Successful TV Shows And Movies That Were Originally Trashed By Critics
1 Manifest (2018 – Present)
Manifest is a dramatic, supernatural series about the passengers and crew of Montego Air Flight 828. Although it’s entering its final season after only four installments, fans have fantastic things to say about the series. Some have compared it to other beloved shows like Lost or Heroes, with many claiming the mysteries of the plot will have viewers hooked.
Critics, on the other hand, disagree. Hank Stuever from The Washington Post called the show “a textbook failure of predictability.” He then goes on to say, “The premise is certainly alluring, which is why it’s so disheartening to discover Manifest’s last of imagination of intuition for what it might feel like, in the show’s lead example, for an extended family to be suddenly reunited.” Still, the show has been picked up by Netflix for its final season, proving that it has a somewhat dedicated audience that wants to keep it on the air.
2 Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Batman V Superman shows two of the most renowned superheroes battling it out to protect the earth. While the plot certainly sounds exciting, critics weren’t impressed by the film. The Telegraph wrote, “No major blockbuster in years has been this incoherently structured, this seemingly uninterested in telling a story with clarity or purpose.” The critic continued on to say, “It grumbles along for what feels like forever…until two shatteringly expensive-looking fights happen back to back, and the whole thing crunches to a halt.”
However, audiences didn’t agree with the critic’s perspective. Batman V Superman was actually the highest-earning film in the entire Superman franchise, outdoing even Man of Steel. The movie raked in an impressive $873.6 million at the box office, despite the fact that critics thought it was an utter failure.
3 The Big Bang Theory (2007 – 2019)
The Big Bang Theory aired on CBS for an impressive 12 seasons and became a beloved classic over the course of its time on the air. The series, starring a cast of nerdy physicists who work at the California Institute of Technology, has been called “fantastic,” “brilliant,” and “one of TV’s best-written sitcoms” by fans. But when the show first aired, critics couldn’t get on board.
In his 2007 review, Tim Goodman from the San Francisco Chronicle claimed, “The Big Bang Theory [is] precisely the kind of coyly predictable hackery one expects from traditional sitcoms.” He continued to call the writing “moronic” and the plot “forced and mundane.” However, it seems this critic definitely missed the mark when it came to wider public opinion on this series.
4 Rambo: Last Blood (2019)
The first movie in the Rambo franchise, Rambo: First Blood, was released in 1982. A whopping 37 years later, in 2019, the last film, still starring the incredible Sylvester Stallone, was released. The movie was met with rave reviews from viewers, earning an 81% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes. Fans agreed the film was the perfect ending to the franchise and included lots of action scenes that keep audiences entertained throughout.
On the other hand, Rambo: Last Blood only earned 26% on Rotten Tomatoes from critics. John Serba from Decider called the movie “grim” and “cheap.” Joshua Rothkopf from Time Out added his own opinion on the film, saying, “It’s as if he, [Sylvester Stallone], is admitting that the Rambo movies were always trash… Graying, splotchy and barely intelligible, Stallone turns in a self-negating performance, just as ugly on the inside.”
5 BoJack Horseman (2014 – 2020)
Netflix’s BoJack Horseman is a black comedy-drama about a once-famous horse who feels lost after his popular sitcom is canceled. He decides he wants to make it big again 18 years later but realizes that there are more obstacles in his way than he initially realized. The show has a 90% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, with many commenting on its wit and clever humor amidst more serious themes.
When the show first premiered, however, it was trashed by critics. Matthew Gilbert from the Boston Globe called the show “relentlessly mediocre” before claiming Will Arnett was simply repeating the personalities of his characters from other series. He finished his review by saying, “Watching a comedy about a has-been trying to gain relevance shouldn’t feel quite this dated.”
6 Angel Has Fallen (2019)
Angel Has Fallen is a 2019 movie about a Secret Service agent, played by Gerard Butler, who is mistakenly arrested for attempting to assassinate the President. While the movie has earned a 93% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, it only has a 38% score by critics.
Audiences called the movie “fantastic,” “super fun,” and “entertaining.” Critics, however, didn’t mimic their positivity. One review from The Detroit News claims, “It’s a throwback piece of entertainment, but in the way it evaporates as soon as it ends, it’s also a throwaway. By the time it’s over, it’s already fallen from your memory.” Another review from Seattle Times says, “Angel Has Fallen plays out exactly as you would expect from a potboiler of this type. No surprises here, other than that it exists at all.”
7 Supernatural (2005 – 2020)
Supernatural aired for an impressive fifteen years on both The CW and The WB to a super-dedicated fan base. When the series finally ended in 2020, the stars expressed how emotional they were over the ending of the series, and fans echoed their sentiments. But while Supernatural easily became one of the most popular fantasy-drama series to ever air on television, critics weren’t particularly fond of it at first.
One review in Slant Magazine from 2005 said: “The writers’ inane attempts at injecting humorous sibling rivalry and dime-store philosophizing into the dialogue ring false. Perhaps the duo’s first case should have been to investigate whatever demonic possession caused the WB’s development execs to green-light this clunky series in the first place.” Well, not only did the execs green-light the first season, but they continued to stand by the show for the next 14, which obviously paid off in the end.
8 The Greatest Showman (2017)
Most critics couldn’t stand The Greatest Showman when it was first released in 2017. One review from Us Weekly called the film “a true cinematic oddity” before saying, “The songs could have used more wit and sophistication. They’ll worm into your ear but won’t necessarily grip your soul.” Another review from New York Magazine seems to take the message of the movie personally, writing, “By the end, I found myself exhausted by the idea of wonder, not to mention the film’s notion that critics—those evil, fun-hating critics—are immune to it.”
However, the movie was widely popular among fans, earning a worldwide total of $435 million at the box office. While the success surprised many, The Great Showman is still a fan-favorite film today.
9 This Is Us (2016 – Present)
Beloved NBC series This Is Us is known for making audiences cry nearly every episode. Unlike some shows that take a little time to find their footing, This Is Us was popular among fans from the start. Still, even though fans can’t get enough of the heartwarming series, critics still found something to complain about.
One review from The Ringer said, “This Is Us continues to reach for emotional heights without laying a proper foundation.” Another review from Insider claims the show is “overrated” before claiming it relies on “easy emotional manipulation” to maintain its audience.
10 Venom (2018)
Vemon, released in 2018, was the epitome of mixed reviews. On one hand, critics trashed the film. One review from Time simply claims the film “doesn’t really make sense.” Another review from the New York Post starts by saying, “Venom? More like cyanide.” It goes on to state the movie “is a disaster on every level, from the hatchet-job writing to the horrid performances.”
Still, the movie was a huge success among fans. Not only did it earn $800 million at the box office, but it also has an audience score of 81% on Rotten Tomatoes. The movie has a sequel coming in 2021, which will hopefully perform better among critics than its predecessor.
11 Game of Thrones (2011-2019)
By the time the last episode of HBO’s Game of Thrones premiered in 2019, a record-breaking 16.5 million viewers tuned in live to watch. But despite the series’ inarguable success, it faced a lot of criticism when it first premiered in 2011. The first episode premiered to just 2.2 million viewers, many of whom were already fans of George R. R. Martin’s books. Along with the low viewership, critics also attacked the series with a vengeance.
Slate wrote in their review that Game of Thrones was “medieval, dragon-ridden fantasy crap.” The New York Times had an equally harsh opinion, calling the series “a costume-drama sexual hopscotch.” Despite the terrible reviews, interest in the show continued to grow. By the final season, Game of Thrones set a record of 25 million views per episode, making it the most popular show on earth.
12 Breaking Bad (2008 – 2013)
Breaking Bad is easily one of the most popular shows to ever air on television, but that wasn’t the case when the series first premiered. In fact, most of the success of the series is owed to its release on Netflix. While Breaking Bad received some positive reviews during its first season, other critics were disgusted by the series. Nancy Franklin, a critic from The New Yorker, wrote that the show is “more than two-dimensional, and yet somehow less than three.” She went on to say the show “has a bleakness that seems to be manufactured for no good reason.”
Still, despite the less-than-rave reviews, the show continued to air. Eventually, as current seasons were still airing on AMC, earlier seasons were released on Netflix. This led to a major uptick in viewership. The season four finale had less than two million viewers, but the series finale, which aired after the show’s release on Netflix, had 10 million viewers. Now, the show is easily considered a masterpiece, despite its difficult beginning.
13 Fight Club (1999)
Although Fight Club is an easy and recognizable reference for many people today, when the movie was first released in 1999, it was far from popular. One review of the movie from Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian said, “By the end, it has unraveled catastrophically into a strident, shallow, pretentious bore with a ‘twist’ ending that doesn’t work.”
Bradshaw went on to say Edward Norton gave a “twitchy, nerdy, hollow-eyed performance” before saying the movie “just doesn’t pack much of a punch.” However, despite that scathing review, the film sold 6 million copies when it was released on DVD, helping to transform it into the classic it is today.
14 Monty Python’s Flying Circus (1969 – 1974)
Monty Python’s Flying Circus was a British comedy show that aired on the BBC from 1969 to 1974. Although the show eventually gained popularity in both the US and the UK, and has even been credited as an influential work in the comedy world, it was originally a major flop.
When the show first premiered, audience ratings were the lowest in the BBC’s history. Fans and critics alike couldn’t get on board with the show’s “disgusting and nihilistic” humor. The controller of BBC1 even said the show had “gone over the edge of what was acceptable.” Still, as the years went on, the show continued to gain popularity, eventually transforming into the beloved work it is today.
15 Saw (2004)
Saw was actually a major hit when it was first released in theaters in 1994. With just a $1.2 million dollar budget, the movie raked in $103 million at the box office. The movie was so successful that it sparked an entire franchise, with nine films released so far. But while moviegoers couldn’t get enough of the gory horror film, critics were less impressed.
Dennis Harvey from Variety called Saw a “noisy, nasty feature debut.” M. E. Russell from The Oregonian echoed his comments, writing, “What makes Saw so awful is that it starts with a clever premise and then completely blows it.” Other reviews also disparaged the movies, but the harsh opinions of critics couldn’t dampen the excitement of the audience.
16 Vertigo (1958)
Psychological thriller Vertigo was directed and produced by the renowned Alfred Hitchcock. Today, the film is considered a defining work in Hitchcock’s career and one of the best movies ever made, depending on who you ask. While there’s a general consensus today that the movie is a masterpiece, critics initially hated the film.
When Vertigo was released, Time called it “another Hitchcock and bull story.” According to The New Yorker, Hitchcock had “never before indulged in such farfetched nonsense.” The movie only just managed to make a little money upon its initial release, nearly breaking even with the production costs. It wasn’t until the film was re-released in 1996 that it earned the acclaim it enjoys today.
17 Full House (1987 – 1995)
Full House is easily considered a classic TV program today. Filled with ’90s nostalgia, the realistic characters and corny humor still attract audiences to this series. In fact, a new sitcom starring some of the old cast was released on Netflix in 2016. Still, despite how easily lovable the show seems to be, not all critics were on board when the series was first released in 1987.
A review in the Los Angeles Times disparaged the seemingly sweet series. The review claimed, “It oozes and blubbers for a half hour, yielding no laughs or life. You need a Geiger counter to detect its pulse.” If only the reviewer had known what a fiercely loyal fanbase Full House would attract!
18 The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Released all the way back in 1939, The Wizard of Oz is perhaps one of the only films most people will watch from that time period today. It’s undeniably a classic, but it was met with derision upon its release. The New Republic wrote, “As for the light touch of fantasy, it weighs like a pound of fruitcake soaking wet.” The New Yorker was more succinct in their review, calling the film “a stinkeroo.”
While The Wizard of Oz was labeled a failure for the studio, it found new life when it was released on TV. Slowly, audiences began to connect with the film, and more rave reviews started rolling in, transforming the movie into the success it is today.
19 Boy Meets World (1993 – 2000)
Today, Boy Meets World is incredibly popular. Not only does it speak to the ’90s nostalgia that seems to linger around growing millennials, but it also offers a down-to-earth feel many shows are missing today. But while it’s considered a classic now, critics weren’t sold on the series when it first came out.
One 1993 review in The Hollywood Reporter claimed, “There is something about this series that seems disingenuous, owing more to tired situation comedy convention than to freshly crafting a view of the American family within the sitcom context.” The Los Angeles Times took it one step further, saying the show was “close to being as bad as sitcoms get.”
20 Citizen Kane (1941)
There was a lot happening behind the scenes that kept Citizen Kane from being successful when it was released in 1941. Namely, newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst had a vested interest in making sure the film performed poorly since Charles Foster Kane was based on him.
Hearst used his influence to keep many news outlets from writing about the film at all, and he even managed to persuade some movie houses not to release the film in their theaters. The reviews that did come out didn’t have positive things to say, claiming, “In the line of the narrative film…it holds no great place.” However, Hearst’s influence wasn’t enough to stop the masterpiece, which is now easily considered one of the most revered films ever made.
21 Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987 – 1994)
Star Trek: The Next Generation is a favorite TV series for many, especially for science fiction enthusiasts. But while the show is beloved by fans, critics weren’t especially excited about it upon its release.
One review claimed the cast of Star Trek: The Next Generation was “fine,” while also saying the story was “not very deep, inspired, or mind-melding.” It goes on to claim, “But getting there takes much too long. Although handsome, this is a slow, thudding two hours badly in need of energizing.” Thankfully, the show’s audience didn’t share the same opinion.
22 Alien (1979)
Alien was not warmly received upon its release in 1979. One review claimed it was “some people’s idea of a good time,” making it clear that the reviewer was not among those people. While the review wasn’t overly harsh, it made critics’ feelings about the film clear.
Today, however, Alien is revered as a genre-changing movie in the science fiction and horror space. It’s easily considered a classic, especially among sci-fi fans. It looks like the review was right—Alien is actually many people’s idea of a good time.
23 NCIS (2003 – Present)
Crime dramas are incredibly popular among TV audiences, but few have earned fan support quite like NCIS. The show follows a team of special agents from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. With 18 years on the air and counting, the series will soon air its 19th season.
However, NCIS wasn’t particularly popular among critics when it was first released. One review from the Chicago Tribune claimed the show was “as slow-witted as its redundant title would have you believe.” It’s safe to say that critics didn’t think the series would still be going strong in 2021.
24 The Vampire Diaries (2009 – 2017)
In an era where vampires were all the rage (and even after they managed to outlive their popularity), The Vampire Diaries still managed to make a splash. The show has a loyal fanbase today and even sparked four spin-offs. Suffice it to say, audiences can’t get enough of this The CW series.
However, the show was originally trashed by critics. When the series was released in 2009, The AV Club wrote that the show “has no idea how bad it is.” The review went on to call the show “blatantly awful” before giving it an overall grade of C-.
25 The Shining (1980)
Today, The Shining is considered to be a cinematic masterpiece in the horror genre. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, the film was destined to go down in movie history. However, when it was released in 1980, the film wasn’t well-received.
Many critics took issue with the fact that Kubrick’s film didn’t precisely follow the plot of Stephen King’s novel. A critic in Variety even wrote that the film set out to “destroy all that was so terrifying about Stephen King’s bestseller.” The review went on to claim that “the crazier Nicholson gets, the more idiotic he looks” before saying “Shelley Duvall transforms the warm sympathetic wife of the book into a simpering…hysteric.”
26 The King Of Queens (1998 – 2007)
The King of Queens stars Kevin James and Leah Remini as a working-class couple living in Queens. The sitcom aired for nine years from 1998 to 2007 and is largely regarded as a popular show and some fans’ absolute favorite series.
However, critics took a different stance. One review in The New York Times claimed the performers were “pleasant enough” but they “can’t overcome the stale setup.” Considering the show was nominated for numerous awards and Kevin James even snagged an Emmy, it’s safe to say audiences didn’t agree with the critic’s assessment.
27 Home Alone (1990)
Year after year, families flock to the television during the Christmas season to watch Home Alone. In many households, it’s the most popular Christmas movie. Even for families who prefer other holiday films, there’s no doubt Home Alone is a classic.
However, critics weren’t on board with the film when it premiered in 1990. Rather than leaning into the ridiculous nature of the movie and enjoying the humor, critics couldn’t help but call out the questionable plot. Roger Ebert from the Chicago Sun-Times wrote, “The plot is so implausible that it makes it hard for us to really care about the plight of the kid.” However, audiences had to disagree.
28 One Tree Hill (2003 – 2012)
While many fans of One Tree Hill recognize the show has its ridiculous moments, they still can’t help but love it. There’s something about the series that draws viewers in and makes them truly care about the characters. That’s probably what kept the show on the air for a stunning nine years.
However, critics weren’t nearly as fond of this series. One review in The Boston Globe claimed, “The characters are painfully one-dimensional, as they fall on either the good or the bad side of the fence. Their actions are predictable based on whether they’ve been designated as angels or devils.”
29 It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)
Today, It’s a Wonderful Life is a holiday classic. Year after year, families gather around during the Christmas season and pop this movie on the TV. However, the film was a major failure when it first came out. Although the filmmakers were thrilled by the movie they created, audiences were less than happy. They were looking for an optimistic film during the first full Christmas after World War II, and It’s a Wonderful Life didn’t deliver.
Bosley Crowther, a critic from The New York Times, wrote that “the weakness of this picture is the sentimentality of it.” He went on to describe George Bailey as “a figment of simple Pollyanna platitudes.” The movie didn’t find success until decades later, when the film’s copyright wasn’t renewed and American TV channels could put it on air. At that time, in 1974, the film finally began to connect with audiences, turning it into the beloved movie it is today.
30 Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
The 1971 release of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder was the first iteration of Roald Dahl’s classic story. But while the story itself is beloved, the movie didn’t see much success upon its initial release. With a budget of $3 million, the movie only managed to make $4 million dollars at the box office.
What’s more, the reviews were far from glowing. While some critics liked the film, The New York Times wrote that the movie was “tedious and stay with little sparkles and precious little humor.” Likely due to the poor reception, Paramount Pictures didn’t renew the distribution deal, allowing Warner Bros to buy the film rights. Warner Bros then ran the movie on TV, where audiences finally found an appreciation for the film, making it the success it is today.