Before 1970: From a 2010 perspective, looking at most modern audiences, almost all classic films are underrated! Hey world, watch more old movies! You're missing out!
Post 1970: The Postman (1997). This movie came out at the same time as Titanic. I saw Titanic first, then The Postman, and I remember thinking as I watched the latter, now this is a movie. Don't get me wrong, I loved Titanic, and I've seen in a bunch of times. But where Titanic was strictly entertaining, The Postman was entertaining and also about something more than that, about a man who inadvertently changes the world simply by fast talking his way into getting a free meal. I absolutely love this idea, how a single spark of hope is enough to ignite a rebellion for freedom. I love watching the seeds of rebellion grow throughout the film, until the finale, where the Postman flings the bad guy's code right back at him and gives the viewer a very satisfying conclusion. I love watching unlikely characters drawn into heroism. I love strong bad guys, and ultimately, stronger good guys. The themes, the action, the conflicts, the characters... this movie is pretty much everything I want in my entertainment.
I just love this movie, but I think unless you're a Kevin Costner fan... nobody ever saw it. They were scared off by the length of the film, or poor promotion, or trailers that didn't really show the heart of it. I don't know, but I rarely encounter anyone who saw it. I'm an unabashed Kevin Costner fan, so I was at the theater practically opening weekend, and I've been in love with the film ever since that first amazing viewing. It's a nearly 3-hour movie, but I did not notice the length of time at all. I've always been fond of long movies anyway, as when they're good, they let me immerse myself in another world for a little more time before I have to return to reality. Another favorite actor, Will Patton, plays General Bethlehem, the bad guy, and, as always, he is just fabulous. He was with Kevin Costner in No Way Out as well, and the two work very well together.
It's a post-apocalyptic film, but not dark and dreary. The opposite, rather. It's a world that comes back to life. The movie was beautifully filmed, with sweeping natural/matte shot landscapes that are just gorgeous. I think I would have loved this movie for the scenery alone. James Newton Howard's score is a perfect match, and still one of my favorite scores by him.
The only thing about the film I don't like is the epilogue. That needs to go. The rest is a keeper, and The Postman is one of my favorite films.