Five Successful Movies That Failed In Theaters

Movies can transport us to far off places, taking us out of the monotony of our daily lives.

Movies can be a touchy subject for people. Movies can transport us to far off places, taking us out of the monotony of our daily lives. They lift us up, make us feel emotions, see similarities in our lives, and take away the hurt and pain we can often feel. We all have our favorites that we will talk about defending if anyone speaks ill of them. In a way, they become our best friends.

Many times, the media, producers, and more will try to get us to like certain films by adding big named actors, flashy marketing, and lots of CGI filled commercials. At other times, a movie will quietly sneak on the scene that we never heard of. In the end, it is us, the consumers, that can determine if a movie is a failure or success. Many times, those successes do not happen at the box office. 

Today, we will look at 5 Successful Movies That Failed in Theaters.

Why movies fail

A box office flop or a bomb, as it is often called, is a film that fails to make at least the film’s budget back in sales to the public. The reasons they may be failures are varied and sometimes do not have to do with interest in the film. There are times that the expectation of a movie is so high and budget spending is crazy and a simple critic review can tank the turn out. 

Maybe it was poorly directed, coming from a director that may have taken heat in the media for a past project or is known for not taking a popular approach on the film. Sometimes a movie can bomb because the writing was not that strong and no matter how many well known actors you can throw at will can save it. We are looking at you Catwoman starring Halle Berry).

Then there are times where the marketing budget for the film just doesn’t get it out there for enough people to hear about to make an impact. This is an especially big problem for indie filmmakers. Without a studio and marketing department, many incredible movies are left collecting dust on the shelves.

Another big reason that movies may fail in theaters are critics. It can be surprising how much influence one person can have on millions. Yet, the likes of Siskel and Ebert, Rotten Tomatoes, and other critics can, with a few choice words, cause people to flock to the movies in droves or ignore the opening weekend. We as consumers often fall prey to what others think should be popular instead of following our own likes and dislikes.

5 Success Movies That Failed In Theaters

No matter the reason, there are always box office failures. Many of these films are forgotten in vaults, rarely to see the light. We forget them until someone finds some redeeming quality that was there all along and brings them back to light. Then there are those that bomb theaters and go on to become the sleeper hits, the cult classics. These 5 movies below are some of the best of those Box Office Bombs.

5. It’s A Wonderful Life

It is weird that a holiday can cause a movie to bomb as well as save it for future posterity. Many are probably surprised to see this Christmas staple in this list. When “It’s A Wonderful LIfe” was released in 1946, it did not do well. That could be from a multitude of reasons. By its release date, World War II had ended but the world had not bounced back. During this time frame, people weren’t going to movies. Many of which couldn’t afford it Though, its opening weekend was one of the strongest, it did not even come close to making back its meager, by today’s standard, $2.3 million budget.

By 1974, the movie’s copyright expired and it became public domain, that was when the TV networks stepped in and picked it up. From then on, you could count on it turning up at every Christmas and by that, solidifying its place in the Christmas Movie Canon.

4. Big Trouble in Little China

Big Trouble in Little China is a quirky action-comedy that was a critical and commercial failure at the time of its release. Starring Kurt Russell as a truck driver who gets sucked into a supernatural gang war in San Francisco’s Chinatown, this movie is full of ridiculous dialogue, over-the-top fight scenes, and a villain who can shoot lightning out of his mouth. It’s a bizarre and hilarious ride that deserves more love than it got back in the day.

3.Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Roald Dahl’s classic novel debuted on the big screen in 1971. At the time of it’s release it only managed to scrape together $4millions, which thankfully was $1million more than the budget to create it. Many remarked that the movie shouldn’t be shown to children, due to a couple scenes that were felt to be too scary or similar to a drug experience (according to urban legend).

Gene Wilder, who has seen much success in his career, couldn’t even save this film. Beautiful shots and deadpan comedy make this a really great movie. Combine that with a story about a boy with his desire to make his family better and love of chocolate, how could it have tanked? Again, it was television that allowed this movie to bounce back. Unfortunately, Paramount Pictures forgot to renew its distribution deal and Warner Brothers stepped in to pick it up. This is where it saw a surge in viewership and gained its place in all time favorites. The more recent adaptations have helped it’s popularity to grow, as well.

2.Blade Runner/Blade Runner 2049

I include both here because they both faired similar issues in the places in movie history. The most iconic sci-fi movie of the 80s has influenced this genre and so many  movies alike. Critics at the time also praised its uniqueness and cinematic beauty.  The first Blade Runner was produced by Ridley Scott, who has been heralded as THE sci-fi director. This movie was well paced, brillant special effects, and amazing world building. Columbia Records was quoted as calling it “science fiction pornography” and Roger Ebert described its human story as “cliched and a little thin.”  However, it failed to bring in the money that was expected. 

A short 30 years later, we witnessed a return to the Blade Runner universe with director Denis Villeneuve. Villeneuve casted Ryan Gosling, who had been on his career height at the time, as the lead to this installment. This visit back to the universe was expected to break box office records, it seemed to carry on the legacy of its predecessor. 

Today, both are heralded as some of the most acclaimed cult films ever to be made. With the television releases, home video formats, critics and viewers alike, have had more time to analyze and see why these films are cornerstones to their genre and the influence they have given to it.

1. The Princess Bride

Considered a post-modern fairytale, Rob Reiner’s classic, The Princess Bride was much loved by audiences and critics at its release in 1987. It received top marks from most critics, even taking a “rare A+ form CinemaScore.”  It was filmed on a budge of $16 millions and walked away grossing just $30.9 million. Many can argue that it received a smaller reception due to its opening being in direct competition with other movie greats like Dirty Dancing and Fatal Attraction.

“The Princess Bride” has since become a beloved classic, but didn’t do so hot at the box office when it first came out. This fairy tale adventure, starring Cary Elwes and Robin Wright, has everything – romance, comedy, sword fights, rodents of unusual size, and a quotable script that has stood the test of time. Like the rest of the list, its cult following came when it was released to video and its quotability factor.  If you haven’t seen it yet, do yourself a favor and check it out. This number one spot will stay with us for many more years to come, thanks to it being preserved by the National FIlm Registry in 2016.

Taste Matters

So there you have it, folks – some of the best movies from the 1980s that were considered letdowns at the box office but are now cherished by viewers. Whether you’re in the mood for a fantastical adventure, a sci-fi mind trip, or a timeless love story, there’s something on this list for everyone. And hey, if nothing else, you’ll have some great recommendations for your next movie night.


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