The 10 Most Underrated Action Movies of The 2010s

Action films tend to stick to a formula: the protagonist is either an underdog everyman that gains strength and eventually beats their enemy, or they’re already heroes that continue on with their action-packed lives. More often than not, it’s good versus evil with good winning in the end. Action movies that stick to the formula have a better chance at finding an audience due to its familiarity while critical success follows similarly.

The action genre is not known for experimenting with its format. Action films also tend not to be viewed as art but a piece of entertainment at best and a commodity at worst. When an action film comes along that plays with the genre’s conventions, mixes in other genres, and doesn’t provide the clear-cut good guy/bad guy dynamic, audiences stay away and critics don’t know what to make of it.

With this in mind, here are 10 of the most underrated action films that were released in the 2010s. Each one brings a unique take on the action genre and presents a different vision than your standard action film. Even if overlooked in that decade, the films remain as singular and strong as the day they were released to indifferent audiences and critics.


1. The Book of Eli (2010)

The Book of Eli is a 2010 post-apocalyptic action film that tells the story of Eli (Denzel Washington), a man traveling across a desolate wasteland to deliver a book that he believes can save humanity. Directed by the Hughes Brothers, it received mixed reviews upon its release but has since gained a cult following. Worthy of rediscovery, this film is more than just your standard action flick.

The film differs from other films in the post-apocalyptic genre, in which deeper themes of faith, morality, and the power of knowledge are explored rather than just fighting mindless zombies. Eli’s mission to protect the book is not just about physical survival, but preserving something greater than himself and his immediate needs.

But what truly elevates The Book of Eli is the performance of Denzel Washington in the lead role. Washington brings a quiet intensity to the character of Eli, conveying a sense of determination and purpose through his actions rather than his words. The film also features strong supporting performances from Gary Oldman as the villainous Carnegie and Mila Kunis as a young woman who joins Eli on his journey.

An underrated action film, The Book of Eli offers a unique take on the post-apocalyptic genre, exploring deeper themes of faith and knowledge rather than providing mindless action sequences.


2. The Losers (2010)

An elite team of elite operatives are betrayed and left for dead during a mission in Bolivia. With the help of a mysterious woman (played by Zoe Saldana), the team sets out to seek revenge against the man who betrayed them, a powerful and ruthless CIA agent named Max (Jason Patric). Along the way, they face numerous obstacles and challenges as they try to stay one step ahead of Max and his army of mercenaries.

Overlooked by audiences and critics alike, The Losers has a lot going for it: boasting an outstanding cast, including Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Chris Evans, and Idris Elba, each actor brings their A-game, infusing their characters with wit, charm, and charisma. The chemistry between the actors is palpable, making their banter and camaraderie one of the highlights of the film.

The Losers is packed with adrenaline-pumping set pieces that are expertly choreographed and executed. From car chases to shootouts, the action never lets up, and the pacing is spot-on. The film also has a playful and inventive approach to action, with scenes that are both over-the-top and hilarious.

The film never takes itself too seriously and has fun with the genre conventions. The script is witty and clever, with plenty of one-liners and zingers that keep the audiences entertained. With its impressive cast, thrilling action sequences, and sense of humor, the film is a fun and enjoyable ride from start to finish.


3. Sanctum (2011)

A team of underwater cave divers become trapped in an unexplored cave system after a storm. As they struggle to find a way out, tensions rise, and the team must rely on their skills and each other to survive. Despite its impressive visuals and gripping storyline, Sanctum received mixed reviews and was largely overlooked by audiences.

Which is unfortunate, as Sanctum is a masterclass in visual storytelling. The film’s stunning cinematography, which captures the dark and eerie underwater cave environment, is breathtaking. The tight and claustrophobic setting adds to the tension and danger of the situation, making every moment feel like a fight for survival. The film’s use of lighting and sound is also impressive, creating a sense of foreboding and unease throughout.

Sanctum’s portrayal of the dangers of cave diving and its realistic approach to the sport and its potential hazards, including equipment failures, water currents, and lack of oxygen, is viscerally terrifying and keeps the viewer in suspense throughout. This works hand-in-hand with the characters in the film. Unlike many action films, the characters in Sanctum are fleshed out and multi-dimensional, making their struggles and triumphs all the more impactful. An intense and thought-provoking action-thriller, Sanctum is definitely worth a watch.


4. Raze (2014)

A group of women are abducted and forced to fight each other to the death in an underground arena. Talk about brutal! The premise of Raze didn’t garner many favorable reviews and audiences similarly avoided it. Too bad: it’s a hidden gem and an extremely unique action film.

Women aren’t particularly prominent in lead roles in action films, and even fewer action movies have a majority female cast. Raze explores the theme of female empowerment and challenges gender stereotypes and expectations, portraying its female characters as strong and capable fighters who refuse to be victimized. Raze also raises (no pun intended) thought-provoking questions about the nature of violence and the limits of personal agency.

Perhaps there is one aspect that kept critics from appreciating the film: its brutal fight scenes between women. It’s an unusual visual and even more rare as a main feature in a film. But Raze’s fight choreography is expertly crafted, with each blow and strike coming across as raw and impactful. The fights are brutal and unrelenting but also well-executed and thrilling.

Gritty, ferocious, and confrontational, Raze refuses to shy away from its darker and more disturbing themes and its refusal to cater to mainstream expectations makes it a refreshing and subversive addition to the action genre.


5. Aftermath (2012)

After an event known as the “Day of Chaos,” nine strangers are forced to take shelter in a farmhouse after a nuclear attack. As they struggle to survive in the aftermath of the disaster, tensions rise and secrets are revealed, leading to a gripping and intense climax. Perhaps American culture was feeling post-apocalypse fatigue by 2012, but Aftermath was given a lukewarm reception by critics while audiences stayed away.

Unfortunate because it’s a solid entry into the post-apocalyptic action genre. The film’s strength lies in its ability to create a sense of claustrophobia and isolation. The farmhouse becomes a microcosm of the world outside, where survival becomes the only goal, and trust is a scarce commodity.

As characters succumb to radiation sickness, suffer betrayal at each other’s hands, and resources dwindling, the film’s pacing and intimate setting leaves it at a simmer, punctuated by bursts of action and drama. Perhaps due to the bleak nature of the film, it may not be to everyone’s taste (think The Day After but with more action sequences). But for an indie sci-fi action thriller that creates and sustains a tense atmosphere throughout, Aftermath shouldn’t be an afterthought when seeking out a unique action genre picture.