Top 10 Great Movies that Failed

Photo credit: Warner Bros

Photo credit: Warner Bros

Even great movies flop sometimes. It’s a tragic but little-acknowledged fact that even a great movie will sometimes find itself dead in the water if the timing’s wrong, or if the genre’s not popular right now, or if audiences just plain don’t get it. But that doesn’t always mean that it’s a bad movie. Below, we’ve put together a list of movies that we know now are amazing-but that flopped when they were released. You won’t believe number six did so badly!

1. The Postman

There was one major mistake in the epic movie- that they chose to release it on Christmas day. Christmas day releases are generally fun affairs-family movies or action films or romantic comedies designed to warm the heart. The Postman featured a nameless drifter plated Kevin Costner trudging about the desert for almost three hours in a slightly above-it’s-station morality tale. All that said, it’s worth a watch and definitely marks one of Costner’s better performances-even if it is a bit of a long watch.

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  • Guest

    these are the best movies ever made, none of them failed. You clearly was too lazy to do your research.

  • Nayera Ahmad

    these are the best movies ever made, none of them failed. You clearly were too lazy to do your research.

    • mjr

      The article isn’t saying the movies are bad. It’s saying they had trouble finding an audience when they were released. Many have gone on to be classics. The wrong visual for Ed Wood is unforgivable though.

    • Kevin

      You are an idiot Nayera. Every one of these films failed at the box office. You are clearly the one too lazy to do even basic research. Serious, if you are too dumb to use the internet, maybe you should find a new hobby.

      • TR6guy

        “Waterworld” broke even, bright eyes. Did not “fail.” Got to IMDb or Boxofficemojo, on the Internet, to see the error of your rant.

        • pisher

          This has been an internet meme for years, but it’s wrong. Waterworld flopped. A movie is a flop or a hit in relation to reasonable expectations from the industry as to how it should perform compared to how it actually did perform.

          Was it the biggest flop of all time? Not even close in dollar terms, but in pop cultural terms, it’s way way up there. And nobody is ever going to change that. It’s a FLOP.

          • TR6guy

            Budget, $175 (estimated, a high estimate based on overages, etc). Box office take, $264 million. In 1995, no movie that took in $265 million PRE video was a flop. People hated Costner and beat him up over the film. But nobody lost money, and he was given another blank check to make “The Postman” afterwards. Which WAS a flop. Scoffing at Internet memes is no substitute for looking up the numbers. Sport.

          • seanspec

            Nicely stated. I love it when facts get in the way or peoples perceptions and ability to not accept they may be incorrect.

          • avnrulz

            However, the Postman, according to IMDB, made 89.9 million over six weeks, on a budget of 80 million, so any receipts after that were profit. Was it spectacularly received, etc? No, obviously not, but it wasn’t a complete loss, in the long run. Still a favorite of mine, for having read the book.

          • Kevin

            You seem to have conveniently forgotten that half of cinema receipts go to the cinemas. Which means the studio took a bath on The Postman.

          • Kevin

            You might want to learn a bit about the movie business, and then go back to math class. First, budget does not include marketing costs. Second, half of box office receipts go to the cinemas. Third, cinemas allocate screen space based on projections. Waterworld cost the studio enormously and it hurt cinema owners because it underperformed and left them empty seats. Nice try though.

          • TR6guy

            Sorry, pal, but as I averred in my note, the “budget” for it was just Hollywood journalism’s spitball guess– $175, high, almost certainly a $30-50 million exaggeration. Having covered the business for more than a few years, on both exhibition and distributor sides, I know the math breakdown money split perfectly well. It broke even, or came very close to it, at the box office. Despite poisonous press coverage at the time. It went in the black, and Costner’s blank check approval endured for at least one more film — “The Postman.” Sorry this half-assed listicle has eaten up so much of everybody’s time, and that it is bringing out “experts” who are no such thing.

          • Kevin

            Well then, I’m sure with your expertise you also know that when a studio’s tentpole film- which is consuming a significant portion of its production and marketing budget for an entire year – comes “close to breaking even, ” that is considered a massive failure. I like Water World. I own a post apocalypse production company, helped build many of the props for the theme attraction at Universal Studios, and that is one of my top 10 PA films of all time. But it was a massive box office failure. You can blame the media or studio marketing or the storm in Hawaii that destroyed the sets, or whatever you want. But if you were the expert you claim to be you would already know that, and wouldn’t have initially cited gross box office receipts as a reason it was a success.

          • ACMECorporations

            Not all of the box office take goes to distributors of a film. Half goes to the theaters featuring the film. So to really make money for the producers and distributors, a film has to more than double its production costs. Waterworld didn’t do that in distribution. Maybe it has become profitable with video rentals and sales.

  • getitrightschwan

    Ed wood has a picture of Edward Scissorhands… yay for fluff content…

    • pisher

      They crank these things out one after the other, and do almost no research.

    • kevjudge

      I noticed that.
      Either the editor thought we were ignorant or they were

    • Macpappy

      It could have been a play on the line of it being a movie of Ed Wood, a bad director, featuring Depp, with a photo of a badly directed, Depp movie, i.e. Edward Scissorhands.

  • realitychk69

    The postman??? basically waterworld on land. garbage

    • avnrulz

      The Postman was an over-long movie from a relatively short book, but still one I like to watch; much better than ‘Waterworld.’

    • Jerry Chaney

      Waterworld was not a flop! It cost $175 million to produce and made $265 million worldwide. The Postman cost $80 million to make and only made back $17 million. The two are nothing even close to the same thing

      • bigdawgman

        They have to split up to half the gross. DVD and other sales barely brought it to the break even mark. For the most expensive movie of all time, that is considered a flop.

  • MatthewIler

    Why do you use the word “its” wrong? Its means belonging to it, the word you’re using, “it’s,” means it is. Fix it. It drives me crazy.

    • Erik E Erik

      There are tons of grammar and factual errors here. However, we’ve clicked, so they’ve won.

      • Barbara Craker

        grammatical and factual….LOL…(mom’s the english teacher…I don’t really give a crap…) and english should be capitalized I know that too…

      • Ranger Dan Parsons

        Your welcome!

    • Floyd Earl Smith

      “Its” is so often rendered as “it’s” in this article that I think that must be the actual point of the article, rather than anything about movies.

    • Carl

      why do u use the word “wrong” wrongly? You finger pointing, blame someone else, find something wrong with someone people drive me crazy.

      • DLH

        Why do you use the word “wrong” wrongly? Your are finger pointing; blaming someone else; finding something wrong with someone. People drive me crazy.

    • Wile E. Coyote (Supergenius)

      oh, thank you! There is someone else in the world who understands the difference. I mean, once, o.k., writer in a hurry. But two freaking times?

    • Ranger Dan Parsons

      Wrong is wrong, you should have used incorrectly.

  • Mariano Paniello

    Don’t paid writers have to know the most basic rudiments of English grammar? I guess not, these days. The difference between it’s and its is something they taught us in the third grade, back in my day.

  • imanamcan

    I have a hard time giving any credibility to a “writer” who doesn’t know basic grammar. Of course most writing for sites like this is done on what’s known as a content farm, where stringing words together for obscenely low pay hardly draws skilled wordsmiths.

  • Hendronicus

    Blade Runner turned SciFi into a serious art form? Really? Ever heard of a film named “2001″? How about “Silent Running”? I’m not saying BR wasn’t influential. I’m saying your statement is hipster hype.

    • pisher

      That really was a nonsensical statement–the movie is a visual treat, no doubt–but it’s also far less intelligent and original than the Philip K. Dick novel that inspired it. I don’t think Dick himself would have thought much of the movie. Very influential on other filmmakers in the way it used visual effects, but in terms of storytelling and characterization, it’s pretty weak. And its ideas are nothing new.

      • NNccWW

        Dick liked the film. The Wikipedia entry gets it right:
        Although Dick died shortly before the film’s release, he was pleased with the rewritten script, and with a twenty-minute special effects test reel that was screened for him when he was invited to the studio. Despite his well known skepticism of Hollywood in principle, Dick enthused to Ridley Scott that the world created for the film looked exactly as he had imagined it.[34] He said, “I saw a segment of Douglas Trumbull’s special effects for Blade Runner on the KNBC-TV news. I recognized it immediately. It was my own interior world. They caught it perfectly.” He also approved of the film’s script, saying, “After I finished reading the screenplay, I got the novel out and looked through it. The two reinforce each other, so that someone who started with the novel would enjoy the movie and someone who started with the movie would enjoy the novel.”[51]

  • TR6guy

    “Waterworld” broke even, and kind of works. Not a flop. “Postman” was the same movie, with a moronically messianic bent. “Jesse James” good, not great. LONG. And only a fanboy boob thinks “Serenity” is either “great” or deserving of any audience more than it earned.

    • pisher

      A movie that expensive with that big a star (at the time) that gets that heavily promoted and just breaks even is a flop. Period. But I agree about pretty much everything else you said.

  • pisher

    The Postman was a bloated self-indulgent mess. Waterworld, ditto. Costner got way too much power after Dancing With Wolves, and he abused it.

    Serenity was ridiculously overrated, and still is, but most people had the good sense to see it as the rather mediocre conventional derivative piece of space cowboy crap that it was. Joss Whedon is a talented guy, but he’s not a great writer OR director, and you can’t make him one by saying it over and over on the internet.

    • seanspec

      You are retarded. Serenity was a great movie. I didn’t even know it was out until I saw it on HBO and really was amazed at how great a movie it was. I can tell you are the type that thinks fun, funny, great character interaction and interesting movies aren’t artistic enough for you and your “the Piano” crowd. Go watch Casablanca and cry because you obviously are clueless when it comes to cool flicks.

      • PAllen

        I’m afraid I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t tear-up at Casablanca…

        • Jerry Chaney

          Its a good movie, but not one that’s worth crying over. It simply doesnt tug at the heart strings enough for that unless you’re a woman and that’s only because women cry about romantic movies. If you want to see an emotional movie, then go watch The Fault in our Stars. Its an amazing movie that will absolutely tug at the heart strings. However I have to admit that the book is way more emotional than the movie, but then that’s the case with almost every movie made from a book.

    • Jerry Chaney

      You’re mentally ill or something! Joss Whedon is responsible for movies like The Avengers which he both wrote and directed. He has made several very popular and commercially successful TV shows, like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and many other very successful movies!

      I love the fact that you list water world as a Costner flop. It cost $175 million to make and earned $265 million world wide. It may be a lot of things, but it’s not a flop. The Postman is Costners worst effort financially, but its still a fun movie to watch and it was never released beyond the US market. If it had been, then I dont doubt that it would have made back more than its production cost.

  • MarylandBill

    Serenity was a good movie, but its failure should have been expected in retrospect. After all, it was essentially the last episode of the Television series. Unless you were a fan of the series, you had no reason to watch it.

    • Moon Knight

      I adore Twin Peaks, but that is another movie that no one should have bet money on. X-Files had the same problem.

  • ihavetopickastupidname

    You have a picture of EDWARD Scissorhands in for ED Wood. Haha…

  • skeeterville

    The reason Citizen Kane did poorly at the box office was NOT “it’s [sic] revolutionary use of new techniques.” At a time when people got most of their information from newspapers, Hurst Newspapers across the country would not run a single ad to promote it.

  • Dan Meyers

    Waterworld: “but the movie itself really isn’ that bad.” Really? It is truly bad and very difficult to watch. It is an endless series of cliches, reworked mad-max scenes and implausible events that demand you suspend belief for the entire movie. Super bad, laughably bad.

    • RobertNorwood

      Negative, I liked it and it’s worth watching. Well above a lot of the crap that comes out. Jeanne Tripplehorn herself is worth the watch. Sure there are holes in the story, issues of being plausible but it’s still a good film.

      The Postman – again, a really good film. You won’t get bored.

      No one ever went broke doubting the American public’s taste in film. Very good films often require some imagination, an interest, a well rounded education and set of personal tastes and culture. Finally, we’re a diverse group. Most black Americans will flock to any movie by or about African Americans and give it 4 stars for example. Gangster movies are always popular but inevitably draw some heat from Italian Americans as stereotyping them. It’s always going to be a mixed bag. Zombies are dull, over done, and boring and yet zombie movies do good – go figure.

  • kevin72132003

    I tried to watch Waterworld. It is genuinely awful and patently ridiculous. .

  • ImJustAGuy

    Waterworld is a great movie! I’ve seen it several times on TV and if it were on, I’d watch it again.

  • Crystal Currier

    I loved The Postman and Waterworld. I don’t care what critics say…

    • Norbrook

      The problem with the Postman was that it was loosely based on a great science fiction novel, and skipped over the best parts of the novel.

      • Jhary Kenshura

        And made up bad parts that weren’t in it.

        • Kendon Smith

          I enjoyed The Postman up until the last 20 minutes or so. All that mushy patriot porn at the end was enough to start me projectile vomiting…

      • Crystal Currier

        I should find the book then and see what the real story was.

  • Makimaus

    What about “Rocketeer” and “Phantom of the Paradise”? Either of them is worth eight Kevin Costner overkills.

  • James Phineas

    Postman, after reading the book was a total POS.

  • ImJustAGuy

    Yea, I get that Waterworld is not plausible argument. As much as we keep being told, the ocean levels just aren’t rising.

    But I enjoyed Waterworld not because the oceans aren’t rising, it’s an entertaining movie.

    Is Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory plausible? Of course not! But it’s still a good movie!

  • Ixnay66

    Waterworld and the Postman were universally panned but I enjoyed them both.

  • Michael Richards

    Ed Wood Scissorhands?? Using high school Journalism class interns again?

  • JanetCastle

    Someone is not paying attention to detail. The accompanying picture foe Ed Wood is actually a picture from the movie Edward Scissorhands.

  • Geoclac

    “Waterworld” was a terrible movie. The initial conceit of the film makes no sense, all land masses are covered by water hundreds of feet deep. If that happened, the first hurricane that started would never stop. there is no way people could live in floating villages that would be swamped by the first big wave. Also, where are all the ships? Are you telling me not one supercarrier survived, not one submarine?

    • Jackie Jormpjomp

      Settle down.

  • Sam Cro

    All are better then the trash being out out today. Homosexuals and Feminists don’t play well with me and most people outside of Hollywood I suspect. This may be a wakeup call but, not everyone who watches TV and movies is Homosexual, black, or the short fat girl with the crew cut and overalls, or the clueless show reviewer.

  • Blightness

    literally spat out my beer at number one. Won’t be reading the rest. Thanks for a crap list Movieseum.

  • Wes Day

    FINALLY!! Someone recognizes the greatness of The Postman. Thank you.

    • Jackie Jormpjomp

      Good movie. I over heard a guy talking at Suncoast video. The clerk said “oh, and Postman came out today too”. The customer responded “oh no way. That’s one of the worst movies ever.” The clerk said “oh, so you saw it?” The customer said “uh, no”. Everyone I’ve shown that movie to ended up liking it.

      • Wes Day

        I know exactly what you mean. People judge it without watching it… I’ve bought this movie twice, seen it probably dozens of times. Hell, I might watch it again tonight…

  • weirdpeter

    Now I know you are pulling our legs! Two Kevin Costner bombs are what you consider great movies??HaHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

  • Jackie Jormpjomp

    Good list but fix the Ed Wood picture. Second, Waterworld is a very god popcorn film, and deserves a bigger audience, but unfortunately this article is once again regurgitating the same incorrect information about how it did at the box office. Adjusting for inflation it made around $500 million worldwide. I’m sure with the hefty price tag the studio would have liked to have made more, but it was hardly a bomb. It was in the top 10 earners of that year.

  • Pat

    ‘A slow burning thriller’ about how Jesse James died? The title mentions Jesse is going to die and whodunnit! That movie described as a thriller…bwahahahaha

    • DLH

      Practically everyone knows Jesse James died anyway. As they know the Titanic sank. Yeah, the movie was wrongly described as a thriller. It was more of a psychological and historical piece. It was well acted, photographed and scripted

  • Pat

    This was truly thrown together in 10 minutes by a guy who was out drinking till dawn to beat a deadline. The only thing the editor apparently cares about is which intern is going to service them on lunch break. Wrong pictures, misspelled celebrity names…and it’s not like you couldn’t go back and correct it at some point, they just plain don’t give a F..There’s no pride or embarrassment for pumping out garbage.

  • Darrius

    I give a pass to Serenity. I didn’t watch the movie or the series. But if the movie provided a satisfying ending to the series, that I count that as a win. Too often nowadays networks cut-off series 1 or 2 years in, but before the story is close to ending and leave the audience hanging.

    It’s enough to make one hesitant to pick a new series. You never know whether the network will cut the series short and effectively make your 1-3 years of television watching time a total waste.

    Both the Postman and Waterworld were good, with the Postman being better.

    The real kicker for me, on that list in “It’s a Wonderful Life”. How that movie lost at the box office is beyond me.

  • Donna Cuellar

    How on earth did “The Shawshank Redemption” NOT make this list???


      One great movie!

  • Lin

    Citizen Kane didn’t fail because of “cut away” shots. It failed because William Randolph Hearst, who was a newspaper magnate, thought the movie was about him. he hated the movie and he hated Orson Welles. every paper WR Hearst owned, and he owned a ton, gave Citizen Kane a horrible review and people believed the reviews

    • Jerry Chaney

      You’re 100% correct. These days, if a critic says the movie is terrible, then most of the time its a good movie and well worth the cost of admission. Though there are some movies that are absolutely horrible that they do get right. Also, if they say a movie is great and awesome, a lot of the times it dull, dry and boring as hell. That’s why I dont listen to critics about movies, I wait and see what the general public thinks about the movie because the public are way more honest about how good a movie is. A classic example of this, the critics original reviews of the movie Star Wars was mostly negative. Its was only after the public said that they loved it that the general tone from critics was reversed and they agreed with the public.

      Another example, the original critic review of Jurrasic Park was that it was flat and somewhat boring. After the public went to see it and there were reports about people waiting in line for hours to see it that the critic reviews changed. After that it was one of the all time greatest movies ever made, etc etc etc

  • John Germain

    agree with every film on the list. I liked and/or loved them all with the exception of The Fountain. That was a painfully bad film with the exception of Clint Mansell’s beautiful score. My advice is to buy the score and skip the movie.

  • GPickles

    Learn the difference between “it’s” and “its” if you’re going to keep on as a writer/blogger.

  • Sock ThePuppet

    The Postman failed because it was a bloody mess of a movie that never should have been made…and the last time I checked, Johnny Depp’s character dressed in drag for his role in Ed Wood..not like Edward Scissorhands.

  • wayfarercb

    Good article. Remember tho’: It’s = it is; its = belonging to IT

  • Wile E. Coyote (Supergenius)

    godammit. “Its.” ITS”! Not “it’s.” “Its time,” not “It’s fucking time.” Jesus. You did it not once, but twice. (I edit here to point out that yes, “It’s time” could be correct if one were saying “it is time,” but not if one is saying something like “a movie ahead of its time.”

  • ngboy

    Waterworld? Seriously? the movie that has men with vagina gills?

  • RobFromLoveland

    To call most of these “great movies” is highly ridiculous. The two that are great are Citizen Kane and It’s a Wonderful Life. To call those “faiures” is even more ridiculous. This may have been written by a 7th grader as a class project.

  • IrishYank2

    Interesting list, but Waterworld was deplorable. Any movie that completely ignores the basics of nature and physics drives me crazy.

    Also, why is there a pic of Edward Scissorhands when they’re discussing Ed Wood?

  • BentoBird

    It’s/its. Please figure it out before you publish again.

  • Sean Dysinger

    I am not seeing a whole lot of evidence that a Proof Reader was employed either.

  • Tim Basham

    Where is Heat in this discussion. The ’95 version with Pacino, and DeNiro? It was a great movie that all but flopped on release, but ten years later became a cult classic.

  • urgaylol

    Who is the moron who penned this tripe? That is not a still from Ed Wood, you boob, and what do you mean a “new affleck”? Casey Affleck’s career was over a decade old by the time that movie came out. I hope you get crabs.

  • Dalgast

    I think I’ll just sum this up by saying this list is bull shit.

  • dharmabob

    Whoever wrote this article should be ashamed. They have no knowledge of grammar, sentence construction, and nothing to say anyway. Idiots!

  • Jakerb25

    blade runner failed? blade runner is one of the most admired movies ever made. wtf? and since when is the movie with johnny depp with scissors called ‘ed wood’?

  • chinaskee

    You left out “Heaven’s Gate” which is a much better film than any of the critics who killed it gave it credit for. It’s a beautifully photographed epic movie, which contrary to what all it’s detractors said about it, actually does have a plot. The wedding scene alone is worth the price of admission.

  • Jerry Chaney

    Water world wasnt a flop! We always see this movie on the lists of movies that were flops, but it made over $100 million more than its production costs. Serenity made back its production cost of $38 million, but has made almost twice that since its release to the small screen.

    • bigdawgman

      Gross has to be split with the theatre owners, so 265 is actually about $135, and there are marketing costs to consider. It was a serious flop. Barely made the production costs back with video sales. Companies want to make profit from films, not break even.

  • Anahata

    Please get a fifth-grade grammar textbook and learn the difference between its and it’s.

  • Chiang Kai

    Postman and waterworld were both obscenely formulaic political propaganda movies. waterworld is still the darling of the global warming attackers. This is a push piece designed to make the two look like real movies.

    • Yojimbo556

      I dont remember them pushing an agenda in The Postman…but then again i left half way through because i was bored.

  • Green Lama

    “The Postman” was drech…

  • Green Lama

    …and “The Fountain” was unwatchable. Aronofsky is a deeply over-rated talent.

  • HenryC

    Waterworld was pablum not terrible but hardly worth watching. Nothing like the other movies, though The Foundation wasn’t much either.

  • PollsAndTrolls

    Decent list, except that Waterworld was truly awful (Costner his usual sickening self) and Citizen Kane is perhaps the most overrated movie of all time.

  • John Gerhard

    Waterworld?? The Postman?? Great movies???? You’re kidding, right??

  • Steve Jess

    “…Was a massive flop on it’s release. Even with the star power of a never-better Harrison Ford at it’s heart…”

    Repeat after me: It’s (with an apostrophe) means IT IS or IT HAS.

  • Steve Jess

    “Alright,so this movie…” Really? You don’t even spell check?

  • calpolyjeff

    I saw Ed Wood a long time ago, and remember it as being pretty good. I appreciate them mentioning it, but the photo they show here– I’m pretty sure that Edward Scissorhands. Yes, Johnny Depp, but do they have no photos from Ed Wood?

  • MrSly

    Wrong movie pic, you fruit loop, dodo birds

  • Jeff Levin

    Will somebody hire a bona-fide cinephile to come up with these lists? Egregious omissions from this one:

  • NoGuff

    Waterworld wasn’t all that bad?? You obviously didn’t see the Waterworld starring Keven Costner.

  • TKpeterGunn

    Nope…the fountain was terrible movie. Critics like it just to claim a higher appreciation for art then the knukle dragging, popcorn spilling plebeans who fill the cineplexs. They didn’t really like it ethier.

  • Argol

    Citizen Cane didn’t do well because William Hurst controlled newspapers is most small towns in the US and told cinema owners in those towns not to show the film. It was only seen in big cities and not by the majority of movie fans in the US. The people who did see it overwhelmingly liked it.

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