7 classic films that were almost forgotten
big lebowski

Some films are just eternal classics; everyone’s seen them, everyone quotes them. But success doesn’t always come rapidly, and sometimes it can take a long, long time to reach ‘iconic’ status.

big lebowski

Believe it or not, some of the most popular and respected additions to the annals of cinema were initially box office flops – and could well have faded into obscurity a la Attack of the Mushroom People… (exactly!)

Joel Draba-Mann picks out seven classic films that may well have been forgotten, had it not been for post-theatrical events.

The Big Lebowski (1998)

This Coen brothers’ classic is now both a critical and film buff favourite, and even sports its own annual fan festival. But believe it or not, in the summer of ’98, Jeff Bridges’ comedy caper made just $17m at the box office. The film has since relied on a sizable cult following and home video releases to bring His Dudeness to the masses.

Along with a poor cinematic showing, the movie also received mixed reviews on release, with many critics complaining about its mismatched and odd style. Well, that’s just like your opinion, man.

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Hard to believe that this prison drama was a box office disaster, as it now seemingly tops every ‘Best Films Ever’ list out there.

But after making a paltry $25m at the theaters, the film had Warner Bros. execs digging their own way out of the office. Frank Darabont’s masterpiece has since relied on word of mouth and home video releases to fuel its meteoric rise in popularity.

Fight Club (1999)

Upon its release in 1999, cult classic Fight Club was panned by critics for its overt violence and dark, hidden meanings. The film generated just $37m at the box office, but eventually went on to sell over 6 million copies upon its initial video release.

It remains to this day one of the most popular DVD/Blu-Ray purchases going.

Tron (1982)

Now revered as a pioneer of 3-D computer animation, and for kickstarting the career of a certain Jeff Bridges, Disney’s Tron was an ambitious box office failure, grossing $33m.

The elaborate visual style of the film has seen it generate a large fanbase, a TV series and a blockbuster sequel: 2010’s Tron: Legacy.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Hasn’t everyone currently alive seen this film? A cornerstone of anyone’s childhood years, it’s hard to believe this mildly-disturbing adaptation of Roald Dahl’s novel made only $4m at the box office. So disappointing was the revenue that Paramount even allowed the film rights to expire.

They were picked up for a mere $500,000 by Warner Bros., who licensed the film for TV broadcast, where it has remained ever since.

Blade Runner (1982)

Not many people ‘got’ Blade Runner in 1982. In fact, it baffled most cinema-goers and critics – and made just $32.9m. But the iconic sci-fi film enjoyed a fantastical rebirth through the medium of home video.

With various cuts and iterations released over the years, Ridley Scott’s masterpiece now takes pride of place amongst the greatest films ever made. A sequel is reportedly in the works for release within the next few years. Where would we be without the eternal question: is Deckard a replicant?

Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

Can you imagine a world in which no one knew how to Timewarp? It’s just a jump to the left…never mind.

This classic musical, based on the stage show of the same name, was largely ignored upon its initial release. However, it was subsequently re-screened as a midnight movie, and rapidly grew in cult status to become the phenomenon it is today, spawned everything from unofficial sequels, to magazines, and even video games. Yes, that’s right: transvestite-themed video games!

Share this on Twitter:

Which other classic films were box office flops?

Leave your own suggestions below (just register first), on Twitter with #wow247 or on our Facebook page.