It seems as though every year there are big-budget movies that fall through the cracks. This summer alone we’ve had Battleship, John Carter, Rock of Ages, and potentially The Watch failing to deliver when it comes to earnings. But being a financial flop is not always indicative of being a bad-quality film. Not every film that fails is a Pluto Nash or Battlefield Earth. Here are ten box office flops that are still worth a viewing.
Death to Smoochy
Danny De Vito’s 2002 black comedy about corruption in children’s television was a huge financial failure, making only $8 million from US box office. It was hit-and-miss with the critics and even received a Razzy nomination. In spite of that, it’s still one of the funniest films I have ever seen. The film follows Sheldon Mopes (Edward Norton) when his Barney-a-like character Smoochy replaces the corrupt entertainer Rainbow Randolph, brilliantly performed by Robin Williams. Along the way Mopes encounters the Irish mob, children’s charity gangsters and bung-taking agents. It’s a hilarious and smart comedy, with a unique style, brilliant script and a number of great performances.
Gattaca put Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, and Uma Thurman together in 1997 and came out with $12 million from a $36 million budget. It was a big hit with the critics and even had an Oscar nomination. Audiences chose to miss out on one of the most intelligent science fiction films ever made, creating a realistic future world where employability is entirely decided upon a person’s pre-determined life expectancy. Asking big questions about genetic engineering and the power of the health industry, Gattaca was perhaps a little too high-concept for its own good.
Kathryn Bigalow directed this James Cameron-scribed cyberpunk thriller. In it, Ralph Fiennes plays an ex-cop who makes a living selling memories – memories that can be played and recorded via a device that hooks into the cerebral cortex. One of these memories, though, contains a horrifying secret, which leads Fiennes deeper and deeper into a dangerous conspiracy. In spite of a cast including Tom Sizemore, Juliette Lewis and Angela Bassett, and plenty of critical acclaim, Strange Days didn’t come close to making back its $42 million budget.
The Cable Guy
I think we’ve all come across this one at some point or another. A film that ‘nearly wrecked Jim Carrey’s career’ according to Homer Simpson, in fact this Ben Stiller-directed movie wasn’t a flop at all and made $60 million in America alone. Then why is it on this list? Well, because people often give it a swerve due to its notoriety. If you give it a chance you’ll find a great black comedy with some hilarious jokes, an intelligent message and a strangely prophetic vision of the future:
Not bad for a film from 1996, eh?
Ever imagine what would happen if Who Framed Roger Rabbit had an older, weirder brother? Well, if you did, Cool World is the film for you. Gabriel Byrne is a comic book artist who is sucked into the universe he created. Unfortunately, some of the ‘toons he created want to get out. The film was plagued by rewrites that took it away from director Ralph Bashki’s original idea (the original plot involved a half-‘toon, half-human hybrid escaping from a comic book to seek revenge on its human father – awesome, I know). Although Cool World is a bit of a bloated mess, and isn’t necessarily a good movie, it’s still got lots of interesting ideas and is worth watching.
The King of Comedy
A lot of the time, you can see why a film failed, even if you don’t agree. Maybe Gattaca was too intelligent for most movie-goers; maybe Death to Smoochy was too dark given the very cartoony surface layer; maybe Strange Days was a bit too geek-friendly. I can see no reason why The King of Comedy flopped, though. It’s directed brilliantly by Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro gives possibly his best performance, and the film has a brutal, chilling quality throughout. Throw in the critique of media idols that the film presents and you’ve got a movie that, by all rights, should have been a classic. Unfortunately, only the critics seemed to see it.
Last Action Hero
Another one of the big historical failures, 1993’s Last Action Hero declared a financial loss of $26 million. In spite of this, the movie still did fairly well at the box office – but not enough to offset the whopping budget that was reported to be over $70 million. Panned by the critics at the time, the film has actually stood up to the test of time very well, giving an incisive, satirical critique of the world of action movies whilst delivering plenty of fun action set pieces.
What happens if you combine Aliens with Titanic and throw Die Hard into the mix? Deep Rising, that’s what! A team of mercenaries attempt to hijack the most expensive cruise ship in the world. When they get there, they discover that evil aquatic monsters have got there before they have. An action-comedy-horror hybrid, the film is full of quotable lines and memorable (sometimes gory) scenes. Unfortunately critics and movie-goers alike didn’t agree.
This animated film, directed by Don Bluth, with Joss Whedon on the writing team and Matt Damon, Bill Pullman and Drew Barrymore in the cast, did so badly that it closed Fox Animation Studios. The movie created a wonderful setting – a humanity spread across a vibrant universe after the destruction of Earth – and gave an epic plot reminiscent of Star Wars. Unfortunately, the film fell between a younger and older demographic and a lot of people missed out on a great sci-fi movie.
Cutthroat Island is part of one of the biggest disasters in movie history – between this and Showgirls, it forced the fantastic Carolco Pictures to close. What makes Carolco Pictures so special? Well, only that they were responsible for the Rambo movies, Total Recall, and Terminator 2. But is Cutthroat Island really that bad? No, not really. In fact, it shares a striking number of similarities to the massive hit Pirates of the Caribbean. Geena Davis is fantastic, the plot is fun, but most importantly, it is a wonderfully entertaining adventure movie. If it had been made a few years later, with a decent marketing push behind it, I’m sure that Cutthroat Island would have been a hit.
Hopefully, this will have made you think to look beyond whether a film did well at the box office before passing judgement on its quality. Of course, some films are awful and not worth buying, but some of them are genuinely fantastic movies.
And, ahem, some of them are so awful they need to be seen.