Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Overrated and Underrated Movies

...according to Mr. Evangelical Outpost.
Here are the films that Joe regards as underrated that I think deserve high praise:
METROPOLITAN, MILLER’S CROSSING, THE APARTMENT, LOVE, ACTUALLY (very funny and personal), KINGPIN, RAISING ARIZONA, ELECTION, SOME KIND OF WONDERFUL, TIN CUP.

The new Batman movie is way overrated, by the way. That doesn’t mean it isn’t pretty darn good. It tries to be a philosophic and edifying defense of nobility and goodness against the nihilistic, chance-and-necessity NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN. It also defends the philosophic thought that telling the truth just isn’t the way to go in the world of decent people who cry out to be deluded. But the dialogue, by aiming too high, is often just wooden and corny, and the genre is, for the most part, not transcended. But Ledger as a brilliant psychopathic nihilist (the Joker) transcends his dialogue through being always witty, eery, and endlessly engaging or sort of charming. (He should get a posthumous Oscar--actually he almost certainly will.) The revenge of the Joker and jokers everywhere is a glimpse into an authentic heart of darkness. To show my vulgarity, let me add that I was always looking forward more to STEP BROTHERS, another joint venture of Will Farrell and John C. Reilly.

Discussions - 24 Comments

In every administration, there has to be a Tom Reagan present, {portrayed by Gabriel Byrnes in Miller's Crossing}.

God knows this administration desperately needed a guy, like Tom, who was always way ahead of the curve.

Haven't seen the new Batman yet.

Thanks for the link to that article. I really like the overrated/underrated concept.

The Good: I'm glad both of you mentioned Metropolitan. I didn't know that movie was so well known and appreciated.

The Bad: The writers of PCU (and pretty much any movie about college/college students after the release of Animal House) should be required by Federal Law to pay a 20% royalty to National Lampoon...Rebel Without a Cause, Caddyshack and Tim Burton's Batman overrated? If anything, Burton's Batman and Nicholson's performance as the Joker are both seriously underrated currently with the Nolan Batman movies fresh on everyone's minds.

The Ugly: Shane overrated? Aside from sneaking onto the AFI 100 movies list several years ago (deservedly), this is unfortunately a movie that is rarely talked about for long in discussions of the greatest westerns.

An ommission from the list has to be Titanic, which is probably the most overrated movie of all time.

Generally overrated movies (although I do like most of them and think they are good movies): Lawrence of Arabia, Se7en, Citizen Kane (it's easy to be overrated when most people consider you to be the best film of all time), The Lord of the Rings series, There Will Be Blood, Notorious, Donnie Darko, Toy Story 2, The Breakfast Club, Easy Rider.

Here are my own underrated/overrated lists (underrated = u; overrated = o) War Movie: u- Glory; o- 300 /Disney Movie: u- Robin Hood; o- Finding Nemo /Western: u- Tombstone; o- High Noon /Cohen Brothers Movie: u- Raising Arizona; o- Fargo /Wes Anderson Movie: u- tie, The Life Aquatic and Bottle Rocket; o- The Darjeeling Limited /Tim Burton Movie: u- Big Fish; o- Sweeney Todd /Tarantino Movie: u- True Romance; o- None of his movies are wildly overrated, but he himself sort of is /Paul Thomas Anderson movie: u- Magnolia; o- There Will Be Blood /Capra Movie: u- You Can't Take it With You; o- (I'm afraid to say it, but...) It's a Wonderful Life /Sports Movie: u- The Natural, o- Bull Durham /Romance Movie: u- It Could Happen to You, o- Titanic /Same Plot, Different Actors and Setting Movie: u- It Happened One Night; o- Roman Holiday (even though it's Dupree's fave) /Movies that Only Could Have Been Made in the 80s Movie: u- Better off Dead; o-Risky Business

Vince, Very, very good list. I agreed especially on GLORY (moving for a lot of reasons), 300 (silly), HIGH NOON (less there than some critics think), THE DAJEERLING LIMITED (is not so good but who overrates it?), YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU, IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (also overanalyzed, even on this blog), TITANIC, and BETTER OFF DEAD. I do like RISKY BUSINESS, though. Tell me why MAGNOLIA is not ridiculous.

PCU and ANIMAL HOUSE are both funny and overrated.

The Whit Stillman movies reward careful study for their careful psychology. And METROPOLITAN should only be mentioned as part of a triology with BARCELONA and THE LAST DAYS OF DISCO. The LDD is the one most underrated, because M was an Oscar nominee and often shows up on lists.

This is a helpful thread--I'm teaching a course on politics and film this coming academic year.

Good lists...disagree though, about the dis on THERE WILL BE BLOOD and especially LAWRENCE OF ARABIA

Saw GET SMART last night with about seven other patrons in the whole theatre...I guess everyone else had already heard the news that you keep waiting for it to GET FUNNY and it never does.

The most underrated movie of recent years is SUNSHINE STATE by John Sayles...problem is it's too complex to understand what the hell is going on the first time around...but once you let that minor flaw pass, it just gets better with every viewing.

I agree that GET SMART was sort of good natured but never got funny.
Overrated--GARDEN STATE. Underrated--SUNSHINE STATE

The first Spiderman movie is underrrated. The different ways in which Peter Parker and Norman Osborn deal with sudden power is a good contrast in natural law ethics vs relatavism. The Ice Storm also deserves notice. Among its other great qualities, it shows how the comic book mythology of the Fantastic Four can become a tether to great truths about evil and responsibility in a world where the adults have lost all touch with morality.

ICE STORM is the best movie made on the moral destructiveness of the Sixties, while providing lots of ironic support for the Sixties view that you can't trust anyone over 30. The kid actors (esp. Christina Ricci) are scary good at being paralyzed and disoriented.

The way her political obsession is compensation for the moral chaos of her own life is also an insight into the mind of a certain kind of political fanatic. More than a comment on the sixties, its also great at showing how stale, boring, scary and atomizing hedonism can be.

...I just remembered the pathetically impersonal sex scene where she (C. Ricci) wears the Nixon mask...

Hichcock's Rope is very underrated. Also, any discussion of politics and westerns should include High Plains Drifter, which gives you the full gamut of the New Left's critique of US society in the form of a western allegory. Its also one heck of a revenge/ghost story.

Not mentioned;
U-Life is Beautiful; Saving Private Ryan; The Outlaw Josey Wales; Braveheart; American Beauty; anything Monty Python

Worst movie of all time -The Confederate States of America (just try to watch for more than 15 minutes.

Why, oh why, did you have to go and bring up Capra's It's a Wonderful Life? Aaaarrrrgghhhh! Not over-rated because so wildly simplified and misunderstood . . .

But Vince, you are spot on with your conclusions about 80s movies. I was not old enough to watch Risky Business when it came out (though I've been subjected to the famous dancing in the underwear scene probably at least a hundred times as it is always featured in any tribute to the movies). But I happened to catch it on TV about a month ago one weekend. So I watched it and, except for the nostalgia of looking at old hairstyles and car styles and listening to the music of my youth, I could not (for the life of me!) figure out what was the appeal of that movie. I never cared much for Tom Cruise, but I have to say that he was better in Top Gun (another overrated movie).

Apart from kids movies and Christmas movies (and yes, that includes the unmentionable one) there are exactly two movies that I have bothered to purchase and continue to own. They are: Glory and Better Off Dead. Another movie that I do not own but would probably buy if I came across it is Tombstone. And good Lord . . . I recently watched The Breakfast Club and was very embarrassed of the taste of my 15 year old self! Don't even get me started on Red Dawn--even though it was properly anti-communist . . . what an unbelievable stinker!

Love that line JULIE, "properly anti-communist!"

Too bad I didn't meet you at some bar, too damn bad.

And I'd like to offer a suggestion.

Shouldn't the movies be broken down into categories. Such as film noir, mystery, crime, visually stunning, war movies, westerns, comedy, drama, romance and message movies. Or movies featuring stunning brunettes. Now I'd say that deseves it's own category.

Or film scores too. That deserves its own category.

Sure, RED DAWN is terrible, although it is a reminder that a determined insurgency can bring down an evil empire. THE BREAKFAST CLUB is way too conventionally preachy and not very funny. But SIXTEEN CANDLES is really funny. As message movies, SAVING PRIVATE RYAN is (good in a lot of ways but) overrated and AMERICAN BEAUTY is annoyingly pretentious and stupid. THE LIFE OF BRIAN and BRAVEHEART both establish their own standards as classics.

I think Mumford is very underrated, and the best Wes Anderson movie, to my mind, is Rushmore (though I've enthusiastically recommended it to people before and they've shrugged)--a classic performance by Bill Murray. What about Master and Commander? Can't recall how that was received. And Peter, do you know you were just in Sixteen Candles, John Hughes land? Planes, Trains and Automobilies is his best.

Red Dawn was also a reminder that an evil empire really could have a go at tearing down a complacent but good one. So I was hoping that my memory served me better than it did when I rented it this July 4th to watch with my kid sister who never saw it. I really doubt, for example, that an evil empire would select a high school football field as the landing grounds for an opening battle and invasion . . . Something's terribly wrong when the opening scene of a movie intended to elicit shock and fear instead causes the viewers to erupt into peals of uncontrollable of laughter. Sixteen Candles was terrific . . . but I never understood the whole Molly Ringwald phenomenon. She's not a very good actress and not especially pretty . . . even in pink. But what do I know about that?

RUSHMORE is a classic, the best prep school and the best nerd movie, maybe the best Bill Murray movie (in a way BM is overrated in the sense that he always seems to play himself, and this is a very authentic version of himself), and the least self-indulgent Wes Anderson movie. It's better than THE ROYAL TENNENBAUMS, which is all too self-consciously quirky. The exceedingly funny and corny/touching PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES doesn't get the respect it deserves, nor does the nice guy comedic genius John Candy.

Red Dawn ranks right down there with Iron Eagle, which was another product of the eighties.

Or film scores too. That deserves its own category.

I nominate the scores to Bladerunner and Conan The Barbarian. (Both of which were also products of the eighties.)

I think Amadeus is one of the best films ever made. And yes, Conan the Barbarian has a GREAT score (the late Basil Poledouris wrote many excellent scores).

First, I just want to clarify that most of the movies on my overrated lists, like Lawrence of Arabia and It's a Wonderful Life are actually movies I enjoy. But while There Will be Blood was a great film in some aspects (I love everything PTA does with the camera, and there is a high level of suspense throughout) the characters were either mind-numbingly flat, unrealistic, or completely incomprehensible in a bad way. No Country for Old Men deserved the Oscar win over it, IMO.


I agree with the first Spiderman being underrated. It is definitly my favorite in the series and I would probably say the most underrated in the genre. Coincidentally, I can't think of a more overrated comic book movie than Spiderman 2.

As far as movie scores go, I know this sounds crazy at first but I have to say the most underrated score is from Star Wars. I know it's a little ridiculous to call anything John Williams has done underrated since he's probably the most well-known composer in movie history, but think about what Star Wars would have been without the music. George Lucas has a movie with, let's face it, no matter how big of a fan you are of the series, a lot of goofy stuff in it--you've got muppets as main characters, Jedi-mind tricks, a bit of silly, wooden dialogue, robots, not always the greatest acting in the world, a mythical religious cult running around trying to save Princesses,etc. He needed something that could make the typical non-sci-fi viewer suspend his imagination and enter Lucas's world, and from the very start William's score does that when the music begins and the "A Long Time Ago..." starts rolling. Without that score I honestly don't think Star Wars attains the classic status it has.

On a side-note, most of the very best film scores I can think of (The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, High Noon, The Magnificent Seven) all come from Westerns...and many people consider Star Wars to be a kind of space western. There must be something about the genre which inspires musicians to compose a piece of work on a grander scale.

I like the score from The Blue Max, {I listen to it frequently, and the movie is one of my favourites as well}.

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