You’ve heard it time and time again: “Blade Runner was a flop in theaters”, “no one liked The Thing when it first came out”, “The Shawshank Redemption was a belated classic,” etc. The hard, well-known truth is that not every well-crafted film breaks the bank. In fact, many companies can go into bankruptcy over great films that end their theatrical releases as flops. The idea is even more sobering with the recent news that Annapurna, one of the best curators of content in the 2010’s, is facing dire financial straits.
It’s always rough seeing truly great films get lost in the shuffle. However, there’s always hope that these flops will find their audience eventually. In 20-30 years’ time, they might even become widely beloved.
Below are my picks for flops that will become classics. Here are the criteria for this list:
- No films prior to 2016 will be considered: Though a bit arbitrary, movies from 2015 and before have already been in the gestation period for quite some time. Many of them are already considered classics and we are looking to forecast forward.
- We’re looking at flops, not disappointments: While movies like Sorry to Bother You and Booksmart underperformed, they still eked out small profits. We’ll be looking at films that actually lost money for their studio.
- Only movies that had a wide release will be considered: It’s incredibly difficult to measure the success of independent film due to grants, subsidies, and other monetary measurements that don’t necessarily apply to films with wider releases.
- Films with broad appeal: Look, I love High Life, Suspiria, and many other moderately impenetrable films as much as the next person, but those kinds of movies will never reach the broad acclaim that we’re hoping to forecast in this piece. (Although, I hope I’m wrong!)
The Nice Guys (2016)
Budget: $50 million
Worldwide Gross: $63 million
When factoring in marketing costs, Warner Bros. lost a considerable amount of money on The Nice Guys. Honestly, it’s difficult to tell where they went wrong in green-lighting in this one.
The Nice Guys rivals Kiss Kiss Bang Bang as Shane Black’s best work as a director, breathing new life into the buddy-cop genre. Ryan Gosling and Russell Crowe as the two halves of this buddy-cop movie are nothing short of perfection together. In fact, I might even argue that this is Ryan Gosling’s best performance; he’s so damn funny in this movie! Russell Crowe is the perfect straight man to Gosling as well.
As a whole, The Nice Guys is a hilarious tribute to Los Angeles and the 1970s as the titular detectives look to solve a sprawling case that involves the burgeoning porn industry in the area. Film Twitter already loves it, and it’s only a matter of time before everyone else realizes how good it is.
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)
Budget: $20 million
Worldwide Gross: $10 million
Maybe it was That’s My Boy that turned everyone off to Andy Samberg on the big screen, as he has had little success since.
Popstar quickly became one of the most notorious flops of 2016 after its disastrous sub-$5 million. Not to mention that it is also one of the last mockumentaries to have a wide release. It’s a shame really, The Lonely Island is such an odd, distinct comedy group that it would be so wonderful to see them make spoof comedies for many years to come. But for now, they’ll have to stick to TV…and whatever The Bash Brothers was on Netflix.
It’s funny how film history often repeats itself, as Popstar owes a lot to This is Spinal Tap, which also failed to light the world on fire at the box office. Nevertheless, years down the road, we’ll appreciate Popstar for its hilarious take on the Bieber-esque star and its insanely funny music.
The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
Budget: $9 million
Worldwide Gross: $18 million
Everyone continues to love watching Mean Girls, Clueless, and other lady-centric coming-of-age comedies, but it’s time that The Edge of Seventeen had its chance to shine.
Although she burst onto the scene with the 2010 remake of True Grit, The Edge of Seventeen remains Hailee Steinfeld’s best performance to date as Nadine, a girl sifting through a lot of high school issues as everything around her starts to crumble. I’ll always remember the rapport between Steinfeld and Woody Harrelson, who are both responsible for some of the biggest laughs in the entire film.
The Edge of Seventeen has the heart, the laughs, and the performances; a trio that makes for a classic teen dramedy in the making.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Budget: $150-$200 million
Worldwide Gross: $259 million
Another Ryan Gosling movie! Jeez, this guy can’t catch a break.
From the start, green-lighting a delayed sequel to Blade Runner, a film that is the most notorious classic to flop in theaters, seemed like a bad idea. But people like me weren’t sweating it at all because the massively bloated budget allowed auteur Denis Villeneuve to make a big-budget arthouse film the likes of which we have never seen — not even by the original.
2049 is an epic sci-fi tale that somehow manages to improve upon the original Blade Runner with a well-crafted narrative and better-drawn characters. Personally, I’ve never had much of an attachment to Blade Runner outside of the late, great Rutger Hauer’s turn as Roy Batty. But when it comes to Villeneuve’s take on this world, he managed to deepen the themes, expand the scope, yet somehow make it more intimate and human.
Thankfully, the cult audience for Blade Runner 2049 started almost immediately. Alcon Entertainment, Warner Bros., and Sony shed a sigh of relief when the film did great business on Blu-Ray/VOD sales. Still, the reported combined costs of production and marketing of $300 million hurt immensely.
Budget: $40 million
Worldwide Gross: $32 million
Annihilation is such a mind trip that even Paramount producers feared that it was too intellectual for the casual moviegoer, opting to sell the international distribution rights to Netflix to prop up the film’s financial floor. Hollywood cynicism aside, it is easy to understand why audiences might not leap forward to applaud such a head-scratching film. But over time, Annihilation will certainly be beloved, as it rewards multiple viewings and discussion, the perfect start for any cult favorite to branch out into mainstream classic status.
The sci-fi film has many valid interpretations, from an allegory on cancer to evolution to the uneasy steps to repairing a broken and unfaithful relationship — and more! And there’s also badass scientists shooting mutated monsters! What could be better? Somehow, Alex Garland threaded the needle between intellectual pursuits and visceral thrills, all culminating in a jaw-dropping third act that Garland and producer Scott Rudin saved from studio meddling.
If Beale Street Could Talk (2018)
Budget: $12 million
Worldwide Gross: $21 million
Years from now, we’ll look at Barry Jenkins’ first few films — Medicine for Melancholy, Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk — as an incredible start to an incredible career by one of Hollywood’s most distinct and powerful voices. For that reason alone, many will return to If Beale Street Could Talk time and time again to view its rich performances and beautiful take on James Baldwin’s classic book. The only reason that If Beale Street Could Talk wasn’t nominated for Best Picture at this past year’s Academy Awards was because of its box office gross. (Thankfully, the Academy rewarded Regina King for her work in the Best Supporting Actress category.)
Nicholas Britell’s score for the film has already become a popular listen on Spotify, and everything else will most likely follow suit as more people discover the film on streaming.
The Beach Bum (2019)
Budget: $5 million
Worldwide Gross: $4 million
Okay, this one is a bit of an ego play; The Beach Bum will most likely be one of my favorite movies of 2019, and I need everyone else to witness it to distinguish it from the thousands of other flops.
The Beach Bum is director Harmony Korine’s most accessible movie to date, and shows Matthew McConaughey in his final form as Moondog. a pot-smoking, PBR-drinking, former poet, beach wastoid who travels all around the Florida Keys in search of a really epic time as he writes his latest work.
Allow me to run off the cast list of The Beach Bum: Matthew McConaughey, Isla Fisher, Snoop Dogg, Zac Efron, Jonah Hill, Martin Lawrence, and Jimmy Buffet (as himself). Each cast member makes their presence felt, too. The Beach Bum has some of the best comedic cameos of the decade.
At the very least, The Beach Bum will morph into a stoner comedy favorite. It will have plenty of midnight showings for years to come. It already has cult status written all over it, and with the inclusion of high-profile talent, it can turn into much more.
Thank you for reading! What are your thoughts on recent flops that will become classics? Comment down below!
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