100 Most Overrated/Underrated Films

[Note: I’m taking a brief vacation. Regular blogging will resume on July 21.]
“That movie was totally overrated. Now if you want to see a really worthwhile flick you should see…” Because film buffs like me say this type of thing all the time so I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to actually list 50 of the most overrated and 50 of the most underrated films of all time.
A few of the overrated films are just plain bad while most are merely undeserving of the critical or popular praise they receive. The underrated films, though, are all examples of excellent cinema and should be considered at least slightly more worthy than the corresponding “overrated” film with which they share a category. The categories, which range from the obvious to the just plain odd, are intended to cover a broad selection of interests but are not meant to be exhaustive.
Here then are 100 of the most overrated and underrated films of all time (overrated on the left, underrated on the right):
1. Most overated/underrated: Raging Bull | Metropolitan (Raging Bull is often referred to as one of the best films of the ’80s. Such people obviously do not like either a) movies or b) humanity. Raging Bull is is all style and no substance. Metropolitan, on the other hand, is nearly the opposite of Raging Bull in every way. It is urbane, witty, and subtle. But the main difference is that Whit Stillman’s charming little film shows a depth of understanding about the human condition that is completely lacking in Scorsese’s misanthropic “masterpiece.”)
2. Movie about fraternities: Animal House | PCU (I hesitate to include these two together simply because the criminally overhyped John Belushi shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as comic genius Jeremy Piven.)
3. Disney movie about dogs: 101 Dalmations | The Fox and the Hound
4. John Wayne movie: The Searchers | Big Jake (Both are about the search for a kidnapped family member but Big Jake has two things missing from The Searchers: love and humor.)
5. Harrison Ford movie Witness | The Mosquito Coast
6. Movie about a rock band: Gimme Shelter | Some Kind of Monster (I’m not a fan of either the Rolling Stones or Metallica. But Gimme Shelter shows that deep down the Stones are uninteresting dullards while Monster reveals the members of Metallica to be fascinatingly neurotic.)
7. Cold war movie : Dr. Stangelove | Crimson Tide
8. Mobster movie: Scarface | Miller’s Crossing
9. Audrey Hepburn movie: Breakfast At Tiffany’s | Roman Holiday
10. Movie about a pig: Charlotte’s Web | Babe (As film critic critic Dann Gire once said, Babe is the Citizen Kane of talking pig movies.)

11. Sam Raimi movie: Evil Dead | Army of Darkness: Evil Dead 3
12. Western: Shane | Winchester ’73
13. Horror film: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre | 28 Days Later
14. Movie about a kid who plays chess: Searching for Bobby Fischer | Fresh
15. “Best Picture” Oscar Winners (1927-1959): From Here to Eternity (1953) | It Happened One Night (1934)
16. “Best Picture” Oscar Winners (1960-2005): American Beauty (1999)| The Apartment (1960)
17. Batman movie: Batman | Batman Begins
18. Foreign film (France): Breathless | Brotherhood of the Wolf (BotW is quite possibly the best French import since French Fries.)
19. Foreign film (Germany): Aguirre, the Wrath of God | Run Lola Run
20. Foreign film (Italy): Blow-Up | Cinema Paradiso
21. Foreign film (China): Chungking Express | Eat Drink Man Woman
22. Foreign film (Mexico): Y Tu Mama Tambien | Like Water for Chocolate
23. Movie co-starring Hugh Grant: Four Weddings and a Funeral | Love Actually
24. Movie based on a foreign book no one ever reads: Doctor Zhivago | Dangerous Liaisons
25. Movie about a couple on the run from the law: Badlands | The Sugarland Express
26. Sci-fi movie: 2001: A Space Odyssey | Serenity (But you have to see the entire season of Firefly on DVD before watching Serenity.)
27. Incoherent movie about a hippie: Easy Rider | The Big Lebowski
28. Sports movie: Chariots of Fire | Kingpin
29. Movie based on a comic book: Superman | Hellboy
30. Comedy: Caddyshack | Raising Arizona (The nearly plotless Caddyshack hasn’t aged well and is not as funny as you remembered. Raising Arizona, on the other hand, remains as fresh and hilarious as ever.)
31. Cult classic: The Rocky Horror Picture Show | Heathers
32. Mel Gibson movie: Mad Max | Gallipoli
33. Musical: A Chorus Line | Moulin Rouge
34. Martial arts movie: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon | House of Flying Daggers
35. Denzel Washington movie: Mississippi Masala | The Mighty Quinn
36. Documentary: Roger & Me | Brother’s Keeper
37. Movie about politics: Wag the Dog | Election
38. Sequel: Star Wars: Episode IV | X2: X-Men United
39. John Hughes film: Planes, Trains & Automobiles | Some Kind of Wonderful
40. Biopic about a civil rights leader: Gandhi | Boycott
41. Movie about amoral businessmen: Wall Street | Boiler Room
42. Vampire movie: Interview with a Vampire | Near Dark
43. War movie: The Thin Red Line | Breaker Morant
44. Christmas film: Frosty The Snowman | Elf
45. Movie about teen angst: Rebel Without a Cause | Ghost World
46. Kevin Costner sports movie: Field of Dreams | Tin Cup
47. Chick flick: Thelma & Louise | The Truth About Cats & Dogs
48. Movie based on a cheesy TV show: The Brady Bunch Movie | Josie and the Pussycats
49. Blacksploitation flick: The Mack | Watermelon Man
50 . Movie with a “Christian” theme: The Passion of the Christ | Ponette (Watch them both and you’ll see what I mean.)

Published by

Joe Carter

Joe Carter founded Evangelical Outpost in 2005. He is the web editor for First Things and an adjunct professor of journalism at Patrick Henry College. A fifteen-year Marine Corps veteran, he previously served as the managing editor for the online magazine Culture11 and The East Texas Tribune. Joe has also served as the Director of Research and Rapid Response for the Mike Huckabee for President campaign and as a director of communications for both the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity and Family Research Council. He is the co-author of How to Argue like Jesus: Learning Persuasion from History's Greatest Communicaton.

  • Jimmie

    This is a Christian blog yet you consider the movie Hellboy to be underrated and worthwhile? That doesn’t make sense.

  • http://1truebeliever.wordpress.com Wickle

    Please forgive me …
    “Star Wars, Episode IV” isn’t a sequel. EIV is “A New Hope,” the first one, once simply known as “Star Wars.”
    As for the science fiction movies … I don’t think that anyone actually likes “2001,” people just say that they love it because it’s pretentious and seems deep. The fact that it’s painfully boring and badly-constructed is off-limits for the same kind of reason that no one tells the emperor he has no clothes.
    I’m not sure I’m with you on “Serenity,” though. “Firefly” was very good, and I think that “Serenity” simply tried to end all of the plotlines, it was plainly not the direction that most of them were headed. Still, I guess it wasn’t bad, just a let-down. (Except for the unnecessary killing of Wash.)
    Ah, well … I don’t know enough movies to say anything about the rest, but thanks for the list. Maybe I’ll take some time and check out your recommendations.

  • http://tomgrey.motime.com Tom Grey

    I completely agree on Gallipoli, Batman Begins, but without seeing Heathers, I don’t believe Rocky Horror was overrated. I doubt that any of your listed movies had more people pay money to go see the film A YEAR OR MORE after it was released, except for Star Wars IV — which you are less wrong about (But see all 6 episodes in production order IV, V, VI; I, II, III and they’re still pretty strong, with Empire Strikes Back still the best.)
    And Dr. Strangelove has so many memorable lines, so often usable, I don’t believe it’s overrated. Only Monty Python’s Holy Grail remains more watchable and funny after multiple screenings.
    “Sacrifices must be made” is soooo perfect.

  • ProphetCat

    I concur with Wickle. Star Wars: Episode IV is not a sequel.
    However, I have to agree that Serenity is one of the best sci-fi movies ever. Firefly was great, and one of the few TV shows I can watch repeatedly. Serenity was more than closing plot lines, it expanded the ‘verse just a bit and sharpened some of the characters.
    2001 sucks out loud.
    Elf is terrible, but then I find most Will Ferrel movies unwatchable.

  • http://dwightk.com dwight

    I think you missed on the underrated for Martial Arts Movie… Should have been Hero

  • http://dwightk.com dwight

    I think you missed on the underrated for Martial Arts Movie… Should have been Hero

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    Elf was terrible! Egads!

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter

    Jimmie This is a Christian blog yet you consider the movie Hellboy to be underrated and worthwhile? That doesn’t make sense.
    I’m not sure I get your point. Contra his name, Hellboy is a devout Catholic.
    Wicke “Star Wars, Episode IV” isn’t a sequel. EIV is “A New Hope,” the first one, once simply known as “Star Wars.”
    Despite its appearing first in the chronology, EIV was–according to George Lucas’s later framework–a continuation of the Star Wars saga, rather than its genesis.
    Truth Elf was terrible! Egads!
    Elf has already entered the canon of cheesy Christmas movies and will likely hold up better than most (e.g., A Christmas Story).

  • http://evangelicalperspective.blogspot.com/ Collin Brendemuehl

    2001 is the best sci-fi movie ever.
    How about a post on great latin phrases?
    eamus catuli ! ;-)

  • pentamom

    I haven’t seen most of these, but I totally agree on your Audrey Hepburn choices. Breakfast at Tiffany’s was a nihilistic mess and not even very clever, but “Roman Holiday” is seriously underrated.
    As far as your #14, though, you’re all wet. I haven’t seen Fresh, but Searching for Bobby Fischer is an excellent movie. Maybe Fresh is better, but SfBF is not really “overrated” IMHO.

  • pentamom

    Oh, and I haven’t seen From Here to Eternity (a serious oversight for an old movie buff, I know) but I thoroughly approve of calling “It Happened One Night” underrated. It was the first good romantic comedy, and really above and beyond the general quality movies in general for the first half of the 30’s. Besides, it’s just plain fun to see Clark Gable do such a fine job in a role that, 20 years later, no one would have dreamed of giving to anyone but Cary Grant.

  • Johnny

    Big Jake has two things missing from The Searchers: love and humor
    Contra: The Searchers has ONE thing Big Jake lacks…John Ford!…nuff said ;-)

  • http://www.leanleft.com/ tgirsch

    I agree with everyone that 2001 is boring, but you have to admit: the special effects are top notch. It’s hard to believe that the movie was made in the 1960’s, as most of its special effects still hold up even by today’s standards.
    I agree that The Searchers was overrated. I’ve never been a big fan of westerns, and people who like westerns always told me that that one was one of their favorites. I don’t get it. (Actually, western fans seem to be divided into roughly two camps: the “Searchers” camp, and the “Once Upon A Time In The West” camp; I must admit, I’ve never seen the latter.)
    Despite its appearing first in the chronology, EIV was–according to George Lucas’s later framework–a continuation of the Star Wars saga, rather than its genesis.
    That’s if one actually believes Lucas’s revisionist version of events. I highly doubt he had anything other than a very rough framework in mind for anything before Episode IV when he filmed Star Wars. In any case, as films go, it was the first, and therefore not a sequel.

  • http://gunny93.blogspot.com/ GUNNY HARTMAN

    Here’s a post on Latin you should know.
    Good movie list. I’ll have to cogitate further, however, on many of those categories.

  • http://www.byron-harvey.com Byron

    Aaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!! I’d be screaming out loud if I weren’t sitting in a quiet restaurant with classical music playing in the background. “Mosquito Coast” an “underrated” movie? Mosquito Coast???? Mosquito Coast would be overrated if someone said, “that’s an awful movie”. Mosquito Coast is far and away the worst movie I’ve ever seen (with apologies to Bicentennial Man). Other than having no discernible plot, no discernible point, and taking way too long to tell way too little of a “story”, it was a mediocre movie. I’ve wondered regularly if Harrison Ford doesn’t shudder every time he hears those words.
    Joe, you must, must be teasing us.

  • http://evangelicalperspective.blogspot.com Collin Brendemuehl

    It’s a good list but has absolutely nothing to do with baseball.


    WRONG just plain flat out wrong on THE SEARCHERS. Wrong that it is overrated and wrong to suggest it lacks love and humor. For Humor–who about Ken Curtis as Charlie McCorry, fiance to Vera Miles’s Laurie Jorgenson. And speaking of Vera Miles–she has no LOVE for Jeffrey Hunter as Martin Pawley? In fact, isn’t the final scene an ode to family love, which Ethan is unhappily excluded from?
    MAN, you done missed this one entirely!

  • http://gunny93.blogspot.com/ GUNNY HARTMAN

    I feel so dirty now, having read a pro-Cubs blog.
    How does one say, “Go Cardinals!” in Latin?!
    Incidentally, perhaps we could see a most overrated/underrated sports teams list!

  • http://www.twoorthree.net seeker

    Here’s my contribution:
    Most Overrated / Underrated Films

  • Jimmie

    Hellboy is a demon, pure and simple. In reality, demons cannot be saved, nor do they want to be, despite Hollywood’s blatant attempt at obfuscation with this silly little story that depicts a demon as a “nice guy” and a devout Catholic.
    This is pretty strange, reading a Christian blogger’s defense for one of Satan’s minions. Satan is cackling hysterically, knowing that a) there’s a movie out there that is clouding the issue of spiritual warfare and is making millions of people sympathetic for (or at least less resistant to) his cause, and b) he’s got a Christian blogger defending that point of view. Lest we forget, his cause is to destroy all of us.

    “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.
    For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.
    Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.”
    Ephesians 6:11-13 (NASB)

    Grace and peace to you in Christ’s name. I’ll pray for you, brother.

  • http://odgie.wordpress.com Odgie

    2. I liked PCU and think that it is generally under-rated. I also like Jeremy Piven, but he was already too old to be in that movie (even playing a character who was supposed to be older than everyone else).
    4. John Wayne’s most underrated movie was “The Cowboys”
    5 & 7. No way
    8. Absolutely
    16. Right on

  • smmtheory

    Amen Odgie! “The Cowboys” was one of the Duke’s best movies.

  • jd

    I think I Cor 8 might have something to say to you. Hellboy is a clever movie; I loved it.
    I have to disagree on the Searchers. There is love and humor. Even my 13-year old daughter gets caught up in the emotion of the love triangle between Laurie and Martin and Charlie. The wedding scene with Ward Bond as the part-time preacher and parttime Texas Ranger is hilarious.
    The scene that really gets to me every time is John Wayne yelling at the young man whose girlfriend has been “undone” by the Comanches: “Whatdya want me to do, paint ya a picture. Don’t ever ask me about it again.”
    I think John Wayne was still acting as if he was secondary to the overall movie.
    I wonder if you knew that Buddy Holly took the title of his song “That’ll be the day” from this movie.
    Nah, you’ve really missed it on the Searchers. I like Big Jake, but it’s just not as good.

  • Scott Christensen

    Wrong. Except for a few cheesy moments, “Red River” is the most underrated John Wayne movie.

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com Mumon

    You know why I think you’re evil, Joe?

    2. Movie about fraternities: Animal House | PCU (I hesitate to include these two together simply because the criminally overhyped John Belushi shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as comic genius Jeremy Piven.)

    You are obviously extremely perceptive. Belushi did a riff on a Harpo with dangerous appetites. Yeah, he was overrated. Piven is a genius at conveying unethical-yet-lovable characters.
    But, I think PCU is properly rated; it simply has no resonance whatsoever with any of the universities I know (and in my position I bet I know a few more than you do, and they’re not wingnut fake colleges).

  • http://mumonno.blogspot.com Muimon

    Oh, and you ought to update this list: Quentin Tarantino’s Deathproof is highly underrated.
    I may be crazy, but Deathproof is the first movie I’ve seen in 20 years – I’m not kidding – to which I have actually had the emotional reaction of tension. The idea that a stunt driver is doing that stunt completely without CGI, in real time, had me on the edge of my seat.
    I just don’t care about gore movies.

  • Jimmie

    Thanks for pointing me to that word, jd. I suppose I did come on too strong. What I said might be misconstrued as being unloving and arrogant. For that, please forgive me y’all. That was certainly not my intention. What I was trying to do was warn everyone about the subtlety of the enemy’s tricks. Those of you who see no danger in Hellboy, I was just trying to warn you that you’re inadvertently backing into a bed of rattlesnakes. I was simply shouting, “watch out! You’re in imminent danger!” I’ve backed into enough spiritual rattlesnake beds to know that they’re bad news. Christ guided me out of that lifestyle and saved me. I pray that you will heed my warning: That movie is bad news.

  • jd

    I take your point. But your warning is not necessary. You see, I don’t think it’s US–Christians–who need the warning. It’s unbelievers who are susceptible to the occult. All the warnings down through the years against books like Harry Potter have been interpreted to mean that Christians are afraid to read them. When I wasn’t a Christian, I would have been much more susceptible to the occult. But now, I KNOW the supernatural is real, but I also know that I have nothing to fear from it any longer. It’s not Christians that you should be warning against this stuff, it’s non-Christians. As Chesterton (Muggeridge?) said: If you believe in nothing, you will believe anything.

  • http://dontdrinkthekingswine.blogspot.com Daniel

    Jimmie, jd, and Joe:
    When I read 1 Corinthians 8, I am challenged to not do (or in this case, watch) things that perhaps I have no problem with but which might confuse those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus, or those who have “a weak conscience” (1 Cor. 8:10).
    As Paul writes later in 1 Cor. 10:23-24, “‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is beneficial. ‘Everything is permissible’—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” Is Hellboy really all that bad? I don’t know, probably not, haven’t seen it. But is it worth clouding the matter to unbelievers and young believers alike? No, I don’t think so. We may be able to play with fire without getting burned–though I doubt it–but others may stumble on account of our actions and get burned in the process.
    I don’t mean to ramble, so I’ll close with this: I am not promoting asceticism; I am simply urging prudence and self-restraint where there is a gray area, along the lines of Phil. 4:8.
    Wow, that was tangential. :o) Great list, Joe! I have Netflixed the heck out of it.

  • T

    Hey — Your RSS feed isn’t working. I can’t get the latest posts from EO on my RSS reader. FYI.

  • T

    Hellboy is a demon? I thought he was just from another world/dimension, an ET or alien. The whole theme of movie was that he wasn’t a demon, but his own person, a person who makes a pointed attempt to reject Satan.

  • http://1truebeliever.wordpress.com Wickle

    What I left out was that the real best science fiction movie of all time is “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” Unlike “2001,” which could be called “The Movie that Stood Still.”
    I’m not sure that I buy George Lucas’ explanation that “A New Hope” wouldn’t be a sequel. He’s rewriting history, then. Even if he did it for strategic reasons, he made that one first. Then he had two sequels and three prequels.
    Now I’ll walk away from that subject before I start making comments about the American publisher that decided to re-sequence the Narnia Chronicles. Barbarians …

  • Adam

    #45 I haven’t seen “Ghost World”, but I think Pump Up the Volume was a great movie ’bout teen angst. Also Breakfast Club.

  • http://www.evangelicaloutpost.com Joe Carter


  • anonymous

    Yeah, I gotta agree with many of the above. I rented both Elf and PCU on the recommendations of this blog entry, and both were pretty awful. So at least on comedies, you’ve got two strikes against ya.

  • aaron

    PCU was HORRIBLE!!!

  • http://www.verumserum.com John

    Late to the party, but had to weigh in…
    #3 – Lady and the Tramp is better than both.
    #4 – How about Angel and the Badman as most underrated John Wayne film.
    #12 – Shane can not be overrated. W’73 is good but My Darling Clementine is better.
    #18 – Seriously? BotW is a piece of atheist propaganda so blunt only R. Dawkins could love it.
    #39 – Finally a little love for SKoW. Great film.
    Fun list, Joe.

  • http://www.vximwcogq.ywdhqlzr.com racxtpwmb pjwcil

    jfmpog tmsuah oedjlmfc cgapwnrhz ljfunpwr gukhvx gcxrjh