10 Underrated Movies Directed by Famous Actors

6. The Gift (directed by Joel Edgerton)

The Gift (2015)

Joel Edgerton’s twisted indie film “The Gift” is the newest entry on this list, and it is likely still fresh in the minds of some. Let’s be honest here, though: did it really get as much praise as it deserves? Sure, it did pretty well on Rotten Tomatoes and was talked about, but Edgerton’s deceptive thriller goes into territories that would shake most to their cores.

With a sharp dramatic turn by the usual funnyman Jason Bateman, “The Gift” is a nerve-wracking look at the side effects of bullying and isolation that transitions into the dimmest parts of the human psyche. Rebecca Hall as Bateman’s wife is the anchor that weighs down the tornado of lies that surrounds her from all sides.

The final hour in “The Gift” is shocking enough to linger in your mind for months. Edgerton has always had a good handle of his character’s motives in whichever film he has starred in, and his precision shows in “The Gift”.


7. Little Murders (directed by Alan Arkin)

Little Murders (1971)

Alan Arkin has a couple of films that he worked on as a director (“Samuel Beckett is Coming Soon” and “Fire Sale”), but his most well-known work was that of his debut “Little Murders”. This satire poked fun at a variety of industries and social groups, including old and new generations, authoritative figures (particularly coppers) and more. This film is darkly comedic in the kind of way where you may laugh out of being uncomfortable at times.

“Little Murders” is actually the result of a Broadway production that didn’t quite live for too long, perhaps due to its dismal tone. However, the movie is certainly one of the many that were the result of the Production Code losing its grip on cinema, and it shows. It loudly laughs in the face of turmoil and death. There could definitely be a cult fan base that can get behind this bizarre production if they discover it.


8. The Lost One (directed by Peter Lorre)

The Lost One

“The Night of the Hunter” was an iconic film by actor Charles Laughton that was only given the respect it deserves in much more recent times. Unfortunately, Laughton never directed again because of the film’s backlash. Perhaps the movie was way too dark for the production-code-prepared audiences of its time. If we’ve given “The Night of the Hunter” that second chance, perhaps we should look at a similar tale again as well.

“The Lost One” was also the only film directed by a particular actor, this time by Peter Lorre. Lorre’s movie is possibly even darker than Laughton’s. “The Lost One” involves a villainous doctor that works for the Nazi party. He develops a lust for murder when he first starts off with his fiancée, who was an informant. The film’s title is exactly what it is, as it feels like an obsidian work of misery that has been highly forgotten about. Again, if we’re already looking at the films that were too sinister for the 1950s with a new eye, why not this one, too?


9. Nil by Mouth (directed by Gary Oldman)

Ray Winstone - “Nil by Mouth”

We are all familiar with Gary Oldman’s ability to turn into any character under the sun at the drop of a hat. A film by him would surely be interesting, right? Well, “Nil by Mouth” may have been a bit too abrasive at the time of its release. This drug drama formerly held the record for the most instances of the word “fuck” in a film (that title is held infamously by the juvenile “Swearnet” now); it still holds the “title” for the record number of “cunt”s, though.

If the language wasn’t enough of a deterrence, the tension between the family members (led by an explosive Ray Winstone) may have been the final straw for some. Now that time has passed, and there are a whole slew of foul mouthed, disturbing-domestic-dramas that we are familiar with, “Nil by Mouth” may be more welcome. It is unflinchingly real, devastating, and fueled by pure visceral emotion. This definitely feels like a film that came from a passionate actor, so it’s worth a watch for that drive alone.


10. Win Win (directed by Tom McCarthy)

Okay, so Tom McCarthy may fall under the term director heavily now, especially since his opus “Spotlight” won the Oscar for Best Picture. Maybe he has had a long career as a filmmaker and screenwriter. However, McCarthy always felt like the familiar face on screen (or the tube) that would pop up in so many works (especially in “Boston Public” and “The Wire”). Now that “Spotlight” has earned its praise, maybe it’s time we picked up the film that came out before it known as “Win Win”. Like “Spotlight”, “Win Win” similarly feels authentically pure and untampered by Hollywood’s need for superficiality.

What’s nice about this is that “Win Win” is a comedy-drama, so you will definitely experience a roller coaster of emotions. Paul Giamatti’s character (an attorney-turned-coach) helps a struggling teenager (Alex Shaffer) channel his inner demons through wrestling. It’s not just a piece for the outcasts out there, but for anyone who may currently be going through a rough time. McCarthy isn’t afraid to dig deeply into the mindsets of the characters; the reward this film can dish out alone should make this winner worthy of discussion.

Author Bio: Andreas Babiolakis has a Bachelor’s degree in Cinema Studies, and is currently undergoing his Master’s in Film Preservation. He is stationed in Toronto, where he devotes every year to saving money to celebrate his favourite holiday: TIFF. Catch him @andreasbabs.