21 Actors Who Deserve More Acclaim

Not every actor gets the credit they deserve. Despite delivering critically acclaimed performances all their career, some movie stars still end up going under the radar for most people. Here are 21 of the most underrated stars in Hollywood:

Sam Rockwell

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Sam Rockwell may not be the most famous name, but he’s a talented actor. He excels in diverse roles, from dark characters to lovable protagonists. Notably, Rockwell has starred in acclaimed films such as Three Billboards (2017), Moon (2009), and The Green Mile (1999).

William Fichtner

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William Fichtner has had a steady career in Hollywood since the ’90s. His versatility has allowed him to play diverse roles, from villain in The Dark Knight (2008) to alien commander in Independence Day (2016). His work includes films like Armageddon (1998) and Black Hawk Down (2001), and TV shows such as Entourage (2004).

Clint Howard

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Clint Howard, Ron Howard’s brother, is a versatile actor who has acted in movies like Apollo 13 (1995) and shows like Arrested Development (2003). Despite his talent, he often goes unnoticed. He has been praised by some critics for his diverse roles, from villains to quirky sidekicks, spanning over five decades of impressive work.

Djimon Hounsou

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Hounsou is quite good at adapting to different roles, shifting effortlessly from brooding to humorous. This showcases his impressive range and talent in capturing dynamic characters. Some of his best work includes roles in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014), Blood Diamond (2006), and Gladiator (2000), just to mention a few.

Shea Whigham

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Shea Whigham’s work speaks for itself. From his diverse roles, such as Captain Cole in Kong: Skull Island (2017) to a sheriff in Fargo (2014) season 3, he has made a name for himself in Hollywood. His intensity and realism make his characters in movies like The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) captivating and believable.

Stephen Tobolowsky

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Stephen Tobolowsky has had an impressive acting career spanning 40 years, with over 200 appearances in films and TV shows. Despite high-profile roles in shows like Glee (2009) and The Goldbergs (2013), he remains underrated. The 72-year-old is certainly deserving of more credit.

Amanda Peet

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Amanda Peet’s standout performances in underrated films like Igby Goes Down (2002) and Changing Lanes (2002) in the early 2000s often went unnoticed. Similarly, her roles in TV shows like The Way, Way Back (2013) and Sleeping with Other People (2015) deserved more recognition.

William H. Macy

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William H. Macy is popularly known for his roles as Frank Gallagher in Shameless and Jerry Lundegaard in Fargo (2014). His standout work in Fargo earned him an Oscar nomination. Macy’s ’90s credits include the underrated Homicide (1991) and Paul Thomas Anderson’s acclaimed films Boogie Nights (1997) and Magnolia (1999).

Carrie-Anne Moss

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Carrie-Anne Moss is best known for her performance as Trinity in The Matrix (1999). Her standout performance in Christopher Nolan’s Memento earned her fame and an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actress. Despite this success, her roles in romance films like Chocolat (2000) and thrillers like Disturbia (2007) are often overlooked, even as they add depth to her overall filmography.

Giovanni Ribisi

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Giovanni Ribisi rose to fame with the Tom Hanks-directed That Thing You Do! (1996) directed by Tom. He further made a mark with his role in Saving Private Ryan (1998). Though not very popular, Giovanni is a well-rounded and talented actor.

Ryan Philippe

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Ryan Phillippe is popularly known for ’90s teen films. He has appeared in underrated gems like Igby Goes Down (2002) and The Way of the Gun (2000). He went on to shine in critical darlings like Gosford Park and Crash (2004), displaying his versatility. However, Phillippe’s performances as an adult actor tend to be underrated, with audiences still associating him primarily with his teen movies.

Gabriel Byrne

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Irish actor Gabriel Byrne, despite acclaimed performances in films like The Usual Suspects (1995) and Miller’s Crossing (1990), remains underrated in the U.S. His stoic portrayal in the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece Miller’s Crossing (1990) and compelling roles in projects like Hereditary (2018) establish him as one of the most overlooked actors of his generation, despite his talent and contributions to cinema.

Nia Long

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Nia Long, known for roles in ’90s classics like Boyz n the Hood (1991) and Friday (1995), often goes unnoticed. You may know her as Lisa Wilkes in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (1990). In the 2020s, she made a strong return with compelling projects like The Banker (2020) and Missing (2023).

Tessa Thompson

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Tessa Thompson showcased her humor in the 2014 film Dear White People (2014) and appeared as the love interest in Creed (2015). Despite small roles in major projects like Westworld (2016) and Thor: Ragnarok (2017), her lead role potential was evident in Dear White People (2014).

Barry Pepper

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Pepper is one of those actors who’s had a small role in everything. He’s good at disappearing into a movie. When he gets a big role, you can’t stop watching him. His performance as an incompetent kidnapper in True Grit (2010) was hilarious, and he was also great as Robert F. Kennedy in The Kennedys mini-series.

Gugu Mbatha-Raw

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Gugu Mbatha-Raw gained fame in 2013 and 2014 with indie hits Belle (2013) and Beyond the Lights (2014). She then had minor roles in big movies like Beauty and the Beast (2017) and Concussion (2015). While her acting appears to have slowed in recent times, Mbatha-Raw certainly has the talent to make a worthy comeback.

Joseph Fiennes

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Joseph Fiennes gained fame in Shakespeare in Love (1998) 25 years ago. He has since delivered outstanding performances in projects like Al Pacino’s The Merchant of Venice (2004) and American Horror Story: Asylum (2012). He was also part of the popular TV show The Handmaid’s Tale (2018) adaptation, which has helped to further showcase his talent beyond his initial breakthrough role.

Corey Hawkins

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Every Straight Outta Compton cast member, mostly unknowns, portrayed famous figures convincingly despite limited screen time. Hawkins, who portrayed Dr. Dre, was outstanding. He transitioned to blockbusters like 24: Legacy (2017) and Kong: Skull Island (2017), but he deserves more leading roles to showcase his talent at the center stage.

Carmen Ejogo

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Carmen Ejogo shines in roles like Martin Luther King, Jr.’s wife in Selma (2014) and MACUSA President Seraphina Picquery in Fantastic Beasts (2017). Despite brief appearances, her captivating performances demand more recognition, underscoring her talent and the need for increased acknowledgment in the industry.

Henry G. Sanders

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In 1977, at age 36, Sanders delivered a powerful performance as a family man in Killer of Sheep (1978). The film remained unseen for 30 years due to legal issues. While he appeared in projects like American Horror Story (2011) spin-offs and Selma (2014), he never had the same impactful platform as he did in Killer of Sheep (1978).

Walton Goggins

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After The Shield, Walton gained a considerable amount of popularity. Post-2008, he appeared in Criminal Minds (2005) and CSI (2000). Spielberg cast him in Lincoln (2012) and Tarantino in The Hateful Eight (2015), marking a shift. However, it’s high time he lands more prominent roles, moving beyond his television background into more significant stardom.