Filmmakers and professional movie critics often have a strange, and sometimes adversarial, relationship with one another. A few glowing reviews can drive audiences into cinemas to see a new film, but a bad review might doom a movie to box-office failure. It's important to remember that reviews are just another person's opinion, and they might not align with every viewer's expectations. There have been countless films that the critics gave a lukewarm review to, or in some cases absolutely hated, that are now considered classics. Let's take a look at a few of those.
8. Psycho (1960)
Alfred Hitchcock's classic scare film has been studied by film lovers almost since its release, and it was hugely popular with filmgoers of the time, but critical opinions were decidedly mixed when the tale of Norman and his mother came out in 1960. The New York Times reviewer called the film "an obviously low-budget job," and a critic in England walked out during the film and then permanently resigned as a movie reviewer. Many critics praised the acting but thought the film was cheap and lurid, certainly not the immediately game-changing masterpiece that Psycho is considered today.
7. Blade Runner (1982)
This visionary film about rebellious human-like "replicants" running amok in a futuristic Los Angeles has become an enormously popular and influential sci-fi classic, often making "Top 10" lists for the best of that genre, but at the time of its initial release, critics didn't all think it was brilliant. Some reviewers thought it looked beautiful but was lacking in substance, while others complained that it was slow and confusing. A Los Angeles Times critic dubbed the movie "Blade Crawler" - apparently she wasn't a fan. Nowadays, Blade Runner is more popular than ever, and it's difficult to imagine what modern science fiction films would be like without its considerable influence.
6. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)
Terry Gilliam's adaption of Hunter S. Thompson's most popular book is not quite 20 years old, but I don't think it's incorrect to call it a classic film. It's hard to imagine how a better telling of Thompson's psychedelic odyssey into the heart of American darkness could be made, or who could play Hunter T. better than Johnny Depp. But like the gonzo writing it's based on, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas wasn't everyone's cup of tea, and it didn't do well in theaters or impress a lot of critics. Being called "unwatchable" and "grotesque" by various reviewers at the time of its release hasn't prevented the movie from amassing an enormous cult following, and it has even earned its way into the Criterion Collection.
5. Alien (1979)
There's a few science fiction and horror films that changed everything, and the original Alien was one of them. Even though Alien did well in theaters upon its original release, it got mixed reviews from film critics. Roger Ebert went so far as to say that it was "basically just an intergalactic haunted house thriller set inside a spaceship" and that it was one of a few "real disappointments" compared to Star Wars. Ebert was a great writer and critic, but never really seemed to like horror very much, and he was dead wrong about Alien. Of course it was a haunted house movie set in space; that was one of its strengths. Alas, Ebert wasn't the only critic who didn't love Alien at first, but he was good enough to revisit the film years later and gave it four stars the second time around.
4. The Thing ( 1982)
This one hurts because it's one of my favorite films, by one of my favorite filmmakers, but when John Carpenter's The Thing was released in 1982, it seems like everyone hated it. The New York Times slammed it, Roger Ebert called it "A great barf-bag movie" and nearly every other critic of note seemed to gleefully hate Carpenter's masterpiece of horror. Even the groundbreaking "how did they do that?" special effects by Rob Bottin were panned as being too excessive. John Carpenter cites the critical reception toward The Thing as being a turning point in his career, and not a good one. That's really a criminal shame too, because The Thing is one of the best horror movies of the '80s, maybe one of the best ever, and it has aged well while gaining an enormous fanbase.
3. Halloween (1978)
There's not much to write about Halloween that hasn't already been written - it's the first film that made Jamie Lee Curtis a scream queen, and established John Carpenter as one of the most important horror directors of the era. This tale of a masked killer stalking baby sitters is routinely cited as one of the best American horror films of all time. However, while it became hugely popular during its initial run, thanks to word of mouth more than anything else, critics were slow to embrace the film. While most professional film critics eventually came to a resonance appreciation of Halloween, Carpenter was sometimes criticized as copying other, presumably better directors. Halloween is a great example of a film that critics didn't immediately laud, and a reminder that sometimes they just don't recognize that a movie is great right off the bat.
2. Peeping Tom (1960)
This British film about a mentally deranged photographer who murders young women was slammed as being garbage when it was first released, and the extremely hateful critical response to Peeping Tom led to the end of its director's career. Now Peeping Tom is considered one of the best British films of all time, and a complete cinematic masterpiece.
1. The Shining (1980)
When Stanley Kubrick's version of Stephen King's novel came out, it did reasonably well in theaters but was far from being a runaway hit. The film made its money back, but was slow to be embraced by either audiences or critics. Many fans of King's story hated the film version, including King himself, which might've killed a lesser film, but The Shining eventually found favor with horror fans.
Kubrick wisely changed many elements of the novel, excising silly subplots about the Mafia and altering things that might've "read" well but would've looked stupid on film - topiary animals coming to life and Jack Torrence using a croquet mallet instead of an axe to terrorize his family being good examples. Now, Kubrick's version of The Shining is considered by many to be one of the best "haunted house" films ever made, and is a rare case of a movie adaptation being regarded as better (by many viewers) than the literary source it's drawn from. Of course, quite a few hardcore King fans disagree, but The Shining is seen as a true classic by most other horror film fans.
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