16 Popular Movies That Bombed at the Box Office With Cult Followings Today

Success doesn’t always come immediately in the unpredictable world of movies, and the first box office numbers don’t always tell the whole story. Some films that didn’t do well when they were in theaters have since developed a loyal cult following. These movies were once ignored or passed over, but they have now won over viewers in ways that no one could have predicted based on how poorly they did at the box office.

1. The Thing (1982)

The Thing 1982 Kurt Russell
Image Credit: The Turman-Foster Company.

When it came out in 1982, The Thing, a science fiction horror classic by John Carpenter, got mixed reviews. At the time, people didn’t like how powerful and violent the alien encounters were in the movie.

But its spooky atmosphere, real-world effects, and suspenseful story have won it a loyal following over the years. It is considered one of the best examples of the type today. The Thing made $19.6 million against a $15 million budget.

2. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

The Shawshank Redemption
Image Credit: Castle Rock Entertainment.

Can you believe one of the greatest films in history bombed at the box office? It made $73.3 million with a $25 million budget. Despite The Shawshank Redemption being considered one of the best movies of all time, it did not do well at the box office when it first came out.

Ultimately, home video and cable TV helped it reach its fans. The touching story of friendship and second chances that takes place in jail has touched the hearts of many people, making it a beloved classic with a strong fan base. 

3. The Big Lebowski (1998)

The Big Lebowski cult classics
Image Credit: Gramercy Pictures.

The quirky and offbeat comedy The Big Lebowski, made by the Coen Brothers, didn’t become a hit when it came out. But because of its strange characters, funny lines of conversation, and complicated plot, it has gained a cult following that loves its unique charm.

Fans of “The Dude” and his strange adventures have made the movie a big cultural deal. With a budget of $15 million, The Big Lebowski earned a meager $46.7 million at the box office.

4. Office Space (1999)

Office Space 1999
Image Credit: Judgemental Films.

At first, Office Space, Mike Judge’s comic look at office life, didn’t do very well at the box office. Over time, though, the scathing way it criticized business culture and the way it made people laugh made it a hit.

The movie has become a cult favorite because it shows how frustrating work can be and how people want their lives to have more meaning. Office Space earned $12.2 million against a $10 million budget.

5. Fight Club (1999)

Fight Club 1999
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

At first, Fight Club by David Fincher was controversial and didn’t do well at the box office because of its dark and controversial topics. But the way it looked at manhood, consumerism, and identity struck a chord with a group of loyal fans.

The film has become a cult favorite because of its subversive plot and charismatic performances. It is still studied and talked about. The budget was between $63 and $65 million, and the film only brought in $101.2 million.

6. Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner 1982 Harrison Ford
Image Credit: Warner Bros.

Blade Runner, a masterpiece of future noir by Ridley Scott, was not well received when it came out. At the time, audiences didn’t fully understand the complicated story and philosophical ideas.

But its beautiful visuals, questions about humanity that make you think, and groundbreaking production design have made it a cult favorite in the science fiction genre. With a budget of $30 million, Blade Runner made $41.6 million at the box office.

7. Big Trouble in Little China

Big Trouble in Little China movies that bombed at the box office
Image Credit: 20th Century Fox.

Talk about a massive bomb; Big Trouble in Little China spent between $19 and $25 million and only garnered $11.1 at the box office. Big Trouble in Little China, an action-adventure comedy by John Carpenter, didn’t get much attention when it first came out.

The movie was ahead of its time because it had a unique mix of fantasy, martial arts, and fun. This may have been one reason it didn’t do well at the box office when it first came out. Over the years, its quirky charm, Kurt Russell’s charismatic performance, and famous one-liners have won many fans. 

8. Dune (1984)

Dune 1984
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Dune, directed by David Lynch and based on Frank Herbert’s epic book of the same name, had a hard time at the box office. The plot and main material of the movie were hard for most people to understand.

Even though it wasn’t well received when it first came out, Dune has gained a cult following because of its big world-building, creative visuals, and lasting impact on the science fiction genre. Dune’s budget was between $40 and $42 million, and the movie made between $30.9 and 37.9 million.

9. Event Horizon (1997)

Event Horizon 1997
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

When it came out, Paul W.S. Anderson’s sci-fi horror movie Event Horizon got mixed reviews and did not do well at the box office. Surprisingly, it only earned $42 million against its $60 million budget.

The film’s cosmic fear and psychological horror mix might have been too intense for some audiences. But horror fans have made it a cult favorite because of its creepy atmosphere, interesting plot, and memorable set designs.

10. Requiem for a Dream (2000)

Requiem for a Dream
Image Credit: Artisan Entertainment.

Requiem for a Dream, Darren Aronofsky’s hard-hitting look at addiction and hopelessness, was well-received by critics but didn’t do well at the box office when it first came out. It earned $7.4 million against its $4.5 million budget.

It was hard for most people to watch because it was about sad things and had upsetting images. But the film’s raw and honest picture of human struggles has made it a cult favorite among people who like bold stories and don’t hold back.

11. Showgirls (1995)

Showgirls 1995 cult classic
Image Credit: MGM.

When Showgirls, which Paul Verhoeven directed, came out, it got terrible reviews and didn’t do well at the box office. The movie didn’t do well at first at the box office because it had explicit scenes and talked about sensitive topics.

Over time, though, it has gained a cult following as people have grown to love its campy and over-the-top style, turning it into a so-bad-it’s-good favorite. With a budget of between $40 and $45 million, Showgirls took a hit at the box office and only made $37.8 million in return.

12. Clue (1985)

Clue movies that bombed at the box office
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

When it came out in 1985, the odd murder mystery comedy Clue did not do well at the box office. Its unusual plot and group of actors didn’t instantly connect with audiences. Yet, over the years, its clever writing, funny performances, and multiple endings have won over a loyal fan base and made it a cult favorite. Clue lost money at the box office, earning $14.6 million against its $15 million budget. 

13. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory 1971
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

It might seem surprising, but the movie that families love, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, didn’t do well in theaters when it first came out. Even though it’s super popular now among a special group of fans, it took some time for people to like the movie’s fun and imaginative version of Roald Dahl’s story. Box office sales hit $4 million on the film’s $3 million budget. 

14. Tremors (1990)

cult classics
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

When Tremors was first released, it didn’t do well in theaters. The movie is about big scary creatures that live underground and scare people in a small town. This strange idea didn’t attract a lot of viewers.

But because the movie had a special mix of scary and funny parts, the actors did a great job, and the lines were easy to remember. It eventually became popular among a special group of fans and is now considered a classic by them. With a $10 million budget, Tremors earned a meager $16.7 million.

15. This Is Spinal Tap (1984)

This Is Spinal Tap 1984 cult classics
Image Credit: Embassy Pictures.

When This is Spinal Tap, a funny movie by Rob Reiner, was first released, not many people noticed it. It made fun of the rock world and silliness, but folks back then might not have understood it. But now, it’s a secret favorite for fans who love music and jokes.

People like it a lot because it’s hilarious, the lines are easy to remember, and it’s amusing to see a made-up rock band on screen. This Is Spinal Tap’s budget was $2 million, which took in $4.7 million in box office sales.

16. Donnie Darko (2001)

Donnie Darko 2001 movies that bombed at the box office
Image Credit: Flower Films.

Upon its release, Richard Kelly’s mind-bending psychological film Donnie Darko faced difficulties connecting with its intended audience. The intricate storyline and philosophical concepts didn’t immediately resonate with mainstream viewers.

However, the movie managed to amass a dedicated fan base as time passed. This following appreciates the intricate plot, enigmatic ambiance, and profound exploration of time travel and existentialism. Donnie Darko brought in $7.5 million against its $4.5 million budget.

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Forrest Gump 1994
Image Credit: Paramount Pictures.

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White Chicks 2004
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

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The Jerk 1979
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

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Stand by Me 1986 train tracks
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

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The Karate Kid 1984 Daniel and Ali
Image Credit: Columbia Pictures.

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