There’s plenty of chatter about the importance of Rotten Tomatoes to film criticism and the potential success/failure of movies due to its controversial Tomatometer scoring system. Whichever side of the fence you sit on, you cannot deny that what’s ultimately important is whether or not you like a movie – no one’s opinion should force you to like/dislike something.
Heck, there have been numerous times when critics have trashed a movie and it’s gone on to become beloved by audiences and even managed to rack up numerous Academy Awards. This further proves the hypothesis that no system is ever perfect and art will always be an extremely subjective thing.
Looking through Rotten Tomatoes’ history, there’s a fair share of “flops” that turned out to become cult classics at the end of the day.
Do keep in mind that the older films didn’t exactly have an extensive pool of reviews like the newer movies do, though. So, for example, 365 Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice reviews were counted for its current score of 27%, while only 72 were used for Batman Returns’ score of 81%.
Taking the above into consideration, let’s jump right in. Here are the 15 Rotten Tomatoes Flops That Are Now Cult Classics.
15. The Boondock Saints (20%)
It’s difficult to fathom how 1999’s The Boondock Saints received such a critical bashing but became one of the most beloved films of the year. Starring Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery as the Irish-Catholic MacManus twins, this action flick tells the tale of how the vigilante brothers rid Boston of evil.
Supporting the leads were the likes of Billy Connolly, David Della Rocco, and Willem Dafoe in some of their finest performances to date.
Unfortunately, the film became a box-office flop, registering only $30,471 from a $6 million budget, and the stinging reviews didn’t help matters much, either. That said, the $50 million in video sales, coupled with a cult status reputation, turned more than a few frowns upside down.
Just avoid the sequel, 2009’s The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day, which somehow has a higher Rotten Tomatoes score (23%) when it’s actually worse than the first film. Go figure.
14. The Karate Kid Part III (16%)
While it’s undoubtedly the weakest entry of The Karate Kid trilogy, The Karate Kid Part III certainly doesn’t deserve its score of 16%. In fact, it’s borderline criminal.
In the most emotional film of the series, Daniel (Ralph Macchio) wants to defend his karate title at the All-Valley Championship, against the wishes of Mr. Miyagi (Noriyuki “Pat” Morita).
He betrays his mentor’s trust and trains with the Steven Seagal lookalike, Terry Silver (Thomas Ian Griffith), who’s in cahoots with Cobra Kai’s John Kreese (Martin Kove) to exact revenge on Miyagi and Daniel. Realizing Daniel is in trouble, though, Miyagi steps forward and guides his student to a personal and professional victory.
Considering 2010’s The Karate Kid, starring Jaden Smith, has 65%, this one is a bit of a head-scratcher. Especially since Jaden wasn’t trained in karate but kung fu in the film. Someone obviously didn’t bother to tell the producers the difference in the martial arts.
13. The Strangers (45%)
Horror films are always sticky territory when it comes to critics. You don’t often find a whole bunch of them nodding and saying, “That was a wild, scary ride.”
So, it should come as no surprise that 2008’s The Strangers didn’t thrill the likes of the late Roger Ebert who said, “What a maddening, nihilistic, infuriating ending.”
However, that was the beauty of The Strangers; it didn’t need a reason for its evil. When Liv Tyler’s Kristen McKay asks, “Why are you doing this to us?” and Gemma Ward’s Dollface responds, “Because you were home,” it’s as if someone walked over your grave. It makes you think of the Joker, who has never needed a motive for his madness.
12. Smokin’ Aces (29%)
Apart from Jeremy Piven’s performance as Ari Gold in Entourage, his turn as Buddy “Aces” Israel in Smokin’ Aces was his finest to date. Around him he had an all-star cast featuring the likes of Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Andy Garcia, Chris Pine, and Ben Affleck, who all brought intriguing and madcap characters to life (and death).
Surprisingly, this Guy Ritchie-styled film didn’t hit the marks with the critics, though, who savaged it. The movie did make a tidy sum of just under $60 million at the global box office and also sold nearly 2 million DVD copies, proving to be a total fan-favorite on the home video front.
11. Wet Hot American Summer (32%)
Maybe the early 2000s weren’t the best time for comedies. However, it’s hard to imagine how a film set in a 1981 fictional summer camp that spoofs sex comedies of that era can’t make the most hardened person smirk a little. Plus, it stars Paul Rudd and Elizabeth Banks, so it’s instantly a winner.
Wet Hot American Summer took a beating at the box office and in the review columns, but it had the last laugh as it crept into the hearts of filmgoers everywhere and received two Netflix series in 2015 and 2017. It’s become so popular since its initial release that it’s almost unthinkable to even speak ill of it.
10. Hook (30%)
If you didn’t enjoy Steve Spielberg’s Hook, you need to check your chest and see if your heart is still there.
Acting as a sequel to the story of Peter Pan, this wildly imaginative adventure film helps a grown-up Peter Banning (Robin Williams) rediscover the magic from his childhood, as he’s forced to go back to Neverland to save his children from Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman).
The critics might’ve turned their nose up at Hook, but it still managed to gross over $300 million from its budget of $70 million, becoming the fourth-highest-grossing film worldwide of 1991. Also, it secured itself five nominations at the 64th Academy Awards, proving that it certainly didn’t lack in quality.
9. Super Troopers (35%)
What was it with 2001 and comedies? Super Troopers is another massive comedy that went completely over the reviewers’ heads.
Jay Chandrasekhar and his Broken Lizard team pulled out all the stops to make this one of the funniest and original comedies in a long time, yet it got kicked in the teeth by the critical scores.
Good thing that Rotten Tomatoes wasn’t around then and most viewers made up their own minds about this film as it pulled in an extraordinary $23.1 million from a measly budget of $1.2 million. Cult status soon followed and a sequel, Super Troopers 2, is set for release next year.
8. Final Destination (34%)
In the era of teen slashers, Final Destination did something different, giving us a faceless antagonist that struck far more fear than anything before: Death.
Devon Sawa played Alex Browning, a teenager who cheated his death by having a premonition of a plane explosion. He and a handful of his classmates left the plane before the explosion, and thought they’d somehow escaped the grim reaper’s fatal design.
Death proved to be an unrelenting and unforgiving customer, however, coming after all those who cheated it and collecting their souls.
This 2000 horror became a huge success and soon turned into a franchise, spawning four more sequels, novels, and even a comic book series.
7. Bloodsport (33%)
Much like Chuck Norris’ filmography, every Jean-Claude Van Damme movie should be valued and protected as a national treasure.
Van Damme has brought more joy to the world than any saint or angel, and deserves our everlasting respect for his gift to humanity.
Jokes aside, the Muscles from Brussels’ breakthrough came with 1988’s Bloodsport, the purported true story of martial artists Frank Dux.
Not only did Van Damme flex, do the splits, and enact more fury on his opponents than anything humanly possible, but he also gave us a lifetime’s worth of quality memes.
His final bout with Bolo Yeung’s Chong Li is also one of the greatest fight scenes in martial-arts films, showcasing the perfect blend of technique and emotion in a heart-stopping climax. No one makes action films like this anymore.
6. Masters Of The Universe (17%)
“I have the power!” Yes, you do, He-Man. Seeing Dolph Lundgren as Prince Adam/He-Man and Frank Langella as Skeletor was fan castings made in Heaven. Sure, Masters of the Universe might’ve been on the cheap side, but it was made by Cannon Films, so what did you expect?
Since its release in 1987, the sci-fi fantasy film has warmed the hearts of fans around the world and become a beloved piece of MOTU memorabilia. In fact, one of its biggest fans is comic book writer/artist John Byrne, who’s known for his work on X-Men, Fantastic Four, and Superman, and compared it to Jack Kirby’s Fourth World.
He-Man fans can look forward to a cinematic reboot in 2019, which is set to be written by David S. Goyer. So, take that news whichever way you choose to.
5. Bad Boys (43%)
It’s strange to think that Bad Boys wasn’t a critical success. Every time you see anything related to the action-comedy, you automatically recall how it launched Will Smith’s career into the stratosphere and the rest is now history.
Even so, it wasn’t exactly a critical darling and received a “meh” response from most reviewers. The general criticism was that it was a generic buddy cop film, with a thinly woven plot and overreliance on action.
It’s a fair assessment – and one that’s applicable to most of Michael Bay’s movies – but the film wasn’t exactly aiming to be Citizen Kane either.
Imagine if Bad Boys had been released today with all the hate for Bay? It’s highly probable that it could be sitting in the single digits on Rotten Tomatoes. Nonetheless, it’s still a flick that sees regular rotation in most our households.
4. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (46%)
The early 1990s truly were the years of Jim Carrey. Starring in The Mask, Dumb and Dumber, and Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, the rubber-faced actor became the new king of comedy in the short space of 12 months. Strangely, though, he received a lukewarm critical reception for his role in Ace Ventura: Pet Detective.
It’s true that he was completely over the top and the jokes did teeter on the R-rated borderline – especially all the stuff with Sean Young’s “dual” role – but this film features Carrey at his wacky best. It’s a real go-to movie when you’re having a bad day and there’s simply nothing else quite like it.
3. License To Drive (17%)
Back in the ’80s, the two Coreys (Corey Haim and Corey Feldman) were the Olsen twins of that generation.
Everything they touched, turned to gold, and the studios couldn’t get enough of them. In 1988, they teamed up again in the Greg Beeman-directed License to Drive.
The film tells the story of teenager Les Anderson (Haim) who falls for Mercedes Lane (Heather Graham) and tries to get his driver’s license to take her out.
He fails his exam, unfortunately, but is undeterred and steals his grandfather’s car to take Mercedes out. What follows is a wild night that leads to many mishaps and the demolition of the car.
2. Natural Born Killers (46%)
Based on an original screenplay by Quentin Tarantino and directed by Oliver Stone, Natural Born Killers is the Bonnie and Clyde story for Generation X.
Exceptionally violent, but always brilliant, it’s a movie with so many layers that it needs to be studied to be fully appreciated.
Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons it didn’t do too well with the critics. Most of them missed the satire hidden under all the blood and guts, and saw it as a glorification of mass murderers. It also didn’t help that there were several copycat killings that seemed to affirm this critique of the film, either.
Now that two decades have passed since its release – and we’ve seen more violent films, too – it would be interesting to see how those same reviewers would react to it today. It’s still one heck of a controversial film, but hey, controversy sells.
1. Event Horizon (24%)
Before Paul W.S. Anderson became infatuated with the Resident Evil franchise, he directed the 1997 space horror Event Horizon.
While it might not be on the same level as Alien, it was certainly a far cry from the 24% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. In fact, you’ll probably see it popping up on most people’s top 10 horror film lists.
It might’ve divided the critics, but it certainly thrilled the fans, with most still praying to see the infamous director’s cut at some point in the future (according to Anderson, it’ll sadly never happen).
That said, one does have to wonder how much better Event Horizon could’ve been had the studio not meddled in it, though. Perhaps it wouldn’t just be a cult classic, but a critically acclaimed sci-fi masterpiece as well.
These were some of the Rotten Tomatoes flops that are now cult classics, but are there any others? Let us know in the comments section!
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