There is nothing more pretentious than claiming something is “overrated.” Art is subjective, which makes the act of declaring one thing less deserving of acclaim over another thing, futile and silly. People like what they like and if enough people like a certain thing, it becomes popular. Simple as that.
On the flip side of that, trying to determine what is and what isn’t “underrated”, is a tricky proposition. The entire concept is nebulous and hard to pin down because a film could be critically revered but under seen and still be considered underrated or vice versa—hugely successful but have a lukewarm reception.
The goal of this list is twofold: to knock a couple of unworthy so-called classics off of their pedestal and replace them with what we believe to be films of equal quality that aren’t as well known or as beloved.
This list is a collab between Sailor Monsoon and Vincent Kane with Sailor handling the overrated and Kane tackling the underrated.
50. Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953) | Overrated
Being good at physical comedy is a gift few actors are blessed with. The ability to craft visuals to have a setup and a payoff is a very rare talent. Many film aficionados believe Tati is the last of the great old school clowns and I, for one, respectfully disagree. Not that he was the last great one (I’m not a fan of Jerry Lewis, who modeled himself after Tati) but that he was ever great, to begin with. He can clearly take a bump to the head and he’s not afraid to do some good ol’ fashioned pratfalls but his comedic sensibilities are so subtle, you won’t even notice a joke is happening until the payoff. And then there are scenes that are nothing but setups but then he forgets to pay them off. You could easily chop this film up into a dozen or so short films, which would not only work better for his style but would make them infinitely easier to consume.
49. So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993) | Underrated
Children of the ‘90s will forever remember Mike Myers from his Saturday Night Live fame that helped spawn one of the best SNL skit movies in 1992’s Wayne’s World and for creating one of the best James Bond/spy parodies with his Austin Powers franchise. Oh, of course, we can’t forget about the lovable and ornery Shrek. However, one movie of his that gets lost in the shuffle was his follow up to Wayne’s World that saw him as a romantic lead?
So I Married an Axe Murderer is a dark romantic comedy that would showcase more of Myers’ real side instead of just the goofiness and catchphrases we all love (even though there are plenty of both here. “WHOA-MAN!”). This movie is just good time when you add in some really fun performances by his supporting cast in his love interest Nancy Travis, Anthony LaPaglia as his best friend cop looking for his cop movie thrills, Alan Arkin as the subdued police chief and one of the best cameos in Phil Hartman as the no-nonsense Alcatraz tour guide.
48. The Intouchables (2011) | Overrated
Easily the most obscure movie on this list, The Intouchables (a film you have never heard of) is inexplicably ranked number 38 in the IMDB top 100. Now, the IMDB is hardly the metric in which to measure a film’s popularity or quality but it’s still baffling that a film that was only popular around award season eight years ago, is still rated higher than some of the greatest films ever made. Every year or so, there’s a feel-good film that garners enough critical and commercial attention, that it gets some Oscar buzz and some even win Oscars (Shakespeare in Love, The Artist, Lady Bird) but The Intouchables didn’t win nor was it even nominated, so why the fuck is it still so popular? It’s the inferior version of Driving Miss Daisy and that film isn’t that great, to begin with. It was remade as The Upside which was so forgettable, it sat on the shelf for like a year until someone at whatever studio made it remembered it existed.
47. Peeping Tom (1960) | Underrated
When 1960 psychological thrillers are brought up, the first and really the only film talked about is Alfred Hitchcock’s all-time great Psycho. It’s understandable as Psycho set many standards in horror films, but deep in its shadows is the overlooked British cousin that came out that same year in Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom. Powell and Hitchcock would both have the same idea to make a striking little serial killer movie that would break taboos. One movie would create cinema history, while the other would damage the director’s career.
Peeping Tom revolves around a serial killer who murders women while using a portable camera to record their dying expressions. A voyeur, a psychopath, and a particularly realistic filmmaker, Mark wants to capture true moments of fear for a documentary and does so with an exacting precision you never knew a tripod could manage. In the years since release, Peeping Tom has gained a cult following and is now regarded and one of the best British movies to come from our tiny isles, but it still has nowhere near as much renown as its competition. Expertly crafted both visually and in its narrative, fans of classic horror will revel in this somewhat forgotten gem.
46. Suspiria (1977) | Overrated
It’s hard to call any foreign horror film overrated, since neither genre is exactly mainstream but this one’s for the horror fans. I’m not only declaring Suspiria overrated, I’m proclaiming Dario Argento’s entire body of work to be little more than style over substance. Every film he made (Suspiria included) is extremely stylish, with lush colors and beautifully photographed kills but –and this is very important– each film is painfully dull. There’s nothing wrong with surrealism or dream logic but you still need a strong enough rope to pull me along. His films are held together by string.
45. Blue Ruin (2013) | Underrated
Director Jeremy Saulnier should be on everyone’s watchlist if you enjoy brutal character dramas. He has only made four movies, but I feel like I could put three of those on this list. His 2007 debut Murder Party is an overlooked horror-comedy that showcased his character-building ability and his third film, Green Room, is a 90 minute clinched fist tension pack thriller with perhaps Patrick Stewart’s most chilling and best performance.
Blue Ruin is his best film to date as he is able to combine uncomfortable dark humor with emotional brutality. The story follows a vagrant, Dwight, who learns that his parent’s murderer is being set free due to a plea bargain. Dwight sets out for revenge but is the epitome of an amateur assassin as he fumbles his way through his vengeance attempt. The cinematography is stellar and Macon Blair’s performance as Dwight is a character that any average person can connect with on every level.
44. The Blind Side (2009) | Overrated
Biopics are hard. Writers have to form a narrative around a famous person’s life but true life isn’t always exciting. Sometimes you gotta punch up the story with a little dramatic license. I guess the filmmakers of The Blind Side thought Michael Oher’s story wasn’t dramatic enough because instead of being an inspirational tale of a homeless kid who eventually joins the NFL, it’s an overwrought sap story that only exists to get Sandra Bullock an Oscar. Which she didn’t even deserve but that’s neither here nor there. The Blind Side is barely more dramatic than a Hallmark movie and for a movie about a football player, it’s surprisingly light on actual football.
43. Pump Up the Volume (1990) | Underrated
To escape loneliness, an introverted teenager, Mark Hunter starts an FM pirate radio in the basement of his parent’s house. His on-air name is “Hard Harry,” and he is careful to conceal his identity, but a student tracks him down and reveals it. His show gains popularity among students after one of them commits suicide. Harry discusses the issues they face in school and their local community. He encourages students to confront their problems, and they start going about it in bizarre ways, leading to an investigation by the FCC. The principal’s fraudulent activities are unveiled.
Although the film would receive generally positive reviews and have Christian Slater’s sultry voice as Hard Harry, it would struggle at the box office and with audiences for some time. Being an almost 30-year-old film, Pump Up the Volume still holds up incredibly well and seems to still be relevant to teenage themes of alienation, dissatisfaction homosexuality, suicide, and educational rights. Not that I want it to happen, but this seems ripe for a remake with today’s podcast and YouTube Live world.
42. Grey Gardens (1975) | Overrated
There’s a fine line between documentary and exploitation and this film skates right up to the line. Less a documentary and more a horror movie about a house haunted by two of the most insufferable ghosts imaginable, Grey Gardens chronicles the last days of Jacqueline Kennedy’s eccentric family. I deliberately used the word eccentric to describe them because, to quote Dennis Hopper in Speed, “poor people are crazy Jack, I’m eccentric.” They may look destitute but they obviously come from money. Where that money is and what they’re doing with it is anyone’s guess. Another great mystery is how anyone could stand to be around them long enough to film a documentary. If you’ve ever been caught in a conversation with a homeless nutjob that rambled on and on about his life and problems to the point that all you could think about was either committing suicide or killing him to finally end the conversation, you’ve already seen this movie.
41. Narc (2002) | Underrated
Some gems just get lost in the mass of movies released year in and year out and 2002’s Narc is one of them. Narc just isn’t sexy enough to pull people in for a watch. No one has ever watched a movie because of Jason Partic, the Goodfellas shine on Ray Liotta was long gone and you had a writer/director who was new at the time. It simply seemed like your average bad cop movie knock-off of Training Day that came out the year before. However, it’s one of those movies that if you have seen it, you love it, but it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.
Narc is an emotionally draining film with two intense performances from Patric and Liotta (one of my favorite Liotta performances by the way) that it is full of twists and turns. It reaches greatness and stays there because it pays attention to the characters first, and everything that happens as a result in the story is an organic extension of their (often hidden) motives. It’s hard for a film to be labeled as perfect, but Narc comes about as close as you can get.
What do you think of the selection so far? What are some films that you think are overrated or underrated? Maybe they will show up further on the list!