The film industry spends billions of dollars producing, filming, and promoting motion pictures that are expected to become box office hits. 2016 is coming to an end, and Hollywood continues to bet on bringing back popular titles like It, or adapting comics like Wonder Woman, all wanting to replicate the success of other franchises like Star Wars.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens reunited some of the original cast, introduced us to new characters, and gave continuity to the Skywalker legacy. The stakes were high. Lucas wasn’t going to direct the sequel, and Disney had bought the rights, a fact that scared both fans and critics alike. Nevertheless, the film lived up to the public expectations, and nowadays it continues to make profits almost a year after its release.
Once again, Disney is expecting to apply the winning formula with Star Wars: Rogue One, a story which will link the ending of episode three, with the beginning of the original trilogy. However, not all films can be as successful as Star Wars. Original stories or remakes can fall into the category of box office flops. Ghostbusters is the best example of how having an A-list cast, a good story, and a big budget is not synonymous of profits. From the US$144,000,000 budget it had, it only grossed US$ 124,956,153.
The success or failure of a movie cannot be limited to how much it gets in the box office. Many motion pictures we now consider to be cult films received bad reviews and failed to make profits. It took them a few years to be reevaluated, but they eventually were recognized as cult films. The following list presents those features which were box office flops and later became movie classics, proving that the quality of the film has nothing to do with the number of viewers it gets on its first opening weekend.
Blade Runner (1982), Ridley Scott
Ridley Scott became one of the most famous film directors after shooting this movie, and science fiction was, once again, a respected genre in the film industry.
Despite the fact that now it is considered a classic, critics and viewers at that time didn’t understand it and didn’t appreciate Scott’s work or Harrison Ford’s performance. The reviews didn’t help the popularity of the film, and so it suffered in the box office.
Shawshank Redemption (1994), Frank Darabont
Those who think having Morgan Freeman in a movie is synonymous of success, need to reconsider their opinion. Shawshank Redemption had everything to become a hit. It had two extraordinary actors tell the story of a man who was wrongly convicted but tried to keep his hopes up. The movie was overshadowed by Forrest Gump. Out of the US$25 million budget it had, Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbin’s film only made US$3.5 million.
Fight Club (1999), David Fincher
David Fincher’s adaptation of Chuck Palahniuk wasn’t successful on the big screen; it was quickly forgotten by the audience after its premiere. Nevertheless, when the movie was released on DVD, it gained a devoted following. It is ironic that a movie that criticizes capitalism and preaches about nihilism could become so popular.
Citizen Kane (1941), Orson Welles
Many people consider this to be the greatest film in history. A masterful two-hour film directed by a young man. Orson Welles was 26 by the time the movie appeared on the big screen; however, he wasn’t as famous as he is now. The critics’ lack of faith in Welles resulted in bad reviews for the motion picture, which turned the movie into a box office flop. Fortunately, the critics redeemed themselves years later and cataloged the picture as a masterpiece.
Children of Men (2006), Alfonso Cuarón
Ten years ago, Cuarón was not considered part of the elite of Hollywood directors, but this film made him an A-list celebrity. This movie was barely profitable during its opening week, but it managed to come out of the dark and become a success, first in England and then in the rest of the world.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998), Terry Gilliam
Terry Gilliam filmed through the heat of the desert and captured Johnny Deep’s best performance up to this day. He did the impossible by successfully adapting a countercultural American story to the big screen. With a budget of US$18 million, it only grossed US$ 10.5 million. However, the combination of a great director, cast, and story, made of this motion picture a cult film. Gilliam has relentlessly continued to direct powerful films for the past decades.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946), Frank Capra
This classic American film was forgotten until the seventies. TV networks recovered the motion picture and included it in their holiday’s broadcasts. The rights of this production were public domain and as a consequence, it was also transmitted around the world, becoming a favorite film of the season.
Scott Pilgrim vs The World (2010), Edgar Wright
Wright’s attempt of bringing to the big screen one of the best comics in the last decades resulted in the loss of US$ 12 million. Michael Cera’s performance wasn’t enough to rescue the film from its box office failure. The movie also failed to be globally released, and at the end it only grossed US$48 million out of the US$60 million budget invested in its production.
The Wizard of Oz (1939), Victor Fleming/ George Cukor/ Mervyn LeRoy/ King Vidor/ Norman Taurog
Another great movie, which also turned out to be a great failure. MGM was betting for this to be the film of the year, as it had a memorable story and a charming cast. However, the movie barely made profits. Now it is a classic and everyone can sing “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” at the drop of a hat.
Hugo (2010), Martin Scorsese
This was Scorsese’s first attempt at making a children’s movie. Despite been backed up by the name of the talented director, the film wasn’t appealing to the audience. It only grossed US$15 million more than its original budget.
Other films that were not so famous, but are worth watching because of its well-written stories are:
The Iron Giant (1999), Brad Bird
Brazil (1985), Terry Gilliam
The Fountain (2006), Darren Aronofsky
Sunshine (2007), Danny Boyle
Dredd (2012), Pete Travis