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15 Great Movies That The Critics Got Wrong

24 June 2015 | Features, Film Lists | by Ryan Anderson


The critics aren’t always right. Well, at least the first time. Plenty of films that are now considered the best of all time or are crowd favorites received mixed to horrible reviews upon release. Many of them did not do well at the box office either.

Over time, sometimes a few years, sometimes decades, they get rediscovered, re-evaluated, or are just shown on T.V all the time. Through these methods, films get a second wind, a new light, where people can now appreciate them for decades to come. There are many films that fit this bill, 15 of them are below.


15. Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

Wet Hot American Summer (2001)

This, is the one film on this list where you really cannot trust the Rotten Tomatoes score. Wet Hot American Summer has a score of 31% based on 65 reviews. When the film premiered at Sundance in 2001, it sold out four shows. However, it failed to find a distributor and was released very minimally.

One critic who did review it was the great Roger Ebert who gave the film one star and his review took the form of a sarcastic version of “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh”. Although other critics praised it, such as Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly. It was not enough and the film was mostly panned.

However, the public like it. With a cast of Paul Rudd, Elizabeth Banks, Amy Poehler, Bradley Cooper, Molly Shannon and more doing silly things, what is there not to love. Once people got past the amount of characters and silly nature of the film, people started to turn around. There have now been reunions of the cast and fans to celebrate the 10th anniversary and a Netflix prequel that will soon be available. You can’t always trust that Rotten Tomatoes score.


14. Clue (1985)


Based on the board game by the same name and co-written by John Landis, the man behind Animal House and Trading Places, among others, Clue initially received mixed reviews and did poorly at the box office, coming up just short of its budget. This could have been the fact that the film showed three different endings, each theater would get a different ending to keep in the style of the game.

The film later developed a cult following and was and is shown on T.V all the time. The film has a 62% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and like all the films on this list has been seen in a positive light since its release. People now see it as a solid comedy with a mix of clever dialogue and slapstick, which can warrant multiple viewings.

Starting in the early 90s the film, a cheap one to put on T.V and safe for family viewing was placed at around 8 o’clock time slot as a fun piece of comedy. That is how the film has rebounded from the negative reviews, it became a television staple. Unlike many of the films on this list, Clue has not been named on the best films of all time. However, the film can be the best film based on a board game.


13. The Notebook (2004)


Everyone’s favorite chick flick, this romantic drama starring Ryan Gosling and Rachel McAdams has become a favorite, especially of the millennial generation. Upon release, The Notebook received mixed reviews, but was a hit commercial with teenagers. The film won 8 Teen Choice Awards and a MTV movie award.

However, if you weren’t a teenager and were a critic, the film was a mixed bag. Many critics praised the performances of Gosling and McAdams and their overall chemistry. However, the screenplay, written by Jeremy Leven, was panned for the most part, critics said the dialogue was overly sappy and sticky-sweet.

The film and both leads have been successful since the release of the film. Both Gosling and McAdams have had good careers with plenty of starring roles. The Notebook itself has endured as one of the best romantic films ever.

The film is constantly ranked on the most romantic and best chick flick lists. It’s certainly not for everyone but we are going to be hearing that sticky-sweet dialogue for quite some time.


12. Office Space (1999)


A satirization of the every-day work life of mid-to-late 1990s software tech workers, Office Space focuses on several people who are fed up with their jobs. The film was not a box office success, which could stem from the film’s poor marketing.

The poster, which was of an office worker covered in post-it-notes with the tagline “works sucks” looked like an Office Depot ad and not a movie poster. The film’s subtle humor was also difficult to portray in trailers for the film. The film overall received mostly positive reviews. However, no one could have predicted its impact on culture and the workforce, it wasn’t just a funny workplace comedy.

The sympathetic tone towards the office workers portrayed in the film struck a chord with workers in that field and led to a cult following of the film. The film also address themes about white collar workers and the workforce in general. The film sold really well on VHS and DVD. Between 1999 and 2003 it sold 2.6 million copies on VHS and DVD.

Entertainment Weekly, whose critic Owen Gleiberman gave the film a C, later named Office Space the fifth best comedy of the past 25 years in 2008. It has been referenced in plenty of other media and remains a staple in the office workers collection of movies.


11. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Terry Gilliam is a director whose films are not always liked and well received upon release, this is a prime example. Starring Johnny Depp and Benicio del Toro, the film failed at the box office, despite Johnny Depp’s rampant female following.

The film opened to mixed reviews, ranging from great like Gene Siskel’s review to Mike Clark of USA Today who found it “simply unwatchable”. Gilliam himself wanted to provoke strong reactions to the film, it was going to be one of the great movies of all time or one of the most hated movies of all time.

Over the years, the film’s reputation has grown, even appearing as part of the Criterion Collection of DVDs and having the approval of the author of the book DVD sales and was included in Empire Magazine’s “500 Greatest Movies of All Time” list, ranking at 469th.The film has gotten a new life as a piece of examinal filmmaking.

The film has been picked apart for its themes, performances and visuals, particularly how the film looks at society as a whole and how that compares to society now. It may not have the highest Rotten Tomatoes score (49%) but this is one they got wrong.


10. Groundhog Day (1993)


Directed by Harold Ramis and starring Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell, Groundhog Day is a fantasy comedy where an arrogant TV weatherman finds himself in a time loop repeating the same day over and over again, he begins to re-examine his life and priorities. The film was released to generally favorable reviews.

Desson Howe of The Washington Post said even if the film is a good Bill Murray vehicle, it will never be designated a national film treasure by the preservation board, we’ll get back to that statement later. The received overall positive reviews, however the praise for the film has increased since its release.

The popularity and critical significance for the film has increased over time. The film currently holds a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has been shown countless times on T.V.

In his ‘Great Movies’ essay on the film, Roger Ebert said he, among many underestimated the film’s many virtues. The Writer’s Guild of America named the screenplay of the best that’s ever been written. To top of it all of, in 2006, the film proved Desson Howe wrong by being inducted into the National Film Registry.


9. Harold and Maude (1971)

harold and maude pic

Darkly funny and quite existentialist, Harold and Maude, if released today, would most likely be praised for its dark sense of humor and quirkiness, similar to the works of the Coen brothers and Wes Anderson.

However, the film about the relationship between the death obsessed Harold, who is in his 20s, and the lively Maude, who is in her 70s was just too much for the audience in 1971. The film was critically and commercially unsuccessful at the time. Critics at the time thought the dark comedy was offensive and mean spirited.

The film has developed a cult following of sorts over the years. The film is now considered to be one of the funniest film ever made. Critics agree that sometimes it oversteps its boundaries and is not for everyone but is darkly funny and has a lot of heart.

Harold and Maude has been put on the American Film Institute’s funniest movies list and named the ninth best American romantic comedy. Its inclusion in the National Film Registry cements its legacy and preservation. Not too bad for a movie that started out as a senior film thesis.



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  • Bryton Cherrier

    Finally somebody made a list like this with The Shining included.
    And damn right they were wrong about Blade Runner. I was originally wrong about Blade Runner, until I finally got it’s message and now it’s one of my favorite films of all time.

  • Hannes Smiljkovski

    Dude, check your grammar.

  • marcel

    If you need a critic’s opinion you still need your nanny.

  • Daniel Danzer

    Buster Keaton’s “The General” from 1926 should also be mentioned.

    According to Wikipedia:
    Variety: The General is “far from funny” and that “it is a flop.”
    New York Times reviewer Mordaunt Hall
    stated, “The production itself is singularly well mounted, but the fun
    is not exactly plentiful”, and “This is by no means so good as Mr.
    Keaton’s previous efforts.”
    The Los Angeles Times
    reported that the picture is “neither straight comedy nor is it
    altogether thrilling drama” and goes on to state that the picture “drags
    terribly with a long and tiresome chase of one engine by another.”

    Nowadays a real classic and often called Keaton’s best film, a predecessor of “Mad Max: Fury Road”.

  • Ted Wolf

    Although 2001 wasn’t universally acclaimed, there were plenty of high profile critics who rated it very highly at the time.

  • Susan F

    One again, this publication shows that it has no sense of cinema history. Sylvia Scarlett, It’s a Wonderful Life, Holiday, etc. were panned and failures upon release. Most of the films above deserve to be consigned to the dustbin of history.

  • Harsha Raman

    Yes. Nice list. You could even add Eyes Wide Shut. I always feel it is an underrated gem.
    And also French comedy Intouchables(2009). It has rotten score 75% but come on, it deserves more than that.

  • Zgjim Terziqi

    Vertigo was hated upon release and its easily the best Hitchcock movie.

    • Curt

      Rear Window is “easily” the best Hitchcock movie. Even North By Northwest is better than Vertigo.

      • Zgjim Terziqi

        And thats just your opinion. Vertigo was voted second best film of all time after Citizen Kane in sight and sounds 2002 poll. Which where votes from the best living directors and critics.

        • Nithin M Sivan

          In 2012 poll it reached the top spot

  • HLLH

    Critics are scumbags.

  • Conner Beckingsale

    I was never a fan of 2001 but the rest of the list I agree with

  • Iván Solorio (SanS)

    what the hell is The Notebook doing here?

  • Relf

    Pulp Fiction should be here because it’s a piece of shit

    • Kosta Jovanovic

      Yes, tell us about that

  • David Johnson

    Good list, but I don’t know if Groundhog Day really belongs here. It sounds like it was always generally appreciated. it was just that one guy who wasn’t enthusiastic about it.

  • Ashley Otu

    What about ShawShank Redemption! how can this list miss this film? it was panned by critics upon release, many years later now one of the most loved films of all time! 😉

    • Kosta Jovanovic

      No, it performed poor at the box office, the critics praised it

  • Mr. Pedantic

    “Based on the Stephen King novel, although the novel and film differ significantly, Stanley Kubrick, whose films are generally misunderstood then re-evaluated, The Shining, opening with mixed reviews and had a slow start at the box office.”

    Sounds like Ryan should be taking a few more English classes at Miami University. Proofread your content, or hire people who know how to write.

  • Athena Padgett

    Fight Club..friggen love that movie. And who doesn’t love Harold and Maude? I get the Notebook- insipid and lame chick flick. Fear & Loathing? LOVE IT

  • Kosta Jovanovic

    The notebook is still horrible, they got it right

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