So many films that we love and adore today upon their release were total bombs. Not only did they fail at the box office but for the most part, they were critically drummed. Time and distance has made the heart grow fonder and allowed a film, that might have been ahead of its time, find the right audience. Here are ten films that failed upon release that are now cult film hits.
The Big Lebowski
After laying around collecting dust like The Dude on a weekend bender, Lebowski started appearing in midnight screenings and was discovered by stoners. From there, the quirky collection of character’s and instantly quotable lines was warmly embraced and has proven to be a huge hit on DVD and Blu-Ray.
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro give the performances of their career in what is easily the one of the best, if not the best, Terry Gilliam films. Its odd blend of visuals, ludicrous drug use and paranoia styling would be a hard pill to swallow for the masses. Thankfully, the release of the Criterion Edition helped people discover this disturbing film and the masses have recognized it for the classic it really is.
Odds are if you are reading this list, you probably weren’t born or were too young to remember this even being released in theaters. What you probably remember is owning it on VHS as it was one of the first retail priced movies to hit the market. The best board game adaptation ever, Clue has an all star ensemble cast that keeps the comedy and action going till the four different endings wrap it all up.
FOX and director Mike Judge have a love/hate relationship. That’s the only way I can explain why they keep giving him money to make movies then dump in theaters with little to no marketing. Office Space went from cinemas to home video faster than it take you to fill out the TPS report. This take on modern office life is relatable to almost every cube monkey. Now quit reading this and get back to work…mmmk.
The first of rule of Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Fight Club. Maybe that’s why it tanked at the box office. No one was talking about it. Actually, it was quite the opposite. Seen as a largely subversive film that could upset the status quo, people boycotted Fight Club. Normally that would send the masses out in droves to see it but in this case; the ultra violence was a bit too much. Time has been kind to Fight Club, it is now largely regarded as one of the ten best films of the 90’s.
After conquering the music scene with parodies of Michael Jackson and Madonna, it only seemed natural that Weird Al Yankovic would take his wacky hijinks to the big screen. After testing incredibly well with test audiences, Orion Films was ready for a big payday by opening the quirky comedy in the same summer as Batman, Lethal Weapon 2 and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. After years of being tied up in the fallout of Orion’s bankruptcy, it finally emerged on DVD to great fanfare.
Cost: $2-4 million
That’s not a mistake. The second Mike Judge film to make this list was released in only seven cities and rumor has it that FOX tried to keep as many people from seeing it as possible. They did no trailers, no press screenings and only released one poster. The executives probably largely feared the anti-corporate message of the film would not sit well with advertisers. But when you have Luke Wilson as an average Joe and Maya Rudolph as a hooker frozen for 500 years only be reawakened to discover that they are the smartest people on Earth, you know this movie would be a cult hit. And as the Carl Jr.’s of the future would say, “Fuck off, I’m eating.”
Gremlins 2: The Next Batch
The 80’s were all about the sequel. By the time Gremlins 2: The Next Batch was released, audiences had suffered through Another Stakeout and Weekend at Bernie’s II. Seeing G2 as a cash grab, it was largely ignored and thought of as a cinematic mistake. While the original is a scary family film, Gremlins 2 is complete satire and forgoes scares for campy action and odd musical numbers.
After hitting it big with Hellraiser, Clive Barker was mega hot. Barker followed up his success with an odd horror fantasy film based off his book Cabal called Nightbreed. The response to Nightbreed was less than stellar as FOX (they keep popping up over and over again) marketed the film as a slasher when it is really a monster movie where the monsters are the good guys. Fans found the film over the years and it has slowly emerged from its horrific beginning to becoming a film of mythos as a purported two and half hour director’s version exists. Upon its release filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky called the film “the first truly gay horror fantasy epic.” If that doesn’t make you want to see it, nothing will.
When you say Flash Gordon these days, most people will sing “FLASH….AHHHHHHHH”. The great Queen soundtrack is the most remembered thing about the film. Having just watched the blu-ray release, I have to admit it’s an amazing film. The color palate is ridiculous. The over the top costume design and camp style sealed it in the hearts and minds of fans over the years. These days the goofy dialogue, misplaced football scene and general oddness of the film still find fans singing “FLASH….AHHHHHH! Savior of the Universe!”
What are your favorite crap films that have turned to cult gold?