The 10 Most Underrated Movies of 2013 – A Fourth Opinion

12 Years a Slave Chiwetel Ejiofor

What is underrated, anyway? The term, being on the positive side of criticism will spare critics the vitriol from calling something “overrated.” But is it simply just a way of saying I liked something more than other people did? I’m a glass half full kinda guy; I think it can serve more purpose than that. I think something can be rated highly, but be underrated in that discussion is largely focused on one aspect.

For instance, for this list, I included a film that is picking up awards hand over fist. People have already determined that it’s meaningful. I’d however, contest, that 12 Years a Slave is underrated. Why? Because there seems to be two types of discussion about the film: is it too brutal to win an Oscar? Or “it’s important.” Both of these discussions seem to be about the same thing: are the depictions of slavery with the whippings and nasty racial words and spit and blood too much for people to watch? Will we feel too bad about our nation’s past? Or is it important because it’s unflinching?

Lost amongst all of this chatter is a scene that pushes 12 Years a Slave beyond a slave narrative and into a modern all of America’s existence parable territory.

The scene I speak of is when Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor) is spared a hanging from his tormentor (Paul Dano) but left with a noose around his neck until his master returns. Solomon taps his feet on the mud to keep himself from choking. His fellow enslaved walk around him, doing their work, not risking themselves for his literal neck. That scene lasts an uncomfortably long time. So much time that it makes me feel that McQueen is letting it sink in that the inability to help another human being, regardless of their race, and pretending that they don’t exist is still happening right now; just because you’re watching something in the past doesn’t mean it solely comments on the past.

That’s right, a year when a slavery film might be the awards sweeper is the year when a lot of genre and independent films were sneaking in conversational topics. That’s great. If you missed these ideas, concerning privilege, war crimes, social identity and homosexuality in everything from indie films to broad studio comedies, perhaps you too will find them underrated.

OK. I hope I didn’t lose you. Hell, CraveOnline’s William Bibbiani already went a divergent angle and called 12 Years a Slave “possibly the best horror film of the year, but it’s a disappointing drama”, so it might be considered underrated here anyhow. I could’ve just spared you all an analysis.

That’s OK. You probably just went to the slideshow first.

You can also call me overrated in the comments section if you’d like. 



Read William Bibbiani's picks for the most underrated films of 2013.

Read Witney Seibold's picks for the most underrated films of 2013.

Read Fred Topel's picks for the most underrated films of 2013.


Brian Formo is a featured contributor on the CraveOnline Film Channel. You can follow him on Twitter at @BrianEmilFormo.