- Sometimes popular movies take a while to catch on and become a hit.
- At first, critics hated movies like “Fight Club,” “Speed Racer,” and “Can’t Hardly Wait.“
- It took years for “Heathers,” “Shawshank Redemption,” and “Saw” to become popular.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” became a cult classic through years of midnight screenings, with fans and audience members encouraged to interact with the film through call-outs, props, and sing-alongs.
Repeat viewings helped it get recognized as a warm, moving touchstone in American households each Christmas.
After Paramount Pictures reportedly failed to renew its distribution deal for “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” Warner Brothers bought the film rights and brought it to TV where it found new appreciation.
Over time, word of mouth helped to make the film popular and more and more people began attending midnight screenings through the years.
The 1990s horror movie followed a family who is terrorized by goblins that turn their victims into plants before eating them. Fans found the accidental humor in the absurd goblin fest and still flock to screenings.
Without marketability to mainstream audiences, it only made $US8 ($AU11) million from a $US6 ($AU8).9 million budget. As time passed and the cast’s star power has grown, however, “Dazed and Confused has become a classic in the coming-of-age genre.
It earned only $US110,494 ($AU150,117) on its opening weekend and wasn’t released internationally until a year later. Since then, it’s gained success as a DVD rental and cemented itself as an iconic film in the indie-horror genre.
The film follows a dismal soap salesman (Edward Norton) who joins a fight club led by Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt).
Just as raunchy comedies like “American Pie” were winning big at the box office, wry satires like “Office Space” fell through the cracks in the late ’90s — only bringing in $US10.8 ($AU15) million.
Over time, the comedy has gone on to become one of the top films listed on many critics’ lists, allowing a new generation of fans to discover it.
Historians have pointed to William Randolph Hearst as the man who impeded the film’s initial success, since its villain was blatantly inspired by Hearst himself. The influential newspaper tycoon forbade the press from mentioning it by name.
Now, the film has 99% on Rotten Tomatoes from critics, which is no easy feat.
However, like other movies on this list, TV syndication would help “The Wizard of Oz” gain the adoration it deserved from film lovers and critics alike.
The moving prison drama later found an audience on television and is now listed as the top-rated film on IMDb by its users, topping films like “The Godfather,” “12 Angry Men,” and “Schindler’s List.” It also has rave reviews on Rotten Tomatoes from audiences and critics.
The film explores the life of an ex-cop with a fear of heights and his whirlwind romance, based on the thrilling novel by Pierre Boileau, Thomas Narcejac, and Geoffrey Sainsbury.
Over time, however, the wonderful cast and fun concept of the film has won over newcomers and is another film on this list that has become a television staple.
The political satire, based partially on “Nineteen Eighty-Four,” could not appeal to mass audiences.
Gilliam had to fight the studio on a final cut of the movie, which may have dissuaded the average moviegoer from attending the film. Now, “Brazil” is praised as a masterpiece in the science-fiction genre.
It was very polarizing for critics and was generally viewed as a visual spectacle that was aimless and lacked drive. Today, the movie, which starred Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro, is celebrated by fans for its bizarre and innovative style.
The 1986 action-packed melodrama was plagued with conflicts on set and a weak box office debut that only managed to recoup about a third of its $US16 ($AU22) million budget.
Today, “Highlander” fans still find charm in the cheesy special effects and bombastic plotting.
The $US6 ($AU8) million budget only made back $US30 ($AU41),471 ($AU41,398) at the box office, but it found a second life as a video rental when the studio struck a deal with then-popular rental chain Blockbuster to promote the thriller as an exclusive.
Although many audiences have since fallen in love with the film, most critics still rate the film poorly on Rotten Tomatoes.
Despite generating a gross $US27 ($AU37) million worldwide, the movie was considered a bomb since it cost an estimated $US60 ($AU82) million to make. Even though critics ran it through the mud, “Event Horizon” found fans as a niche space cliffhanger with surprisingly strong visual effects for its time.
Filmed with a $US15 ($AU20) million budget, the sci-fi horror scraped by with $US19 ($AU26).6 ($AU27) million domestically.
It was despised by many critics, including David Denby of New York magazine who said it was “more disgusting than frightening, and most of it was just boring.” Later, many would regret their first impressions as it gained acclaim over the years.
The Mike Judge satire cost $US4 ($AU5) million to produce and only generated half a million in worldwide ticket sales. A huge element of its failure was the complete absence of a marketing campaign — it did not release movie trailers, ads, or press kits.
Eventually, “Idiocracy” recouped its budget in home video sales due to word-of-mouth and was finally recognized as the creative, biting satire it aimed to be, just like Judge’s “Office Space.”
It’s now one of Rotten Tomatoes’ “150 Essential Comedy Movies.”
Like most flops on this list, the film was later helped by home media and streaming sales.
“Plan 9” was relatively unknown until it gained notoriety as one of the worst movies ever made in the 1980s. As newcomers watched the film to see it for themselves, a cult following grew and fans saw the humor in the previously obscure sci-fi flick.
The film was unbelievably expensive to make with a production budget of $US179 ($AU243) million and only made $US19 ($AU26) million on its opening.
At the time of its release, however, most of the cast was still relatively unknown. The movie, which followed summer campers in 1981, was made with a $US1.8 ($AU2) million budget and it produced $US295,206 ($AU401,068) at the box office.
The sentimental and moving film has many admirers today, but underperformed in theaters in part due to a poor marketing campaign.
Critics were not sure what to think of it upon release, and a particularly scathing New York Times piece by Vincent Canby called it less funny than a TV sitcom and “exceedingly busy.”
In total, “Slither” grossed over $US12.8 ($AU17) million worldwide and couldn’t recoup its $US15 ($AU20) million budget. But critics liked it for the low-budget horror homage it was.
It was created on a $US120 ($AU163) million budget and made $US93.9 ($AU128) million at the box office, struggling to compete with Marvel’s “Iron Man” which was released the week before.
Critics generally panned it at first and it was even nominated for several Razzies — a parody award honoring underachieving movies. Since 2008, “Speed Racer” has popped up on many critical lists as an underrated and overlooked film.
It received mixed to negative reception at first, but fans came to enjoy it over time as a silly supernatural adventure. The movie got a second wind through DVD sales and TV syndication and is now a staple for Halloween movie marathons every year.
The vampire film only made $US3 ($AU4).4 million at the box office, even though film critics gave it fairly positive reviews. Today, it still stands as one of the highest-reviewed horror films of all time.
Despite low numbers, critics generally enjoyed the film, praising Bowie’s performance and Henson’s puppetry. Following Henson’s death, more critics and film-goers watched the film and fell in love with it.
Although it has found its fans over time, “Empire Records” was derided by critics and made less than $US300,000 ($AU407,581) at the box office. Today, fans see it as a gem in the ’90s coming-of-age genre.
Critics largely gave it negative reviews. Film critic Roger Ebert called it an “incomprehensible, ugly, unstructured, pointless excursion into the murkier realms of one of the most confusing screenplays of all time.”
A “Dune” remake is set to come out in October 2021.
It had an estimated $US25 ($AU34) million budget and only reaped $US11.1 ($AU15) million at the box office. Carpenter has referenced the success of James Cameron’s “Aliens” as a factor in his film’s box-office failure.
Following its financial losses and a slew of middling reviews, Carpenter vowed to become an independent filmmaker. Like many of his other works, “Big Trouble in Little China” later found success with fans and critics alike when it was released for home video.
It followed a woman’s journey from stripper to showgirl in Sin City. It grossed $US37.7 ($AU51) million from a $US40 ($AU54) million budget.
The graphic film has since been reevaluated as a satirical work of art and deemed a “gay cult classic” by some and a “trash cult classic” by others — even though many viewers and critics are still skeptical of the movie.
With a 4% on Rotten Tomatoes, “Mac and Me” is regarded as one of the worst films ever made. Even still, it has gained cult status and become part of a running gag Paul Rudd does almost every time he’s on a talk show.
The 1999 biopic also starred Danny DeVito, Courtney Love, and Paul Giamatti. From a budget that’s estimated to have cost $US82 ($AU111) million, it only generated $US47.4 ($AU64) million in theaters.
The film received renewed attention following the documentary “Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond.”
The 2001 fantasy adventure featured the voice talents of Michael J. Fox, Leonard Nimoy, and Claudia Christian. It followed a crew’s underwater voyage for the lost city of Atlantis.
Although it earned back its budget, and more, it was still considered a disappointment by Disney standards at the box office. It even had a pre-planned theme park attraction and television series canceled, reportedly due to its underperformance.
Despite its commercial success, critics couldn’t get on board with the film’s gore and torture.