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These Beloved Movies Were Originally Massive Flops



Even though a ton of time and money goes into the rollout and promotion for new featured films, there’s never a guarantee that they will be successful from the jump. In fact, it’s harder to get people to theaters with the rise of streaming, and frankly, there’s a lot of choices these days.
But that doesn’t mean movies don’t gain traction later. With word of mouth still being a prominent promotional mechanism, good reviews and recommendations from others have made some movies favorites over time. These are films you know as classics, but originally flopped.

The Wizard of Oz

It may be one of – if not the most – beloved and nostalgic movies of all time, but The Wizard of Oz was anything but beloved when it was first released in 1939. Due to its high production cost and MGM’s willingness to throw tons of cash at large sets and elaborate costumes, the movie ended up losing about $1 million (which was quite a sum 70 years ago!).

Fight Club

This 1999 classic may be among the top 10 movies that dudes list as their all-time favorites, but the movie proved a massive failure at the box-office. On a $63 million budget, the movie grossed only half of that (plus a few extra million). It didn’t help, either, that its reception was lukewarm at best.

Blade Runner

It’s considered to be one of the most brilliant and revolutionary sci-fi films of the 20th century, but Blade Runner couldn’t even manage to earn back its own budget. After all, it was going up against some other pretty heavy-hitting competition in the sci-fi genre that same year: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, E.T., The Thing, and TRON.

It’s a Wonderful Life

Ne’er a holiday season passes that millions upon millions of people bundled up in their jammies with a mug of hot cocoa don’t enjoy this Christmas classic. After all, this movie is about as endearing as they get! Despite five Oscar nominations, the movie generated little buzz upon release and only made $3.3 million on a $3.18 million budget. Thank goodness people have realized since then what a fantastic movie it really is!

The Iron Giant

Considered today to be among the most heart-warming animated movies (up there with the most admired Disney movies), this tale about a boy and his robot failed to get much attention at the box office. On a $15 million budget, it amassed a meager $9.9 million. Ouch!

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

It really doesn’t matter what age you are, because the appeal of this movie is just about the same. In its years since release, Willy Wonka has become among the purest of nostalgic movies. While it didn’t lose money, it certainly didn’t have the return that the studio initially thought it would have. Thankfully, it was eventually put on television and home release where it found its way into people’s hearts.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Despite being well-regarded and generally all-around loved, this hilariously-good movie wasn’t exactly causing riots of laughter upon release. The movie ended up losing about $53 million!

Citizen Kane

This is one of those movies that’s on your list, but you’ve just never gotten around to seeing. Despite that, you still probably know the ending. This is one of the essential viewing experiences, and a true classic of cinema. But it was pretty controversial for its dark themes and its stab at the American Dream when it was released, and ended up losing more money than it made despite receiving nine Oscar nominations.

The Shawshank Redemption

Shawshank is among the most viewed and enjoyed movies of the 20th century, as well as having one of the most satisfying endings. It’s also the highest ranked movie on the user-rating site IMDB. But its depressing themes shied people away from it during its release, and it grossed only $16 million on a $25 million budget.

The Big Lebowski

This movie has undoubtedly become a cult classic since its release, as well as being a closely studied movie by film students. But not everyone understood its importance when it was released in 1998. Though it didn’t exactly lose money, it failed to make the impression on people that we assume it must have.

Donnie Darko

This dark tale about deception and dealing with our dark side didn’t resonate with audiences upon release like it does today. The film cost $4.5 million to make, but it only acquired $727,000 at the box office! Talk about a flop!


Considered to be the very beginning of the dawn of modern CGI, this movie ended up having a pretty high production budget ($17 million) for an 80s movie. Unfortunately it didn’t really pay off, at least not upon its initial release, though since then it has turned a profit.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

The place to be for any young person during 1975 was a movie theater for repeated viewings of the ever-popular Rocky Horror Picture Show. Though its plentiful re-releases in the decades since have rendered it among the most profitable musicals of all time, even the swarms of teens at midnight showings couldn’t boost its box office returns to great heights when it was first released.

Children of Men

This somber, futuristic film wasn’t as well-regarded 11 years ago as it is today, as it only garnered about $70 million on a $76 million budget. The movie had all the big talent – Clive Owen, Michael Caine, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofor – but even that couldn’t rake in the big bucks.


This David Bowie cult classic is considered an astounding feat today, but hardly garnered that sort of praise in 1986. The movie barely got back half of its original budget ($12.7 million in earnings on a $25 million budget). Jim Henson was quite disappointed at the movie’s poor reception.


While this was by no means a great loss for the box office, the revenue certainly didn’t reflect the popularity of the movie at the time. Plus, with a production budget of $44 million (which was equivalent to about a $344 million budget by today’s standards) it didn’t leave much room for great profit.


Widely considered to be Hitchcock’s masterpiece, that was a word far from people’s minds when it first released. Many found it inflated, self-absorbed, and just plain BORING. As a result, it only ended up making about $800,000 more than its own budget. Since then, however, many have come to see the error of their initial judgement.

Office Space

Whether you hate your daily grind job or don’t mind your job at all, this hilarious comedy is sure to give you more than a few belly laughs. The movie underperformed, however, and didn’t have nearly the draw it has today. While it didn’t exactly lose money, $800,00 is hardly the massive numbers that studios want to see.

Edge of Tomorrow

While by no means a box office failure, it was certainly a large decrease in the usual Tom Cruise action flick earnings. Since its release just three years ago, people have begun to realize how good of a movie it really is, with a fresh plot and amazing action scenes (and acting to match).


Despite being directed by the legendary Martin Scorsese and earning 11 Oscar nominations, Hugo ended up losing a whopping $100 million. Though many have come to view this as an impressive work of art from a genius filmmaker, it remains to this day among the biggest flops in recent history.


This intriguing film based off of the popular board game has a really cool novelty factor: multiple endings. Critics and audiences alike didn’t much care for that, and the movie ended up losing a massive amount of money (about $12 million!). Today, however, the negative perceptions have vastly changed, and many have come to truly love it.


Though many now have come to see this film as a hilarious view of social status and expectations, the slim amount of people who saw it in 1988 didn’t hold those same views. In the end, it only earned ⅓ of its production budget.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Among Johnny Depp’s more underrated movies, this oddball story about drugs and other such crazy things ended up gaining popularity when released on VHS, and has only gained more prominence since. Its theatrical release, however, proved extremely flimsy and ended up losing about $8 million.

Dazed & Confused

This movie is all about being young and reckless, and not giving a crap about it. Either audiences didn’t give a crap about it either or they just couldn’t relate, because it only made about $1.5 million. In the years since, however, the movie has found its footing, and it’s been enjoyed more and more with each passing year (especially as McConaughey fans devour all of his movies from his early years).


This imaginative, futuristic movie didn’t fare too well upon its initial release and ended up losing over $5 million. Today, it’s a cult classic. Many people have come to appreciate its themes and undertones, though the same cannot be said of the majority of theatergoers in 1985.

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