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The 10 Most Underrated Movie Performances In Recent Memory

19 May 2013 | Features, Other Lists | by Tyler Harris

most underrated performances

Ever since the beginning of cinema there have been plenty of overlooked performances. In each actor’s career there will be one or two performances that he/she aren’t ever truly recognized for, which is a true shame due to the work that’s usually put into portraying a character. From the much longer list I originally composed, I’ve narrowed it down to 10 of the most underrated character portrayals in recent memory. Overlooked by either filmgoers, or The Academy Awards, these performances should have been recognized more greatly.


10. Michael Parks as Texas Ranger Earl McGraw in From Dusk Till Dawn, Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair, Death Proof, and Planet Terror.


You know that when one of today’s greatest directors (Quentin Tarantino) considers a man “the world’s greatest living actor”, there’s something special about him. As Earl McGraw, Parks brings the character to life through a thick, Southern accent and a long, slow pace. He appears in Tarantino’s Universe several times, usually briefly, and mainly serves the “Soap-Opera-Technique” (as my English teacher calls it) to the audience through his humorous puns and monologues.


9. Nicolas Cage as Terence McDonagh in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Terence McDonagh in Bad Lieutenant

This film, along with Cage, received a LOT of grief, and I can’t see why. This is one of Werner Herzog’s greatest directorial efforts, and it features Nicolas Cage’s greatest performance of the last 20 years. I don’t think there could have been a better actor to play the role of McDonagh. Sure, Nicolas Cage isn’t the greatest of actors, especially due to his more recent roles, but give the man credit for being so fearless with his acting. As Ebert put it, and this is the perfect way of describing the actor, “Cage doesn’t care if you think he goes over the top. If a film calls for it, he will climb to the top hand over hand with bleeding fingernails.” That’s 100% true, and is definitely visible in Bad Lieutenant.



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  • Chandler

    “Before this film was released, McConaughey only had given, really, one good performance in his entire career, which was in Lincoln Lawyer.” – Have you SEEN “A Time To Kill”? You know, that other movie where McConaughey plays a lawyer REALLY well??? That film only came out in the 90’s… I think you might be too young to write about films.

  • Solgazer

    Great calls Tyler,
    Seriously. I love that Michael Fassbender is on this list twice and I love the Paul Thomas Anderson is on this list twice.

  • Anna

    I couldn’t agree more with you about Nicolas Cage in Bad Lieutenant. I will never understand that hate that movie got. I loved it, and thought he was really great in it.

    • it got hate because the original is a classic.. Even crazier than the remake. I like both. Kietel does play a man losing everything a lot better than Cage does though.

  • Jonathan

    I love that Shame is number one. I’ve been disgusted by the fact that he wasn’t even nominated ever since I saw it. It’s exactly what the Academy wants: He cries, he gets beat up, he gets crazy angry, he has realistic sex, he does full nudity… It’s such a hard role to play and no nomination?

    And again, I agree: If Django Unchained was gonna win a supporting actor award, Leo should’ve won it, hands down. It’s absurd. I guess it shows we should be taking these nominations with a grain of salt.

    Also, I really like this list but it should have Tom Hardy in Bronson on it somewhere. Cheers.

  • chris

    great list!!i would also put MIchael Shannon’s performance in Take Shelter. Great movie outstanding performance and also underrated.

  • Allister Cooper

    I couldn’t get to like Magnolia or Punch Drunk Love but I love Tom’s line in the former film, which is the best: ‘Phil – I will dropkick those xxxxing dogs if they come near me.’ What a knee-slapper!

  • Before this film was released, McConaughey only had given, really, one good performance in his entire career, which was in Lincoln Lawyer.
    Before this film was released, McConaughey only had given, really, one good performance in his entire career, which was in Lincoln Lawyer.
    mcconaughey had in fact given a great
    performance before Killer Joe was released
    it was his work in LONE STAR