1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer
Though it turned a small profit in 1992, the original film version of Buffy was ravaged by critics and largely ignored by audiences. It wasn’t until five years later that writer Joss Whedon was approached to give it second go as a television show, which went on to become one of the most beloved and influential series of the ’90s/early ’00s. The episode where (spoiler alert!) Buffy’s mom dies is still one of the most gut-wrenching episodes to grace the small screen.
2. Kinky Boots
Released in 2005, the British film about a traditional shoemaker who turns to producing footwear for drag queens in order to save his failing business, earned middling reviews and grossed a paltry $9 million internationally. Revived in 2012 by Cyndi Lauper and Harvey Fierstein as a Broadway production, it became a smash hit and earned six Tony Awards in 2013, including Best Score, Best Actor, and Best Musical. Lauper’s acceptance speech was completely adorable, and let’s be real, this story was always meant for the stage.
The film tanked in 1986, grossing around $5 million in America, but it was enough of a hit on home video to warrant a sequel, Highlander II: The Quickening. Not surprisingly, that film also bombed. What is surprising is that a further two sequels were released theatrically, both of which failed to make a profit. However, the franchise found massive success when it was revamped as a television series, which ran for six seasons in syndication.
Luc Besson’s 1990 film Nikita and its American remake Point of No Return weren’t really bombs per se, but neither film made waves at the box office and critics were sort of “meh” about both versions. However, the television adaptation La Femme Nikita was a monster success, and the arguably better 2010 version (once again simply titled Nikita) added exciting Alias-style intrigue and better costume changes. Everyone loves a sexy wig, right?
5. The Golden Compass
The 2007 adaptation of Philip Pullman’s beloved novel earned a meager $70 million against a $180 million budget—and since overseas rights to the film were sold to fund the production, New Line saw little of the overseas profit. The planned movie trilogy was axed. Oddly enough, the videogame version of the film was a baffling success, selling nearly 3 million copies. To put that into perspective, that’s around the same number the recent Tomb Raider reboot sold.
6. Little Shop of Horrors
The original Little Shop of Horrors, a low-budget black and white comedy, graced cinemas in 1960 and failed to attract an audience. Its popularity grew on television in the ’60s and ’70s, which led to a successful stage musical in 1982. That production was then adapted into the classic movie we all know and love, though its Oscar-nominated song “Mean Green Mother From Outer Space” unfairly lost to Top Gun’s “Take My Breath Away.” Man, talk about an upset.
7. Lost Highway
Though it’s become a bizarro cult classic since its release in 1997, David Lynch’s strange psychological thriller floundered at the box office, earning less than $4 million. In 2003, it was adapted into an opera by Austrian composer Olga Neuwirth, which has mounted additional productions in 2007 and 2008. While this may intrigue Lynch fans, they should perhaps give a listen to this sampling of the music before shelling out cash for the next production.
Paul Verhoeven’s so-bad-it’s-good masterpiece fizzled out in theaters and managed to ruin Elizabeth Berkley’s career before it had even started. It earned a record 13 Razzie nominations and has gone down in history as one of the most notorious bombs of all time. For these reasons it’s no wonder Showgirls became the greatest drinking game of all time. The DVD, which grossed around $100 million, includes shot glasses, movie cards with suggested drinking games on them, and a deck of playing cards. It’s also been revived as a successful off-Broadway musical, the soundtrack of which includes tunes like “Don’t Lick That Pole, Girl” and “You’re a Whore, Darlin.’” Maybe don’t take Grandma to a matinee.