Skip To Content

    14 Movies That Flopped In The Box Office But Went On To Become Cult Classics

    Blade Runner was overlooked when it first came out, but now it's a cult classic with its own sequel.

    These movies all started off as box office flops, but over time grew a cult following that turned these lost causes into classics.

    1. Heathers

    New World Pictures

    Budget: $3,000,000 (estimated)

    Box office earnings: $1,108,462

    Heathers was a classic '80s teen flick about high school drama with an evil twist. Winona Ryder's rising fame helped bring notoriety to this film, but it took a few years before it succeeded. The cult classic is now so popular it was made into a musical and a TV show.

    2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show

    20th Century Fox

    Budget: $1,200,000 (estimated)

    Box office earnings: $112,892,319

    The Rocky Horror Picture Show was released in 1975, and it majorly flopped in front of a very small audience. It took quite a few rereleases for the film to catch some traction, but when it finally did, it never slowed down! The show still runs screenings in movie theaters to this day, which is the reason for its large box office earnings.

    3. The Big Lebowski

    Gramercy Pictures / Universal Pictures

    Budget: $15,000,000 (estimated)

    Box office earnings: $46,142,637

    Although it had a slow start, when fans started to fall in love with this laid-back crime drama, they went so far as to create a religion in its name. The film also has its own fan festival and a large amount of dedicated followers.

    4. Dazed and Confused

    Gramercy Pictures

    Budget: $6,900,000 (estimated)

    Box office earnings: $7,993,039

    Dazed and Confused is the coming of age story of some seriously inebriated high school and junior high students. It barely earned enough to break even with its budget. Luckily, over the years the film gained a serious following, and it definitely helped that the cast included future stars like Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck.

    5. Clue

    Paramount Pictures

    Budget: $15,000,000 (estimated)

    Box office earnings: $14,643,997

    Clue was a film based off the board game of the same name and included three different endings that were sent to different theaters randomly. Although it had a slow start and didn't even earn as much as it cost to make, it eventually gained some popularity and gathered a cult following. A remake is even in the works, and the original movie still has midnight screenings.

    6. Blade Runner

    Warner Bros.

    Budget: $28,000,000 (estimated)

    Box office earnings: $41,458,976

    This well-known '80s sci-fi film actually had a rocky start when it first hit theaters, but now critics seem to realize its genius. Blade Runner currently has a score of 90% on Rotten Tomatoes. The film, which starred a young Harrison Ford, gained a serious cult following and even had a sequel made 35 years later.

    7. The Room

    Chloe Productions / TPW Films

    Budget: $6,000,000 (estimated)

    Box office earnings: $3,787,629

    The Room is one of the lowest grossing movies of all time, raking in a mere $1,900 before it was pulled from empty theaters. The film's weird storyline and rookie technical flaws gathered a cult following anyway, so when the movie was rereleased one and a half decades later, it amassed a few million in earnings.

    8. Return to Oz

    Disney / Buena Vista Distribution

    Budget: $25,000,000 (estimated)

    Box office earnings: $11,137,801

    The flopped sequel to The Wizard of Oz, this cult classic did not get much positive attention when it was first released. The film is far darker than its predecessor and reads more like a horror movie or thriller than the original. The film was somewhat more faithful to the novel than The Wizard of Oz and gained a faithful cult following for its dark and twisted storyline.

    9. Hedwig and the Angry Inch

    New Line Cinema

    Budget: $6,000,000 (estimated)

    Box office earnings: $3,644,200

    This film based off of the musical of the same name had largely positive reviews yet only made a little over half the film's budget in box office earnings. The star of the film is also the director, writer, and original broadway star, John Cameron Mitchell. Although the film may not have succeeded originally, it now has a passionate cult following and has won a few awards, including a Golden Globe nomination.

    10. Bottle Rocket

    Sony Pictures Releasing

    Budget: $7,000,000 (estimated)

    Box office earnings: $560,069

    Bottle Rocket had a crash landing into the film world, barely making 8% of the budget in box office earnings. Although the film did not originally do well, it was Wes Anderson's directorial debut into the world of feature-length filmmaking and launched his career.

    11. True Romance

    Warner Bros.

    Budget: $13,000,000 (estimated)

    Box office earnings: $12,281,551

    This Tarantino film was not the smash hit that most critics hoped it would be. While True Romance received many positive reviews, it did not do too well in the box office. Although it started off poorly, the film's positive ratings helped it become the popular cult classic it is today.

    12. Fight Club

    20th Century Fox

    Budget: $63,000,000 (estimated)

    Box office earnings: $100,853,753

    The first rule of Fight Club is not to talk about Fight Club. Luckily, fans have not taken that rule too seriously. This film starring Brad Pitt may look like it was moderately successful at the box office, but only 37 million of its earnings came from the United States, which is only a little more than half of its budget. It took the film a little while to gain traction, but by its 10th anniversary, the New York Times said it was a "defining cult movie."

    13. Eraserhead

    Libra Films International

    Budget: $20,000 (estimated)

    Box office earnings: $22,179

    This low-budget film barely broke even, with over half of its earnings actually coming from a 2017 rerelease. This David Lynch surreal horror film was his first feature-length piece, and it helped Lynch become the filmmaker he is today. The film eventually gained popularity in the same way many other cult classics have, through midnight movie showings.

    14. The Princess Bride

    20th Century Fox

    Budget: $16,000,000 (estimated)

    Box office earnings: $30,881,007

    Although this film was not technically a box office flop, it did worse than expected and only had modest box office earnings. The movie's incredibly quotable script is one of the main reasons it is so appealing to its cult following. The film is also on Writer's Guild of America's greatest screenplay list and even has a Princess Bride–themed bar in Chicago.

    TV and Movies

    Get all the best moments in pop culture & entertainment delivered to your inbox.

    Newsletter signup form