[Note: Every Friday on First Thoughts we host heated, half-serious, half-cocked arguments about some aspect of pop culture. Today’s theme is overrated/underrated films.]

“That movie was totally overrated. Now if you want to see a really worthwhile flick you should see . . . ” Because self-serious film buffs (like me) say this type of thing all the time so I thought it would be a worthwhile exercise to actually list 50 of the most overrated and 50 of the most underrated films of all time.

For today’s argument we’ll consider an overrated film to be anything that is undeserving of the critical or popular praise they receive (even if it was a good movie). The underrated films should all be examples of excellent cinema that are obviously superior (or at least slightly more worthy) than the corresponding “overrated” film with which they share a category. The categories, which range from the obvious to the just plain odd, are intended to cover a broad selection of interests. But it’s not exhaustive so feel free to add your own. These also don’t have to be your favorite films (many of my favorites don’t make the list) or films that no one has ever heard of. Even classic movies can be considered underrated if they’ve fallen out of favor with modern audiences.

To start us off, here is my list of the 100 most overrated and underrated films of all time (overrated on the left, underrated on the right):

1. Most overrated/underrated: Raging Bull | Metropolitan ( Raging Bull is often referred to as one of the best films of the 1980s. Such people obviously do not like either a) movies or b) humanity, for the film is all style and no substance. Metropolitan , on the other hand, is nearly the opposite of Raging Bull in every way. It is urbane, witty, and subtle. But the main difference is that Whit Stillman’s charming little film shows a depth of understanding about the human condition that is completely lacking in Scorsese’s misanthropic so-called masterpiece.)

2. Movie about fraternities: Animal House | PCU (I hesitate to include these two together simply because the criminally overhyped John Belushi shouldn’t even be mentioned in the same breath as comic genius Jeremy Piven.)

3. Disney movie about dogs: 101 Dalmations | The Fox and the Hound

4. John Wayne movie: The Searchers | Big Jake (Don’t get me wrong: The Searchers is a great movie. But it doesn’t have quite the depth that the critics and fans claim. Both of these films are about the search for a kidnapped family member but Big Jake has two things missing from The Searchers : love and genuine humor.)

5. Harrison Ford movie Witness | The Mosquito Coast

6. Movie about a rock band: Gimme Shelter | Some Kind of Monster (I’m not much of a fan of either the Rolling Stones or Metallica. But Gimme Shelter shows that deep down the Stones are uninteresting dullards while Monster reveals the members of Metallica to be fascinatingly neurotic.)

7. Cold war movie : Dr. Stangelove | Crimson Tide

8. Mobster movie: Scarface | Miller’s Crossing (FT senior editor David Goldman disagrees : “‘Miller’s Crossing’ is one of the worst American movies ever made, at least in terms of the gap between source-material and outcome.” I always assumed it was an original screenplay; I didn’t know that the Coen’s movie was based on Dashiel Hammett’s novels, Red Harvest and The Glass Key .)

9. Audrey Hepburn movie: Breakfast At Tiffany’s | Roman Holiday ( Breakfast starts off well but loses steam by the end. Holiday , though, is charming all the way through.)

10. Movie about a pig: Charlotte’s Web | Babe (As film critic critic Dann Gire once said, Babe is the Citizen Kane of talking pig movies.)

11. Sam Raimi movie: Evil Dead | Army of Darkness: Evil Dead 3

12. Western: Shane | Winchester ‘73

13. Horror film: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre | 28 Days Later

14. Movie about a kid who plays chess: Searching for Bobby Fischer | Fresh

15. “Best Picture” Oscar Winners (1927-1959): From Here to Eternity (1953) | It Happened One Night (1934)

16. “Best Picture” Oscar Winners (1960-2008): American Beauty (1999)| The Apartment (1960)

17. Batman movie: Batman | Batman Begins

18. Foreign film (France): Breathless | Brotherhood of the Wolf (BotW is quite possibly the best French import since French Fries.)

19. Foreign film (Germany): Aguirre, the Wrath of God | Run Lola Run

20. Foreign film (Italy): Blow-Up | Cinema Paradiso

21. Foreign film (Australia): Picnic at Hanging Rock | Strictly Ballroom

22. Foreign film (China): Chungking Express | Eat Drink Man Woman

23. Foreign film (Mexico): Y Tu Mama Tambien | Like Water for Chocolate

24. Movie based on a foreign book no one reads anymore: Doctor Zhivago | Dangerous Liaisons

25. Movie about a couple on the run from the law: Badlands | The Sugarland Express

26. Sci-fi movie: 2001: A Space Odyssey | Serenity (But you have to see the entire season of Firefly on DVD before watching Serenity .)

27. Incoherent movie about a hippie: Easy Rider | The Big Lebowski

28. Sports movie: Chariots of Fire | Kingpin

29. Movie based on a comic book: Superman | Hellboy

30. Comedy: Caddyshack | Raising Arizona (The nearly plotless Caddyshack hasn’t aged well and is not as funny as you remember. Raising Arizona , on the other hand, remains as fresh and hilarious as ever.)

31. Cult classic: The Rocky Horror Picture Show | Heathers

32. Mel Gibson movie: Braveheart | Gallipoli

33. Musical: A Chorus Line | Moulin Rouge

34. Martial arts movie: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon | House of Flying Daggers

35. Denzel Washington movie: Mississippi Masala | The Mighty Quinn

36. Documentary: Roger & Me | Brother’s Keeper

37. Movie about politics: All the President’s Men | Election

38. Sci-Fi Sequel: Star Wars: Episode IV (The original Star Wars ) | X2: X-Men United

39. John Hughes film: Planes, Trains & Automobiles | Some Kind of Wonderful

40. Biopic about a civil rights leader: Gandhi | Boycott

41. Movie about amoral businessmen: Wall Street | Boiler Room

42. Vampire movie: Interview with a Vampire | Near Dark

43. War movie: The Thin Red Line | Breaker Morant

44. Christmas film: Frosty The Snowman | Elf

45. Movie about teen angst: Rebel Without a Cause | Ghost World

46. Kevin Costner sports movie: Field of Dreams | Tin Cup

47. Chick flick: Thelma & Louise | The Truth About Cats & Dogs

48. Movie based on a cheesy TV show: The Brady Bunch Movie | Josie and the Pussycats

49. Silent Film: Intolerance | The General (The conventional wisdom is coming around to the realization that Buster Keaton was a greater actor than Charlie Chaplin. After watching The General you’ll wonder why there was ever any doubt.)

50 . Movie with a “Christian” theme: The Passion of the Christ | Ponette (Watch them both and you’ll see what I mean.)

Think I’m wrong? (Of course you do.) Leave your alternative choices in the comments section. (Note: My list doesn’t include anything from the past five years but don’t let that limit your selections.)

Articles by Joe Carter

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