Eric's Top 10 Flops Turned Classics

by Eric Melin on May 26, 2008

in Top 10s

I’ve been crowing a lot in the recent weeks about all the completely unjustified venom being spewed at the Wachowski brothers’ day-glo kids movie “Speed Racer.” There’s a really dangerous thing out there called ‘critical consensus,’ where the buzz surrounding a movie and its critical reception is so bad that everyone just stays away. Like “Speed Racer,” the movie becomes a joke and can never fully recover. Take for example, famous flops like “Heaven’s Gate,” “Ishtar,” and “Gigli.” (“Cleopatra” and “Waterworld,” as terrible as they remain, somehow managed to turn a profit in their theatrical runs.) These ten films prove that both critics and audiences can get it wrong the first time. Fortunately for these films, there is sometimes a long life after theatrical death. I’m crossing my fingers that the manic fun of “Speed Racer” survives as well.

fight club soap10. Fight Club (1999)

Considering the bullshit political backlash against this David Fincher-directed surreal satire, it’s a wonder “Fight Club” made $37 million at all. Turns out, that was just over half the film’s budget and it contributed to the head of 20th Century Fox resigning later that next year. I remember seeing our very own Kansas senator Sam Brownback on CNN talking out of his ass about how violent the movie was and holding it up as an example of Hollywood brutality for titillation’s sake. The only problem? Sam didn’t stay for the ending, so he had no idea what the hell he was talking about. He wasn’t alone. Critics were polarized, and while most noted its technical innovations, few thought its in-your-face, anti-everything message was anything extraordinary. Since its theatrical run, notices have improved, and society’s increasing cynicism has served it well. “Fight Club” has been instrumental in changing attitudes towards corporate alienation and mass advertising/brainwashing. U.K. film magazine Total Film recently ranked “Fight Club” as ‘The Greatest Film in Our Lifetime.’ The movie also single-handedly propelled Chuck Palahniuk, who wrote the novel, to great success. An independent film “Choke,” based on one of his later books, will be released in September.

harold and maude kissing9. Harold & Maude (1971)

Sometimes movies become cult films after considerable critical and box office success, like “A Clockwork Orange,” “Taxi Driver,” or “Pulp Fiction,” which were all nominated for Best Picture. Other times, however, a film’s path to cult status is so unlikely, one wonders how anybody found out about the movie at all. Such is the case of Hal Ashby’s “Harold and Maude,” starring Bud Cort as a privileged kid searching for meaning in his life and Ruth Gordon as the elderly Holocaust survivor who gives it to him (pun intended). Scathing reviews and studio that had no idea how to market a movie about a young boy who lusts after a grandmother led to a rapid death in theaters initially. Some theaters, however, held on to their prints for anywhere up to three years, running it late at night for college crowds, and helped the movie become a genuine 1970s cult hit. Two songs from the now-famous Cat Stevens soundtrack weren’t even available for a full decade after the film’s release, but the movie now ranks 45 on AFI’s funniest films of all time.

lumbergh office space8. Office Space (1999)

The miserable theatrical failure ($10 million) of this hilarious and telling send-up of office life is still a mystery to me. What happened to word-of-mouth successes like “There’s Something About Mary?” Where was everybody this time? I saw this one in the theater and told all my friends to see it, but it’s hard to sell a movie about a bunch of no-name losers with crappy jobs that features Jennifer Aniston in a supporting role as “the girlfriend.” Like “Fight Club” (which came out later the same year), “Office Space” broke out on DVD. Also like “Fight Club,” it was way ahead of its time, paving the way for shitty-workplace masterpieces like the U.K. and U.S. versions of “The Office.” Tons of “Office Space” phrases have now entered the pop culture lexicon. When was the last time you jokingly referred to some useless piece of paper as a TPS report, or joked that you had a “case of the Mondays,” or pointed out the “pieces of flair” on somebody’s outfit? Anyone who doesn’t recognize the power of this film is a no-talent ass clown. On the other hand, the next person who I see do the “oh face” is dead to me.

peeping tom 19607. Peeping Tom (1960)

This highly controversial psychological thriller almost ended the career of esteemed British director Michael Powell. The man responsible (with his co-director Emeric Pressburger) for such noble classics as “Black Narcissus” and “The Red Shoes” was reviled by his countrymen after this movie’s release in England. He was called no less than a pervert for forcing theater audiences to examine their own voyeuristic actions while watching a movie through the actions of a psychosexual killer. “The critics rose up,” wrote Vincent Canby of The New York Times, “to condemn it on moral grounds. ‘It stinks,’ one critic wrote. Another thought it should be flushed down the sewer, and a third dismissed it haughtily as ‘perverted nonsense.’” Canby didn’t think too much of the film upon its 1979 re-release, partially funded by rabid fan Martin Scorsese, but filmmakers constantly reference this movie for being way ahead of its time. In 2004, British magazine Total Film named “Peeping Tom” the 24th greatest British film of all time and, in 2005, the 18th best horror movie of all time.

bringing up baby grant hepburn6. Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Starring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn, this classic screwball farce was a major disaster at the box office, and was met with harsh notices from critics. Director Howard Hawks was fired from directing his next picture for the same studio (“Gunga Din”), and Hepburn, who headed the Independent Theatre Owners Association list of “box-office poison” movie stars, was forced to buy out her contract. Fact is, Grant and Hepburn display impeccable comic timing at a breakneck pace and the “intercostal clavicle” Grant’s paleontologist is searching for in the movie has become something of an iconic reference. Every decade or so somebody tries to recreate its special kind of magic (see “Leatherheads,” “Intolerable Cruelty,” “Who’s That Girl?” and “What’s Up Doc?”), but “Bringing Up Baby” is a true original, justifying its spot at number 14 on AFI’s top comedies list.

donnie darko screen5. Donnie Darko (2001)

After five months in U.S. theaters and a release of 58 screens, this cult classic film grossed a grand total of—are you ready for this?— $514,545. One possible reason for its complete and utter box office failure was that it opened just one month after the attacks on 9/11. By March 2002, when the movie was released on DVD, the Pioneer Theatre in New York City began midnight screenings of “Donnie Darko” that continued for 28 consecutive months. The sci-fi-tinged teen angst film amassed a huge following on DVD, allowing writer/director Richard Kelly to release his Director’s Cut and ruin much of the intriguing ambiguity that gave the film its magic in the first place. Ironically, his follow-up feature “Southland Tales,” had a disastrous screening at the 2006 Cannes film festival and met a similar theatrical fate, grossing just $273,420 on 63 screens late last year. The final injustice? A sequel that focuses on Donnie’s sister Samantha and is titled “S. Darko” is in production now. Kelly, who said in his “Darko” commentary that he would never do a sequel “because he wanted to maintain the integrity of the film and just wanted to put the film to rest,” has nothing to do with it.

it's a wonderful life stewart capra4. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

Given that it is now considered the most inspirational film ever made, it’s hard to believe that Frank Capra’s classic Christmas-set movie received mixed reviews upon its release. Capra, whose populist films were almost always blockbusters, considered the reviews at the time to be either “universally negative or at best dismissive.” The New York Times’ Bosley Crowther wrote that Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey and the rest of the film’s characters “resemble theatrical attitudes rather than average realities.” During the 1980s, it seemed to be on TV every Christmas season, but now, due to recent copyright enforcement, is reduced to about two showings a year. It currently sits at number 20 on the AFI all-time list, having dropped from 11 on 1997’s list.

blade runner billboard japanese

3. Blade Runner (1982)

Coming off of the sci-fi actioner “The Empire Strikes Back” and throwback actioner “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” Harrison Ford was red-freaking-hot. So headlining Ridley Scott’s futuristic thriller was a no-brainer at the box office, right? Wrong. “Blade Runner,” based on the Philip K. Dick novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?,” was a slow, brooding art film about the nature of what it means to be human—not exactly what western-in-space “Star Wars” fans were expecting. The unique and detailed art direction and neo-noir cinematography that Scott spent so much time perfecting, however, paid off in the long run. Despite its original flop status, “Blade Runner” was released in many different cuts for theaters, cable TV/VHS, and finally DVD. In any version, the film is now regarded one of the original visions ever put on film and one of the most influential visual-effects films of all time. It currently resides at number 97 on AFI’s Top 100 movies of all time.

wizard of oz ruby slippers2. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Starring Judy Garland and featuring “Over the Rainbow”—the most beloved song in musical history—this adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s surreal children’s book was not always considered a success. Considering its reputation these days, you’d never know. MGM was severely disappointed by the reception that their extravagant $2.8 million musical received at the box office upon its initial release. Just barely covering its costs at $3 million, the film now regarded as a hands-down classic, having earned its reputation through a 1949 re-release and TV showings every year around Christmas time. I can’t count the number of times I saw it on TV as a kid, but it was an eye-opening experience to see it in all its restored glory on DVD all those years later. AFI’s 1998 list has “The Wizard of Oz” as the seventh best film of all time, and in the 2007 list, it came in 10th.

citizen kane xanadu1. Citizen Kane (1941)

Newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst was so offended by Orson Welles’ thinly veiled attack on him that he offered RKO Pictures $800,000 to destroy all copies and the negative of the film. The company refused, and the film now generally regarded as the best movie ever made was eventually released to much hype in 1941. Critical reception was mixed, and the movie flopped at the box office, failing to recoup its budget and crippling the boy wonder’s status as a bulletproof artist. Welles forever struggled to regain the kind of control he once had over “Citizen Kane.” The movie was nominated for several Oscars and won one (for its screenplay), but even at the ceremony, boos were heard almost every time the film was mentioned. The film, now considered groundbreaking for its time-shifting narrative and deep focus cinematography, was virtually forgotten in the U.S. until its critical revival in the late 1950s. It first appeared on Sight and Sound’s Top 10 list in 1962, and has stayed there at number one every year since. AFI had it at number 1 on both of its ‘100 Best’ lists of all time.

Eric is the Editor-in-Chief of Scene-Stealers and regular critic for KCTV5. He’s a member of the BFCA, VP of the KCFCC, and drummer for The Dead Girls and Ultimate Fakebook. He is also the current 2013 Air Guitar World Champion Mean Melin. Eric goes to 11. Follow him at:

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{ 127 comments… read them below or add one }

1 joeyhegele May 27, 2008 at 2:32 pm

Great list. However, I am surprised to see it missing one of the most popular films in recent history to flop at the box-office: The Shawshank Redemption. The film made only $28 million in 1994, it is now one of the most rented films of all time and is considered one of the greatest movies of the 90′s.

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2 ChrisKnudsen May 27, 2008 at 2:43 pm

I haven’t watched the director’s cut of Donnie Darko because I heard he dropped the Killing Moon from the opening credits.

It seems like the cult base for Office Space has died down. I remember the special edition for the DVD was like in the works for almost 3 years. The movie was a hard sell to me too but my friend Albert eventually convinced me to watch it.

I own Peeping Tom but never got around to watching it. I think I might do that this week.

I watched Fight Club in theaters 4 times in the three weeks that it played at the Palace in Wichita. More amazingingly, I saw Freedie Got Fingered 5 times in the 3 weeks it played.

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3 Reed May 27, 2008 at 2:52 pm

I can’t understand the general adoration for Bringing Up Baby. I’m a huge Cary Grant fan, but it’s the least interesting picture I’ve seen him in. I guess I’m saying I think the critics and audiences were right the first time on that one. Other than that, I think you’ve got a perfect list here.

I think the more I think about Donnie Darko, the less I think I like it. So I think I’m not gonna think about thinking about it any more.

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4 Eric Melin May 27, 2008 at 3:04 pm

Joey- I did actually think about putting it on there. Like “Kane” and “Wonderful Life,” it had a Best Picture nomination, but I think “Shawshank” was almost universally praised by critics, so that could be why I left it off.

Chris & Reed- Man, that “DD” Director’s Cut blew. Some things, as David Lynch and the Coens understand (even thought they infuriate me for it) are better left a mystery. “Freddy” still has a long way to go before anyone considers it a classic, but this critic agrees with you 100 percent. I love the manic pace and mean attitude of “Bringing Up Baby,” and Grant is particularly interesting as the dotty scientist who is constantly giving in but getting in jabs at the same time. (although perhaps not as freaky as he was in “Arsenic and Old Lace”)Nobody displays the timing that Grant and Hepburn had in that picture anymore.

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5 Brian Reeves May 28, 2008 at 5:29 pm

Just wanted to add that I too am amazed by the lack of respect for Speed Racer. (You are not alone! Maybe we should start a support group.)

I liked the list and I hope that Kelly’s Southland tales joins DD as a cult classic someday. I loved it. That is without question the craziest piece of, whatever that movie is, ever put down on film. Pure crazy, and yet touches on so may topical themes. I see a day when college students across the land have a DD and Southland Tales double feature with plenty of “helpful substances” on hand!

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6 Andy Marx May 28, 2008 at 5:33 pm

I’m a little partial, but what about “Duck Soup?” It was such a disappointment that the Marx Brothers were dropped by Paramount. Now, many argue it’s the best film the Marx Brothers made. In 1990 the United States Library of Congress deemed Duck Soup “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry.

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7 Jaime May 28, 2008 at 5:54 pm

Wizard of Oz was never shot in widescreen from what I know, only cropped to make a fake widescreen version:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032138/alternateversions

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0032138/technical

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8 Shoebane May 28, 2008 at 6:19 pm

Waterworld was financially a disaster. They lost millions of dollars worth of sets in monsoons and it never managed to gain that back.

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9 Eric Melin May 28, 2008 at 7:12 pm

Andy- “Duck Soup” is a great flop turned classic, and my fave Marx Bros. movie. How could I have forgotten it? Are you related?
Jaime- You are right about “Wizard.” Restored, yes. Widescreen, no. Sorry for the error!
Shoebane- $264,218,220 was the worldwide gross of “Waterworld.”

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10 Chomsky Honk May 28, 2008 at 8:31 pm

Big Lebowski should be 1 or 2 on that list. I remember that movie flopped hard when released in theaters, now everyone knows that movie.

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11 buzzdennis May 28, 2008 at 11:27 pm

I think one major thing you forgot to mention is the fact that William Randolph Hearst pretty much ran every major newspaper in the country at the time. It was because of his hatred for Welles’ use of the word rosebud (apparently a pet name for Hearst’s mistress’ nether regions) that so many critics were forced to review the film unfavorably. There’s no doubt in my mind that Citizen Kane should be number one here. It’s just a little different from all the other films in that critics freely chose to pan them. But I think that adds to the whole mystique of the experience of Citizen Kane. It’s unfortunate people find it boring.

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12 Rick May 28, 2008 at 11:58 pm

Not to be nit-picky, but I will be. “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” was a very short story, not a novel. Which made the screenwriters job to create a movie much more difficult, yet he/she/they did it better than any other of his other adaptations. Phillip K. Dick is a genious of ideas, but his stories are short and this is the only screenplay that gave one of his stories justice. I think this list is excellent and think many of the other movies based off his stories would be on, or just outside this list, if better screenwriters had been involved.
btw – i love every movie on this list
thanks

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13 Ryan May 29, 2008 at 1:00 am

I saw this list on Digg and was hoping to see a Speed Racer mention. I seriously can’t for the life of me figure out why nobody cares about this masterpiece. I’ve seen it twice on IMAX since it came out and loved every second of it. What’s worse is that everybody I’ve convinced to see it loves it yet the overall consensus of the general public is, “Who cares?”

I definitely think a support group is in order!

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14 olyfilmgirl May 29, 2008 at 2:09 am

What about The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Total flop, and now probably the most popular cult classic ever!

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15 Eric Melin May 29, 2008 at 2:14 am

Rick- The book I have of “Androids” is 210 pages.
Buzz- I agree. The more I watch it, the better it gets. The true meaning of Rosebud is a sick, funny joke.
Ryan- It’s nice to know I’m not alone. I’ve seen it twice too, the second on IMAX, and while I recognize its many flaws, it didn’t deserve the critical drubbing and should be considered groundbreaking on so many levels. It’s one of my faves of the year so far. “Speed Racer” inspired this entire list.

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16 Eric Melin May 29, 2008 at 2:18 am

oly- Yeah, I was trying to be even-handed between cult classics and classic classics, if you know what I mean. The camp factor kept me from including “Rocky Horror.” Maybe the “cult classic” list is for another day. “Rocky Horror,” “Texas Chainsaw,” and “2001″ would be side by side on that one!

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17 Alex May 29, 2008 at 2:46 am

John Carpenter’s _The Thing_ isn’t a classic, but it’s a genre classic. It lost money during its theatrical run but gained ubiquitous familiarity through cable showings in the eighties. Rob Botin’s practical effects/art direction from the film have been quite influential for the genre, and it’s appeared on several science fiction/horror/best ending lists.

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18 Jason May 29, 2008 at 3:20 am

DARK CITY, dumped by the studio, bombed at the box office and received mixed reviews. FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, huge dud, hated by critics — now released as a classic on Criterion collection.

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19 Hoisin May 29, 2008 at 3:36 am

erm, Blues Brothers anyone?

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20 Joe May 29, 2008 at 3:38 am

Great list but alongside “It’s a Wonderful Life” should be “A Christmas Story” for the excat same reasons. Plus here is a list of movies that wasnt on Eric’s List that we can debate: “Bill and Ted’s…” (1 and 2), “Clerks”, “Mallrats”, and “The Blues Brothers”

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21 Anil May 29, 2008 at 3:53 am

Good list. I think the name ‘Stanley Kubrick’ qualifies for this position, without any need to specify a film. About half of the theater left during the premiere of 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange was loathed and banned shortly after it was released and people weren’t happy initially with The Shining and Eyes Wide Shut. However all these films gradually built themselves a core fan base, won the hearts of the critics and rose to an unshakable cult status.

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22 DavidK May 29, 2008 at 3:54 am

As far as I know, Carpenter’s The Thing was a critical and commercial disaster too when it came out, and now it’s regarded as one of the best horror films ever.

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23 Lynz May 29, 2008 at 4:16 am

Lebowski should be on there but also Night of the Hunter. It was a massive flop when released but is one of the best and scariest films I have ever seen.

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24 Darthsavo May 29, 2008 at 4:39 am

Hate to be pedantic, but Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep WAS a novel… and not a short story as one reply above states. Sorry…

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25 Haakon May 29, 2008 at 5:13 am

what about Terry Gilliam’s two films, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Brazil. Not sure if Brazil flopped,but FALILV surely did by both box office and critics. I consider them both to be cult classics and i think they are two of the twenty best films i’ve ever seen. Soderberghs new film CHE is probably gonna do the same.

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26 VoldemortWearsPrada May 29, 2008 at 6:33 am

It’s a bit of an exaggeration to say that MGM were `severely disappointed’ by the initial performance of `Wizard of Oz’. It’s correct that it wasn’t a big financial success (it made its money back, but only just), but this was partially due to the fact that as a children’s film, a lot of the audience were paying half price. It got nominated for several Oscars, the contemporary reviews were largely positive, and Fox thought enough of it to rip it off (with `The Bluebird’) … there are films that have done worse!

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27 François May 29, 2008 at 6:43 am

No idea re box office draw (if any!), rentals, DVD sales, etc… but what about Plan 9 from Outer Space? Or is it too much of a cult following? (of which I am a member, obviously)

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28 zarvos May 29, 2008 at 7:06 am

Um, I’ll agree about “Big Lebowski”, & “Duck Soup” being missing. “Rocky Horror Picture Show” was definitely a bomb when released – nobody understood it at all and stayed away, then went on to become quite a cult classic. “Touch of Evil” is becoming known as a classic now – and that was another Welles bomb when released too.

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29 brigand13 May 29, 2008 at 7:49 am

Great list. I’m sure just about everyone can think of something they’d add to their to ten flops turned classics, but you’ve definitely rounded up 10 significant ones. Personally, I’d like to point out Boondock Saints. It only made around $37,000 in its domestic release but has become a favorite on DVD. And as a bonus, there’s a documentary (Overnight) that chronicles the trainwreck that making the movie became.

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30 sandee May 29, 2008 at 7:50 am

Shawshank Redemption!!

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31 Eric Melin May 29, 2008 at 7:56 am

Poor Welles had to deal with that a lot after “Kane.” Gilliam has that problem all the time too. Great comment! Is “Lady From Shanghai” considered a classic?
Agreed with Lynz- “Night of the Hunter” would have been perfect for this list. Big flop; hugely influential now.
Maybe the person above was thinking of “Minority Report,” which was a short story by Dick?
According the boxofficemojo, “The Blues Brothers” made $115,229,890 worlwide and cost about $26 million.
“The Thing” (1982) made $3 million more than it cost, but I was surprised to find that was all– thanks for the comment!

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32 Jamie January 28, 2012 at 12:55 pm

Make no mistake about it ‘The Thing’ was an bombastic flop. It not only failed to make money but it lost about $7 million after P&A were taken off. John Carpenter was also fired from directing ‘Firestarter’ as a result. The Thing was not a success in any way shape or form because it took 3 million more than it cost to make. Prints and Advertising are not included in the budget listings.

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33 Bill May 29, 2008 at 8:23 am

The Shawshenck Redemption doesn’t make the list? Total failure at the box office that totally caught on after it was released on video and on TV. The only real criticism that people have of this movie is that it is overplayed….

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34 Bozo May 29, 2008 at 8:36 am

what about Scarface?

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35 Dominic von Riedemann May 29, 2008 at 8:53 am

Walt Disney’s Fantasia deserves to be on that list as well. Made in 1940 for $2.2 million, the film only made $361,800 in its initial theatrical run, and its failure nearly bankrupted the studio. Despite winning two special Academy awards, the film was quickly forgotten until the late 1960′s, when teenagers and college students would get high and watch it at midnight screenings.

Now Fantasia is an acknowledged classic, widely regarded as one of Disney’s best films. It was selected for preservation by the U.S. National Film Registry at the Library of Congress in 1990 for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”. Seven years later, the American Film Institute put it at #58 on their list of the 100 Greatest American movies. The only other Disney film to make the list was Snow White.

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36 fairportfan May 29, 2008 at 9:00 am

“It’s a Wonderful Life” – enjoyed it when i was about fourteen. In my early twenties, i realised it’s almost the most over-rated film i’ve ever seen. I’d rather watch “Cheyenne Social Club” if i want to see a Jimmy Stewart film…

“The Wizard of Oz” – a terrible adaptation of a decent (but ovrrated) book. Might actually be worth watching if they’d been able to get Shirley Tempe, as they wanted to, and if W.C.Fields had played the Wizard, as intended at one point.

“Blade Runnder” – a silly waste of a decent SF novel’s title. (Not the book it’s supposedly “based on”, BTW.) Probably the best adaptation of a Philip K. Dick story, which isn’t saying much. Note that i say nothing of “accurate adaptation” of same, ‘cos it ain’t.

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37 Andy Marx May 29, 2008 at 9:02 am

Eric — Yes, I am related. Groucho was my grandfather, so I’m a little partial. But it’s still a great list. Nice job.

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38 justin May 29, 2008 at 9:25 am

I think #2 would be VERTIGO. Both critically and commercially bombing upon it’s release in 1958, forcing Hitchcock to end his association with Stewart and question his film making powers, it has since been considered the #2 best film of all time by Sight and Sound and has risen to the #8 spot from a ranking in the 80s on AFI’s Best Films.

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39 Tril May 29, 2008 at 9:32 am

When I first saw the title of this list, my first thought was “A Christmas Story.” Thank you, Joe (#21) for mentioning this as well. I know many families that cannot go through a holiday season without watching this movie.

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40 Morphling May 29, 2008 at 9:49 am

This was a top classics from 10 flops, not crittically acclaimed flops. Shawshank was a flop in terms of Box Office standards, and is definitely more of a classic then Darko?!?

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41 Kip May 29, 2008 at 10:06 am

Richard Kelly I’m sure has “nothing to do” with S. Darko on a creative level, but I tend to doubt its without some sort of official blessing, in exchange for some amount of official currency.

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42 Steve Logan May 29, 2008 at 10:25 am

I’d probably argue that Apocalypse Now and Raging Bull should also be included on this otherwise top notch list. Ok they did pretty well after a while, but initially reviews were mixed at best and the audiences weren’t exactly flocking in. I’m pretty sure Apocalypse Now made a loss (admittedly mostly because of the extravagant budget) and Raging Bull had an extremely slow start. Now they are considered bona fide classics, usually popping up in the occasional top 20 list; maybe Heaven’s Gate will enjoy the same revival…there again maybe not!

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43 freeman May 29, 2008 at 10:36 am

A well thought out list. But one absolute classic that most do not recall bombing but crash and burn it did and this was during the time exhibitors in many states were wrestling with “blind bidding” that is, contracting to guarantee money and terms, for a single film sometimes a year in advance without seeing one frame of film. On paper this seemed like a sure fire hit. A gargantuan best seller, a director of near universal acclaim, a star riding his high peak. The movie THE SHINING. The staggering losses by theatre owners on that film helped propel the outlawing of that egregious sales practice. But now THE SHINING is embraced as a classic of the genre.

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44 Manju May 29, 2008 at 10:48 am

I think you missed. Shawshank Redemption. You can hardly call it a cult since it is universally. It’s ranked second in IMDB though it was a flop when it was released.

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45 Rat May 29, 2008 at 10:57 am

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!

It was a box-office failure for Russ Meyer and this caused him to make Mondo Topless in order to restore his financial position.

Now, it has a spendid reputation and has John Waters’ famous endorsement. It did well when released last in 1995…

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46 Steven May 29, 2008 at 11:01 am

I know, I know, you could have a list of 30 flops-turned-classics and not name them all, but honestly… where’s Vertigo?

Critical failure, box-office bomb, and forgotten for 30+ years, but is now in the AFI top 10 movies of all time!

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47 The Underpants Monster May 29, 2008 at 11:06 am

I’m convinced that half of what dooms a movie to flopdom is marketing. So many times, the trailers and ads end up totally misrepresenting what you’re actually going to see in the theater. That was the case with “Blade Runner” and “Fight Club,” anyway. Even if it’s agreat movie, if it’s not what you went in expecting to see it’s going to seem bad.

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48 lambman May 29, 2008 at 11:10 am

awesome list guys, shows a good amount of knowledge of film history and had a link making fun of Michael Bolton! you rock!

I really enjoyed Southland Tales, but it is essential that you read the graphic novel prequel. The movie is actually quite deep, but unfortunately if you don’t read the prequel it is completely incomprehensible. After reading the prequel and rewatching the movie I loved it and thought Sean Williams Scott’s performance and character(s) were very moving

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49 Steven Ball May 29, 2008 at 11:19 am

Add The Misfits to your list – this movie which flopped in the ’60′s continues to grow in stature. No wonder – the B&W photography is beautiful – a script by Arthur Miller, direction by John Houston and great actors like Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, Montgomery Clift, Eli Wallach & Thelma Ritter. Eli Wallach BTW is still working in movies at age 90+.

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50 Alan Bacchus May 29, 2008 at 11:22 am

Great topic of conversation. Regarding Anil’s suggestion of “2001″, “A Clockwork Orange” and “The Shining” – all of those films were big box office successes. In fact, “Clockwork Orange” was the highest grossing film for Warner Bros in the year of its release. And it was Warners (under instructions from Kubrick) who took the film out of release in Britain only. “2001″ was the second highest grossing film from 1968.

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51 awas1980 May 29, 2008 at 11:48 am

Great list Eric. My personal addition is True Romance. It only made $11 million-ish. The cameos alone; Jack Black, Brad Pitt, Chris Walken, Gary Oldman, Sam Jackson, Balki, James Gandolfini, Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer…

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52 awas1980 May 29, 2008 at 12:07 pm

however, it’s more of a cult classic.

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53 Lisa May 29, 2008 at 12:21 pm

I didn’t see Donnie Darko right away – it didn’t play in my area very long when it came out and when it did, it was never at a time I could catch it. So I saw it on dvd and was blown away. I eventually picked up my own copy and when I sat to watch it again I was disappointed. All the luster had gone. Every time I watch it since, I find myself thinking “What is the point of watching this? I can skip to the end” because I realise that the entire middle plot is redundant. I suppose that is kind of the point Kelly is trying to make but for me, it makes watching this more than once painfully boring. Despite the excrutiatingly amazing ride we are taken on to realise Gyllenhaal’s character’s meaning of life, the whole subtext itself could be gotten there a lot sooner. The majority of the smaller subplots are much fascinating. IMO.

Great list though! Some good choices on there like Peeping Tom which really was ahead of its time. It’s staggeringly prophetic.

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54 KWIJIBO May 29, 2008 at 12:21 pm

Boondock Saints.

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55 Jose May 29, 2008 at 12:22 pm

You forgot about Scarface

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56 heather May 29, 2008 at 12:28 pm

Citizen Kane sucked

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57 Geoff May 29, 2008 at 12:33 pm

surprised not to see THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION on the list.

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58 Eric Melin May 29, 2008 at 12:34 pm

Yep. Sounds like “Vertigo” should definitely be on here, although I personally wouldn’t count “Boondock Saints” or “Scarface” as classics– but hey, these comments are great and the conversation is fantastic!

lambman- Glad somebody is accessing those links! Any mention of no-talent ass clowns should always link to a video of Michael Bolton showing why that nickname suits him so.

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59 Eric Melin May 29, 2008 at 12:38 pm

I covered my reason for not including “Shawshank” way up at comment #4, although admittedly, it’s not the best reason. It probably should be on there, but it was a contemporary Best Picture nominee, so it did receive a lot of attention when it came out, and I just didn’t have enough room…

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60 Cody May 29, 2008 at 12:40 pm

>>”“Fight Club” has been instrumental in changing attitudes towards corporate alienation and mass advertising/brainwashing.”<<

If by that you mean it’s extremely hypocritical and went on to embrace the crass commercialist materialism it supposedly lampoons.

“I am Jack’s video game tie-in”.

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61 warrian May 29, 2008 at 12:44 pm

Waterworld WAS a disaster, yes. But it was not a flop. It cost 175m to make (nearly twice its greenlit budget). It made 264m worldwide, more than covering its then preposterous budget and marketing costs. Not a hit per say but certainly not the flop it is so commonly referred to as being. Eric was right on this.

Shawshank Redemption cost 25m to make and pulled in 27m in the US alone (although it’s tough to see much of an international audience for that one). A flop by the standard that Wiz of Oz is a flop, yes. But still not a flop. Definitely a lock for the most overrated underrated movie of all time though. Cheers.

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62 zarvos May 29, 2008 at 12:48 pm

I remember “Raging Bull” doing decent boxoffice when it came out – and a LOT of critics loved it as well, calling it a new American classic right out of the gate. “Heaven’s Gate” was reviled from the start, critically and publicly – then in the 90′s, British film critics were rethinking the American criticism of “HG” saying it was more of a masterpiece than the critics gave it credit for in the 80′s. Even today, there are some American critics rethinking “HG” was a lot better as well. I’d have to take back my input of “Rocky Horror Picture Show” as it was more of a cult thing rather than a classic. But this is a great list to stimulate good discussion!

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63 Alan Bacchus May 29, 2008 at 12:52 pm

Hey Zarvos,
I saw Heaven’s Gate recently. It’s still heavily flawed, but it has some of the most lavish and gradiose scenes ever put to film. Some of the scenes are just unbelieveable actually. It’s worthy of a rediscovery.
Alan

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64 Ryan May 29, 2008 at 1:09 pm

While I will agree that the reviews for “Kane” were mixed, some of the reviews that were positive were extremely positive. I remember researching it for a paper in high school and picking up a book that had snippets of reviews and one of them said something along the lines of “I’ve been blown away, and a new era of cinema has been born.”

Also found this poking around the internet; it’s from another original 1941 review:

“The “stink” raised by Louella Parsons all over the country about Citizen Kane supposedly being the more or less authentic life-history of Citizen William Randolf Hearst…to me is a decidedly “fishy” one. Much more do I, and many others with whom I have talked, believe that this was a very clever advertising scheme that came out of the fertile brain of Citizen Welles who, in my opinion, would make as great a director of publicity as he has proven himself to be a director in the film.”

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65 Rottenberg May 29, 2008 at 1:15 pm

It’s tempting to think that “Heaven’s Gate” will remain reviled, but it looks like it’s finding a following among European viewers.

Still sucks though.

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66 Allison May 29, 2008 at 1:36 pm

So glad you mentioned Peeping Tom! Such a brilliant movie.

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67 Cornelius May 29, 2008 at 2:14 pm

Regarding #8 Shoebane’s comment, “Waterworld” made its budget back long ago during its theatrical run, thanks to international & domestic box-office receipts from people who wanted to know what the issue of its budget was all about. Look it up on IMDB or Wikipedia.

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68 Toni E May 29, 2008 at 2:18 pm

I second the Boondock Saints…
Almost 10 years later and people are still waiting for the sequel..

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69 Jack May 29, 2008 at 2:43 pm

There is no reason The Big Lebowski isn’t on this list, man. It was misunderstood when it came out, and now every major city has a lebowskifest every year.

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70 Bobby C May 29, 2008 at 2:45 pm

Agreed, Boondock Saints is remarkable. Unfortunately the whole Columbine incident killed its theater release.

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71 eviltimes May 29, 2008 at 3:13 pm

Southland Tales is a masterpiece. Funniest thing I’ve seen in years.

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72 littlegreenleaf May 29, 2008 at 3:22 pm

I’m down with all those except Citizen Cane. I tried to watch it because it was a ‘classic’ and so many critics have called it the best movie ever made. I slept through most of it. And I wasn’t even tired. I agree with one person, though. Shawshank Redemption should have definitely been on that list. Now, THAT’S a movie!

Thanks for the interesting info!

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73 Merritt May 29, 2008 at 3:48 pm

I’m not sure that I agree about the “Wizard of Oz” being included on this list. Keep in mind that the reviews were very positive. The studio must have been pleased with that. This is a very large budget picture that made back its cost of production – during the depression! Also, most of the box office receipts were in (reduced rate) children’s tickets, indicting that the seats were filled, one showing after another. Playing to a packed house is a consolation, even if that doesn’t improve the bottom line.
I’d like to throw in the name of another children’s movie which would fit this list – ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory” (1971). Its odd style and tone initially turned audiences off. It lost money on its initial release.

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74 PaulT May 29, 2008 at 5:18 pm

@Merritt: I think the list was about financial flops, not films that weren’t liked, so Wizard Of Oz does count since it barely made money on its initial release. Assuming Eric’s figures are right, $3m on a $2.8m movie is barely scraping your money back, especially if that’s a gross budget (i.e. not including ads and distribution). Willy Wonka wasn’t a blockbuster but it made its money back, $4m on a $3m budget according to IMDB domestic figures, not bad for 1971.

@Haakon(#27): Brazil didn’t really flop on an international level, but it had an extremely bad time in the US. I’m pretty sure that it was a success in Europe but the studio held up the release for over a year (Gilliam took out a full page ad in, I think, Variety or the NYT asking when they were going to release it). When they eventually did release it, the US print was cut to ribbons with an idiotic happy ending (as happened with Blade Runner).

As for me, I’d definitely add John Carpenter’s remake of The Thing to the list. It came out a few weeks after E.T., and audiences didn’t want to watch another movie about aliens. Especially one as brooding and nihilistic as that. But, it’s now considered one of the best horror movies of all time with a successful videogame sequel as well. 2001 was also a massive flop until they reissued it and targetted the advertising toward hippies.

I wish there was a reliable source for video/TV/DVD revenues though. I’d love to see how much money Blade Runner or The Thing have made since their original releases. I’d be willing to bet most of the movies in this list have made more money in the intervening years than most “successful” films of the same years.

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75 Yo Momma May 29, 2008 at 5:44 pm

Rick: Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep is in fact a full novel. Philip K. Dick wrote over a dozen novels during is career, something you would know if you knew anything about his work.

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76 Rob May 29, 2008 at 6:05 pm

Vertigo anyone? Hithcocks box off failure turned masterpeice

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77 evillyn May 29, 2008 at 6:52 pm

I think the Dark City recommendation was a good one. Only one person in this whole list appears to recognise it for the classic it is!Appreciating there are a few plot holes, I still have not met a single person who has seen it and not bought it for themselves. Also, am I the only person around who thought Donnie Darko was a bit of a pretentious waste of time?!?

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78 ChrisKnudsen May 29, 2008 at 7:20 pm

Dark City was Roger Ebert’s #1 movie of the year when it came out I believe and he has only done commentary on about 3 movies with Dark City being one of them.

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79 billy May 29, 2008 at 7:31 pm

What about star wars
A complete flop when it was released and now every year it seems to get more critical acclaim…

what..oh…I’ll get my coat.

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80 Alan Bacchus May 29, 2008 at 7:43 pm

2001: A Space Odyssey was the #2 film in the box office for 1968

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81 Elizabeth May 29, 2008 at 8:18 pm

You forgot “The Manchurian Candidate” (original version).

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82 Jeremy May 29, 2008 at 8:19 pm

These are all great movies for the list! I have one to add as well: Austin Powers. I worked in the movie theater when it came out, and that movie had the smallest audiences that summer (except for Speed 2)

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83 Jonathan May 29, 2008 at 8:57 pm

a few recent ones that are classics to me
(and possibly future classics for others)
that didnt murder the theatrical competition-

GRINDHOUSE
(Shame on the people who went to see “Are We Done Yet?” instead.)

A SCANNER DARKLY

THERE WILL BE BLOOD
(too many people have missed out on this brooding beast of a film)

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84 Louis Rogan May 29, 2008 at 9:12 pm

What about A Christmas Story? I remember how this film slowly gained recognition through syndicated holiday viewings, and by the time I was in high school (late 80′s), people were beginning to quote it and fervently look forward to it being on TV. Now of course it’s not only considered a holiday classic and must-see every season, it’s considered one of the smartest, most charming American satires of the past few decades.

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85 Dave A May 29, 2008 at 9:33 pm

wife and I saw Speed Racer together, she leaned over and said this is really kinda dumb. I said yes, they made a perfect movie of the 1960′s cartoon. the way the bad guys looked, the way they drove, the way the fight scene took longer than the hole race. it was perfect!

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86 Insomniac Non Sequitur May 29, 2008 at 9:41 pm

I agree with those who said Raging Bull should have definitely been on this list. It went nowhere at the box office, never got decent ratings on TV. In 1990, two critics polls named it the best film of the 1980′s, and a spectacular laserdisc edition was released by Criterion/Voyager. Since then, Raging Bull has found the wide audience it deserves.

I can’t believe no one has mentioned John Ford’s The Searchers, which should be one of the the top two on this list. Critics and audiences in 1955 were repulsed by the film’s in your face depiction of a psychotic bigoted mercenary – who was marketed as the film’s hero! John Wayne gives his hands down best performance as a man who embarks on an obsessive 5 year odyssey to find and MURDER his niece for the crime of being kidnapped and raped by Comanches. Through this framework, Ford shines a light on the racism, hypocrisy and genocide that built America. In the intervening years, The Searchers has found respect and admiration from critics, historians, filmmakers and general audiences, as repeated viewings revealed an extraordinary amount of depth and nuance, and an America torn by racial strife, global conflict and political and social upheaval was ready to take more critical look at itself. Ask any of the living directors of the films all of you have listed; while I haven’t met any of them, I guarantee they will say The Searchers was a huge influence on them, and if they don’t, they’re lying. Ask Spielberg, ask Scorsese, ask Lucas, Tarantino, Rodriguez, Shamylan, DePalma, Coppola, Eastwood, Besson, Woo, Soderbergh, Lee (Spike and Ang), The Coens, The Wachowskis; hell, ask any filmmaker worth anything working today what The Searchers means to them, and if they say, “nothing,” they’re lying or they’re not really worth anything. It’s one of the best movies EVER.

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87 Ikin May 29, 2008 at 10:27 pm

Um, Waterworld was a flop. It was made for 200 million, and made 90 million. do the math. It’s also not such a bad movie.

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88 Jamie January 28, 2012 at 12:48 pm

No it wasn’t, it was a hit. YOU do the Maths. And also do the research!

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89 Jason May 29, 2008 at 10:57 pm

I certainly agree with Harold and Maude, the blueprint of the term ‘cult film’. One of my favorite films of all time! I was assuming that Duck Soup would be on this list, yet it was overlooked. What about The Warriors, now regarded as a classic? Heaven’s Gate has way to many flaws to regard it as a ‘classic’, so I see why you’ll never see it on this list.
Perhaps you should do a list of ‘hidden gems’ or ‘forgotten classics’ these films might include:
Breaking Away, The Last Detail, The Elephant Man, Brewster McCloud, Innerspace, Iceman, Never Cry Wolf and others.

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90 TheMovie Whore May 29, 2008 at 11:19 pm

Cool list. You could easily do a tip 50. There are so many movies that make no money that go onto be those special flicks that you only hear about from a friend.

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91 jic May 29, 2008 at 11:19 pm

#74 PaulT: *Brazil* was released in the US in a shorter version (still over 2 hours), but had essentially the same ending as the European release. The version with the happy ending (often called “The Sheinberg Edit”) was not released theatrically, although it may have been shown on TV.

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92 jj May 30, 2008 at 5:25 am

Tough to call The Wizard of Oz or Its a Wonderful Life flops; both were nominated for multiple Oscars, including best picture. How about Night of the Hunter? It lost money, was misunderstood by critics, and Charles Laughton never directed again.

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93 PaulT May 30, 2008 at 10:42 am

#90 jin: OK, thanks, I didn’t realise that. I always thought the reason it was delayed in the US was mainly so that they could force through that ending.. Great thing about the Internet, you learn something every day :)

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94 JimW May 30, 2008 at 1:46 pm

I really enjoyed reading this, and I appreciate your inclusion of folms covering all of film history – not just recent productions.

Two comments:

“The Wizard of Oz” was one of the highest grossing films of 1939 and would not come under the heading of flop.

“Cleopatra” did not make a profit when it was released, or at any time. It lost a fortune and almost destroyed 20the Cnetury Fox.

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95 TW May 30, 2008 at 11:57 pm

I feel like this list missed one of the most obvious choices ever. The Matrix. Everyone saw this movie on DVD as opposed to the theaters. I mean it made Keanu Reeves a somewhat respectable star too…that is a flop-to-classic feat in itself.

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96 jic May 31, 2008 at 1:15 pm

#94 TW, *The Matrix* had a $63M production budget, grossed over $171M at the domestic box office, made over $288M in foreign markets, and came out to predominately favorable reviews. There is absolutely no way in which it can be considered anything but a massive critical and commercial hit.

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97 Phx333 May 31, 2008 at 2:36 pm
98 toebo23 May 31, 2008 at 11:09 pm

HOWARD THE DUCK

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99 Ron June 1, 2008 at 9:05 am

Wow! It took a while but I finally saw one poster (Jason) who mentions “Harold and Maude” Perhaps the others are too young to remember the 1971 movie. H&M does qualify as a box office disaster and also as a very funny dark comedy that is anti-war and anti-establishment. Ruth Gordon does her “kinky” role very well. And the very young Bod Cort does a fine job too. Over a decade later a movie called “Motorama” came out Another strange “dark” comedy starring another unknown young person on an adventure.

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100 jb June 2, 2008 at 7:35 am

big trouble in little china. biggest flop turned cult classic. james cameron still gets scared when mentioning the possibility of a sequel.

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101 PaulT June 2, 2008 at 5:40 pm

@jb: Surely you mean John Carpenter, not Cameron? Either way, good choice. About half of Carpenter’s movies probably fit into this category actually…

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102 jb June 2, 2008 at 6:50 pm

@paulT-yeah, you’re right. early morning surfing. but, if carpenter ever wanted to do a sequel, i’m not sure if i would ever want one. just look at the blasphemy that is the lost boys sequel. Lost Boys: the tribe. i died a little bit after i saw the trailer.

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103 Eric Melin June 3, 2008 at 3:26 pm

There’s a trailer already for The Lost Boys sequel? Ugh. Please post link!

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104 jb June 3, 2008 at 3:50 pm

lost boys was so good. but here is the trailer. don’t blame me if you jump off a cliff..

http://www.mtv.com/overdrive/?id=1583178&vid=215372

at least there’s a frog brother in it.

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105 AaronLocke June 6, 2008 at 4:19 pm

Not a bad list all in all, but I can’t believe that the Rocky Horror Picture Show didn’t make it. Not to mention, and correct me if I’m wrong here, but I’m pretty sure, by the standards of the time, The Wizard of Oz was a great success. Especially considering that it was released during a time of economic hardship. Most people could barely even afford to go to the movies. As for Citizen Kane, I’m not sure I’d keep it on the list. This is why: When Citizen Kane was released, everyone loved it. The reason it didn’t do well in box offices, and was reviewed poorly, was because it was a movie about William Randolph Hearst. It didn’t depict the powerful man very kindly, and actors, producers, etc that weren’t seen voicing dislike were blacklisted.

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106 sir jorge June 6, 2008 at 6:31 pm

this is a great list, #10 should be closer to the first spot.

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107 Sean June 8, 2008 at 1:19 am

Too short a list for such a great subject.

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108 Sam June 8, 2008 at 7:36 pm

I skimmed through the comments, but I was surprised to see that nobody mentioned Napolean Dynamite.

It was not that big of a hit in theater, but as soon as it went to DVD word of mouth spread like fire. For months straight you couldn’t go through a day without hearing someone make a quote or reference to Napolean Dynamite.

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109 ChrisKnudsen June 9, 2008 at 1:01 am

Napolean Dynamite wasn’t mentioned because it made 45 million dollars in theaters. For a movie that cost around 400,000 dollars to make, that is quite a big profit dude so yeah, a profit of 44.6 million dollars. It did however, do nothing overseas but still made more than 400,000 dollars.

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110 Andy June 9, 2008 at 1:44 am

you forgot Fear & Loathing

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111 jic June 9, 2008 at 9:03 am

Yeah, *Napolean Dynamite* was more of a ‘sleeper’ than a ‘flop turned classic’.

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112 Cordycepsis June 12, 2008 at 9:12 am

The Thing (1982 John Carpenter Remake) came to mind instantly when I saw this article pop up.

Thanks to it showing up in cinemas around the same time as its more cuddly alien counterpart, ET, a lot of the paranoia scares bit into people more fiercely than they’d expected. The film had an overwhelmingly bad reception initially, whereas these days, Rue Morgue (front page article plus interviews) and Universal (a full theme park style tour through gruesome Thing-Effects) celebrated its 25th Anniversary last year, and it continues to receive props from people who’ve never seen it.

It’s really a shame it didn’t make it into this list because holy crap, dude, that movie is a work of art.

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113 Cordycepsis June 12, 2008 at 9:15 am

–try to ignore all the mistakes in that comment and also add that: hell yeah I’m glad to see at least two other people bring up the film as well as the ET conundrum.

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114 triplehex June 16, 2008 at 1:05 pm

Sunshine will be in this list in some years from now.

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115 bopeep June 16, 2008 at 2:40 pm

Empire Records??

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116 ChrisKnudsen June 16, 2008 at 6:25 pm

Sunshine I can see but Empire Records? Really?

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117 KennyKenny June 24, 2008 at 10:05 pm

My nomination to this list would be Death to Smoochy.

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118 ChrisKnudsen June 25, 2008 at 12:47 am

My nomination for Death to Smoochy would be for the catagory of 5 dollar bin movies that make you go, “Hey I sort of remembered that. Wasn’t too fond of it though.” Or maybe the catagory of movies that would appear on TBS right before the infomercials.

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119 Mia July 31, 2008 at 12:40 pm

I never knew Fight Club was a flop! This site is fun AND educational! :)

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120 Rellie October 15, 2008 at 11:44 pm

I actually loved Fight Club. I frickin love Brad Pitt and I thought he brought hysterical life to the movie. His character and the main character were two very unexpected people that you would not find in life, but i know somehow this film related to someone in someway. I repsect your opinion, but I don’t think it was bad at all. FYI- The game is pretty fun too haha.

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121 Dale January 17, 2009 at 11:42 pm

Just saw Howard the Duck again– my kids and I loved it when they were around 8 or 10 I think? I think we saw it twenty years ago? (Over and over) Loved it! Great acting and songs, nice one-liners, makeup on the scientist amazing,and special effects not bad for back then. The funny thing is– I never realized it was based on comics.
I dont’ think George Lucas has anything to be ashamed of. So interesting to see young Tim Robbins. Whatever happened to that female star? Really liked her, and her voice.

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122 Lou,Broker September 1, 2009 at 2:47 am

It is clear that we have a lot to know at this moment and in my opinion, your points in Features are nice.

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123 Guy Mann October 30, 2009 at 8:08 pm

I know this is really late to the game since this list has been out for awhile now, but how about A Scanner Darkly? I am a huge Philip K Dick fan and that was, in my opinion, the most accurate portrayal of one of his works. It’s both an hilarious and deeply sad film that also looks amazing.

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124 jic November 1, 2009 at 9:06 pm

“how about A Scanner Darkly?”

It’s a good movie, but I don’t think it’s achieved the kind of mainstream “classic” status the movies on the list have. Maybe give it a few years…

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125 Kevin December 24, 2009 at 6:01 pm

You can include “Astro Boy” on your list of flops-turned-classics. It is an excellent all-ages film. Pixar-level animation, great script, effective voice acting, scenes that make you laugh and cry, and a lovable central character will, I believe, guarantee that it will achieve classic status in the coming years. Bad marketing, bad scheduling and yes, critical consensus hurt the film (some American critics were down on it before it even premiered, acting incredulous that it was well-reviewed in Australia), and that is a great shame. It deserved a better fate.

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126 Madman Moe January 2, 2011 at 12:37 pm

Amazing selection.

Though nobody has mentioned D.W. Griffith’s “Intolerance”, Buster Keaton’s “The General”, Fred Zinnemann’s “High Noon”, Mel Brooks’s “The Producers” or the Coen Brothers’ “Barton Fink”.

“Pinocchio”, “Fantasia” and “Bambi” were also duds on their initial release, and the three of them combined almost destroyed the Disney Studio after the huge success of “Snow White”.

A recent flop that will DEFINITELY become a classic is “Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World”.

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127 Nafan March 5, 2013 at 3:17 am

Scarface probably the best example. Friday. Friday set records for DVD sales. I would put Scarface, Friday, fight club, shawshank and even waterworld.

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