What would classify as an underrated movie? One might ask. It could mean in simple terms that movies that didn’t get as much attention as deserved. For some reason, it went unnoticed at the time of its release; both critically and box-office wise. And when a film gets neither the box-office attention nor the universal critical praise, chances are that it also gets ignored by the Academy. Usually, we have seen that a great film at least gets one of the two — box-office or critical acclaim. Many a time, both. But sometimes, a film may just take a little extra time to grow on its audiences. In such a case, you won’t notice that immediate response, but over time — I am thinking years or even decades — people will ultimately recognize the true worth of that film. We present to you a list of 10 most underrated movies of the 21st century.
10. The Grey (2012)
Starring Liam Neeson and Frank Grillo in lead roles, ‘The Grey’ tells us about a band of hard-working oil refiners, who en route to a vacation, gets stranded in frozen wilderness where they have to fight the harsh icy weather and a pack of hungry wolves to get to the nearest civilization. As good as an adventure film can get, ‘The Grey’ inexplicably didn’t ruffle any feathers — unless you want to count an average box-office an achievement of some sort. As more and more people saw the film, they realized what a true gem of a film they were missing on.
9. Killing Them Softly (2012)
With Brad Pitt as the lead, ‘Killing Them Softly’ is a story of a cold war between two gangs, when one gang leader hires a thug to disrupt a card game hosted by his competitor and the other gang leader turns to a mob enforcer to eradicate those responsible for the disruption caused. Andrew Dominik has to be one of the unluckiest directors. Everyone in the industry highly respects his talent but all his films have failed miserably at the box-office. At least his previous film ‘The Assassination of Jesse James by Coward Robert Ford’ got some Oscar attention, but ‘Killing Them Softly’ was widely ignored in spite of being an equally great film.
8. Hanna (2011)
With actors like Eric Bana, Cate Blanchett and Saoirse Ranon in pivotal roles, ‘Hanna’ tells the story of a teenage assassin, raised by her father in the Finnish wilderness, who discovers the truths about herself when she is sent on a mission by her father where she stealthily evades the agents sent by her father’s former co-worker to pursue and kill her. ‘Hanna’ is a clear case of a film that just gets ignored because the lead character is not a well-known face. Had ‘Hanna’ featured a Jennifer Lawrence, it would have been a big hit. Saoirse Ranon is as good as Lawrence, but her only fault: she’s not famous enough. The film failed to gain any traction in spite of being one of the best adventure thrillers made in recent past.
7. Blue Valentine (2010)
Starring Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams, ‘Blue Valentine’ is a story about a couple, who the world sees as a perfect relationship, but are actually in a downward spiral caught up between lack of ambition and retreat into self-ambition, hence slowly resulting in a failed marriage. One of the best movies about marriage, ‘Blue Valentine’ is so honest in its rendering that it is not easy to sit through the film. But if you do, you will realize what a truly exceptional film this is. Williams got a Best Actress nomination at the Oscars, but the film deserved so much more.
6. Eastern Promises (2007)
Directed by David Cronenberg and Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts in leads, ‘Eastern Promise’ is a story about a ruthless and mysterious man, who crosses his paths with a midwife, who has discovered damaging secrets about a crime family, and now must devise a plan of death and retribution. One of the best films of Cronenberg, ‘Eastern Promises’ didn’t do well at the box-office but received decent reviews. Mortensen got an Oscar nomination, though the film deserved much more: Best Supporting Actress for Watts and Best Picture/Director.
5. The Fountain (2006)
Directed by Darren Aronofsky (‘Requiem for a Dream’ and ‘Black Swan’), ‘The Fountain’ stars Hugh Jackman and Rachel Weisz in lead roles and tells us about a man, who travels through time; in the past to search for the Fountain of Youth, lives the present as a scientist finding the cure for cancer and in the future as an astronaut to explore space. The film, slowly, has already gained a massive cult following and is a clear example of a film that gets discovered by fans much later than its actual release. In that sense, ‘The Fountain’ is following the footsteps of ‘Fight Club’ — ignored at first only to be regarded a classic later.
4. Two Lovers (2008)
I haven’t seen a more heartbreaking love story than ‘Two Lovers’. While most of the love stories hardly linger in reality, ‘Two Lovers’ have easily relatable characters, who you may sound, look and feel familiar — and yet they are not. The pain, the agony, the desperation, the anxiety of love and heartbreak hardly ever get depicted in cinema as they do in ‘Two Lovers’. The feelings of characters feel real. The climax of the film will break you into pieces and will remain with you weeks after you have watched the film.
3. Somewhere (2010)
While Sofia Coppola is better known for ‘Lost in Translation’, one mustn’t forget that she also directed an equally beautiful film called ‘Somewhere’. The story of father-daughter bonding is quite apparently auto-biographical to Sofia’s own childhood when she used to accompany her father, the legendary Francis Ford Coppola, to different hotels and film sets. ‘Somewhere’ is one of the films that doesn’t astonish you instantly, but slowly grows on you as you start thinking about it. Basically, it stays with you, especially after a 2nd viewing. It touches the themes of solitude and loneliness — similar to ‘Lost in Translation’ in that aspect — but it will move you more because of the father-daughter chemistry, which is central to the film. To put it in short: the best father-daughter bonding movie ever made. PS: Such films hardly ever get made in the first place.
2. The Painted Veil (2006)
With Edward Norton, Naomi Watts and Liev Schreiber in lead roles, ‘The Painted Veil’ is the story of a scientist and his young wife, who previously had an affair with another man, and the conquest of their going to mainland China to fight a cholera epidemic. It is quite simply one of the best relationship dramas that you are ever going to see. A botched up marketing by Warner Bros. meant that the film didn’t get attention during the awards season. It had potential to rake up several Oscar nominations including Best Actress and Best Actor for Watts and Norton respectively, but unfortunately, it went unnoticed. I have watched the film several times, and every single time it breaks my heart into pieces.
1. Shame (2011)
‘Shame’ may well be the king of all the underrated movies made in last 10 years. Directed by Steve McQueen (’12 Years a Slave), the film is about a successful executive, who is a sex-addict and lives a lonely life until his sister walks into his life and messes his routine. It is a film that is uniquely bold and brash, but ultimately it is about facing your inner weaknesses and demons. Though the film is talked about as one of the most beautifully shot films of McQueen and for Fassbender’s excellent performance, ‘Shame’ did not receive the success it should have, and actually, in my opinion, is McQueen’s best film till date. And that’s why, unsurprisingly, it is also placed at No.2 on the list of best movies of this decade.