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17 Movies That Were A Massive Flop At The Box Office, But Now We Can't Imagine Life Without Them

Matilda was just too ahead of it time.

We've all heard the terms "Box Office Bomb" and "Box Office Flop" before, but what do they actually mean?

Paramount Pictures

Well, a bomb is technically worse than a flop for starters, but they're kinda used interchangeably.

Basically, these labels are given to any film that either did not make a profit, or made a profit much smaller than everybody thought it would during its original theatrical release. Here are 17 examples of films that began as flops and bombs but managed to turn it around:

1. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Paramount Pictures

Budget: $3,000,000

Box office earnings: $4,000,000

This now iconic family classic came out in the early '70s and I guess audiences must have been confused by it because it only made one million dollars during its original theatrical release! Since then, home entertainment sales and TV re-runs have wayyy boosted its profitability and fame.

2. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Universal Pictures

Budget: $60,000,000

Box office earnings: $47,664,559

It seems criminal to me that this movie underperformed so harshly, but between its niche premise and genre-bending, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World was always going to be a hard sell for the mainstream. Since then, however, the movie has developed a pretty active fanbase due to its killer cast, sick aesthetic, and infinitely quotable script.

3. Booksmart

United Artists Releasing

Budget: $6,000,000

Box office earnings: $24,863,452

I'm so sorry if this is too soon for you, but I'm afraid we must discuss Booksmart, the very funny very wholesome teenage comedy that came out last year at potentially the wrong time. Despite earning $8.6 million in its Fri-Mon debut, the movie didn't have a lot of staying power but now has some pretty loyal fans!

4. Fight Club

20th Century Fox

Budget: $63,000,000

Box office earnings: $101,187,503

Surprisingly, since it's now on most people's lists of "top ten decent movies", Fight Club did not fare well at the box office when it came out more than 20 years ago. Sure, it didn't make a loss, but it was immediately financially successful until the film found a second life as a generation-defining favourite for many millennials!

5. The Rocky Horror Picture Show

20th Century Fox

Budget: $1,200,000

Box office earnings: N/A – but it wasn't a lot.

There's probably no better example of a cult hit than this, but The Rocky Horror Picture Show had a... rocky start back in 1975 when it flopped during its first theatrical release. Since then, it's been running fan screenings pretty much continuously in cinemas longer than any other movie! Now, that's a legacy.

6. Heathers

New World Pictures

Budget: $3,000,000 (estimated)

Box office earnings: $1,108,462

Heathers walked so Mean Girls could run, but unlike its commercially successful younger sister, this '80s movie wasn't an instant hit. It took a home video release for people to realise the true genius behind the film, and since then it's developed a cult following that has even led to a musical and TV series!

7. The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Warner Bros. Pictures

Budget: $75,000,000

Box office earnings: $107,045,109

Everyone kinda just forgot to see this movie, and it showed. A remake of the MGM TV series of the same name, this Guy Ritchie spy thriller couldn't beat off stiff competition at the Box Office. Fans were disappointed, as many thought the film would spin off into a franchise, but the numbers just weren't good enough.

8. Kubo and the Two Strings

Focus Features

Budget: $60,000,000

Box office earnings: $76,249,438

Moviemakers LAIKA have an unfortunate history with hit and miss films at the Box Office – see also: Missing Link – despite the fact that their content is in fact, consistently strong! Kubo may not have excited audiences because of its traditional stop motion aesthetic or its serious tone, but the film remains a firm favourite among fantasy fans.

9. The Shawshank Redemption

Columbia Pictures

Budget: $25,000,000

Box office earnings: $28,428,150

When you think of a movie with cinematic immortality, you think of something like The Shawshank Redemption, but it wasn't always that way. The movie did not pop off when it first came out in the same weekend as Pulp Fiction, but it gained popularity after making a splash at the Academy Awards. A cinematic re-release, successful home video sales, and several networks broadcasts also bolstered its reputation.

10. Stardust

Paramount Pictures

Budget: $70,000,000

Box office earnings: $137,515,140

I have a lot of time for Stardust, but apparently others did not! The movie contained a few big name stars like Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Claire Danes and was generally well reviewed, but it was a non-starter at the Box Office, especially in the US. This may have been down to its marketing, but it remains a firm family favourite on streaming services.

11. Almost Famous

Sony Pictures Releasing

Budget: $60,000,000

Box office earnings: $47,383,689

Cameron Crowe’s early aughts film about fifteen-year-old music journalist might have bombed when it came out in 2000, but it's only grown legions of fans since then! People love this coming-of-age drama for its honesty, its vintage feel, and its ensemble cast, but when it originally landed audiences just weren't interested in its niche premise.

12. mother!

Paramount Pictures

Budget: $30,000,000

Box office earnings: $44,516,999

People were not featuring visceral parable mother! when it came out back in 2017. Even with noughties darling Jennifer Lawrence in the lead role, audiences were divided over the film's merit, and found It a preferable horror option when going to the cinema. Even so, this niche film is still celebrated by many film fans.

13. Donnie Darko

Newmarket Films

Budget: $6,000,000

Box office earnings: $2,962,988

An unsettling and unique debut by Richard Kelly, this movie deserved to be a way bigger hit than it was but it only ended up running in cinemas for about 28 days. Home video sales and word-of-mouth turned it into a cult hit but Box Office sales were cold, given that the movie features a pretty prominent plane crash storyline and the film came out around one month after the 9/11 tragedy.

14. The Island

Warner Bros. Pictures

Budget: $126,000,000

Box office earnings: $162,949,164

Ewan McGregor and Scarlett Johansson in the same movie – what could go wrong? Well, how about the marketing campaign behind the film, which failed to properly outline the ethical struggle at the heart of the movie? Unfortunately, this original and intriguing story failed to capture the right audience even with all the right assets in place.

15. Blade Runner and Blade Runner 2049

Warner Bros. Pictures

Budget: $28,000,000 / $150,000,000

Box office earnings: $39,342,912 / $259,239,658

Both Blade Runner movies flopped when they hit cinemas in 1982 and 2017 respectively, possibly because audiences were suffering from sci-fi fatigue. However, the first movie has gone on to receive cult status, and has influenced a great many other sci-fi movies including Total Recall and Minority Report.

16. Hocus Pocus

Buena Vista Pictures

Budget: $28,000,000

Box office earnings: $39,514,713

Unbelievably, people didn't go for this camp horror classic when it came out in July 1993. Ostensibly a film for children, the movie was released during the summer to make the most of kids being off school, but like many classics of the genre, it has gone on to become a seasonal favourite around Halloween time!

17. Matilda

TriStar Pictures

Budget: $36,000,000

Box office earnings: $33,459,416

It's seems inconceivable that this beloved fan-favourite could be on this list but it's true! The 1996 movie did not register well with audiences, despite generally good critical reviews. Now, however, this film lives in the hearts of many around the globe!

Are there any I missed out? Sound off in the comments!