Stardust Is The Most Underrated Movie Ever
The rare occurrence where the movie is better than the book
Stardust (2007) is a movie about a shop-boy-turned-hero, a world separated from ours by only a small stone wall, and a fallen star. It is based on the novel of the same name by Neil Gaiman. With a plot reminiscent of classics such as The Princess Bride, with a romance-fantasy plot with a few comedic points and action scenes wrapped in, it would appear to be an instant classic.
Except, it's not.
Whenever I tell someone that Stardust is my favorite movie, they scrunch up their faces as if I named some obscure movie from the 1960s that they definitely should have seen. While a few have recognized it as a childhood favorite, or have come across it, most do not immediately place it.
Based on a book by a successful novelist with a smattering of every genre under the sun, why is this movie only living in the vague memory of most people? It feels like a disservice to a movie and story that I have watched countless times and still notice new aspects to every time.
Personally, I think Stardust is one of the most underrated movies of all time. Not just because it is my favorite movie. I sometimes refrain from saying that Stardust is my favorite movie simply because no one seems to have heard of it or seen. Let me break down why Stardust is so underrated and why you should open up Netflix and watch it right now.
1). An Amazing Cast (And Breaking Actor's Typecasts)
The lead character--Tristan Thorne--was played by relatively unknown British actor, Charlie Cox. Though, now, you may know him as Daredevil from the Netflix series. The female lead is played by Claire Danes, who is a well respected actress and--by 2007--had moved on from playing younger roles such as the one she is arguably best known for, Juliet.
Beyond the two lead roles, absolute queen Michelle Pfiffer plays the main antagonist, Robert De Niro plays a gay sky pirate who gives Tristan a makeover, and there are smaller appearances by Ricky Gervais, Mark Williams (Arthur Weasley), Sienna Miller, Ben Barnes, and Henry Cavill. To finish it all off, the movie is narrated by Sir Ian McKellen.
Not only does it feature a talented cast, it also uses their fame to it's advantage. Robert De Niro wears a dress and paints a heart on his cheek while working to upkeep his fearsome reputation. As an actor best known for playing mobsters and similar roles, De Niro fits this role because of the roles he typically plays. It shows not only his versatility as an actor and comedic flair, but almost makes a comment on how actors get unfairly typecasted.
Casting a barely known actor in the lead role, while not unusual, was perfect in this instance considering the rest of the ensemble cast. It allowed Tristan to stand out amongst recognizable faces.
With so many well known actors and actresses, some movies end up feeling campy and unoriginal. Not Stardust though, by selectively choosing a mix of seasoned and up-and-coming actors, it provides a well balanced, well rounded, and in my opinion, perfect cast.
Every single cast member can do drama and comedy. Now, with everything I love about the cast, even my favorite movie is not without fault. I do wish the cast was more diverse, especially considering 2007 was not so long ago that diversity in movies was not an expectation.
2). It Stays Loyal To The Book (Within Reason)
As an avid reader, I agree that most books are better than their movies. However, Stardust is one notable exception. I should clarify, I highly respect Neil Gaiman's work and I do believe the novel is good but in a much different way. And, the movie does draw plenty from the book, but the changes it does make, not only make sense, but also often make the movie better.
For example, the opening scene of the movie, which explains Tristan’s birth and set the entire movie in motion, encompasses (if my memory serves me right) about 50+ pages of the book. In the movie, it gets probably about 7 minutes.
While such a major change may seem like an absolute travesty, for the movie, it made it better. No one needed to know the details, they just needed to understand Tristan’s origin.
A smaller change—albeit one that wouldn’t fly in a more popular book to movie adapation—is the changing of Tristan’s name. In the novel, his name is Tristran, which is likely a nod to Arthurian legend. However, in the movie, this would be too clunky to say. Considering movies are entirely dialogue, this change seems almost necessary.
Finally, it tones down the sex and gore. While the movie is rated PG-13 and has some suggestive references and some gore that may traumatize especially young children, it’s nothing like the novel. The novel contains both sex and extreme violence which—if included—would’ve made a film largely outside the target demographic and much darker than necessary. It works for a novel, but not for a feature film.
3). It Subverts The Typical Hero Story
Tristan’s character follows a fairly typical “zero to hero” arc. He gets a makeover, learns to sword fight, gets the girl, and gets his revenge on his childhood bullies. Yet, the actual plot doesn’t really follow this same arc.
Sure, by the end, Tristan saves his love and has his happily ever after. But, instead of going on a quest to save Yvaine, he starts off with selfish intentions and holds her hostage. While he softens slowly, the plot—even if predictable at times—is not simple. There’s not one single antagonist and it strings together multiple storylines and motivations beautifully by the end.
4). Clever Comedy
Stardust is, at its core, a fantasy-romance-adventure. However, it uses comedy throughout to lighten the mood and give the characters life. Many of the antagonists are almost comically selfish and bad. A band of dead princes make commentary throughout the movie. And, Robert De Niro and Ricky Gervais absolutely steal the show.
5). The Best Death Scenes You’ll Ever See
Listen, I’m not going to go into too much detail on this one because I don’t want to spoil it. But, trust me when I say that pretty much every death in this movie is either funny, inventive, or wholly original.
Overall, if you’ve continued scrolling past Stardust on Netflix, give it a shot. It may surprise you. It also is likely to appeal to nearly everyone. While I am definitely biased considering it is my favorite movie, I think many would agree upon watching that Stardust is one of the most underrated movies of the 21st century so far.
About the author
I am a 25-year-old Seattle based writer who lives with my cat. Originally from a small, unincorporated Washington town, I have a penchant for boybands, black coffee, and true crime. I am a graduate of Western Washington University.