You would think that when it comes to classic movies, people would immediately recognize their greatness and fully embrace it upon the film’s release into theaters.

However, that’s actually not always the case, and in fact, some of the best movies ever made struggled to initially find an audience during their theatrical runs. Eventually, most of these movies make up for those box office losses with home video and selling the rights to cable companies.

But still, it’s kind of amazing to look back over some of the consensus greatest movies ever made and see just how many were outright disasters upon initial release. For every Jaws, or Star Wars, or Titanic, there are half a dozen revered movies that were just completely ignored in movie theaters.

13It’s a Wonderful Life

It’s a Wonderful Life

These days we remember It’s a Wonderful Life as arguably the greatest Christmas film ever made, but when it was released it did so poorly it bankrupted Frank Capra’s production company.

12The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz

The Wizard of Oz cost a huge (for the time) sum of money to make, and only just barely made back its budget at the box office. It initially lost the studio more than a million bucks.

11The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption

Rated by fans on IMDb as the greatest movie ever made, initially the bad title kept people away and the film fell short of earning back its budget of $25 million on its initial theatrical run.

10Blade Runner

Blade Runner

Now considered a transcendent science fiction film, Blade Runner was a disaster from production all the way to box office, only becoming a classic after earning a devoted cult following.



At the time of its release, Cleopatra was one of the most expensive movies ever made, and despite being the top-grossing film of 1963 it still fell well short of its budget of $44 million.

8Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory

It’s since become one of the most beloved kid’s movies ever made, but at the time of its release, it was considered just too damn weird to get much box office momentum going.

7Citizen Kane

Citizen Kane

Voted by the American Film Institute as the greatest film ever made, the movie was a thinly veiled shot at William Randolph Hearst, who in turn blackballed it into box office obscurity.

6The Iron Giant


Over the years, The Iron Giant has become revered as one of the best-animated films of all-time, but it didn’t even come close to earning back its budget despite being 97% positive on Rotten Tomatoes.

5Fight Club


Despite its status as a modern classic, Fight Club originally got less than stellar reviews, which in turn didn’t help the box office take as it topped out at just $37 million.

4The Big Lebowski


The Big Lebowski is one of the most beloved cult films of all-time and is unbelievably quotable, but earned only $17 million at the box office on a budget of $15 million.



It seems unfatho, but mable that Jimmy Stewart and Alfred Hitchcock could team for a box office disappointment that’s what happened with Vertigo as it earned just $7.3 million.

2Office Space


Along the same lines as Lebowski, Office Space is a cult favorite and remains one of the most quoted movies in modern comedy but managed just $10.8 million at the box office.

1The Rocky Horror Picture Show


Despite its insanely rabid cult following, Rocky Horror certainly isn’t for all tastes, and that was made pretty clear when it earned just $22,000 during its opening weekend.