Have you ever wondered how many great films fly under the radar because they didn’t earn much at the time of release?
I recently came across a post where someone asked the Internet, “What’s a movie that bombed at the box office but was actually good?” Here are the top-voted answers.
1. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Cinephiles brand this movie as a classic, but it actually didn’t attract much ticket sales when it was new to theaters. Kids in the audience were freaked out by the movie’s unsettling tone and morbid turn of events. People in the thread recalled a “wonderfully terrifying” scene involving a beheaded chicken; just one of its many unpredictable plot points. Others praised Gene Wilder’s portrayal of the whimsical chocolate factory owner, making the character’s eeriness all the more believable.
2. The Thing (1982)
This engrossing horror film is now studied in schools for its special effects and ability to invoke a creeping sense of paranoia in movie-goers but was underappreciated by the general public when it came out.
Someone wrote that the actors were “deliberately kept in the dark about who was actually a ‘thing’”, so viewers could closely empathize with their visceral, true-to-life reactions. This likely explains why everyone who has seen the film says it’s highly immersive.
3. Tremors (1990)
This horror movie starring Kevin Bacon didn’t draw in many attendees at the time of release, but those who did see the film enjoyed it immensely. Users noted that the plot advances very smoothly, making it especially gripping. Its near-perfect pacing combined with a top-notch script gives it “quintessential cult classic” status, according to many.
4. Office Space (1999)
This comedy may have performed poorly at the box office, but sustained relevance in the long term. Several users mentioned that the movie is more relatable when you rewatch it at a mature age. An individual shared that it depicted some hilarious similarities with their 13 years of experience at an office job. A second person remarked, “you either retire young or you work long enough to see yourself become the Milton.”
5. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
The Shawshank Redemption is a film that was notorious for flopping at the box office but later went on to receive critical acclaim. It is currently the most highly rated movie on the review site IMDb and was shot by Roger Deakins, one of the best cinematographers in film.
People in the thread raved about how masterfully it handled taboo topics such as criminals and the prison system. Labeled as a feel-good drama, it seems to have resonated strongly with its audience and struck an emotional chord in them.
6. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)
This movie directed by Peter Weir fell victim to bad luck in terms of profit. However, critics recognized that there was something special about this movie set during the Napoleonic Wars, and so it got nominated for ten Academy Awards that year.
One person explained that this maritime thriller never got its breakout moment as it had to compete with blockbuster franchises; particularly, The Pirates of the Caribbean and The Lord of the Rings. They talked about how regretful it was that most people have never heard of the film, despite it being a “masterpiece”.
7. Matilda (1996)
People were shocked to learn that this book-to-movie adaptation actually bombed when it first opened at the box office. Several users listed reasons why they assumed it was beloved by the majority of their generation: the incredible cast, entertaining plot, and hard-hitting themes of youth and family.
8. Clue (1985)
Given its influence on pop culture, many found it surprising that the movie didn’t break even commercially. One user suggested that its marketing shtick was to blame: they aired three different versions, each with alternate story endings. This led to the audience having the “expectation that they would pay for three separate viewings of a movie that was 98% the same, for just a 2% difference”. Nevertheless, this comedy’s star-studded ensemble makes it stand out among other VHS staples.
9. The Princess Bride (1987)
While not technically a “box office bomb” – The Princess Bride grossed $31 million in theaters, after all – there is a huge disparity in its popularity decades after release. At the time, it could not be categorized into one genre; it contained elements of fantasy, action, and comedy, while still being wholesome enough for general audiences.
Some inferred that this was why it missed out on better reception. Many people associate the film with vivid memories of their younger years and love it for the nostalgia it brings.
10. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
This movie bombed so hard that the studio that made it nearly closed down. It only earned its status as “one of the best Christmas movies” ever, according to users in the thread, when it started airing on TV every holiday season.
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