When it comes down to it, critics have a subjective opinion, just like every member of the audience. Critics also tend to be more cynical and biased towards films that are breaking new ground, because they have seen so many movies in their lives. A lot of these great movies that were initially hated on by critics withstood the test of time, or were adopted by audiences as their favorites.
A lot of the films on this list were missed by critics because they were expecting something and got something else entirely. This is the case with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Predator. Critics claimed that there was no plot in either movie, and that they lacked real story-telling structure. The reasons why audience members like these movies, however, had nothing to do with a well-put together plot line. Many people enjoyed them because of their unique exploration of a subculture, or graphic action sequences.
Not all movies are instant classics. Some require the kindness of time to look more appealing, or the interest of a select group of fans to turn the movie into a cult classic. Who knows? Baz Luhrmann's 2013 version of The Great Gatsby may just have a chance after all.
38 people just voted on The Shining
Kubrick is good at making movies that everyone dislikes, realizes that they were chumps for disliking it, and then pretends to have liked all along. For example, Roger Ebert gave the movie a bad review, only to go back on it later.
Variety regarded the film as a destruction of everything that made the Stephen King book terrifying, and said that Shelley Duvall “transforms the warm sympathetic wife of the book into a simpering, semi-retarded hysteric.” In fact – Shelley was nominated for a Razzie for worst actress for the role, along with – for reals – Kubrick for worst director! Wow.
In fairness – the movie was probably the worst adaptation when you think about, and by ‘worst’ I mean least loyal. Hell – Jack doesn’t even have an ax in the book, but rather a mallet. But hey – can you imagine if Kubrick kept that in?
Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%, 8.5/10
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38 people just voted on The Wizard of Oz
“I sat cringing before MGM’s Technicolor production of The Wizard of Oz, which displays no trace of imagination, good taste, or ingenuity… I don’t like the Singer Midgets under any circumstances, but I found them especially bothersome in Technicolor… I say it’s a stinkeroo.” – Russell Maloney, The New Yorker
Rotten Tomatoes score: 99%, 9.4/10
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26 people just voted on Psycho
Upon its release, the reviews for this movie weren’t all terrible but rather just so-so. It's rise to Classic Film status just goes to show that if a film strikes a chord with the public, its greatness can't be denied.
At the time though – the film was “plainly a gimmick movie”, and even a “blot on an honorable career.” In a particularly pretentiously written review, the New York Times said it had “not an abundance of subtlety” and was an “obviously low-budget job.” No one hated it – but no one thought it to be anything all that special either.
Rotten Tomatoes score: 96%, 9.2/10
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23 people just voted on Fight Club
New York Daily News called it “hardly groundbreaking,” the Miami Herald referred to it as “a bit of a dud,” and the Boston Globe said that its “chic indictment of empty materialist values fizzles.”
Rotten Tomatoes score: 79%, 7.3/10
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31 people just voted on Home Alone
"When Kevin’s parents discover they’ve forgotten him, they find it impossible to get anyone to follow through on their panicked calls – if anyone did so, the movie would be over. The plot is so implausible that it makes it hard for us to really care about the plight of the kid." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
Rotten Tomatoes score: 55%, 5.2/10
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35 people just voted on The Exorcist
"A chunk of elegant occultist claptrap... A practically impossible film to sit through... It establishes a new low for grotesque special effects..." - Vincent Canby, The New York Times
"Friedkin's biggest weakness is his inability to provide enough visual information about his characters ... whole passages of the movie's exposition were one long buzz of small talk and name droppings... The Exorcist succeeds on one level as an effectively excruciating entertainment, but on another, deeper level it is a thoroughly evil film." - Andrew Sarris, The Village Voice
Writing in Rolling Stone, Jon Landau said the film was "nothing more than a religious porn film, the gaudiest piece of shlock this side of Cecil B. DeMille (minus that gentleman's wit and ability to tell a story)... "
Rotten Tomatoes score: 86%, 8/10
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40 people just voted on Predator
"'Predator' is a slightly above-average actioner that tries to compensate for tissue-thin-plot with ever-more-grisly death sequences and impressive special effects." -Variety
The New York Times called it “alternately grisly and dull, with few surprises”, and the Chicago Reader said, "despite the off-rhythm styling, there's not a lot going on."
Rotten Tomatoes score: 78%, 7/10
#120 on The Greatest Movie Themessee more on Predator
9 people just voted on It's a Wonderful Life
When It's a Wonderful Life was first released in 1946, it received generally negative reviews. It was the next generation of the 60s and 70s that so loved the film that it became the classic that it is today.
Bosley Crowther, writing for The New York Times, complimented some of the actors, including Stewart and Reed, but concluded that "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."
Rotten Tomatoes score: 94%, 8.9/10
#124 on The Best Fantasy Movies
#97 on The Best Movies for Kidssee more on It's a Wonderful Life