Not all comedy movies considered classics today were equally loved back in their time. In fact, it isn’t all that uncommon for them to bomb at the box office and earn audiences’ favor later, as humor is something that tends to age quite strangely.
From the perfect hangout atmosphere of Dazed and Confused to the pitch-black humor of Harold and Maudethat made critics malign it upon release, comedies tend to be the kind of genre film that, even if they don’t do well upon release, can age like fine wine over the years.
1 ‘Office Space’ (1999)
This cleverly written and incredibly fun classic shows three office workers as they strike back at their evil employers, using a poor attempt to embezzle some money.
The movie nails the horrors of the corporate world in a way so pitch-perfect that it sometimes feels like more of a horror film than a comedy. Nevertheless, the laughs are nonstop, and the characters are a delight to follow around. Sadly, audiences didn’t feel the same when Office Space was released, as it only made 12,179,708 USD from a 10,000,000 USD budget.
2 ‘Harold and Maude’ (1971)
Harold and Maude tells the story of its two title characters. He’s living in misery; she’s having the time of her life. He’s 19, she’s 80. Despite their differences, they become best friends.
Critics despised the film’s morbid sense of humor, and audiences didn’t seem to be any more responsive. Upon release, it made an impressively measly 1,547 USD worldwide from a budget of 1,200,000 USD (according to The New York Times). As time went on, though, audiences found an incredible amount of intelligence and depth in the movie’s dark jokes and how it mixes poignancy with humor.
3 ‘Dazed and Confused’ (1993)
Throughout his career, Richard Linklater has become the master of the hangout film, and watching the delightful cult classic Dazed and Confused is enough to see why.
Though it only made back 7,961,889 USD from its 6,900,000 USD budget, Linklater’s edgy film is now praised as one of the most entertaining coming-of-age movies ever made. With its iconic soundtrack and immaculate ’70s vibes, Dazed and Confused is guaranteed to make you reminisce nostalgically about your high school days.
4 ‘Heathers’ (1988)
Parts crime movie, parts dark teen comedy, Heathers is about a girl trying to fit into her school when she meets a rebel who teaches her that killing the popular kids is much more fun.
Aside from cementing the already famous Winona Ryder as even more of a star, Heathers eventually garnered such widespread appeal that a Broadway musical based on it was made in the 2000s. When it came out, though, it was a flop. The fame it has today makes it hard to believe that it only made 982,614 USD from a 3,000,000 USD budget.
5 ‘Wet Hot American Summer’ (2001)
One of the quintessential American teen movies, Wet Hot American Summer is the laugh-out-loud funny exploration of the summer camp, Camp Firewood, in 1981, on the last day before everyone goes back to the real world.
The movie was made on a 5,000,000 USD budget but only made 292,102 USD at the box office. Over time, though, audiences came to appreciate it for what it had to offer: A star-studded cast of insanely dedicated actors, a silly sense of humor that’s easy to vibe with, and an irresistibly charming atmosphere.
6 ‘Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas’ (1998)
As a director, Terry Gilliam of the Monty Python crew is a bit of an acquired taste. One of his most divisive movies is probably Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, starring Johnny Depp as the inventor of gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson.
Calling Gilliam’s film over-the-top and visually intense would be an understatement. Fear and Loathing is a dizzying, confusing, insanely fun experience that’s as easy to hate as it is to love, depending on your mood. Apparently, audiences in 1998 weren’t in too good of a mood since the film only made back 13,711,903 USD from its 18,500,000 USD budget.
7 ‘This Is Spinal Tap’ (1984)
Rob Reiner‘s epic mockumentary This Is Spinal Tap follows a metal band struggling to get back on the charts, telling audiences the story of the ups and downs of their career.
Reiner’s movie pokes fun at rock culture in the funniest of ways. The documentary feel of the story is perfect, lending the satire an air of realism that fits it like a glove. Unfortunately, ’80s audiences weren’t as receptive to it as today’s, as This Is Spinal Tap had a 2,250,000 USD budget but only made 4,736,270 USD at the worldwide box office.
8 ‘Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping’ (2016)
Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping stars the American comedy trio The Lonely Island, in a story about a pop/rap superstar whose celebrity life begins to collapse when his new album proves to be a major failure.
Modern audiences can’t sing the movie’s praises loud enough, but sadly, the movie was as much of a flop when it came out as the protagonist’s album. From a 20,000,000 USD budget, it only made back 9,537,120 USD worldwide. Nevertheless, it has more than enough fans today to make up for its disappointing arrival to the world.
9 ‘Scott Pilgrim vs. the World’ (2010)
For fans of Edgar Wright‘s rhythmical and idiosyncratic style, there isn’t any way to get a more Wright-esque injection of his way of making movies than Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.
The highly-stylized comedy is pure excitement, laughs, and epic set pieces with eye-popping visuals. Frenetically edited and with an insane amount of creativity, it’s many Edgar Wright fans’ favorite piece of work by the director. Back in 2010, however, the film made only 49,286,548 USD from a budget of 85,000,000 USD.
10 ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ (1975)
When many people think “cult classic,” they think of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, an extravagant musical comedy about two young sweethearts who get stuck at the eerie mansion of a mysterious transvestite scientist.
Tim Curry‘s performance as Dr. Frank-N-Furter is one of the most iconic in the genre, but that’s far from the only thing that has made the film such a hit as the years have gone by. Charming, irreverent, and self-aware, it’s a film that’s impossible to not have at least some fun with. Though it fills theaters in its midnight showings nowadays, however, The Rocky Horror Picture Show only made 2,317,874 USD when it came out, from a budget of 1,200,000 USD.
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