There are movies that come along and punch the movie-going public right in the face, leaving a permanent metaphorical fist-shape on the brain-jaws of the audience. These are movies that everyone constantly quotes, so much so that the quotes become just another idiom in the language.
Unfortunately, not all these movies make a good first impression. Many of them flop spectacularly, and everyone hates them, like a big floppy thing that sucks. Here are 7 movies you remember as classics, but everyone hated and nobody saw when they first came out.
“Office Space” is the quintessential office comedy. It’s such a goddam juggernaut that other films don’t even try anymore. The movie is so all-encompassing in its thrashing of corporate cubical culture that any other attempt to cover the same ground just reads like a rip-off. The “TPS Report” joke has become verbal shorthand for excessive, repetitive demands. The copier-smashing scene is iconic. When a piece of tech is giving you hell, how many times have you heard someone say “We should just Office Space that thing.” You can’t even say the word “stapler” out loud without having someone start talking like Milton. Ditto for having to pass something on – just last night I had to pass a stack of napkins down the table and I mumbled “Last time I did not receive my cake.”
There are a thousand more quotes I could drop, but there’s no point, because you already know them. Kind of shocking that the film barely recouped its budget, and critics weren’t exactly thrilled about it.
Original Review: “Perhaps Mike Judge’s TV background makes him unaccustomed to the demands of a feature-length script (the ending seems almost panicky in its abruptness); or maybe he just succumbs to the lure of the easy yuk. Instead, all that’s left is to applaud the intention.” – Rick Groen, The Globe and Mail Review
Budget: 10 million
Domestic Box Office: 10.8 million
Reason for Resurrection: VHS and DVD allowed people to pass the movie to each other alongside favorable word-of-mouth. The flick’s near-constant airings on Comedy Central in the late ’90s played a huge role as well. Actually, they never really stopped playing it near-constantly. I’ll bet it’s on right now. Go check for me.
It’s A Wonderful Life
A recent study showed that 31.6% of the tears shed in America yearly were caused by holiday viewings of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” To call “It’s a Wonderful Life” a classic is to call John Lithgow’s forehead “kinda big, I guess.”
The movies faced stiff competition from “Miracle on 34th Street,” but it also suffered from luke-warm reviews. Many found it to be too sentimental, which I find fascinating because except for the very end of the movie, the story is a goddam shadowed carnival of horrors. I saw this movie later in life, and I was expecting a kind of saccharine goopiness that the movie does not deliver. There’s suicide and crushed dreams and sacrifice, kids getting the shit slapped out of them, it’s crazy.
At the time, the FBI was also investigating the movie for its Communist underpinnings. Because, that’s pretty much all the FBI did between 1945 and 1970. No, I’m absolutely not kidding. Apparently displaying a banker as unsavory was enough to get accused of being a dirty Pinko.
Original Review: “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. But somehow they all resemble theatrical attitudes rather than average realities.” The New York Times, 1946
Budget: 3.2 million
Domestic Box Office: 3.3 million
Reason for Resurrection: A wacky kerfuffle with some fuzzy copyright laws meant that the movie entered the public domain a mere twenty-something years after it was released. Which meant that anyone with a TV station, movie projector, or even just a loud voice could replay the movie without having to pay anyone a single nickel. Basically, you know about “It’s a Wonderful Life” because it was cheaper to play at Christmas then a picture of a burning log.
First of all, yes, “Highlander” is a classic. This is the movie that started a franchise that made middle-aged women everywhere swoon. Also, it’s a great movie in its own right. It has the glorious distinction of introducing perpetual intimidating creepoid Clancy Brown into the cultural zeitgeist. It also has the dubious honor of fooling America into thinking that Christopher Lambert was a movie star.
If you’re (somehow) not familiar with “Highlander,” it’s about an immortal sword-swinging Scotsman (who talks like a weird Frenchman) trying to live the quiet life in the horrible shithole that is 1980’s New York City. It’s got a sort of Terminator-esque romance with a normal woman, some slow-motion jazz vaseline-lens scenes, and a shitload of guys trying to decapitate each other to Queen songs. It’s surprisingly excellent.
This oddly-lovable movie spawned six movies and nine years of television. Which is a damn solid pedigree for a film that completely shit the bed at the box office.
Original Review (I couldn’t find one, but I found a modern one that captured the tone): “Narrative coherence is not a quality which director Mulcahy brings to this mondial of machismo.”
Budget: 19 million
Domestic Box Office: 5.7 million
Reason for Resurrection: The home video market saved “The Highlander” from an ignominious decapitation. The video rental market in particular quickened the movie’s pop-culture presence, so that’s at least one thing you can thank Blockbuster for. Also, all the amazing Queen songs helped, as did the startlingly original premise.
You remind me of the babe. What babe? The babe with the power? What power? The power to bomb the box office like a B2 piloted by the Joker. An entire generation was introduced to their own sexuality by the “Labyrinth” (athankyou, David Bowie), so it’s surprising to think how miserable it did in theaters. It didn’t even make back half of its budget!
Directed by Jim Henson, “Labyrinth” is a fever dream fantasy story as excellent as it is trippy. It reads like “Alice in Wonderland” made by Tim Burton, but about 400 times better than the “Alice in Wonderland” that was actually made by Tim Burton. It’s the movie that introduced us to Jennifer Connelly, who might be the most beautiful woman in the world who isn’t my wife (awww). She plays a strong heroine (Connelly, not my wife, because she don’t play [awww #2]) who, if the movie hadn’t been targeted at children, seems like she would have been comfortable tossing a few f-bombs at the Goblin King and maybe punching him in the grundle.
Unfortunately, no one at the theater gave a rat’s ass for the adventures of a dog knight riding a regular dog, and critics didn’t do the movie any favors either. Ludo, saaaad.
Original Review: Roger Ebert said the Labyrinth had “…something missing. It never really comes alive.” He goes on to say “…we’re wasting out psychic energy by caring. In a completely arbitrary world, what difference does anything make?” He thought the movie was “…too long, without a strong plot line to pull us through.” He finished by saying “Fuck Jim Henson right in his stupid Muppety mouth.” Okay, he didn’t actually say that last part. I lied to you.
Budget: 25 million
Domestic Box Office: 12.7 million
Reason for Resurrection: Kids, man. Parents might have been hesitant to take their youngsters to such an odd flick, but kids don’t care. Kids love weird dark movies. “The Last Unicorn” is one of the most terrifying and surreal movies I’ve ever seen, but a generation of tiny girls grew up adoring it because unicorns. A combination of frequent cable viewings and home video helped the whole world fall in love with this cracked fairy tale.
Stay tuned for next week, when Part 2 introduces us to movies we all love that failed miserably. Here are some hints: They’re about a prison, a penny, and punching. Here’s another Jareth gif, just because.