History can be a cruel mistress.
It routinely humiliates us by exposing our folly and embedding our mistakes in the recesses of collective memory, preserving them in a bitter marinade of regret and embarrassment. Yet it also enables learning: without it, how would we remember not to eat at that fish restaurant again, or why leaving cheese in the sun is a bad idea?
This has proven equally true of our taste in cinema. The movies on this list were almost universally panned by critics when first released (or if not, elicited profoundly negative responses largely counter to how we view them today). This does not mean they are classics by any stretch of the imagination: if you’re searching for an overlooked Godfather-caliber masterpiece, look elsewhere.
But actually, who am I kidding? These movies are amazing, and eminently memorable across the board. Here are eight iconic films that critics hated on initial release:
1. Flashdance (1983)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 30%
Featuring a Rock Steady Crew cameo, pulsating jams by Irene Cara and Michael Sembello, and Jennifer Beals playing a welder who dumps water on herself in erotic late night dance routines, this film’s cultural impact is undeniable.
2. Predator (1987)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%
Few films in history feature more meat than this one: the sheer amount of muscle mass present onscreen is frankly unbelievable. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Carl Weathers. Jesse Ventura (who memorably refers to himself as “a sexual Tyrannosaurus”). And of course the titular monster, whose combination of physical power and predatory cunning makes him a more than worthy opponent. Pure iconic bliss. And don’t let the Rotten Tomatoes score fool you: Janet Maslin memorably called it “Alternately grisly and dull.”
3. Cocktail (1988)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 9%
Cruise playing a flashy bartender made bartending sexy for an entire generation of future bartenders, and his path to success is one of the great Reagan-era propaganda efforts of our time. Solid gold (also, Tom’s poetry in the film is both amazing and awful).
4. Scrooged (1989)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 66%
Bill Murray as a modern day Scrooge takes mean-spirited fun to new heights in this Christmas classic. Waste your time with corny and inane drivel like Miracle on 34th Street if that’s your thing: Bill Murray doesn’t care.
5. Hook (1991)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 29%
As kids, we loved it. Critics hated it. One thing is for certain: we’d probably beat them in a food fight.
6. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 63%
If you’re daring and in the mood to have your brain melted and leaked from all orifices, this atmospheric and outright baffling mess of bizarre horrors is right up your alley. If you’re a critic, you’re better off watching Casablanca.
7. Happy Gilmore (1994)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 59%
For my money, one of the funniest films of all time. Period. R.I.P. Chubbs.
8. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1999)
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 50%
Terry Gilliam has always been gutsy, and this adaptation of Hunter S. Thompson’s gonzo journalism classic is no exception. It may be a mess, but few filmed memoirs capture the sheer insanity of their subject quite as successfully.