The Best Rance Howard Movies You've Probably Never Seen

(Welcome to The Best Movies You've Never Seen, a series that takes a look at slightly more obscure, under-the-radar, or simply under-appreciated movies. In this edition, we take a look at some of the best movies starring Rance Howard that you've probably never seen.)

Rance Howard passed away over the weekend at the age of eighty nine years old. In addition to friends and family – including sons Ron and Clint – he leaves behind a filmography consisting of hundreds of feature films and television roles. Quick, name your favorite film of his. Most of us probably can't think of one because he almost never played major characters and instead lived in a world of supporting turns and cameos. It's doubtful that moviegoers sought out his work, but it's a guarantee that audiences have seen him many times over. He's there in films as diverse as Nebraska, The Lone Ranger, Joe Dirt, and the Psycho remake, and he was also a steady fixture in Ron's films from Grand Theft Auto to The Dilemma.

While those are all widely known titles, the vast majority of his appearances were in far smaller productions. Many are forgettable – he pops up in a lot of low budget horror movies for some reason – but there are gems amid his lower profile titles well worth seeking out. His roles are sometimes blink and you'll miss them fast, but he's there all the same.

Keep reading for a look at the best Rance Howard movies you probably haven't seen.

where the lilies bloom

Where the Lilies Bloom (1974)

The Luther family has lived in the North Carolina mountains for decades, but difficult times and an ailing father mean the children may soon be on their own. He makes them promise two things. First, that his eldest daughter will continue refusing the advances of their landlord, who's been pursuing her hand in marriage. And second, that they'll keep his passing a secret so that they can continue living together as a family.

Another film actually released the same year (as a made-for-TV movie) with a vaguely similar plot, but while All the Kind Strangers found suspense in its tale of parent-less kids looking for new guardians, Where the Lilies Bloom is more content focusing on the drama of the situation and characters. These kids are just trying to survive, but after their father dies, the days that follow make it clear just how impossible that task will be. They're able to keep the illusion going, but poverty is no less harsh on the young and leaves the family barely scraping by. Their struggle is the core of the film, and it's played against two possible outs.

The first would be strictly for one of the daughters, as her writing sees her teacher convinced that she could make a career of it if only she could escape this community. The second, though, would benefit them all, and only requires that the eldest agrees to marry the land owner (played by Harry Dean Stanton). The film's about the choices that need to be made and how desperation is rarely an ideal motivator, but more than that, the movie finds value in family and in the effort to hold theirs together.

Where the Lilies Bloom is not currently available.

Mr No Legs

Mr. No Legs (1978)

A detective's sister is found dead, leaving him understandably motivated in his pursuit of those responsible. He and his partner investigate and soon find a trail of drugs, bodies, and mayhem, but they also cross paths with a kingpin and his most-feared enforcer...Mr. No Legs.

To be clear, the character of Mr. No Legs (Ted Vollrath) is exactly what you expect, but also so much more – he indeed has no legs, but he's also a crazy ass-kicker. He rolls through scenes in his wheelchair, dealing death at every turn with shotguns hidden in his armrests and throwing stars attached to his wheels. The unlucky ones, though – like the half dozen thugs who make the mistake of trying to kill him poolside – meet their end through Legs' wicked karate moves involving chops, chokes, and "kicks." It's a mesmerizing fight scene for reasons right, wrong, and everything in between.

This is a glorious piece of cinema that shouldn't exist, and in today's world, pretty much doesn't. It's worth seeking out, though, for the above shenanigans, some glorious dialogue choices, and the presence of '70s genre stalwart Richard Jaeckel. The movie is a gift that keeps on giving leading up to a twelve minute car chase – twelve minutes! – that miraculously features neither the deadly Mr. No Legs nor the detectives working the case. It's bonkers! Twelve minutes of some other bad guy being chased by dozens of nameless/faceless cops.

Mr. No Legs is not currently available.

creator

Creator (1985)

A young man's arrival at college sees him challenged by classes and female classmates, but it's an eccentric professor who challenges him most. The man is a widower with plans to clone his dead wife, and he's enlisted a young woman to assist both in spirit and with her ovaries. Science is the focus, but love finds a more natural way.

The legendary Peter O'Toole gives life to the mad scientist, and the clear affection he feels not only for his lost wife but also for the student (Mariel Hemingway) aiding him adds real sweetness to the tale. He can't bring himself to see beyond the loss, but the film moves his story toward acceptance and a realization that his refusal to budge on the subject has made him blind to what's in front of his eyes. Sure, there's some cliche to it all, but the specifics of the plot combined with the cast make it more engaging than expected.

O'Toole and Hemingway are the heart of the film – he the wily veteran, she the spunky newcomer – but they're not the only draws here. Vincent Spano is the wide-eyed young man, and his coming of age (of sorts) sees him learning about love both by watching the professor's journey and living his own with another student (Virginia Madsen). The film finds conflict in O'Toole's unrealistic plans, but more comical friction comes courtesy of David Ogden Stiers as a competing professor. It's ultimately little more than a romantic comedy, but it's one that asks a few questions most others don't.

Buy Creator on DVD from Amazon or watch via Amazon Video.

fearless

Fearless (1993)

A man survives an airplane crash unscathed despite the accident's high number of casualties, and the experience leaves him irrevocably changed. He found peace in the moments before impact, and now he's come to believe he's invincible and somehow elevated beyond the life he once knew. That arrogance begins to affect his family, but in his newly awakened state of mind, he doesn't seem to care.

Peter Weir's beautiful, affecting, and at times breathtaking drama is probably the best known of the films on this list, but it's still far lesser known than it deserves to be. It takes a unique and powerful approach to grief, both for others and for ourselves, and Jeff Bridges brings such humanity to the role that it's impossible not to sympathize with his struggle and feel his pain. He sells his character's manic joy equally as well as his perceived new freedom from fear and worry, leaving him a bundle of enthusiasm and energy that's both infectious and off-putting.

The entirety of the film captivates through both its developing story and character journey, and there are multiple highlights throughout. It all builds, though, to one of the greatest film endings of the decade as Max (Bridges) pushes himself too far and the psychological shell he's created cracks beneath the pressure. The crash comes back to him in vivid, harrowing, and heart-wrenching detail, and as he gasps for air at the end of it, viewers can't help but do the same.

Buy Fearless on Blu-ray from Amazon or watch via Amazon Video.

ticks

Ticks (1993)

We always knew marijuana was a gateway drug, but no one suspected it would lead to giant, bloodthirsty ticks. Okay, fine, it's the organic steroids being fed to the pot harvests that actually infect and mutate the little buggers, but still – just say no, kids.

Creature features aren't all that common these days, and it's a damn shame. Director Tony Randel (Hellbound: Hellraiser II) delivers a fun romp here and assembles a game cast of recognizable B-talent too. Ami Dolenz, Peter Scolari, Seth Green, and Clint Howard all cross paths with the little monsters, and they don't all make it. Happily for viewers, when they and other characters meet their end, it's typically an entertaining and frequently messy demise.

Kids growing up in the modern era have a lot of benefits in technology and access, but one thing they'll never get to appreciate is a world where monster movies relied on practical effects for their creatures instead of computer wizardry. The effects work here comes courtesy of the wizards at K.N.B. EFX (Robert Kurtzman, Greg Nicotero, Howard Berger), and they deliver all manner of practical fun in the form of variably-sized monsters, gooey outcomes, and fleshy eruptions. The film's ultimately more horror/comedy than straight horror, but when it comes to "animal attack" movies – even ones given a sci-fi twist – I'll take what I can get.

Buy Ticks on DVD from Amazon if you're loaded.

grizzly park

Grizzly Park (2008)

A group of young adults sentenced to community service for various reasons find themselves serving their time in the forest together. Seems like heaven at first, as they all love dressing scantily and fornicatin', but the good times come to an end when they find themselves targeted by killers...human and otherwise.

Like the film above, this is another horror/comedy that entertains more than you'd expect. The script finds several beats that land with laughs, and they're almost all intentional. Some come in the dialogue – you'll never look at "forest cats" the same way again – while others come in the form of low-brow gags involving some ill-fitting bear claws (for scenes of the bear grabbing people), a man in a bear costume beheaded by a bear, an inopportune boob grab, and an unexpected denouement for the film's final girl.

The effects aren't as numerous or creative as the ones in Ticks, but the filmmakers still have plenty of fun tearing apart human bodies. Heads roll, intestines spill, and arms are lopped off. It's mostly in the film's back half, but it's worth the wait for genre fans craving bloody fun. Of course, the price of admission also includes dumb characters, not-so casual sexism, and an embrace of pure goofiness, so if that's too high a cost you may want to skip this one and watch the Rance Howard-free Backcountry instead.

Buy Grizzly Park on DVD from Amazon.