20 Underrated Films Directed By Acting Greats

There's nothing exactly new about actors finding their groove in the director's chair, an act that's reshaped the careers of Clint Eastwood, Jordan Peele, and Ron Howard, among many others.

But there are plenty of stellar onscreen performers who have never received their due for their directorial efforts, 20 of which can be found in the list below.

1.Nil by Mouth (dir. Gary Oldman)

(L-R): Charlie Creed-Miles, Jamie Forman and Ray Winstone in “Nil by Mouth”

Gary Oldman may have dazzled audiences with his scene-stealing and Oscar-winning performances, but viewers were in for a shock with his heavy and nihilistic domestic drama, Nil by Mouth.

Sony Pictures Classics / Courtesy Everett Collection

2.Deep Cover (dir. Bill Duke)

Jeff Goldblum and Laurence Fishburne in “Deep Cover”

Though he his cut his teeth as an actor in a number of high-profile action thrillers, Bill Duke proved himself adept at creating both tension and exhilaration with this critically acclaimed crime drama.

New Line Cinema / Courtesy Everett Collection

3.The Brave (dir. Johnny Depp)

Marlon Brando and Johnny Depp in “The Brave”

4.Death to Smoochy (dir. Danny DeVito)

Edward Norton and Robin Williams in “Death to Smoochy”

Fans might be more familiar with DeVito’s directorial work in the family classic Matilda, but his dark and sardonic comedy Death to Smoochy largely lives on thanks to a go-for-broke performance from an unhinged and hysterical Robin Williams.

Warner Brothers / Courtesy Everett Collection

5.Booksmart (dir. Olivia Wilde)

Beanie Feldstein and Kaitlyn Dever in “Booksmart”

Olivia Wilde may be best known for her great work on House, but she immediately became a director to watch after the gut-busting comedy throwback Booksmart.

Annapurna Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

6.Choke (dir. Clark Gregg)

Sam Rockwell in “Choke”

Clark Gregg stole all of our hearts with his turn as Phil Coulson in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but he dropped jaws with his hypersexual and witty adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk's novel Choke.

Fox Searchlight / Courtesy Everett Collection

7.The Blackcoat’s Daughter (dir. Oz Perkins)

Kiernan Shipka in “The Blackcoat’s Daughter”

Known for his supporting performances in Legally Blonde, Alias, and Secretary, Oz Perkins embraced his legacy as horror royalty with his directorial debut, which garnered acclaim as a slow-burn and bloody horror offering.

A24 / AF Archive / Courtesy Alamy

8.The Impostors (dir. Stanley Tucci)

Stanley Tucci and Oliver Platt in “The Impostors”

A sadly overlooked love letter to the screwball comedies of Hollywood's past, The Impostors is filled to the brim with hard laughs courtesy of a brilliant script from director-star Stanley Tucci and a host of inspired cameos that you won't soon forget.

20th Century Fox Film Corp. / Courtesy: Everett Collection

9.One Night in Miami... (dir. Regina King)

Aldis Hodge and Leslie Odom Jr. in “One Night in Miami...”

Regina King has been knocking out audiences with her myriad powerful performances, but fans were pleasantly blindsided by her remarkable directorial debut, the critically lauded ensemble drama One Night in Miami...

Amazon Studios / Allstar Picture Library Ltd. / Courtesy Alamy

10.Random Acts of Violence (dir. Jay Baruchel)

Jordana Brewster, Jesse Williams, Jay Baruchel and Niamh Wilson in “Random Acts of Violence”

11.Bob Roberts (dir. Tim Robbins)

Tim Robbins in “Bob Roberts”

Before he was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director for Dead Man Walking, Tim Robbins flexed his directorial muscles with this unfortunately forgotten mockumentary about a right-wing folk singer on an unscrupulous senatorial bid.

Paramount Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection

12.The Brothers Solomon (dir. Bob Odenkirk)

Will Forte and Will Arnett in “The Brothers Solomon”

Between his glory days of Mr. Show and Breaking Bad, Bob Odenkirk had a number of outings in the director's chair, including the criminally underrated and bizarre comedy The Brothers Solomon.

Screen Gems / Courtesy Everett Collection

13.Frailty (dir. Bill Paxton)

Matthew O'Leary, Jeremy Sumpter and Bill Paxton in “Frailty"

The late Bill Paxton is fondly remembered as one of the most endearing performers of his generation, but he was incredibly skilled as a filmmaker as well, as evident in his chilling cult classic, Frailty.

Lions Gate Films / Courtesy Everett Collection

14.The Man of Tai Chi (dir. Keanu Reeves)

Tiger Hu Chen in “The Man of Tai Chi”

15.Fatso (dir. Anne Bancroft)

Dom DeLuise and Anne Bancroft in “Fatso”

A heartbreaking and mature directorial debut from screen legend Anne Bancroft, Fatso effectively handles the subjects of obesity, addiction, and self-acceptance with genuine empathy and tangible drama.

20th Century-Fox Film Corporation / Courtesy Everett Collection

16.Magic (dir. Richard Attenborough)

Anthony Hopkins in “Magic”

Richard Attenborough has been celebrated as an esteemed actor and director, but his attempt at genre filmmaking with the Anthony Hopkins-starring psychological horror movie Magic has unfortunately never received its proper appreciation.

20th Century-Fox Film Corporation / Courtesy Everett Collection

17.She Dies Tomorrow (dir. Amy Seimetz)

Kate Lyn Sheil in “She Dies Tomorrow”

Amy Seimetz has become a critical darling with her performances in independent dramas and genre films, but Seimetz proved herself capable of disturbing audiences with her own imagination through her unsettling 2020 film, She Dies Tomorrow.

Neon / Pictorial Press Ltd / Courtesy Alamy

18.Fat Kid Rules the World (dir. Matthew Lillard)

Jacob Wysocki in “Fat Kid Rules the World”

Adapted from K.L. Going's award-winning novel, actor Matthew Lillard swung high with his moving and unique directorial effort, which tragically flew under the radar but seems destined to become a cult favorite.

Whitewater Films / Via YouTube

19.The Gift (dir. Joel Edgerton)

Jason Bateman and Joel Edgerton in “The Gift”

20.The Double (dir. Richard Ayoade)

Jesse Eisenberg in “The Double”

British comedian-turned-filmmaker Richard Ayoade garnered much attention with his first film, the coming-of-age story Submarine, but his sophomore effort, The Double, is a Gilliam-esque dark comedy that equally deserves to be rediscovered.

Magnolia Pictures / Courtesy Everett Collection