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Top 10 Successful Movies Everyone Expected To Fail

by Lucas Hedinger
fact checked by Jamie Frater

One of the worst feelings for movie fans is the one of being disappointed by a movie they were very excited to see. But, the reverse feeling is probably one of the most satisfying ones: when everybody expects a movie to be awful, but end up being proven wrong with a pure delight on screen that turns into a box office hit, at times even starting franchises. So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at 10 highly successful movies everyone expected to fail:

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10 Project X (2012)


On November 2, 2011, a trailer for a movie no one had ever heard about, titled “Project X”, dropped on the internet. The trailer, about a trio of unseen high school students who decide to throw a party that ends up getting widely out of their control, went viral overnight on social media. While it looked fun, excitement for the release was mild, because nobody seemed to see how a film about one single party could be interesting to watch for 90 minutes. It looked like a suicide project, especially since all the actors in the movie were unknown faces, and Warner Bros was mocked for months by industry people. And then… the movie came out.

“Project X” became one of the most successful movies of that year, bringing in over $100 million on a $12 million budget. Despite being notoriously despised by older critics, who slammed it for being obscene and misguided, it proved to be incredibly popular amongst teenagers and people in their early 20’s, who were the direct target audience. The fantasy of the craziest house party of all time was an absolute blast for young audiences around the world, and “Project X” has since become a beloved staple of millennial pop culture. A sequel titled “Project XX” was even put in the works at Warner Bros mere weeks after the film’s release, but it eventually died in development hell.

9 Bad Moms (2016)


Bad Moms Official Trailer 2 (2016) – Mila Kunis Movie

The trailer for “Bad Moms” was not very inspiring. On the surface, it looked like a tired rehash of a number of comedies that had come before, and despite a great cast, including the likes of Mila Kunis, Kathryn Hahn and Kristen Bell, people did not seem to be that interested in seeing what this film had to offer, and box office predictions for “Bad Moms” were fairly low, especially considering that the film’s production was somewhat troubled. So the surprise was real when the movie came out and became an absolute hit overnight.

“Bad Moms” brought in almost $200 million at the box office, which represents approximately 10 times its budget. Its success is entirely due to incredible word of mouth, as audiences were pleasantly surprised with how good the movie was, despite not being groundbreaking. In fact, it made so much money that a sequel, “A Bad Moms Christmas”, was greenlit in a matter of days, and was released in theatres less than a year later.

8 Edge Of Tomorrow (2015)


Edge of Tomorrow – Official Trailer 1 [HD]

“Edge Of Tomorrow” is now known in Hollywood for being the movie with one of the most botched marketing campaign in recent memory, which probably explains why people had such little faith in the movie as a whole. The entire build up to the movie was confusing that most people weren’t even sure what the title of the movie was. Some called it “Edge Of Tomorrow”, some called it “Live, Die, Repeat”, and others knew it as “All You Need Is Kill”. As a result, audiences lost interest, and paired with the uninspired trailers, most people thought it would be a subpar science-fiction dud not that worth watching.

But, “Edge Of Tomorrow” came out, and it was a real slap in the face to everyone who saw it. It absolutely blew audiences away, as it revealed itself to be a highly entertaining movie with a story infinitely more compelling than the trailers made it appear to be. While box office predictions for the film foresaw a financial failure, the incredible word of mouth coming out of audiences saved it, as it ended up grossing a decent $370 million, enough to warrant an announced sequel currently in development.

7 IT (2017)


IT – Official Teaser Trailer

It’s easy to forget today that, prior to its arrival in theatres, Andy Muschietti’s latest adaptation of Stephen King’s “IT” was mostly mocked by people on the internet. When Entertainment Weekly debuted a first look at Bill Skarsgard’s incarnation of the terrifying Pennywise, it became the laughing stock of social media, and everyone was ready for this movie to be bad and to crash and burn at the box office. But then…the first trailer was released, and everyone stopped laughing.

The rest, as they say, is history. “IT” took over the world in a matter of seconds, and audiences became obsessed with the movie before it even came out in theatres. And when it finally made its way on screens, it broke records and grossed over $700 million dollars at the box office, with an eventual sequel that took the franchise beyond the billion dollar mark in mere weeks. Impressive, given how low the expectations were for this movie.

6 Gone Girl (2014)


Gone Girl | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX

When the first trailer for “Gone Girl” dropped on the internet, it looked like your quintessential American thriller, with nothing too special to show for. While it didn’t look bad in any way, nobody had high expectations for the movie, and most people expected it to be one of those minor box office crime thrillers to come and go largely unnoticed, in a studio’s effort to make a quick buck.

However, when “Gone Girl” came out in theatres a few months later, it suddenly seemed like it became the only thing people could talk about. The film was buzzing all over the globe, and it took over the internet in spectacular fashion, thanks to a particularly clever twist on the genre that widely subverted expectations. Everyone was talking about it, and it became a box office hit, bringing in $370 million worldwide, which effectively made it one of the most profitable movies of that year.

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5 Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)


Kingsman: The Secret Service | Official Trailer 2 [HD] | 20th Century FOX

“Kingsman” was not exactly a well known property prior to its 2014 movie adaptation. The Mark Millar graphic novel was released in 2012 and was quickly picked up by 20th Century Fox for a film version, with Matthew Vaughn tagged in to direct. The trailer eventually arrived, and the reaction was…mild.

It’s safe to say that the trailer didn’t exactly do justice to the actual film. At first glance, “Kingsman: The Secret Service” appeared to be nothing more than a brainless and absurd comedy with a higher budget than usual, and since an overwhelming majority of people had no idea it was based on a graphic novel, nobody could form any kind of expectation or excitement. In other words, based on the trailer alone, the movie had nothing to stand on.

But when the movie hit theatres in 2014, it became a crazy sensation all around the world almost instantly, going on to gross half a billion dollars at the box office and kickstarting a franchise set to be around for the next 5 to 10 years. The movie has since solidified its place in pop culture, and many consider it to be a modern classic.

4 21 Jump Street (2012)


21 JUMP STREET [2012] – Red Band Trailer

The idea of a “21 Jump Street” reboot in movie form used to seem like a crazy idea, and when it was officially announced to be in development, most people in Hollywood thought the movie would be dead on arrival. At the time, actor Channing Tatum was not exactly a respected figure in Hollywood, mostly seen as a heartthrob type who only succeeds at exciting teenage girls, and no one believed he would have the ability to carry a comedy, even if paired with Jonah Hill.

But, in an amazing twist of events, “21 Jump Street” turned out to be one of the most beloved comedies of the decade, and made a substantial amount of money at the box office, prompting Sony Pictures to make a sequel, “22 Jump Street”, 2 years later. Combined, the movies have grossed over $500 million at the box office

3 Casino Royale (2006)


Casino Royale Official Trailer (2006) James Bond Movie HD

When “Casino Royale” came around the corner, the James Bond franchise was at an all time low. The previous entry, “Die Another Day”, was absolutely despised by critics and audiences alike, and fans were absolutely disappointed to find out this dud was also the exit of Pierce Brosnan as Bond. And when Daniel Craig was then announced to be the next actor to take on the role, all hell broke loose. People hated the casting choice, mostly due to Craig being blonde, but paired with the terrible reception of the previous movie, and the uproar following the casting of the new Bond, everyone assumed the franchise was done for.

As we now know, “Casino Royale” is now considered by many to be the best James Bond movie ever made. The movie was an absolute smash hit, and Daniel Craig solidified himself as one of the greatest incarnations of the 007 agent, becoming the actor to play him for the longest time out of all of them. After 15 years in the role, his final movie “No Time To Die” will mark the end of an era for the franchise, and it all started with a movie everyone expected to be the doom of the James Bond series.

2 Iron Man (2008)


Iron Man (2008) Trailer #1 | Movieclips Classic Trailers

Today, it would be almost laughable to even think that a Marvel movie could fail. The Marvel Cinematic Universe is now the highest grossing franchise in History, with the epic finale of its initial saga, “Avengers: Endgame”, having become the most successful movie of all time — not only is it the first movie to gross over $300 million in the US and Canada during its opening weekend, it is also the only movie to ever gross $1 billion worldwide in its first week. Ironic, when we know that the MCU’s original film was considered to be a huge risk.

Very few people believed in “Iron Man” during its production process. The character was not a household name, the budget was deemed to be way too big compared to what they believed it would make at the box office, and to top it all off, Robert Downey Jr playing the hero was considered to be controversial, as he was coming out of years of troubles with justice and drug addiction, making him a gigantic liability in the eye of the studio. But director Jon Favreau fought for his project vigorously, and proved everyone wrong by the delivering an absolute hit of a movie, bringing in $585 million at the box office, and securing Marvel a colossal franchise moving forward.

1 John Wick (2014)


John Wick (2014) – Official Trailer – Keanu Reeves

It’s crazy to think that, back in 2014, Lionsgate was so convinced that “John Wick” was going to be a failure that they only released the first trailer for the movie a mere 27 days before its release. They buried it as much as possible, believing that the movie would only be considered another failed Keanu Reeves action B movie that people would not pay attention to. But, to their absolute surprise, “John Wick” arrived in theatres and became an instant classic that spawned one of the biggest action franchises of the 21st century.

The John Wick movie series has now grossed over half a billion dollars at the box office and has two more films to go to complete its story, which will be shot back to back as one giant film. And given the fact that each movie has made more money than the previous one, it isn’t crazy to think that the John Wick franchise is on its way to cross the billion dollar mark at the box office, which would make it one of Lionsgate’s five most successful franchises of all time, especially when taking in consideration that a spinoff movie titled “Ballerina” and a spinoff TV series titled “The Continental” are currently in the works.

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fact checked by Jamie Frater