The film industry has grown considerably since the 20th century and watching feature films has never been more accessible. Hundreds of films are released a year from streaming services, studios, and independent filmmakers. The abundance of films today makes it difficult for audiences to appreciate every great actor and actress. Oftentimes, talented actors appear in the biggest movies of the year only to disappear from the tabloids a few months later. Actors and actresses may work for years without receiving the credit or acclaim their stellar performances deserve, but once they do get their moment in the sun, it’s truly well-deserved. Here is our list of some of the most underrated actors and actresses of all time.
From actors working in TV to beloved film actors that star in successful features, all of these actors have yet to receive the awards, recognition, or roles that they deserve.
Jeffrey Wright has made appearances in many different films and television since 1990, but it wasn’t until 2013 that his career finally started to take off. In 2013, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire was released, and Wright played Beetie, a highly intelligent tribute from District 3. That same year, Wright became a regular cast member on Boardwalk Empire. Now, Wright is a regular star on HBO’s Westworld and played Commissioner Gordon in Matt Reeves’ The Batman.
Freddie Highmore has been acting since he was nine years old and has consistently proven himself to be one of the most underrated actors of all time. His first huge role was in Finding Neverland in 2004. In 2007, he went on to star in a film as the lead with August Rush at the age of 15. After a few years of smaller roles, he took on the title role in Bates Motel where he proved that he could lead a television series and had the acting chops to play a young Norman Bates. Highmore continues to impress on TV as the lead in The Good Doctor but has yet to receive the credit he deserves in the feature film world.
Benicio Del Toro began acting on TV in the 1980s in small roles. It wasn’t until 1995 that Del Toro would have a breakout role as Fenster in The Usual Suspects. In 2000, Steven Soderbergh released the film Traffic and cast Del Toro as Javier Rodriguez, a Mexican police officer during the war on drugs. He won an Academy Award for the role which gave his career a major boost. Since then, he’s starred in big-budget features like Guardians of the Galaxy along with smaller arthouse films. However, Del Toro has yet to receive the leading roles he deserves and is often relegated to playing supporting characters in crime films.
Dev Patel’s first role was in the British TV series Skins in 2007. A year later, Patel luckily got his first big break when he was cast by Danny Boyle as the lead character in Slumdog Millionaire. The film had universal critical acclaim and would go on to win 8 Academy Awards. Patel’s performance was highly praised especially as an acting debut. Despite being a newly acclaimed actor, Patel struggled to find roles after Slumdog Millionaire. It wasn’t until recently with Hollywood’s push for diversity that Patel has found work in new projects like The Green Knight and Hotel Mumbai.
John Goodman has had a long career and throughout it has shown an incredible amount of range. He can go from being hilarious in a sitcom to being an emotionally complex individual in a feature film. His most popular roles include Dan Conner from Roseanne, Walter Sobchak in The Big Lebowski, and the enigmatic Howard from 10 Cloverfield Lane. Goodman has been nominated for several Golden Globes and Primetime Emmy Awards but has rarely won any of them.
As an actor who has won an Oscar and been nominated for multiple Emmys, with more than 100 film and television credits to his name, Sam Rockwell may seem like an odd choice for an underrated actor. Although despite Rockwell’s accomplishments, he is still constantly overlooked. Rockwell has starred in some of the most popular films of all time including Charlie’s Angels, Galaxy Quest, and Iron Man 2. However, Rockwell is still largely unrecognized as a leading man and is often only given supporting roles. Rockwell has a tendency to choose independent and off-beat projects which don’t fit into the traditional Hollywood leading man mold. Even though he may not be a typical leading man, Rockwell has the talent and range to take on any role.
Actresses have had a notoriously difficult time in Hollywood. They often have to overcome stereotypes, are usually paid less than their male counterparts, and historically have fewer opportunities to showcase their talent. However, as cultures change and more dynamic talents emerge, women are becoming more prevalent in the industry in front of or behind the camera. Here are six of the most underrated actresses working today.
Elisabeth Moss began acting as an eight year old girl, appearing in various roles on TV and film in minor roles. Moss landed her first recurring role on a major TV series with The West Wing as she played the president’s daughter, Zoey Bartlet. After The West Wing, Moss made a huge splash in the TV world with her role as Peggy Olson in Mad Men. Moss was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series 5 times while she was in Mad Men but never won. Moss went on to make more waves in TV by starring in miniseries, independent films, and The Handmaid’s Tale. Now, because of The Invisible Man, Moss has proven she is just as much of a talented actress for feature films as she is for television.
Michelle Monaghan has constantly been cast in minor or supporting roles and has yet to lead a major film on her own. She has co-starred in popular films such as the Mission Impossible franchise, Gone Baby Gone, and Source Code. Monaghan has also had recurring roles on TV series like Boston Public and True Detective. Even though Monaghan has shown she can carry a film or TV show, she is still largely unrecognized for her talent.
Rosario Dawson has more than 100 film and television credits to her name. She has appeared as supporting characters and minor characters in popular films and TV like Daredevil, Rent, and Unstoppable. Despite her impressive resume, Dawson rarely gets the opportunity to showcase her talent as an actress. Recently, Dawson has been cast as Ahsoka Tano in the Star Wars live-action series and has had more opportunities to show her range as an actress. She will reprise the role of Ahsoka Tano and headline a limited series about the character on Disney Plus.
Lupita Nyong’o took Hollywood by storm with her performance in 12 Years a Slave. Critics and audiences alike praised her emotionally devastating portrayal of Patsey and she won an Oscar for the film. Nyong’o went to the Yale School of Drama and immediately after graduation, landed the role in 12 Years a Slave. The media was fixated on Nyong’o for a while but despite the extreme amount of attention, Nyong’o did not have a large selection of roles waiting for her. Over time, Nyong’o has landed roles in high-profile films like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Black Panther, and Us. Nyong’o is one of the most talented actresses working today and has proved her range with the different types of characters she has played.
Ms. Yeoh began her career in Chinese action and martial arts films, where she performed most of her own stunts. By her third action film, she was given the main role. She began her acting career in Hollywood when she appeared in Tomorrow Never Dies in 1997. Because of her performance, Yeoh was cast by Ang Lee in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon in 2000. Yeoh starred in many minor and lesser-known roles for a good amount of time, typically in action films, and she even dipped her toes into producing. However, it wasn’t until Crazy Rich Asians in 2018 that audiences and critics started to pay Yeoh a little more attention. Now, Ms. Yeoh has astounded critics and audiences again with her performance in Everything Everywhere All at Once.
Viola Davis is one of the best actresses of all time. She has won an Oscar, Emmy, and several Tonys for her performances, making her the first African American to achieve a Triple Crown of Acting. Despite all of her accomplishments, the recognition Davis receives doesn’t match the raw talent that she has consistently put on display. Davis has been in many popular films and TV shows like How to Get Away with Murder, The Help, and The Suicide Squad but she is often left with roles that are supporting or secondary in nature. Davis has spoken at length in interviews about racism still being a problem in Hollywood, making it hard for African American actresses to get equal opportunities to Caucasian. Even though Davis has achieved a great deal of success, she is still one of the most underrated actresses of all time.
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