Top 10 Most Underrated Action & Sci Fi Films - Part 1
by Dan Collacott
In our second podcast we discussed some of the films that we felt passionately about that most critics and members of the general population tend to dislike or overlook completely. Here is a list of the most under rated movies in the last twenty years.
10. Heartless (2009)
Director: Philip Ridley
Heartless was one of the early wave of short lived hoodie horror films that peaked in popularity with Attack the Block in 2011. A dark and surreal film from The Krays director Phillip Ridley. The plot blends themes of gang violence, alienation and bullying around a plot that walks a thin line between dark fantasy and council state morality.
Lead Jim Sturgess gives a strong performance alongside brit movie staples such as Noel Clarke, Clémence Poésy and Eddie Marsan. The story is weighted down with many impenetrable layers of suggestion and meaning, leaving a film that leads impressively with atmosphere and dread but never quite delivers the sum of its parts. Despite this, it is still incredibly watchable with plenty of heart and tension.
9. Equilibrium (2002)
Director: Kurt Wimmer
Set in a totalitarian society that has outlawed creative expression, this Christian Bale vehicle is a surprisingly fun if flawed watch. Likened by some critics to The Matrix for its aesthetic and action sequences, whilst others either lauded or derided it for borrowing heavily from Fahrenheit 451, 1984 and A Brave New World.
Equilibrium wasn’t particularly low budget but it still had a limited theatre release due to its makers fearing it would lose money. Structurally the film isn’t perfect, but Bale nails his role as an enforcer turned resistance member fighting against emotional suppression. It is a tense, fast paced and compelling piece of sci-fi noir, not quite as clever and original as it thinks it is yet it still somehow delivers (if you don’t overthink it).
8. Dark City (1998)
Director: Alex Proyas
Back in 98, Crow director Alex Proyas delivered an influential and gripping piece of neo noir sci-fi mystery. There would (probably) have been no Matrix franchise if there was no Dark City, some even claim Nolan’s Batman films were heavily influenced by Proyas detective dystopia. Dark City’s fractured memory narrative also laid the ground work for Memento as well as taking its own influence from classics like The Maltese Falcon.
Without Dark City, groups of bald people would just be follically challenged self help groups, rather than strangely dark, mystical villains or aliens. No doubt Richard O’Brien himself would only be famous for wearing suspenders and romping around crystal mazes, were it not for his inspired turn here in this too often forgotten classic.
7. Hardcore Henry (2015)
Director: Ilya Naishuller
Naishuller created a first person video game in movie form, complete with end of level bosses (ok you could argue Doom and even Crank did this before, but never on this scale). Hardcore Henry is a hyper-violent fun sci-fi infused adrenalin ride; filmed by a variety of different actors using GoPro rigs. Legendary District 9 actor Sharlto Copley plays multiple versions of himself, all of whom keep the action moving or provide some narration and structure to the limited narrative. Like Crank before it Hardcore Henry is a unique take on the action movie, providing visually stunning mindlessly fun nonsense, even if it lacks some of the traditional benchmarks of an action movie.
6. Upgrade (2018)
Director: Leigh Whannell
Upgrade is another sci-fi film that takes place in the not too distant future where following a car accident a paralysed man (Logan Marshall-Green) is given the opportunity to not only walk again using a new cyber tech called STEM, but as the title suggests become something entirely new and better. Whannell’s bad future film is part revenge thriller and part set piece action film with a decent twist at the end. Lying somewhere between a cautionary Black Mirror Episode and the video game Deus Ex, Upgrade is a superbly executed sci-fi romp that deserves a sequel!
5. District 9 (2009)
Director: Neill Blomkamp’s
Blomkamp’s debut film is also his finest work to date. When a huge ship full of insect/prawn like aliens become stranded in South Africa, the inhabitants are forced to live in massive crime filled ghettos. Government inspector Wikus (Sharlto Copley again) surveys the alien settlement looking for rule breakers, before an accident leads Wikus’s destiny to become entwined with that of the subjugated race he respects so little. Blomkamp drew acclaim for the reflective broken mirror his film holds up to Apartheid in South Africa.
District 9 doesn’t appear higher on the list because few who have seen it deny it’s critical merits, but it should probably be considered more an outright sci-fi classic than just a cult movie!
Click here for part 2 of the best action and sci-fi movies
Emanating from London, UK, and hosted by Dan Collacott, Tee-J Sutherland and Imran Mirza, our 4ever in Electric Dreams website and accompanying podcasts are designed to help us celebrate the things we loved growing up and the things that continue to excite and inspire us today.