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32 Amazing Movies From The '90s That Made Less Money At The Box Office Than You'd Think

 Ray Liotta in Goodfellas.
Ray Liotta in Goodfellas.

There are a ton of movies from the '90s that we love that weren't blockbusters upon their release. These are movies that we think defined the decade, and did define it. That's not to say they didn't make money, most of the movies on this list were at least profitable, but they didn't didn't make nearly as much as you would think.

Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption
Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

On any list like this, the classic example is always The Shawshank Redemption. It's a movie that CinemaBlend has called the best movie of the 1990s. Yet, when it was first released, it didn't actually do very well. During its initial run in the fall of 1994, it barely squeaked into the top 10 and failed to even make back its budget. It wasn't until the following year, when it became a regular on cable television that it found an audience and became the beloved classic it is today.

The Dazed and Confused cast
The Dazed and Confused cast

Dazed And Confused (1993)

Richard Linklater's Dazed and Confused is one of the most quotable movies of all time, but it wasn't a big money maker at first. Imagine a movie today with a cast that includes Matthew McConaughey, Ben Affleck, Cole Hauser, Parker Posey, Renee Zellweger, and more not being a massive hit. Of course, most of them were unknown at the time and, according to Box Office Mojo, the movie only made about $8 million on a $7 million budget in theaters.

Tim Robbins in The Player
Tim Robbins in The Player

The Player (1992)

The Player, by legendary director Robert Altman, was praised by critics and nominated for a slew of awards, but it didn't find an audience initially. Though the film was profitable, it didn't make nearly the money one would expect from a film that has literally dozens of big stars making cameos in it.

The Usual Suspects cast
The Usual Suspects cast

The Usual Suspects (1995)

Eventually, The Usual Suspects became a favorite of many people, but that wasn't the case when it was first released. According to the website The Numbers, the film only made about $23 million domestically at the box office. That really isn't very much for a movie, especially one of its caliber.

Reese Witherspoon in Election
Reese Witherspoon in Election

Election (1999)

Reese Witherspoon's character Tracy Flick in Election has become an icon and it basically helped launch the actor into superstardom. It did not, however, crush it at the box office, bringing in just $14 million worldwide.

Jeff Bridges, Steve Buscemi, and John Goodman in The Big Lebowski
Jeff Bridges, Steve Buscemi, and John Goodman in The Big Lebowski

The Big Lebowski (1998)

The Coen Brothers followed up their Academy Award-winning Fargo with The Big Lebowski and despite the amazing cast and the stellar writing, the movie just didn't click with audiences at first. Of course, it's gone on to have a life of its own and has played a major role in pop culture since, but at the time, it was almost regarded as a bomb.

Ron Livingston sits in his cubicle looking worried in Office Space.
Ron Livingston sits in his cubicle looking worried in Office Space.

Office Space (1999)

There may be no bigger cult classic on this list than Mike Judge's 1999 comedy classic Office Space. It's constantly quoted by anyone who has ever worked in an office and continues to be discovered by new generations. It's got a wonderful cast, and the writing is downright amazing. It took DVD and cable to make it so loved though. At the box office, it was basically a bomb, bringing in just $12 million on a $10 million budget.

The Iron Giant Screencap
The Iron Giant Screencap

The Iron Giant (1999)

There has been a lot of discussion about why The Iron Giant did so poorly at the box office when it was first released, but it pretty much bombed completely. In the years since it's become a favorite of an entire generation who grew up watching it at home.

Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder in Reality Bites
Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder in Reality Bites

Reality Bites (1994)

In 1994, Gen X was still defining itself and it was movies like Reality Bites starring Winona Ryder that helped it do so. What is astounding is that it's not nearly the hit that most Gen Xers would expect, making just $20 million upon its release. Its cultural impact definitely outweighs its financial success, which probably sits just fine with many in the generation.

Ray Liotta in Goodfellas
Ray Liotta in Goodfellas

Goodfellas (1990)

Goodfellas starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci, and Ray Liotta, and directed by Martin Scorsese, is considered by many to be one of the best movies of all time. While it was successful at the box, it didn't even crack the top 1,000 in all-time box office. Kindergarten Cop made twice as much as Goodfellas in 1990. You'd be better off robbing an airport.

Al Pacino in Heat
Al Pacino in Heat

Heat (1995)

According to The Numbers, Heat made about $67 million, which is nothing to sneeze at. That is until you compare it to some of the other movies from that same year and realize it made less money than Waterworld, which is considered one of the biggest bombs of all time, and Casper, along with 23 other movies in 1995.

angela bassett in how stella got her groove back
angela bassett in how stella got her groove back

How Stella Got Her Groove Back (1998)

How Stella Got Her Groove Back has become a cultural touchstone from the 1990s and while it did decent at the box, it was far from a runaway hit like it might have expected it to be. It made Taye Diggs a star and Angela Bassett a superstar, but it wasn't even one of the 50 most popular movies of the year.

Two of the stars of Boogie Nights.
Two of the stars of Boogie Nights.

Boogie Nights (1997)

1997 was a banner year for movies, with classics like Titanic, Men in Black, and Good Will Hunting all getting released. Then, way down the list of the top box office performers, is Boogie Nights at #75. It only managed to bring in $26 million on release. A lot can be chalked up to the racy subject matter, sure, but it's still one of the best movies of the decade.

Ed Norton in Fight Club
Ed Norton in Fight Club

Fight Club (1999)

1999's Fight Club is still revered today, decades later, but at the time, you could say the response by filmgoers was lukewarm at best. It only ended up making about $37 million domestically, but it would earn much more in the next few years on DVD and cable TV.

Bridget Fonda in Singles
Bridget Fonda in Singles

Singles (1992)

Singles is one of the movies on this list that defines a generation, for better or worse. It portrays Generation X as a slacker generation that isn't interested in anything. It turns out, Gen X was interested in this movie either, as it earned just $18 million, ranking 67th for 1992.

Seth Green in Can't Hardly Wait
Seth Green in Can't Hardly Wait

Can't Hardly Wait (1998)

Jennifer Love Hewitt was on the verge of superstardom when Can't Hardly Wait was released. It would eventually become an oft-quoted, huge cult favorite, but in its theater run, it performed very mediocrely. It took in $23 million and finished behind less-beloved movies like Bulworth and Practical Magic in 1998.

Michael J Fox stands defiantly in Back To The Future: Part III.
Michael J Fox stands defiantly in Back To The Future: Part III.

Back to the Future Part III (1990)

Okay, this one needs a little explanation as to how it ended up on this list, because it was certainly a hit, and it made a lot of money. It's here because, though it's often ranked above Back to the Future Part II in the Back to the Future trilogy, Back to the Future Part III made the least amount of money of all three, which you wouldn't have expected.

Denzel Washington as Malcolm X in Malcolm X
Denzel Washington as Malcolm X in Malcolm X

Malcolm X (1992)

Spike Lee's epic Malcolm X was controversial when it was released in 1992, due to the controversial nature of Malcolm X, played by Denzel Washington in the movie, himself. It's a movie that is good enough to make the top ten in any given year, yet it finished #32 at the year-end box office.

Meg Ryan and Val Kilmer in The Doors
Meg Ryan and Val Kilmer in The Doors

The Doors (1991)

For the kids that were the children of Baby Boomers, '60s music was a big deal. When The Doors came out in 1992, high school kids all over obsessed over it. But that wasn't until it was released on VHS. In its theatrical run, it barely managed to make back its initial budget.

kurt russell val kilmer tombstone
kurt russell val kilmer tombstone

Tombstone (1993)

1993 Tombstone is one of the greatest westerns of all time, but it didn't start out as a fan favorite. While it did make a decent chunk of change, it finished behind forgettable movies in the year-end box office numbers like Dave, Rising Sun, and Indecent Proposal.

Kathy Bates in Misery
Kathy Bates in Misery

Misery (1990)

1990's Misery starring James Caan and Kathy Bates is arguably the best Stephen King adaption on the silver screen, and while it was definitely a hit, you'd expect a movie of its caliber to be one of the biggest hits of the year, but it was beat by movies like Kindergarten Cop, Bird On A Wire (one of the worst #1 movies ever), and 3 Men and a Little Lady.

Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette in True Romance
Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette in True Romance

True Romance (1993)

Director Tony Scott's True Romance has an amazing cast and an amazing script by Quentin Tarantino. Ingredients like that usually turn into a hit. Instead, it only made about $12 million and barely snuck into the top 100 movies of 1993.

Christian Slater in Pump Up The Volume
Christian Slater in Pump Up The Volume

Pump Up the Volume (1990)

Christian Slater's character Hard Harry inspired a generation of Gen Xers to be dark and mysterious, and while Pump Up The Volume became one of the most beloved cult hits of the decade, it took a while to get there. It only made $11 million in theaters.

Tom Sizemore in Strange Days
Tom Sizemore in Strange Days

Strange Days (1995)

Director Kathryn Bigelow's Strange Days is a love-it-or-hate-it-type of movie. Despite being a huge box office flop, making less than a third of its budget back. It's since become a very popular cult flick with a huge fanbase that is always willing to defend it.

Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon in Tremors
Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon in Tremors

Tremors (1990)

Normally you'd expect a movie that launches a franchise to be an off-the-chart blockbuster. Tremors did the former but was far from the latter. Star Kevin Bacon revealed in 2019 that the movie made less than a fifth of what it was expected to make. Still, there have now been six more movies and a TV show in the franchise and the original is still one of Bacon's best movies.

Johnny Depp in Ed Wood
Johnny Depp in Ed Wood

Ed Wood (1994)

1994's Ed Wood is one of Tim Burton's least-talked-about movies, and that's likely because it did so poorly at the box office, making just $5 million when it was released. It's one of Burton's and star Johnny Depp's worst performing movies, despite being pretty good.

Trey Parker in BASEketball
Trey Parker in BASEketball

BASEketball (1998)

BASEketball was the first movie starring the guys from South Park, Matt Stone and Trey Parker. The problem is that they didn't write it. Despite some funny moments, their star power wasn't enough to make money and the movie bombed, making just $7 million.

Liam Neeson in Darkman
Liam Neeson in Darkman

Darkman (1990)

There is no question that Darkman has been a cult classic. but when it first came out it was, at best, a moderate success, making about $32 million domestically. In the years since it has become an impressive franchise with multiple movies, comic books, and video games.

Angelina Jolie in Hackers
Angelina Jolie in Hackers

Hackers (1995)

1995 Hackers, starring Jonny Lee Miller and Angelina Jolie is like the little movie that keeps on going. It's not well regarded by critics, and it was a definite bomb, but it continues to be talked about and drawing fans in. Maybe it's the nature of the subject and talking about it on the internet, but it's the movie that just won't die.

Tobey Maguire in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Tobey Maguire in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Hunter S. Thompson's legendary novel Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was always described as a book that no one could do justice to on the silver screen. That's just the kind of challenge that Terry Gilliam loves and so when he made it a movie in 1998 with Johnny Depp taking on the role of Thompson, no one was surprised. The movie is a brilliant representation of the trippy book, and despite only making about $13 million worldwide, it's still talked about and loved today.

Ice Cube and Chris Tucker in Friday
Ice Cube and Chris Tucker in Friday

Friday (1995)

If you were a certain kind of college kid in the '90s, it's safe to say you watched Friday dozens of times on VHS. But that was VHS. The odds are that you didn't actually see it in theaters, because the Ice Cube/Chris Tucker classic only made about $23 million, placing it outside of the top 50 in 1995.

John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich.
John Malkovich in Being John Malkovich.

Being John Malkovich (1999)

79 movies made more money than Being John Malkovich in 1999. Including movies like Baby Geniuses, Mystery Men, Superstar, The 13th Warrior, and The Martian. Are those movies all better than Being John Malkovich? Of course not.