I believe it would be nice if we lived in a world where quality is the only thing that determines how well a film performs at the box office. But clearly we don’t have the luxury, we’re watching you, “Transformers” sequels.
Here are some films that might be considered Hollywood classics now, but fell short during their original release.
‘The Wizard of Oz (1939)’
Strange as this may seem to modern Oz lovers, but “Wizard of Oz” was only a modest hit upon its initial theatrical release, failing to recoup its considerable budget (Technicolor doesn’t come cheap). It wasn’t until MGM re-released the film in 1949 that it became the runaway hit and cultural touchstone it is today
‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ (1946)
It took decades before “It’s a Wonderful Life” became as American a tradition as apple pie and baseball. It wasn’t until annual TV reruns during the holiday season in the 1970’s that Frank Capra’s once maligned holiday movie started getting the adoration it deserved.
‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ (1971)
This classic, mostly family-friendly movie (creepy tunnel sequence notwithstanding) took a while to really find its niche. It wasn’t a huge draw at the box office, which led Paramount to allow their distribution rights to lapse in 1977. We bet they’re regretting that decision now.
‘Blade Runner’ (1982)
“Blade Runner” has plenty of admirers nowadays, most of whom will gladly repeat Rutger Hauer’s iconic final words if given half a chance, but the sci-fi classic was a little ahead of its time.
“Flames. On the side of my face…” That’s just one of the film’s many quotable lines we reference on a daily basis. How this movie didn’t hit with audiences until VHS and cable still makes us scratch our heads.
‘Edge of Tomorrow’ (2014)
Neither Tom Cruise’s star power nor a cool “Groundhog’s Day”-esque premise did much to wow movie lovers to this scary-good piece of blockbuster entertainment. There’s a reason the film was unofficially re branded as “Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow” when it was released on home video.
‘Office Space’ (1999)
That red stapler. So much from this movie has entered out lexicon, you’d think it was a huge box office hit, it never made it – TPS
‘Children of Men’ (2006)
If you need further proof that quality doesn’t always go hand in hand with financial success, look no further than this modern sci-fi classic from director Alfonso Cuarón. Reviewers raved about the film, but audiences simply didn’t show up. But it’s already clear that time will be kind to this film.
The Iron Giant (1999)
“Iron Giant” is widely regarded as one of the best animated films of the ‘90s, and it heralded the rise of director Brad Bird. Sadly, it joined a number of other worthy animated films that simply failed to compete with the Disney machine. Much of the blame in this case centers on Warner Bros.’ soft marketing campaign.
‘Fight Club’ (1999)
“Fight Club” is an unusual film, to say the least. Is it a violent action movie? An intellectual art house drama? That confusion gave the suits at Fox some real headaches when it came to pre-release marketing. That might be why the film failed to attract much attention in 1999. But in the years since, it’s developed quite a cult following, becoming essential viewing for every cranky teenager raging against the machine for the first time. Perhaps that was the aim of the producers
‘The Big Lebowski’ (1998)
Don’t care for this classic Coen brothers comedy? That’s just, like, your opinion, man. Admittedly, though, it takes a couple viewings to truly appreciate the film’s sense of humor and lack of a traditional plot. That’s why it bombed in theaters and went on to become an oft-quoted cult favorite.
‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ (1996)
After a string of crowd-pleasing hits like “Aladdin,” Disney’s big animated movie of 1996 landed with a slight thud. Nowadays, Disney lovers can appreciate “Hunchback” as a dark and ambitious entry into the canon. But at the time, it wasn’t quite what audiences were looking for
‘The Shawshank Redemption’ (1994)
If you didn’t see this movie upon it’s initial release, don’t feel too bad. We skipped it, too. But if you haven’t seen it on home video, or one of its fabillionth airings on TNT, um, yeah you need to fix that.
This cynical, black-on-black teen comedy barely cracked the $1 million mark at the box office. But impressive video sales eventually helped cement its status as a cult classic.
‘Big Trouble in Little China’ (1986)
You’d think, based on the previous collaborations between director John Carpenter and actor Kurt Russell, that “Big Trouble in Little China” would have been a surefire hit. Maybe audiences simply weren’t in the mood for a satirical martial arts movie starring a blue-collar action hero. But we think it’s officially earned “fan favorite” status now that a remake is in the works.