Tremors is a cult classic because it deserves to be, but it's even better than most cult classics.
Ready or Not (2019)
A newly wed bride Grace (Samara Weaving) is thrown into the lion's gate of her groom (Mark O'Brien) family's ceremonial game night, where she must thwart becoming a sacrifice in a demonic ritual.
Meeting sane in-laws is already a scary proposition. Ready Or Not levels up the idea of a would-be normal gathering and twists it into a delicious heart-pounding treat. With so many moving pieces, this plot shouldn't work as well as it does - it screams unpredictable, and in the wrong hands, could be too cringe-worthy to invest in. Surprisingly, the director-duo douse the movie with action and suspense, but also keeps it grounded with well-rounded and empathetic characters from Samara, Mark, and Adam. Every time you think the cat-and-mouse chase couldn't get crazier, it does, but then manages to return to investing in the characters. Though the supporting roles push the envelope between wooden (Andi McDowell) to hilariously cheesy (Henry Czerny), this rollercoaster ride is genuinely entertaining all-around. It's not only begging for essays about class and the 1% as well as a bride's role in marriage as a ritualistic sacrifice, but it'll be fun to watch as a Halloween tradition - it's got brains and pure entertainment, the perfect combo.