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Top 10 Most Underrated Movies
Introduction to Movie Reviews
Movie reviewing is subjectivity at its best. If you ask ten people their thoughts on a movie, you'll get ten different opinions. Add to the mix the fact that most movie review critics are bumbling idiots, and you'll realize why I needed to put this article together.
Below is my list, in descending order, of the top ten most underrated movies of all time. Some flew below the radar, some were launched at the wrong time, all were extremely entertaining for a variety of reasons. Drumroll please...
10.) Body of Lies
Release Date: October 5th, 2008
The Plot: Roger Ferris (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a talented multi-lingual CIA operative working in the Middle-East, attempting to ferret-out a violent terrorist named Al-Saleem. His job is made more difficult by having to convince the Jordanian government for assistance, while simultaneously passing decisions through his know-it-all boss Ed Hoffman (Russell Crow) back in Langley.
The Reasoning: Body of Lies is, at its core, a spy thriller. DiCaprio does a fantastic job portraying a street smart CIA agent whose hands are occasionally tied by his opinionated superior (Russell Crowe). The diplomatic balancing act, coupled with unpredictable violence, make this a movie well worth watching.
This film really flew under the radar, and was not overly well received by critics, although I can't imagine why. DiCaprio turns in an award winning performance, and I can't help but think the movie's controversial premise prevented him from being nominated for something. This is the 10th most underrated movie of all time. Plus, I'm a fan of reptiles, and since this takes place in the middle-east where lizards and snakes are commonly found, I really appreciated it. If you're a fan of reptiles or amphibians, you can find live amphibians and reptiles for sale online.
Body of Lies Trailer
9.) Terminator Salvation
Release Date: May 21st, 2009
The Plot: The year is2018, and Skynet is in full control. John Connor (Christian Bale) leads the human resistance and, aided by a converted cyborg (Sam Worthington), launches an all-out attack on a Skynet base that is holding humans for experimentation.
The Reasoning: This is the first in the Terminator series that takes place after the apocalypse. In other words, after "Judgement Day." Now, it was starting to feel like the folks behind Terminator were starting to run a little dry on content, starting with T3. But, I felt that this film got back to the series' roots.
The parts I enjoyed most about Terminator Salvation were the continuation of the story, and the tie-backs to the Terminator lineage. It also shows how the T1000 was originally created by the machines. Which reminds me, there's a great Arnold cameo--really, really well done. The thing is, it's not Arnold--it's a computer altered version of himself (kind of like what they did to Jeff Bridges in Tron Legacy).
If you're at all familiar with the Terminator series, I really recommend you check this film out. This is the 9th most underrated movie of all time.
Terminator Salvation Trailer
Release Date: December 7th, 2000
The Plot: Chuck Noland (Tom Hanks) plays a FedEx employee who hitches a ride on a company cargo plane, but ends up crashing over the South Pacific. As the sole survivor, this film chronicles his desperate attempt to survive on a small, uninhabited desert island. He cleverly utilizes the few FedEx packages that have washed-up on his shoreline, as well as some of the islands natural resources.
The Reasoning: This movie took a lot of heat, at times even being called a two-hour FedEx advertisement. In my opinion, the inclusion of FedEx makes the movie more realistic. I mean, would it have been better if he worked for some generic made-up company? Like when actors dial "555" on the phone in movies--it's lame, and reminds you that it's just a movie.
It can't be easy essentially carrying an entire movie all by yourself--just him and the island--but Hanks pulls it off with flying colors. In fact, you even start to care about Wilson, his stupid volleyball companion. And anyone who says they weren't even a bit touched by the scene where Wilson drifts away, well, you're a stinking liar.
Hanks' character conveys the emotions of isolation, desperation, and loss with extraordinary acuity. You can't help but feel pity for him. The end of the movie could only be described as bittersweet. Don't miss this one. This is the 8th most underrated movie of all time.
Release Date: September 9th, 1992
The Plot: Martin Bishop (Robert Redford) has a sordid past as a hacker, but he's changed his tune. He now runs a legitimate team of computer geniuses who are hired by corporations to test their own security systems. In other words, they are paid to attempt to hack into and otherwise circumvent existing security blockades.
Eventually the NSA locates him, and cuts him a deal: steal a "black box" for us and we'll clear your history. The "black box" contains a complicated algorithm, developed by a Russian mathematician, that can be used to break through any encryption, no matter how complex. Along the way, Martin realizes this rabbit hole runs deep--deep into his past, and he may not like what he finds.
The Reasoning: This movie's got some star power: Robert Redford, Sidney Poitier, Ben Kingsley, River Phoenix, Dan Ackroyd, and even James Earl Jones. Not bad. Together they form a very convincing group.
Like many good films, Sneakers has a few tricks up its sleeve. The plot will keep you guessing, as will some of the characters, and you never know who to trust. Deception, regret, vengeance...it's all here. At its core, this film is of the good versus evil type, peppered with temptations--usually financial ones. This is the 7th most underrated movie of all time.
6.) The Game
Release Date: September 12th, 1997
The Plot: Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglas) is an extraordinarily wealthy man. He owns an investment bank and lives in an impressive mansion on a sprawling estate--some would say he's got it all. The problem is, all this success came at a heavy price--his marriage, his relationship with his younger brother Conrad (Sean Penn), and his happiness. It's ironic, then, when Conrad sends him a birthday gift--a voucher to play a "game" provided by CRS (Consumer Recreation Services). After pestering by Conrad, Nicholas reluctantly visits the CRS headquarters to initiate his "game." A game that will change his life.
The Reasoning: First of all, Michael Douglas is usually terrific at portraying a man of considerable means, and this film is no exception. The "game" in which he participates is complex, eye-opening, and overtly dangerous. It changes him.
The Game is one of those movies that requires you to pay attention--in a good way. If you watch it twice, you'll notice quite a bit more the second time through. Where does the "game" begin, and how does it end? Is this a giant conspiracy against a rich businessman? These are the questions you'll be asking yourself throughout the film.
The "game" concludes at the end of the movie in a way that no one could guess. It really, really takes you by surprise. This is the 6th most underrated movie of all time.
The Game Trailer
Release Date: June 22nd, 2007
The Plot: Horror author Mike Enslin (John Cusack) specializes in visiting and writing about alleged haunted houses. Despite his passionate desire to experience a real haunting, his repeated disappointments are leading to skepticism that any such place actually exists. One day he receives an anonymous postcard alluding to room 1408 in the Dolphin Hotel in New York City. As a type of last ditch effort, he decides to travel there to spend a night in the supposedly haunted room, much to the chagrin of Gerald Olin, the hotel manager (Samuel L. Jackson). This feature film is based upon a Stephen King short story.
The Reasoning: John Cusack has established himself as an actor who excels at portraying someone who is passionate about something, be it music, romance, or in this case, hauntings. I can't tell you what he experiences inside room 1408 because it would give away too much. So, let's put it this way: never before has a movie evoked such a sense of despondency. The ending will leave you feeling like you've just run a marathon. If you've even got a passing interest in horror films, you really should see 1408. This is the 5th most underrated movie of all time.
4.) Death Race
Release Date: August 22nd, 2008
The Plot: It's 2012, and the U.S. economy has collapsed. Crime skyrockets. The government expands the prison system by allowing private enterprise to build and run penitentiaries, which has led to further profiteering by airing "death races." These exploited pay-per-view races feature inmates who drive armed vehicles through a predetermined track, and attempt to destroy each other. Win enough races, and you earn your freedom.
The Reasoning: An innocent man is framed and sent to prison. Yet, it's much worse than all that (I don't want to give anything away). Starring the always stoic Jason Statham, this remake of a 1975 movie evokes feelings of anger, sadness, vindication, and ultimately satisfaction. It grossed $75 million at the box office, on a budget of $45 million, but received mixed reviews from movie critics which, of course, means absolutely nothing because most movie critics are garbage.
This prison-based movie, complete with gruesome violence, surreptitious planning, and corrupt guards, generates a real feeling of "rooting for the underdog." Certain aspects are predictable, but overall the level of entertainment is outstanding. There is a real visceral feel to this movie, as the antagonists practically beg you to hate them for the corruption to which they have adhered. Yes, you will abhor the warden.
If you purchase a copy of Death Race and don't enjoy it, send me an e-mail and I'll personally apologize for wasting your time! It's truly one of the most underrated movies I've ever had the pleasure of viewing. This is the 4th most underrated movie of all time.
Death Race Trailer
Release Date: September 25th, 2009
The Plot: The year is 2174. Due to Earth's incomprehensible overpopulation, the 60,000-passenger sleeper ship "Elysium" was launched on a 123 year voyage to Tanis, a planet with an environment similar to Earth's, with hopes a settlement could begin there. A rotating skeleton crew pilot the mammoth ship, while the passengers are kept in a form of suspended animation hypersleep. The ship carries with it a stockpile of millions of Earth's plants and animals as well.
Corporal Bower (Ben Foster), a member of the flight crew, suddenly awakens from extended hypersleep to find that not only is no one piloting the ship--no one else is around. He eventually finds and wakens Lieutenant Payton (Dennis Quaid) to help him determine where they are, what year it is, and what has gone so wrong.
The Reasoning: Pandorum got no love when it hit the big screen. And I mean no love. Gross revenues were $20 million...on a budget of $33 million. Why, you might ask? Well your guess is as good as mine because I thought it was an excellent movie with soaring production values.
The plot summary I wrote a couple paragraphs above is just barely scratching the surface of what this film contains. The problem is, I can't get into any more detail without giving away some major spoilers. Let's just say that "Pandorum," a hallucinogenic psychological condition induced by prolonged periods of hypersleep, plays a notable role in some of the happenings. The action is violent, intense, and non-stop.
After what was perhaps the single most memorable ending I've ever had the privilege of witnessing, I was left wondering, "How has this movie managed to fly so far under my cinematic radar?" Ignore the critics--there were plenty. If you're a fan of sci-fi films, watch Pandorum and let me know what you think. This is the 3rd most underrated movie of all time.
Buy this movie!
2.) The Score
Release Date: July 13th, 2001
The Plot: Nick Wells (Robert DeNiro) is a master safe-cracker who, after a close call, decides it's finally time to retire and focus on the small jazz club he owns. The problem is, his associate Max (Marlon Brando) brings to his attention one last heist--worth millions if he can pull it off. The amateur thief who he'll have to work with is named Jack Teller (Edward Norton), as he has a job at the customs facility that is holding the priceless item in a state-of-the-art basement safe.
The Reasoning: DeNiro, Brando, Norton. While this cast alone does not guarantee a good film, it's certainly a good starting point, wouldn't you say? As a major fan of heist movies, this is without question one of the best, most riveting, I've ever seen.
DeNiro plays a role very similar to his character in Heat--an intelligent planner who leaves little to chance, and trusts few people. Norton, on the flip-side of the coin, is obnoxious, spontaneous, and just a little green. Despite not being a big fan of Jack (Norton), Nick (DeNiro) reluctantly agrees to work with Jack, because the target is just too enticing. The planning and preparing phase is great fun to watch, and the heist itself is absolutely captivating. Rest assured, the twists and turns will definitely keep you wondering.
I've never been able to figure out why virtually no one has even heard of this film. It's so good! The fact that it's filmed in beautiful Montreal is just a bonus. When I'm able to convince someone to watch it, they always come back to say they really enjoyed it. Trust me on this one. A pure heist movie that's worth it's weight in stolen gold. This is the 2nd most underrated movie of all time.
The Score Trailer
1.) Spy Game
Release Date: November 19th, 2001
The Plot: Just days before the U.S. President is supposed to sign a meaningful trade agreement with China, CIA operative Tom Bishop (Brad Pitt) and his team are caught infiltrating a Chinese prison near Su Chou while attempting to extract a female prisoner. The CIA agents are slated to be executed just 24 hours after capture. Back in Langley, the government is quickly looking for a reason to let Bishop die, so as to avoid compromising the upcoming trade signing with a hostile rescue attempt. Bishop's mentor within the CIA, Nathan Muir (Robert Redford), is working behind the scenes to thwart the CIA's attempt to leave Bishop to twist in the wind.
The Reasoning: This is, without question, my favorite spy movie. And it's probably a movie you don't even remember hearing about, much less have seen. I saw it in the theater when it first hit the big screen back in 2001, and about 25 times since. It's that good.
The movie gradually takes you on a journey from when Muir (Redford) first offered Bishop (Pitt) a position as a CIA operative, to the present day. It chronicles many of the missions they ran together, the good times, and the ones that weren't so good. Redford's acting is pure genius as he plays a wise CIA agent who's seen it all, can outsmart anyone, and is always one step ahead. Pitt does an excellent job as the idealistic boy scout type who doesn't necessarily like what he sees once he's in the game (doing unpleasant things for the greater good doesn't always sit well with him).
Over the course of the film, you watch Muir quietly but efficiently work against the very government who employs him. He knows the government is trying to make a case that Bishop had this coming. They know he knows. All the ensuing cat-and-mouse action just makes you want to go join the CIA. It does.
Don't take this the wrong way, but if you don't enjoy this movie, I mean come on what does it take?! This is the single most underrated movie of all time.