It’s always exciting when a movie with a ton of buzz behind it — like Guardians of the Galaxy or Interstellar — turns out to be as good or better than expected. Going into a movie with low expectations though, and leaving with a new all-time favorite is an even better surprise. There are films every year that most people haven’t seen or heard of, but are lauded with praise and awards — those are called “Best Picture” nominees.
But some movies manage to defy expectations and become both financially successful and audience favorites with limited budget and promotion. Here are ten movies that turned out to be way better than anyone ever expected.
Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
I don’t think anyone in 1993 was excited when they heard that the white guy from In Living Color was going to star in a movie about a pet detective. Yes, he was funny as Fire Marshall Bill, but even 12-year-old me knew this guy wasn’t meant to carry a movie. How wrong we all were. Not only did it end up becoming the most successful comedy of the summer and have critics around the world professing their hatred of it, but it pushed Jim Carrey into the elusive $20 million pay check bracket a year later. It’s without a doubt the only time a movie that involved a man talking with his ass achieved such epic success. Budget $15 Million, Box Office $107 million.
Kal Pen and John Cho might not have racked in Ace Ventura money with their story of two stoners in search of those “White Castle burgers with those little, itty-bitty grilled onions that just explode in your mouth like flavor crystals” but the movie still made a respectable profit. Considering the amount of bad comedies that come out every year, there’s no reason that this film shouldn’t have gone straight to video and been left abandoned in the back of Blockbuster store. Yet it persevered, and through the power of Neil Patrick Harris and DVD sales, went on to spawn two sequels and a now-in-production animated series. Budget $9 million, Box Office $23 million.
Outside of Sylvester Stallone’s inner circle and the greater Philadelphia area, nobody expected much of the movie Rocky. Mostly because they hadn’t heard of it. The film was shot in just 28 days and didn’t exactly get a ton of promotion, but none of that stopped audiences from pouring in to see the rags to riches story of Rocky Balboa. The film of course went on to become the biggest film of 1976, sweep the Oscars, and usher Rocky back into the ring five more times. Budget $1 million, Box Office $225 million.
Slumdog Millionaire essentially was the Rocky of 2008. The film had Danny Boyle at the helm, but it was about a poor kid on a game show and not a movie about sprinting zombies “umm, who wants to see that?!” The movie had no recognizable stars, but reeled in audiences around the world with its feel-good story, and cleaned up at every awards show. I’m pretty sure the Fangoria Chainsaw Awards are the only awards show that it wasn’t included in that year. Budget $15 million, Box Office $378 million.