Special Report

25 Box Office Bombs That Became Comedy Classics

It may be hard to imagine that such now-iconic film comedies as “Office Space,” “Dazed and Confused,” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” were box office flops when they were released, but grew to become recognized as classics over time. This happens more often than some people think, however. (These are the biggest movie flops in Hollywood history.)

To compile a list of now-classic comedies that bombed at the box office, 24/7 Tempo defined as a classic any comedy with audience scores and Tomatometer ratings of at least 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator. We then drew international box office and production cost data from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by Nash Information Services, and historical theater ticket prices from the National Association of Theater Owners. We considered any film that earned less than 200% of its reported production budget to have been a flop when released.

The films were then ranked based on the difference between the number of positive Rotten Tomatoes audience reviews (a rating of 3.5 or more out of 5) for each film as of February 2022 and the estimated number of tickets sold worldwide for the film during its initial theatrical release. The difference represents the gulf between a film’s current popularity and its initial reception. (Information on directors and stars, when included, comes from IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon.)

Click here to see 25 box office bombs that became comedy classics

Why these films, now considered some of the funniest in cinematic history, tanked in theaters at the time of their release is anyone’s guess. Maybe it was poor marketing; maybe the release date was inopportune; maybe the potential for foreign sales was overestimated; or maybe the box office receipts were respectable but production costs were too high. (Flop or hit, these are the funniest American movies of all time.)

Whatever the reasons, these films have more than made up, in both critical and popular acclaim, for their initial failures at the box office.

Source: Courtesy of Good Machine

25. Happiness (1998)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (41,756 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 81% (48 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $11.2 million (1.2 million tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $5.9 million
> Directed by: Todd Solondz

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Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

24. Repo Man (1984)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 78% (31,827 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 98% (46 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $6.3 million (684,524 tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $4.1 million
> Directed by: Alex Cox

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

23. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 77% (140,200 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 79% (197 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $38.8 million (4.2 million tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $39.5 million
> Directed by: Paul Thomas Anderson

Source: Courtesy of Island Pictures

22. Down by Law (1986)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (22,383 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 87% (31 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $3.5 million (387,062 tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $2.7 million
> Directed by: Jim Jarmusch

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Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Distributing Corporation

21. Igby Goes Down (2002)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 80% (44,342 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 75% (134 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $8.7 million (950,371 tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $14.2 million
> Directed by: Burr Steers

Source: Courtesy of Roxie Releasing

20. Freeway (1996)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 76% (22,515 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 77% (43 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $612,379 (66,854 tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $6.2 million
> Directed by: Matthew Bright

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Source: Courtesy of Lions Gate Films

19. Buffalo ’66 (1998)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 88% (34,157 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 77% (60 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $4.6 million (507,592 tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $2.9 million
> Directed by: Vincent Gallo

Source: Courtesy of Castle Rock Entertainment

18. Waiting for Guffman (1996)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (41,610 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 91% (55 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $6.1 million (661,310 tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $8.3 million
> Directed by: Christopher Guest

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

17. Ghost World (2001)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 84% (73,554 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (162 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $14.2 million (1.6 million tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $8.9 million
> Directed by: Terry Zwigoff

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Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

16. Adaptation. (2002)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 85% (188,786 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 91% (211 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $51.4 million (5.6 million tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $29.2 million
> Directed by: Spike Jonze

Source: Courtesy of Entertainment One

15. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (49,745 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 92% (117 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $6.1 million (661,952 tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $9.7 million
> Directed by: John Cameron Mitchell

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Source: Courtesy of Vitagraph Films

14. Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 79% (55,732 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 79% (105 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $2.4 million (257,396 tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $1.6 million
> Directed by: Don Coscarelli

Source: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing

13. Bottle Rocket (1996)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 79% (61,613 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 85% (66 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $844,477 (92,192 tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $10.4 million
> Directed by: Wes Anderson

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

12. Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 84% (105,777 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 81% (138 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $15.0 million (1.6 million tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $16.6 million
> Directed by: Craig Gillespie

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

11. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 78% (271,973 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 77% (135 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $59.4 million (6.5 million tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $35.7 million
> Directed by: Ken Kwapis

Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures

10. Ed Wood (1994)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 88% (107,299 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 92% (65 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $13.1 million (1.4 million tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $40.4 million
> Directed by: Tim Burton

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Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

9. The Savages (2007)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 75% (135,344 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 90% (172 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $14.2 million (1.5 million tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $12.0 million
> Directed by: Tamara Jenkins

Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures

8. Rushmore (1998)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (186,244 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 90% (105 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $37.3 million (4.1 million tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $19.5 million
> Directed by: Wes Anderson

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

7. Tremors (1990)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 75% (240,282 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 86% (44 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $36.2 million (3.9 million tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $21.7 million
> Directed by: Ron Underwood

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Source: Courtesy of DreamWorks Distribution

6. Almost Famous (2000)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 92% (325,177 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 89% (174 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $80.5 million (8.8 million tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $102.0 million
> Directed by: Cameron Crowe

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

5. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (203,542 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 86% (182 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $24.0 million (2.6 million tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $21.4 million
> Directed by: Shane Black

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Source: Courtesy of Celsius Entertainment

4. Paris, je t’aime (2006)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 84% (192,613 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 86% (112 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $7.2 million (790,090 tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $18.2 million
> Directed by: Gurinder Chadha, Sylvain Chomet, Joel and Ethan Coen, Isabel Coixet, Gérard Depardieu, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuarón, and more

Source: Courtesy of Gramercy Pictures

3. Dazed and Confused (1993)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 90% (236,467 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 92% (62 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $17.6 million (1.9 million tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $15.3 million
> Directed by: Richard Linklater

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

2. Office Space (1999)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (325,914 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 80% (102 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $22.0 million (2.4 million tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $18.1 million
> Directed by: Mike Judge

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Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

1. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 85% (366,538 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 80% (44 reviews)
> Worldwide box office, adj. for inflation: $10.6 million (1.2 million tickets)
> Est. production budget, adj. for inflation: $5.4 million
> Directed by: Jim Sharman

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