Often times, any studio’s initial plans for a film’s release aren’t set in stone. Release dates are set and then, for one reason or another, pushed back, instigating rumors of cancellation or poor quality. Take the recent opening of Masterminds, for example. Though originally scheduled for an August 19th release last year, Relativity Media’s financial struggles forced them to push back their film well over a year to October 9th, which was then moved up to September 30th. When a movie like Masterminds has significant star power attached, it can be just as frustrating for viewers as it is for studio employees and the filmmakers.
Nonetheless, the kneejerk reaction among many to pushing back a movie’s release is to question the movie’s quality; if it was pushed back, it must not be worth the time. Sometimes, that holds true; other times, though, we're proven gratefully wrong. Here are 17 Delayed Movies That Were Worth The Wait.
17 The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
Few films are as unlucky as The Cabin in the Woods. From the moment the original promotional content was released, people could tell that the Joss Whedon/Drew Goddard collaboration would turn some heads, with numerous one-sheets skewering the horror genre’s conventions. Whedon even referred to the film as a “loving hate letter.” Though originally scheduled for February 5th, 2010, it was delayed nearly a year to convert to 3-D, but after MGM started declining, Lionsgate snapped it up and set it back another year and change before it could be shelved indefinitely.
Any preconceived notions about the film’s worth were dashed from the first scene, featuring some disarming workroom banter from Richard Jenkins and Bradley Whitford, and the incisive subversion only gets sharper from there. Between the kids and those underground, both sides of the story are compelling in their own right. Those underground arguably aren’t antagonists at all, and for a change, these starry-eyed coeds are likeable, smart and in other ways different from most cannon fodder that’s come before them. Not that watching them go through hell to reach a jarring conclusion is any less fun, of course.
16 World War Z (2013)
2013 was a big summer for horror, in spite of having less than a handful of releases. James Wan’s The Conjuring sent shockwaves throughout Hollywood, but the biggest genre film that summer was World War Z, bringing in around $540 million. The thing is, it never should’ve been a summer film, but should have been released half a year earlier on December 21st – oh, the irony such a release would have posed.
The production ran into a whole host of issues, such as a warehouse of firearms props being raided by the Hungarian Counter Terrorism Centre, and the script went through, arguably, a few too many hands. In spite of these circumstances, including the fact that adapting Max Brooks’s source material into a summer blockbuster would be a challenge for anyone, World War Z actually does a decent job of crafting a compelling story out of numerous, disparate parts. Brad Pitt gives a solid performance as the lead, and the zombies are, if nothing else, a peculiar evolution on the typical walking dead.
15 Bill & Ted's Excellent Adeventure (1989)
Supposing a film studio goes bankrupt, and another swoops in to pick up one of its movies, saving it from untimely death, shouldn’t that be an overt sign of its quality? When the De Laurentiis Entertainment Group went bankrupt, Orion Pictures and Nelson Entertainment bought the rights to Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, rescuing a cult classic-to-be about two dudes who just want to pass their high school history presentation.
Keanu Reeves’ career certainly benefited from the movie's release, as Bill & Ted catapulted him toward stardom. What was it about these two slackers that made them so charming? Is it because they are essentially underdogs against an oppressive family and school life, two popular enemies for protagonists of the MTV generation? Maybe so, but nonetheless they, and their assortment of historical friends, are more than enough for some party laughs.
14 Idiocracy (2006)
Ahead of this year’s presidential primaries, Idiocracy co-screenwriter Etan Cohen sounded off on how his film’s predictions of a devolved future were becoming frighteningly accurate. Co-screenwriter/director Mike Judge shared his sentiments, and even compared Republican candidate Donald Trump to Idiocracy’s own ridiculous figurehead of anti-intellectualism. With the election about five weeks away, this satirical look at dysgenics might be worth a look a decade later.
Judge and Cohen’s view of the supposedly impending future is as gut-busting and detailed as it is scathing, perhaps even intending the picture as an omen in spite of its halfway hopeful conclusion. Though the film was greeted favorably, no one would have known what to make of it prior to a screening. Not only was its initial release date set back a full year, but it also could have been shelved indefinitely. In addition to an absolute lack of promotional content and the fact that it wasn’t screened for critics, Idiocracy was a nice surprise that didn’t need to be a surprise.
13 Gangs of New York (2002)
Was Gangs of New York Martin Scorsese’s best work? No. Was the production a chaotic mess? Undoubtedly - in the end, the release was pushed back a year. Still, Scorsese should be given at least a little credit for delivering on quite a few elements of this enthralling epic. There is so much more to the film than Daniel Day-Lewis’s frightening performance as Bill ‘The Butcher’ Cutting.
New York is not a foreign milieu to Scorsese, which makes sense considering it is his home and he made much use of it during the earlier years of his career. But with Gangs of New York, Scorsese professed his excitement to explore the Irish-American New York before it became known for its Italian-American identity, and that passion shows, especially in the film’s scale. In a way, it makes up for the fact that the production went over budget by 25 percent.
12 Captain Phillips (2013)
Paul Greengrass’s Captain Phillips made the move from March 2013 to October later that year, the only reasoning being to capitalize on an awards season release. It’s hard to tell where the film would have done better, as well. In March, its biggest competition would have been Oz the Great and Powerful, which came in short of a $500 million global box office. For it’s October release, it had to face off with Gravity, still going strong in its second week in theaters, but there was still greater exposure for the impending Oscar race – not to mention it performed just fine at the box office.
Though there have been complaints from some of Captain Richard Phillips’s crew members that Greengrass’s film inaccurately portrays him as heroic, Captain Phillips is still tense, superbly directed and buoyed by Tom Hanks’s lead performance. As far as entertainment value is concerned, the accuracy of Phillips’s character is almost irrelevant; what’s more important is the dynamic between Phillips and Abduwali Muse (Barkhad Abdi).
11 The Bourne Identity (2002)
Above all, the relationship between filmmakers and the studio should remain as professional, and civil, as possible. There might be some areas of disagreement, which can be expected during a strenuous shoot for a certifiable blockbuster, but it should never get out of hand. Though director Doug Liman and Universal Pictures never got to that point during the The Bourne Identity production, they came very close.
Liman was skeptical of Universal’s involvement in the production. The script went through a variety of rewrites, sometimes at the behest of Universal, and the release date was shifted from September 2001 to June 2002. Still, much of Liman’s vision remains in tact. In fact, considering the fact that most of the rewrites were made late in the production to the film’s third act, it’s a wonder that those involved were able to maintain the rest of the film’s momentum. Additionally, though Matt Damon wasn’t the first choice for Jason Bourne, he competently proved, and has proven since then, that the role belongs to him, first and foremost.
10 Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer (1986)
‘Disgusting’ and ‘disturbing’ are perhaps the best attributes of John McNaughton’s Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, and they are by no means criticisms. Inspired by real life serial killer Henry Lee Lucas, McNaughton makes voyeurs out his audience in multiple ways; his portrayal of Henry’s (Michael Rooker) routine life is unsettlingly intimate, and his depraved crimes are given equal treatment. Shot on 16mm, it effectively conveys both the grit of day-to-day life and the colorless hopelessness for anyone who finds him or herself unlucky to cross his path.
At the time, such content was shocking and borderline transgressive, and though the film was shot on barely over $100K, its depictions of violence only exacerbated the film’s inability to find a distributor. Having been shot in 1985, Henry would have to wait until 1990 for even a limited theatrical run, thankfully as an unrated film and none if its most unnerving sequences edited out.
9 The Big Sleep (1946)
Well before anyone could think about consuming every bit of press about Brangelina’s sudden split – especially their wax models’ separation at Madame Tussauds – the big celebrity romance obsession of the ‘40s was Bogie and Bacall. The couple exploded into public consciousness with 1944’s adaptation of Ernest Hemingway’s To Have and Have Not, and so their next film together The Big Sleep naturally drew much attention. The sexually suggestive dialogue based upon Raymond Chandler’s novel, in addition to film noir’s inherently sexual undertones, underscore the pair’s natural chemistry.
Upon initial release, however, The Big Sleep wasn’t as warmly received as we revere it now, and if you asked some critics, they perhaps could have waited a little longer. Though it could have been released earlier, with the end of the Second World War becoming imminent, Warner Brothers felt they needed to offload all of their war films, for fear that the public wouldn’t be interested.
8 The Tree of Life (2011)
Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life opened on May 27th, 2011 – not exactly what you might expect from typical summer fare, though it was limited – after it was originally scheduled to open Christmas Day in 2009. The reasons for such an extensive delay involve equal parts bad luck and persistence. He may be a niche name, but Malick’s career has seen him collect accolade after accolade, and yet it seemed The Tree of Life had the worst luck finding and holding onto a domestic distributor. Even when it briefly did, and people were viewing initial cuts, Malick deemed it wasn’t ready.
What he was holding onto and honing is what a number of critics have called one of the best films of all time, even one Roger Ebert sticking it in a top ten list. Though not everyone feels that way, there is still a gratifyingly cathartic element to Malick’s narrative and how it develops, while Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography can be praised for equal elegance. All of the performances, especially Brad Pitt’s, are excellent, and they are the spark to Malick’s existential drama.
7 Gravity (2013)
When your film wins Best Picture, along with 102 other awards from the rest of its 181 nominations, you did something right – actually, a lot of things. Just like Terrence Malick took the time to perfect The Tree of Life, Alfonso Cuarón did the exact same with Gravity, his first film since 2006’s Children of Men.
If nothing else, Gravity is a technical marvel. With Emmanuel Lubezki behind the camera, the film features only 156 shots, each one averaging out to 45 seconds, though to be fair, the film’s awe-inspiring opening shot was 17 minutes long. In spite of how Gravity begins, much of the film still appears as a few long, seemingly continuous takes, so the editing team behind the film deserves many plaudits. Additionally, Sandra Bullock makes the absolute most of her screen time as Dr. Ryan Stone – and considering that, for the most part, she is the only actor in the film outside of its opening scene, she needed to.
6 Trick 'r Treat (2007)
Out of all of these 17 films, Michael Dougherty’s Trick ‘r Treat was easily the most screwed over. By October 2007, it was firmly in public consciousness with a release date, trailer and other forms of advertising – at least, until Warner Brothers saw fit to reverse that process. Not only was the film removed from the schedule, it was put on the shelf indefinitely, surviving through word of mouth from those lucky few who had seen its handful of festival exhibitions. Given a straight-to-DVD release, Dougherty’s film would then have to overcome the stigma of such a release model.
With much positive buzz, especially in horror circles, after its initial festival appearances, there was nary a thought that Trick ‘r Treat might fade into the night. Around 550,000 DVD copies were sold, and the masses were finally made privy to what is essentially the Pulp Fiction of Halloween movies, in more ways than one. There’s an inherent vintage charm to its anthological narrative, with four interwoven narratives that contain their fair share of twists.
5 Titanic (1997)
James Cameron just really likes to get things right, you know; even if it means adopting a militaristic persona and alienating most of the cast and crew in the process. To be fair, the production scale for Titanic was massive, and it shows on film, so leading thousands of people trying to get a gargantuan budget film off the ground is bound to cause anyone more than enough stress.
The production bordered on calamitous, and though Cameron stated that the complexities of the special effects he wanted primarily caused the film to be moved from July 1997 to December the same year, the overlong principal photography phase didn’t help. Even though Titanic was pushed back to the height of Oscar season, many felt its retreat from the summer big bucks was a bad omen. The film, however, properly demonstrated why it was better suited for later in the year, rounding up all of the trimmings – big stars, grand scale and heart-wrenching drama, for example – expected of prestige pictures.
4 Foxcatcher (2014)
Even with only two directorial features to his name, 2005’s Capote and 2011’s Moneyball, Bennett Miller had established himself as a filmmaker on the rise. With Foxcatcher, he further became an accomplished filmmaker on paper, and added to his silverware at home – he won the Best Director Award at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival for his efforts.
From the get-go, Sony Pictures Classic only had Oscar gold on their minds for Foxcatcher, setting the release date for December 2013 after shooting began in October the year prior. Though it didn’t go to plan, the company was more than accommodating for its filmmakers, allowing the film to be released in November 2014 so Miller and Co. would have enough time to complete the film. In all likelihood, Foxcatcher benefitted from that extra time, because Miller’s vision is as concise as it is bleak. Though the dark finish line is in sight, the drama is no less compelling, and Steve Carell’s haunting performance as John du Pont is unlike anything he has accomplished in his career.
3 Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road was unquestionably the darling of this past February’s Oscars, just as it had been last summer, taking home six of the ten nominations it received. Getting to that point, however, took much longer than anyone wanted or anticipated. Principal photography began in October 2012 after being in development hell since the late ‘90s, and ended that December, though the film underwent reshoots in November the following year.
Mad Max is one of those franchises that produce unmitigated excitement with the announcement of a new release, and the hype around Fury Road couldn’t have been any bigger. Lo and behold, it was one of the best-reviewed films of the year, with many calling it one of the best action films of all time. The color palette is equally beautiful and abrasive as it supports some fantastic cinematography and production design, the hyper-speed action sequences are deliriously entertaining and its feminist themes are a breath of fresh air in a genre overrun with heaving masculinity.
2 Apocalypse Now (1979)
Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now is synonymous with two things: greatness and on-set dysfunction. It’s a war film with an intelligently ambiguous stance upon it, in addition to a mesmerizing performance from Marlon Brando made more impressive considering all of him that was shot was his head. With all of the great films to come out of the New Hollywood era during the ‘70s, Coppola’s is one of the best, but outside forces nearly kept Coppola from fully realizing his vision.
Any outdoor shoot runs the risk of changing weather patterns that could potentially threaten days of shooting. Unfortunately for Coppola and his crew, Typhoon Olga ensured their shoot would go behind schedule a full six weeks, but his five-month outline for principal photography would only get worse. The biggest question mark hanging over the production was the ending, and though Brando’s weight and the need to improvise an ending were key issues, it is powerful nonetheless.
1 A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Alright, yes, all was well for Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange's American release, but what of its release in the U.K.? Simply put, British officials didn’t take too kindly to its ‘extreme’ violence, and even went so far as to connect the film to two cases on manslaughter, both of the perpetrators being 16 or younger. With the Kubrick family subjected to protests outside of their home, in addition to death threats, Stanley and Warner Brothers jointly withdrew the film from British exhibition, and for 27 years, the film remained banned.
So what were those Brits missing out on? Like 2001, A Clockwork Orange is typically dense material for Kubrick, whose dystopian visions of British society were a point of praise from Anthony Burgess, author of the novel. In spite of the heady Nadsat slang Burgess employs, Kubrick skillfully glides through his novel, and in fact makes it engrossing. It is nightmarish in many ways, which seems appropriate considering the source material reflects the nightmare of totalitarianism.
What other films should have been included? Let us know in the comments!