13 Great Movies You Didn't Realize Almost Went Straight To Video

List Rules
Vote up the movies you're relieved got saved from a direct-to-video fate.

Studios usually send an inferior movie straight to video because they don’t believe it will make money at the theater. It’s hard to believe filmmakers ever doubted these movies, which you may not realize almost went straight to video. Some of these films won Oscars. Others have become cult classics. A few have even made hundreds of millions at the box office and went on to become monster Hollywood franchises.

Find out why a film studio ever questioned the emotional impact of a feel-good underdog sports story like Hoosiers or the blockbuster appeal of Fast & Furious. What saved those films from the dreaded and almost certain direct-to-video obscurity? 

No one puts these great films in a corner. Vote up the movies you're relieved got saved from the dreaded direct-to-video fate.

  • “Strange things are afoot at the Circle K.”

    Whoa. Imagine a non-excellent world in which Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure doesn't get a theatrical release. That was the original bogus plan

    Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson were at UCLA when they came up with the idea for two teens who had zero knowledge of history. They brainstormed the tubular doofus characters of Bill S. Preston, Esquire (Alex Winter) and Ted "Theodore" Logan (Keanu Reeves) and wrote the script for Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure in about a week. 

    Warner Bros. was interested in making the time-traveling comedy. However, the studio felt the teen movie genre, which was so popular in the 1980s, had run out of steam and planned to make Bill & Ted a direct-to-video release.

    Eventually, Warner Bros. dropped out because it didn't believe in the project. De Laurentiis Entertainment Group stepped in and produced the movie. Unfortunately, the company went bankrupt. Thankfully, Orion Pictures came into the picture as a distributor and released Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure theatrically in 1989.

    The comedy became a moderate box office hit, especially with younger teens who could relate to the silliness of the movie. Bill & Ted is ultimately a time capsule, an ever-quotable comedy for the late '80s. Two sequels followed, one in 1991 and another nearly three decades later in 2020.

  • 2
    13 VOTES

    Toy Story 2 is at least in the conversation as one of the greatest sequels ever made. However, it was originally planned as a direct-to-video release. There was a time when Disney wasn't on board with making sequels. Most Disney movies fade to black with a happy ending; producing a sequel means disrupting that "happily ever after" narrative model. 

    After Toy Story exceeded all expectations and topped the 1995 box office, filmmakers set plans for Toy Story 2 into motion. The studio decided it didn't want to water down the original movie with a run-of-the-mill follow-up, so execs planned to release the second installment on video.

    Typically, less is expected of direct-to-video releases in terms of quality - and they're cheaper to produce, by default. However, Pixar was a newer, younger, and hungrier company, and therefore wasn't happy with the prospect of making a "lesser movie." A few months into production, Disney executives took a look at Toy Story 2's progress. They liked what they saw and changed their minds. Toy Story 2 would get a theatrical release after all. 

    Production headaches and near catastrophe almost ended the project. But in the end, Toy Story 2 hit the big screen in 1999 to rave reviews. The film made nearly $500 million worldwide and gave Disney the confidence that a sequel could be just as good as, if not better than, the original movie.

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  • Tom Cruise doesn't just play a hero on the big screen. The world's biggest movie star is largely responsible for the success of Guy Richie's first feature-length movie, the 1998 British crime comedy Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. 

    Producer Matthew Vaughn (X-Men: First Class, Kingsman: The Secret Servicerevealed during a 2016 interview that the movie was initially unable to find a distributor, which meant it would go straight to video. Vaughn needed a Hail Mary to save his picture and asked Trudi Styler to phone in a favor. Styler, Sting's wife, was an investor in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Plus, Sting had a small role in it.

    Styler knew Tom Cruise. Vaughn asked Styler to ask him to go to a buyer's meeting for Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Despite the fact that buyer's meetings are not typically attended by movie stars, Cruise agreed to go to the screening. Just the actor's presence sparked interest. After the movie ended, the Top Gun actor completely sealed the deal.

    According to Vaughn, “At the end, Tom got up in front of everyone and said, 'This is the best movie I've seen in years, you guys would be fools not to buy it.'"

    The actor's exuberant response sparked a bidding war. The gritty heist movie landed several distributors, including an international distributor in Columbia TriStar. The movie made $28 million worldwide. It also ignited Richie's directing career and became Vaughn's calling card into big-time Hollywood productions.

  • The Expendables
    Photo: Lionsgate

    The Expendables isn't just a movie about aging mercenaries on a mission to overthrow a ruthless dictator; it's a hefty blow of nostalgia for the 1980s action movies that delighted fans around the world. Sylvester Stallone penned the movie's screenplay and assembled a who's who of both contemporary action stars (i.e. Jason Statham) and throwback '80s and '90s action stars (i.e. Stallone and Dolph Lundgren).

    Stallone had lost a lot of his Hollywood star power by the end of the 20th century, and The Expendables was originally supposed to head straight to video. Sly decided to add cameo roles for Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, and Arnold Schwarzenegger. He then took to social media to hype the movie.

    Actor Terry Crews revealed during a 2018 interview:

    The Expendables, the first movie, was supposed to be direct-to-video. You've got to understand where Stallone was at the time. He was trying to get this thing done, and they're like 'Dude, you're in your 60s, how you gonna do an action movie?' All the studios turned it down, so Sly starts calling people and he starts getting the buzz going. And this is also in the first days of getting viral energy on the internet. So what Sly started to do was tweet out, 'How would you like to see me, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bruce Willis in a movie together?' And the internet went wild.

    Stallone's hype machine worked, and The Expendables got a theatrical release in 2010. Nostalgia-driven action movie fans flooded the theaters to the tune of $274 million worldwide. Two star-filled sequels (and counting) followed, which the likes of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Chuck Norris added to the mix.

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  • 5
    9 VOTES

    The sports movie genre is filled with awe-inspiring underdog stories. Perhaps none is more inspirational than 1986's Hoosiers

    Hoosiers is loosely based on the story of the 1954 Milan High School basketball team, who against all odds took home the Indiana State Championship. Two local Indiana boys, Angelo Pizzo and David Anspaugh, wanted to make the underdog story into a movie. Pizzo wrote the script and Anspaugh signed on to direct what would be his first feature movie.

    The problem was that they couldn't get the movie made. "We presented it to many different individuals, studios, and production companies - 300 to 500 over the course of several years," Anspaugh said. "We had nothing to lose. We had other jobs, but it was our pet project. What kept us going was there are 1,000 no's, but there's always one guy with a checkbook."

    Finally, they found a backer who financed Hoosiers for $6 million. However, even after the movie wrapped, it almost didn't get a theatrical release. "I still shake my head. It almost went straight to video," revealed Anspaugh. "We only hoped we could come home again and not be goats."

    Orion Pictures eventually agreed to distribute the movie. Hoosiers became a box office success and picked up two Academy Award nominations. 

    But more importantly, the movie made generations of audiences want to stand up and cheer. "I never in a million years thought the movie would sustain and grow in stature over time," said Pizzo. "Somehow our film has lasted and crept into cultural awareness. We were fighting just to get it released."

    Hoosiers tops many lists of the best sports films ever made.

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  • The 1997 British comedy The Full Monty tells the tale of six unemployed middle-aged English steelworkers. Not exactly the kind of rag-tag group that people would clamor to see dance around and strip.

    Star Robert Carylye and Fox Searchlight Pictures had absolutely zero hope in the project. In 2017, the actor called the movie "a load of f*cking pish." Fox Searchlight saw an early cut of the film and felt it was destined to go straight to video. 

    Instead of just giving up, producer Uberto Pasolini re-edited the film with great success. Once the movie hit the big screen, it became an instant hit. The Full Monty made over $257 million on a $3.5 million budget. It also nabbed four Academy Award nominations, including a run at best picture. Anne Dudley won the Oscar for best music.

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