The 10 Most Underrated Actors Working 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
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
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
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
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
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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