We are all familiar with the big names that get most of the Hollywood press these days – Clooney, Streep, Pitt, Roberts, Cruise, etc. But there are a host of other great actors and actresses that never get the praise they deserve. In fact, many have faces that movie fans recognize but names they don’t. Of course movie-oholics know these performers well and it’s their work that I often times look forward to more than the work of the big shots. So I want to give them some love here. This week I’m listing 5 phenomenal actors who I feel are terribly underrated. The actresses will follow in a few weeks. There are so many that come to mind so naturally this isn’t what I would call the definitive list. But there’s no denying that these 5 underrated actors are most certainly phenomenal.


Sean Bean is a wonderful English actor who has played a wide variety of roles but has never received the recognition I feel he deserves. He’s had a few starring roles but he’s mostly known for some wonderful supporting performances. He’s played a wide assortment of baddies including a Bond villain (“Goldeneye”), an Irish terrorist (“Patriot Games”), a sicko scientist (“The Island”), and an evil treasure hunter (“National Treasure”). He’s also known as a wonderful period actor working in films such as “Troy”, “Black Death”, and of course his current work on the popular HBO series “Game of Thrones”. His probably most known for his role as Boromir in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Bean is a slick and polished actor with a lot of range. I just wish he was given a bigger chance to show it in starring roles.


Michael Shannon got his start in a small role in 1993’s “Groundhog Day”. Since then he has had bit parts in a wide variety of roles including “Vanilla Sky”, “Pearl Harbor”, “Bad Boys II”, and “The World Trade Center”. In 2007 Shannon starred in the fantastic and underappreciated “Shotgun Stories”, the debut film from director Jeff Nichols. Shannon’s performance was incredible. He followed that with a critically acclaimed performance in “Revolutionary Road”, a performance than earned him an Oscar nomination. From there is was back to a few smaller roles before teaming up with Nichols again for “Take Shelter”. Not only was “Take Shelter” one of the best films of 2011 but no other performance that year was as powerful as his. Sadly he was ignored by the Academy. He has several fun roles coming up in the films “Premium Rush”, “The Man of Steel”, and “Mud”- his third collaboration with Nichols. Shannon is an amazing talent that many people have never recognized. Here’s hoping he finally gets his due.


Mads Mikkelsen isn’t exactly what you would call “underappreciated”. In his native Denmark, Mikkelsen is recognized as a highly accomplished actor. He got his start there in the gritty crime thriller “Pusher”. From there he made a number of solid Danish films including the gangster comedy “Flickering Lights”, the Oscar nominated “After the Wedding”, and what I think is the greatest World War 2 film of all time “Flame and Citron”. He began showing up in several movies in the States including “King Arthur” alongside Clive Owen and Kiera Knightley. He was then cast as a Bond villain is the exceptional “Casino Royale”. Mikkelsen was simply wonderful. Since then he has played in the bloody viking film “Valhalla Rising” and the fantasy remake of “Clash of the Titans”. Most recently he was awarded the Best Actor prize at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival for his work in the Danish film “The Hunt”. Mikkelsen is an actor that has proven himself in his home country and in the states and he’s an actor that automatically draws my interest regardless of the project he’s involved with.


In one sense it’s hard to call Gary Oldman an underrated actor. Afterall, he has a long line of critically acclaimed performances. On the flip side Oldman has never received the praise that his acting should attract and he seldom gets powerful starring roles that allows him to flex his acting muscles. Oldman first became known as the quintessential movie bad guy. He played Lee Harvey Oswald in “JFK”, a detestable corrupt cop in “The Professional”, an evil corporate head in “The Fifth Element”, and an international terrorist in “Air Force One”. Recently he stepped back into the bad guy role in “The Book of Eli”. After several quiet years he reemerged in the “Harry Potter” franchise before being perfectly cast in Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins”. He would go on to be in two sequels “The Dark Knight” and “The Dark Knight Rises”. And just last year he received an overdue Oscar nomination for his starring performance in “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy”. Later this yet he will appear in “Lawless”. I’m hoping thanks to “Tinker Tailor” that the doors will be opening up for more big starring roles for Oldman. He’s certainly earned it and he certainly has the talent to carry a picture.


Guy Pearce is someone who has received plenty of recognition as a wonderful actor but is hardly ever given the bigger roles that would allow him to show it to the world. He has a career that has sampled every genre including crime, western, period drama, sci-fi, war, and now superhero and through them all he has always delivered an undeniably strong performance. His first big film was the critically acclaimed “L.A. Confidential”. Soon after he caught a lot of attention for his amazing starring work in Christopher Nolan’s mindbender “Memento”. He received a lot of critical praise and several smaller nominations. He would then star in “The Count of Monte Cristo”, the criminally underrated “The Time Machine”, and the intense and gritty Australian western “The Proposition”. He had small but brilliant roles in “The Hurt Locker” and “The Road” before once again turning heads for his work in “The King’s Speech”. This year Pearce has a small role in Ridley Scott’s “Prometheus”, a starring role in the 80’s action movie homage “Lockout”, and is set to play a fun-looking role in “Lawless”. To top it off, he will also be in next year’s “Iron Man 3”. Pearce has some really good movies on his resume and he’s proven himself to the point of deserving more meatier starring roles. “Memento” showed us that he’s capable of handling even the trickiest material. Hopefully he will get a chance to prove that.

So there they are – 5 underrated actors who I think deserve more praise than they receive. What do you think of the list? Who am I missing? Who would you leave out? Please feel free to share your most underrated actor.


  1. Although I’m not too familiar with numbers 3 to 5 (for example I only saw Michael Shannon in Take Shelter as far as I can remember), I agree with you on Oldman and Pearce (although Lockout was pretty crap)

  2. Great list Keith. I’d have to include Robert Carlyle in mine though. I think it’s criminal that an actor with his ability and range is so often overlooked these days. He can’t seem to get a decent role anymore. I’ve also been quite partial to Tom Sizemore. He was getting lots of decent roles for a while but I haven’t seem him in ages.

    • Oh Sizemore is a good one. He’s a guy that always brings a good performance. My only question with him is range. He’s brilliant in the type of roles we see him in.

      Thanks for checking out my list! Still fixing typos. It wasn’t quite ready to publish yet. LOL

      • It’s a good list man. I done a similar thing with a page on my site that consisted of memorable performances that are mostly overlooked. It’s good to bring attention to some stuff that you enjoy and feel doesn’t get what it deserves.

  3. Great list, Keith, I think I’d agree w/ all of them. I still have to see more films by Shannon. Did you see Machine Gun Preacher yet? Shannon is a bit underused I think but still he was very good.

    Btw Mark, interesting that you mentioned Tom Sizemore, he actually came to a local film fest in town and I went to the panel where he was interviewed. I think you’re right he’s quite underrated.

    • Yeah, I’ve always been a big fan of him. I thought he was superb in Natural Born Killers and when he got roles in Heat and Saving Private Ryan, I thought that he had finally proved himself. That doesn’t seem to be the case though. He’s disappeared and I can only assume that his personal life has something to do with that.

  4. Michael Shannon…Definitely agreed.
    Of currently working actors…
    I think Jason Segel, while fairly popular, has a tremendous range outside of just comedy.
    Also, Patton Oswalt has given some incredible performances for being “just a comedian”.
    Idris Elba I’ve had my eye on for some time and with Prometheus (even though he wasn’t that great in it) he’ll hopefully get some more work.
    Lastly, Stephen Tobolowsky since he’s one of my favorite “hey, it’s that guy” actors

  5. Great great list!!! I would even make an argument for Bryan Cranston but can’t argue with what u have here

  6. what about clive owen
    Bent, Croupier, Closer, Sin City, Children of Men, Boys Are Back, Shadow Dancer, Hemingway & Gellhorn, Blood Ties, Words and Pictures, Knick , Confirmation
    the guy is giant !

    • At one time I would have disagreed. He was everywhere. But now I would completely agree. It seems many have forgotten what an immense talent he is.

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