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17 Movies That Failed at the Box Office, but Are Now Considered Modern Classics

Many of the films that we consider cult films today didn’t become important references in popular culture until after a while. Back when they were first released, they were not given the same recognition. In fact, many of them were actually not well received at all by the public and turned out to be a complete flop at the box office. But over time, their particular style and genius managed to win the hearts of their audience.

With that in mind, Bright Side made a compilation of some of those modern classics that were not necessarily appreciated back in the day, but that grew to become some of the most important movies in film history.

1. Donnie Darko (2001)

Donnie Darko is a psychological thriller about courage and sacrifice mixed with an unusual element: time-traveling. The plot revolves around the creation of a parallel universe that must be destroyed so that it does not interfere with reality as we know it. But for that to happen, one of the main characters has to accept that he has to die. The film contains many references to books and other films that can give a better understanding of the story. However, we do recommend that you watch it more than once to get the most out of it.

2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption is actually an adaptation of a novel written by Stephen King. There, the main character is accused of having murdered his wife and is therefore sentenced to life in prison. During his time there, he works his way through to earn the respect and trust of many prisoners, weaving some very close bonds in the process. Not only does the movie shine a light on a powerful journey of self-discovery, but it also highlights the importance of camaraderie in social relationships.

3. Fight Club (1999)

Fight Club offers an interesting insight into society and the meaning of our modern way of life. The protagonist of the movie is a support group addict who joins all kinds of groups as an impostor in order get to know people’s suffering from a closer perspective. Later on in the movie, he meets an enigmatic man who, based on his experience of dealing with euphoria, creates a fight club. Participants use it as a way to relieve themselves from boredom, while looking back at the meaning of their own lives.

4. Heathers (1989)

Heathers is a film that revolves around a group of popular high school girls in the United States who are committed to terrorizing and torturing their classmates. Together with a new student who joins them, they even go so far as to commit serious crimes. As the plot progresses, the protagonist realizes that there is something wrong with her new friend. She knows that what they do is wrong, but it’s not easy or even safe to quit the group at this point. Far from your typical teenage film, Heathers addresses the subject of bullying with a dark sense of humor in an already very somber atmosphere.

5. The Thing (1982)

The Thing is a film that combines horror and science fiction to tell the story of the discovery of an alien parasite by a group of researchers. Far from being just an uncommon discovery, this mysterious creature will turn their lives upside down by making researchers constantly mistrust each other, and by driving them to live in a state of permanent paranoia. At the time, although its special effects were appreciated, the film was considered to be repulsive and distasteful.

6. Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner is a film set in Los Angeles, in what people back in the day thought 2019 would look like. Androids are very similar to humans, except that they have greater physical strength. They were created artificially to work in space. However, they are declared illegal on Earth, and a special police unit is in charge of tracking them down and eliminating those who come back to Earth. Although it is mainly an action film, Blade Runner has managed to inspire complex ethical and philosophical debate.

7. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World is an action comedy film based on a series of graphic novels. Shortly after the protagonist, a Canadian musician, meets a girl who appeared in his dreams and with whom he became sort of obsessed, he discovers that he must confront her 7 ex-boyfriends in order to be with her. These confrontations will generate all kinds of conflicts and challenges for the protagonist, all of which are related to his musical career.

8. The Big Lebowski (1998)

A perfect mix between surrealism and humor, The Big Lebowski’s plot revolves around Jeff Lebowski, a.k.a. The Dude, an unemployed middle-aged man from Los Angeles who loves bowling. One day, a group of thugs mistake him for an indebted millionaire who shares the same name as him. It’s precisely this confusion that triggers a series of adventures in which Lebowski has to find the millionaire’s wife. Over time, this film became a reference in pop culture.

9. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a movie based on a musical called The Rocky Horror Show. Among other things, the idea was to make a tribute to B movies as well as horror and science fiction films shot between the 1930s and the 1960s. From kitsch to rock, you will find everything in this modern classic. The story begins with a couple traveling in the middle of a storm when suddenly their car breaks down and they take shelter in the castle of a certain Dr. Frank-N-Furter, who actually happens to be an alien.

10. Dredd (2012)

In a post-apocalyptic desert there is a city called Mega-City, and that’ s where the story of Judge Dredd and Judge Anderson takes place. Both have to fight a drug mogul to bring order to a 200-story building. This film is inspired by the comic book, Judge Dredd, and even though it didn’t make much of a hit at the box office, the critics’ feedback was actually great from the time of its release.

11. Idiocracy (2006)

With a comical yet strict critical tone, Idiocracy portrays problems like lack of environmental awareness, consumerism, violence, and junk food. The protagonists of the film are an army officer and a woman, who are recruited to be part of an experiment where they have to spend some time in hibernation. After 500 years, they are woken up again only to suffer the consequences of the society they used to live in.

12. Event Horizon (1997)

Event Horizon is an intelligent and at times disturbing film, whose plot revolves around a mission to rescue an experimental ship that disappeared in space. As they search for survivors, the rescue team realizes that the ship has actually created a black hole and opened a gap in space and time. Unlike what they had hoped for, these characters ended up making an unholy discovery on the other side of the galaxy.

13. Citizen Kane (1941)

Citizen Kane is a drama that displays a great mastery of photography, music, and narrative. A group of reporters seeks to decipher the meaning of the last word spoken by millionaire newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane: “Rosebud.” Almost the entire film unfolds in flashbacks of the intriguing life of this man who once stood at the top of the world. On top of that, Citizen Kane has been recognized as one of the most innovative movies in terms of special effects.

14. Raging Bull (1980)

Raging Bull is considered by many to be one of the best boxing films in history. Its script is one of its most praised qualities. It tells the story of a middleweight boxer who dreams of becoming a champion. However, he has to face a problem: he doesn’t just vent his aggression in the ring, but he also does it with his family. On top of that, he’s pressured by the mob to fix fights illegally.

15. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

In The Wizard of Oz, a tornado takes Dorothy’s dog into the world of Oz. She goes looking for him to, in the end, make her dream of traveling beyond the rainbow come true. This is the beginning of an adventure that will involve witches, a tin man, a scarecrow, a cowardly lion, and a wizard, all of who can help Dorothy return home. It is a strange but fascinating film that has enchanted many generations.

16. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a movie full of magic. It is based on a book by Roald Dahl and it tells of the adventure of a boy named Charlie, who is lucky enough to find a winning ticket to see Willy Wonka’s famous chocolate factory. All sorts of surprising events happen during the tour, and moral dilemmas arise from the decisions Charlie and the other children have to make.

17. Labyrinth (1986)

In Labyrinth, a 16-year-old girl sets out on a journey through a maze to rescue her brother, who was kidnapped by the king of the gnomes while she was babysitting him. Jareth, who is in love with the girl, lives in a castle in the middle of the maze, and that’s where he is keeping the baby. One of the unique features of this film is that the king of the gnomes was played by David Bowie.

Do you think these films are good even if they weren’t popular when they first came out? Which other movies would you add to this list?