32 Underrated Movies Worth Watching

Don't overlook these low-key classics.

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The underrated movie is a special kind of experience. It usually falls into the category of a hidden gem—a movie that might not be as well-known in the public eye but remains one of your favorite films. It feels like you're the keeper of a special secret with this movie: It's something you can get immense satisfaction out of and then subsequently tell everyone you know about.

Movies become underrated for a variety of reasons. Some of these are early works by directors and writers who would go on to make movies we all know. Some were released close to other blockbuster movies and got lost in the shuffle; Others were badly mis-marketed and audiences felt "tricked" when they watched the film. Still others were critically beloved but just never found a foothold upon release. But regardless of the reason, they're worthy of your time and money.

Below, 32 underrated movies that you should watch.


underrated movies tombstone

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This Western movie was an interesting take on a classic story—and also had a cast of huge stars, including Kurt Russell and Val Kilmer—so it was somewhat appreciated at the time and even a commercial hit. But it's even more beloved now as a cool, old-fashioned action film.

'Ripley's Game'

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This film is underrated, in part, because The Talented Mr. Ripley is such a classic and beloved film. But John Malkovich's take on the (spoiler alert) very scary, very insidious, occasionally emotional Tom Ripley is genuinely unnerving. And the story is actually quite well-written to match.

'Wings of Desire'

underrated movies wings of desire

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This movie was remade into a (not very good) Nicolas Cage-Meg Ryan film. Skip it and go straight to this one: Two angels watch over 1980s Berlin, observing but not able to intervene. Then one of them falls in love with a women and contemplates whether to become human.

'I am Love'

underrated movies 'I am Love'

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Luca Guadagnino (director of Call Me By Your Name) made this early masterpiece that was mostly overlooked. This is about an unhappily married woman's illicit affair with a chef—but it's also just a gorgeous and sensuous movie that is as much about food as it is about love.

'Cléo from 5 to 7'

underrated movies 'Cléo from 5 to 7'

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This 1960s French New Wave film doesn't have a tight, compelling plot—an actress wanders around waiting to hear if she has cancer and talking to random people—but it's considered one of the best French films of all time. For its time, taking on subjects like female identity (in such a compassionate way) was groundbreaking.

'The Master'

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This film is apparently inspired by L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Scientology...which, if you're interested in that, makes this a must-watch. It's also a fascinating Joaquin Phoenix performance as a lost soul who gets swept up in "the Cause" and struggles under the charismatic leader (the late Philip Seymour Hoffman).

'Lost in Translation'

underrated movies lost in translation

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Arguably one of Sofia Coppola's best films, this is a languid and pensive movie about feeling lost in the world—and specifically, two very different people feeling adrift and out of place while staying at a hotel in Tokyo. Visually stunning, beautifully acted, incredibly thoughtful about its subject matter.

'Steve Jobs'

underrated movies steve jobs

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If you liked The Social Network, this is also written by Aaron Sorkin (and, if I'm being honest, I might like it even more?). It takes a few moments from Jobs' life and highlights his career and life at the time—and it doesn't flinch from depicting him as rude, snobby, and vicious.

'The Quick and the Dead'

underrated movies 'The Quick and the Dead'

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If you're unfamiliar with this early Sam Raimi film (starring Sharon Stone in a highly underrated performance), it's a classic Western with a twist—a woman in the titular role who kicks as much you-know-what as the men. Also: Gene Hackman, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Russell Crowe!


underrated movies macbeth

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This movie kind of came and went (at the time, I think some audiences probably thought to themselves, Oh, it's just another Macbeth movie). But it's a real feast for the eyes, including some very trippy sequences, and holy crap Marion Cotillard is riveting as Lady Macbeth.

'Mulholland Drive'

underrated movies Mulholland Drive

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This sometimes gets reduced to a movie with a confusing plot and surprising gay storylines (it was pretty edgy for the time, so audiences didn't always get it). But it is absolutely masterfully acted, and if you like twisty movies—and you don't know how this ends—throw it on now.

'True Romance'

underrated movies true romance

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If you like...anything by Quentin Tarantino, he wrote this film—so, you know, standard caveat that there's lots of gore in this. But a young Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette are fabulous, and the fact that Christopher Walken is (briefly) hamming it up here too is a huge bonus.

'Leaving Las Vegas'

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Fair warning that this isn't one of those "fun" Nicolas Cage movies where he's going OTT. This is about an alcoholic loner who's decided to drink himself to death and intercepts a sex worker (Elisabeth Shue) along the way. But, with that said, it's a credit to both actors that what I just described is as compelling as it is.


underrated movies once

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You may have watched and liked this movie at the time, but it's arguably been lost from the cultural conversation—in part, the successful musical adaptation took attention away from the original movie. It's gorgeous and soulful and sad, and if you want a good cry, you should revisit it.

'Emily the Criminal'

underrated movies emily the criminal

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Props to Aubrey Plaza for 1) straying from her Parks and Rec character, and 2) always being willing to really go there in every movie she's in. It's also not an easy film, with Emily deeply in debt and being semi-forced into a credit card scam. If you can get used to screaming, "Girl, no!!" a lot, it's a good film.

'What's Love Got to Do With It'

underrated movies what's love got to do with it

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If you think biopics are boring, guess again, because this one's about as revealing (and sometimes difficult to watch) as it gets. Be warned that there are absolutely unflinching depictions of domestic violence in this, but the story of Tina Turner is never, ever, uninteresting.

'Only Lovers Left Alive'

underrated movies only lovers left alive

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If you really stopped to consider what it might mean to live forever as a vampire (with your on-and-off vampire partner, who also looks like Tom Hiddleston), you've just described the plot of this cool movie. It's an alternative take on the narrative that's watchable from start to finish.

'Road to Perdition'

underrated movies road to perdition

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Tom Hanks is the antithesis of many of his roles by playing the antihero Michael Sullivan, a brutal enforcer working for the mob who's also trying to protect his son. It's not a pleasant movie, per se, but it's really moving; It was a box office hit but isn't as well-known as other Hanks classics.


underrated movies pearl

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Mia Goth is a great actor who's always giving it 110 percent—which makes horror movies her perfect milieu. This is technically a prequel to Ti West's slasher film X, and it tells the story of how the titular Pearl came to be (spoiler) an absolutely deranged murderer. It's creepy as heck and so good.

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

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John le Carré's spy novels are always a twisty delight, but they're not always easy to translate to film. This one succeeds where others falter, with the whole plot essentially a whodunit to discover the British Intelligence mole leaking information to the Soviets. Also it feels like every good British actor is in this.

'The Assistant'

underrated movies assistant

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A number of movies try to accurately and unflinchingly depict the film industry's Me Too problem. But few did it as well as this, with Julia Garner as the assistant who quietly bears witness to her boss' harassment and coercion of vulnerable women. It's horrifying and as creepy as it sounds.

'Jackie Brown'

underrated movies jackie brown

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Obviously, if you're a Tarantino fan, you're probably familiar with this film. But if you're not, you still might want to consider this one. Jackie Brown is an homage to blaxploitation and absolutely loves its lead (Pam Grier), who concocts a plan to frame her smuggler boss.

'Smokin' Aces'

underrated movies smokin aces

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Part of the problem for some of these movies is that they were mis-marketed. Such is the case for this film, which was billed as a funny shoot-em-up but is actually a much darker, more intense film. It also has...so many famous people in it that it's hard to list them all, but shoutout to Ryan Reynolds in a very good (serious!) role.

'Jeanne Dielman'

underrated movies Jeanne Dielman

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This film made waves (and got on people's radar briefly) as recently topping the Sight and Sound list of best films of all time. But it really is riveting—albeit in a strange way—as a day in the life of harried mom and secret sex worker Jeanne Dielman. I won't give too much away, but you'll want to let the film wash over you.

'Master and Commander'

underrated movies master and commander

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This is an epic war drama that you may not be familiar with, despite its popular and charismatic leads. It stars the captain of a frigate (Russell Crowe) and his surgeon and friend (Paul Bettany) as they do battle and try to keep their crew alive on some very dangerous seas.


underrated movies annihilation

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Caveat: If you read this book and loved it, the movie's very different. But, to my mind it's actually better. I don't want to spoil it, but the premise is: A meteor hits Earth and creates the "Shimmer," a soap-bubble looking sphere that no one escapes from. Natalie Portman heads in to discover what happened to her husband there.


underrated movies moon

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It's better the less you know about this film (which didn't do particularly well at the box office but was critically loved). Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) is manning a station on the moon harvesting alternative fuel all by himself—and then he comes across someone who looks, talks, and acts exactly like him.

'Kiss Kiss Bang Bang'

underrated movies kiss kiss bang bang

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It's hard to imagine a world in which Shane Black (Iron Man 3) and Robert Downey Jr. weren't as popular and successful as they are now. But this noir comedy was a comeback for them both, even though the standout is Val Kilmer's OTT performance as a snarky private detective.


underrated movies brick

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Featuring the directorial debut of Rian Johnson (whom you may know from the Knives Out series), this is a noir set in...high school! How did no one else think of this??? It's really good and twisty, like all noirs, and it's got several compelling performances—including by Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

'Eighth Grade'

underrated movies eighth grade

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I will warn you that if you were bullied in middle school or high school, like I was, this will probably make you weep uncontrollably. We get to see one week in the life of teenager Kayla, who longs for social acceptance and feels perpetually out of place in the world. Brb, crying again.


underrated movies locke

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If you've ever wondered how a movie that's 85 minutes long and features Tom Hardy in a car the whole time could possibly be good, wonder no more. This movie, in which the titular Locke is having some extremely stressed phone calls while driving in his car, is riveting.

'Children of Men'

underrated movies children of men

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This is probably well-known by now as being the most underrated film in the last several decades (and as such, it's been reclaimed by critics and audiences alike). Alfonso Cuarón would go on to make some spectacular films, and this early work about a world in which women can no longer have babies is among his best.

Katherine J. Igoe

Katherine’s a Boston-based contributor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle—from “Clueless” to Everlane to news about Lizzo. She’s been a freelancer for 11 years and has had roles with Cosmopolitan and Bustle, with bylines in Parents, Seventeen, and elsewhere. It’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.