What or who judges if a film is great? A. Box-office B. Critics C. Academy Awards. The answer is none of the above. The real judge of whether a film is actually great or not is “time”. Whenever a film surprisingly makes a ton of money or wins plethora of awards, people immediately are ready to declare it a masterpiece. We have enough examples in front of us to prove that that is not the case. The below listed films were box-office failures. Some of them were even dismissed by critics. And none of them won Oscar for Best Picture. And yet, all of them are considered great films today. Again, here is the list of box-office flops that are actually good.
10. Donnie Darko (2001)
Budget: $6 million
Box office: $1.2 million
The cult film of our time that inspired discussions, research papers around its plot bombed at the box office when it released. And one can understand why. It is a film that requires multiple viewings and I’m sure a lot of people would have come out completely pissed off at what they saw.
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9. Children of Men (2006)
Budget: $76 million
Box office: $35 million
Easily one of the best sci-fi films of 21st century, ‘Children of Men’ didn’t find many takers when it released. But over the course of past few years, people have realized what a true masterpiece it is. And hey, Alfonso Cuaron also got to make the money he lost after he made ‘Gravity’.
8. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Budget: $2.7 million
Box office: $3 million
One of the iconic films that redefined visual effects and fantasy in cinema bombed at the box office when it released in 1939. At the time, it was MGM’s most expensive film ever with giant sets and state-of-the-art special effects. MGM re-released ‘The Wizard of Oz’ in 1949 for its 10th anniversary and it eventually became a profitable film for the studio.
7. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Budget: $3.18 Million
Box office: $3.3 Million
It is hard to believe that the greatest Christmas movie ever made was actually a box office flop. Today, in many families in US it is a ritual to watch ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ during the Christmas time every year.
6. The Big Lebowski (1998)
Budget: $15 Million
Box office: $17.4 Million
There are very few films with such cult following, especially, comedy films. Usually, Coen Brothers’ movies don’t set the cash registers ringing but at least they have a devoted group of followers who always show up. It seems like they didn’t for this film, only to later realize its true worth.
5. Zodiac (2007)
Budget: $65 Million
Box office: $33 Million
Mystery films don’t come in better form and shape than this. It is an excellent slow burning potboiler. Again, it’s failure of the box office could be attributed to the fact that such films require patience and attention of viewers, which the theater-going public might not have appreciated at the time.
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4. Fight Club (1998)
Budget: $63 Million
Box office: $37 Million
Whoa!! Now, we are talking. Can’t believe your eyes? How can such a genre bending and highly entertaining film with big stars flop? You might be asking. Honestly, I also don’t know why ‘Fight Club’ didn’t work at the box office. Possibly, audiences were caught completely off guard by its unique plot-line. In any case, all of that is long forgotten and it is now one of the most recognized films.
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3. Blade Runner (1982)
Budget: $28 Million
Box office: $27.5 Million
Released during the same summer as other big sci-fi films like Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, The Thing, and, most importantly, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, ‘Blade Runner’ failed to find audiences. Though, later people realized its worth and now it is counted among the best science fiction films of all time.
2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Budget: $25 Million
Box office: $28 Million
Shocking! Right? One of the most popular films ever made and the topmost film on the IMDb 250 list, ‘The Shawshank Redemption’ didn’t make a lot of money when it released. Morgan Freeman attributed that to the complicated and difficult to pronounce title. Funny. But who knows, probably he might be right.
1. Citizen Kane (1946)
Budget: $1 Million
Box office: $1.5 Million
One of the greatest — if not the greatest — films ever made was actually a box office flop. It is difficult to believe, I know, but what is even more startling is the fact that the film got panned by critics too. It was labeled as an overly indulgent film when it came out. Later of course, they changed their opinion.
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