The high school burnout classic "Dazed and Confused" is one of the most fondly remembered movies of the early '90s. But did you know that when the movie was first released, it was like, a total flop, man? Bummer.
But here we are today celebrating the 20-year anniversary, giving it the love it so deserves. It turns out that "Dazed and Confused" is in pretty good company when it comes to now-classics that didn't get showered with box office love upon their initial release. Check it out, man.
1. 'The Wizard of Oz' (1939)
Nearly 75 years later, it's hard to imagine "The Wizard of Oz" as anything but an all-time classic. But upon its release, Dorothy and company severely underperformed, largely because MGM had ponied up over $2 million for the movie's groundbreaking set designs, special effects and costumes, making it their to-date biggest budgeted feature. Of course, the movie would go on to be a huge money maker through re-releases, music sales, television runs, VHS and DVD sales and pretty much every other way movies can get monetized. Politicians and Wall Street-types call this "the long game."
2. 'Citizen Kane' (1941)
In case you skipped Film 101 in college and have never looked at any sort of "Best Movies Ever" list, "Citizen Kane" is the game-changing masterpiece Orson Welles made at the tender age of 26, presumably to make us feel bad about our own list of accomplishments (or lack thereof) around the same age. When it was released in 1941, "Kane" was met with lots of critical love and scored nine Oscar nominations ... but at the box office, the thinly-veiled portrait of publishing kingpin William Randolph Hearst failed to recover its costs. Still, Welles probably eventually took solace in the fact that pretty much everyone would go to call it the best movie ever made; he would also go on to voice a character in an animated "Transformers" movie, but that was much later.
3. 'It's a Wonderful Life' (1946)
These days, "It's a Wonderful Life" is a beloved, inspirational holiday movie about a guy that tries to kill himself on Christmas. But long before it was competing in holiday marathons with Bond movies and "A Christmas Story," Frank Capra's big budget flick had hit hard financial times itself, losing over $3 million at the box office back when that was more than the monthly salary of an investment banker. Of course, "It's a Wonderful Life" has since more than recouped its costs and rose to the status of classic following the movie's popular Christmas broadcasts, which started to pop up in the late '70s.
4. 'Harold and Maude' (1971)
"Harold and Maude," the peculiar cult classic about an affair between a morbid loner and an eccentric elderly woman, was an unconventional romance that proved love can be blind. And pretty creepy. Considering romantic comedies are usually centered around a ruggedly handsome dude wooing a quirky (but not too quirky) Jennifer Aniston and not a guy who get his kicks from staging suicides falling for geriatric, it's understandable that the movie initially either flew under the radar or was met with disgust or discomfort. Over time, however, loving "Harold and Maude" became shorthand for showing that you believe in true love ... and maybe that you were into some weird stuff that resulted in a few visits to the guidance counselor.
5. 'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory' (1971)
It's easy to understand why Mel Stuart's take on Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" wasn't met with buckets of love in 1971. (Get it? Buckets? Good stuff.) The movie was straight up trippy and included uncomfortably orange dancing oompa loompas, the implied brutal death of several children and this nightmare factory of a scene. But like "It's a Wonderful Life," "Willy Wonka" built momentum following TV broadcasts and home video and eventually took its place in the hall of classics. It was also notably a better adaptation than Tim Burton's 2005 adaptation, which was a spastic piece of s**t.
6. 'Blade Runner' (1982)
Starring Harrison Ford between Indiana Jones and Han Solo performances, directed by Ridley Scott coming off his mega-hit "Alien" and featuring some seriously epic special effects and sets, "Blade Runner" should have made a killing at the box office. Except it didn't. "Runner" was crowded out by other, higher profile sci-fi efforts, including "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn" and a little Steven Spielberg picture called "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial." The story was also a bit lower profile than advertised, high on musings about what it means to be human and somewhat low on the big action scenes. But after building momentum with a cult following and critical acclaim, the movie is now viewed as wildly influential in the sci-fi genre and one of the all-time greats.
7. 'Once Upon a Time in America' (1984)
Cut down from an original running time of nearly four and a half hours to two hours and twenty minutes, Italian master director Sergio Leone's sprawling New York City crime epic never really had much of a chance with American audiences. Warner Brothers apparently viewed Americans as unable to follow a flashback narrative or sit still for over three hours and released a version Roger Ebert referred to as "an incomprehensible mess without texture, timing, mood or sense." The box office results were putrid, but following the European cut's release on home video, the film grew to be viewed as a gangster classic and one of those movies people name-check to prove they're into cool independent cinema.
8. 'Dazed and Confused' (1993)
"Dazed and Confused" was Richard Linklater's plotless, meandering teen comedy follow-up to his plotless, meandering cult hit "Slacker." It didn't have a single bona fide movie star (although the movie would famously jumpstart the careers of Ben Affleck, Matthew McConaughey and Milla Jovovich, among others). There was no teen lovey-dovey drama. There were no worth-the-price-of-admission nude scenes. And there was no adolescent gross-out humor. So it's pretty understandable that following its release in 1993, it didn't exactly light the box office on fire. But the low-key nostalgic charm of the movie was slow burning, and movie buffs everywhere have since realized that Richard Linklater movies with no plots tend to be the best Richard Linklater movies ("School of Rock" excluded, of course).
9. 'The Shawshank Redemption' (1994)
Unless you hate relentlessly charming prison inmates and the triumph of the human spirit, you probably love "Shawshank." Back in 1994, the movie was met with solid-if-not-stellar reviews but drowned out by less conventional critical darlings that sprung up, including "Pulp Fiction," "Forrest Gump" and "Quiz Show." And at the box office, the numbers were paltry as the film failed to recoup its $25 million budget upon its initial release. But due to of good word-of-mouth and, perhaps more importantly, ridiculously frequent airings on cable bottom feeder TNT, "Shawshank" made like Andy Dufresne, crawling through a river of s**t and coming out clean on the other side.
10. 'Fight Club' (1999)
In 2013 every schoolchild showers "Fight Club" with praise for being a visionary, stylish and terribly entertaining piece of Generation X culture. But back in 1999, Fox was faced with the challenge of how exactly to market this oddball adaptation of a bizarre, three-years-young Chuck Palahniuk book to audiences. We assume the pitch meeting went something like this: "It's about these guys who start a club to beat the s**t out of each other. But it's also about capitalism. Also, Meat Loaf is in it, and he has boobs." Fox took the low road, marketing "Fight Club" as a movie with awesome fight scenes, buying spots for the movie on WWF broadcasts ... and it tanked. However, the film would go on to heralded as a generation-defining movie and make a nice $100 million profit on DVD. Turns out capitalism isn't so bad after all.
11. 'Office Space' (1999)
"Office Space" was every bit as smart, offbeat, dark and irreverent as something you'd expect from the guy who created "Beavis and Butt-head" and "King of the Hill." But despite adept comic acting from the likes of Ron Livingston, Stephen Root, Gary Cole and a mid-"Friends" Jennifer Aniston, the movie lacked star power and was released during the post-Oscar film purgatory of February, pretty much killing its chances at box office success. Word of mouth love from devoted fans — and a plot that tapped into the rage of overworked, underpaid white collar folks everywhere — would eventually go on to make "Office Space" a runaway hit on VHS and later DVD. Another Mike Judge flop, 2006's "Idiocracy," a heartwarming tale of how dumb and fat we're all getting, has also built a nice little of a cult following since its release.