The Best "Last" Movies You've Probably Never Seen

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(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 you've probably never seen that feature the word "Last" in the title.)

A little movie called Star Wars: The Last Jedi hits theaters this weekend, and while I don't typically like to show off my box-office prognostication skills, I predict that it's going to do pretty well. In fact, I'll go out on a limb and predict it will end up the highest-grossing film featuring the word "Last" in its title. But does that make it the best? That will be up to each individual viewer to decide, of course, but having seen it, I'm happy to say it's definitely in the top 20 "Last" movies.

As arbitrary groupings go, this one is home to several fantastic films. The Last of the Mohicans, The Last Picture Show, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, The Last Starfighter... the list goes on. They're not all such well-loved classics, though, as some smaller titles have been lost to the shuffles of time. The Last Circus and The Last Wave are both worth seeking out, but I've included them in this column before as part of other categories. So the question becomes are there six more good to great movies that you probably haven't seen with the word "Last" in the title? What am I, an amateur?

Keep reading for a look at six good to great – and otherwise unrelated – films you probably haven't seen featuring the word "Last" in their titles.

last of sheila

The Last of Sheila (1973)

One year after a socialite is killed in a hit and run her widower husband invites six friends aboard his yacht for a week-long mystery cruise in the south of France. The game quickly reveals some personal connections to the players, and the group grows more cautious when an apparent attempt is made on one of their lives. The next murder attempt succeeds, and those left behind are left with a far more pressing mystery to solve.

Look at that cast! Richard Benjamin, Dyan Cannon, James Coburn, James Mason, Ian McShane, and Raquel Welch lead the way through a film that's alternately playful and grim. They all do good to great work, but Benjamin and Mason are the stand-outs with turns that go deeper than their otherwise simple characterizations would suggest. Each of the characters is hiding a secret, some minor and some more serious, but ego and personality leave them acting above the fray and entertaining viewers along the way.

The cast is the initial draw here, but the script by Stephen Sondheim (Sweeney Todd) and Anthony Perkins – yes, that Anthony Perkins – is a slick and twisty ride that offers up a fully engaging mystery that holds attention and encourages viewer participation. Clues are visible throughout, and as the characters themselves start offering up theories it's fun to play along with their deductions. Director Herbert Ross (The Seven-Per-Cent Solution) gives the film an energetic feel both on and off the yacht. His camera loves both the cast and their surroundings, and he even teases some slasher characteristics with scenes from the pov of the killer. It's a fun movie that builds to a captivating ending.

Buy The Last of Sheila on DVD from Amazon or rent via Amazon Video.

last dinosaur

The Last Dinosaur (1977)

An oil exploration company discovers something strange on their latest expedition – a passageway into a prehistoric landscape! Four people died on an initial visit, and now five more are heading into the unknown in search of dinosaurs.

Look, this late '70s television movie has some obvious limitations, but it's still more entertaining than two of the four Jurassic Park films. Honest. It's a Rankin/Bass Production – the folks behind your favorite stop-motion Christmas specials (The Year Without a Santa Claus) and the best Hobbit adaptation – and they bring some of their magic to the creatures here. Some of it is animation, but the film also creates low-budget magic with miniatures, guys in dinosaur suits, and optical effects.

This was a favorite of mine as a kid, and I watched it on many Saturday afternoons along with similar fare like The Land That Time Forgot. A recent re-watch has revealed more of its budgetary flaws, but the charm remains between the effects work and the adventure itself. We get dinosaur fights, a tribe of not-quite Neanderthals, extinct flora and fauna, and more. The cast is as limited as you'd expect, but Richard Boone (Have Gun Will Travel) does charismatic work as the big-game hunter hoping to bag a T-Rex. He's ultimately the "last dinosaur" of the title, and while that's the extent of the subtext, it's still more than you'll find in Jurassic World. Honest.

Buy The Last Dinosaur on DVD from Amazon.

last supper

The Last Supper (1995)

Most murders are impulsive affairs, but for one group of liberal friends it's something born out of serious thought. The graduate students begin inviting conservative guests to dinner, and after excitable bouts of conversation, they off the right-wing visitors and bury them in the back yard. The good times can't last forever though.

Movies don't typically dig into one side or the other of the political divide unless they're prepared to fully commit to a viewpoint, but while this black comedy seems fully invested into its characters' left-leaning beliefs, the third act surprises with a balanced turn towards common sense. It's a deadly journey to reach those truths, and while initial deaths are expected, the script offers ups some unexpected turns and outcomes.

You may not agree with the five friends' (or their guests') partisan views, but the cast does a fantastic job of selling their characters regardless of which side they're on. Cameron Diaz, Ron Eldard, Annabeth Gish, and Courtney B. Vance play the libs while Ron Perlman, Mark Harmon, Bill Paxton, and others tease aggressively opposing viewpoints. The film ultimately finds balance even if most of the characters refuse to, and the performances go a long way towards crafting a cruelly entertaining comedy/thriller.

Buy The Last Supper on DVD from Amazon or rent via Amazon Video.

last castle

The Last Castle (2001)

A military prison receives a new inmate sentenced for disobeying a presidential order leading to the deaths of eight soldiers. The prison's warden has never seen battle but has great respect for Irwin's accomplishments. Unfortunately, the feeling isn't mutual, and soon a rivalry builds between the two men leading to more bodies on the ground.

Easily the most popular of the six films here, director Rod Lurie's second-best feature (go watch The Contender!) is a smart thriller about honor, respect, and the ways we treat those around us. Front and center are prisoners being mistreated by the warden and guards, but there's equal attention paid to both the dangers of blind respect and strengths of respect earned. These themes play out against a familiar but still suspenseful narrative with various turns delivering dramatic weight and thrills. There are action beats, but much of the film's intensity comes from the moments in between.

The script (co-written by Speed's Graham Yost) is the main driver behind the film's dramatic strengths, but there's no arguing with the quality of this cast. Robert Redford brings the honorable, incarcerated general to life while James Gandolfini offers the perfect foil in the thin-skinned warden. The two are great individually, obviously, but they're fantastic sparring partners with styles that play off the other beautifully. Supporting players are equally impressive with the likes of Mark Ruffalo, Delroy Lindo, and Clifton Collins Jr. all standing apart from the crowd.

Buy The Last Castle on DVD from Amazon or rent via Amazon Video.

last kiss

The Last Kiss (2006)

A young couple just a few years into a happy marriage is overjoyed to discover they're expecting their first child. Well, she's excited, but he finds himself increasingly nervous at the thought that life as he knows it is over and that his youth has disappeared with it. Unfortunately for their relationship, someone younger appears offering to share her spirit and bed with him.

Zach Braff was still in everyone's good graces when this romantic drama hit screens – it would be another eight years before he sent friendly critics scrambling to get away from his second directorial effort, Wish I Was Here – but it still failed to find much of an audience. It's a shame, as the film finds a real honesty in its story. It's an ugly honesty to be sure, but that doesn't lessen its raw power as we watch a man's fear and temptation give way to infidelity. The film understands his behavior without ever suggesting it condones it, and we're left to judge the character as we see fit without the script forcing our hand.

Braff is only here as an actor with Tony Goldwyn (Ghost) taking directorial duties on a script by Paul Haggis (Casino Royale), but as he did with his more hands-on efforts like Garden State, I'd bet money he played a role in the soundtrack selection. Snow Patrol, Cary Brothers, and Aimee Mann? It's a great soundtrack. Braff also does well with a more serious role than he's typically playing, and he's well-supported by Tom Wilkinson, Blythe Danner, Rachel Bilson, Harold Ramis, and more.

Buy The Last Kiss on Blu-ray from Amazon or rent via Amazon Video.

last train home

Last Train Home (2009)

North America is home to a migratory work force that numbers in the millions as immigrants from Mexico and elsewhere come to the United States to work the fields, but it's dwarfed by the one in China. Well over a hundred million people from rural China work in the country's big cities, and each year they make the trek back to their respective homes to celebrate the New Year. It's the largest annual migration in the world, and it's at the heart of this documentary on modern China.

LiXan Fan's film offers a revealing look at the inner workings of a nation whose size, population growth, and political design have left many of its citizens behind. The story being told is a grand one, but the film focuses our attention on a single family separated by the need for survival. A young couple works in a factory in a coastal city where they live in cramped quarters and send much of their earnings back home. That home is over a thousand miles away in a village where their son and daughter are being raised by their grandmother. They see their kids just once per year at New Year, and the journey is almost as arduous as the waiting in between.

We see life in both extremes, the city and the village, but it's the literal trip of the title that captures the tension, anxiety, and stress of their existence. From packed crowds that create solid walls of people, each of them just as tired and torn as the next, to frequent delays that pause the trip for hours and days at a time, it's a nightmare beyond any transportation issues experienced in the West. Far from just a documentation of hardship, though, the film makes it clear that for these people the situation is both inevitable and worth the sacrifice. The payoff comes as the family reunites with uncertainty and tears, and while it's over too soon the effect of seeing parents give their all for their children is as heartwarming as it is heart-wrenching.

Buy Last Train Home on DVD from Amazon or watch via Amazon Prime.