The 50 biggest movie flops that deserved better

Heaven's Gate (1980)

The Movie: Directed by Michael Cimino (who was given the freedom to do whatever he wanted after the Oscar double-whammy that came with his Deer Hunter ), this epic Western is based on the 1892 Johnson County War as Kris Kristofferson's sheriff attempts to protect immigrant farmers from The Man.

By the time Cimino had finished shooting, the film's budget had leapt from $7.2m to $44m - and he'd shot over one million feet of footage…

The Flop: Only one of the biggest flops in movie history. Production troubles hounded the film, followed by a disastrous premiere (where nobody drank the free champagne because they hated the film so much) and a running time that caused an outbreak of Numb Bum Syndrome.

Why It Deserved Better: When Heaven's Gate was released, the media all seized it as a celluloid scapegoat, holding it up as an example of everything that was wrong with the movie industry at the time.

In truth, though, it's not THAT bad. Film critic Robin Wood has even praised it in recent years as "one of the few authentically innovative Hollywood films".

One From The Heart (1982)

The Movie: A neon-infused musical following the breakdown of Hank (Frederic Forrest) and Frannie's (Teri Garr) relationship.

The Flop: After Apocalypse Now , Francis Ford Coppola again struggled with keeping costs down, his film's budget leaping from $2m to $25m.

The lack of a decent box office return resulted in Coppola declaring his company bankrupt.

Why It Deserved Better: This is Coppola at his most confident and creative. The director's insistence that expensive sets be created for the film pays off in his vision of a sparkling Las Vegas where surface glitz is valued over substance.

And the fact that the director had to make The Outsiders, Rumble Fish and The Cotton Club to pay off his debts isn't exactly a bad thing…

Brazil (1985)

The Movie: Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) attempts to track down the woman who's been haunting his dreams while also attempting to survive the totalitarian society he's trapped in.

The Flop: That Gilliam managed to make his film on just $15m is remarkable enough. It's a disappointment that he wasn't able to make even that meagre sum back - in the end, Brazil only made $10m.

Why It Deserved Better: It's typical Gilliam - completely bonkers but with a disarming amount of grey matter betweens its ears. It's an instant classic - just a shame nobody realised that at the time.

Ed Wood (1994)

The Movie: A biopic of filmmaker Ed Wood, whose '50s films were made for next to nothing - and it showed. Johnny Depp plays Wood, while Martin Landau plays movie star Bela Lugosi.

The Flop: Burton had a tiny budget to work with on Ed Wood (just $18m), but his film still failed to recoup that cost, earning just $5m at the worldwide box office. The problem? Probably that most people didn't know who Ed Wood was…

Why It Deserved Better:
It's a film of luminous performances and witty shards of darkness - Landau deservedly won an Oscar for his role.

Strange Days (1995)

The Movie: Kathryn Bigelow's crime drama set in the 'future' 1999, where Ralph Fiennes' ex-cop works with data discs that contain records of memories and feelings. When he receives a disc containing the memories of a killer, he decides to investigate.

The Flop:
The reviews were great, with critics praising both Fiennes and Angela Bassett, but audiences didn't seem to know what to do with the film.

It went on to make $8m at the box office - just a fraction of its $42m budget.

Why It Deserved Better : It's a beautifully bizarre mash-up of screenwriter James Cameron's love of futuristic romance and Bigelow's indie sensibilities.

And like the best Cameron scripts, it's also got a truckload of subtext that makes for rewarding genre viewing - plus Fiennes is on great form as the beleaguered ex-cop.

The Chase (1966)

The Movie : Crime drama in which Marlon Brando's sheriff attempts to track down Robert Redford's escaped convict - something made all the harder by his town's ill view of him, and the involvement of the mob…

The Flop: Critics slammed director Arthur Penn's film, failing to realise that it was a canny exploration of violence in American society. The film sank.

Why It Deserved Better:
Brando is fantastic and Penn's film is a brave depiction of violence that doesn't pull any punches.

Penn would later prove everybody wrong with his equally blind-blowing Bonnie & Clyde.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

The Movie: Crime comedy from writer/director Shane Black - and the film that put Robert Downey Jr well and truly back on the map as a stellar leading man.

The Flop : Made for $15m, Black's film earned just $4m in the US - hard to imagine considering that anything Robert Downey Jr stars in these days earns at least 50 times that.

It recouped costs worldwide, though, with the film's worldwide gross just crossing the $15m mark.

Why It Deserved Better:
With Downey Jr delivering Black's cut-glass dialogue, this was one of 2005's greatest hidden gems - a genuinely funny, clever crime flick. And now, rightly so, a cult darling.

The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

The Movie: Audiences just didn't get this feature from the Coen Brothers, which stars Tim Robbins as a business graduate who becomes part of a stock scam.

The Flop: The Coens' film didn't test well and Warner Bros demanded reshoots - which were refused by the co-directors.

The studio's fears were justified when the film made just $2.8m in the US on a budget that reportedly ran to $40m (with marketing costs).

Why It Deserved Better: It's a Coens film through and through - knowing, irreverent and smart, it's a fun pastiche of old Hollywood with some great scale model work.

Big Trouble In Little China (1986)

The Movie: Truck driver Jack Burton (Kurt Russell) finds himself caught in the middle of a war between underworld forces in Chinatown.

The Flop: Even the posters of Kurt Russell in a tank top couldn't attract audiences to this strange-named genre-bender - it made just $11.1m in the US on its $25m budget. D'oh.

Why It Deserved Better: This is John Carpenter having a good time. Stepping away from his horror roots, it's a wilfully bizarre adventure yarn with some brilliant moments - most of them, naturally, involving Russell.

Donnie Darko (2001)

The Movie: Richard Kelly's confident, cultified directorial debut about Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal), who has strange visions - including one of a man in a bunny costume called Frank - that could pertain to the apocalypse.

The Flop: Though it made its budget back, Darko was anything but a massive hit, released in cinemas for just 28 days and disappearing quickly.

It was only when it hit DVD that word of mouth carried and it became the cult hit it deserved to be.

Why It Deserved Better: It's one of the most unique films ever made - and a staggering debut for Kelly. A shame that he's since fiddled with it, removing most of its ambiguities, but the original cut is still widely available.

The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, News Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Emily Murray. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.