With hundreds of movies being released each year, it’s difficult to keep track of what is worth watching and what isn’t. And that’s why we listen to critics. Critics assure us that what we are going to watch is worthwhile but over the years, critics have lost their standing. Many times critics will despise a movie that audiences like or love a movie that audiences hate. Audiences don’t wholeheartedly trust critics today and the creation of Rotten Tomatoes clearly shows us what movies critics got wrong. In this blog post, we will go through the top 9 movies that critics got wrong.
Peeping Tom was directed by Michael Powell and is among the first slasher films to ever be created. Released the same year as Psycho in 1960, Peeping Tom is about a photographer and filmmaker who spends his days stalking and killing women while using a portable film camera to record their last expressions of terror. Critics extremely disliked the unsettling subject matter and explicit images of the film. It was an overwhelmingly controversial film with critics stating that the film is “wholly evil”. Another critic stated that “The only really satisfactory way to dispose of Peeping Tom would be to shovel it up and flush it swiftly down the nearest sewer. Even then the stench would remain”.
The terrible reviews that Peeping Tom received borderline destroyed Michael Powell’s career. Years after the initial release, the film started to gain a cult following, and since 1970, Peeping Tom has been seen as an ingenious film that inspired the likes of Martin Scorsese.
Star Wars is one of the most popular movie series of all time. When A New Hope was released in 1977, Star Wars quickly became a worldwide phenomenon. In the era of remakes, reboots, and adaptations, it only makes sense that Lucasfilms would create more Star Wars movies in the modern era. Star Wars: The Last Jedi was the 2nd release in the new trilogy and although critics seemed to like the film according to Rotten Tomatoes, audiences disliked it.
On initial release, the reception from the audience was mixed but over time and because of the release of the universally disliked Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the animosity for The Last Jedi has grown considerably. Dissatisfied fans particularly did not like the forced humor, underdeveloped character arcs, and the portrayal of Luke Skywalker. Mark Hamill himself had expressed that he disagreed with Luke’s portrayal in The Last Jedi. All of these factors contributed to the steep decline in the standing of the Star Wars film.
Clue is now seen as one of the most iconic films ever made but on its initial release in 1985, it was a box office and critical failure. Clue was written by John Landis and directed by Jonathan Lynn. It was the first film to be based on a board game. The film is about six guests who are anonymously invited to a strange mansion for dinner, but after their host is killed, they must work together to identify the murderer.
The initial failure of Clue is accredited to the method of release into movie theaters. Landis was set on Clue having multiple endings with multiple potential killers. Clue was released in theaters with multiple endings. Depending on the screening you went to, you would watch a completely different ending than other audience screenings. Landis believed that audiences would want to see Clue again just to watch the different endings but instead audiences didn’t know which ending to see, so they didn’t go at all. Critics also despised the multiple endings in different theaters, describing it as a cheap marketing gimmick. Over time through cable airings and with new younger generations discovering Clue, the film became a cult classic that gained a new positive reputation. Clue’s newfound notoriety and while initially failing terribly is why Clue is number 8 on our list of movies critics got wrong.
Blade Runner may hold a 90% on Rotten Tomatoes today but on its initial release, the reviews were very different. Blade Runner was directed by Ridley Scott and was released in 1982. The film is set in LA in the year 2019 and follows a man who reluctantly agrees to hunt down four synthetic humans that have returned to Earth. Critics were impressed with the film’s special effects but felt the plot took a back seat. Many critics remarked that the film had an extremely slow pace and was just “science fiction pornography”.
However, within academia, film analysts almost immediately started to examine and interpret Blade Runner deeply. Blade Runner was praised for its SFX and cinematography along with its thematic complexity. Like many others on this list, Blade Runner developed a cult following that grew into the huge fanbase it has today.
When Rocky Horror was released in 1975, it was largely ignored by critics and audiences alike. It was screened in several theaters that only drew in small audiences. Critics weren’t impressed by the film with many of them stating that the film is “lacking both charm and dramatic impact”. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a musical about a newly engaged couple who has to seek shelter in the bizarre residence of Dr. Frank n Furter after their car breaks down.
The film has a focus on sexual liberation and many viewers find the story to be reflective of discovering queer identity. Eventually, Rocky Horror started to gain a following of rabid fans and now, Rocky Horror has transcended being just a movie and has become an experience. During showings of the movie at theaters, audiences will regularly interact with each other and the screen, dressing up as characters and even performing rituals. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is in many ways the definition of a cult classic.
This is not the first time Stanley Kubrick created a film that was negatively received initially and it wouldn’t be the last either. The Shining is a horror film adapted from the Stephen King novel of the same name. The film is about a family that heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father into violence, all the while his psychic son sees horrific warnings of the future.
Much like other Kubrick films, The Shining is extremely slow-paced which rubbed many critics the wrong way. Kubrick also had a world-class reputation at the time and many critics found the film to be underwhelming considering Kubrick’s past work. The biggest criticism came from Stephen King in which King eviscerated the film and called it offensive to the source material. Kubrick left out many elements that were integral to the book such as the father’s alcoholism and many supernatural elements that were found in the sequel Doctor Sleep.
The Shining managed to receive 2 Razzie nominations. One for worst director and the other for worst actress. However, The Shining has had a reappraisal where audiences and critics alike find it to be an almost perfect scary movie. Stephen King has stuck to his criticisms but has gotten less harsh in recent years. King has said that the release of Doctor Sleep in 2018 has redeemed The Shining in his eyes, “Everything that I ever disliked about the Kubrick version of The Shining is redeemed for me here”.
Psycho was the first horror film and led the way for the slasher sub-genre. Psycho is about a woman named Marion who steals $40,000 from her employer and while on the run, she checks into a motel owned by a strange young man and his mother. Psycho was a revolutionary film that defied the strict censorship put in place by the Production Code Administration. It was unheard of for any film to show a murder on screen, a woman in her underwear, and even to show a toilet flushing in the early 60s.
Psycho tested the boundaries of the strict guidelines put in place by the PCA which is why critics at first had mixed reviews for Psycho. Some critics found the movie to be too appalling and a blot on Alfred Hitchcock’s career. However, Hitchcock would go on to be largely known for Psycho and the iconic murder scene in the shower.
Citizen Kane is highly regarded as one of the best movies ever made but it didn’t start out that way. In fact, Citizen Kane initially underperformed at the box office and received many mixed reviews by critics. This wasn’t because the film was misunderstood or a blunder in marketing, it was because a business tycoon made a concerted effort to keep Citizen Kane out of theaters. Citizen Kane documents the life of Charles Foster Kane, a newspaper tycoon, and the scramble of reporters to understand the meaning behind his last words, rosebud.
As Orson Welles and Herman J. Mankiewicz were writing the character of Charles Foster Kane, they used real-life figures to base him on. One of those figures was William Randolph Hearst, a businessman and owner of a newspaper publisher. When Hearst found out that Citizen Kane was loosely based on his life, he decided to use all of his resources to prevent the film from being released. Hearst was successful in pressuring theaters to drop Citizen Kane from their lineup and smeared Welles reputation, almost destroying his career. Ultimately, the masterful synergy behind the acting, directing, cinematography, editing, and writing allowed Citizen Kane to shine through, and eventually, it became one of the most critically acclaimed movies of all time.
It is probably hard to believe that one of the most influential movies ever made could’ve been disliked by critics but when A Space Odyssey was first released it had polarizing reviews. Some critics appreciated the imaginative approach to sci-fi while others found the film to be very dull. 2001 is about a group of astronauts that set off to find the origins of a strange monolith found on the moon. Although the film didn’t receive overwhelmingly positive reviews, the effect the film had on sci-fi was immediately apparent.
Before 2001, sci-fi wasn’t taken seriously as a genre. The movie pioneered a new form of sci-fi that is thought-provoking and deeply philosophical. 2001 also was the first movie to create a science fiction experience that is convincing. The movie came out in 1968 but the story was set in 2001. Kubrick’s team wanted the film to be scientifically accurate and decades ahead of their time. They hired astronomical artists, aerospace engineers, and ex-NASA employees to advise on the film and produce realistic but imaginative technological advancements to be used in the film. Technology like flat screens and touch screens can be found in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Even using AI as a personal assistant like Siri can be traced to 2001 and their use of HAL The Supercomputer. Kubrick’s film didn’t only influence filmmakers, it also influenced real scientists for years to come.
If there is anything to learn about movies from this list, it’s that the only true test of movies is time. In time, movies that may seem disliked now may find a cult following in the future. In time, avant-garde film techniques may inspire completely new genres. Ultimately, it’s not about critical reception or box office earnings, it’s about the audience. The consensus from the audience is usually closer to how the film is universally perceived. That is why websites like Letterboxd and Film Chop were created. Film Chop is a website that provides honest and unbiased movie reviews from fellow film-lovers like yourself, so you can decide if a new movie or series is worth your time and money. You can even write reviews for Film Chop yourself. The advancement of the internet takes the influence away from the critics and gives it to the audience.
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