10 Great Movies That Bombed At The Box Office

Brad Pitt

Doing well at the box office doesn’t mean a movie is great. Fifty Shades of Grey, for example, is currently killing it in theaters, having already made upwards of $400 million, but critics and audiences everywhere agree that it does not live up to the hype.

The same goes for films that do poorly at the box office; it doesn't necessarily mean they are awful movies. Maybe they came out at the same time as other big budget films, or maybe they couldn’t reach their target audience. Luckily for some films, they are able to bounce back years after being released because of high video sales.

These types of movies are called “cult classics,” thanks to a following they gain solely from passionate fans that came to realize how great the movie was long after it left the theaters. These cult classics then make “Greatest Movies of All Time” lists despite being originally deemed a failure.

Everyone loves a good comeback story, and these 10 movies are now beloved by people everywhere, and are all considered great movies by critics and audiences alike. These 10 films were released everywhere from 1939 to 2012, and while they may not have made their respective studios a lot of money, they all became cinematic gems that audiences continue to watch religiously (one of the movies listed below even has its own religion). If you haven’t already seen the 10 films on this list, it’s time to make a date with your Netflix account.

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10 The Wizard Of Oz (1939) - $3 million 

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The Wizard Of Oz is as iconic as a film can get. That’s why it’s so surprising that it tanked at the box office in 1939, reeling in only $3 million. Because of the big sets and amazing special effects, it was MGM’s most expensive film at the time, with a budget of $2.7 million. Regardless, the studio had a hard time selling the movie to audiences. They were apprehensive of the premise; a young girl travelling to a wonderful place with a talking lion, scarecrow and tin man, in search of a wizard. The studio actually lost money, over a million dollars, because it was so expensive to produce and distribute. Even so, the film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture! Winning two of the four awards they were nominated for, Best Score and Best Song, the film became an instant classic. The Wizard Of Oz did well after it was released on video and eventually DVD and Blu-Ray, making up for the losses.

9 Donnie Darko (2001) - $4.1 million

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With actors like Jake Gyllenhaal, Drew Barrymore, and Patrick Swayze, you would think that the 2001 film Donnie Darko would have been a hit. Unfortunately it only made $4.1 million, not even making up its $4.5 million budget. Donnie Darko is a story of a young teen who begins to have visions about the end of the world. Critics gave the movie positive reviews, but audiences couldn’t wrap their heads around the quirky story and the troubled main character. The outstanding acting and directing make up for the odd plotline of the film, dealing with issues such as teen angst and spirituality, in a deeper way than we usually see on screen. Donnie Darko is now considered a cult classic and finds its way to every “Greatest Movies of All Time” list. Because the movie is still buzzed about, it was able to bring in a few more millions in the past decade.

8 The Big Lebowski (1998) - $17 million

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The Big Lebowski’s issue wasn’t the fact that it was a bad movie; it just happened to open the same weekend as Titanic, back in 1998. The Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, are famous for their engaging films that make the audience forget the ultimately unimportant plots. The Big Lebowski perfectly fits that description, with a storyline centered on a man called “The Dude” who gets caught up in a kidnapping scheme after a case of mistaken identity. Jeff Bridges stars in this crime comedy film that only made $5.5 million opening weekend and $17 million overall. Seeing as how it cost the Coen brothers $15 million to make, the film was instantly dubbed a failure. But over the years The Big Lebowski has gained a cult-like following, with an annual fan festival dedicated to the film and even a religion, where people look up to Bridges’ character as a God.

7 Seeking a Friend For the End of the World (2012) - $7.1 million

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In 2012, Steve Carell and Keira Knightley played two people who, together, face the end of the world. Seeking a Friend For the End of the World doesn’t sound like it could be a great movie, especially if you look at the fact that it only made $7.1 million at the box office, after taking $10 million to make, but the film has just the right mix of comedy and drama without coming across as trying too hard. Not to mention the fact that Carell and Knightley give great performances and have real chemistry. Critics had mostly positive reviews for the film, especially for the acting. There are also a few delightfully surprising cameos, such as Patton Oswalt, Connie Britton, Martin Sheen and Adam Brody, among others. It’s definitely a film to add to your Netflix queue.

6 Dazed and Confused (1993) - $7.6 million

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1993’s Dazed and Confused is responsible for starting the careers of some of Hollywood’s biggest and brightest, like Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck. But audiences weren’t receptive to a stoner comedy about teenagers, set on the last day of high school in Texas. The budget for the film was $6 million, and it only grossed $7.6 million at the box office. Even though audiences were not into it, critics raved about the film. Rotten Tomatoes stated, “…an excellent ensemble cast, a precise feel for the 1970s, and a killer soundtrack, Dazed and Confused is a funny, affectionate, and clear-eyed look at high school life.” The film continues to find itself on “Greatest Movies of All Time” lists everywhere and director Richard Linklater is currently filming a sequel of sorts titled That’s What I’m Talking About.

5 Office Space (1999) - $12 million

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Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, and David Herman starred in 1999’s Office Space, a film about the relatable idea of being fed up with your job. Although, as relatable as the film was, it only made around $12 million at the box office, with a budget of $10 million. Writer and director Mike Judge was less than pleased at the reception, stating “Office Space isn’t like American Pie, it doesn’t have the kind of jokes that you put in a 15-second television spot of somebody getting hit on the head with a frying pan. It's sly. And let me tell you, sly is hard to sell." Even though the film had a hard time at the box office, it succeeded in VHS and DVD sales, selling almost 3 million copies and bringing in another $8 million. Office Space made Entertainment Weekly’s “25 Great Comedies From the Past 25 Years” list, ranking fifth.

4 The Shawshank Redemption (1994) - $16 million

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The Shawshank Redemption was nominated for seven Academy Awards in 1994, Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Original Score, and Best Sound Mixing. It also became one of the top rented films of 1995. Even so, the film only made $16 million at the box office; with a budget of $25 million, it was a huge failure for Columbia Pictures. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman star in this movie about prison, freedom, innocence, and money laundering operations. Despite poor box office standings, the film is considered a classic and has made another $12 million since being released. The Shawshank Redemption made the American Film Institute's list of the best 100 movies of the past 100 years and is the #1 film on IMDb.com's Top 250 list. Morgan Freeman recently stated, “About everywhere you go, people say, The Shawshank Redemption – greatest movie I ever saw.”

3 Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010) - $40 million

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Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was released in 2010 and seemed to impress only the geekiest of the comic-book nerds. The film’s budget was $85 million, yet it only grossed around $40 million. Michael Cera plays Scott Pilgrim, a musician that has to defeat a cute Amazon.com delivery girl’s ex boyfriends in order to date her. Yes, it sounds ridiculous, and admittedly it is, but that’s what makes it so great. The film is inspired by comics, video games, anime and manga, which is obvious in its visual effects and art direction. Michael Cera gives a great performance, and is lucky to have a stellar supporting cast as well, including Chris Evans and Anna Kendrick. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is a must-watch, for the stunning visuals alone. It truly is a comic book brought to life.

2 Blade Runner (1982) - $33.8 million

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Blade Runner may be preserved in the National Film Registry, deemed “culturally, historically, and aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress, but this classic sci-fi film famously tanked when it came out in 1982. With a budget of $28 million, Blade Runner only made $33.8 million at the box office. Critics say it might have failed because it came out after the popularity of Star Wars, and audiences were tired of the science-fiction genre. Even though critics and audiences were not initially impressed, the film was nominated for numerous awards, including two Academy Awards, Best Art Direction and Best Effects. Blade Runner, starring Harrison Ford, centers on robots in a dystopian future that are hunted down by special police officers called “Blade Runners.” The film has a cult following now and is regarded as one of the best science fiction films ever made.

1 Fight Club (1999) - $37 million

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Fight Club, starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt, was released in 1999. With a budget of $63 million, and based on a best-selling book by Chuck Palahniuk, everyone had high hopes for the film. Unfortunately, it only made $37 million at the box office and it touched a nerve with critics, who were torn between loving and hating it. Because it was so controversial and talked-about, it continued to gain popularity (and an Academy Award nomination for Best Sound Editing) long after it left theaters. Fight Club is the story about a protagonist so unhappy with his life that he turns to organized violence and befriends the type of guy he wishes he could be. Another $70 million in sales later, Fight Club is a comeback story in itself, becoming a successful film years after being released and is the definition of a cult classic.

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