Who says that a critical panning has to result in lost money? Not these ten films anyway.
The world of film-making is one where eye watering amounts of cash are thrown around to varying levels of success. Be it advertising campaigns, expensive set-pieces or simply extortionate wages, there is rarely a film made that doesn’t end up hitting the production company hard in the pocket.
While actors and directors may be more concerned with delivering a “vision” or putting in a good performance, the bottom line on whether they will get another shot at a different project can often be whether or not it turns a profit. While there can often be a disparity between what professional critics make of a film and what audiences think, it does tend to be the case that the better received a movie is across the board, the higher a chance it has of ending up in the black financially.
However, this is not always the case. Sometimes there are projects that are adored by reviewers and audiences alike that end up losing money somehow.
What about the opposite case though? What are the films that have achieved the dubious honour of holding a flat 0% on Rotten Tomatoes… but still managed to make money. Here are just a few examples.
10. The Ridiculous 6
We’ll start off with the one entry on the list that doesn’t exactly have a box office figure to speak of.
Made on a budget of $60 million by Adam Sandler for Netflix, this 2015 movie is a spoof of… well it’s hard to know precisely what exactly. The name makes us think of the Magnificent Seven and indeed the generic Western setting and locations could bring to mind any amount of spaghetti westerns of a bygone era.
A lot of the “classic” story elements are incorporated as well, from unknown siblings to men who have been adopted into other cultures, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what is being precisely mocked in Sandler’s usual irreverent and lowbrow style.
The portrayal of Native Americans in the film as well as Sandler’s own role drew criticism for, at best, racial insensitivity and at worst, sheer ignorance.
The success of this movie is difficult to quantify due to its method of distribution but given that it was the number one most viewed in all Netflix territories and most watched Netflix film ever in its first thirty days, it seems fair to surmise that it was a success, regardless of what the critics said.
9. Jaws: The Revenge
If you were to be told this was the fourth instalment in the Jaws series and your reaction was surprise that they made that many of them, then you wouldn’t be alone.
The original film, based on the 1974 Peter Benchley novel of the same name, made more than $450 million dollars return at the box office, introduced the “Jaws theme” that has been parodied in every form of media since and is credited with launching the very concept of the Summer Blockbuster.
By the time “The Revenge” was released in 1987, it is fair to say that the shine was off the apple. Critically slaughtered and the least successful financially of the series, the movie suffered from being made in an extremely short time frame and some shoddy storylines which lacked the bite and intrigue of its predecessors.
All of that notwithstanding, this film turned a profit. Despite being another card-carrying member of the 0% club, it managed to make $51.9 million against a $23 million budget for a profit of $28.9 million. While it is not in any danger of being preserved in the Library of Congress like the original, the financial backers must have still been happy.
8. Return Of The Living Dead Part II
The Return of the Living Dead is a cult classic. A quirky, comedy horror featuring music from The Damned, The Cramps and SSQ, it made a decent return at the box office and cemented itself into the psyche of some with its visual style and sense of humour.
Unfortunately, the decision was made to release a grand total of four sequels to it, none of which ever captured the mood, look or success of the original. The Return of the Living Dead Part II was the first of these, released in 1988 and featuring Anthrax among others on the soundtrack. As with the other entries on this list, it holds a solid 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
That isn’t to say that it didn’t have its fans. Similar to the first, it did maintain a cult following and despite the markedly worse reviews, people still went out of their way to see it. Made on a budget of $6.8 million, it returned $9.8 million.
Even taking these critic reviews into consideration, a film that manages to clear a clean $3 million profit before home releases are considered is difficult to call an abject failure.
7. Problem Child
This 1990 effort produced by Robert Simonds suffers from a contrived, confusing and overly complicated plot. Doing nothing to stay anchored in reality and relying on tired gags for its “comedy” it did little to appease the critics.
Marketed as a black comedy, some critic’s comments are more on the nose, describing it as “mean-spirited” and showing a general disdain for the premise, the execution and the core idea. The Problem Child referred to in the title is adopted by a couple and after causing all sorts of mayhem and problems for everyone around him, is eventually discovered to only be acting out because of his difficult past.
Between this awkward and ham-fisted attempt at some sort of redemption arc amidst low-brow comedy, an escaped convict and (I’m not making any of this up) trapeze act related hijinks, the film was generally accepted to have fallen short of whatever mark it was aiming for, and the 0% rating that it holds reflects this.
Despite this, it made over $60 million profit by grossing $72.2 million against a $10 million budget and spawned two sequels. Clearly, there is no accounting for taste.
6. A Low Down Dirty Shame
When Keenen Ivory Wayans wrote, directed and starred in A Low Down Dirty Shame, it’s doubtful that he ever thought it would end up a member of the 0% club.
Playing the lead role of Andre Shame, the film follows his life as a private investigator while delving into his past involving the police force, drug dealers, witness protection and the DEA. It features everything you could expect from a 90’s action comedy with gunplay, fast action and a paper thin plot line. Add in love triangles, unrealistic sums of money and characters that exist only as caricatures and you get exactly what you expect.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that this film is all bad though. Audiences rated it higher than the critics and as long as you weren’t wanting anything too mentally taxing it can be worth a laugh. Jada Pinkett Smith features and the soundtrack that was released separately sold over half a million copies with Aaliyah and R.Kelly being the most notable contributors.
Allegedly made for $10 million, it brought in $29.4 million at the box office for a profit of $19.4 million dollars. Not a bad return on the investment for any who contributed.
5. 3 Strikes
Another member of the 0% rating club on Rotten Tomatoes, 3 Strikes was released in March of 2000. The plot line centres around the American “three strikes” rule as it pertains to criminal offences – where habitual offenders receive a mandatory life sentence is they commit a third crime in certain states.
Written and directed by DJ Pooh; a man credited on two GTA games, multiple films and a noted record producer; as with the previous entry, one place where this film does manage to hold itself well is in the soundtrack department. The original score was composed by Stewart Copeland (drummer for The Police) and the album released of the movie soundtrack reached number 52 in the R&B charts.
Working against a budget of $3.4 million, 3 strikes managed to make it all back in its opening weekend by grossing just shy of $3.7 million. The eventual figure fell just short of the $10 million mark, netting $6.4 million.
While the Rotten Tomatoes score indicated no positive reviews whatsoever, other metrics are a little kinder to this film. IMBD has it at 4.8/10 and Fandango a fairly respectable 66%.
4. One Missed Call
The film entitled One Missed Call was released in 2003 based on a Japanese novel Chakushin Ari to moderate success, making $15 million and falling just short of a 50% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
That is not the film we are looking at here. It was remade in 2008 and not only achieved the famous 0% approval rating, but won both a Mouldy Tomato Award and was considered the worst reviewed film of that year. This is more in line with what we are looking for.
As a remake of a film that was based on a book, now being geared towards a Western market, there are certain to be elements of the original that have been lost in the shuffle somewhere. Critics complained about its lack of originality, its cheap scares and its derivative nature, comparing it unfavourably to other recent films in the same genre that had used specific plot points and set-pieces better and prior.
All of that notwithstanding, it made $45.8 million off a $20 million budget for a $25.8 million profit, eclipsing the effort it was based on in terms of financial success despite the harsh critical reception.
NOT the 2019 Beyoncé effort or the well received TV series, Homecoming was a 2009 independent film that managed to have no positive reviews at all on Rotten Tomatoes but sport a healthy account book nonetheless.
Following a convoluted story involving a love triangle, a hit-and-run, lots of subterfuge and some “Misery” style deliberately inflicted violence, the consensus is that this effort is so by the numbers that literally nothing in its storyline nor its execution is surprising in any way. Failing to either shock or engage its audience in any meaningful way left audiences and critics alike to respond with a resounding “meh”.
Despite failing to ignite anything other than extreme apathy in the minds of the critics, due to its relatively low budget of one and a half million dollars, it managed to return $8.5 million for a clear profit of $7 million dollars. Especially for an independent film, not bad by any means.
Unlike many of the other films on this list, there are little outside redeeming factors here. Audiences (who are almost universally kinder to films than critics are) rated it only a measly 33%.
2. Staying Alive
There can definitely be a case made for 1983’s “Staying Alive” being the most famous film on this list. This sequel to the hugely successful “Saturday Night Fever” never quite captured the critics in the same way, sporting the infamous 0% approval rating, but there is no doubt that this is the most successful of all these critical flops.
Despite costing $22 million and regardless of what the critical experts thought of it, the audiences flocked to see it, generating $126 million in box office revenue.
Bolstered by the eponymous song, some more Bee Gees hits and tunes performed by Frank Stallone (the brother of director Sylvester) the soundtrack for the movie sold over five million copies worldwide. When you couple that with a clean profit of well over $120 million at the box office, before even future releases and rental sales are considered, does it really matter what the critics think?
It could be argued that while this is a poor imitation of its predecessor, the amount of cash that it generated for all involved makes this films inclusion on the 0% rating list essentially academic. Every studio in the world would happily take the money over the plaudits.
1. Police Academy 4 – Citizens On Patrol
The Police Academy series of films is one of the best known and longest running spoof film series of recent memory. As with most efforts that wander down the path of endless sequels, reboots and spinoffs, there is always going to be a drop off in quality but as long as the audience is happy to pay to see it, they will continue to be made.
The fourth of an eventual seven films, Police Academy 4 – Citizens on Patrol garnered the ire of critics for being the same old tired tropes trotted out for cheap laughs, half-baked gags and low-effort comedy.
It won a Golden Raspberry (the infamous satirical award that is meant to be the opposite of an Oscar) for one of its songs, was the last instalment to feature Steve Guttenberg, took the already paper-thin plot of its predecessors and stretched it further… but still turned a profit of nearly $60 million dollars.
Despite being the critical low-light of a series that has never fared particularly well in these stakes, it easily surpassed the profit of the first entry and ensured, for better or for worse, that further sequels were on the horizon.