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Top 10 Under-Appreciated Movies Of The Last 20 Years

by Lucas Hedinger
fact checked by Jamie Frater

While a lot of bad movies somehow make a lot of money at the box office, Hollywood has often proven the opposite to be perfectly true as well. There is a number of movies out there that are far less appreciated than others, despite being superior in every way. No matter the genre, we all have seen an underrated movie that deserves so much more recognition, but remains in the shadows of bigger projects that, good or bad, took the world by storm. So, here are 10 criminally under-appreciated movies released in the last 20 years:

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10 The Gift (2015)

The Gift Official Trailer #1 (2015) – Jason Bateman Psychological Thriller HD

When a happily married couple relocates from Chicago to Los Angeles for a new job, the future seems bright. But things take a turn when an old high school acquaintance of the husband’s walks back into their lives, and slowly becomes an overbearing presence with very specific intentions, making the couple realize that their reunion may not have been a happy coincidence.

Starring Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall and Joel Edgerton (who also directed the movie), “The Gift” was a film that came with low expectations from critics and audiences, but turned out to be a face-slapping surprise to anyone who laid eyes on it. It is a shockingly smart thriller with intense performances and an ever-changing plot that consistently manages to keep you on edge. Due to a subpar marketing campaign, “The Gift” was skipped by many people upon released in 2015, but has since built a bit of a cult following once people realized that it is one of the most unique thrillers of the past few years.

9 The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012)

The Perks of Being a Wallflower Official Trailer #1 (2012) – Emma Watson Movie HD

Charlie, a 15 year-old high school student who suffers from clinical depression, learns to move forward with his life after the sudden suicide of his best friend. While the road ahead looks dark and hopeless, Charlie begins to regain his taste for life when he meets Patrick and Samantha, two eccentric seniors who decide to take him under their wing and bring him along on their weird adventures.

“The Perks Of Being A Wallflower” is the adaptation of a novel by Stephen Chbosky, who wrote and directed the movie himself. It stars Logan Lerman, Emma Watson (in her first main role following the end of the Harry Potter series) and Ezra Miller in his breakout role. Every single performance in this movie is fantastic, with Lerman shining as the main character Charlie. It is probably one of the most emotional and well-crafted teen dramas of the last decade or so, and it deserved to be way more popular upon release than it ended up being.

8 Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

Tokyo Godfathers [Official Subtitled Trailer, GKIDS] – MARCH 9 & 11

One of the few Japanese Christmas films, this mature and heartfelt animated film tells the story of three homeless people, who find themselves facing an incredibly daunting challenge when they find a newborn baby abandoned in a dumpster. Their relationships and life choices are all put back into perspective as they navigate the streets of Tokyo at night, in a desperate attempt to find the baby’s parents.

Coming from director Satoshi Kon, who went on to be behind the legendary “Paprika” a few years later, “Tokyo Godfathers” is beautiful, emotional and powerful tale of identity and family, with a cast of characters that are incredibly attaching and feel like real people, thanks to the amazing writing. It is easily one of the most underrated Japanese animations ever made, and it showcases a part of Japanese culture that most people do not get to see.

7 The Intouchables (2011)

The Intouchables / Intouchables (2011) – Trailer (English subtitles)

“The Intouchables” tells the heartfelt story of Driss, a street smart immigrant with who was caught on the wrong side of the law one too many times, who meets Philippe, a rich and powerful aristocrat who hires him to become his caregiver after a paragliding accident leaves him quadriplegic. While everything seems to be at odds between the two, we follow as they begin to develop a friendship that transcends the widely different world that opposes them.

Based on a true story, this beautiful French film stars Omar Sy and legendary French actor François Cluzet as the two main characters. A story full of emotions, yet with a surprising deal of humour, “The Intouchables” is a movie with a lot to say, and it goes to great lengths to make its messages engaging with fantastic storytelling and incredible characters. An American remake of the movie titled “The Upside” (starring Kevin Hart, Bryan Cranston and Nicole Kidman) was released in 2019, after spending a few years on the shelf, but it terribly flopped and was widely criticized by critics and audiences, with most people affirming that it cannot hold a candle to the original film.

6 Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

BLADE RUNNER 2049 – Official Trailer

In 2049 Los Angeles, Agent K, a replicant (or artificial human beings) made with the unique goal of hunting down and killing his own kind, finds himself at the centre of a strange investigation when he learns during one of his busts that a replicant gave birth to a biological child. Considered to be a threat to humanity, the child becomes a target of several entities, and K seeks out to find it first.

Taking place 30 years after the events of the first “Blade Runner”, released in 1982, “Blade Runner 2049” was widely overlooked upon release, mainly due to a misguided marketing campaign that failed to give audiences any indication on what the story of the movie was going to be, and sold a psychological thriller with deep philosophical themes as an action extravaganza with explosions and guns. As a result, the movie did not do very well at the box office, despite being an incredibly well made movie with mesmerizing visual effects, fantastic acting, and a beautiful story at its centre.

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5 The Wailing (2016)

The Wailing Official Trailer 1 (2016) – Korean Thriller HD

This brilliant South Korean horror movie tells the story Jong-Goo, a police officer from a small village who investigates a series of brutal murders and illness cases that may or may not be linked to the arrival of a mysterious Japanese traveler. When his daughter becomes sick as well, Jong-Goo begins a frenetic race against the clock, as he tries to figure out what is going on in the village in order to save her.

Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Hong-jin Na, “The Wailing” (also known as “Gokseong”, its original title) is an insanely weird and creative film that, unlike other Korean creations like “Parasite”, is not well known by Western audiences. The atypical storytelling and mystery is extremely engaging and will leave you at the edge of your seat. The acting is great, the writing is fantastic, and the dark and gloomy noir atmosphere will send chills down your spine when you realize what this movie is really about.

4 Good Time (2017)

Good Time | Official Trailer HD | A24

A lonely and down on his luck lowlife named Connie Nikas finds himself in a terrible situation when his mentally troubled little brother is arrested as a result of one of his robberies going incredibly wrong. Desperate to get him out of jail as soon as possible, Connie goes through a dark and violent hell of a night in New York City, as he miserably attempts to obtain $10,000 to pay his bail.

“Good Time” is the movie that finally took Robert Pattinson out of the grim shadow of the “Twilight” franchise. The A24 flick became a true revelation for his detractors, and they realized that he is actually a brilliant actor with a lot of merit. Others even consider this movie to be the reason why Pattinson eventually got the role of Batman. “Good Time” is a surprisingly dark and realistic movie, headlined by a main character with questionable morals that isn’t bogged down by a cliché Hollywood redemption arc. It is a movie about survival, and how some people will do anything to help the ones they care for, no matter how bad.

3 Drive (2011)

Drive – Movie Trailer (2011) HD

A quiet and mysterious stuntman, who doubles as a getaway driver for criminals at night, finds himself in a difficult situation when he begins to develop a relationship with his neighbour Irene and her young son. Irene is the wife of a convicted criminal she has felt trapped with for years, and when he inevitably comes out of prison, becoming the target of a local mob boss, things take a turn that lead to violence and danger

Based on a 2005 novel of the same name by American author James Sallis, “Drive” is a modern masterpiece that, upon release in 2011, fell victim to a terribly misguiding marketing campaign that even led to a highly publicized false advertisement lawsuit. This deep, character-driven and incredibly tense movie was sold as a brainless action flick reminiscing of the “Fast & Furious” franchise, which ended up confusing many when they sat in theatres to watch it.

“Drive” has built a massive cult following over the years, and is now considered by many to be one of the greatest films of the 21st Century. With a world class cast including Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Bryan Cranston, Oscar Isaacs, Christina Hendricks and Ron Perlman, it is an expertly crafted movie (both in front and behind the camera), featuring incredible characters and a deeply intimate story that carries a great deal of emotion.

2 Equilibrium (2002)

Equilibrium (2002) Official Trailer #1 – Christian Bale Movie HD

In a futuristic totalitarian state founded after World War III, society has been reinvented — emotions have been deemed illegal and are suppressed through a daily injection of a drug. John Preston, a top officer of the state, accidentally misses one of his daily doses, triggering the gradual return of his emotions. The incident causes him to question his morals and the government’s true intentions, and he begins to experience the crushing guilt of letting his wife be executed after she was arrested for having emotions.

“Equilibrium” is a film that, an all accounts, was way ahead of its time. Full of clever social commentary, great acting (mainly from Christian Bale in the role of John Preston) and fantastic action sequences that involve a spectacular fictional martial art created just for the movie, it is without the shadow of a doubt the most overlooked science-fiction thriller in recent history. “Equilibrium” is a brilliant flick with amazing world building that more people need to know about.

1 The Nice Guys (2016)

The Nice Guys – Main Trailer [HD]

In 1977 Los Angeles, a down on his luck private investigator, who tries (and mostly fails) to be a decent father to his daughter, is forced to team up with another, more brutal private investigator, in an attempt to find a missing young woman who’s strange disappearance may or may not be connected to the sudden death of a beloved porn star.

A passion project by “Iron Man 3” director Shane Black, “The Nice Guys” is an action comedy that feels like a direct throwback to 70’s and 80’s buddy-cop films. Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling absolutely kill it as the star duo, and the supporting cast (featuring the likes of Matt Bomer and Margaret Qualley) definitely leaves a mark as well. The movie was widely overlooked by audiences, and the possibility of a sequel has become foggy, even though Black, Gosling and Crowe have all expressed great interest in coming back.

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fact checked by Jamie Frater