Can we acknowledge that one man’s “underrated movie” is another man’s “overhyped steaming turd?” You won’t agree with many of these selections, but darn it if you’re not going to read them! And remember, if you don’t ultimately agree that these movies are underrated, you’re a criminal.
1. Children of Men (2006)
Children of Men is the rare dystopian thriller that feels entirely plausible, especially with each passing day. Director Alfonso Cuaron is among the most talented in the business, and he deftly captures the despair of a world where women can no longer bear children. Michael Caine’s turn as a hippie is particularly memorable, but this adaptation of P.D. James’ eponymous novel is among the most rewatchable, harrowing movies of the 2000s (for my money, at least).
2. One False Move (1992)
Before Bill Paxton and Billy Bob Thornton teamed up for the more widely seen A Simple Plan, they shared the screen in One False Move. Paxton plays a police chief in a small Arkansian town where a gang of violent thieves is heading. Thornton helped write the script, and considering the name recognition of the two stars, you would think One False Move would have a larger audience.
3. Out of the Furnace (2013)
Out of the Furnace is neither Christian Bale’s best movie nor Casey Affleck’s best movie nor Woody Harrelson’s best movie. But Out of the Furnace is a movie starring Christian Bale, Casey Affleck, and Woody Harrelson, with Zoe Saldana and Sam Shepard tossed in for good measure. A film about brotherhood, vigilantism, economic hardship in the American rustbelt, and old-fashioned evil, Out of the Furnace is a movie worth watching.
4. The Station Agent (2003)
Pint-sized actor Peter Dinklage is most known as Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones. He’s widely recognized as the short-tempered boss in Elf. But Peter Dinklage’s most compelling role comes as a solitary man grieving the loss of his best friend while living in a defunct train station in New Jersey. Few films mix heart with laughs as well as The Station Agent.
5. Empire of the Sun (1987)
When you think “Spielberg” or “Christian Bale,” how often do you think of Empire of the Sun? Probably never, right? That’s as much proof as you need that this 1987 epic about a British boy (Bale) caught in the wrong place (Japan) when World War II breaks out is underrated. Though critics have always given Empire of the Sun its due, the movie took in only $22 million at the box office and remains widely unseen. I’d speculate that fans prefer their Spielberg flicks to have supersized killer animals or swaddled aliens, but Schindler’s List crushed at the box office.
6. Blue Ruin (2013)
Few films premiering in the 2010s feel like they could have been released in the gritty days of 1980s cinema, but Blue Ruin does. The film’s deliberate pacing, vengeance theme, and carefully-considered cinematography make it a standout amongst its CGI-drenched peers.
7. Midnight Run (1988)
Midnight Run may not be underrated by movie standards, but it’s certainly underrated by Robert De Niro movie standards. De Niro is a bounty hunter transporting a prized fugitive from New York to LA. This wouldn’t be an issue if the FBI, the mob, and a rival bounty hunter weren’t intent on nabbing the former mafia accountant for themselves. Funny with sufficient action and De Niro’s trademark dry wit, Midnight Run belongs in conversations about the best Bobby D movies.
8. Upgrade (2018)
One fan of modern-day sci-fi thrillers calls Upgrade a “masterpiece.” Those who are drawn to dystopian (in other words, realistic) thrillers about a world where technology rules virtually every aspect of life (in other words, our world) will enjoy Upgrade. It’s a critically-praised movie that got lost in the flood of streaming offerings.
9. Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
I admittedly have not seen Brotherhood of the Wolf, a film about mysterious disappearances in 18th-century France. That’s the thing about criminally underrated and under-viewed movies, though—you probably haven’t seen them. This flick got enough upvotes to command a spot on the list. I’ll check it out if you do.
10. Nil by Mouth (1997)
A movie written and directed by Gary Oldman is a movie worth watching. The raw character study pulls the curtain on the stressful life of working-class Londoners plagued by addiction, marital unrest, violence, and financial insecurity. Most would immediately write off a movie called Nil by Mouth based on the title alone, but you’re not “most.” You like good movies, so you’ll like this one.
11. Ravenous (1999)
Horror films ain’t for everybody. That said, if you have enough friends who are into the genre, one of them will inevitably proclaim that you have to see Ravenous. Upon further inspection, the movie has a far stronger IMDb rating than you might expect. A plot that blends the Mexican-American War, cannibalism, and supernatural beings is undeniably original.
12. The Master (2012)
For many movie fans, every Paul Thomas Anderson movie is worth your time, and The Master is no exception. If you’re hip to the bizarre life of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, you’ll recognize Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s character as cast from the Hubbard mold.
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