The Most Underrated Films of 2016
Today we discuss the films of 2016 that are much better than people are giving them credit for. Sometimes they’re movies that people straight up overlooked, sometimes they’re huge movies that are respected that I think are better than people are saying. Sometimes they’re movies that people hated that I think are quietly very good. We run the gamut here.
The main criterion for this list is — you think one thing about this movie… it’s better than that.
So here are the films I consider to be the most underrated films of 2016:
I don’t know why everyone hated this movie. Is it part of the media machine started by the Jolie publicity team that Brad Pitt is a terrible person and this movie ended a marriage? I don’t get it. People either shit on this movie mercilessly or straight up had no desire to go see it. I don’t understand. This was a really solid, really entertaining movie. It has its flaws, but so did The Walk, which was also very good and also underrated. This movie has a lot of different elements, almost all of which are interesting. This is quietly going to remain a very solid movie from 2016, and people are gonna go back to this one and discover how solid it is. It’ll never be mistaken for a masterpiece, but this is way better than people give it credit for, and there’s enough good material here that someone can go back and strip this narrative down and make a really great Hitchcock version of it at some point in the future. I really think people ought to go back and give this one another shot. (Which assumes they gave it a shot in the first place, which I’m not entirely sure about.)
This movie was so underrated, I didn’t even know what it was for ten months. (Remember, underrated does not always mean quality, but also value or importance.) This was a Sundance movie that quietly got put in October and never really got any press or anything all throughout the year. I didn’t even know what the story was until about a week before it came out. Still, I don’t think most people know what this movie is. And for something that I feel contains the best female lead performance of 2016, that’s pretty bizarre.
For those who still don’t know, this is the story of Christine Chubbuck, a Florida journalist who killed herself live on the air in 1974. The notion of her doing this allegedly inspired part of the script for Network. And this is a film that shows you who she was and leads you up to that moment. And it’s really good. It’s a great character study, and a really strong film. And I don’t think enough people are giving this movie enough credit.
3. The Dark Horse
This might be considered more underseen than underrated, but even so. Chess movies are always interesting (you could also say Queen of Katwe belongs on this list too), and this was a movie that, if people even know about this, don’t really know what it is. It features a great (and I mean great) lead performance by Cliff Curtis, as a bipolar chess champion who teaches kids how to play. And I know how that narrative sounds. But trust me. It’s not that. It’s a really great film. And I feel like even people who’ve heard of this sort of immediately dismissed it as a generic kind of chess movie, or some indie that’s not that good or not something they should see. But trust me, it’s really good.
4. Everybody Wants Some!!
People always underestimate the hangout movie. Watchability is one of the most underrated qualities of a movie. I don’t care what people think about The Fifth Element, that’s one of the most watchable movies ever made. Look at Shawshank, even! This movie is probably somewhere in between those two, but the point is that there’s a lot more going on in this movie than people are giving it credit for, and you don’t even need to pay attention to it. Because you can just sit down with this movie and chill and be perfectly entertained. People are dismissing this as a “Dazed and Confused rehash.” AS IF THAT’S A BAD THING. Why would you not want another Dazed and Confused? We have three Before Sunrises. No one complained about those. This movie is awesome and people need to appreciate the watchability factor of what Linklater has given us.
5. Eye in the Sky
Solid adult dramas are really underrated. This is a pure drama that doesn’t rely on any sort of tricks or big set pieces to keep you invested. And that’s sorely lacking in cinema today. You need to sit down and watch this movie again to realize just how really strong it is. It’s underrated because no one is talking about this as one of the best movies of the year, and it really is. It’s a really solid movie that grabs your attention and holds it. And it doesn’t really do anything that complicated either. That’s what’s so great about it. This is every bit as good a movie as… take your pick. And it’s not anywhere in the conversation with those movies whatsoever.
6. Green Room
Take everything I said about Eye in the Sky, and double it. This movie is fucking awesome. This holds you down real tight for 90 minutes and doesn’t let you go. Again, one of the best movies of the year that got pretty much forgotten about once the fall happened. People are overlooking how good this movie is.
7. Hail, Caesar!
This one’s held up. I’ve watched this a few times since it came out, and it’s utterly watchable and enjoyable. This one’s gonna age well. This got a coupe of top ten mentions, but it also got hated on by a lot of people. And it definitely got lost in the shuffle of all the stuff that came out later in the year. People need to go back and revisit this one. It’s really good.
8. Hell or High Water
Yeah, yeah, ignore all the hype and the probable Oscar nominations. Take a look at the movie. This is a really solid movie. This movie does the little things really right, and that’s what makes it so good. That’s what’s underrated about this movie. The very little things that feel so authentic. The one everyone points out is the waitress in the diner. But for that scene there are ten smaller things that also work really well. I know it’s hard for a (probable) Best Picture nominee to be underrated, but this one feels like it is.
9. Midnight Special
I can’t believe no one’s brought up how good this movie is at the end of the year. Even Loving has come and gone and barely been mentioned. What’s that about? This is the best character-driven sci fi movie… well, we had one of those last year. But you know what I mean. This movie was really terrific and is still very much underrated. Give this one five years. A lot of people are gonna discover this movie and sit down and watch this movie a bunch on cable. That’s gonna be the test. That’s when you’ll realize how underrated this was at the time. That time being right now.
10. The Nice Guys
I don’t care. I’ll go to bat for this movie. This movie is fucking hilarious. I’ve watched it at least six times this year. I love it. This is like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. This is every bit as fun and as watchable as that, and I don’t think it’s getting enough due. But, we’ll give it time. That always tells us. I’m sure people will be watching Lion like crazy in five years. (Nothing against Lion, I loved that movie. Just making a point.)
Not to call this the “worst” film on this list, but this is definitely the one that was the weakest for me in terms of overall quality. That’s not to say it’s bad, but it’s the one most people would see as the “generic” high concept thriller more than the rest.
I’m putting it here because I feel like a good premise overcomes a lot. And this film’s premise is really good. Like In Time, that Timberlake movie. Which also wasn’t great, but the premise kept you engaged. Which is what this one does.
This movie asks a lot of questions about the nature of online identities and anonymity — it’s by the guys who did Catfish, so that should tell you all you need to know. It’s couched as a thriller, and it plays out mostly as a thriller. There’s not a whole lot here you can’t guess or see coming. But it’s a really intriguing concept and there’s a lot to like here, especially when you consider how generic this could have been. Some movies are what they are. Inferno is what it is. Maybe that’s a bad analogy. There are movies that you just know what they’re gonna be and know there’s not gonna be anything of interest inside them. This one — there’s a lot of interest inside it, even if it ultimately ends up about the same as one of those other movies. If that makes sense. And I think all the interesting stuff inside it is worth pointing out, and the fact that so many people dismissed it as just another one of those “other” movies, whatever those are, means that I have to call it underrated.
12. Nocturnal Animals
It’s definitely overrated in some respects, but also really underrated in others. And I’ve chosen to focus on the latter. Do you realize the balls it takes to release a movie in this age with an ending like this one? You know the last major movie to do that? No Country for Old Men. I remember sitting in that theater, wanting to stand up an applaud when that film cut to black, because I could just feel everyone around me getting upset with how nothing got resolved. And that’s what this movie is. It challenges you. And I love that it did that. Plus, this movie doesn’t adhere to any real structure or rules or anything resembling a “studio” movie. And I love that about it. And I think those values — sticking to what your story is and not trying to sell it to an audience — are underrated qualities for movies. Not all movies. But some. Some movies need to not give a fuck about appealing to everyone and just be. And I like that this movie does that.
I’m glad this made this list. Because I went into this movie with really low expectations. I was expecting dog shit. I had incredibly high hopes back in January… and those hopes slowly diminished over the course of the year, until the time when this was coming out and it looked like one of the biggest disasters in recent memory. But honestly, it’s a pretty good movie! It’s tough to say what the good parts are, because what I find to be the best part of this movie is the part that most people had a tough time with, which is the central conceit. They feel that the decision the character makes is so despicable that he can never come back from that. I think sitting in that moral dilemma and having that hang over all the action is precisely what this film is supposed to be about, and that the third act is the disaster that takes away from that. But still — this didn’t make a whole lot of money, which means so many people dismissed it as whatever they thought it was gonna be. And honestly, this is 75% a good movie. I think you’re gonna be surprised at how okay this movie is, based on how bad you thought it was gonna be.
I’ve been saying all year this is the closest thing to a Hitchcock movie I’ve seen in at least ten years. This movie is incredible. You really don’t know what you’re in for until you sit down and watch this movie. And so many people, if they knew about it at all, dismissed it as just another indie movie that you didn’t need to pay attention to. I don’t think anyone really knows what this is about. Which is why, whenever it comes up, I tell everyone the set up of this movie, and just wait for them to invariably go, “That sounds awesome.” I’m telling you — this is one of the best thrillers/dramas, whatever you want to call it, of the past fifteen years. It’s really good. It holds your attention. This is Memento but with Alzheimer’s and hunting down Nazis. I am gonna beat the drum for this being one of the most underrated films of the decade.
I put a documentary on this list. What does that tell you?
Even if you sort of know what this is — you don’t know what this is. And even if you sort of think it’s gonna be interesting… you have no idea. This is underrated because you cannot even fathom how fucked up things are gonna get until they happen. It’s underrated because not enough people are gonna hear about this movie, and are gonna dismiss it because they think it’s just about some sort of “tickling competition.” Oh no. It’s about much more than that.
Trust me on this one and go see it. You won’t be disappointed.
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