thoughts//TOP TEN GOOD MOVIE FLOPS

TOP TEN

While Hollywood wants you to think moviemaking is all about telling a story with rich characters and lots of entertainment. In reality, everything is usually rooted in the box office numbers. Thanks big studios! Here and there, though, the box office numbers don't matter and a good flick can come along that very few people see, at first. Usually, you can smell a box office flop from a mile away (I'm looking at you, The Adventures of Pluto Nash and Gigli). Sometimes, there is a little redeeming value to a dud (I have a special place in my heart for Waterworld). And then, every once in a while, a true classic comes along and, for some reason, doesn't connect. It's usually the studio/marketing people's fault (plenty of people were disappointed by The Village's lack of terror, despite the creepy trailers).

Here are ten movies known as being "classics" that weren't met with such spectacular acclaim or fandom when they were first released.

(Note: There are plenty of films that fail to catch momentum at the box office, but go on to cult status later on. It was hard narrowing this list down to just ten, so please don't get angry if I left something important off!)


10. DONNIE DARKO (1999 - $1 million box office)
Directed by Richard Kelly
Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell, Patrick Swayze, Drew Barrymore

 It's a suburban nightmare of a tale and Gyllenhaal gives one of the best star-making performances of all time. It's also a standout debut by director Richard Kelly. Besides the film seeing two theatrical releases in its time (thought both were short, with the first run only lasting 28 days) it was only able to muster about $1 million box office total. It was a major loss, originally, for the studio. Upon its home video release, however, Donnie Darko lucked out with great word of mouth and has become a staple for any and every DVD collection. You can't resist the Sparkle Motion once you've seen it.


9. OFFICE SPACE (1999 - $10 million box office)
Directed by Mike Judge
Starring Ron Livingston, Jennifer Aniston, Diedrich Bader, Gary Cole

1999 was the year for the subtle, suburban tale of mundane, everyday life. Just look at that year's future Best Picture winner, American Beauty. Mike Judge's comedy is possibly the best workplace comedy of all time. The film, featuring a pre-movie star Jennifer Aniston), was a tough sell at the box office, where its hilarious dialogue and memorable characters didn't seem to connect. Perhaps it was poor marketing, or perhaps Judge was before his time. The style and presentation would become the slacker comedy staple for every Judd Apatow and fratpack film for years to come. Like Donnie Darko, Office Space became a cult-like hit after its release on home video.

8. THE IRON GIANT (1999 - $31 million)
Directed by Brad Bird
Starring Vin Diesel, Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr.

It's one of the most beloved animated films of the past 20 years and resulted in many 90's kids first feelings of true heartbreak. The film has become a standard among animated classics, but Warner Bros., the studio behind the film, didn't have too much faith in the project when it was initially released. It never truly earned its budget back, but it did spark the career of director Brad Bird, who would go on to direct the hit animated films The Incredibles and Ratatouille. The movie is one of true joy, friendship, and how disappointing life can be sometimes. It's honest in its portrayal and deserves every ounce of accolades it receives.


7. FIGHT CLUB (1999 - $37 million)
Directed by David Fincher
Starring Brad Pitt, Edward Norton, Helena Bonham Carter

The film received a crazy good marketing plan as the "anti-date movie" and even debuted at number one, but failed to have long legs and ended up as a financial dud. It only earned about half of its budget. In home video sales, Fight Club has seen another result. The film has a huge following and, surprisingly, holds up pretty well, despite it being 15 years old (where did the time go?). Like most Fincher films, the movie is odd, but rewarding. Multiple viewings make it even better and the dialogue is entertainingly quotable. Just ask someone what the first rule of Fight Club is and they'll undoubtedly answer back.


6. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946 - $2.7 million)
Directed by Frank Capra
Starring James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore

Now a Christmas classic, when Frank Capra's tale of an angel who helps a weary businessman realize how important life is didn't interest audiences in the least bit when it was released. It actually wasn't until years later when the film started showing on television that it reached its film classic status. The film can partially thank its poor box office for this. The studio saw it as a cheap, financial blunder and sold its rights for next to nothing. TV studios were able to pick up its rights for next to nothing, too. James Stewart was a big enough name to get some recognition and, poof, you had yourself a renaissance, of sorts, for one of Hollywood's finest pictures.


5. CHILDREN OF MEN (2006 - $69 million)
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
Starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Chiwetel Ejiofer, Anthony Hopkins

Pre-Gravity Cuaron placed himself among the most ambitious filmmakers of all time with his incredibly brutal and groundbreaking Children of Men. He is the master of lingering, long-running shots, as seen in the famous motorcycle attack scene. It's the little touches and details, like blood splatters on the camera, that bring you right into the action. The opening sequence alone will hook you. Even though $69 million isn't anything to cry about, the ambitiousness of the film cost the studio a pretty penny, meaning it didn't necessarily earn any of its budget back. It's the prefect example that earning a stellar amount of money isn't what it's all about. We're all better for having seen Children of Men.


4. THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994 - $16 million)
Directed by Frank Darabont
Starring Tim Robbins, Morgan Freeman

The adaptation of Stephen King's story of a man wrongfully-accused of murder became the biggest home rental success story of all time, earning the studio its budget back in no time. Partially thanks to the 7 Academy Awards it was nominated for, The Shawshank Redemption also saw a nice splurge in success in a re-release during Oscar season. Freeman and Robbins were pretty big names at the time, so there's no real reason why the film didn't find success. On most lists it ranks with films like The Godfather and Citizen Kane as one of the greatest ever made. It has continued its run as a successful film thanks to its almost constant appearance in TV showings.


3. BLADE RUNNER (1982 - $32 million)
Directed by Ridley Scott
Starring Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young

Harrison Ford was a dynamite film star at the time, which is why this being a flop is so surprising. The film is one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made and utilized astounding effects for its time. It's biggest enemy was the sad timing in its release. Audiences had flocked to movies like E.T. and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, so perhaps they were just tired of the science fiction premise when this hit theaters. It only earned just over $6 million opening weekend. Critics were also pretty straightforward in their critiques claiming Scott's film was more interested in special effects than story. While there may be some truth to that, a special effects film like Blade Runner would be a welcomed relief to today's film offerings. 


2. CITIZEN KANE (1941 - $1.5 million)
Directed by Orson Welles
Starring Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Dorothy Comingore

It's now regarded as one of the best films of all time (some say it is the best), Citizen Kane had, pretty much, no traction at the box office upon its release. Welles' passion project may have floundered due to the film being a little before its time. Its storytelling technique wasn't necessarily box office gold at the time and its content may have been too serious for theatergoers, who were looking to escape the WWII drama. There was also another side to film's controversy as Welles was believed to have based Kane on newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, a well-liked tycoon of the times. It saw a re-release in the late 50's and soon earned the raves it deserved.


1. THE WIZARD OF OZ (1939 - $3 million box office)
Directed by Victor Fleming and others
Starring Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger, Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Margaret Hamilton, Billie Burke

Its songs are world famous and the mention of any piece of this film will elicit childhood memories from just about anyone. It has a become a timeless classic over the years, so you'd think it would have been one of Hollywood's biggest hits. Wrong. The film barely met its budget, but studios still considered it a huge failure. It was MGM's biggest budget film ever at the time and they were expecting a huge return from the use of the Technicolor technology and its somewhat famous star, Judy Garland. If you adjust for inflation, the film has earned around $240 million, which is great, especially for a film from the 1930s. But, at the time, that doesn't count.

It's incredible to see what types of movies make it big in the long run and which ones do not stick around. Looking at the movies that top the Box Office each weekend, it'll be interesting to see which movies of our time become classics in the long run.

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