What makes a film underrated? We all have that movie we love that everyone else seems to hate. Sometimes it’s a movie that we know is bad but we seem to enjoy anyway. Furthermore, there are other movies we feel were unfairly treated, whether by our friends or by critics. This is where the underrated argument comes in. John Carter, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Carrie (2013) are examples of past films I felt were underrated. This year in particular, I came across several movies I either liked or loved that just couldn’t get a fair shake from others.
So today, I will be taking a look at the most underrated films to hit theaters in 2016. I normally do a top five for things like this. However, there were too many underrated movies this year, so I extended it a bit. Now, to qualify for this list, the film has to have a rotten rating on RottenTomatoes.com. If they’re fresh, it’s a bit difficult to say no one appreciated them. So with that said, here are The Top 10 Most Underrated Films Of 2016.
#10: Office Christmas Party
Office Christmas Party was exactly what you thought it was based on the title. A CEO (TJ Miller) and his two closest employees (Jason Bateman and Olivia Munn) throw a massive Christmas party in their office building in order to impress a new client. However, the CEO’s sister (Jennifer Aniston) has other plans for them. I’m putting this one pretty low on the list because if there’s one thing Office Christmas Party isn’t, it’s ambitious. Movies like Office Christmas Party come and go all the time. It’s just a simple over-the-top comedy, just like the ones we see every year. However, as far as simple comedies go, I found this one to be one of the more underrated ones of 2016.
I can understand wanting more ambition out of a comedy but this isn’t that type of film. Office Christmas Party is more akin to a really good episode of Family Guy. It’s objective is not to change your life but rather to make you feel good. It’s meant to make you laugh and in that area it certainly succeeds. TJ Miller is hilarious in the lead role, Bateman and Munn have wonderful chemistry and even all the side characters get some laughs. Where as Kate McKinnon had her talents completely wasted in Ghostbusters, Office Christmas Party gives her some of the funniest scenes in the film. Is the movie perfect? No, absolutely not. It has the cliche’s that come with a movie like this and again, it’s not an ambitious film. But for a simple comedy that only wants you to laugh, it’s much better than you think it is.
#9: Batman: The Killing Joke
Oh yeah, I can see the hate mail flooding the comment section now. So before I get into why I feel this film was underrated, let’s talk about what I didn’t like. First and foremost, Batman and Batgirl having sex? No! Just NO! That’s a bad Batman! Bad! I understand that Batman Beyond alluded to them being a couple at some point. Furthermore, Barbara clearly had a thing for Bruce in Batman: The Animated Series. However, I didn’t like it in those either, as this felt completely out of character for Bruce Wayne. Him having sex with his best friend’s daughter and his partner’s ex? Not cool, Bruce. Not cool. No other way around it, that scene was beyond stupid and it pissed me off just like it did the rest of you. What else?
There’s a few moments where they clearly use CG animation and it sticks out horribly. Lastly, the Batgirl prologue goes on for way too long. It almost feels like a separate movie in itself. Aside from that, when the actual Killing Joke story starts, the movie is awesome. They adapt the panels of Alan Moore’s graphic novel very well for the most part. Yeah, there’s a few moments where the CG and hand-drawn styles of animation clash but when it’s just the hand-drawn animation, without any computer graphics getting in the way, the movie looks beautiful. Mark Hamill, Kevin Conroy and Tara Strong fit seamlessly back into the roles of The Joker, Batman and Batgirl. I missed hearing them voice these characters and they all do great work as they always have.
And even though you’re all gonna want to kill me, I can even make a small argument for the Batgirl prologue. First of all, let’s be honest with ourselves. The Killing Joke was too short to make into a full movie, so additions had to be made. Furthermore, what it succeeded at doing was giving Batgirl her own “Joker” in Parry Francesco. I mean, really think about it. Parry Francesco, in a way, is to Batgirl what The Joker is to Batman. He taunts her, tortures her emotionally and is so obsessed with pushing her over a line she shouldn’t cross. He doesn’t want to kill Batgirl because he’s having “too much fun” with her. It’s seeing Batgirl cross that line, almost killing Francesco, that gives Batman a motivation to try and reason with The Joker once The Killing Joke story starts.
In the graphic novel, Batman just goes to see The Joker in the beginning and talks about wanting to help him; how he’s scared that the two might kill each other someday. This, at the very least, gives him a reason for doing that. And the prologue also gives the audience a connection with Batgirl early on so that it hits harder when The Joker paralyzes her. It may go on for too long but, from a certain standpoint, it’s not that bad an addition when you really stop to analyze it. Batman: The Killing Joke wasn’t perfect by any means and it certainly had problems. However, I thought the things that were good far overshadowed the things that were bad. And considering just how “bad” some of the bad stuff was, that’s really saying something. It isn’t great but, as a whole, it isn’t a bad movie.
#8: Bad Moms
At the risk of sounding sexist, 2016 suffered from a slew of “Girl Power” films that were absolutely terrible. Ghostbusters: Answer The Call was a horrible reboot of a once-great franchise and How To Be Single was a manipulative piece of garbage. However, Bad Moms was a refreshing, entertaining and often very funny movie that slipped in under 2016’s radar. Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell & Katheryn Hahn play three mothers who are bored and fed up with their normal lives and set out to be the cool moms in town. A simple premise like this could easily turn out a bad product. However, what makes it all work is the impeccable chemistry between the three leads.
These three play off of each other perfectly. Katheryn Hahn is a good actress that usually comes off as annoying in comedies. However, in Bad Moms, she’s not only hilarious but the funniest actress in the movie. While Kunis gives an undeniably better performance, it’s Hahn who gets the best lines. The film is also elevated out of generic comedy territory by its main antagonist, played by Christina Applegate. I grew up watching Applegate on Married…With Children and it was great to see her in a good comedy after the train wreck that was 2015’s Vacation reboot. So, if you want to see a “girl-power” movie with some of the industry’s funniest talents, Bad Moms is definitely one to check out. I’ll take this underrated comedy over an overrated Ghostbusters reboot any day.
#7: Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice (Ultimate Edition)
Look, let’s be blunt here. Warner Bros. should hang their heads in absolute shame for the way they treated this film’s theatrical release. The theatrical cut was a sloppily put together mess that shouldn’t have seen the light of day. The Ultimate Edition more than made up for what we, the audience, had to suffer through in the theaters and remains one of the most underrated films in recent memory. Is The Ultimate Edition perfect? No, it isn’t. the Martha scene is well-intentioned but still comes across as forced. Jesse Eisenberg’s performance is still beyond awkward. Let’s be honest, if Eisenberg was playing The Riddler, he would have been perfect. As Lex Luthor, the performance just doesn’t fit. The email cameos and the dream sequences are still dumb too.
Aside from that, The Ultimate Edition of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is actually quite satisfying. It’s a movie that can feel overly long but it delivers more of what I wanted it to deliver on. The motivations for why Superman and Batman were at odds with each other felt more fleshed out. The story is more coherent and interesting. Lex Luthor’s plan makes A LOT more sense and his motivations are A LOT more clear. Lois Lane actually serves a purpose in this cut. Where as in theatrical cut you could have just axed her out entirely and nothing would have mattered. Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) was still awesome, the score was beautiful, the action was great and fast paced, the acting (aside from Eisenberg) was quite good and this cut just had a more even flow to it.
I could go on about how much I loved Ben Affleck as Batman. I forgot I was watching Ben Affleck after awhile. He embodied Batman down to the last detail. Even if the rest of the movie had been terrible, I would still pop this film in just to see him Affleck play The Dark Knight. He gave us a version of the character we had yet to see in a feature film; a Batman who has been pushed over the edge and hardened by twenty years of heartache. You see him running through a demolished Metropolis, watching people die around him. That opening scene of Bruce in Metropolis was a serious highlight of the film and did a brilliant job of establishing his hatred for Superman.
The film also explores many interesting themes. Superman realizing that even being a hero can have bad consequences. Batman realizing that even someone as powerful and seemingly destructive as Superman can be humanized. Hope, Family, Fear, Power, Sacrifice and what being a hero really means are just some of the themes challenged and conveyed through this film. While the theatrical cut of the film made all of this impossible to follow, The Ultimate Edition puts everything neatly where it belongs, turning the film itself into a more thought provoking experience. Again, not gonna pretend it’s perfect. It still has some issues but with The Ultimate Edition, it’s much easier to overlook those issues. The theatrical cut can burn in hell. The Ultimate Edition was the film we deserved.
#6: Pride and Prejudice and Zombies
Let me make this clear, if you are not on board with beautiful woman in corsets, killing zombies in the middle of one of Jane Austen’s most celebrated works, then odds are you won’t care for this movie. Either you’re on board or you’re not and boy howdy was I on board for this. I am a huge fan of the book by Seth-Grahame Smith. The movie did stray from the book in parts. However, I’m still surprised how faithful an adaptation it managed to be. Especially when you consider the last Smith adaptation debacle that was Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. God, I hated that movie. If I have any complaints it’s that Lena Heady and Charles Dance weren’t used enough. Also, the film could have used a little more zombie action. Other than that, it’s a perfectly fine film.
Pride and Prejudice and Zombies was a film that knew exactly what it was and gave exactly what the title promised. It’s Pride & Prejudice, the Jane Austin story, with zombies thrown in for some fun. However, even if you took the zombies out of the equation, this would still be a satisfying film. Lily James and Sam Riley have wonderful chemistry as Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Their interactions are the highlight of the movie. Matt Smith is hilarious as Mr. Collins. He steals the movie whenever he’s on screen. The zombie action is fun when it’s there, the acting is good all around, the cinematography is beautiful and while it isn’t a perfect film, it’s great for what it is.
If you can get behind the fact that this is a tongue and cheek thing, you may find yourself enjoying it.
#5: Money Monster
Jodie Foster returned to the director’s chair in 2016 to give us Money Monster. Lee Gates (played by George Clooney) is the host of a hit television program called Money Monster, where he comically offers financial advice to stockholders. When Kyle Budwell (played by Jack O’ Connell), a viewer of the show, loses all of his money due to a supposed “computer glitch”, Kyle breaks into the studio with a gun, holding Lee and his associates hostage on live television. After strapping a bomb to Lee’s chest, Kyle wants answers to where all of his money went. Though he doesn’t have all the answers for Kyle, Lee tries to help him and soon finds out that the market he once praised may be more corrupt than he once thought. So why is Money Monster so underrated?
Everything the film did emotionally was well earned. When I saw the trailer for it, I thought it was just going to follow so many cliches. However, it instead opted to do something different with those cliches. If you watch the trailer, there is a scene where Kyle is talking to his wife on a video monitor. Now, in any other movie, you’d probably think, “Gee, let me guess, she’s gonna talk him down, make him realize the error of his ways and the movie is over. Woopty doo! We’ve only seen this a million times.” However, that is not what happens at all. I was shocked when that scene played out, just as I was with most of this movie. Jodie Foster pays close attention not to fall into the predictable, tiresome traps that most movies of this caliber usually do.
The story of Money Monster plays out in a compelling manner that kept me invested throughout the entire runtime. That’s what a good drama like this should do. It has some character problems and a problematic climax but Jodie Foster isn’t afraid to tackle a serious real world subject in a creative way. The trailers made it look like a movie you’d already seen a million times but it had enough unexpected and even humorous moments that helped it stand out. The performances were fun and memorable, the humor was great and the story was insightful and, at times, quite moving. It wasn’t a perfect film, but the great moments in it were too good to ignore. Money Monster is a film that is well worth your time and money.
#4: The Girl On The Train
Why was every single critic comparing this movie to Gone Girl upon its release? With exception of a woman going missing, Gone Girl & The Girl On The Train could not be more different. Oh, wait, I’m sorry there is one other comparison I can make; both films are great. The Girl On The Train was a fantastic thriller with tension, mystery, and intrigue. Like the rest of the films on this list, I was completely against the majority of other critics on this one. Most hate the film but I have a feeling they would love it if Gone Girl didn’t exist. All that matters is that the film is good and this film is certainly very good.
The Girl On The Train follows the stories of three specific characters, Rachel (Emily Blunt), Megan (Haley Bennett) & Anna (Rebecca Ferguson) and how their lives intersect. Rachel is a recently divorced alcoholic who rides the train back and forth to the city every day. This allows her to see many things from the train window, more particularly how blissful her ex-husband, Tom (Justin Theroux) is with his new wife, Anna. Furthermore, she becomes obsessed with Tom and Anna’s neighbors, Megan & Scott (Luke Evans), as their marriage seems perfect. However, when Anna has an alcohol-induced blackout, Megan mysteriously goes missing and Anna finds herself the number one suspect. Is she responsible? No one knows for sure; not even Anna.
What I love about this movie is that it never feels the need to hold my hand for even a second. The Girl On The Train is a Class-A thriller that treats its audience as thinking people with functioning brains. This isn’t like When The Bough Breaks, where the film spoon feeds you information to the point of projectile vomiting. The Girl On The Train trusts us to figure out what’s happening within the story and without ever having to spoon feed us information. It gives us the clues and situations to deduce the conclusion on our own. Furthermore, it is also not against throwing curveballs at us from time to time, which helps to keep things interesting. Compare this to Gone Girl, where the tension never let up but all the mystery was gone half-way through when the twist reared its head.
The Girl On The Train is an above average thriller with twists and turns to spare. It allows you to use your brain, which is more than I can say for most thrillers being released today. The cinematography is gorgeous, the editing keeps the mystery flowing flawlessly and and the performances are great. This represents a career best for Emily Blunt as an actress. She deserves more recognition for her work in this film. I will admit, I would of liked a better ending but nevertheless, this is a thriller that is very good, very impressive and vastly underrated. Sorry, I just don’t get the hate for this one.
#3: Suicide Squad
Okay, let me be the first to say that not everything in Suicide Squad worked. However, I would never call Suicide Squad a bad movie. Nor do I think Suicide Squad deserved the insultingly low rating it got on RottenTomatoes.com. When you strip Suicide Squad down, does it have a basic plot-line that you could follow with your eyes closed? Yes, yes it does. So do 90% of the films released by Marvel Studios and yet, they seem to get nothing but universal praise, even when they’re terrible *coughs* Iron Man 2 *coughs*. If you honestly think that Zemo’s plans in Civil War were any less idiotic than Enchantress’ plans in Suicide Squad, please shut up.
Suicide Squad had great humor, fun characters and the back and forth between the actors was a blast to watch. The entire cast played off of each other perfectly. These actors apparently became very close on the set of this movie and their chemistry together shined beautifully as a result. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but even Jai Courtney was good. I’ll go as far as to say he’s one of the film’s funniest characters. It’s a miracle! Hallelujah! Will Smith brings his old-school charm and charisma to Deadshot in a way that only he can. Margot Robbie is a brilliant Harley Quinn, demonstrating Harley’s psychotic, yet fragile mind, perfectly. The best though was El Diablo. He gets the most backstory, the best character arc and he’s the character you can feel for the most.
It was just fun to see all of these characters together on the big screen, most of them for the first time. The team dynamic between these characters grows throughout their mission in a way that I personally felt was organic. I can understand some of the criticisms toward the movie. Suicide Squad is not perfect and The Joker sucked (was not a fan of Leto). But I don’t understand the near universal hatred of it. I understand it for the Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice theatrical cut. That was an absolute mess. People say that Suicide Squad is a mess when it’s a pretty straight forward and easy to follow movie. The storyline was fun, the action was awesome, the humor was great, most of the characters were beautifully represented and the soundtrack was near perfect.
So, to hell with the haters, Suicide Squad rocked and represents one of the most criminally underrated and under-appreciated films of 2016.
2: Blair Witch
Before I get into why I find Blair Witch underrated, I think it’s important that you all know off the bat how much I despise The Blair Witch Project. I thought the movie was boring back in 1999 and it was still boring when I re-watched it in 2016. The fact that that movie has such a huge fanbase makes my head hurt the more I think about it. The less said about Book Of Shadows the better. I had no ambition to see Blair Witch. The only reason I did end up watching it was because I received advanced screening passes for it. So I figured, why not? It’s free. So I went to the theater, sat in front of the screen as I witnessed one of the most frightening and underrated films of 2016.
Now, before anyone calls me out on it, let’s get the obvious complaint about this movie out of the way right now. Yes, the movie had a few jump scares in places where they weren’t at all warranted. However, while I hate jump scares, that is my only complaint with the entire film. People were giving this film a bum rap because it actually showed things to the audience. Everyone was screaming “The horror is supposed to come from what you don’t see”. That works in certain movies. House On Haunted Hill, Psycho and The Haunting were all films that were scary by barely showing a thing. The Blair Witch Project barely showed a thing and it wasn’t scary at all. I understand it’s all opinion but I will never understand how three annoying jack-wagons walking aimlessly in the woods for 70-something minutes actually scared people.
Blair Witch builds on the mythology set forth in the original film while still being its own thing. Adam Wingard took the elements of the original, cranked the intensity meter from 0 to 100 and gave us a taught, suspenseful and often scary film. It took its time in the beginning but it actually gave us good insight into the main characters. The three characters in the original were boring idiots, where as the ones in this film were far more interesting and fleshed out. The acting is better, the scares are better, the tension is forever mounting and the use of several different types of cameras, more specifically headcams, was very clever. In every sense of the word, Blair Witch is the superior film.
#1: 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi
In 2014, I suffered through Transformers: Age Of Extinction. It was a three hour albatross of a film that just wouldn’t end and sometimes I still have nightmares, where I’m still in the theater watching it. Needless to say, Michael Bay isn’t exactly my favorite director in the world. However, today, I must give the devil his due and declare that Michael Bay proved me wrong. I thought he would botch 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi that same way he botched Pearl Harbor. And the fact that the movie was coming out in January, Hollywood’s dumping ground for cinematic garbage, wasn’t winning me over. Thankfully, that was not the case as not only does Bay’s direction give this movie based on a real life event the intensity it deserves, it also immerses you into the film like a cinematic experience should.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi chronicles a security team, as they fight to defend the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya after waves of terrorist attacks on September 11, 2012. Admittedly, the film takes a little while to get going but in that time, Bay actually develops the main characters in a way that makes us care about them from the very beginning. He doesn’t just display soldiers and demand that we immediately care about them by proxy. John Krasinski and James Badge Dale give wonderful performances. There are certain moments where the film is so immersive that you actually feel as though you’re in the fight with these characters.
Something I usually hate about Michael Bay’s films is that the action always goes on and on to the point where it becomes boring. He never slows anything down when he shoots an action scene for a Transformers movie and the editing is usually so distracting and frenetic that it’s hard to follow the action half the time. That was not the case with 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi. Michael Bay shows some serious hard hitting action but he never fails to stop and focus on what the characters are going through in the fight. He properly represents this event and treats these heroes with respect. The fast editing was also toned down so that the audience could take in every moment and every emotion. This was a hard hitting film both mentally and emotionally.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi is not just the most underrated film of 2016, it’s one of the best films of 2016.
So what are your thoughts on this list? Do you agree? Do you want to hang me from a tree? Please let me know in the comment box below and please stick around for more reviews and articles at The Nerd Stash.
A graduate of Full Sail University with a Bachelors Degree in Creative Writing, Adam is a Writer and Film Critic, looking to make his mark on the world. When he isn’t at the movies, writing for The Nerd Stash, playing Duck Hunt (respect the classics) or delivering pizzas to his neighbors, he is back at school earning his Masters Degree in Film Production.