Special Report

Once Popular Movies That Are Now All But Forgotten

Hollywood’s trends and standards change at an impressive rate, and today’s zeitgeist can be tomorrow’s half-forgotten memory. While such turnover seems especially high in this modern age, the truth is that we’ve been leaving former hit movies in the dust for decades. Once the toast of the town, some Oscar winners and box office blockbusters are now all but forgotten by the general public at large. (Here’s where to stream 50 great movies you’ve probably never seen.)

It should come as a surprise to no one that even top-grossing sensations haven’t stayed the course over time. Take biblical epics like “The Robe” or “David and Bathsheba,” for example. Once synonymous with pure spectacle, these films seem tacky and dated when compared to the standard modern fare. Name either one to a young movie-goer and you’ll likely get a mere blank stare in return.

Of course, not every film is worthy of its cultural disappearing act. The 1955 drama “I’ll Cry Tomorrow,” based on the troubled life of Broadway star Lillian Roth, certainly has its merits. So too does 1957’s “Sayonara,” starring Marlon Brando, which deals with themes of racial bigotry.  

To determine the once popular movies that are all but forgotten now, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on worldwide box office and audience reviews for movies released between 1948 and 1999 from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by Nash Information Services, and IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon. Movies were ranked based on the ratio of worldwide ticket sales to IMDb reviews as of March 2022. 

Click here to see once-popular movies that are now all but forgotten

Ticket price sales represent historical popularity while IMDb reviews measure current popularity, so movies with the highest ratio of historical ticket sales to IMDb reviews were ranked the highest – meaning the most likely to have been forgotten. Worldwide ticket sales were estimated using box office data from The Numbers and historical ticket price data comes from the National Association of Theater Owners. Only films with sales of at least 10 million ticket were included for consideration. Supplemental data on IMDb audience ratings and audience scores from Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, were collected March 2022. (Here are some movies audiences love but critics hate.)

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