Everyone out there has a movie they think is underrated, which was panned by critics and/or audiences, or tanked at the box office for reasons the movie’s defender(s) cannot fathom. It’s just a natural byproduct of having personal taste, but a film’s overall reputation depends on the taste of many people. When a whole lot of moviegoers agree that a film is great, it becomes a classic, right?
So what happens when a whole lot of people agree that a movie is underrated? Ironically, that doesn’t make the movie underrated, it makes the movie really good. Possibly even great. And that means it’s not actually underrated anymore, doesn’t it?
We’ve compiled a list of films that were, once, considered pretty danged terrible by many people, but which nowadays are generally considered underrated. And since they’re generally considered underrated, we’re taking this opportunity to call it. These films aren’t underrated anymore. They’re just good films. And some of them are outright classics.
Alien 3 (1992)
David Fincher’s directorial debut was an unexpectedly dire, cynical story about the scars that the first two Alien movies left on Ellen Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver in one of her finest performances. Alien 3 no longer feels like a letdown compared to James Cameron’s action-packed Aliens; it feels like its own unique perspective on the harrowing Alien saga, and a disturbing return to the franchise’s squirmy roots.
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (1993)
Unceremoniously dumped into theaters, and long overlooked in favor of the live-action films, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm gradually gained a reputation for its dramatically resonant origin story, revealing Bruce Wayne’s early, failed attempts to become a vigilante, and the tragic tale of why he almost gave up on his mission. Today, the film has lost its initial stigma and is simply, by any standard, one of the very best Batman movies.
The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2003)
The odd film out in the Fast & Furious franchise, Tokyo Drift saw director Justin Lin abandon most of the action movie thrills from the first two movies and made, instead, a smart and effective sports film about car racing. Tokyo Drift is the only film in the series that can be taken completely seriously, from the starting point to the finish line, and it satisfies on every level, so long as you aren’t expecting another heist film.
Grease 2 (1982)
The original Grease was one of the most popular movie musicals of all time, with a soundtrack that many people can still sing whether or not they’ve seen it. But although Grease 2 doesn’t have as many catchy tunes, it’s actually aged even better. Michelle Pfeiffer stars as a take-charge young woman with high dating standards, and Maxwell Caulfield plays the young man trying to earn his way into her heart. It’s fun, it’s funny, and the romance is a heck of a lot less troublesome than the original. There’s a reason why many people now prefer Grease 2 to its predecessor.
Gremlins 2: The New Batch (1990)
Joe Dante’s sequel to Gremlins abandoned the Capra-esque small town horror for a wild, inventive, and vicious corporate satire in which the eponymous monsters take over (basically) Trump Tower and wreak havoc on everyone inside. Television, movies, capitalism, science and journalism all get sharp pokes in the rib cage, and the succession of bizarre new gremlins has to be seen to be believed. Some folks rejected Gremlins 2’s quirkiness, but today, it’s practically the modern equivalent of Bride of Frankenstein.
Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)
Horror fans had no idea what to do with Halloween III, the sequel that ignored the previous two films about a serial killer, and told instead a bizarre sci-fi/fantasy nightmare story about deadly masks. But it is, if nothing else, a very entertaining bizarre sci-fi/fantasy nightmare story about deadly masks, and many have since argued that if it had never been called Halloween III, it would be a cult classic. Well, it is called Halloween III, but we’ve all come around. It is now, officially, a cult classic.
Hocus Pocus (1993)
Dumped into theaters in the middle of summer, and swiftly ignored by adults worldwide, the spooky children’s comedy Hocus Pocus gradually became a slumber party mainstay for kids, who have since grown into adults who still love this silly but very fun story about witches resurrected and wreaking wacky musical havoc in the modern day. It’s family friendly but just dark enough to appeal to older kids, and it’s now considered one of the “must watch” movies for many every Halloween.
A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985)
Another horror sequel that took risks, only to earn the ire of fans who wanted more of the same. Jack Sholder’s film changes the rules of the franchise, telling a story about a teenager whose adolescent sexual confusion takes the form of Freddy Krueger… who directs his angst in disturbing directions. Freddy’s Revenge is one of the few Nightmare sequels that actually has something to say, and it says it with terrifying imagery and emotional depth and is now considered one of the better – or at least, one of the most interesting – films in the series.
Speed Racer (2008)
The Wachowskis translated the beloved anime Speed Racer into live-action, using every CGI trick at their disposal, and a fascinating superficial tone that made the whole world into something akin to a cartoon. It’s one of the most boldly stylish and distinctive big budget movies of the century, and so unlike anything else that audiences didn’t know what to make of it, and many critics didn’t either. But time has been spectacularly kind, and the fantastical imagery and lovable characters of Speed Racer have since made it a classic.
Starship Troopers (1997)
Paul Verhoeven did for Starship Troopers exactly what he did for RoboCop and Total Recall. He took a sci-fi story with superficially crowd-pleasing elements and transformed it into a brilliant social satire. But for whatever reason, it took a long time for Starship Troopers to get recognized for its insidious brilliance. It looks like a shallow b-movie starring too-cute, too-young actors who make war seem sexy and alluring, but it’s actually a painstakingly recreated propaganda piece which condemns war, fascism and the Hollywood studio system that makes horrible ideologies look appealing, while simultaneously providing all those impressive thrills. It may have been too clever for its own good, but now, at least, it’s considered one of the great sci-fi epics.
M. Night Shyamalan’s humanist take on the superhero genre is now, widely, considered to be ahead of its time. Bruce Willis stars as a man who might have superpowers, and Samuel L. Jackson co-stars as a frail comic book expert who thinks that the impossible might be possible. The film’s adherence to and subversion of classic superhero tropes earned it a cult following, but now – thanks to a slew of blockbuster, four-quadrant superhero films – it’s easy for anyone to see just how clever and earnest Shyamalan’s film was, and it’s considered a straight-up classic of the genre. (But yes, that ending is still weird.)
What underrated films that you’re a fan of deserve to be reevaluated? Let’s discuss in the comments!