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The Best Movies That Were Originally Panned by Critics

Updated June 14, 2019 13.4k votes 2.8k voters 206.9k views23 items

List RulesUpvote your favorite movie that was panned by critics. Only add films that received a negative critical response.

Sometimes, even acclaimed film critics make hasty conclusions about new movies. Some of the best movies that were originally panned by critics turned out to be some of the most famous and beloved films of all time. Some films were released with mixed reviews, while others totally bombed. In the end, however, fan support made all the difference in these films' popularity.

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. Many 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 one thing and got something else entirely. This is the case with Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Predator. Critics claimed 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.

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  • It is difficult to imagine Ridley Scott’s 1979 movie Alien receiving mixed reviews, especially when you consider the hugely popular franchise it spawned. But critics were skeptical at first; as the New York Times put it, "Don't race to it expecting the wit of Star Wars or the metaphysical pretentions of 2001 and Close Encounters of the Third Kind." The Guardian was harsher: "You won't see anything very original anywhere in the film."

    But over time — and after the director's cut was released — reviewers and the public reassessed their initial opinion. Alien became widely regarded as both a horror and sci-fi classic.

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  • 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."

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  • New York Daily News called Fight Club “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.”

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  • "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."

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