Some films just don’t get the love they deserve. These are the ones that didn’t do so great in the box office when they first arrived but were incredible films in their own rite. Show these films some love!
The guideline for these films to make the list was that it had to earn less than its budget in its initial release worldwide. Sorry Waterworld fans, that means no-go for that Kevin Costner gem.
10. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow – Budget $70 million, Box Office Earnings: $59.9 million
This throwback to 1920s and 1930s pulp comics was a helluva film, but for some reason general audiences didn’t care. I would chalk this up to having an art style that left audiences puzzled, but Sin City looked similar and that film did alright. Was it because it was of its retro feel? The lack of Angelina Jolie promised by the advertising? Or did the PG rating scare off the older crowd, fearing it to be “too kiddie”? Either way, if Roger Ebert says watching it reminded him of his first time watching Raiders of the Lost Ark, maybe it’s worth another look.
9. Mystery Men - Budget: $68 million, Box Office Earnings: $33.5 million
What’s not to like about a superhero spoof featuring Ben Stiller, William H. Macy, one of the voices from The Simpsons, Pee-Wee Herman, and half of Keenan and Kel? Well, apparently back in 1999, people didn’t find the appeal, resulting in this film being forgotten by the general public, despite the big names in the film. Considering the number of super hero film spoofs that have been released in the last few years (Kick-Ass, Super, Defendor), perhaps it was just the result of poor timing.
8. Titan A.E. - Budget: $75 million, Box Office Earnings: $36.8 million
Back in the day, the name Don Bluth had clout in the animated film business. This is the guy behind The Land Before Time and An American Tale, two huge hits in the 80s. But things went downhill in the 90s and his last animated film was 2001’s Titan A.E., which had some of the most confused marketing ever. If this was live action, I guarantee people would still be talking about it. But because it looked like a kid’s film and probably managed to scare off kids, this failed. Granted, it’s a bit of a mixed bag of maturity, with screen time shared between Jar Jar Binks-like antics and the fact that Earth is gone with pockets of humanity living in space slums. It’s not for everyone, but I give it brownie points for having an awesome early 2000s soundtrack.
7. eXistenZ – Budget: $15 Million, Box Office Earnings: $2.8 million
People hate rip-offs. Hence why some people rag on Lady Gaga for being like Madonna and film critics hate on the _________ Movie movies. This is probably the reason people avoided this 1999 film about people hanging on in a virtual reality that they are trying to fight their way out of. You know, kinda like that other 1999 film The Matrix, released just weeks before eXistenZ. Still, I would argue that director David Cronenberg’s subversive film is not only an original creation, but a better film than The Matrix. But be forewarned, this is a really weirdly uncomfortable film to watch.
6. The Iron Giant – Budget: $70 Million, Box Office Earnings: $23.2 million
Was 1999 really that good of a year for films that they could just ignore great films? This is the 3rd film from that year on this list and this one was the most deserving of being a hit. This animated film about a kid in 1950s America becomes friends with a giant robot (voiced by Vin Diesel of all people) is on par with some of Pixar’s best stuff. That’s probably because it’s directed by Brad Bird, who later went on to direct two of Pixar’s biggest hits The Incredibles and Ratatouille. Perhaps it’s for the best because I’m pretty sure this is the kids film hipster parents want to show their kids rather than those “mainstream” Disney films.
5. Shoot ‘Em Up – Budget: $39 Million, Box Office Earnings: $26.8 million
If I were to make a list of the best comedies ever made, this would probably be in the Top 5. I’m serious. This film is so over the top with its action and corny one-liners that I find it impossible not to laugh. The key to enjoying this 2007 gem is not taking it at face value, which is probably why this film failed at the box office. In one view, it’s a really bad over the top action film that couldn’t write a good line to save its life. In another, it’s a genius comedy that totally understands laughable action cliches. But for those who doubt its humor, do you really think any film is trying to be serious when it opens with Clive Owen killing a henchman with a carrot?
4. Brazil – Budget: $15 Million, Box Office Earnings: $9.9 million
Monty Python is a weird act. It’s a style of comedy that’s not for everyone. So when one of its members Terry Gilliam goes off on his own and makes a very strange take on George Orwell’s 1984, it’s a safe bet that it’s not going to appeal to the masses. Still, despite finishing under its budget, it’s considered by many critics to be one of the best films of the 1980s and has a pretty dedicated fan following. With modern films borrowing art direction and being said to be a key part of the steampunk fiction movement, it’s pretty crazy to think that the studio heads would want to edit the film heavily to the point of changing the ending completely before release.
3. Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story – Budget: $35 Million, Box Office Earnings: $20.6 million
How can a comedy produced by Judd Apathow do poorly at the box office? Apparently, this 2007 comedy didn’t connect with people’s funny bones, despite being a timely satire. For real, do you remember the crazy number of biopics about musicians last decade that were all basically the same story with different characters? Walk Hard is genius in lampooning every single cliche of those films and showed that John C. Reilly can be the leading funnyman in a screwball comedy. Plus, the amount of ridiculous amount of cameos helps make this a film that deserves to be up there with some of Mel Brooks’ best comedies.
2. Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World – Budget: $95 Million, Box Office Earnings: $47.7 million
Of all the films on this list, this one probably makes the most sense. It’s been dubbed by some to be the ultimate hipster film, so earning little at the box office only helps it stay “underground”. Plus, it’s really hard to market a film that features romance, video game violence, over the top humor, what I’m dubbing “hipsterness”, and great indie music. Featuring a soundtrack with songs from Beck, Metric, Broken Social Scene and more, the music alone warrants a viewing. But the rest of the film holds up, giving us an awesomely quirky romantic comedy that happens to feature hipsters fighting like they’re in the Street Fighter universe.
1. Blade Runner – Budget: $28 Million, Box Office Earnings: $27.6 million
This is Exhibit A as to why box office earnings don’t always equal just how great a film is. Back in 1982, Ridley Scott’s sci-fi neo-noir masterpiece opened around the same time as two other sci-fi films E.T. and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. It’s easy to see why this was shoved out of the limelight. Plus, it didn’t help that the studio felt it was best to edit the film without the director’s permission to make it easier to understand. Still, with subsequent re-releases in theaters, numerous DVD releases and a spot on the American Film Institute’s Best 100 Films, it’s nice to see that it’s getting the respect that it deserves. Best of all, this is probably the reason we have Director’s Cuts available to the public. Hollywood needs to realize that directors know what they’re doing. Most of the time, at least.
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