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The Most Infamous Box Office Flop From The Year You Were Born

Updated June 23, 2020 373.3k views25 items

When filmmakers set out to make movies, they don't wish to make something people don't want to see, but they don't know what will happen to make their film the most reviled of that year until audiences and critics see it and decide for themselves. 

For every year since you were born, there's been one movie that was panned by critics, ignored by audiences, or both. Some have been redeemed in later years as cult classics or unrealized masterpieces, while others are destined to remain in the dustbin of history because they didn't have any redeeming qualities. 

Some are bad in a good way, but others are never going to be, in any way, worth seeing. Here are the movies that were the flops, the stinkers, and the top of the trash heap since the year you were born. Did they get a bad rap for no reason, or did they really deserve the scorn?

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  • Production Budget: $6 million
    US Box Office Total: $1.5 million
    What Happened? Director Peter Bogdanovich's At Long Last Love was so widely panned, he took out an ad in the Hollywood Reporter apologizing for making it in the first place. The movie was a homage to the Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers musicals of the 1930s, but terribly miscast in non-singing, non-dancing Burt Reynolds and Cybill Shepherd. The stilted dialogue didn't help much either. 

    In a 2013 interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Bogdanovich admitted he and the producers of the film "were convinced it was gonna be this out-of-the box hit" and blames its failure on technical issues: 

    The biggest problem when you're making a musical is evaluating the right balance between the song and the dialogue, and we never had the chance. On Broadway, you do 60 performances before you open; you need the audience feedback. We had two previews, one out of focus, and it was mixed badly so you couldn't hear it. I made some cuts and didn't preview that, and it opened. It was a disaster. Roger Ebert liked it anyway, and the critic from Newsweek. But if you don't have the right construction, it's not gonna work.

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  • Production Budget: $9 million 
    US Box Office Total:
    $3.3 million
    What Happened? In 1976, Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci made 1900 (Novecento), the story of two friends born in the first year of the 20th century in Italy and the changes they face over 75 years. The film has legendary actors attached, including Burt Lancaster, Donald Sutherland, Gerard Depardieu, and Robert De Niro, but the production was a mess from the get-go. Bertolucci and De Niro didn't get along - De Niro was a method actor who believed in collaboration, and Bertolucci was used to barking out orders.

    Bertolucci also insisted they shoot the actors out of sequence as old men, which De Niro was opposed to. The latter recalled, "We shot the old stuff on the first day and I realized there that was a mistake - it just would not work; nobody was into it. But I went along with it, I remember that, and it just did not work."

    With a storyline that was greatly pro-communist during the Cold War and a runtime of more than five hours, it was cut into two parts during its inital release. While it was acclaimed for its cinematography, no one came back to see the second half, and it tanked. 

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  • Production Budget: $21 million
    US Box Office Total: $6 million
    What Happened? Sorcerer is a retelling of the 1953 film Wages of Fear with pretty much the same premise: four men suffering various misfortunes find the only work they can get on an oil-drilling operation in South America. When that job ends due to an industrial mishap, they are given the opportunity to get out of financial straits by transporting incendiary devices over hundreds of miles of rocky terrain in two beat-up trucks.

    In two words, what doomed Sorcerer was Star Wars - the two films were released at the same time. Furthermore, its title led audiences to believe it was a horror film ("Sorcerer" is the name of one of the trucks). Today, it's revered as a lost masterpiece of the modern film era by cinephiles and its director, William Friedkin, who said:  

    [Star Wars] changed the zeitgeist. I’d say 80% of American films today are all offshoots of it... None of us could see the tsunami of Star Wars - it happened rather quickly. The studio had high hopes for Sorcerer... To me, it’s the only film of mine that I would not change a frame of.

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  • Production Budget: $7-8 million
    US Box Office Total: $50,000
    What Happened? Casting Mae West as a woman with a high libido and a much younger husband was a tough sell for filmmakers who wanted it to be more camp, but it played cruelly to audiences. West, who was a sex symbol in the 1930s, had become a parody of herself at 85, and she was not in on the joke. The musical numbers were terrible, and the movie - which also features Timothy Dalton, Alice Cooper, and Keith Moon of The Who - fell flat with audiences. Today, it's a sad relic of '70s excess. 

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