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Top 10 Movies the Critics Got Wrong

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Script Written by Nick Spake. Sometimes you just can’t trust that Rotten Tomatoes rating. Join WatchMojo.com as we count down our picks for the top 10 movies the critics got wrong. For this list, we’re taking a look at films that were under-appreciated by critics upon initial release, but have since become perennial classics. Special thanks to our users Trevor Altier, Deathmatch1959, dondiggs420, Shane McCarthy, Paige Downs, David Julian, FourMinerz, Zoltan Werkner, Andrew Nash, Cory Markwick, Eoghan Christie, Sarah Cousar, Ratatosk19374, Yanni Perez, Godslayer79, Bryant Alcaraz, Alex Guzman, Maurizio Antonio Borgese, marcelojanos, Jacob Wb, Nick Helm, Tison Jordan King, Maurizio Antonio Borgese and Christian Hannah for submitting the idea on our Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script by Nick Spake.

Top 10 Movies the Critics Got Wrong


Sometimes you just can’t trust that Rotten Tomatoes rating. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 movies the critics got wrong.

For this list, we’re taking a look at films that were under-appreciated by critics upon initial release, but have since become perennial classics.

#10: “Peeping Tom” (1960)

This thriller from director Michael Powell follows a serial killer who gets a kick out of taking women’s lives and capturing their horrific deaths on film. The movie proved too disturbing for critics in 1960, killing Powell’s filmmaking career in the United Kingdom. While “Peeping Tom” might not be an easy movie-going experience, audiences eventually found that it was an effective character study with something significant to say about voyeurism and sexual repression. Today, the film is widely considered the Hitchcockian masterpiece that Alfred Hitchcock never made.

#9: “La Règle du jeu” [aka “The Rules of the Game”] (1939)

This French comedy of manners from the late ‘30s was the country’s most expensive movie up to that point and was preceded by much hype considering director Jean Renoir’s successful track record till then. But this showcasing of the insensitivity of the upper echelons of French society while on the brink of the Second World War did not sit well with pretty much anyone who saw the film. It was even temporarily banned by the French government! Despite strong acting and Renoir’s use of complex camera techniques, the film was trashed by critics – however, its rediscovery, restoration and reconstruction in the following decades led a complete turnaround of opinion, whereby its themes, use of satire and more have elevated it to masterpiece status.

#8: “The Big Lebowski” (1998)

On the heels of winning the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for “Fargo,” the Coen Brothers met mixed reviews with their follow-up film. At the time, many critics complained that “The Big Lebowski” was meandering, pointless, and amounted to nothing. Over the years, though, people found that’s exactly what makes the film so brilliant. Now “The Big Lebowski” is widely considered the Coens’ funniest and most quotable picture to date, even spawning a number of philosophical debates. Some critics still might not abide, but the film’s cult following certainly does.

#7: “Harold and Maude” (1971)

If “Harold and Maude” had come out in this day and age, critics would likely hail it as a masterwork in the spirit of filmmakers like Wes Anderson. In 1971, however, critics generally thought the dark comedy was offensive and mean-spirited. The substantial age difference between our title characters was a turn off as well. But as time went by, audiences found that the film was not only unconventionally hilarious, but also romantic in its own strange way. Thus, an unlikely comedy about unlikely lovers became an unlikely classic.

#6: “Blade Runner” (1982)

“Blade Runner” not only underperformed at the box office, but failed to impress numerous critics too. While its production values were praised, people were largely disappointed that they didn’t get the action extravaganza the ads promised. With the release of Ridley Scott’s Director’s Cut and Final Cut, audiences eventually realized that “Blade Runner” was never intended to be an action picture: it was a film-noir mystery about characters, ideas, and humanity. Since then, it’s evolved to be seen as one of the most important sci-fi films ever made.

#5: “Fight Club” (1999)

A film as funny, unique, and mind-blowing as “Fight Club” was destined to become a cult classic. In order to achieve that status, though, it had to endure several years of being underappreciated. Critics were split down the middle, unable to decide if “Fight Club” was bold and daring or just rebellious without a cause. Although critics didn’t know what to make of it, the narrator’s story undeniably spoke to a new generation of lost nonconformists looking to rally against social norms at turn of the 21st century, and found much of the success it failed to find at the box office with its DVD release.

#4: “Psycho” (1960)

Like “Peeping Tom,” “Psycho” is another 1960 thriller that garnered controversy for its depiction of violence and sexuality. “Psycho” especially got off to a rough start with critics, as Alfred Hitchcock prohibited them from seeing any advance screenings out of fear they might spoil the film’s twists. The hush-hush marketing resulted in some critics labeling the final product as gimmicky. The public, on the other hand, was captivated by the film’s numerous surprises and scares. Along with the initially panned “Vertigo,” “Psycho” has cemented itself among Hitchcock’s most iconic outings.

#3: “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

To an extent, it isn’t a major surprise that “2001: A Space Odyssey” didn’t immediately receive universal acclaim from critics. At first glance, it’s easy to assume that “2001” is sluggish, pretentious, and artsy fartsy. This is a movie you need to watch multiple times in order to peel back all the layers. Once people took a closer look though, they found that “2001” was nothing short of a revolutionary magnum opus. Given the film’s commentary on human evolution, it’s fitting that “2001” would grow on critics with time.

#2: “Citizen Kane” (1941)

That’s right, “Citizen Kane,” often considered the greatest movie of all time, was not an overnight sensation among entertainment journalists. Before the film was even released, Orson Welles butted heads with William Randolph Hearst, who provided the primary inspiration for Charles Foster Kane. Unpleased, Hearst banned “Citizen Kane” from being mentioned in his papers. Despite initial bad press and lack of press, “Citizen Kane” did gain several Academy Awards nominations. Yet, it shockingly only took home one statuette and even received boos from the crowd. Oh, how things have changed.

Before we give our top pick a proper rating, here are a few honorable mentions:
- “The Night of the Hunter” (1955)
- “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (1982)
- “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” (1975)

#1: “The Shining” (1980)

When “The Shining” first hit theaters, hardly anybody seemed to like it, least of all Stephen King. Critics complained that Stanley Kubrick’s adaptation made little sense and massacred the original vision set forth in King’s novel. The film even received two Razzie nominations for Worst Director and Worst Actress. In the tradition of Kubrick’s various other films, though, it slowly progressed from being an unsung masterpiece to an undeniable masterpiece. Arguably even more influential than its source material, “The Shining” just goes to show that some movies age like a fine wine.

Do you agree with our list? What other movies did the critics screw the pooch on? For more informative Top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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