15 Great Movies That Flopped at the Box Office

Money isn't everything! These films are still worth a watch, despite doing poorly in theaters

By Jenna Mullins, Madelyn Abry Nov 10, 2015 3:30 PMTags
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Do you ever find yourself trying to convince people to go see movies that are tanking at the box office? Or saying, "Just give this movie a chance! It might be bleeding money right now but it really doesn't suck!"

If you answered yes to either of those questions, then this list is for you. We define "flops" as films that didn't perform as well as expected or just flat-out lost money in theaters. And we define "great movies" as those films that were critically praised or adored by audiences or both! You know the ones, the cult classics and underrated gems.

These are some films past and present that did not do well at the box office but did well in our hearts, which is really more important:

1. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

Universal Pictures

Budget: $85 Million 
Box office gross: $32 Million 

Scott Pilgrim was wacky and weird and wonderful. It has an awesome cast lead by Michael Cera and a stellar director, Edgar Wright. It it not your typical comic book turned movie. It was awkward and silly and very badass, all at the same time.

2. Iron Giant (1999)

Budget: $80 Million
Box office gross: $31.3 Million

This film is so interesting. It has a 96 percent critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 89 percent audience rating, and yet it barely made money in movie theaters. It was the first film from Brad Bird, the genius behind Ratatouille, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and The Incredibles. Iron Giant eventually found success with Home Video and on cable, but we're still miffed that 

3. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

Budget: $178 Million 
Box office gross: $369 Million

We would hardly call this film a flop, but in terms of big-budget, Tom Cruise action flick terms, it definitely underperformed. The marketing for the film was a mess and the title was a miss. The only information the posters and trailers gave were the words "Live. Die. Repeat." Groundhog Day in a post-apocalyptic alien world was not coming across in those three words. People who were put off by the title missed a movie with the perfect mix of action and humor, Emily Blunt as a powerhouse female character and just a damn entertaining adaptation of the Japanese novel All You Need Is Kill. Fun idea: Watch Edge of Tomorrow and give it your own better title. 

4. Shawshank Redemption (1994)

Castle Rock Entertainment

Budget: $25 Million 
Box office gross: $28.3 Million

This film is ranked No. 1 on IMDb's Top Rated Films list. It should be required viewing for every human being. It is a masterpiece and shockingly, it did terribly at the box office, despite all the love from critics and the Academy (seven Oscar nominations, including Best Picture). Morgan Freeman blamed the hard-to-say title, but once it hit VHS and basic cable, that's when the film became a hit.

5. Clue (1985)

Paramount Pictures

Budget: $15 million
Box office gross: $14.6 million

This film adaptation of the classic board game has become a cult classic, beloved by millions. Plus, it has different endings, which is a pretty cool idea. Unfortunately, critics weren't that into it and neither were audiences. It later found love in a hopeless place: VHS and TV.

6. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)

Budget: $120 million
Box office gross: $186 million

A Disney movie that underperformed? That's a hard concept to grasp, but this film came out right at the end of Disney's iconic animated era so people were already moving on to the computer-animated era, led by Toy Story. Disney took risks with this movie and while that may have what led to a mediocre box office return, the results are breathtaking. Atlantis is a beautiful film and obviously, charming and hilarious as most Disney films are. Watch it. You won't regret it for a second.

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7. Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas (1998)

Universal Pictures

Budget: $18.5 million
Box office gross: $10.6 million

When you talk about iconic Johnny Depp roles, this film adaptation of the Hunter S. Thompson novel should be at the tippy-top of your list. Unfortunately, the dramedy was a total box office failure, and it wasn't until the home release that people began to give the film the appreciation it deserved. 

8. Office Space (1999)

20th Century Fox

Budget: $10 Million 
Box office gross: $12.8 Million

"Ummm, yeaaaaah." People love this movie and rightfully so. It is incredibly well-written and has some amazingly quotable scenes. It is the hero story for anyone who hates their job or is stuck in a cube from 9 to 5. It definitely was not received well when it was released in 1999. Why? Who knows? What we do know is this movie is cinematic gold and worth multiple viewings. We're talking in the high 50s.

9. The Big Lebowski (1998)

c.Gramercy/Everett /REX USA

Budget: $15 Million 
Box office gross: $46 Million

This film falls into the category of "cult favorite," one that caters to a specific audience but struggled to attract viewers outside of that. Since its release 17 years ago, Big Lebowski found a passionate fan base, spawned annual fan conventions and is now studied by film students and critics. It's not only a good film, but an important film. The Dude is also one of the original anti-heroes. This is now a beloved film, proving that success is not determined by box office sales or the opinions of the man, man

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10. The Wizard of Oz (1939)


Budget: $2.7 million
Box office gross: $3 million

To say this film is a beloved classic is a gross understatement, so it's hard to even fathom that Dorothy and her ruby slippers sort of tanked in theaters. Thankfully, The Wizard of Oz continues to stand the test of time, and no remake or adaptation will ever touch the original.

11. Citizen Kane (1941)


Budget: $839,000
Box office gross: $1.5 million

It's often hailed as the best film of all time, or at the very least, it's the movie that everyone pretends to have seen so they seem cultured and fancy. But back in 1941, Orson Welles' masterpiece arrived to lukewarm fanfare. Despite the lackluster box office performance, it still nabbed nine Oscar nominations. 

12. It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

RKO Radio Pictures

Budget: $3.18 Million
Box office gross: $3.3 Million

Hard to believe such an iconic holiday movie actually stunk up the box office, huh? Well, it did. It is now a classic Christmas film but it definitely wasn't an instant hit when it debuted in 1946. This New York Times reviewer was not impressed: "Indeed, the weakness of this picture, from this reviewer's point of view, is the sentimentality of it—its illusory concept of life. Mr. Capra's nice people are charming, his small town is a quite beguiling place and his pattern for solving problems is most optimistic and facile." That is fancy reviewer speak for, "it's too upbeat." But hey, now it's perfect for Christmas cheer!

13. Heathers (1988)

New World Pictures

Budget: $2 Million 
Box office gross: $1.1 Million

Heathers was definitely under-appreciated in its time. This movie is quick-witted and morbid in the best way possible, but at the time, no one got that. It came out among the push for John Hughes feel-good romantic comedies and basically flipped the concept on its head. Critics liked the film and saw its potential, but it just couldn't find an audience. This film is now a fan favorite and, obviously, a great insight into '80s hairstyles. That's very important. Plus Christian Slater is the bad boy of our dreams (without the psychopath part).

14. Fight Club (1999)

20th Century Fox

Budget: $63 Million
Box office gross: $100.9 Million

This film made money at the box office but it definitely didn't bring in the type of cash you'd expect from a film that is so very often at the top of people's must-watch list. It solidified the careers of Brad Pitt and Edward Norton, but more importantly...Brad's abs! That scene alone should have made Fight Club billions of dollars. Even though the response was lukewarm when it hit theaters, now it's the film you talk about when discussing the biggest plot twists of all time.

15. Children of Men (2006)

Universal Pictures

Budget: $76 million
Box office gross: $70 million

Check out these names and try and imagine a movie involving all of them that could possibly flop: Alfonso Cuarón. Clive OwenJulianne Moore. Michael Caine. Chiwetel Ejiofor. Charlie Hunnam. Hard to believe such incredible talent would ever make a movie that didn't bring in the big bucks. But the science fiction thriller lost money at the box office, which is such a shame because it's an amazing movie. The cinematography, the screenplay, the acting...it's all there. How this movie didn't do better in theaters is beyond us.

What are some of your favorite films that would be considered box office flops? Remember, it's not the money that matters. It's how that movie makes you feel. And that is why we will defend Big Hero 6 to the death! (Sorry, still bitter it didn't have Minions-level success).