9 Cult Classic Movies That Used To Be Huge Box Office Flops

This might sound crazy, but cult classic movies like The Shawshank Redemption and Fight Club used to be huge flops. As impossible as it might sound, many films we deemed the best movies of all time nowadays were actually box office bombs when they were first released. Their failures could be due to bad marketing, or they just simply got lost in all the other films that were also released in the same year.
So let’s take a look at these box office bombs that later turn into cult classics that everybody loves. Never judge a movie by its box office success!

1. The Shawshank Redemption

cult classic movies Source: Columbia Pictures/ Everett Collection

The Shawshank Redemption might be regarded as one of the best movies of all time these days, but it wasn’t a huge success back in 1994. In fact, you could call it a box office flop with how little attention it received back then.
Tim Robbins, who played Andy Dufresne, believed the film’s failure was due to its title not being catchy enough. He said in an interview that nobody could remember the name of the movie correctly. “For years after that film came out, people would come up to me and say, ‘You know, I really liked you in that film Scrimshaw Reduction or Shimmy, Shake or Shankshaw’," he shared.

2. Fight Club

cult classic movies Source: 20th Century Fox/ Everett Collection

The first rule of Fight Club is we don’t talk about Fight Club’s weak box office performance. Back when it was first released, Fight Club was criticized as too dark for mainstream audiences. It was unclear if this was due to bad marketing or the polarizing reviews from critics.
However, people later gave it a second chance, and Fight Club was able to sell 6 million DVD copies. Nowadays it’s called “the defining cult movie of our time”.

3. Matilda

cult classic movies Source: Sony Pictures Releasing/ Everett Collection

What!? How could Matilda be a box office bomb!? As impossible as it might sound, this was sadly true. The world wasn’t a big fan of Danny DeVito’s Matilda at first. The movie cost $36 million to make but only gained $33 million back. Today Matilda is regarded as one of the best movies of all time. Its musical version was a huge hit and gained many Tony Awards.

4. The Big Lebowski

cult classic movies Source: Gramercy Pictures/ Everett Collection

We know The Big Lebowski through its iconic catchphrases, memes, and memorable scenes. Some even call it "culturally significant." It even got selected for preservation in the National Film Registry!
However, people back in the day weren’t big fans of The Big Lebowski. They criticized the plot, saying it was nonsensical. It barely made any profit when it was first released.

5. The Rocky Horror Pictures Show

Source: 20th Century Fox/ Everett Collection

The Rocky Horror Pictures Show is one of the most iconic Halloween cult classics these days. However, it used to be a huge flop back in 1975. Actually, the musical comedy failed so hard that it was withdrawn from eight cities due to its low audience turnout.
Thankfully, the movie earned its popularity back with its reputation as a “midnight movie.”Audiences could participate in a live show accompanying the screening. Since then The Rocky Horror Pictures Show has gained an official fan club, conventions, and theatrical showings every year.

6. Blade Runner

cult classic movies Source: Warner Bros / Everett Collection

Blade Runner could have been a huge hit. However, it got lost in the sea of science fiction blockbusters that were released at that time. The domination of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and The Thing back then only made matters worse. However, over the years critics and viewers realized how amazing the movie was. Nowadays it’s regarded as a neo-noir masterpiece.

7. The Wizard of Oz

Source: Loew's, Inc/ Everett Collection

The Wizard of Oz made an estimated $3 million at the box office when it was first released. It barely made back its budget and when added extra promotional costs, MGM lost a lot of money. The movie gained popularity 10 years later when it was re-released in 1949. Nowadays it’s known as a treasured piece of American pop culture and one of the best movies ever made.

8. Hocus Pocus

Source: Buena Vista Pictures/ Everett Collection

Hocus Pocus failed hard when it premiered in 1993. Part of its failure was due to the fact that it picked a bad time to hit the theaters. Hocus Pocus was a Halloween movie that was released in the middle of summer, and it was also released at the same time as blockbusters like Jurassic Park and Free Willy. The movie cost $28 million to make and only made $8.1 million on opening weekend.
It became a Halloween classic after Disney repeatedly stream it on their channels every Halloween. It even earned a sequel almost 30 years later. Its sequel was one of the most anticipated movies of the year.

9. The Iron Giant

Source: Warner Bros / Everett Collection

The Iron Giant’s budget was $50 million and it only grossed $31.3 million. Part of its failure was due to bad marketing. However, home video releases and Cartoon Network saved the movie from becoming a total flop. By constantly doing marathons of the movie, people started to fall in love with the characters and the heartwarming story. The Iron Giant is now regarded as one of the most famous examples of a cult classic movie.
In contrast with these cult classic movies, there were some big-budget films that should have been huge hits but turned out to be huge flops instead. They are proof that the combination of a big budget with famous actors doesn’t always mean the movie will turn out great.
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