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"Some are born posthumously."
Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist

History is a fickle mistress. Many works that are well-received at their debut will fade into the mists of time as the public moves on to the newest thing, doomed to obscurity. On the other hand, a few exceptional (or lucky) works with unexceptional debuts will be re-discovered and re-analyzed and become critical darlings after about twenty years, as well as timeless classics in the eyes of the public, usually when their authors/producers are no longer around to bask in their belated fame. Unconventional and gloomily-themed works that star little-known actors are the most prone to this.

Inevitably causes most critics to rush to hail them as classics that were grossly misunderstood in their time, but now can be worshipped as the masterpieces they truly are. Oftentimes people in general forget that they were bombs to begin with. Parodies and Hype Backlash inevitably follow in their footsteps.

This is mostly a film/literature phenomenon: TV mostly avoids this, as how great or awful a series is tends to become clear during its longer run (or at least a few years later on DVD).

Of course, there are historical events that were controversial at the time, but later are felt to have been the right decision.

The Real Life counterpart of It Will Never Catch On. It can also lead to Follow the Leader, Hype Aversion, Hype Backlash. A Sub-Trope is Vindicated by Cable and Vindicated by Reruns; also arguably, as already mentioned, Better on DVD. Often these works were the victim of an Award Snub.

Compare Germans Love David Hasselhoff, where a different country does this instead of time, and Cult Classic, where something gains popularity but not on a widespread/mainstream scale (although the two tropes sometimes overlap). See also Popularity Polynomial. Additionally, see Dead Artists Are Better for cases where the belated popularity occurs because the artist is no longer around to bask in it. Contrast Deader Than Disco (something that goes from insanely popular to a popular target of mockery), And You Thought It Would Fail (a work that's expected to be a flop instead becomes a smash hit). Compare Acclaimed Flop, when the work is a critical success but a commercial failure when it comes out.

Beware the risk of Overly Narrow Superlatives, though. Practically anything could seem vindicated by history if the reference pool is small enough. The entry on this page for Videodrome, for example, describes it as "one of the most recognized Canadian-made films outside of Canada".

Examples of Vindicated by History include:


Anime and Manga

  • Uchuu Senkan Yamato was Screwed by the Network, airing across from the very popular Heidi, Girl of the Alps. The first season was reduced from 36 (?) to 26 episodes, resulting in a planned appearance by Captain Harlock being cut. Later The Movie become wildly popular and revived the franchise.
  • While Digimon Adventure 02 was generally considered to be inferior to the original season due to Digimon Tamers coming after and with Tri's announcement, many assumed the season is retconed out of Adventure timeline. However, Tri's Hype Backlash due to not solving its entire mysteries and plotlines during its run along with the new characters Meiko and Meicoomon's Base Breaker status cause many to reconsider that while the season may not be the best it still has many positives points, and its Susprisingly Happy Ending is a nice conclusion to allow both the Digidestined and their partners to be together, fixing the Bittersweet Ending from the previous season. 
  • Mobile Suit Gundam, one of the most influential Humongous Mecha series ever, was cancelled three-fourths of the way through the show and given a completely different ending as a result, albeit one believed by many to be superior. Once it entered reruns, it suddenly became tremendously popular and spawned a countless number of sequels and spin-offs. (This is one of the major reasons Gundam has been described as "Japan's Star Trek").
    • G Gundam and Gundam X were not well received on their initial release, with GX being the first Gundam show since the original to be prematurely cancelled. Now they are thought of as among the best entries in the franchise.
  • Similarly, Space Runaway Ideon was in a similar mess, but the fans caught on this time and it was given a full movie for its finale, despite being cancelled with only a few episodes left.
  • Averted with Super Dimension Fortress Macross, yet another highly influential series. After languishing in Development Hell for a couple of years, the series finally got the greenlight, but was cut down to only 27 episodes. However, the series proved popular enough that it got an extension to 36 episodes halfway through its run.
  • Numerous Humongous Mecha anime have been pulled from obscurity by Super Robot Wars like After War Gundam X and Combat Mecha Xabungle.
  • When it just hit the Japanese airwaves, the first TV anime of Lupin III was met with quite some controversy and eventually succumbed to its low ratings. Reruns then lead to a considerable increase in popularity and it's now considered a TV anime classic, spawning two sequel anime, a handful of movies and countless TV specials.

Art

  • This happens periodically in (painting) art especially between the renaissance and the 20th century. A rising new art movement is at first derided, and as it becomes accepted the preceding movement turns into the target instead. A couple of centuries later, the art world and scholarship see them both having merits.
  • Piero Della Francesca was fairly obscure until the 1920s as well. He is now considered one of the greatest quattrocento artists.
  • Caravaggio was obscure to infamous until the 1920s.
  • Artemisia Gentileschi, one of the few truly relevant Renaissance female painters, was for a long while looked down and seen as dependant of the fame of her father. Then the Feminist Movement came by. What's that you say, a Renaissance woman painter that focuses on pictures on women and whose masterpiece depicts the biblical Judith violently decapitating King Holofornes a.k.a. in a position of strength? Let's just say she came to develop quite the fanbase.
  • The Impressionistes (Monet, Renoir, Manet, etc.) were ridiculed at first (at their first joint exposition, the public came en masse to mock their work), even though they were more successful later on. Today, well let's say that many of the world's most expensive paintings are from them...
  • Vincent van Gogh is a popular example of this, although in the months before his death he was getting serious notice.
  • The Daughters of Edward Darley Boit, painted by John Singer Sargent, was originaly disliked by critics for being too big, having too much empty space in it, and having the subjects scattered about randomly. Now it is considered one of Sargent's better works, and is used in a couple of plays, poems, and mystery novels.
    • Also, Portrait of Madame X, when originally exhibited, caused a great deal of scandal in the art circle. Sargent was forced to leave Paris as a result. The painting would become one of his and the era's most iconic pieces.
  • For most of M. C. Escher's life, he was looked down upon by "serious" artists (as were all artists who specialized in lithography). He is now a fixture of art history textbooks (as well as poster shops) and your math teacher's walls.


Automobiles

  • The Daewoo Nubira was criticised at the time of launch (June 1997), but and by 2003 at launch it got a slightly better reception. Its replacement, the Lacetti/Nubira, in 2002, got a better reception but was still seen as inferior to the Opel Astra. Now its replacement, the Chevrolet Cruze (or the Daewoo Lacetti Premiere in Asia and Oceania) has been criticised for being somewhat anodyne, the vehicle appears to have been Vindicated by History to a degree. So much so it's become an unlikely Cool Car.
  • In Australia, the Ford Escort (the MkII version was the only one sold there) was never popular due to sales of large cars like the Holden Commodore and Toyota Camry, but now with the downsizing trend, it's again been vindicated by history. It's become a Cult Classic again (but on a mainstream scale).
  • The Renault Safrane, a luxurious hatchback with "edgy" styling. However, it's the originals (that is the Mk I, 1993-1996, and MkII, 1996-2000) which have now been seen as great, if underrated cars with excellent engineering. The latest Safrane, from 2008, is unrelated to this, and a rebadged Renault Samsung SM5 / Renault Laguna.
  • The Vauxhall Astra MkI sold well in its time, and got good reviews, but was seen as being rather anodyne (in looks terms, anyway, given its razor-edge looks). It was similar to, but did not have the same design as the the Opel Kadett D (Mk4) with slightly different styling. It's odd that two similar vehicles with similar styling got radically different opinions by the then-contemporary motoring press. Needless to say, the car is a Long Runner in name terms, 31 years for the Astra name in Europe.


Comic Books

  • X-Men wasn't a particularly strong seller in the 60s, and in the early 70s the title was languishing in reprints... until someone at Marvel noticed that sales were going up, and decided to revamp the series. The revamped title became Marvel's biggest seller.
  • Jack Kirby's New Gods titles sold poorly (though there is some controversy about just how good or bad the sales figures were at the time, and how much of that was due to a line-wide price hike and format change). Since then, Kirby's work on New Gods, Mister Miracle and The Forever People have become widely-acclaimed as among his very best, with characters who have been used again and again, in multiple media (e.g., Superfriends, Justice League, and Smallville).
  • Gotham Central sold poorly during it's monthly releases (Possibly due to it being a Batman book that rarely featured Batman). Though it has now found popularity being sold in hardcover and trade paperback.


Film (Animated)

  • Disney
    • Pinocchio, Fantasia and Bambi are nowadays regarded as three of the greatest animated films of all time, but were all huge flops, both critically and financially, on their original releases. World War II cost Disney the foreign market (that helped make Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs so successful), although other factors contributed to the films' failures (listed below with each film). Their combined failures nearly destroyed Walt Disney Studios. Even after they recovered from the debacle, Disney never again experimented with such risky films, opting for safer, more commercial and profitable ventures instead. However, Walt did live to see the films gain the reputations they truly deserved.
      • Pinocchio (1940) was considered too episodic by some critics, and audiences proved to NOT be in the mood for such fanciful fare during WWII.
      • Fantasia (1940), in a nutshell, was too far ahead of its time. Most theaters refused to install the special "Fantasound" speakers needed to create the surround sound which Walt had planned the film to use, and many critics derided the film as pretentious. Yes, the Animation Age Ghetto existed before the trope did. The failure of Fantasia crushed Walt, who abolished plans to make any sequels (and this was the only film he wanted to make a sequel to).
      • Bambi (1942), like Fantasia, was a victim of being too far ahead of its time. Critics derided it as pretentious and overly introspective compared to everything that had come before. Oh, and lets not bring Bambification into this either, please.
    • The following decade had its ups and downs. Cinderella, Peter Pan and Lady and the Tramp were big hits. But:
      • Alice in Wonderland (1951) was a financial failure. Like Fantasia, it was rediscovered in The Sixties and became popular among the counter-culture and a new generation of fans that didn't care that they weren't the Disney Princess fare.
      • Sleeping Beauty (1959) in particular devastated Walt Disney and almost convinced him to abandon animated feature production altogether. The Xerox process pioneered by One Hundred and One Dalmatians and used in subsequent films lowered production costs substantially, which played a pivotal role in Disney's continued animated film production.
    • A number of Disney disappointments after Walt's death recuperated on a small scale, either when re-released to theaters or when debuting on home video.
      • Many are cult hits (e.g. The Black Cauldron).
      • The first completely independent of Walt, Robin Hood (1973), was wracked by the company's financial problems of the 1970s, resulting in severe corner-cutting in its production. It made money, but was panned by contemporary critics, and was considered Disney's worst film to date internally. However, VHS made it one of Disney's most beloved classics in the 1980s and 1990s.
      • While not panned - they're both graded Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes - The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Hercules were widely criticized for Bowdlerizing a classic work of literature and classical mythology, respectively. Both, however, are now often viewed as being massive steps in the right direction after the disappointing Pocahontas, and genuinely good films in their own right: Hunchback gets a lot of praise for being one of the darkest Disney films and quite possibly having Alan Menken's greatest soundtrack, while Herc is often viewed as one of the funniest films in the canon, as well as providing the most genuinely likeable villain since Ratigan in Hades.
      • Some other Disney flops from the Turn of the Millennium, such as Atlantis the Lost Empire and Treasure Planet have gained a lot of fans because they aren't musicals. The Emperors New Groove is even more vindicated - it's nowadays viewed as being one of the best animated comedies of all time, and considered an unsung classic.
  • What's Opera Doc by Chuck Jones took several weeks longer to make than the standard Looney Tune, and Jones gave it a grand Hollywood premiere nearing the scale of a feature-length movie. His aim was the ultimate Bugs Bunny cartoon. His work was not rewarded at the time by animation critics or by the Academy. After 35 years it became one of the first pieces of animation inducted into the National Film Registry, arguably the highest reward in American cinema. Before Steamboat Willie!
    • Similarly, two particular characters from Warner's Golden Age, Marvin the Martian and Tasmanian Devil, each appeared in only five shorts in the 50s and garnered no popularity at the time. They have become major Looney Tunes supporting stars since the Golden Age ended, aging much better than a number of characters who appeared in 10 or more Golden Age shorts.
  • Yellow Submarine, released near the peak of Beatlemania, was nevertheless compared unfavorably to other cartoons of the period, especially Disney product. It took a few decades for the film to eventually gain its tremendous fanbase.
  • Tim Burton's stop-motion short film Vincent.
  • Don Bluth
    • The Secret of NIMH. It was a hit with the critics but financially the results were less than impressive against Disney Studio fare of the time, and (because it was 1982) against ET the Extraterrestrial). NIMH is currently the most popular work of Don Bluth, Disney's fiercest competitor.
    • All Dogs Go to Heaven (1989) earned about 27 million in the United States market and the professional reviews were mostly negative, but it became a smash hit when released on video, considered "one of the top-selling VHS releases of all time". It is currently highly regarded by animation fans.
  • Twice Upon a Time.
  • The animated Transformers: The Movie from 1986. Universally panned by critics in its day, an absolute bomb at the box offices, the target audience cried at the deaths of beloved characters and rejected the newly introduced nobodies... 20 years later it was a constant hot seller on video and DVD, and continues to be to this very day, with "anniversary" and "reconstructed" and "ultimate" editions being released every few years. Fans widely believe it to be the quintessential piece of 1980s "Transformers Generation 1" fiction. The Transformers Wiki offers a simple explanation:

 On a practical note, it was widely available on videotape, and remained so long after the The Transformers cartoon had gone off the air. Only a handful of series episodes were available on video, making The Transformers: The Movie the logical choice for someone looking to pick up a Transformers cartoon; this made it far more well-known among fans than any particular cartoon episode.

  • The Brave Little Toaster (1987) received a limited theatrical release and had no real box office results. It only became a hit when released on VHS in 1991. It went to become popular with 1990s animations fans and currently has a reputation as an animated gem.
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm performed poorly at the box office (a $5.6 million gross versus a $6 million budget), slowly gaining a stronger audience through VHS release. It is now known around the internet as "The greatest Batman film prior to The Dark Knight."
    • Some still put it ahead of The Dark Knight.
    • This situation deserves a little more explanation: Phantasm was intended to be a straight-to-video release, but Warner Brothers decided to release it theatrically at the last possible moment, giving them practically no time to promote it.
    • Siskel & Ebert reviewed it, and generally liked it better than Batman Returns, except for one thing - the voice of the Joker. They seemed not to know that the voice was done by Mark Hamill, whose Joker work is now considered the best Joker voice and one of the best period.
  • The Iron Giant tanked domestically (a $23.2 million gross versus a $70 million budget), a feat that wasn't helped by Warner Brothers' botched marketing for the film. Upon hitting VHS, it became the best-selling animated film of its year (even outperforming Tarzan), and was the film that convinced John Lasseter to produce Brad Bird's pet project The Incredibles (which naturally turned into another Pixar megablockbuster). It routinely receives marathon airings on Cartoon Network, and has been regarded as one of the best animated films of the 90's.


Film (Live Action, 1916-1979)

  • D. W. Griffith's Intolerance was such a failure that it bankrupted his studio -- even though his preceding film, The Birth of a Nation, was the most successful movie of the time and in fact the first Hollywood blockbuster. Today Intolerance is considered one of the greatest silent films, while Birth of a Nation, despite having pioneered many filmmaking techniques, is best remembered now for its jaw-dropping levels of Values Dissonance on account of its glorification of the Ku Klux Klan.
  • The German Expressionists
    • Well-regarded filmmaker F.W. Murnau provides several examples:
      • Nosferatu was taken down by the estate of Bram Stoker, due to it being quite obviously a rip-off of Dracula, and only survived in the form of pirated copies until Dracula entered the public domain (or more precisely, was discovered to have been public domain all along in the US). It single-handedly launched the idea of sunlight killing vampires.
      • The three now-landmark films he made in the United States -- Sunrise, City Girl and Tabu -- were unable to recoup their cost in their day.
    • Fritz Lang's Metropolis had the most advanced special effects of any film from the silent era, which nearly bankrupted the UFA Studio. The original Berlin premiere in 1927 was not a failure; however, the film did become one when its American distributor got hold of it and made drastic edits. Thanks to a 95%-ish complete print found in Argentina in 2008, fans of sci-fi are rediscovering just how much of a masterpiece it really is.
    • G.W. Pabst's silent version of Pandora's Box, considered today to be one of the greatest examples of Weimar Cinema, was overlooked by German audiences of the late 20s.
  • Charlie Chaplin
    • A Woman of Paris was a flop due in part to Chaplin's acting absence (apart from a cameo where he is unrecognizable). Audiences at the time didn't know what to make of a slapstick filmmaker embracing something completely serious. What people could only recognize in subsequent decades was that Woman of Paris is a milestone in the shaping of silent cinema, and especially the development of the Chaplin style towards immortality.
    • Monsieur Verdoux suffered similar misunderstanding. Critics and audiences in America, expecting the lighted-hearted humor of Chaplin's Tramp films, instead got a bleak and edgy murder-mystery-comedy, so people backed away from it in disgust. A European fanbase sprouted a few years later, but American never fully embraced Verdoux until the 1970s.
  • Buster Keaton
    • Sherlock, Jr., considered today to be one of the finest examples of silent slapstick and a landmark satire of the film medium itself, was unappreciated at the time it came out.
    • The General was not only a box office failure but widely panned by critics for being too dramatic and for casting Confederates in the place of the film's heroes. It would subsequently be regarded as Keaton's greatest film.
  • The Executive Meddling on Erich Von Stroheim's Greed caused the film's plotline to be extremely compromised (this is understandable since the final cut Von Stroheim prepared for theaters was EIGHT HOURS LONG). By the time Greed reached cinemas, it was in a sorry hacked-apart state that noone found interesting. Critics and the public have since embraced the elements of the film that survived.
  • The silent 20s version of Ben-Hur made a considerable amount of money (becoming one of the top grossers of 1925), but not enough to cover legal costs surrounding the film's troubled production process. MGM therefore counted it a failure. Nevertheless it continued to build income for the studio in rereleases over the following decades, doing astounding business until topped by the Charlton Heston remake.
  • The rise of the talkies in 1928 destroyed the box-office potential of two major releases from MGM: King Vidor's The Crowd and Victor Sjostrom's The Wind. Both have been hailed in recent years as highlights of silent cinema.
  • The majority of Carl Theodor Dreyer's works were flops. The Passion of Joan of Arc took several decades to find re-evaluation.
  • October faced a deadly critical and box-office blow in the Soviet Union when it didn't conform to the Stalin-implemented "socialist realism" program. Its reputation has soared over time, especially with multiple generations of filmmakers who look to Russian cinema for montage techniques.
  • Rouben Mamoulian's Applause was released just after the start of the Great Depression, and its unusual moodiness for a film of that period (and ESPECIALLY for a musical) repelled the public. Only in subsequent decades has there been appreciation for its advancement of quality sound-recording techniques in film, as well as its daring storyline.
  • The Three Stooges made hundreds of 10-minute comedies for Columbia Pictures from the mid 30s to the early 50s. They weren't very popular back then, even in comparison to other comedians in the short subject field. Nowadays they remain extremely popular with countless generations.
    • One short film in particular, Punch Drunks, failed to click with the sensibilities of Great Depression moviegoers. It is now one of the more critically acclaimed Stooge episodes.
  • Freaks was actually banned in 1932 in many countries, to the point of ruining the careers of many people involved (the freaks themselves were able to walk it off, or, in Prince Randian's case, crawl it off), because it was seen as offensive and exploitative. During the '60s, someone dug it up and realized that it was neither.
  • Leo McCarey.
    • The Marx Brothers movie Duck Soup was considered a box-office disappointment when it was released in 1933. Today, it's their most popular film and considered one of the greatest comedies in the history of cinema.
    • Make Way For Tomorrow was a flop with audiences when first released due to its dramatic themes and Great Depression-inspired premise. Nowadays, it is considered one of the best films of the 1930's and the only film to have been screened at the Telluride Film Festival three times (due to audience demand). Mc Carey himself even felt it was his masterpiece.
  • Werewolf of London flopped on its intial release in 1935 and was criticized for being too similar to the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde adaptation released in 1931. Many years later cinematic historians established it as a classic.
  • Reefer Madness was made as a moral tale of the dangers of smoking weed. Seemingly unable to sell it as such, the distributors of the film recut it into a rebellious underground-art piece. Its campy dialogue turned off most viewers in 1936 (!), but the film gradually built a tremendous fanbase in the "drug-experimenting" community (this is a case where a work was vindicated in a way its creators wouldn't have preferred).
  • Frank Capra, one of the most successful directors of the Golden Age of Hollywood, had his fair share of disappointments which turned out to be undeserved for a particular film.
    • Lost Horizon was a critical and box-office dud in 1937, but its reputation has grown immensely over time.
    • Its a Wonderful Life was one of Capra's most financially unsuccessful features, and suffered critical indifference. About three decades later, it was recognized as a timeless and inspirational holiday classic.
  • Bringing Up Baby was just too weird for cinemagoers of the late '30s. Today it is regarded as among the best comedies of the late 30s, and an artistic jewel in the crown of director Howard Hawks.
  • The Wizard of Oz barely made its money back. Critics and audiences liked it, but dozens of other great movies were being churned out in 1939. In the extremely fierce competition, Gone with the Wind and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington came out on top, while others such as Oz floundered. It wasn't until 50s television screenings that Oz became so famous and highly-regarded.
  • The Rules of the Game by Jean Renoir was poorly received by French audiences in 1939. After World War II it was re-evaluated and is considered by present-day critics to be his best work.
  • Orson Welles
    • Coming off of resounding success as a Broadway actor/producer and as the mastermind of the infamous The War of the Worlds radio adaptation, Welles moved his business and his circle of friends (both known as Mercury) to LA for his motion picture debut: Citizen Kane. It was an epic human drama for which he amassed the greatest crew he could possibly find, and he had high hopes for it. But the whole thing was seemingly destroyed by a fiasco involving media mogul William Randolph Hearst, who heard rumors that Charles Kane was based on him in an unfavorable light. Hearst ensured that on its release the film would be poorly publicized: no newspaper or radio station under the jurisdiction of his empire was allowed to print an ad for Kane, and movie critics for those papers and stations, if they wrote a review at all, were pressured into writing a negative one. Kane lost money in its 1941 initial run, and was even booed at the Academy Awards. RKO, the movie’s distributor, saw just enough merit in Kane not to sell all prints of it to Hearst for incineration (like a certain object in the movie itself), and at any rate it seemed doomed to fade in the mists of time ... Then in 1956, RKO lost control of part of its film library and Kane made its first appearance on television. Around this time, respected, high-profile European directors such as Francois Truffaut started pointing to it as a prime example of auteur cinema. From that point onward Kanes reputation continued to grow, and now this film is consistently ranked the #1 movie of all time in various polls on the subject of which movies are truly the greatest.
    • Screenings of The Magnificent Ambersons, based on the novel by Booth Tarkington, were met with complete ridicule. RKO then proceeded (without Orson’s approval) to change the ending, which did nothing for its appeal to American audiences in the 40s. Nowadays, while it might not be as fantastically unforgettable as Citizen Kane, it is regarded reasonably high.
    • Orson had initially exhibited a level on control over his work envied by many of his peers. The failure of Kane and Ambersons dramatically altered his career in that for the rest of it he had to fight with every breath in his body for the creative control he needed to make great films. The theatrical bombing of the majority of his output (which have since been recognized as a slew of masterpieces) and the resulting lack of warm welcome for him in Hollywood (at least until the 70s when mega-moneymakers like Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola cited him as an influence) is one of the biggest tragedies in cinema history.
    • Of his subsequent works, The Lady From Shanghai stands out as rising above the financial loss and mixed critical reaction into the status of classic film noir.
    • Touch of Evil is another Welles work worth mentioning. It was the last movie that Orson made in Hollywood itself, before moving to Europe and becoming a half-hermit. Recognized today as an awesome thriller and one of the last artistic triumphs of the Golden Age, it failed miserably in its first run.
  • Preston Sturges's work was known for its decidedly offbeat humor. Sometime his style was a hit, and sometimes it just wasn't.
    • Sullivan's Travels was a commercial failure in its first run, gradually picking up its comedy-classic status in later releases.
    • Unfaithfully Yours was a box office disappointment when it came out, but grew on people willing to accept dark comedies.
  • The original To Be or Not to Be, which delved into controversial territory regarding the situation in Poland at the time, was a critical and box office bomb. Today it's hailed as a comedy masterpiece.
  • Despite winning the Best Picture Oscar, Casablanca was treated by audiences and critics in 1942 as So Okay It's Average. The current reputation of the film is colossal.
  • David Lean
    • Blithe Spirit, regarded today as a masterful adaptation of the Noel Coward play, flopped in both the UK and America and would not find an audience for several decades.
    • Ryan's Daughter, upon arriving in theaters, failed to live up to the expectations set by Lean's previous two works (Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago). It has since risen in stature.
  • Akira Kurosawa, up until his death, was far more popular and acclaimed in the West than in Japan and was even accused by Japanese film critics of being "too Western". When Dodes'ka-den bombed in 1970, most of his small amount of Japanese popularity and acclaim vanished completely and he was considered to be a hack that was beloved in the West for what Japanese critics believed was mere exotica and over-rating by their American counterparts. After his death, his Japanese reputation increased dramatically.
    • Rashomon was panned and dismissed as junk in Japan on its release in 1950. Shortly afterwards it was embraced by American audiences, and the resulting popularity of samurai flicks in the West convinced Kurosawa to make more movies in that genre, leading to the even greater classics Seven Samurai and Yojimbo. Rashomon remained a dud in Japan for a while but gradually built up its well-deserved reputation as a really good film.
    • The Idiot and I Live In Fear have been vindicated to a lesser extent.
    • Throne of Blood and The Lower Depths were met with mixed critical and public opinion, primarily their departure from the acclaimed Seven Samurai into a more pessimistic tone. Subsequent generations of viewers have become more appreciative of the artistry in those two works.
  • Ace in the Hole, recognized today as a highlight of the career of Billy Wilder, was a flop.
  • The Alistair Sim version of A Christmas Carol, by far the most beloved film adaptation of Dickens's story, failed in cinemas in 1951.
  • Two landmark films from the 50s, High Noon and Salt of the Earth, suffered when first released due to suspicions of pro-Communist themes.
    • High Noon was vindicated in part by Dwight Eisenhower, who was a huge fan of the film and started the tradition of White House High Noon screenings. Clinton screened it a record 17 times.
    • Salt of the Earth was so controversial that it was dubbed a "blacklisted film", the only film to be so labelled.
  • The Band Wagon had high expectations but was commercially flat on its debut. Critics and audiences have since come to agree that it is one of the best MGM musicals.
  • Gojira (1954), the first of the Godzilla series, while commercially successful, was criticized as being tastelessly exploitative of recent memories of World War II and the accidental irradiation of a Japanese fishing boat that very year due to the testing of the world's first hydrogen bomb. It is now considered to be one of the greatest Japanese movies ever made. Kinema Junpo magazine listed it as one of the top twenty Japanese films created, while 370 Japanese film critics surveyed listed it as the 27th greatest Japanese film in Nihon Eiga Besuto 159 (Best 150 Japanese Films). When American critics got to view the non-dubbed, original version of the film in 2004 (most for the first time), they raved about it.
  • The Night of the Hunter was neither a critical, nor a commercial success, when it came out. Today, it's considered a masterpiece.
  • The Searchers was reviled by audiences in 1956, particularly for John Wayne's performance as a bigoted antihero and the underlying negative portrayal of Americans in the Old West. Now film buffs hail it as a milestone in cinematic storytelling, and countless A-list directors cite it as one of the biggest influences on them.
  • Nicholas Ray
    • Bigger Than Life, a commerical disaster that stained Nicholas Ray's reputation following the success of his previous film Rebel Without a Cause, has become one of the most artistically praised films of the 50s, and been given the Blu-ray treatment by Criterion.
    • When King of Kings came out it was treated like a joke, but at present has reached the critical reverence of The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur and other high-profile Biblical epics.
  • The Court Jester is currently one of the most popular works of Danny Kaye (due in large part to individual comic moments such as the pellet-with-the-poison tongue twister), but was unsuccessful in its initial theatrical run.
  • Stanley Kubrick is the master of being vindicated. Nearly all of his films divided audiences in admirers and haters. Only in time have most of his films been reappreciated as classics.
    • The Killing went through its first run ignored by moviegoers, but a handful of critics championed it until it got the recognition it deserved.
    • Paths of Glory, another early Kubrick classic which is considered one of the most poignant stories of war ever told, failed on its first release.
    • 2001: A Space Odyssey was not immediately successful, garnering brutally negative responses from critics and total dismissal from older adults (which was initially the majority of those who saw it), but over the course of '68 and '69 positive word of mouth spread among younger people, who kept flocking to see it whenever it popped up in a theater. This way it gradually picked up its status as the science fiction film of the century, and managed to become the 2nd-highest-grossing film of 1968 (this is usually referred to as a "sleeper hit").
    • A Clockwork Orange was relatively successful, but so controversial that it divided audiences whether it was really a good film. Many serious reviews from that time dismiss it as merely "a film that glorifies sex and violence." The copy-cat crimes inspired by this film didn't help matters very well either. Today it is generally appreciated as a high quality film and the definitive adaptation of the novel.
    • Barry Lyndon bombed critically as well as financially, but over the next few decades exerted enormous influence over a newer set high-profile directors like Quentin Tarantino.
  • Critics and audiences in the late 50s, expecting something different from Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis than what they eventually got in Sweet Smell of Success, absolutely hated the film. It has since gained a reputation as one of the film-noir highlights of its era.
  • 12 Angry Men, one of the most famous courtroom-drama films ever made, bombed at the box office despite support from critics, and for a short while was largely forgotten.
  • Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo was somehow not exciting enough for cinemagoers in the late 50s and most people ignored it. This in part was responsible for Hitchcock's creation of the horror blockbuster Psycho two years later, since he required something much more shocking to put himself back on the map. Ironically, current polls frequently rank Vertigo above Psycho as Hitchcock's ultimate masterpiece.
  • Porgy and Bess earned back only half its budget in 1959, spelling financial disaster for its producer Samuel Goldwyn (and convincing him to retire from filmmaking). The film has been revived in the public's eye and earned much critical recognition.
  • Imitation of Life was derided in its day as a "soap opera", only to be re-evealuated in the following decades as a artistic gem.
  • The films of Ed Wood, Plan 9 from Outer Space being the ultimate example, took a different path to vindication through their So Bad It's Good nature. Plan Nine has been lovingly dubbed the worst movie of all time.
  • Peeping Tom ruined the career of one of England's greatest directors, Michael Powell. It's now considered a masterpiece on par with Psycho in the serial-killer genre.
  • John Huston's The Misfits has gained momentum after a disastrous initial run.
  • The original The Manchurian Candidate didn't fare as well as it could have due to its star Frank Sinatra pulling it from release after the Kennedy assassination.
  • Ride the High Country, a failure on its release in 1962, has gained favor from modern critics as an exemplary western and a top-notch early work by Sam Peckinpah.
  • All the works of Jean-Luc Godard in the 60s are praised by lovers of European film, but there was a period in the early part of that decade when a handful of his movies (including Vivre Sa Vie and Contempt) were initially bombs.
  • Sergio Leone
  • The Great Race was initially derided in cinemas for being too cartoony (which was said mostly because it came from an apparently unexpected source: Blake Edwards). Several years went by before it gained the popularity it truly deserved, to the point where it inspired the Hanna-Barbera primetime series Wacky Races and The Perils of Penelope Pitstop.
  • Seven Faces of Dr. Lao, a failure in 1965, is regarded nowadays as a classic fantasy.
  • The most ambitious work of Jacques Tati was Playtime, which tanked in 1967. Guess which of Tati's films is the first (and so far only) to show up on the prestigious Blu-ray format?
  • Seijun Suzuki's satirical Yakuza film Branded to Kill was a commercial and critical flop, and got him effectively blacklisted from making another movie for ten years. Nowadays it's recognized as a countercultural classic.
  • The Producers by Mel Brooks (1968) was not well-received at all upon its theatrical debut, and never managed a nationwide release, even though it won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. Its failure (combined with that of Mel's second film, The Twelve Chairs) reduced Mel to scavenging for loose change on the sidewalk (according to Mel, anyway). A friend of his working for Warner Bros. saved him from obscurity by recruiting him as director on the appealingly controversial Blazing Saddles, and since that and Young Frankenstein (both came out in 1974) Mel's status as a comedy wizard has never been questioned. The Producers has since become one of the great American comedies, and only had its reputation enhanced further when it became the basis for a hit Broadway musical and a big-screen remake at the Turn of the Millennium.
  • Head, an experimental comedy by The Monkees which late 60s audiences (somehow!) found too weird, has become embraced by critics as one the greatest examples of that era's counterculture.
  • The 1969 film Army Of Shadows was extremely unpopular in its home country of France, so much so that no U.S. distributor would pick it up until 2006, by which time it had gained respect as one of Jean-Pierre Melville's greatest works.
  • Tora! Tora! Tora! flopped in the U.S., only picking up its classic status after home video release in the following decade.
  • The weirdness of Harold and Maude wasn't in sync with the early 70s, what with a teenage boy having a romance with an octogenarian woman, and it failed horribly. People have since come to understand the film's finer qualities better, and its repuation has skyrocketed.
  • Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory found its audience through TV and home video after a disappointing theatrical run in 1971 (a time when family movies just weren't big draws)... and after Paramount's rights were transferred to Warner Bros.
  • George Lucas' THX-1138 remained unpopular even after the success of Star Wars. Around the time the aforementioned franchise's prequels were coming out, 1138 gained a lot of momentum.
  • Nicolas Roeg
    • Walkabout flopped in 1971 and critics were mainly unresponsive, but it gradually rose in stature.
    • The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976) was vindicated partially because cable and video releases were of the original 136-minute British cut rather than the U.S. theatrical release which cut and reordered scenes (this was partially Bowdlerisation). It not only made it into The Criterion Collection (as has Walkabout), but was one of its first four Blu-Ray releases.
  • McCabe and Mrs. Miller had little fanfare when it first came out, but over a short period of time gained its well-deserved status as a cinema classic.
  • The theatrical success of Werner Herzog's Aguirre, the Wrath of God was destroyed by the financiers' decision to air it on TV at the same time. Aguirre has since become the most popular work of Herzog.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show did NOT do well when it was first released into U.S. theatres in 1975. However, noticing that those people who liked it really liked it, the studio relaunched it as a midnight movie, the fandom grew and developed Audience Participation rituals, and 35 years later it's still in limited release. It is the longest run of any movie, hands down.
    • In some places, it never stopped running. It's rare, but there are a few theaters that have shown it every Friday night since it first premiered.
  • The original 1976 Assault on Precinct 13 by John Carpenter was made on a very small budget, and had lukewarm criticial reception and unimpressive box office returns. This was no doubt in large part thanks to it being largely a modern western, and American audiences had become desaturated from the huge number of western films being released just around 1976. However, when shown in Europe, it gained both critical acclaim and was a box office hit, as European audiences were less familiar with the westerns. It subsequently underwent a reevaluation in the States, and is now considered to be one of the best action film of the 70s, and is a a true Cult Classic in its own right.
  • Eraserhead, the shoestring-budget horror film David Lynch debuted with, barely made a blip at the box office. Now it is well-loved as a textbook example of cinematic creepiness.
  • Slap Shot was not a well received movie when it was released as people found it ridiculously violent and vulgar. Critics also went on to deride it for similar reasons. Over the years however, the movie gained a solid cult following and today is considered one of the best sports movies ever made (and the best hockey movie ever made as well. It even left a lasting mark on hockey culture). In fact, Gene Siskel went on to say that giving the movie a poor review was his biggest regret as a critic after viewing the movie multiple times.
  • According to John Cleese, Monty Python's Life of Brian, out of the three most famous Python movies, was the easiest to make and their best work as a team. Most everybody, even those outside the fanbase, will agree. On its release in 1979, however, the controversy surrounding its premise was too much and a fair number of countries (e.g. Ireland) banned it.
  • The Warriors under-performed at the box office; fights and three homicides caused by rival gangs showing up at the theater to see the film only hurt it further. Today it is a recognized cult classic.
  • Milos Forman's adaptation of the rock musical Hair did poorly at the box office despite critical praise. Many, many people have embraced the film version in subsequent years.


Film (Live Action, 1980-2010)

  • After Taxi Driver, the legendary Martin Scorsese made the disastrous New York New York (which so far hasn't quite been vindicated), and a losing streak started for him in the 80s as the "New Hollywood" crumbled down on him and other major 70s filmmakers.
    • The first in the losing streak was Raging Bull. Although it was Robert De Niro's way of saving Scorsese's life (Scorsese was depressed and doing heavy drugs after New York New York) and was successful in that regard, Bull just barely reached the modest-hit mark in its first run, dismissed by most moviegoers as being too gratuitously violent, and most critics latched onto the tiniest inaccuracies of the film on its subject matter which they believed believed spoiled the whole thing. 10 years later it was hailed by every film poll as Scorsese's masterpiece and the ultimate example of 80s cinema.
    • Then came The King Of Comedy and After Hours, which tanked commercially and critically but have since gone on to be hailed as comedy classics.
    • The Last Temptation of Christ was absolutely DESPISED on its initial release, with its stylistic innovation on the Biblical genre 100% ignored. Scorsese's career could have ended soonafter. Luckily, his next film was Goodfellas, a massive critical and commercial hit. Thus the losing streak ended.
  • The films of Harold Ramis.
    • Caddyshack was a moderate box office success, but received negative reviews and was overshadowed by other comedies at the time. Today it's usually ranked as one of the top comedy films of all time, and it's hard to find anyone older than 30 who hasn't seen it.
    • Groundhog Day ranked # 13 in box office in 1993. The critics liked it but didn't love it. Since then, it's been listed among the 30 best screenplays ever, the 10 best comedies ever made, and more recently, among the 10 best films ever made.
      • Roger Ebert included it in his Great Movies collection, very rare for a comedy, and rarer for a film he only gave 3 out of 4 stars in his original review.
  • The Empire Strikes Back became the second highest-grossing film at the time, second only to the original Star Wars, but critics didn't know what to make of its Downer Ending. It's now considered by many to be the best Star Wars film.

 "Empire" had the better ending. I mean, Luke gets his hand cut off, finds out Vader's his father, Han gets frozen and taken away by Boba Fett. It ends on such a down note. I mean, that's what life is, a series of down endings. All "Jedi" had was a bunch of Muppets.

  • The Stunt Man failed financially and didn't gain many positive reviews, but over time has amassed enormous popularity.
  • The Shining actually got Stanley Kubrick[1] nominated for Worst Director at the first ever Razzie awards. Shocking to imagine today.
  • It seems that after the blockbuster success of his slasher flick Halloween, John Carpenter just couldn't catch a break.
    • Escape from New York made a respectable splash in the cult sense when it was first released in 1981, but wasn't considered a classic by any stretch of the imagination. It has gained much more recognition over the years, mainly due, no doubt, to its influence on other media, with Metal Gear Solid, Re Boot, and The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy being only a few examples.
    • The 1982 The Thing, competing against Steven Spielberg's ET the Extraterrestrial, was a flop at the box office (making only $13.8 million in the US against a $15 million budget) and critically panned when it first came out but is highly regarded these days; it spawned a comic book and a video game and regularly appears on lists of the best sci-fi and horror movies ever made.
    • Starman was lukewarm, but over time has achieved an impressive fandom.
    • Big Trouble in Little China bombed especially bad (an $11.1 million gross versus a $25 million budget). Its campy outrageousness has since become extremely well-loved, especially by those who grew up in The Eighties.
  • Blow Out, Brian De Palma's thriller about a slasher-flick sound mixer who finds audio evidence of a murder, bombed at the box-office due to negative word of mouth. Its reputation has since climbed and the film is highly lauded as an artistic gem of the 80s.
  • Blade Runner, now recognized as a seminal work of dystopian science fiction and neo-noir, did okay but was not particularly successful during its first theatrical run, due to competition from ET the Extraterrestrial and from Executive Meddling to make the story more "uplifting". It remained a footnote in Harrison Ford's career and in sci-fi until a Director's Cut was released ten years afterward.
  • Tron turned a tiny profit but in the same vein was no competition against ET the Extraterrestrial, and was even denied an Oscar effects nomination due to "cheating" by the use of computers. Today, it's considered a bold pioneer in CGI for film. In 2010, more than twenty years later, it had a sequel released. It doesn't hurt that TRON directly inspired Disney's Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter to make feature-length computer-animated movies...
  • The non-Muppet non-Sesame Street movies by Jim Henson are a major example.
    • The Dark Crystal.
    • Labyrinth, an outright flop in the summer of 1986 (costing $25 million and making $12.7 million). Once cable and VHS picked it up, it grew a significant fanbase. In fact ever since its initial DVD release in 1999, it's been among Sony's biggest sellers, and Spiritual Successor Mirror Mask was created on a small budget and given a limited release specifically because the company wanted to create another cult hit.
  • David Cronenberg's Videodrome lost money in theaters (a $2.1 million gross versus a $6 million budget) and is now one of the most recognized Canadian-made films outside of Canada.
  • A Christmas Story was financially lukewarm, and the critics were pretty mixed. Now it's a very popular holiday classic.
  • Eddie and the Cruisers.
  • Once Upon a Time in America, Sergio Leone's companion piece to Once Upon a Time in the West, failed miserably (a $5.3 million gross versus a $20 million budget). This may come as a big shock to some, since it currently has one of the highest reputations of any film in history.
  • Rob Reiner.
    • This Is Spinal Tap, upon initial theatrical release, lacked an audience aside from hardcore heavy-metal fans and its final box office numbers were very weak. Thanks to critical acclaim, however, the film proved extremely popular on VHS and cable, and single-handedly launched "mockumentaries" as a palatable genre.
    • The Princess Bride was a modest success when it was first released, but not enough to immediately ensure it wouldn't fade into obscurity. It was time, word-of-mouth and the VHS release that boosted the film's popularity.
  • David Lynch.
    • Dune cost $40 million and made $29.8 million in theaters, flopping mainly because Lynch's directorial vision was compromised by Sid Scheinberg. It's considerably more popular nowadays, mainly thanks to the internet.
    • Blue Velvet didn't turn much a profit at all ($8.6 million gross versus $6 million budget), but was well-liked by most critics who stuck by it and soon it was re-evaluated by the general public as among the very best pictures of the 80s.
  • Tim Burton.
    • Early in his career, Burton worked with Disney but was fired in 1984 after the production of Frankenweenie. They thought he wasted their money for a film that was too scary for children. Burton went on to become a successful director and finally the short saw home video release. And a quarter of a century later, Burton is going to remake it as a stop-motion feature -- produced by Disney.
    • Burton's Biopic Ed Wood failed at the box office with a $5.9 million gross versus an $18 million budget. But there was was enough critical and industry affection for it that it won two Oscars (Makeup and Supporting Actor) and eventually became known as a great work.
  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.
  • Three of Terry Gilliam's failures are currently among his more famous creations:
  • Akira Kurosawa's[2] Ran wasn't a success (nor was it a flop) when it was released in the US in 1985, doing modestly at the box office (if not slightly above average for a foreign film) and winning only a handful of awards, despite near universal critical acclaim. Its response in Japan however, -- like most of Kurosawa's post Red Beard efforts -- was largely of disinterest and the Japanese film board actively sabotaged its chances of being nominated for a Best Foreign Film Oscar. Nowadays, it's widely considered among Akira Kurosawa's masterpieces and among the best movies of all time.
  • Woody Allen's The Purple Rose of Cairo.
  • Highlander.
  • Stand and Deliver was completely overlooked on its release in 1988, buried amid a slew of big blockbusters. Critics are nowadays championing it as a top-notch drama.
  • UHF was critically panned and flopped (at $6.2 million, barely recovering its $5 million budget) at the summer 1989 box office -- ironically, the latter was because its studio was so confident it would be a hit that it was scheduled amongst much higher-profile blockbusters (Batman, Ghostbusters II, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, etc.). It became a cult hit among "Weird Al" Yankovic fans and eventually found even greater reception upon its DVD release -- which was due to popular demand that outstripped any other MGM-owned title that hadn't received a DVD up to that point.
    • Weird Al Lampshades this in the DVD commentary. During the credits, he reads several poor reviews the film got, ending with one positive one (possibly the only one he could find). While UHF has soured him on the idea of ever doing a movie again, he seems pleased that people still enjoy watching it.
  • Heathers was shunned in theaters for the perceived glorification of teen suicide (although this was not the case at all). It made $1.1 million against a $2 million budget. Upon arrival on home video it was a top seller, and is highly regarded nowadays.
    • Though in another case of Vindicated by History, all portrayals of suicide, no matter the intent, run a strong risk of copycats. If a notable character in a popular show or movie commits suicide, no matter how much it is intended to serve as a cautionary tale, expect a wave of suicides committed in a similar manner to the portrayal to occur.
  • Licence to Kill was initially another disappointment of the blockbuster-heavy summer of 1989, further hurt by comparisons to the Bond films that had preceded it. This, combined with legal issues over the franchise, ensured that another Bond film would not be made for 6 years, and that Timothy Dalton would not return to the lead role. License to Kill has since been re-evaluated as among the best installments of the franchise.
    • Timothy Dalton's overall taciturn, violent portrayal of Bond is now considered to be almost prophetic, as it heralded Daniel Craig's rendition of the character by nearly twenty years. At the time, most viewers had grown comfortable with Roger Moore's lighthearted Bond.
  • Mystery Train by Jim Jarmusch.
  • The Coen Brothers made five films in the 1990s that are all now very popular and considered true classics. However, of these five films, Fargo was the only one to achieve first-run theatrical success.
    • Miller's Crossing cost $14 million and made only $5 million. While it will never see as much praise as Fargo, it has gained a fair amount of respect from critics and particularly from fans of the Coens.
    • Barton Fink cost $9 million and in its theatrical run made a disappointing $6.2 million. It picked up popularity on VHS after winning the top prizes at the Cannes Film Festival.
    • The Hudsucker Proxy suffered the most. Costing $25 million it was their most expensive film of that decade, and made the least amount of money ... $2.8 million, a tremendous loss for Warner Brothers (and probably the reason the Coens never had Warners as a distributor again). Hudsucker was re-evaluated after the success of Fargo, and gained a sizeable fandom.
    • The Big Lebowski made $17 million in the United States, enough to recoup its $15 million budget but not nearly enough to be considered a success. It remained a dud in the US (although it managed to turn a sizeable profit in foreign markets) until its home video release. Its popularity then exploded to gargantuan proportions ... Lebowski is now one of the biggest cult classics, and since 2002 a "Lebowskifest" has been held each year in every single US state.
    • Before all of these were the first two Coen films in the 80s, Blood Simple and Raising Arizona. They were not flops (in fact they turned enough of a profit to satisfy the distributors), but they were also not considered artistic masterpieces until MANY years later.
  • The 1992 film Hoffa lost money and divided critics but since then has established a high reputation.
  • Dazed and Confused.
  • The Shawshank Redemption was released to critical acclaim and a handful of Oscar nominations. Box office success? Not so much, as it was very much in the shadows of Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction at the time of its release. In its first run it made $16 million versus a $25 million budget. Its current popularity is almost exclusively thanks to heavy broadcasts on cable and home video.
    • A TV special on the director showed that the public chased it on video after hearing its name over and over during the Academy Awards. A theatrical re-release also took place during the Oscar season, in which the film was much more successful.
  • The consensus in 1995 was that the Clerks prequel Mallrats sucked (with a $2.1 million gross against a $6.1 million budget), but many have since agreed that its quality equals that of Clerks and Chasing Amy.
  • Wes Anderson wasn't really a well-regarded filmmaker until the success of The Royal Tenenbaums.
    • Wes's first film Bottle Rocket didn't recoup its modest indie budget in theaters (a $1 million gross versus a $7 million budget). It has since proven itself on VHS and DVD as a classic.
    • His second film Rushmore, originally a box office flop, has gained immense notice.
  • EDtv, initially dismissed as a ripoff of The Truman Show, has gained widespread recognition in recent years as a brilliant satire.
  • Whit Stillman's The Last Days Of Disco was a financial failure, but acclaim for its artistry has been growing since its release.
  • Fight Club did not make much money during its North American theatrical run (a $37 million gross versus a $63 million budget), and received very mixed reviews. However, it quickly developed a large and loyal cult following, to the point that people creating "real Fight Clubs" made headlines. Hardly anyone hasn't heard the film's most famous quotes.
  • Mike Judge
    • Office Space was poorly marketed, and barely broke even at $10.8 million. Now it's the champion of all workplace comedies, and among the most quoted films ever.
    • Idiocracy made around $495,000 in theaters against a $25 million budget, mostly because of the limited number of theaters it played at and barely any advertising. It became a smash hit on DVD.
  • Election did okay at the box office but was unimpressive compared to American Pie, which came out around the same time. Today it's regarded as one of the best teen comedies ever made, as well as one of Reese Witherspoon's best performances.
  • Ride with the Devil ($635,100 gross versus a $38 million budget), hailed as an Ang Lee masterpiece.
  • Mike Leigh's Topsy-Turvy lost money in its theatrical run, and is now considered a classic.
  • Almost Famous cost $60 million to make and only managed to rake in $47 million. But critics kept rooting for it, and eventually Cameron Crowe's Oscar win for best screenplay helped boost the film's popularity on home video.
  • Donnie Darko did not make much of a splash during its modest theatrical run (making $4.1 million, narrowly missing the $4.5 million breaking-even mark), but quickly developed a large cult following and on home video found an unprecedented amount of belated fame.
  • Zoolander was wounded at the box office by the September 11th attacks on the Trade Center and the Pentagon, which took place the previous week. The world was therefore not in the mood for comedy. Since then the film has more than made up for the theatrical misfortune with DVD sales, and Ben Stiller has discussed the development of a sequel.
  • Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World.
  • Punch Drunk Love, dismissed back in 2002 because of the widespread disbelief that Adam Sandler would be able to pull off a more dramatic role.
  • The 2003 theatrical cut of Daredevil bombed domestically after critics and audiences complained that it was a watered-down comic book film coming on the heels of other critically- and commercially-successful Marvel properties like X-Men and Spider-Man. Several months later, the Daredevil Director's Cut restored a significant amount of material (making it much more Darker and Edgier), which gave the film a whole new focus and restored its credibility among audiences who had previously dismissed it out of hand. Today, the Director's Cut is heralded as one of the best Marvel films ever released.
  • Any of Edgar Wright's movies:
    • Shaun of the Dead, with a $5m budget, made a profit at the UK and US box office. On DVD, the movie has become a huge hit, and one of the most acclaimed British comedies ever.
    • Hot Fuzz did quite well in the UK box office, but did poorly in the US due to being released around the same time as Epic Movie. But once it was brought to DVD and Blu-Ray, it has become very popular in the US as well as the UK.
    • Scott Pilgrim vs. the World has become a smash hit on DVD and Blu-Ray after a dismal reception in theaters.
  • Serenity, the feature-film continuation of the TV series Firefly, got a mixed response from critics, and failed to earn back its $39 million budget in theaters despite support from Firefly's Fandom. Only on DVD did it gain the tremendous popularity it has now.
  • Stranger Than Fiction, while never really panned by critics, only received moderate critical acclaim upon it's release (mostly because of skepticism towards Will Ferrel's acting abilities). Today it stands a possibly one of the strongest films of 2006, usually highly regarded for it's effective life message and it's powerhouse cast.
  • Quentin Tarantino's and Robert Rodriguez's Grindhouse.
  • Lars and the Real Girl.
  • The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford.
  • Che has built up a very high profile in the two years since its theatrical bombing (having made $41 million on a $58 million budget).
  • Speed Racer. When it was released in 2008, it was a critical and commercial flop. Now, it is becoming a cult classic, with many now calling it underrated, one of the most faithful adaptations ever, and groundbreaking in terms of visuals. Later films such as Scott Pilgrim, Tron: Legacy, and Sucker Punch would also use inspiration for their visuals from the film.
  • The Hurt Locker. It never got a wide release and grossed just $17 million in theatres despite near-unanimous critical acclaim (the disappointing box office mainly due to Summit having higher hopes on flops such as Bandslam, Sorority Row and Astro Boy). However, the film managed to became a huge hit on DVD and won several Academy Awards (including Best Picture).
  • Indie filmmaker Duncan Jones debuted with a sci-fi drama called Moon. Getting little attention in 2009 apart from the film festival circuit (with a gross of $7 million it barely made its money back), Moon has since taken off on home video and propelled Jones to the director's seat on a number of top Hollywood projects.


Literature (Poetry)

  • John Donne's poetry was largely ignored (mostly due to the mixing of religious and sexual imagery in the same poem many a time) until T. S. Eliot brought his work to attention.
  • William Blake was thought of as mad until Northrop Frye's Fearful Symmetry caused a reassesment of his works.
    • The thing is, he was. Throughout his life he had visions and hallucinations. (Notably, he admitted that when he looked at the sun, he didn't see a round disk of fire: he saw a choir of angels singing hymns.)
  • John Keats didn't have much time to get recognized, since he died at 25. The few reviews he got were mostly negative. Not long after his death he became recognized as one of the greats of poetry.
  • Most of Emily Dickinson's poetry was only published after her death, and received negative reviews even then. Today, she's considered to be a great poet.
    • This was more a case of editors cleaning her up to more standardized punctuation.
  • Gerard Manley Hopkins wasn't even generally known to be a poet during his lifetime. After his death publication of his poetry was sponsored by his friend and British Poet Laureate Robert Bridges. In Hopkins' case obscurity was partly chosen, because he didn't believe literary recognition was proper for a Catholic priest.
  • Hungarian poet Attila József was relatively unknown during his lifetime. Today, he's considered to be one of the greatest Hungarian poets ever.
  • Sylvia Plath struggled for years to get her poetry published and faced countless rejections; granted, she did see the publication of one book of poetry in her lifetime: The Colossus and Other Poems in 1960. It wasn't until in 1965, two years after her suicide, that her masterpiece, Ariel, that contained classic poems such as Daddy and Lady Lazarus, was published. In 1982, Plath was the first poet to ever posthumously win the Pulitzer Prize. Plath is now seen as one of the most important figures in the genre of confessional poetry.
    • To add, in 2001, Dr. James C. Kaufman of California State University conducted quite a jot of research on the phenomenon of creative writers, particularly female poets more so than any other category, and the increased likelihood of mental illness and suicide. Who did he name this after? None other than Sylvia Plath.


Literature (Prose)

  • Thomas Hobbes' work Leviathan was hated by both Royalists, Parliamentarians and the Church when it was published in 1651. It's now considered a classic of political philosophy.
  • The 18th-century publication of Henry Fielding's Tom Jones was a source of outrage for the whole of English society, who believed it to be the work of the Devil. It remained unpopular for 200 years, finally being recognized as a literary treasure in the early 1960s.
  • Frankenstein received mostly negative reactions from critics and readers in 1818. Its popularity now is unshakeable.
  • Stendhal published The Red and The Black in 1830; he stated in his letters that he was writing books for the 1930s. That's around that time he was recognized as one of the greatest French writers of the XIXth century.
  • Wuthering Heights was too tough a sell when first published in the 1840s, but picked up notability a few years after the death of its author Emily Bronte. Modern readers hail it as a masterpiece.
  • Moby Dick got trashed by critics when it was first published in 1851. The negative press for his magnum opus caused Herman Melville, who had been a somewhat popular author in the 1840s, to fall into depression and obscurity. Even up until the turn of the century, the Encyclopedia Brittanica described Melville as being a modestly famous writer of nautical stories. It wasn't until the '20s and the '30s -- over three decades after Melville's death -- when scholars rediscovered Moby-Dick and reevaluated it as one of the classics of American literature.
    • Most of the bad reviews were a result of the British edition leaving out the epilogue, resulting in an already difficult novel being completely incomprehensible. The American reviewers mindlessly parroted the British reviewers (even though most of their complaints were no longer true) because they were expected to act European to be considered sophisticated.
    • There's also the fact that Melville's prior novels had essentially been adventure stories; fans who picked up Moby-Dick were in for a Mood Whiplash.
  • The abolitionist magazine serial Uncle Tom's Cabin was unsuccessful until published in book form, after which it famously became a contributing factor to the American Civil War.
  • Our Mutual Friend, which came late in the career of Charles Dickens, sold fewer than 30,000 copies back in 1865 ... especially disappointing compared to the hundreds of thousands achieved by the majority of Dickens's previous work. Modern readers are more appreciative of Mutual Friend, citing its more sophisticated writing style compared to the other Dickens works.
  • Upon publication in the 1870s, Anna Karenina was not a well-regarded novel by any means. In the past century it skyrocketed to its well-deserved status as a classic of Russian literature, and today is arguably Leo Tolstoy's most popular work.
  • Not only did this happen to Friedrich Nietzsche, he predicted it would happen. As he said in The Antichrist, "Some are born posthumously." He also predicted that a lot of people would probably screw up what he was trying to say, which also happened. In the end, after years of being associated with misinterpreting Nazis and thrill-killers like Leopold and Loeb, it ultimately took the work of Hannah Arendt and Walter Kaufmann to popularize a rehabilitated image of his philosophy.
  • The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the sequel to Tom Sawyer, was critically bashed when first published. 21st century readers side with Mark Twain, whose opinion was that Huckleberry Finn is the superior of the two works.
  • The Picture of Dorian Gray suffered immense critical hatred, due in part to scandals in Oscar Wilde's personal life. The book is now highly praised.
  • Tess of the D'Urbervilles suffered a similar short-term fate.
  • The Adventure of the Final Problem was despised when first published because of Arthur Conan Doyle's decision to bump Sherlock off. Doyle spent half a decade battling fandom hatred until finally caving in and ressurecting the character. Final Problem is now one of the most respected short stories in English literature, and antagonist Professor Moriarty - - who only appeared this one time in Doyle's canon - - will always be known as THE opponent of Holmes.
  • Dracula sold poorly in author Bram Stoker's lifetime; back then most of his fame came from The Primrose Path. Currently, Dracula is his most famous work, a masterpiece of horror fiction, and credited with turning vampires into a bankable literary subject.
  • The Phantom of the Opera by mystery writer Gaston Leroux (regarded by his peers as the French equivalent of Arthur Conan Doyle) failed when initially published in 1910. The first film adaptation with Lon Chaney facilitated the rise of the novel's popularity.
  • The short stories and novellas (among them The Metamorphosis and The Trial) of Franz Kafka were largely ignored in his time, and most of it went unpublished. He even went so far as to say he wanted his works to be destroyed after his death.
  • The work of James Joyce frequently went through this, some more than others.
    • Ulysses was quickly banned in the majority of the countries it was published in due to its sexually provocative content, thereby killing the profits.
    • Finnegans Wake, which delved into extreme narrative experimentation, alienated the pre-WWII British public. Modern readers particularly adore this one out of all Joyce's works, even though (or because?) it remains extremely difficult to understand.
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby had a mediocre debut and only became famous some time after Fitzgerald's death.
    • More like Fitzgerald himself fits this trope. He died in 1940 thinking that he was a failure and he would be forgotten. Less than a decade after his death, a new interest in his works, particularly The Great Gatsby, occurred. Now, along with Gatsby, Fitzgerald is regarded as one of the greatest writers of the 20th century and the voice of his generation, a term that he himself coined: The Jazz Age.
    • Another of Fitzgerald's novels, Tender Is the Night, was rather poorly received upon its release, with critics mainly expressing distaste for its use of Anachronic Order. A second edition was released which revises the narrative into chronological order. Currently, the former edition is held in much higher esteem than the second.
  • HP Lovecraft spent his entire career in relative obscurity, his works only approaching a general popularity in the 1950s. These days, he is credited as the creator of the Cosmic Horror story, and is to the horror fiction field in general what JRR Tolkien was to High Fantasy, with stories such as At the Mountains of Madness being studied at the critical level to the same degree, if not even more so.
  • The first two print runs of The Hobbit combined came to only just over 3800 copies. Reviews were good, but World War II had created a paper shortage.
  • Philip K. Dick is today regarded as one of the most influental writers of science fiction who introduced many now widely established concepts and with an impressive number of his novels being adapted to film. However, during his lifetime, he was rather obscure, probably in part due to suffering from severe mental disorders. Many of his novels are assumed to be a way of dealing with his problems, with his paranoia being believed to have created the notions of reality being an artificial illusion created for nefarious purposes or people only believing they are actual humans, which have been a common theme in science fiction since the 80s.
    • One of his novels that picked up a notable amount of belated glory was A Scanner Darkly. American sales in 1977 were a disappointment, and although European reception was warmer, it was not a tremendous bestseller by any stretch.
  • William Golding's Lord of the Flies sold poorly in 1954. Since the end of the 20th century, however, it has been one of the two or three most frequently taught works of literature in North American high schools.
  • Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, was quite underappreciated when published in 1957. Its reputation has gone way up since then.
  • The Bell Jar, now considered a classic novel, was ignored when first released.
  • The Princess Bride was talked up and released countless times, only to completely flop, before Spider Robinson convinced the usually mercenary but suddenly reticent William Goldman that he should allow Robinson to place the duel scene in a collection of short stories, which probably led to the movie.
  • John Kennedy Toole spent a number of dispiriting years trying to get his comic novel of New Orleans published. After his suicide, his mother finally got it into print, under the title of A Confederacy of Dunces. It's now recognized as one of the great comic works of the twentieth century.
  • Blood Meridian, one of the early works of Cormac McCarthy, started off a poor seller but gradually built a fandom following the author's later success.
  • Michael Morpurgo's War Horse did not gain any attention (aside from a handful of readers already familiar with Morpurgo) until out of the blue it was turned by Nick Stafford into a hit play on Broadway.


Live-Action TV

  • The Honeymooners was a spinoff of The Jackie Gleason Show that didn't fare too well against competing shows. The 39 episodes it managed to air before cancellation are today regarded alongside I Love Lucy as quintessential 50s television.
  • The Addams Family: Not particularly successful in its original run, but a hit in syndication.
  • The original Star Trek series was canceled after three seasons due to poor Ratings. Then the studios started doing demographic studies, and it turned out the show they just cancelled was actually one of their top shows among the best demographics. The show was given loads of syndication reruns, which earned it loads of more fans over the years. Soon there were plans of reviving the series (which became the films), and the rest is history.
    • On a smaller scale, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was initially mocked for "not going anywhere" and people tended to watch the more "exciting" spaceship set Star Trek: The Next Generation and Star Trek: Voyager instead... but it's since earned the best critical reviews of any Star Trek series and has become a kind of franchise Ensemble Darkhorse, with more people listing it as their favorite series now than when it aired. This is usually because of the fact that the setting was stationary, letting the creators add more depth and introduce serialized story arcs -- common now, but rare at the time.
    • Also happened and lampshaded in-universe with Zefram Cochrane. He originally wanted to develop warp drive technology so he could sell it and retire immensely wealthy (something a bit questionable to people in later centuries), instead he ended up creating first contact with the Vulcans, who would completely transform human civilization for the better. Zefram Cochrane himself would later say, "don't try to be a great man, just a man. And let history decide for itself."
    • The high-warp engine designed by Henry Archer with Cochrane was thought to be a crackpot dream by many. Expanded Universe books reveal that initially, Starfleet, was ready to go with the ion-warpdrive. In the Trekverse, the dilithium chamber warp drive has been the standard going into the 24th century.
  • Patrick Mc Goohan's sci-fi classic The Prisoner didn't last long on ITV, with a style so unconventional that the executives in charge were terrified of a second season being made.
    • Thats a disputed point. Some sources say that Mc Goohan only wanted the show to last 7 episodes, with the network wanting far more (somewhere between 26 or 37), and that they compromised on 17. The statement that it was canceled comes from a companion book.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus was badly received at first; the studio audiences were largely old ladies (hence the use of the Women's Institute Applause Stock Footage) who expected an actual circus and the show was put out at odd hours of the night. It only gradually picked up its cult following.
  • Space: 1999, although enjoying some popularity at the time (1975-1977) has been a poster boy for poor writing, poor science, poor directing, poor acting. However, most of these criticisms are directed at the very different second season which was produced by Fred Frieberger, a figure noted for ruining good science fiction shows. Despite the Handwavium througout the entire series, the first season is now remembered as being deep, thoughful, and metaphysical. Despite a widespread perception of the show favoring special effects over story it can't be denied that the show had visual effects that still hold up even today. Many of it's effects crew went on to even bigger things such as Star Wars and Alien) further cementing Space 1999's place as the show that helped George Lucas and Ridley Scott discover good technical talent.
  • Fawlty Towers (the first season in particular) was lambasted by British TV critics who didn't find it inspired or funny at all. Gradually it became a cult series and eventually the most popular, critically acclaimed and often repeated British sitcom of all time.
  • During the era of the Seventh Doctor (Sylvester McCoy), Doctor Who received poor ratings and drew much criticism, resulting in it being put on hiatus for 15 years. The second and third seasons of that Doctor's tenure is now widely praised for its gritty realism, complex plotting, and return to a more mysterious portrayal of the Doctor.
  • Police Squad! challenged the attention spans of American viewers in the early 80s. Only 4 episodes initially aired, but a few years later it became a cult phenomenon and inspired its creators Zucker/Abrahams/Zucker to revive it in the feature film The Naked Gun.
  • The first season of Cheers was the lowest-rated sitcom in 1982. Critical acclaim allowed the show to survive into a second season, which became a smash hit and effectively vindicated season 1.
  • Anne Beatts -- who in the 70s had teamed with boyfriend/writing-colleague Michael O Donoghue to bring sadistic edge to the early seasons of SNL -- created in 1982 a teen sitcom called Square Pegs. The material presented in Pegs (more adult in nature than the average 12-to-19-demographic offering at the time) resulted in public alienation and ratings disaster. A fandom grew around the show over the course of the decade -- enough to propel lead actress Sarah Jessica Parker to stardom.
  • FOX's Space: Above and Beyond debuted to middling ratings and mixed reaction from critics and viewers when it premiered in 1995. The show, which centered around a group of outer-space Marine pilots fighting to stop an invasion by an otherworldly alien force, was roundly criticized at the time for being "Full Metal Jacket in space". It was cancelled at the end of its first season (due to peer pressure from parents' groups over the violence in the show), and appeared to disappear from the ether... that is, until stations like the Sci-Fi Channel and the Space Channel (in Canada) started airing marathons of the show, and audiences began to watch it in droves. It then picked up a cult following for blazing trails no other sci-fi series had done up to that point: highly serialized plots that relied on minor stories and comments from previous episodes, a realistic treatment of military politics, CGI used as a narrative tool, gender and ethnic diversity, and permanent cast and story changes. It was even ranked in IGN's list of Top 50 Sci-Fi TV Shows. Today, the show is considered to be one of the defining sci-fi series of the 90's, and helped shape the current wave of serialized sci-fi shows (like Battlestar Galactica Reimagined).
  • Freaks and Geeks lasted one season and was seemingly forgotten once it was over. The show has since skyrocketed in popularity.
  • Malcolm in the Middle was initially building up momentum as a must-see sitcom, but because of FOX's constant switching of timeslots and the resulting nuisance in trying to find Malcolm, the series suffered ratings failure. Eventually general disinterest (though there was a small cult fandom) forced the writers to wrap up the show's loose ends and call it quits. In reruns the series is very popular.
  • Firefly underwent some serious Executive Meddling during its original run that it was cancelled after only 11 episodes managed to air. Today, Firefly as a whole is now hailed as a sci-fi classic.
  • Arrested Development aired for only three seasons before being cancelled. The show was well received and won six Emmys and a Golden Globe, but it got low ratings which were mostly due to its time slot constantly being switched and its lack of advertising. A year after it was cancelled, Time Magazine listed it as one of the best 100 TV shows of all time, and it has since achieved a cult following. There has been talk of an Arrested Development movie ever since the show was cancelled, and most of the cast has expressed a desire to be in said movie, but so far it has been stuck in Development Hell.
    • 10 new episodes and a movie have now officially been announced for a 2013 release.
  • The CW ratings dud Veronica Mars has proven a tremendous hit on DVD and cable reruns.
    • Possibly an example of perception not matching the reality - producer Joel Silver has said that part of the reason a movie hasn't happened is that the DVD sets "didn't do that well", indicating that there wasn't much of an audience for a potential feature. Then again, he IS a Hollywood producer. They lie a lot.


Music

  • Johann Sebastian Bach was in his time well-regarded as an organist (with his compositions being seen as something of a sidenote), and after his death in 1750, the only people who took his work seriously were a small number of German composers (albeit some very good ones, such as Mozart and Beethoven). Even then, those composers focused on his keyboard work, mostly ignoring his other pieces. However, a biography of Bach in 1803 and then Felix Mendelssohn's 1823 performance of Bach's St. Matthew Passion led to a renewed interest in Bach's work, and thence his acceptance as one of the greatest composers of Classical Music (broad sense) ever to have lived.
  • Many of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's later works, including The Magic Flute.
  • Another Classical Music example: One of Beethoven's final works, the "Große Fuge" ("Great Fugue"), featured the sort of wild complexity and dissonance that would still be considered radical in the early 20th century, and at the time of its premiere in 1826, it was dismissed by critics and audiences as being completely unlistenable; fellow composer Louis Spohr (who was, at the time, as famous and well-regarded as Beethoven) described it as "indecipherable, uncorrected horror." It took more than a century for it to become widely regarded as a work of genius, though still quite "challenging" for most listeners.
  • The opera Carmen was not a great success when it premiered in Paris, France on March 3, 1875 although the first act was well received as was the beginning of the second, the third and fourth act were greeted with stunned silence. Fortunately however it was well received at the second premiere (this time in Germany) just seven months later; however by that time Georges Bizet had already died (his death had nothing to do with the failure of the opera). Today Carmen is considered not only one of the world's greatest operas, but also one of the most popular operas ever written.
  • Scott Joplin, one of the greatest Ragtime composers. While he got some praise in the first decade of the 1900s, it would be in The Seventies when Joplin's work would hit the big time (thanks to the movie The Sting) with his greatest tune, "The Entertainer" becoming a top 10 pop hit and himself getting a posthumous Pulitzer prize among other major kudos. "The Entertainer" has become a Standard Snippet.
    • A particularly good example was his opera, Treemonisha. It wasn't even performed in its entirety until 60 years after it was written.
  • Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring caused a scandal in 1913 due to its loud, dissonant music. Today it's one of the most popular, important, influential and famous classical works of the 20th century.
  • Duke Bluebeard's Castle, Béla Bartók's only opera, was rejected by Hungarian Fine Arts Commission as unstageworthy when Bartok submitted it for an award. It wasn't performed until 5 years later, but is now considered one of Bartok's most important works, and, despite its unusually small cast causing some difficulty - it only has two main characters, and three silent roles, which is a little awkward if you have a large group of performers on retainer - it receives regular performance.
  • Robert Johnson was an obscure blues artist during the 1930s who was only known in his own state. The legend and mystery surrounding his life have helped him gaining notoriety and acclaim after his death. Today he is for most people the most wellknown blues singer of that period.fb
  • Frank Zappa 's music wasn't very succesful during his lifetime, but since his death in 1993 his reputation has only grown. No doubt that in centuries to come it will be regarded as one of the most important composers of his time.
  • When Gram Parsons died in 1973, he was only known as a former member of The Byrds and The Flying Burrito Brothers who'd released a flop solo album. Gradually, people began to realize that he'd invented country-rock.
  • The Monkees' show was relatively popular and well-received in The Sixties (even winning two Emmys), and their records were top-sellers, but after the group was "discovered" to have been manufactured, anyone who wanted to look remotely hip or intellectual disavowed them completely. A couple decades later, an MTV marathon of the show and Rhino's re-releases of their albums incited renewed interest in the Monkees' music. As the story of the band's successful overthrow of their musical puppetmasters became more widely-known, and as the legitimate innovations and influences became more apparent (Michael Nesmith, for example, should probably share credit with Gram Parsons for inventing country-rock), they finally started getting some critical respect for the music they made post-overthrow.
  • When Alex Chilton died in early 2010, his obituary in the New York Times noted that his band Big Star "left a legacy more easily measured in artistic influence than in commercial impact."
  • Nick Drake. Although he failed to find a wide audience during his lifetime, Drake's work has grown steadily in stature, to the extent that he now ranks among the most influential English singer-songwriters of the last 50 years.
  • Rolling Stone magazine, due to its decades long history and changing staff, tends to praise bands and albums that its prior reviewers once trashed, like Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd, and Ritual de lo Habitual by Jane's Addiction. One of the more extreme cases is critic Dave Marsh calling Queen "the first truly fascist rock band." Queen is now one of the most beloved rock bands in the world. Especially in Hungary. Although Queen didn't win the critics over until Freddie Mercury died.
  • The Zombies' Odessey And Oracle was released in 1968 to little critical or commercial notice - it probably didn't help that the band broke up shortly before it's release due to it's being a bit of a Troubled Production. After several flopped singles, "Time Of The Season" became a surprise hit the following year, and this was enough to get the album a re-release, but it wasn't that much more successful. Nowadays Odessey And Oracle is critically acclaimed and regularly shows up on "Greatest Albums Of All Time" lists, and "Time Of The Season" keeps turning up in Nothing but Hits soundtracks to films or TV shows set in The Sixties.
  • Captain Beefheart 's Trout Mask Replica hardly sold any copies back in 1969 and the few who heard often found it hard to tolerate. Over the decades the album has been reappreciated as Beefheart's masterpiece and a milestone in music history.
  • Brian Eno is said to have joked that "only about 1,000 people ever bought a Velvet Underground album, but every one of them formed a rock and roll band."
  • The Beach Boys album Sunflower was panned at the time of its release. The passage of time has helped heal its critical standing considerably.
  • David Bowie's Hunky Dory. At the time, he was still known as a One-Hit Wonder; the album's first-run sales were middling, and the one single ("Changes") was a blip in the States and failed to chart in Britain. Fast forward five months to a little album called The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars... the album is now frequently cited as his second-best or even best, often making "best album" lists, even outselling Ziggy itself by the end of the year. "Changes," "Queen Bitch," and especially "Life on Mars?" are regarded as classics.
    • Similarly, Bowie's minimalistic, synth-heavy "Berlin Trilogy" of the late 1970s (Low, "Heroes" and Lodger), on which he collaborated with Brian Eno and Robert Fripp, were misunderstood and low-selling by his previous standards (though "Heroes" was NME's Album of the Year for 1977). Now they're cult classics noted for influencing Synth Pop, New Wave and ambient music, and the first two usually duke it out with Hunky Dory and Ziggy Stardust for the title of Bowie's Masterpiece. The title track of "Heroes", which didn't make waves as a single, is now one of his most beloved songs.
    • The album released prior to the trilogy, Station to Station, is being similarly re-evaluated.
  • Lou Reed's album Berlin (1973) was torn down by critics back in the 1970s, but eventually found acclaim as a great record.
  • The Ramones' first record peaked on the Billboard charts at #111, and while subsequent releases would fare somewhat better (1980's End of the Century made it all the way to #44), none of them would even be remotely considered hits. Only four songs by them entered the Billboard charts. Today, the Ramones are considered one of the most important rock bands of all time for writing a huge chunk of the blueprint for punk rock.
    • Similar with both Iggy Pop and Kyuss; they didn't sell many records but they are now acknowledged as the godfathers of punk and stoner metal.
  • Swiss metal band Hellhammer were generally hated when active, and brought down reception of Celtic Frost, the band that formed immediately after Hellhammer's break-up. These days they are seen as one of the most influential metal bands in history.
  • The self-titled album by folk punk trio Violent Femmes flopped upon release but slowly gained a cult-following and quietly turned platinum about a decade after its 1983 release. Its lead single "Blister in the Sun" went being thought of as a cute novelty song to one of the most important alternative rock songs ever written in roughly the same amount of time, largely due to the Colbert Bump it got from the Grosse Pointe Blank soundtrack.
  • Dazzle Ships, the fourth album by synthpop duo Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark met with terrible reviews and poor sales upon its release in 1983 because of the weird, incomprehensible musique concrète that comprises half of the record and the experimental nature of the actual songs on the album. After its failure, the band resigned to never do anything as experimental again and eventually settled into writing pop songs like "So In Love" and "If You Leave". Contrast this reception with the critical hosannas it received when it was re-issued in 2008.
  • The Electric Light Orchestra's album Balance of Power received mixed reviews in the US, and decidedly negative reviews in the UK. For two decades it was something of a black sheep among fans. It was marginalized by many ELO resources in print and online, including the liner notes for the hits collections "Afterglow" and "Strange Magic." There were even rumors that Jeff Lynne just threw something together to fulfill his contract, which he denies (and his claim is supported by ELO archivist Rob Caiger, who says the 34-minute album was condensed down from 4 hours of material). The 2006 expanded remaster has caused "Balance of Power" to be reevaluated by fans and critics alike.
  • Autopsy released their first two albums into the obscurity that was the early Death Metal scene. Years later as the movement expanded and other bands listed them as an influence the albums were rediscovered, and are now often called classics of the genre.
  • The Stone Roses' first album was given a disappointing 6/10 by NME when it was released in 1989. In 2006, it was given the crown of Greatest Indie Album Of All Time by the same publication.
    • Their second album, Second Coming, (aka "The 'I Like It' album") was panned by both critics and fans when it first came out. It didn't help that a contract dispute stalled the band from performing and recording for four years, resulting in the long wait between the albums. Subsequently, when the album was released, the British music scene changed drastically with the popularity of rave and Britpop acts, while grunge and alternative music revolutionized music in America, leading to Second Coming losing its luster. The Stone Roses broke up in the shadow of the Britpop bands that the band influenced, but both their first and second albums are hailed as British post-Beatles classics.
  • The Manic Street Preachers were initially viewed as Guns N' Roses imitators whose albums, mixing glam style with political punk fury, were viewed as out of touch with the depressing grunge scene stateside and the trendy shoegaze and Britpop scenes in the UK. Their third album, The Holy Bible, was darker and more depressing than the ones that preceded it. The album was not critically and commercially successful, since troubled lyricist Richey Edwards' self-destructive antics and lyrics were considered to be shallow attempts to grab attention (it didn't help that, before the band released their debut, he slashed "4REAL" on his arm in front of a skeptical journalist). It turned out that he really did have issues after all, and his disappearance/apparent suicide on the eve of the band's American tour derailed the band's ambitions for success. The band since found success by toning down their act, while their first three albums are regarded as posthumous classics.
  • Red House Painters- Though always loved by the critics, the band was never known for being commercially successful. It wasn't until the 2000s that their fanbase really started to grow and people started recognizing them as one of the greatest bands of the 90s.
  • Temple of the Dog's only album, Temple of the Dog. When it was first released, no one noticed it. Later in the year, the two bands which had members in Temple of the Dog, Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, achieved mainstream success with Ten and Badmotorfinger respectively. Due to the popularity of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden, the album eventually sold a million copies, and is now considered by fans and critics alike to be one of the greatest grunge records ever made.
    • Temple of the Dog was actually a tribute to Mother Love Bone whose lead singer died of heroin overdose in 1990. Chris Cornell who was roommates with him for the longest time felt heartbroken over the loss of his dear friend. Mother Love Bone themselves are considered one of the greatest grunge acts in existence by those who have heard of them (rivaling Nirvana for many). Mother Love Bone, though still quite obscure, are much more acclaimed now than they were back in their heyday.
  • Despite being their lowest charting single at the time, performing so poorly that plans for a third single were scrapped the day before shooting for the video began, Duran Duran's "Serious" is now recognized my most fans as one of the best songs they've ever written.
  • When Keith Urban premiered, he was a radio favorite but critics either found his music boring or derivative. Come the end of the decade, he was being hailed as one of the most important Country Music artist of the 2000s.
  • When Ten was released, Pearl Jam was accused of being a soulless corporate response to Nirvana, resulting in a minor feud between the two bands. With Kurt Cobain's suicide, Pearl Jam's failed fight against Ticketmaster, and the downfall of the grunge movement along with the rise of formulaic "Post-Grunge" bands, Pearl Jam is looked upon as one of the greatest grunge bands (alongside Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and their former rivals Nirvana), with Ten regarded as a classic of the genre.
  • Michael Jackson's Dangerous and Invincible albums. The former had only one #1 as opposed to the five of the predecessor Bad... and still sold more.
    • Jackson himself falls under this, to the point of jokes that "dying was the best thing to ever happen to Michael Jackson". Up until his death, the popular image of Jackson appeared to be a reclusive nutcase who continually embarrassed himself with insane media stunts and allegations of creepy behaviour. The live coverage of the hospital he was transferred to on the day he died singlehandedly caused MTV to start playing his music videos on peak hours, along impromptu danceoffs happening all throughout New York. Within days, all of his albums shot to the top of iTunes. Rolling Stone Magazine gave him cover features, public support was sympathetic, and Jackson's image became that of a misunderstood brilliant artist within the span of a week.
  • N.W.A.'s Efil4zaggin (read it backwards) album.
  • The Auteurs' song "Future Generations" is about this trope. Whether any of Luke Haines and the Auteurs many non-hits will actually be vindicated by future generations remains to be seen.
  • Ice Cube's Lethal Injection album.
  • Weezer's second album, Pinkerton, was initially trashed by both critics and fans and sold dismally. Rolling Stone readers named it the second worst album of 1996, and Rivers Cuomo viewed it as an Old Shame for years. Today, it's regarded as one of the greatest albums of The Nineties, and as one of the albums responsible for bringing Emo to the mainstream.
    • Rolling Stone readers voted Pinkerton the second worst album of 1996 at the time. In 2002, Rolling Stone readers voted it the 16th best album of ALL TIME. Quite a reversal indeed. The only major magazines who gave Pinkerton praise at the time of release were Pitchfork and the NME.
  • Nas' sophomore album It Was Written was dismissed by critics as not being Illmatic Part II. It has since grown in status over the years.
    • To put it more succinctly: Illmatic is an album for fans, It Was Written is an album for other rappers -- the AP Style guide of rap if you will.
  • Beach House's third album, Teen Dream was praised by some critics, but was called boring and meandering by many more others. The album also suffered mediocre sales (though it's the only charting release the duo had up to that point) and by the end of the year most Indie fans were decrying it as overrated. As 2010 came to a close, the album barely scraped "Best of the Year" charts and was labeled as being part of a "passing fad". One year later, people who were just discovering it started praising it and the album hit a second wave of acclaim and love. It doesn't look like it's about to fade back anytime soon.
    • Part of the reason for it's failure to scrape the charts was because of it being Overshadowed by Awesome by Kanye West's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and most notably, Arcade Fire's The Suburbs. Teen Dream's subtlety got it labeled as "boring" in the wake of the other two albums' bold, loud sounds.
  • This sometimes happens to artists or groups who were "controversial" at the height of their fame. Eminem references this in his song "Sing for the Moment":

  Eminem: "And maybe they'll admit it when we're gone. Just let our spirits live on through our lyrics that your hear in our songs and we can...(Steven Tyler:) Sing with me, sing for the year..."

  • Almost every Shoegazing band not named My Bloody Valentine or Ride are far more popular and acclaimed now than they were back when the fad was still going. Some notable examples:
  • Slayer's South Of Heaven album. Upon its release, the album was criticized for its slower tempos and more melodic style. Today, it's regarded as one of the band's best albums and one of the better (if not necessarily "best") thrash albums of the 80's.
  • A mild example would be Metallica's Load and Re Load albums. Upon release, the albums were heavily criticized for their alternative rock leanings and the band's questionable fashion choices. Over time, however, they've become more accepted by the metal community.
  • A similar but more straightforward example would be Megadeth's Youthanasia. Upon release, the album garnered a fair amount of fan backlash for its slower tempos and more straightforward heavy metal sound. Over time, however, the album's popularity with the metal community increased significantly. Many Megadeth fans now consider it to be one of the band's best albums.
  • Dwight Yoakam may have had critical acclaim and decent hit songs during his prime, but nobody really thought of him as anything legendary... Then in the late 2000s new country artists were popping up listing Yoakam as a key influence. He had a strong influence on Alternative Country and may very well have been the first artist of the genre. This Time and Buenas Noches From a Lonely Room are now regarded as classics.


Professional Wrestling

  • Edge AND Lita. In 2005 word got out about the two having an affair, cheating on Edge's second wife and Matt Hardy respectively. This and Matt's reaction which got him fired over it caused a lot of fan backlash towards both of them at the time, which WWE decided to make into an angle (first involving Lita's storyline husband Kane, then rehiring Matt) to take advantage of the situation. This especially lingered on with Lita to the point it played a hand in her decision to retire toward the end of 2006, receiving a less-than-admirable sendoff from the company on the way out.
    In the years since then, Edge has entered a Screw the Rules, I Have Sickeningly Sweethearts storyline with Vickie Guerrero for about a year or so which worked to the point that if Lita had returned to take Edge back it would've been a Heel Face Turn less than two years later. Hardy has increasingly gone Jumping Off the Slippery Slope as a career-midcarder, and began excusing his brother and friends' every mistake while taking four years to clearly define that his legit heat with Edge was over. Edge has become a modern day legend through great feuds and matches with the likes of The Undertaker, John Cena, CM Punk, Jeff Hardy, Shawn Michaels, Triple H, Batista, Randy Orton, so on and so forth, still being the generally all-around awesome guy backstage. (Seriously. Even Cena has the rare dirt sheet article or shoot interview saying he's treated someone like crap. Edge? NOTHING outside the love triangle scandal. In fact, Curt Hawkins and Zack Ryder still praise him on Twitter a fair deal for helping them in their formative WWE years, and Hawkins has had a subtle nod to Edge's "Easy Bein' Sleazy" shirt as the logo on his ring jacket.) The WWE Women's/Divas Division has plummeted into 2/3-minute snooze-fests on Raw and Smackdown, and took such disrespect at WrestleMania XXV that Lita and Trish Stratus refused to be among the returnees for that night's show because they saw it coming.
    • Edge is a first ballot Hall of Famer living a mostly quiet life and loving every minute. Lita has people begging for her return after just showing up at Axxess. Matt Hardy is widely derided as a Hollywood Pudgy Attention Whore, has been arrested on drunk driving charges multiple times in 2011, and got fired from TNA after the first of said DUIs (and not just for the DUI, as Angle and Christopher Daniels are still employed there after all). "The Reason You Suck" Speech Edge gave Hardy in 2005 in response to his return promo would never have been listed for long without a counter-point back then even if this wiki had been as huge as it is now, but now it's taken (along with Lita's statement in one Byte This! interview that something had to be wrong for her to go to another man) as a prophetic Deconstruction of everything about Matt.


Radio


Theatre

  • Aristophanes is arguably the best-remembered of the ancient Greek comedy writers. 11 of his plays have survived in full, compared to 6 partially-surviving works by Menander and fragments by several others. But there is no sense that he was extraordinarily popular in his time. Like others writers of his time, his theatrical plays competed for awards in festivals. He often lost. That medieval copyists chose to preserve his works is a testament to his continued appeal. Of his surviving plays:
    • The Acharnians (425 BC), The Knights (424 BC), and The Frogs (405 BC) are known to have won the first prize in contests. With the Frogs being popular enough to warrant a repeat performance, extraordinary for its time.
    • The Wasps (422 BC), Peace (421 BC), and The Birds (414 BC) took second place. A testament to Aristophanes having harsh competition in the persons of Cratinus and Eupolis. The later two remained popular to Roman times, and Macrobius (5th century AD) even commented: "Everyone knows Eupolis". Unfortunately, the Medieval copyists chose to ignore these two authors for unknown reasons.
    • The Clouds (423 BC) came last in a contest and was poorly received by the audience. Aristophanes later revised it considerably, adding comments on the unpopularity of the earlier version. Today only the revised version survives.
    • There is no information on whether Lysistrata (411 BC), Thesmophoriazusae (411 BC), Ecclesiazusae (Assemblywomen) (c. 392 BC), and Plutus (c. 388 BC) were successful or not. For all their modern fame, these plays seem to have been obscure in antiquity, resulting in few comments by later writers.
  • From what we can tell, William Shakespeare wasn't thought of as the pre-eminent playwright of Elizabethan and Jacobean theatre at the time, although he seems to have been well regarded and reasonably famous. Only in the late 18th century did scholars start to pay serious attention to Shakespeare. Up until then, most of the praise had been for Ben Jonson and the (now largely forgotten except by academics) collaboraters Francis Beaumont and John Fletcher.
    • Two of his plays, The Merchant of Venice and Macbeth, fared particularly poorly when first introduced, with less than a half dozen 17th-century performances on record. Four centuries later they are two of The Bard's most celebrated plays.
    • Othello was also a bomb in the Elizabethan period. Nowadays, it is second only to Hamlet as the most-performed work of Shakespeare.
    • The Tempest, one of the Bard's later plays, also suffered from public disinterest, and its road to recovery was hindered by the closing of English theatres following Cromwell's English Revolution. Its re-evaluation in the 19th century was one of the major indicators that Shakespeare had become the greatest playwright of all time.
  • Gilbert and Sullivan's Ruddigore was initially considered a failure when put on in 1887. This verdict is somewhat harsh, since it was run directly following The Mikado. It did actually enjoy a bit of success later on in the run, but it wasn't put in the regular Gilbert and Sullivan cannon until the 1920s where it has remained ever since.
  • Anton Chekov's The Seagull.
  • Arthur Miller's The Crucible and A View from the Bridge.


Video Games

  • Marathon was a moderately popular Mac FPS by a fledgling game studio known as Bungie. It has earned many more fans because of Halo referencing it so much. Many Halo fans become Bungie fans, and many Bungie fans try out their older games.
  • Herzog Zwei was released to very bad reviews from many professional Video Game critics, who saw it as a "flawed shooter game". Now? Now it's considered as one of the best video games of all time and seen as one of the first Real Time Strategy games ever created, predating Dune II.
  • Earthbound suffered from a poorly-timed American release, a simplistic cartoony art style which contrasted sharply with the more detailed and serious fare of some of its RPG contemporaries, a then-seemingly different approach to its storytelling and humour, and a marketing strategy that was downright idiotic (the slogan for the game was "This game stinks"). By 1999, mounds of unsold copies of the game could be found in Walmart bargain bins all across the US for $15. Then Super Smash Bros featured protagonist Ness as a hidden character, prompting people to actually go back and give it a chance, whereupon it was widely (re)discovered to be a fantastic game. These days, it is often hailed as one of the standout titles of the SNES era, and it's rare to find even boxless used copies on eBay for less than $100. It isn't all happy endings, though - in spite of an impressive ongoing display of fandom dedication, the series has seen no further international releases, even through Virtual Console and other mediums due to some rather annoying (and severe) licensing issues. See here for more details.
  • Fire Emblem is another example of a series vindicated through appearing in Super Smash Bros. Prior to 2001, it had never seen anything resembling an international release (save for the shortlived OVA), and so was obscure, if not completely unheard of, outside of Japan. Then came Super Smash Bros. Melee, which featured Marth and Roy as hidden characters. The two characters clearly sparked an interest in American players, and is widely attributed as the reason why from the seventh game onward, Fire Emblem started seeing international releases... until New Mystery of the Emblem, anyway.
    • There's also a weird example regarding the character Marcus in the seventh game. He was immensely unpopular because he was of the Jeigan archetype and due to the belief that "Jeigan = Suckiness" the poor guy was relegated to the bench as soon as possible in favor of characters like Rebecca or Nino (the game's Est archetype). When the Metagame Tier Lists shifted from "growth potential" to "overall contribution to the Tactics rank", he became one of the more praised characters due to his overall usefulness for the majority of the Hector Hard Mode while his complete opposite Nino got relegated to near uselessness instead. Talk about Irony.
  • While it did get very positive reviews, the 2-D Play Station game Castlevania: Symphony of the Night came out with initially low sales solely because it was 2-D when other series moved to 3-D. It was heavily overshadowed at the time of its release by massively-hyped games such as Golden Eye 1997 and Final Fantasy VII, which cost it many "game of the year" awards for 1997. It would later be placed above both of those games on many "greatest of all time" lists in the years after its release.
    • Castlevania: Circle of the Moon was underrated upon its release for an odd reason: it was a dark-toned game released on the original Game Boy Advance, which had no backlighting. Aside from those who modded their system, it wasn't until the GBASP and later handhelds were released that many players could truly begin to appreciate it for what it was.
    • Looking at The Other Wiki, the long-running Castlevania series only has a handful of 3D games. On the Nintendo 64, the series hit the Polygon Ceiling hard not too long after Symphony of the Night.
  • The Internet has been helping classic game consoles to get more recognition. For years, the NES was the oldest system that is still remotely greatly remembered. Consoles such as Sega Master System and well any game console that came before the NES were fading away into obscurity. However, as the Internet became more and more accessible, there was a lot more information on older games. Some may say that retro gaming is still relatively niche but the Internet has definitely made learning about them a whole lot easier.
    • RPGs suffered from this more so. The genre was vastly less popular than it is today probably because the price tag for said games ranged from $70-90. Now, titles like Final Fantasy IV, Final Fantasy VI, and Chrono Trigger, to name a few, enjoy recognition as some of the finest games ever created.
  • Street Fighter III and The King of Fighters '98 were both derided as being primitive and having "SNES graphics" when they were released, thanks to the Dreamcast being able to produce competent 3D graphics and fighting games being a genre on the verge of extinction. 10 years later, after being re-released on more mainstream systems, did they finally find an audience with both tournament-level players and more casual gamers looking for an alternative to brown, grimdark FPSes.
  • Many gamers who purchased Final Fantasy Tactics when it was first released were disappointed with it (probably because it was so different from the popular Final Fantasy VII). However, over time, the FF:T fans convinced enough people to try it (or give it a second chance) that it gained a lot of popularity. It was notoriously difficult for most gamers to try it for a long, long time; its initial sales were so poor that it was discontinued soon after release, and thus, once people discovered it and it gained its reputation, used copies sold on eBay for upwards of $150 (USD) until it was re-issued as part of the "Playstation Greatest Hits" line.
    • In fact, Penny Arcade did a comic about buying a copy of FF:T five years after it was released.
    • When it was first released, Final Fantasy VIII developed the dubious honor of being the most Base Breaking entry in the series. But with the Final Fantasy VII developing Hype Backlash, Final Fantasy XIII being even more divisive, and Squall being featured in more titles, have earned VIII more fans and defenders.
    • Similarly, when Final Fantasy VI was first released, the RPG was still very much of a niche genre, and while it was highly regarded within its niche, not very many people outside heard about it. When RPGs became more mainstream after the release of later FF titles, VI was rediscovered and surged in popularity. To this day, it's often considered one of the finest JRPGs ever made.
  • While it received outstanding reviews at the time of its release in spring 1994, Super Metroid was not initially viewed as the ground-breaking, genre-shaping game of its time. That honor instead went to Rare's Donkey Kong Country, released later that year amidst a slew of hype surrounding its revolutionary use of prerendered 3D sprites, and so all the "Game of the Year" awards for 1994 went to it instead. It was only a couple of years later, once all the fifth-generation systems were out and Donkey Kong Country's then-groundbreaking graphics began to look dated, did Super Metroid finally get the limelight and the full praise it so widely receives today as one of the greatest games of all time.
  • The Sega Dreamcast was launched with much fanfare in 1999, but was soon overpowered by the much more successful Play Station 2 in all areas. Its games were slammed in reviews for not being up to par with what the PS2 was churning out, and Sega's inability to attract third party developers (most notably EA) severely hampered the system (the fact you could pirate its games by just burning them onto a blank CD likely didn't help, either). It "died" in less than a year and a half after its debut and was seen as a pathetic failure during the rest of the sixth console generation. However, in recent years, opinions on the system have largely shifted to it being a great system that was ahead of its time. In particular, it is known for its string of arcade-perfect ports of shmups and fighting games, as well as its more solid and obscure titles are often on many top 10 lists. There exists a Homebrew community that still, to this day, makes and releases games for the system (be they from scratch or ports from the arcade).
    • Not even counting the near arcade perfect ports, the Dreamcast also marked one of the best outputs from SEGA itself in terms of excellent quality first party games in the form of new IPs. This console saw the rise of soon to be mainstays (even if only in cameos) like Jet Set Radio, Skies of Arcadia, Space Channel 5, Chu Chu Rocket, Shenmue, and a veritable slew of others. Although not necessarily failing now, the company (SEGA) hasn't hit a string of home runs quite like that ever since then.
  • The Sega Saturn is an even more glaring example. It never really caught on (due to Executive Meddling and botched marketing in the U.S.), but word of mouth through the Internet captured the interest of hardcore gamers looking to indulge in its arcade-perfect Shoot'Em Up and Fighting Game library. (In some cases, like Twinkle Star Sprites and Street Fighter Alpha 3, the Saturn versions are considered superior to the Dreamcast versions!) There were the exclusives like Panzer Dragoon Saga, Guardian Heroes, and other notable titles that still can't be had on any other platform without emulation. As a result, it's seen as much less of a failure and more of a must-have for any hardcore gamer these days, especially those who like arcade games. The Japanese marketing campaign (which had a narrative arc featuring mascot Segata Sanshiro) was also discovered in North America years after the system died out, and was considered to be one of the most effective video game system campaigns of all time.
    • It should be worth noting that to support that, when all the specs are put together, the Saturn may very well have been the greatest 2D graphics console of its time; alas, this was during a period when 3D graphics were being heavily pushed to the forefront - regardless as to how much better the Saturn performed in the prior category.
    • The Nintendo Game Cube is another example of a whole console being vindicated. It was third place in the sixth generation, with gamers deriding it as a 'kiddie' console (granted, compared to the other consoles of its generation, it did look like a toy). It also suffered from a poor third-party lineup and divisive first party titles. However, several games have become Cult Classics, or have simply been revisited and given the accolades they deserve.
  • Hard though it may be to believe, even the Super NES is an example of this. When the system first launched, it received a rather lukewarm reception from critics and gamers alike, who felt its initial lineup offered little beyond what was already available on the original NES. For example, Super Mario World (which is itself an example of this trope) was initially perceived as a stale rehash of Super Mario Brothers 3. And, over the next three years (give or take), the system played second fiddle to the Sega Genesis in terms of popularity and media coverage in the US. Over time, however, it gradually gained mainstream recognition and popularity, thanks in no small part to such revolutionary games as Super Metroid and Starfox. It is now considered to be one of the greatest gaming systems ever made.
  • I, Robot was considered too complicated for players when it came out in 1983 accompanied with hardware problems of arcade cabinets. However, retrospective reviews are very positive, praising its graphics and overall presentation with innovative gameplay.
  • Super Mario World 2: Yoshi's Island wasn't very well-received when it first came out (it didn't help that the lack of publicity made it so most people didn't realize there was a sequel to Super Mario World. Now it receives high scores, and makes most "Best of the Super NES" lists.
  • Super Mario 64 sold extremely well, but there was a considerable backlash against it from gamers (particularly from Nintendo fans who felt the company Jumped the Shark during the 32/64-bit generation). As late as the early Game Cube years it was still being routinely trashed by game journalists and forumgoers. Nowadays, Super Mario 64 is recognized as one of the truly innovative games of its generation.
  • When it originally released, many gamers disliked Super Mario Sunshine due to the voice-acted cutscenes and gameplay that was based more around the use of a water jetpack instead of traditionally jumping. Years later, Mario fans have come to embrace the title. It's still not the most popular Mario Title around, but it's reception is much better.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask had the poor luck of being a follow-up to Ocarina of Time, one of the most critically beloved games of all time. Its reception was mostly lukewarm, with the chief complaints about the game being that it recycled graphics from its predecessor and its shortness, with a mere four dungeons. A decade or so later and the fanbase for Majoras Mask has grown considerably, with many people loving the bleak, sinister atmosphere, the creative (if somewhat difficult) dungeon design, and the massive amount of sidequests. [3] Game FAQs even voted Majoras Mask the greatest game of The Noughties!
  • System Shock 2 was the sequel to a moderately-successful cyberpunk First-Person Shooter (that unfairly received comparisons to the original Doom). The sequel, which had players step into the role of a soldier trying to stop a viral infection and insane AI on a now-deserted spaceship, was plagued with development problems. Although the game did receive several awards and some positive reviews, it failed to meet sales expectations and appeared to be an inferior Half Life knockoff. Fast forward a decade later, and SS2 is regularly quoted on "best game of all time" and "scariest game of all time" lists, to the point of almost every major gaming website giving it accolades and the game itself creating a Spiritual Successor in the form of Bioshock and Dead Space over the years. Both System Shock and its sequel have also continued to receive significant support from the fan community in the form of mods and graphic upgrades, moreso than most other older games.
  • Back in 1998, Mega Man Legends wasn't exactly the most loved iteration of the franchise. Its sales (at the very least, the sales of the sequel) did not satisfy Capcom, many veteran fans (who grew up with the classic series and/or the X series) were unsupportive of it for being a completely different kind of game and critical reception was average (ScrewAttack even included it in their "Top Ten Worst 2D to 3D Games" list). With time, though, its fanbase grew strong, especially since Keiji Inafune declared the Legends series to be his favorite part of the Mega Man series, and now finding anyone brave enough to admit disliking the series has become a daunting task.
  • When it was first released, Psychonauts didn't get a lot of notice, and consequently it's sales were no great shakes. It's now near-universally recognized as one of the greats (getting the Colbert Bump from Yahtzee probably didn't hurt), with fans clamoring for a sequel.
  • Copy and paste the above entry, but replace Psychonauts with Beyond Good and Evil (unlike Psychonauts, Yahtzee never actually reviewed it, but he has said on multiple occasions that he liked it).
  • For some reason or another, Suikoden II is a very popular RPG that easily carries triple digit values for a used copy. Unfortunately, while the first game is released on PSN, the second has yet to be released. And possibly due to the obscurity of the series (an RPG made by Konami, of all developers), they're really rare.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade: Bloodlines tanked hard despite good reviews on release, to the point where the developer went out of business. The biggest blame is probably it's release a day after Half-Life 2 in concert with a rushed, extremely buggy release. As time went on and word of mouth about it spread, the game became increasingly popular after the fact, particularly among RPG fans with fond memories of Deus Ex and bad memories of being let down by Deus Ex Invisible War. Today, years after release, the game still receives unofficial patches and mods from the community, which have collectively rendered the complaints about bugs a moot point and restored large amounts of content that was Dummied Out.
  • When Shantae originally came out, most people thought it was one of the many shovelware games for the Game Boy Color due to its wide release with little promotion, gimmicky-looking and unorthodox protagonist (A cute Purple-Haired Genie Girl in an E-Rated game?), and that it came from a company no one had heard of. People who DID buy it were pleasantly surprised, and character designer Matt Bozon is now a well-respected man. Copies of this game now sell for at least $100, far more with the manual and box. This may still be in the process of vindication, however, as its sequel has yet to really take off.
  • Luigi's Mansion, when first released, was criticized by fans for not being a Mario Platformer, and for being very very short, and was overall seen as a weak title for that reason alone. While people still criticize it's shortness, which is not without reason or merit, it is more universally praised nowadays. Luigi's Mansion is now getting a sequel on the Nintendo 3DS in 2012.
  • Moon Base Commander suffered from being too far behind its time, and had little to no marketing when it first came out, leading to Humongous Entertainment's bankruptcy. However, once interest in Humongous' older games grew, many fans decided to give Moon Base Commander a second chance, and it's now been seen as a well-designed and simplistic strategy game. It's not the most popular game out there, but the fanbase is certainly much bigger than it was initially.
  • The first two Harvest Moon games. The original game was one of the last games to be released for SNES - way back in 1996 - and was overlooked (the "farming sim" premise didn't help). Nowadays the game is considered one of the best games on the console, and a Cult Classic. Harvest Moon 64 was originally overlooked in favor of the Play Station Harvest Moon: Back To Nature" but in recent years has become widely considered the best game in the franchise - and one of the best on the 64.
  • Late-life Play Station 2 Beat'Em Up God Hand was met with poor sales and mixed reviews at the time of its release, but in the ensuing years has developed a vocal and passionate online fanbase on account of its deep and challenging combat system, Crazy Awesome moves and general unrestrained wackiness.
  • Metal Gear Solid 2 Sons of Liberty seems to do better now that people have gotten over the fact you don't play as Snake. The understanding of the themes and structure of the story gives the game a warmer reception than when it was first released.
    • MGS 2 is a rather odd example, in that the game was universally praised upon release, garnering 9's and 10's across most major gaming publications. Hype Backlash started setting in around the time MGS 2: Subsistence was released a year later, with Gamespy even ranking the game #2 on their 25 Most Overrated Games Of All Time list. Over time, however, the game regained most of its popularity (thanks in no small part to MGS 4's serviceable explanation of the game's weird ending) although it's still considered the weakest entry in the main MGS series by most.
  • Kid Icarus. Back in it's day, it got a lukewarm reception and was considered a poor man's Metroid. Nowdays, Kid Icarus is regarded as a Cult Classic due to it's surprising difficulty and vibrant cast. The inclusion of Pit in Super Smash Brothers Brawl sparked a new interest in the Franchise which lead to Kid Icarus: Uprising being made. 21 years after the last game Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters (Which wasn't released in Japan).

Western Animation

Notes

  1. Check the 1916-1979 category for more on him
  2. Check the 1916-1979 category for more on him
  3. A certain frightening Alternate Reality Game hasn't hurt matters either.
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