This is a list of some of the most underrated films of the 2010s. Other than being under appreciated, the films in this list have in common the fact that at least one big (hollywood) star plays a major role in them. Therefore these films with some of the most worshipped actors/actresses are often also seen by many. So, this is not exactly a list of films you haven’t heard off yet. Another important note. I have based my criteria of choosing a film on the famous film site IMDb. To be called underrated, each film had to have an IMDb-score below 7,0. The result is a list of films underrated by mainstream public and the internet. I didn’t research what ‘the critics’ think, as it could well be that some films are highly regarded among critics – critically acclaimed as they say. Let’s begin.
Top 15 underrated films with ‘big stars’ 2010-2014
15. Cosmopolis (2012)
Directed by David Cronenberg
Featuring Robert Pattinson, Jay Baruchel and Paul Giamatti
This is the only film on the list that I actually didn’t like that much. Mainly because I didn’t fully get what it was trying to say or do. But still, it’s an interesting and visually extraordinary watch. So, I definitely want to give it a second chance. My feeling about Cosmopolis has grown better over time. And I haven’t even read the book, by Don DeLillo, yet. Maybe I’ll do that first.
One thing is certain, Robert Pattinson really is a great and charismatic actor. Check out the recently released Australian Mad Max-like dystopian thriller The Rover (2014) by David Michôd (Animal Kingdom, 2010), if you want some more proof of that.
14. Pain & Gain (2013)
Directed by Michael Bay
Featuring Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Anthony Mackie
If you would think this to be another dumb Michael Bay action-testosteron flick, you would be wrong. And I know, no one less than Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson plays a part, but still. It’s actually quite fun at times and the cinematography is simply stunning.
It’s a black comedy, people. It has content. A satirical view on the American Dream (for a more elaborate and interesting analysis of Pain & Gain and some other recent films handling this phenomenon, the illusion of the American Dream, check out When Hyperrealism gets real in 2013.
13. Haywire (2011)
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Featuring Gina Carano, Michael Fassbender and Ewan McGregor
Haywire is a stylish action spy-thriller by Steven Soderbergh with former mixed martial-arts artist, Gina Carano, in the lead role next to a very heavy cast. Channing Tatum, Ewan McGregor, Antonio Banderas, Michael Fassbender, Michael Douglas, they’re all in this film.
As is often the case, Soderbergh is more concerned about the style of his film than about its plot. I don’t mind that for a second, but I can understand it perfectly well that mainstream audiences aren’t waiting for this kind of film. It isn’t your typical popcorn thriller, you know. It’s too different for that. It’s a perfect film though, if you like art house films with a mainstream touch. Just like Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2010).
12. Magic Mike (2012)
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Featuring Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer and Matthew McConaughey
Oh, Oh, Oh. Why is this film hated so much? Is it because of the strippers? Do people find it offensive or something or even, watch out, slightly gay? Don’t know it exactly, but it would be a very dull reason. Magic Mike is just another really good Soderbergh film. And come on, who doesn’t find the subject of male strippers at least a bit interesting?
Magic Mike offers us top-notch cinematography – what else should we expect from Mr. Soderbergh – and a nice look into the male strippers world. No, nothing much happens in it. And yes, it’s superficial. But who cares?
Soderbergh also doesn’t fell the need to express an opinion about this absurd world. He just shows it, like a documentary. A polished one. And Channing Tatum isn’t that bad an actor, is he?
11. The Bling Ring (2013)
Directed by Sofia Coppola
Featuring Katie Chang, Israel Broussard and Emma Watson
Sofia Coppola’s film is said to be contentless and again – I hate that ‘non-argument’ – superficial. Such senseless remarks. I mean, The Bling Ring is a film about superficial characters. Teenagers who like nothing but fashion, money, going out and pop music and live by a YOLO lifestyle. Why would they be wrong?
And now you just tell me. What’s the best way to make a film about these sort of teenagers who idolize someone like Paris Hilton?
10. Night Moves (2013)
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Featuring Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard
Kelly Reichardt does it again. She has made another film with as slow a pace only she dares to take on in recent American cinema. Although Night Moves may well be her fastest film to date, but that says more about her former films than about Night Moves specifically. Her slow rhythm always has a unique impact on its viewers, bringsingthem completely in the same rhythm. It’s eerie, uncomfortable, almost unworldy, still very realist.
Personally, I quite appreciate Jesse Eisenbergs acting skills. I expect some great things from him in the future. I can’t wait to see his new film The Double (2014) by Richard Aoyade (Submarine, 2010).
9. Passion (2012)
Directed Brian De Palma
Featuring Rachel McAdams, Noomi Rapace and Paul Anderson
A typical stylish self-conscious thriller Brain De Palma always makes, with some obvious, but highly entertaining twists at the end.
Many critics in the past have often called De Palma a bad imitator of Hitchcock and accused him of being utterly without inspiration. To me, his postmodern films (the list of masterpieces containing Blow Out (1981), Scarface (1983) and Body Double (1984) goes on) are worth a lot more to just be tagged as Hitchcock parodies. They’re more like a celebration of cinema, a celebration of suspense. De Palma is, next to Hitchcock, a master in telling stories simply by images.
8. Enemy (2013)
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Featuring Jake Gyllenhaal, Mélanie Laurent and Sarah Gadon
Villeneuve’s Prisoners (2013) is clearly an IMDb-favorite with a score of no less than 8,1. His Enemy only scores 6,8, but believe me it’s way cooler, more original, more mysterious , scarier. It’s just, to put it plainly, a better thriller. It’s as simple as that.
Jake Gyllenhaal, also one of the leads in Prisoners, plays a double role – as you can well see on the picture above – and he does it wonderfully great.
Prisoners was a good and solid genre film, but Enemy is so much more than that. It also has one of the most daring endings ever that could lead to you totally hating it or exactly the opposite.
Go see it!
7. Margaret (2011)
Directed by Kenneth Lonergan
Featuring Anna Paquin, Matt Damon and Mark Ruffalo
Filmed in 2005, Margaret only had its release in 2011. What happened in between? Multiple lawsuits, or something. What matters is, is that there even was a release, for wich we should be very happy. Otherwise we wouldn’t have seen Anna Paquin’s (famous for the series True Blood) and Kenneth Lonergan’s tour-de-force, that Margaret is.
Margaret has the length (150 minutes) of an epic film and it certainly lives up to that scale. It’s full of interesting thing, impossible to sum up. It’s the kind of film you can’t put a single genre on, because it outgrows every one of them.
I advise you, be overwhelmed by magnificent piece of (underrated!) cinema.
6. Take this Waltz (2011)
Directed by Sarah Polley
Featuring Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby
Seth Rogen, alongside Michelle Williams, is great in this Canadian realistic ‘marriage drama’. It’s very enjoyable the two, as they’e quite convincing in there role of a married couple, on the verge of breaking up. Trying to find each other again, to reconnect, but actually knowing quite well it’s already over.
Fans of Blue Valentine (2010) by Derek Cianfrance should check this out.
5. I’m Still Here (2010)
Directed by Casey Affleck
Featuring Joaquin Phoenix, Kellie Coffey, Geoff Koch
In 2008, Joaquin phoenix announced his retirement from filmmaking. Along with his new look (see picture above), he wanted to try something new, pursuing a career as a Hip Hop artist. Casey Affleck made a documentary about this strange change of course of the well known actor. A mockumentary rather. As it was all just a joke, a (genius) performance.
Phoenix is definitely an asshole, but a genius one. He got completely into his role of a weird and annoying character. After some time, the media and the public got to hate the man. Just because he didn’t act like people wanted him to act.
A great, but unsettling insight into celebrity life and media’s role in it. A must see.
Since, I’m Still Here, Phoenix’ career has boosted enormously. With films like Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master (2012), Spike Jonze’s Her (2013) and the upcoming Inherent Vice, again by Paul Thomas Anderson, he is one of the best actors working today.
4. Greenberg (2010)
Directed by Noah Baumbach
Featuring Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig and Rhys Ifans
Greenberg is an intelligent, touching, funny and very well-acted film. Ben Stiller, as Greenberg, is a narcissistic, sarcastic, awkward loser. He acts at his best, calling too mind Adam Sandler in Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love (2002). But hey, let’s not compare Stiller to Sandler, as they remain quitte different actors (in quality).
Next to Paul Thomas Anderson, Richard Linklater and Harmony Korine, Noah Baumbach would probably be the best contemporary American Filmmaker. The Squid and the Whale (2005) and Frances Ha (2012) are high recommendations. Still he seems to be very disliked on IMDb if you look at all the scores his films get. It could get quite depressing. Another reason to not pay any attention to those scores, actually.
3. Only God Forgives (2013)
Directed by Nicolas Winding Refn
Featuring Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas and Yayaying
I guess many people just wanted, and expected, to see Drive 2 or something. But Only God Forgives is nothing of the sort. Nicolas Winding Refn has made with it way more dark, surreal and abstract film. You could call it a mix of Refn’s two prior films Valhalla Rising (2009) and Drive (2011), if you’d like.
A reddish and violent nightmare of an empty man, played by Gosling, who must revenge his dead brother. A deconstruction of the revenge genre, wherein the protagonist seeks redemption, rather than revenge. A great visual experience.
Refn has proven himself to be one of the major directors today with two masterpieces in three years. What’s next?
2. Under the Skin (2013)
Directed by Jonathan Glazer
Featuring Scarlett Johansson, Robert J. Goodwin and Krystof Hadek
Cinematography of extreme beauty getting mixed with Cinema Vérité-like (candid) shots op people in the street. Strange, but all the more effective.
Some critics say the director Jonathan Glazer might be the new Stanley Kubrick. and yes, there’s definitely something to be said about that. Since Kubricks swan song Eyes Wide Shut (1999) no film seems to posses the typical ‘Kubrick power’ to grip you as much. Well, Under the Skin is one of the few that comes really close.
1. Spring Breakers (2012)
Directed by Harmony Korine
Featuring James Franco, Selena Gomez and Vanessa Hudgens
A modern masterpiece. A visually spectacular one.
Harmony Korine is the King of contemporary cinema. James Franco is the prince. And the girls, if they realize what they’ve been a part of (and maybe that’s not even that important), are princesses.
Spring Breakers. It’s a dream. When you’re in it.
Some other special mentions
– The American (2010) by Anton Corbijn; with George Clooney
– 4:44 Last Day on Earth (2011) by Abel Ferrara; with Willem Dafoe
– Bernie (2011) by Richard Linklater; with Jack Black and Matthew McConaughey
– A Dangerous Method (2011) by David Cronenberg; with Michael Fassbender, Viggo Mortensen, Keira Knightley and Vincent Cassel(!)
– Killer Joe (2011) by William Friedkin; with Matthew McConaughey, Emile Hirsch and Juno Temple
– Young Adult (2011) by Jason Reitman; with Charlize Theron
– To the Wonder (2012) by Terrence Malick; with Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Javier Bardem and Olga Kurylenko
– Don Jon (2013) by Joseph Gordon-Levitt; with Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Scarlett Johansson and Julianne Moore
– The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman (2013) by Fredrik Bond; with Shia LaBoeuf and Mads Mikkelsen
– Prince Avalanche (2013) by David Gordon Green; with Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch
– This is the End (2013) by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg; with James Franco, Jonah Hill and Seth Rogen