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The 10 Most Underrated Actors Working Today

19 August 2016 | Features, People Lists | by Caio Coletti

most underrated actors today

We all have our own personal list for this theme, and it’s no wonder: Hollywood often gives merit where it’s not due, be it in the form of box office success or critical praise. We’re going to focus on the latter for this list, going through some names that have not been celebrated as great performers by critics but who really should be, on our view. A few of them have even been nominated for Oscars, but still seem to struggle to find good roles and mainstream recognition.

We hope someday they rise to their deserved ranks, but let’s not be that hopeful, right? We’re living in a Hollywood world that left talents like Steve Buscemi and John Turturro go largely unnoticed by big productions and mainstream awards. With no further delay, here are our 10 most overrated actors working nowadays.

 

10. Andrea Riseborough

Andrea Riseborough

This true British gem of an actress has gone almost entirely unnoticed in her few Hollywood roles, even though she’s been twice nominated for the BAFTAs already, at the age of 34.

She’s terrific in her small roles in Happy-Go-Lucky and even Oscar winner Birdman, in which her obsessively paranoid performance as the lead’s not-really-pregnant girlfriend becomes one of the most unsung virtues of the film. She did an impressive Margaret Thatcher on a 2008 BBC film, was outstanding in Made in Dagenham, and a rare bright spot in the Madonna-directed mess that is W.E.

Her few standout roles came with James Marsh’s Shadow Dancer, Joseph Kosinski’s Oblivion and, most recently, the stunning The Silent Storm, as a minister’s wife whose life slowly unravels when an outsider is sent to live with them. Sensitive, focused and tremendously expressive, Riseborough deserves better parts in better films.

 

9. Bryce Dallas Howard

Bryce Dallas Howard

2011 was to be Bryce Dallas Howard’s year. After years of a career that never really took off, even though it included high-profile roles, she did two unsympathetic characters in prestige films with outstanding competence.

Among the four Oscar nods for The Help and the two Golden Globe nominations for 50/50, however, none went to her, even though she’s wickedly good in both of them. In The Help, her villainess is a little unsubtle, sure, but still compelling and well-played – meanwhile, her 50/50 ex-girlfriend is as nuanced and fresh as you can hope for when she’s got such little screen time.

Then, apparently, she got a little tired of Hollywood, cause her next project was Jurassic World, four years later, playing a character as divisive as the one she did in M. Night Shyamalan’s Lady in the Water.

Since it became a huge worldwide sensation, however, this very skilled actress will be seen next in Matthew McConaughey’s Oscar contender Gold and on an episode of Netflix’s Black Mirror. Since she’s still 34, there’s still time for Hollywood to give her the roles she deserves.

 

8. Mae Whitman

AP PROVIDES ACCESS TO THIS HANDOUT PHOTO TO BE USED SOLELY TO ILLUSTRATE NEWS REPORTING OR COMMENTARY ON THE FACTS OR EVENTS DEPICTED IN THIS IMAGE. THIS IMAGE MAY ONLY BE USED FOR 14 DAYS FROM TIME OF TRANSMISSION; NO ARCHIVING; NO LICENSING. In this image released by CBS Films, Mae Whitman appears in a scene from "The DUFF." (AP Photo/CBS Films, Guy D Alema)

Her? Yeah, her. Arrested Development famously bland Ann Veal is actually quite a character actress of our days, one that’s been around for more than 20 years of her still short life.

The sequel do Independence Day released this year swapped her for up-and-coming Maika Monroe (who we honestly love) as Patricia Whitmore, and you know how that unfolded. If she could be adorable when she was younger, time brought nuance and expressiveness to Mae, as her stints in series like Thief, In Treatment, Web Therapy, Suburgatory and (of course) Parenthood can attest.

She gets few opportunities to shine on the big screen, but when she does, she knocks it out of the park: watch her supporting role in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and her starring turn in The DUFF, a strikingly funny and heavily ironic take on teenagers’ body image and beauty standards.

Playing to her perceived “bland” appearance, which was reportedly why the Independence Day sequel didn’t want her, Whitman can build a character out of the little details provided by the script. It’s quite a skill to have, and every movie would be lucky to count her among its cast members.

 

7. Chris Evans

Snowpiercer

Captain America himself – there’s actually a quite fine actor hidden under those muscles and roles that seem designed just to show them off.

If you’ve watched Joon-ho Bong’s Snowpiercer, you already know what I’m talking about – near the end, Evans has this monologue in which he lists all the privileges his character has enjoyed in this frantic, post-apocalyptic world, and how guilty he feels for it, especially when everyone’s life is marked by so much sacrifice.

That’d be something that Evans would be good to play, you’d think, and you’d be devastatingly right. He’s also been great in his more offbeat roles, like true-story gangster flick The Iceman, law drama Puncture, and even weird sci-fi tale Sunshine.

Rumor has it that he’ll become Universal’s new Mr. Jekyll, and he’s currently filming Marc Webb’s legal drama Gifted, so at least there’s more than Steve Rogers to look forward to in his career.

 

6. Taissa Farmiga

Taissa Farmiga

Both her seasons on FX’s American Horror Story came with very bland, uninteresting roles, but Vera Farmiga’s kid sister is actually quite a good actress still in her formative years. She’s been good in Sofia Coppola’s smart satire Bling Ring, in her big sister’s romance At Middleton, and even on her small role in Vera’s directorial debut Higher Ground.

It’s on her last few efforts, however, that she started really coming into her own – and finally on Hannah Fidell’s 6 Years, a largely improvised melodrama, she showed she has a life of her own as an actress.

Tremendously sensitive and precise in her character building, Taissa not only overshadows her co-star Ben Rosenfield, but completely takes over the movie, a somewhat unsure, but still very promising, effort from young filmmaker Fidell. Watch out for her performance in Ti West’s In a Valley of Violence, working alongside a stacked cast that includes Ethan Hawke, Karen Gillan, John Travolta, Burn Gorman and James Ransome.

 

 

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  • Dimitri Poenaru

    Totally agree on most of them, especially Chris Evans and Maggie Gyllenhaal. But for me, Casey Affleck lacks acting talent.

  • Isdal

    Waiting for someone to mention the lack of Sam Rockwell on this list

  • jann1k

    Tobey Kebbell, sadly he was cast in some pretty bad movies, but otherwise he’s a brilliant actor. Totally agree with Ben Foster though! Loved him in the highly underrated Pandorum and even his performance in the mediocre 30 Days of Night was a creepy standout!

  • Tiago Nunes

    Kirsten Dunst definitely.

  • Μεγαλοαστός

    Paul Giamatti

  • Rudi

    I can’t agree more concerning Casey Affleck. He’s been my favourite actor for years now and he still is. I could listen to that unique voice for days in a row.

    And to nominate one for your next list: Emma Roberts. You see her growing from role to role and now with Nerve she’s finally shown she can carry a movie on her own.

    • Bobby Calloway

      She’s excellent in Scream Queens. She plays a bitch to such perfection that she’s incredible to watch.

  • Special_One

    Where do ToC find their writers? When you write like a four year old, and judge how “underrated” actors are with the credibility of a fourteen year old girl who’s just seen a guy take off his shirt for the first time, there’s no way you get to write for a supposedly serious site. Unless that site is ToC, apparently. You know what, I’m actually done. I’m not reading ToC anymore. It’s been going downhill for a while now, and the fact that Caio Coletti still writes for this site just proves that they don’t give a shit.

  • Yudha Wirawanda

    no Jake Gyllenhaal? Kirsten Dunst? Ben Mendelshon, Mads Mikkelsen…an the writer chose Taissa Varmiga instead smh

  • Yudha Wirawanda

    Jake Gyllenhaal, Kirsten Dunst, Ben Mendelshon, Dane Deehan, Mads Mikkelsen, Ben Whishaw, Guy Pearce, Michael Shannon, Paul Bettany, even Robert Pattinson

    • Mortimer

      Ben Mendelsohn is excellent actor. So underrated. Waiting to see him and Rooney Mara in UNA this year.

  • Bobby Calloway

    I find Blake Lively to be incredibly underrated. Although she’s a beautiful lady, she doesn’t just do roles that showcase her beauty. She’s gone against type for The Town and Hick – playing trashy addicts – and she really delivered some great work in The Age of Adaline. She was able to carry The Shallows almost entirely on her own too.