Facts of life: not all films are created equally. Many films are masterpieces, celebrated in their time, while others are often either forgotten or neglected. Even great movies are vulnerable to being overlooked in their day. Many films that are now considered masterpieces were, upon release, ignored.
It might stun modern film buffs which films were ignored by the general populace. Some flopped upon release. Others just remained misunderstood by critics. Some films needed the VHS market to be rediscovered or perhaps the films were just ahead of their time. Some films are victims of circumstance, falling through the cracks due to a poor release date or something. Either way, many masterful films were neglected upon release. Here are just ten movies that audiences could not have cared less about upon release.
The final film by Jim Henson, Labyrinth is often remembered for its fantastic imagination, puppets, and David Bowie being David Bowie. However, without the VHS market, the film wouldn't be remembered at all.
Jim Henson spent years of his life constructing this masterpiece of family entertainment, but the film barely left any impact on audiences during its theatrical run. Sadly, Henson passed away before the film became a cult classic on video, but the man's magnum opus lives on in the memories of children of the 80s and 90s.
9 Requiem for a Dream
Requiem for a Dream is a bleak film without any hope. Darren Aronofsky has built his career on depressing audiences to the breaking point with his cynical depictions of humanity.
However, arguably his most depressing film, Requiem for a Dream, failed to make any money. Not only that, but it failed to impress critics. In arguably one of the worst snubs in Oscar History, Ellen Burstyn lost an Oscar to Julia Roberts in Erin Brockovich. Not to say that Julia Roberts did a bad job, but Ellen Burstyn was on another level with her performance.
8 The Iron Giant
Brad Bird has directed some of the most beloved family films of all time. For many, The Iron Giant is his greatest work. It helped introduce the world to mega-star Vin Diesel, after all. But the film wasn't a success until it hit video.
In theaters, the film flopped, making only $31.3 million in its whole run. To give you an idea how little that is, Captain Marvel made more money on its first Friday than The Iron Giant made in its entire run. Period.
7 Donnie Darko
Donnie Darko is a film designed to be watched on video. It's the sort of weird film you can't market with trailers or commercials, but through word of mouth. So it should come as no surprise that this strange film took a long time to find its cult audience.
The film grossed a mere $7.5 million in its entire box office run. To say it bombed is putting it mildly. The film only made a profit thanks to its incredible VHS sales. But that's it.
6 Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Scott Pilgrim vs. The World was beloved by people who saw it. But the problem is...no one really saw it. The film's marketing never caught on, which resulted in virtually no one showing up to see the comic adaptation in theaters. It didn't help that it came out at the tail end of the summer season, and people were burned out from movie fatigue.
Only when the movie came onto video did it become a modern cult hit. However, it caught on so fast that people stopped even realizing that it failed at the box office. It's remarkable, really.
5 Office Space
This is a film that really caught on thanks to television airing it all the time. The workplace comedy made next to nothing at the box office upon release, pulling in a downright underwhelming $12.2 million.
However, repeated airings on television drew people to the quirky comedy. The film has since become one of the most widely beloved comedies of all time, despite the fact that, until television forced it down our throats, no one knew the film even existed.
4 It's a Wonderful Life
Arguably one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time, It's a Wonderful Life failed so much at the box office that it actually killed the film studio that produced it.
In fact, it failed so much that no one wanted anything to do with it. It's because of this that the price for televising it dropped. A lot. Networks hoping to fill air time bought the rights to it during the holiday season, which led to people rediscovering it. It's since found its audience, and is now regarded as one of the greatest holiday films ever made.
3 The Thing
John Carpenter's horror classic is now regarded as arguably the scariest film ever made. But when it came out, no one saw it. Carpenter and his team poured their creative talents into what ultimately flopped at the box office.
But more than that, critics hated the film, calling it an unnecessarily grizzly remake of a scifi classic. Its failure cost Carpenter a chance to direct an adaptation of Stephen King's Firestarter. Since then, the film has become regarded as Carpenter's greatest film, possibly only topped by Halloween.
It is unfair to say that Vertigo failed upon release, but audiences were divided on the film. While today it's ranked among the greatest films of all time, most audiences felt indifferent to it. The film's concepts confused them, it didn't make sense, and compared to Hitchcock's earlier films, it felt downright dull. Of all of the director's films, it didn't become quite much of a hit, especially when compared to his following film: Psycho.
Since then, Vertigo has become regarded as a cinematic masterpiece. AFI ranks it as one of the greatest films ever made, above even Psycho.
1 The Shawshank Redemption
Shock of all shocks: The Shawshank Redemption failed upon release. This one is pretty well-known. The film failed to find an audience upon release. It drew in $58.3 million on a $25 million production budget, which doesn't sound so bad until you take into consideration the marketing budget. The film barely brought in a profit.
Then came the Oscars, where it lost to Forest Gump, despite being nominated for everything. Again, this doesn't sound so bad out of context, but just consider this: this film tops IMDB's Greatest Movies of All Time list. By popular vote, this is the greatest film ever made. And it only broke even and lost awards. That...that is staggering!