Films That Flopped When They Were First Released

Whenever a good movie is released, it’s hard to understand why they fail right at the start. Whatever the reason it may be, several financial and critical failures have endured the test of time to become cult classics down the road. But depending on the genre, plot, or the cast members, some movies are just ahead of their time.

This is why it’s good to look back and see which movies became celebrated classics. It’s hard to believe that some of the most iconic films didn’t land immediate success.

Death To Smoochy Was A Miss For Critics And Audiences

Warner Bros./MovieStillsDb

The Danny DeVito dark comedy starred Robin Williams, Edward Norton, and Catherine Keener. The plot focused around a children’s television show and the world of kids entertainment, but with a dark twist. Considering DeVito’s film was on a $50 million budget, it lost out on the box office with only $8.3 million.

As time went on, a small following of fans accumulated for Death To Smoochy, especially after Williams’ death in 2014.

Speed Racer Was Released A Week After Iron Man

Warner Bros. Pictures/MovieStillsDb

The Wachowskis film was an action-packed spectacle based on the sixties animated sitcom. The film is highly considered to be a box office bomb due to only grossing $93 million worldwide. It was nominated in multiple categories for the Teen Choice Awards. But most of all, the film also received nominations for the Golden Raspberry Awards.

Years later, however, the film received more praise, with some commentators calling it an “underrated” film.

Hocus Pocus Found Fans Through Halloween Marathons On TV

Buena Vista Pictures/MovieStillsDb

The cultural legacy that is Hocus Pocus is huge to this day. When the witchy film made its debut in 1993, it was not seen as a financial success. It was even released on the same weekend as Free Willy, then dropped from the top 10 after two weeks. The negative reception wasn’t enough for fans to stop enjoying it.

The movie got a second wind through DVD sales and is a staple for Halloween movie marathons.

Newsies Is One Of The Lowest-Grossing Live-Action Disney Films

Buena Vista Pictures/MovieStillsDb

The film was one of Disney’s lowest grossing live-action films ever. Although it did star Christian Bale, the movie musical was made on a modest $15 million budget. However, it only grossed $3 million at the box office.

Somehow, the flop suddenly became a hit down the road. Years later, the movie became a top-grossing Broadway musical, and it’s developed a loyal following amongst the fans of the movie or play.

Can’t Hardly Wait Was Described As Slapstick And Cliche

Columbia Pictures/MovieStillsDb

Jennifer Love-Hewitt stars in this coming-of-age film that was chastised upon its release. But, after the release, the film was adored by fans. The teen party flick also starred Ethan Embry and Family Guy’s Seth Green.

Considering most teen movies of the nineties did well at the box office, the critics ignored this film. But now, they recognize it as a fun high school flick and a product of its time.

Jim Henson Was Devastated When Labyrinth Flopped

TriStar Pictures/MovieStillsDb

Jim Henson’s 1986 musical fantasy debuted to poor box office numbers. The film even starred rock icon David Bowie, costing only $25 million to make. Once it was released, the film only made half of its budget back.

Overall, Labyrinth had low numbers, but the critics enjoyed the film for one particular reason. Bowie’s performance and Henson’s puppetry were some of the notable moments, but following Henson’s death, more people came around to give it another chance.

Starship Troopers Was Slammed By Critics

TriStar Pictures/Buena Vista International/MovieStillsDb

The 1997 sci-fi flick followed a group of futuristic military soldiers and their space mission against the Arachnids. The movie did have an overwhelming budget of $105 million, but the film was lampooned by critics. Most of them believed that the film was a bit too gory with a poorly written plotline.

However, general audiences found the fun in it and praised the film, inspiring the filmmakers to make a sequel.

Big Trouble in Little China Was Rushed To Its Release Date

20th Century Fox/MovieStillsDb

John Carpenter’s movie actually made this list. It comes as a shocker, but only for a few reasons. Not only did it star Kurt Russell and Kim Cattrall and sorcerers and bandits, but it only racked in $11 million at the box office.

Even the director referenced the success of another movie, James Cameron’s Aliens. That may have been a contributing factor as to why this movie was a failure altogether.

Saw Was Deemed Too Gory For Most Critics


For a movie that was a box office success, Saw was too gory for some to handle. It was the critics who weren’t keen on the film’s gore and torture, referring to it as a gratuitous disaster.

However, filmgoers weren’t that squeamish with all of the gore and torture. In fact, it spawned into more sequels following the success of the first one. As of 2018, a ninth Saw would be in the works.

Atlantis: The Lost Empire Was A Flop By Disney Standards

Buena Vista Pictures/MovieStillsDb

Like most Disney films, movies like this will always find its fans, no matter how well they fare critically. This fantasy adventure movie featured the voice talents of Michael J. Fox, Leonard Nimoy, and Claudia Christian. Despite the film earning back its budget of $186 million, it’s considered as a box office disappointment by Disney standards.

Plus, they had a pre-planned theme park attraction and television series canceled due to its performance.

The Wizard Of Oz Had A Weak Premiere

Loew’s InC./MovieStillsDb

The $2.7 million budget seems low today, but it was expensive back in 1939. When the movie premiered and generated just $3 million in returns at the box office, it was deemed as a failure to Metro-Goldwyn Mayer.

Roger Ebert chose it as one of his Great Films, writing that, “The film has a wonderful surface of comedy and music, special effects and excitement, and we still watch it decades later.”

The Shawshank Redemption Was Overlooked In A Year Full Of Movie Hits

Columbia Pictures/MovieStillsDb

Movies like Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump came with immense acclaim. Unfortunately, Shawshank received less attention when it was released in the same year. The moving prison drama later found an audience on television.

Now, it’s listed as the top rated film on IMDB by its users. It also has rave reviews on Rotten Tomatoes too. But, the film is listed above classics like The Godfather and 12 Angry Men.

Clue Was Released To Lukewarm Praise

Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDb

It’s loved by fans today, but it had a rough start when the film opened in 1985. Made from a $15 million budget, Clue only made $14.6 million while it was in theaters. Most of all, it didn’t help to gain middling reviews from critics like Roger Ebert.

Over time, however, the incredible cast and pure fun of the film has won over newcomers. And shockingly, the game is still popular today.

The Boondock Saints Found Fans As A Blockbuster Exclusive

Franchise Pictures/MovieStillsDb

The action crime thriller followed two devout Catholic brothers as they slaughter Boston criminals in God’s name. The box office numbers were less than $100,000. 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 a Blockbuster Exclusive.

Many people have fallen in love with the film, even if most critics rate the film poorly.

Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas Had A Controversial Reception

Universal Pictures/MovieStillsDb

The absurd, dark adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s novel didn’t fare well. The film only raked in $10 million on an $18 million budget. However, to some critics, it was very polarizing, and it’s regarded as a visual spectacle that was aimless and lacked any sense of drive.

Today, the movie, which starred Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro, is celebrated by fans for its bizarre nature and having an innovative style.

Event Horizon Lost Over $30 Million

Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDb

The late nineties sci-fi thriller focused on a rescue crew in space that investigates a missing ship. This was supposed to be the film that was going to be compared to Alien. But having Laurence Fishburne and Sam Neill in the movie didn’t help one bit.

The movie was considered as a significant loss for a film on a $60 million budget. However, to some fans, they praised the intense visual effects.

Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World Made Money In Home Video Sales

Movie Flop 17
Universal Pictures/MovieStillsDb

The slick, visually stunning featured director Edgar Wright’s signature cinematic style. However, with a talented cast, they lost out big time at the box office. With a huge production budget of $85 million, it only made around $5 million once it hit theaters.

Like most flops on this list, the film was later helped by the home media and streaming sales too. As of 2018, the filmed has grossed nearly $30 million.

Wet Hot American Summer Was Unwatched By Many

USA Films/MovieStillsDb

Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Bradley Cooper, and Amy Poehler were some of the names to appear in the film. It’s somewhat of a mystery how the film did incredibly bad at the box office. However, the cast wasn’t exactly filled with big-name celebrities when they filmed this.

But, it fared pretty well with a $1.8 million budget. As the stars throttled into success, the movie eventually got a sequel which was produced by Netflix.

The Iron Giant Was A Commercial Failure

Warner Bros. Pictures/MovieStillsDb

The sentimental and moving animated film has many admirers today. Long before that even happened, the film underperformed in theaters due to a poor marketing campaign. Critics loved it, but not many saw it upon release, leading to $31 million in box office sales out of an estimated $70-$80 million budget.

The Iron Giant would be praised by fans and critics alike. Eventually, it gained a cult following in television syndication.

It’s A Wonderful Life Became A Holiday Favorite When It Entered The Public Domain

RKO Radio Pictures/MovieStillsDb

It’s no surprise that this is part of so many holiday movie collections. But, it did very poorly at the box office in 1946. The movie’s success would take a turn for the better down the road.

The Jimmy Stewart classic would be picked up by TV networks in 1974, the same year the film’s copyright expired. Repeated viewings helped the film get recognition as a warm, moving film just in time for Christmas.

Dazed And Confused Had A Star-Filled Cast Before They Were Famous

Gramercy Pictures/MovieStillsDb

Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Milla Jovovich, and Adam Goldberg. Those are the names anyone should know because they’re colossal film stars today. Nevertheless, they were not as well-known when they acted in Richard Linklater’s irreverent stoner comedy in 1993.

With a lack of marketability to mainstream audiences, the $6.8 million budget led to an $8 million profit. As time passed, Dazed and Confused has become a classic in the coming-of-age genre.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show Has A History Of Theater Revivals

20th Century Fox/MovieStillsDb

The film had a limited release to only eight cities when it premiered in the summer of 1975. Despite critic reviews being favorable, the film was pulled early from theaters due to sparse ticket sales. Nevertheless, the musical film became a cult classic through the years thanks to many midnight screenings.

Fans and audience members alike were encouraged to interact with the film by doing things like call-outs, bring in props, and participate in sing-alongs.

Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory Did Poorly

Paramount Pictures/MovieStillsDb

The funny movie based on Roald Dahl’s classic novel has become a must-watch over time. When the film hit theaters, it didn’t fare well at all, making only $4 million. It was not much more than its $3 million budget. After Paramount Pictures failed to renew the copyright for Willa Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Warner Bros stepped in.

The company bought the rights and brought it to TV where it found new respect.

The Room Inspired The Disaster Artist

Chloe Productions/TPW Films/MovieStillsDb

This less-than-inspired film is among the worst of ALL TIME. The Room made less than $2,000 from a $6 million budget. But, over time, and thanks to a word of mouth, the film became much more popular. Eventually, more and more people began attending midnight screenings throughout the years. I guess you just have to go out and see one of the worst movies ever.

Later on, James and Dave Franco would tackle the movie with the biopic, The Disaster Artist.

The Big Lebowski Couldn’t Compete With Titanic

PolyGram Filmed Entertainment/Gramercy Pictures/Universal Pictures/MovieStillsDb

This movie is one of Jeff Bridge’s most notable role and films. Unfortunately, the Coen brothers’ film finished in sixth in its opening weekend. The only reason why is because the success of Titanic overshadowed the film.

And to make matters worse, it lost to The Wedding Singer and Good Will Hunting. The film has since grown over time, with fans quoting iconic lines. And, they even formed their own religion of “Dudeism.”

Donnie Darko Was Considered As A Flop

Pandora Cinema/Newmarket Films/MovieStillsDb

It might not have been the most straightforward film to market, mainly because it centered around a teenager who is suffering from psychotic episodes that feature a man in a rabbit suit. During its opening weekend, it was shown on only 58 screens nationwide, grossing $110,494. It might have helped that the film was released shortly after 9/11.

Despite its poor box office showing, the film began to attract a devoted fan base.

Fight Club Was Panned By The Critics

20th Century Fox/MovieStillsDb

Although the film is referenced continuously today, it didn’t impress critics. The Chuck Palahniuk novel-turned-film proved to be a little too dark for mainstream audiences. It was one of the most controversial and talked-about films of the decade.

Fight Club was recognized as an innovator in cinematic form and style as it exploited new developments in filmmaking technology. After the release of the film, it became more popular through word of mouth.

Office Space Eventually Found Its Niche Audience

20th Century Fox/MovieStillsDb

Mike Judge’s film perfectly captured the mundane nature of cubicle life. However, it failed to capture the attention of film goes in 1999. Office Space is just as raunchy as American Pie, but this film fell through the cracks in the late nineties.

Over the years, the comedy has gone on to become of the top films on many critics’ lists. That allowed new fans to discover it for the first time.

Citizen Kane Found Acclaim A Year After Its Release

RKO Radio Pictures/MovieStillsDb

This film has established itself firmly in film history as one of the most revered films ever made. It only made $1.5 million when it was released in 1941, but it took a while to gain some attention. Historians have pointed to William Randolph Hearst as the man who impeded the film’s success. The film’s villain was mostly inspired by Hearst himself.

The influential newspaper tycoon forbade the press from mentioning it by name.

A Christmas Story Didn’t Gain Fans Until It Appeared On TV

MGM/UA Entertainment Co./MovieStillsDb

The 1983 Christmas flick was a sleeper hit when it first premiered. The critics had no idea what to think of it after the release. But most of all, a scathing New York Times piece called it “less funny than a TV sitcom and exceedingly busy.”

But, the movie never lost its touch to the fans over the holiday season and now it’s a must-watch for families during Christmas time.