The Best Movies Starring The Cast Of 'The Avengers' You Probably Haven't Seen

This is a weekend we've been thinking about for quite some time. The Avengers have finally assembled.

I've seen the movie and I can assure you that, yes, it is tremendous fun. One of the key reasons for this is the casting – it's just terrific. Everyone plays off one another so nicely and there is no weak link.

To celebrate Earth's Mightiest Heroes (and those they share the stage with) this week's TBMYPHS is dedicated to the members of this amazing team up, and the work they did before getting their action figure on.

Soapdish (1991); Michael Hoffman, director.

It's no Tootsie but it makes a valiant effort.

Robert Downey Jr., is part of the spry ensemble in this very funny, very goofy behind-the-scenes comedy of a daytime soap opera. (Yes, friends, there was a time when people actually watched daytime soap operas.)

The young Tony Stark isn't the star of the show, but one must wonder if RDJ cribbed a few pompous-yet-still-lovable tricks from Kevin Kline. I've watched bits of this movie 400 times on cable and laughed every time – it's one of the better forgotten movies of its day and definitely worth checking out.

Manny & Lo (1994); Lisa Krueger, director.

Here's something I discovered when I looked at the resume of Scarlett Johansson – all the good movies she's been in have been fairly high profile. She's had some clunkers (A Love Song For Bobby Long – oof, I still have nightmares of John Travolta's bloody urine) but not many films that are both good and obscure. Except for this gem.

Proof that the kid had it from an early age, Manny & Lo is a fine sample of a classic mid-90s indie. Heavy on character with a "quirky" visual style and a John Lurie score, this tale of foster kid siblings on the lam may seem like a Saturday Night Live parody of standard Sundance fare today, but at the time it was quite refreshing.

Apartment 12(2001); Dan Bootzin, director.

I love Mark Ruffalo. The fact that this oddball dude is now a movie star is a miracle of Giamatti proportions.

Apartment 12 is a flick I saw on the festival circuit close to ten years ago. The film was already old by then, but it started getting programmed once You Can Count On Me came out. The script kinda stinks (timid love blossoms amid wacky neighbors in an apartment complex), but it is 90 straight low budget minutes with Mark Ruffalo acting his heart out and, dammit, that's gotta count for something.

This movie is a genuine time capsule, in that it is of the final wave to get made prior to the digital revolution. The cheap lighting and film stock are horrendous, but that's what bootstrap filmmakers had to deal with in those days. I have a lot of good will toward this movie and if you seek it out and watch it I guarantee that you'll find yourself charmed.

Walkabout (1971); Nicolas Roeg, director.

Here's one thing you should know about The Avengers: there are a lot of odd cameos in it. Not just Stan Lee – respected actors from world cinema pop up for a minute or two at a regular clip. Playing one of the talking heads of the shadow government called the "World Security Council" is the british actress Jenny Agutter.

Best known for An American Werewolf in London and Logan's Run, the one you need to check out immediately is Nic Roeg's survivalist masterpiece Walkabout. It is a gorgeous, hallucinatory trek through Australia's outback featuring some of the most remarkable imagery every put to screen. It is a hard movie to get a bead on – like Lawrence of Arabia (which Roeg worked on, and was an obvious influence) the impalpable setting affords the entire film an aura of importance, making the feelings of the main characters somewhat unknowable. Jenny Agutter was just a teenager when the movie was made, but her performance is terrific (although a movie with adult content like this with someone that age would be a major scandal today.)

Trees Lounge (1996); Steve Buscemi, director.

I've lived a good part of my life in Queens, New York and I can tell you that no other movie has quite captured what that's all about like Trees Lounge

This look at barflies wasting their lives away is one of my favorite movies of all time, so even though The Avengers' Samuel L. Jackson is only in it for two quick scenes I'll use it as an excuse to shill.

Jackson makes deliveries to a local bar, where the mascot of sorts is played by Steve Buscemi. The diminutive and good natured guy is liked by everyone. . .but to a point. He's getting to an age where if he doesn't get the hell off the barstool soon, he's going to end up like one of the old timers that sit there like stone carvings.

This is a master class in character study, and the ensemble has every awesome New York actor you could possibly imagine. Believe me when I say I take Trees Lounge over any of John Cassavetes's films, and most of Martin Scorsese's, too. It's a total fluke, because the three films Buscemi have made since aren't all that terrific. This one, however, hits me where I live. The time I actually saw Rockets Redglare drinking cheap bottles of Bud at high noon is something that, despite it being a little sad, I'll always treasure.

Timecode (2000); Mike Figgis, director.Stellan Skarsgard, who shows up as Dr. Selvig again in The Avengers, has one of the pivotal roles in the groundbreaking experimental film Timecode.

If the idea of watching four movies at once seems off-putting, trust me when I say that once you get into a groove this movie really works. For the most part the main action is only happening in one of the four quadrants, with the other three involving someone traveling somewhere. This in itself speaks to the unthinkable planning and blocking that went into this movie that consists of four concurrent single-takes. But when different POVs interact with one another (or all four shake during one of the many earthquake tremors) it is exhilirating.

I haven't seen Timecode since it came out, so I wonder if it plays a little easier now that we've entered the golden age of multitasking.

Battle For Terra (2007); Aristomenis Tsirbas, director.

I was originally going to put Sunshine down as Chris Evans' pick, then I realized that this is hardly an obscure enough movie. But I must admit something – I either never knew, or completely forgot, that Chris Evans was the character Mace. I need to watch it again immediately.

Something else I'd like to see a second time (though not, perhaps, immediately) is the unfairly maligned animated sci-fi picture Battle For Terra. It isn't a masterpiece, but the spaceships look really frickin' awesome and for a kids' flick there are some really fatalistic and heavy themes. Evans voices one of the invading baddies . . .or are they goodies?

Yeah, this is the movie with flying sperm, but if you buy into it, you may catch yourself digging it. Historians should also note that Battle For Terra was one of the first of the recent 3D movies pre-Avatar.

Choke(2008); Clark Gregg, director.

We're gonna' conclude with Agent Phil Colson and something you may not know about the fella that plays him – he's actually a pretty good director.

Based on Chuck Palahnuik's novel, this is an angry young man bit not that dissimilar from Fight Club in that it starts out awesome and filled with originality but ultimately wears out its welcome. Still, there are many scenes of Sam Rockwell as the nihilistic theme park actor worth that are checking out, as well as the central premise of intentionally choking in restaurants to defraud people of their money. Choke is a unique film about a type of addiction rarely seen or talked about, so for that alone it is worth the price of admission.

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