Most Underrated Movie Actors Of Our Time

Published on July 30, 2014. Updated October 2, 2019

So you go to the movies and what do want to see? Or… is it who do you want to watch? Is it always the box office mega-stars, is it the cool good looking folk in your trendy magazine websites… or is it the actual talented acting you should be craving for in our films. The same people seem to be getting the great roles and it seems to be all about the cash for the box office. There’s nothing wrong with that from the studio’s point of view but it shouldn’t be from yours. There are so many talented actors these days, some of the best and brightest aren’t getting their fair shake even after a great performance or two… or five. Are the reasons chance or choices? George Clooney has gotten his great roles and has somewhat proven he has talent but let’s see what else we got.

8. Steve Zahn

Steve Zahn is what you call a working actor, that is, when he gets the parts he should. He just works and works and works but hasn’t gotten the opportunity to lead. He can make any part memorable. He was the best thing (except the theme song) in That Thing You Do, he played unique ex-boyfriend and current married lover in Sunshine Cleaning and almost made Daddy Day Care watchable. In other, less pretty people, times he would have already been offered leading roles. We should wish for those times again.

Entertainment Press /

7. Jim Carrey

Jim Carrey is another comedian who hasn’t gotten a fair shake either from Hollywood or maybe from himself. His comedies from the nineties were brilliant. The Mask started his wizardry off followed by Ace Ventura: Pet Detective and Dumb and Dumber… all in the same year (1994.) The Cable Guy and Liar Liar followed but in 1998 he got The Truman Show and things began to change. His portrayal of Andy Kaufman in Man on the Moon is when critics actually thought he could do more but it was Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind that showed he could do drama and do it well. After that he continued on with comedy and never parlayed his outstanding performance in Sunshine into other dramatic roles. Who knows why but he could (or could have been) the new Dick Van Dyke, a man who could do it all.

Everett Collection /

6. Don Cheadle

Don Cheadle has been in countless films but hasn’t been the lead in many of them. He’s been working since the eighties and we’ve loved him in just about everything. As Buck Swope in Boogie Nights, he took a secondary part and became a real presence in the movie. He’s been on a Mission to Mars, got caught in Traffic and was even an angel in Family Man. Of the eleven of Frank Ocean’s men, he stood out and played a convincing Sammy Davis, Jr. Sure, he can star in his own TV series but isn’t it time to let him loose in film.

s_bukley /

5. Ben Affleck

 When Rodney Dangerfield was spouting, “I get no respect, no respect at all”, he may have been referring to Ben Affleck. Yes, he starred in Gigli and happened to be in Jersey Girl (that was really more of a frustration in Kevin Smith) and, of course, got less than favorable reviews for Daredevil although I still say there are worse superhero portrayals. He’s been very good in small roles from Dazed and Confused and School Ties to making fun of himself in almost any Kevin Smith film. But given a chance, remember how good he was in Shakespeare in Love, The Town and Argo (directing himself). Its time people… its time. Hail Batman!

Everett Collection /

4. Eric Bana

Eric Bana has quite the resume. Does everyone know who he is… really? He has played an Israeli, a Trojan warrior, the Hulk and of course, a very disgruntled Romulan in Star Trek. He can play character roles and has the looks of a leading man. Bana has been doing great work in the U.S. market since Black Hawk Down in 2001. The Australian actor can take any part and make it his own. He had a good year in 2009 with three quality films and roles and was great in the low budget 2011 film, Hanna. He is one of the few actors I would actually go see a movie for.

s_bukley /

3. Thomas Hayden Church

You probably remember him from the great (and underrated) show Wings—from the nineties. That part led to a leading role with Debra Messing on a show called Ned and Stacey—yes that actually happened. Lately he’s been in some not so outstanding films (calling John Carter) but we always seem to get the best from him. His portrayal of Sandman/Flint Marko in the original Spiderman trilogy took an uninspiring story and made you care. Of course, Sideways was his tour de force. He had great chemistry with Paul Giamatti and was his true breakout role.

Everett Collection /

2. Emil Hirsch

I first spotted Emil Hirsch in The Girl Next Door. It was a charming movie and the young high schooler in the main role made me take notice (as did the great Timothy Olyphant). However, when I happen to watch Lords of Dogtown, a film about California skateboarders and surfers, I really took notice. Hirsch seems to be an actor’s actor where he only wants to make real films instead of movies. His roles in Alpha Dog, Into the Wild and Milk seem to verify that. He is an actor who can really get into any role he performs. His choices are his own but perhaps he should start using the agent credo… one for them and one for us.

Jaguar PS /

1. Tom Hardy

Who is this guy and where do I know him from? He is another actor who can do it all. He can be the man behind the mask as he was in Star Trek: Nemesis as Praetor Shinzon, the Remus warrior or in The Dark Knight Rises as the massive Bain. He’s come a long way since Handsome Bob in RocknRolla and his Ricki Tarr in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy could have been the emotional center of the film. And let’s not forget how everyone talked about him after watching Inception. Hardy has been working steady since his role of Clarkie in Layer Cake. He has at least five movies coming out in 2014 and 2015 combined. Let’s hope times they are a changing—for him and for us.

JStone /
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