Movies you love/cult classics that had terrible box office

Everyone knows that box office doesn’t reflect quality one way or the other. Terrible movies do well, and great movies bomb. Sometimes, a great movie will do well, and sometimes, terrible movies will rightly fail. It means nothing in the end.

Personally, I love seeing movies I love do well at the box office, and watching the numbers makes me smile (Titanic, Avatar, Lord of the Rings) and it hurts when movies I like/love “bomb” but the bright side in today’s world is that once the movies come out on DVD/streaming, they can be discovered.

In the Fright Night thread I off-topically mentioned both The Guard and In Bruges. I love that movie, but it only made $7,800,824 domestic (though it only played in 232 theaters, which has to be a pretty good per screen average). It played quite a bit better overseas, making $25,593,616, for a worldwide total of $33,394,440.

The weird and wonderful The Guard, written and directed by the brother of In Bruges’s writer-director, has made $1,235,000 ($6,188,252 worldwide total) playing in 83 theaters. As I mentioned, anyone who loves In Bruges will (almost certainly) love The Guard and if it’s playing anywhere near it’s worth supporting, but if it’s not nearby, when it comes out on DVD/streaming, it’ll make a terrific double feature with In Bruges

My obsession with Attack The Block has only been hinted at here, but obsessed I am and it hurts that its not being treated like the crowdpleaser it should be. The distributor is rolling it out in severely limited release, but so slowly that it’s closing in cities before it even opens in others. It’s not going to become a phenomenon that way. So far it’s only made $600,000 in 44 theaters in the US, and $4,275,216 overseas. I have no doubt that it will be an enduring cult classic and will explode once it’s on DVD/streaming, but still.

The fantastic ultra low budget Another Earth has only made $937,000, but it will endure as the career beginning of two amazingly talented people, writer-director Mike Cahill and writer-lead actress Brit Marling.

The truly beautiful-hearted film Beginners has only made $5,584,208 from 170 theaters, $11,023,065 worldwide. It should have been widely released and a hit among those who complain that there aren’t enough movies out there for intelligent and empathetic grown-ups. However, I have little doubt it will go on to get at least one and probably several Oscar nominations (you heard it here first), including Christopher Plummer for Best Supporting Actor, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Picture. Awards attention will make up for its being ignored when it was in the theater. The same thing happened to my favorite movie of last year, Winter’s Bone. It made only $6,531,503 in 141 theaters, $13,831,503 worldwide total, yet went on to get 4 major Oscar nominations. Which I predicted [/obnoxious gloat].

There are so many others.
All that got me to looking up the box office totals of movies that are generally considered to be cult classic. I thought I’d list a few and their box office. Some were not released outside the US, or did such negligible business there are no foreign totals listed.

The Big Lebowski ($17,451,873)
The Shawshank Redemption ($28,341,469)
Shaun of the Dead ($13,542,874 domestic, $30,039,392 worldwide total)
Office Space ($10,827,810)
Blue Velvet ($8,551,228)
Mulholland Drive ($7,220,243 domestic, $20,117,339 worldwide total)

There are so many movies that did poorly it’s almost futile to attempt to count. Start with “Ed Wood,” “Big Trouble In Little China” (other thread let me know it was a flop), “Grindhouse,” “The Lady From Shanghai,” “Mr. Arkadin,” well Welles needs his own category.

If I weren’t so lazy I’d break them out by category. There was one, “Nightmare Alley,” starring THE Tyrone Power that I remember hearing was not only a B-picture, but one that sucked in box-office. If I keep talking, I’ll just end up listing every movie I’ve ever seen, and my memory cells aren’t that good.

Zardoz, Flash Gordon, Dune, Popeye

Idiocracy apparently grossed less than a half-million dollars. It’s brilliant, and I watch it often.


Almost Famous and Ghost World are two big favorites of mine. The former had disappointing ticket sales, while the latter went straight to the art house circuit and performed about as expected.

Two-Lane Blacktop, one of the more unheralded movies ever made and one that I hype every chance I get. The head of Universal Pictures apparently hated it so he sabotaged it by not promoting it. Needless to say, it didn’t do well at the box office.

My husband and I did our part to help out Idiocracy. We went to see it in the theater, twice in one week. It only played in one theater in Chicago and then only for a week if I remember correctly.

There’s tooooo many, and the ones listed so far are all on my list of great/fun films.

I will add “War Inc.” with John Cusak, Hillary Duff and Dan Aykroyd.

Several of my all time favorite movies - Big Trouble in Little China, The Big Lebowski, Office Space, and Idiocracy were box office disasters. There’s no accounting for everybody else’s taste.

The Wizard Of Oz didn’t even break even when it was first released in movie theaters. Granted, on subsequent releases it did start to cover production costs - and did very well on VHS and DVD, but as far as initial box office it was a dud.

*The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.

  • It made only $6.2 million on a budget of $12 million.

Goofy, spoofy fun. I was looking forward to Buckaroo Banzai Against the World Crime League, but alas no.


Streets of Fire, Rolling Thunder, Remo Williams, The Fifth Element

Or lack of same. Big Trouble and Big Lebowski are two of my top ten favorite movies.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Alamo with Billy Bob Thornton. I wouldn’t call it a cult classic, but it is one of the biggest bombs ever (revenue to production costs). It was fairly historically accurate, despite the controversial ending. There were no real effects issues, not acting problems; Ebert gave it 4 stars. Granted, he’s not the ultimate authority, but he generally can spot a good or bad movie. I know Disney dropped the ball on getting Ron Howard and Russell Crowe involved, I still wonder why it bombed so badly?

Yeah I thought this movie was a well done historical epic. I mentioned it before in a similar thread. Another poster proposed that it bombed because most people don’t like fairly historically accurate movies.

:frowning: I like fairly historically accurate movies…

See, that’s a problem – I’m pretty sure that was always intended to be a B-picture, so how do you say it didn’t cut the mustard under that criterion.

Great movie, though – “Bill” Devane, as an uncle calls him. I’ve never looked at a garbage disposal the same way since, and caution others about them, even though hardly anybody gets the reference.

ETA new line for my repertoire, “Don’t make me get all ‘Rolling Thunder’ up in there with your hand!”

Mystery Men - Great cast: Ben Stiller, Hank Azaria, William H. Macy, Janeane Garofalo, Geoffrey Rush, Paul Reubens, Wes Studi, Eddie Izzard, Greg Kinnear, Claire Forlani, Tom Waits. Also solid story and dialogue (surprising perhaps because screenwriter Neil Cuthbert hasn’t otherwise been noted for great scripts). And Kinka Usher did an excellent job in his first and only shot at directing a movie.

“We’re not your classic heros. We’re the other guys.”


Everyonce in a while, I’ll ask my wife whether I should save the world or eat the sandwich.