The Shining & 9 Other Classic Films That Got Bad Reviews At The Time
BY BAILEY JO JOSIE
June 5, 2021
These 9 classic films got trashed by the critics when they first came out, but some of our most beloved films of all time were misunderstood upon release.
In an internet age where Rotten Tomatoes can make or break a film’s reputation or its legacy (RIP to Citizen Kane’s perfect score), it’s fascinating to look back on the films that pop culture has elevated to classic status and the surprisingly bad reviews some of them received at the time of their release.
From slasher movies to existential sci-fi to romantic comedies, no genre is guaranteed a perfect score and nobody can predict what clicks with audiences. Often times there’s a disconnect between what film critics deem acceptable and what regular movie-goers love to consume but in the end and these ten movies showcase that chasm.
10 The Shining (1980) Was A Multiple Razzie Nominee
Over 40 years and countless “Here’s Johnny!” references later, it’s hard to imagine a time where Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining was not only given bad reviews but was also nominated for two Razzie awards. Yes, The Shining, one of the most influential and popular horror films of all time, was nominated for Worst Actress and Worst Director.
Stephen King has infamously criticized this adaptation of his best-selling novel of the same name but not even this could stop The Shining from becoming a cinematic landmark.
9 Hocus Pocus (1993) Only Got 1 Star From Roger Ebert
With a confirmed sequel in the works, it’s hard to believe in this year of 2021 that 1993’s Hocus Pocus was actually not well received by critics. Roger Ebert had given it 1 out of 4 stars, and many critics of the time took issue with the storyline while praising the talents of Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker.
Despite these mixed reviews and a lackluster box office, Hocus Pocus has become an annual watch for the Halloween season, cementing its classic status.
8 Blade Runner (1982) Confused Critics Who Expected Another Harrison Ford Action Romp
Enormously popular and one of the most influential sci-fi movies of all time, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner was in fact subject to mixed reviews upon its release. The movie was polarizing as its marketing deceived those who were expecting an action vehicle with hunky Han Solo and not a dark, thoughtful, and devastating science fiction film.
Critics loved how the film looked, but felt the story dragged, with one critic even going so far as to call it “Blade Crawler,” which seems so quaint now.
7 Miss Congeniality (2000) Was Dismissed As Just Another Rom-Com
Sandra Bullock is an Oscar winner and a ’90s romantic-comedy darling, but with 2000’s Miss Congeniality, she fully set herself apart from other rom-com actresses thanks to her portrayal of tough-as-nails FBI agent Gracie Hart who must go undercover as “Gracie Lou Freebush” AKA Miss New Jersey for the Miss United States pageant.
Hilarious and charming, the movie was a box office hit despite its mixed reviews. All these years later though, nobody remembers the reviews, they only remember the first perfect date (April 25th).
6 Friday the 13th (1980) Was Slashed By The Critics
While critics hating on its many sequels is no surprise whatsoever, it is jarring to learn of how widely panned Friday the 13th was after it was first released, especially since it was such a box office success and has become such a classic slasher film.
While the score, performances, and cinematography were praised, the film’s bloody violence (i.e., an arrow through Kevin Bacon’s throat) left a bad taste for critics of the time. Considering how enormous and influential the Friday the 13th franchise is, they clearly didn’t know what they were talking about.
5 Godzilla (1954) Was Called “Exploitative” And “Grotesque”
As an international treasure and a Japanese icon, can you believe that Godzilla (Gojira) received bad reviews when it was first released in Japan in 1954? According to director Ishiro Honda, Japanese critics didn’t understand Godzilla’s atomic breath and felt that the movie was exploitative and “grotesque junk.”
It actually wasn’t two years later when the inferior American remake, Godzilla, King of the Monsters, became a hit that Japanese critics began to change their opinions on the original film, which led to Godzilla’s franchise reign.
4 Mamma Mia (2008): Critics Were Right About Pierce Brosnan’s Singing But Wrong About Everything Else
Modern musical films often get the short end of the stick when it comes to good reviews, there’s something special about Mamma Mia (perhaps its wild virality on TikTok) that has pushed it into classic movie musical territory in the echelon of Grease and Chicago, despite its initial mixed reviews.
With popular movie star renditions of ABBA songs, the movie’s popularity has also been revived by its 2017 sequel Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again complete with a soundtrack helmed by the illustrious Cher.
3 Alien (1979) Was Another Ridley Scott Masterpiece That Was Unfairly Compared To The Wrong Films
Another Ridley Scott joint that has stood the test of time as one of the best of its genre, Alien was also met with initially bad reviews.
This time, critics were expecting a sci-fi movie in the same vein as Stars Wars or 2001: A Space Odyssey and were disappointed that the story was “basically just an intergalactic haunted house thriller set inside a spaceship.” Many of these critics, including Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, changed their tune when it became apparent that Alien rules.
2 Death Becomes Her (1992) Didn’t Bring Critics To Life With Its Satirical Black Comedy
Mister D: I swear when I saw this movie I thought the Meryl Streep part was written originally for Bette Midler.
Speaking of Siskel and Ebert, the two powerhouse film critics gave “two thumbs down” to the irrepressibly campy black comedy Death Becomes Her, where Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn star as rivals in love and in eternal youth and beauty.
The movie was nominated for an Academy Award for its stellar special effects but that didn’t keep critics from looking down on its satire or characterizations. Nonetheless, the film has gained an enormous cult following thanks to its lead actors’ performances and its macabre narrative.
1 The Thing (1982) Was So Widely-Panned That John Carpenter Almost Quit The Movie Business
With an entire generation of young viewers being introduced to John Carpenter’s The Thing via the numerous homages in Netflix’s Stranger Things, it’s impossible to think of a time where this horror classic was reviled by critics.
And yet, there were so many back in 1982. In fact, the film was so poorly received that it caused Carpenter to lose a directing job and the film’s iconic, disquieting score by Ennio Morricone was nominated for Worst Musical Score at the 1982 Golden Raspberry Awards.