Weekend Roundtable: Underrated Movies of 2012

With the beginning of the new year, it’s time to do some looking back at what 2012 brought us. For today’s Roundtable, we offer our picks for some of the most underrated films of last year. Perhaps these movies received unfairly negative criticism, or perhaps they just flew under the radar and went unnoticed. In either case, we think they deserve a little more attention than they got.

Aaron Peck

I never thought that ‘Snow White and the Huntsman‘ deserved the vitriol that was spewed about it. Does it make any of my top lists for the year? No. Did I think it was a fun experience at the theater? Of course. So many people have a problem with Kristen Stewart that they either wrote the movie off beforehand, or went in with scowls on their faces thinking they were going to sit through another ‘Twilight’ movie. What I ended up experiencing was a decent darkly imagined fairy tale where Stewart was able to actually show more emotion than just nervous lip biting. (Her ‘Braveheart’ battle speech could’ve easily been laughable, but it wasn’t.) The movie also has a great villain in Charlize Theron, who gives it her all. I was entertained and satisfied after I left the theater, although it’s apparent that not too many people felt the same way I did.

Daniel Hirshleifer

I’m on a mission to get as many people to see – and purchase – ‘Dredd’ on Blu-ray. It’s a balls-to-the-wall action flick that’s far more faithful to its source material than any other comic book film released this year. Karl Urban knocks it out of the park as Judge Dredd, and the 3D is fantastic. It’s a shame that the stink of the old Sylvester Stallone film tainted the box office for this one, because it’s the best movie you didn’t see last year.

Shannon Nutt

For me, the most underrated movie of last year was ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter‘. As a fan of the novel, this was one of my most anticipated films of the summer, and I found it to be quite enjoyable. Like the book it’s based on, the movie takes the story seriously (or at least semi-seriously) and uses actual events in Lincoln’s life to weave its tale of our 16th President battling with vampires. While it obviously doesn’t hold a candle to Speilberg’s incredible film, ‘Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter’ deserved better box office (and critical reviews) than it got.

Adam Tyner (DVDTalk)

Detention‘ is in the running as the most gleefully insane movie I’ve ever seen. Grab any garden variety slasher off the shelf, then mash it up with ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’, ‘Bring It On’, the ‘Teen Titans’ animated series, ‘Clueless’ and two scoops of ‘Donnie Darko’, and you might get a glimmer of an idea what I’m talking about here. It’s an unhinged, aggressively meta, Hypercolor-tinted horror/darkly comedic/sci-fi/teen-sex-comedy/outcast-superhero flick, shoving 27 different movies into the blender and mashing the “Puree” button over and over and over again. Spastic, unpredictable and infectiously fun, ‘Detention’ easily gets the nod as my favorite under-the-radar release from the class of 2012.

Mike Attebery

I know it received some positive press around the time it premiered at Sundance last year, but all in all, ‘Liberal Arts‘ got a bum deal. I can’t figure out why companies buy certain films, only to barely show them anywhere. As soon as I heard about Josh Radnor’s second movie as writer/director, I was dying to see it. Unfortunately, not having cable, I couldn’t order it On Demand when it was quietly dumped in VOD limbo. Then, when it finally played in Seattle, the film was here and gone before I had a chance to check the bus route to the theater. Once a Blu-ray release date was announced, I couldn’t even find a PR rep who was working to publicize the film! I finally, finally got to watch this two weeks ago, and it was one of those rare occasions where something you’ve been trying your damnedest to check out was actually worth the trouble. This film deserved much, much better treatment. I think it’s destined for a strong and very loyal following.

Luke Hickman

There are two smaller films from 2012 that I wish would have received a little more recognition. Both made their way into my Best Original Screenplay nominations list. Over the last year, I’ve really come to love the Duplass Brothers, Mark and Jay. My favorite of their films is easily ‘Jeff, Who Lives at Home‘. I love that they were able to unabashedly take a theme from ‘Signs’ (the idea that everything happens for a reason) and create a unique, heartfelt, funny, unpredictable and emotionally charged film that’s 100% endearing and entertaining.

The second title that sticks out in my mind is ‘Seeking a Friend for the End of the World‘. An asteroid is on a cataclysmic world-ending collision course with Earth. Mankind knows it. Instead of going the route of ‘Armageddon’ or ‘Deep Impact’, we get a human story, one that doesn’t focus on a team of space cowboys trying to change their doomed fate. In an occasionally comical way, we get an intimate story that focuses on a few realistic characters. We get a personal tale. One of my favorite aspects is that there isn’t a single shot of people looking up at the sky to see the doomsday asteroid. We never see it and, as an audience member, it doesn’t matter. I didn’t find myself longing to see the asteroid. Watching a film about people in the situation is much more entertaining than watching a movie about the situation itself.

M. Enois Duarte

The one movie that really surprised me in 2012 was the directorial debut of Richard Bates Jr. ‘Excision‘ is a visually gruesome little film starring TV vixen/bombshell AnnaLynne McCord, and it tells the twisted tale of a maladjusted and delusional teen with aspirations of being a surgeon. Her social awkwardness makes it difficult for her to make friends, and leaves her feeling continuously pressured by her controlling mother, played by Traci Lords. The story patiently unfolds as it churns your stomach upside down until the shocking and disturbing conclusion will leave you breathless. This is not a movie for everyone, but if you like and can stomach extreme psychological body horror, ‘Excision’ is a great surprise from 2012.

Josh Zyber

After their decreasingly effective ‘Matrix’ sequels and the disastrous ‘Speed Racer’, I was ready to write off the Wachowski siblings. However, the visually sumptuous trailers for ‘Cloud Atlas‘, their epic adaptation of the David Mitchell bestseller co-directed by Tom Tykwer, intrigued me enough to check it out in the theater. Apparently, I was one of the few who bothered. The movie was a box office bomb and received numerous negative (sometimes scathing) reviews.

As I explained in a blog post at the time, the movie is certainly flawed in several major ways. Having the same set of actors appear as multiple different characters in six different storylines, under often unconvincing makeup, turns out to be more distracting than clever. Some of the stories feel more consequential than others, and a lot of the sci-fi stuff is too cheesy for its own good. With that said, the film’s ambition is commendable, and it’s quite emotionally engaging. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected, and look forward to revisiting it on Blu-ray.

Those are the movies that we thought deserved better treatment in 2012. Tell us about some of your picks for this topic in the Comments below.


  1. I realize all the hate that this series of movies gets isn’t entirely unfounded but I for one found Resident Evil Retribution to be one of the years most underrated movies. I’m sure I’ll add Silent Hill Revelations and Total Recall when I see them but that’s it for now.

  2. Alex

    I’m going to put out one that I bet no one is going to agree with me on – Battleship. The reason I say it is because the cliche per second quotient is so remarkably high that it absolutely has to be intentional. And the fact that it’s intentional (right down to Taylor Kitch’s haircut being identical to Tom Cruise’s in Top Gun) it is *tremendously* entertaining. Seriously, I was laughing, cheering, hooting, and hollaring through the whole thing. Two hours *well* spent.

    • Tom

      Alex, you lose your bet, i totally agree with you! as someone whose favorite movie is CLOUD ATLAS, i’m not pretending to be above such awesome intentionally cliched fun like BATTLESHIP. so at least there’s two of us πŸ˜€

    • I dunno. I think you’re giving that movie a bit too much credit where smarts are concerned.

      Something like ‘Cabin in the Woods’ hilariously inserted cliches on purpose. I don’t buy the same for ‘Battleship’.

    • Completely agreed, that movie was a lot of fun, although I though John Carter was by far the most underrated movie of the year. I loved it.

      • Barsoom Bob

        God bless you Sir.

        Not a perfect movie but pretty beautiful artistically and plenty fun in a Rocketeer / Capt. America kind of way.

        Does not deserve the rap it got.

        ThulsaDoom before you start, yes, I know it took several major swerves away from ERB’s glorious text but it was still a fun ride. It is an adaptation that tried to hew close to the original text in spirit. The alternative would have been a Journey 2 type adaption that probably had Jules Verne spinning in his grave.

        Anybody interested in the history of the property, the back stabbing that went on at Disney, the absolutely abysmal marketing campaign and a fair analysis of Stanton’s dubious choices should pick up a copy of “John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood” available in all formats from Amazon. Very informative and well documented read.

  3. Other movies I think were underrated: ‘Premium Rush’, ‘Seven Psychopaths’, ‘The First Time’ (this really deserved a much wider release), ‘Safety Not Guaranteed’, ‘The Impossible’, ‘Perks of Being a Wallflower’, and ‘Goon’.

    • Also, there seems to be a slight mix up in the entries here. My entry is actually the one under Shannon’s name about ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’. Although, I do think that ‘AL:VH’ is underrated too.

    • M. Enois Duarte

      Same here. If it turns out to be a complete turd, I’m demanding my money back from Daniel. πŸ˜‰

      • Dan Hirshleifer

        Adam, I would have figured that Dredd would be up your alley anyway.

        M, if you don’t like it, I’ll give you the money back…but you will be judged.

  4. JM

    2012 had 107 movies worth watching.

    5 were good.

    (I’m hopeful for ‘Dredd,’ but not enough to blind buy.)

    Underrated, by this definition, I can only think of ‘English Vinglish.’

    Though, philosophically, is it possible to overrate ‘The Raid’?

      • It was bashed in the review here, but “The FP” was by far the most entertaining movie of the year. I understand people are sensitive to the degrading nature of the film towards women, but that’s like any film that subjects humiliation, degradation, violence, segregation, etc towards a group of people; it’s part of that world (that’d be along the lines of saying django is a terrible movie cuz it has the “N” word in it a million times.)

        Also a film the was bashed here that is severely underrated is “lockout” it was Duke Nukem after the war, it wasn’t perfect by any means but the one liners and puns had me laughing and cheering the whole time.

        now for the most overrated film of the year…

        “Looper” everyone really needs to break free from the Looper teet, the film had amazing promise, and could have been the best film of the year by far but the ending negates the entire movie. Left me feeling empty and angry like the family guy 100th episode “Stewie kills Lois” we sit through an hour of awesome only to find out it was all bullshit.

        and the fanboy flaming starts….


        • Tom

          i didn’t care much for LOOPER either. it was a well-made movie, but the “logic” of the timey-wimey-physics ruined it for me. i mean, if a person’s legs suddenly vanish, then why would his shoes still be there? if the timeline has been altered to a reality in which he lost his legs, then why did he bring shoes along in that timeline?? totally stupid.

      • JM

        Seven Psychopaths.
        Django Unchained.
        Jack Reacher.
        The Avengers.
        The Raid.

        (1) Why were the only 5 good movies this year made by writer-directors?

        (2) Is it coincidence that all our best guys are doing genre work?

        • ‘Django’ was only so-so for me. First half, brilliant. Second half, sucked wind.

          I’m with you on ‘Reacher’ though. By all accounts, trailers, and marketing for that movie it should’ve been a bland, generic action thriller. It toed the line, but did so very well.

          Although, I thought there were many more than 5 good movies in 2012.

          • JM

            29 movies this year, for me, fell into the category of almost good.

            But I was so disappointed with ‘Haywire’ and ‘Looper.’

            ‘Juan of the Dead’ I think I overhyped myself for.

            And my love of ‘Prometheus’ is inexplicable.

            I wonder how much of McQuarrie’s script is still in ‘The Wolverine’?

        • as was reported here the raid was verbatim ripoff of dredd. not to say it was a bad film, its just not acceptable on merit.

          script raping happens constantly i know, but steal a script and throw it together to release it first is like that shitty film company that puts out all the knockoff d2v movies to confuse people which one is the real film.

  5. Pyronaut

    I’m glad to see so many that would be on my list mentioned by the contributors here. Usually I’m used to people judging movies not agreeing with me. πŸ™‚
    I would have liked to have seen Lockout mentioned as well but you can’t win ’em all.

    My list would be:
    -Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
    -Premium Rush
    -Safety Not Guaranteed
    -Jeff Who Lives at Home

    I wanted Ruby Sparks to be on that list, but unfortunately I liked the first half of it much more than the second half so my overall impression wasn’t as good as I had hoped.

    I also thought that John Carter and Battleship weren’t nearly as bad as many people made them out to be. They weren’t amazing, but were fun to watch and didn’t deserve to bomb as bad as they did.

  6. I agree about Safety Not Guaranteed and Premium Rush. I would add Your Sister’s Sister and Take This Waltz. I don’t think either played on more than a hundred screens nationwide.

  7. David

    Prometheus. The nerd rage online against this movie is out of control. The first serious sci-fi movie since what Moon?

    • I agree. Paranorman was way better than I expected. But, it made almost 60 mil and is getting a 7.1 on IMDB, so I can’t really call it underrated. Second best animated movie I saw next to Wreck-It Ralph.

  8. Scott B.

    Thank you for mentioning Liberal Arts – a little gem of a film that indeed didn’t get the press and release it deserved.

    • When I saw it at Sundance I thought to myself, well this will be a nice little enjoyable film that most people will like…and then…I never heard from it again until its Blu-ray release. So sad.

  9. Dredd for sure, one of the best and truest action flicks to come out in a long time. Lockout is great fun too, had a blast with that, easily the best throwback to 90s B movie action flicks (Expendables 2 would take the 80s throwback crown).

    Otherwise most of the flops I havent seen, Paranorman was awesome (as was Coraline when it came out) but both I think are very underrated movies.

  10. Neto

    Ted, Paranorman and Pirates: Band Of Misfits

    I would’ve expected a best comedy nomination for Ted for the Golden Globes. And Mark Wahlberg is 10,000 times better than all current “chick flick leads” in that movie. Also: great animation! And original song by Norah Jones!!!!

    Paranorman was great and Pirates: Band of Misfits was the real gem, should win best animated film but no no, let’s give it to Brave πŸ™

    And while Django Unchained wasn’t underrated, it should win the Oscar above Lincoln or Zero Dark Thirty BUT THAT’s NEVER GOING TO HAPPEN πŸ™ sniff, sniff

    • I don’t think Ted was underrated – it got huge praise from everyone, and did pretty well at the box office. It was a great film. I don’t know if failure to be nominated for a Golden Globe qualifies as a movie being underrated.

  11. Tom Haggas

    I think Looper was really underrated. Everyone thought it was awesome. I thought it as f***ing awesome!

  12. I think that Red Tails got an unfair treatment by many critics. The movie wasn’t great, but it was certainly better than most critics were making it out to be. I found it highly enjoyable.

    John Carter got some harsh criticism, but this was also quite enjoyable. I wouldn’t call it a great movie, but it was certainly good.

    Dark Shadows. I LOVED this movie. Granted, I never saw any of the source material, but this was just classic Burton to me, and I really enjoyed it.

    I will echo Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. In fact, I will go as far as to say that it is in my top 5 of best movies of 2012. This movie was GREAT, and I have viewed it several times on Blu-Ray.

    The next movie that comes to mind, I am debating on whether to list it or not. The movie did pretty well, but with Brave, I just heard so many people smack it down, saying that Pixar has lost their touch. I think it is one of Pixar’s better movies. In fact, I think the only Pixar movies I like better than Brave are Monster’s Inc and A Bug’s Life. Not that there is anything wrong with Pixar’s other movies, I just really liked this one.

  13. Glen Clough

    I have to also agree with perks of being a wallflower being an underated movie from last year, it turned out to be my fav film of 2012 and I cant wait for the BD release.

    Also Cloud Atlas was so far under the radar and was an incredible film…I can’t believe this didnt get the attention it deserved at the box office.

    Lastly like everybody else, I have to agree with Dredd, even though it was getting rave reviews I didnt go see it at the cinema and shamefully I downloaded a copy of the net…my biggest movie mistake of 2012…it’s incredible, cant wait for the 3D BD!

  14. I still can’t gather any enthusiasm or interest to see Cloud Atlas…

    I agree with William that Red Tails was underrated. It may not have been anything shockingly different or new, but therein lay its charm. It was a fun WWII action movie in the old style. I enjoyed it loads at the cinema.

    John Carter I can’t say the same for, but then again I’m a fan of the books, and it’s difficult to have any love for something that so disregards the great source material and replaces it with contrived clichΓ©s.

    I also agree with Luke over Seeking a Friend for the End of the World. Great little movie.

    Now if there was a list for most overrated movies… Dark Knight Rises, I’m afraid!!

    • William Henley

      The John Carter books and Cloud Atlas are both on my To-Do read list – In fact, they are already loaded on my eReader. I am trying to get through Dune now – I am starting to appreciate the movie much more now that I am reading the book – things just make sense.

      I also have Twilight on my eReader – everyone tells me that the books are so much better than the movies, but the movies were so bad, it is really hard to gather intrest in reading the books.The book series I have on my eReader that I am looking the most forward to reading is The Vampire Chronicles. I have read Interview With The Vamprie and The Vampire Lestat years ago, and really liked them. Putting Cloud Atlas and John Carter before The Vampire Chronicles will twist my arm to get through those before getting back to a series that I already know I like.

      I totally agree about Dark Knight Rises being overrated – and will take it one step futher and throw in The Avengers as well. I am not saying either movie is bad, just that they were overrated.

  15. I wonder why ‘Red Tails’ was never released in cinemas outside the United States, the UK, Ireland and Germany. Most movies have worldwide releases. Box office failure could have been avoided.

  16. “What I ended up experiencing was a decent darkly imagined fairy tale where Stewart was able to actually show more emotion than just nervous lip biting. ”

    What I experienced was Stewart’s terrible acting, including delivering the “I’m dead” lines completely wrong, and a ham-fisted series of feminist jabs designed to tell me “this ain’t yo momma’s period-piece fantasy”. Horrible movie despite the cool visuals.

  17. Oh, and saw Detention on a free screening very early in the year. Extremely unfunny despite the energy of the director. The fact that a lot is happening onscreen doesn’t mean it’s well-made.