Who Survives More: Films or Their Reviews?

Who Survives More: Films or Their Reviews?
Who Survives More: Films or Their Reviews?

It is often said that art is subjective and that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. However, when it comes to films, there are some objective criteria that critics and audiences use to judge their quality and value. These include aspects such as plot, acting, directing, cinematography, editing, sound, special effects, and so on. Films that meet these standards are usually praised and rewarded, while films that fail to do so are usually criticized and ignored.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. Some films that were initially panned by critics have gained cult status over the years. These films have attracted loyal and passionate fan bases who appreciate them for their unique vision, style, message, or humor. These films have also influenced other filmmakers and genres and have become part of the pop culture lexicon. What makes these films so enduring and appealing to audiences? How do they challenge the conventional standards of quality and taste? This article explores 20 examples of films that have survived their bad reviews and become classics in their own right.

10 Films from Europe

The Wicker Man (1973, UK)

This horror mystery film depicts a devout Christian policeman who investigates the disappearance of a young girl on a remote pagan island. He soon discovers that the islanders have sinister plans for him. The film was poorly received by critics and distributors at the time of its release but has since been praised as one of the best British films ever made. It has also inspired a remake starring Nicolas Cage.

The film was directed by Robin Hardy and written by Anthony Shaffer, who also wrote the play Sleuth. The film stars Edward Woodward as Sergeant Neil Howie, who arrives on the island of Summerisle to look for a missing girl named Rowan Morrison. He is met with hostility and deception by the locals, who practice a form of Celtic paganism under the leadership of Lord Summerisle, played by Christopher Lee. Howie soon realizes that Rowan is not really missing but is intended to be a human sacrifice for the island's fertility ritual. He tries to save her but ends up being burned alive inside a giant wicker man statue.

The film was originally intended to be a musical but was later changed to a horror film. It was also heavily edited by its distributor, British Lion Films, who cut out several scenes and changed the order of others. The film was released as a double feature with Don't Look Now, another British horror film, but received little attention from critics and audiences. The film was also banned in some countries for its depiction of nudity, violence, and blasphemy.

However, over the years, the film gained a cult following among fans who admired its atmospheric cinematography, haunting soundtrack, and complex themes. The film explores the clash between Christianity and paganism, rationality and superstition, civilization and nature, and law and anarchy. The film also raises questions about morality, faith, and sacrifice. The film has been recognized as one of the most influential horror films of all time and has inspired many other works in the genre, such as The Blair Witch Project, Midsommar, and The Ritual. The film has also been restored to its original version and re-released several times in theaters and on home media.

Withnail & I (1987, UK)

This black comedy film follows two unemployed actors who go on a disastrous holiday to the countryside in the late 1960s. The film was largely ignored by critics and audiences when it was released but has since become one of the most quoted and beloved British comedies of all time. It has also influenced many other films and TV shows.

The film was written and directed by Bruce Robinson, who based it on his own experiences as a struggling actor in London. The film stars Richard E. Grant as Withnail, an alcoholic and drug-addicted actor who lives in a squalid flat with his friend Marwood, played by Paul McGann. Marwood is the narrator and protagonist of the film but is never referred to by his name; he is only called "I" or "the unnamed narrator". The film chronicles their misadventures as they decide to escape their miserable lives and go on a holiday to a cottage in the Lake District, owned by Withnail's eccentric uncle Monty, played by Richard Griffiths. However, they soon find out that the cottage is dilapidated, the weather is awful, and the locals are hostile. They also have to deal with Monty's unwanted sexual advances, a violent poacher, and a drug dealer who wants his money back.

The film was made on a low budget and was shot in 37 days. It was released by HandMade Films, a company founded by George Harrison of The Beatles, who also produced Monty Python's Life of Brian. The film received mixed reviews from critics and performed poorly at the box office. However, the film developed a cult following among fans who loved its witty dialogue, dark humor, and memorable characters. The film has been quoted and referenced by many other comedians, actors, writers, and musicians, such as Ricky Gervais, Simon Pegg, Stephen Fry, and Noel Gallagher. The film has also been adapted into a stage play and a radio drama.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975, UK/US)

This musical comedy horror film parodies B-movies and science fiction tropes. It follows a young couple who encounter a transvestite alien scientist and his bizarre entourage in a castle. The film was initially a flop but gained popularity through midnight screenings where audiences would dress up, sing along, and interact with the film.

The film was directed by Jim Sharman and written by Richard O'Brien, who also composed the songs and played the role of Riff Raff. The film stars Tim Curry as Dr. Frank-N-Furter, a self-proclaimed "sweet transvestite from Transsexual, Transylvania", who invites Brad Majors and Janet Weiss, played by Barry Bostwick and Susan Sarandon, to his castle after their car breaks down. There, they witness Frank's creation of a muscular man named Rocky Horror, played by Peter Hinwood, and meet his other guests, such as Magenta, Columbia, Eddie, and Dr. Scott. They also discover that Frank and his servants are actually aliens who plan to return to their planet after completing their mission.

The film was based on the stage musical The Rocky Horror Show, which was also written by O'Brien and directed by Sharman. The film retained most of the original cast members from the stage production, except for Hinwood, who replaced Rayner Bourton as Rocky. The film also added some new scenes and songs that were not in the stage version. The film was released by 20th Century Fox but received negative reviews from critics and failed to attract audiences. However, the film found a new life through midnight screenings at various theaters across the US and other countries. These screenings became interactive events where fans would dress up as the characters, bring props, shout out lines, sing along to the songs, and dance to the "Time Warp". The film has become one of the most successful cult films of all time and has spawned several sequels, remakes, spin-offs, and merchandise.

Dune (1984, US)

This epic sci-fi film based on Frank Herbert's novel of the same name was directed by David Lynch. It tells the story of a young man who leads a rebellion against a galactic emperor on a desert planet that produces a valuable substance. The film was a critical and commercial failure due to its confusing plot, excessive length, and poor special effects. However, it has gained a cult following for its ambitious vision, surreal imagery, and eclectic cast.

The film was produced by Dino De Laurentiis and starred Kyle MacLachlan as Paul Atreides, the heir of a noble family who is sent to rule over the planet Arrakis, also known as Dune. Arrakis is the only source of spice melange, a drug that enhances mental abilities and extends life span. However, Paul's family is betrayed by their rivals, the Harkonnens, who are allied with the Emperor Shaddam IV. Paul escapes into the desert with his mother Jessica, played by Francesca Annis, where they join forces with the Fremen, the native people of Arrakis who worship Paul as their messiah. Paul learns to control the giant sandworms that inhabit Arrakis and leads a revolt against the Harkonnens and the Emperor.

The film was one of the most expensive films ever made at the time of its release. It had a troubled production history that involved several directors and writers before Lynch was hired. Lynch had full creative control over the film but had to compromise with De Laurentiis over the length and content of the film. The film was originally over four hours long but was cut down to two hours and 17 minutes for theatrical release. The film was also criticized for its confusing plot, poor special effects, and inconsistent tone. The film was a box office flop and received mostly negative reviews from critics and fans of the novel.

However, the film has gained a cult following among fans who admire its ambitious vision, surreal imagery, and eclectic cast. The film features many actors who would later become famous, such as Patrick Stewart, Sting, Sean Young, Max von Sydow, and Virginia Madsen. The film also has a distinctive visual style that combines medieval, futuristic, and exotic elements. The film also explores complex themes such as ecology, religion, politics, and destiny. The film has been re-edited and restored several times to include more footage and scenes that were cut from the theatrical release. The film has also inspired many other sci-fi films and TV shows, such as Star Wars, The Matrix, and Game of Thrones.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975, UK)

This comedy film parodies the legend of King Arthur and his knights of the round table. It follows their absurd and hilarious quest to find the Holy Grail, a sacred relic that is said to grant eternal life. The film was made on a low budget and was mostly improvised by the cast and crew. The film was a moderate success at the time of its release but has since become one of the most popular and influential comedies of all time.

The film was directed by Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones, who were also part of the Monty Python comedy troupe along with John Cleese, Eric Idle, Michael Palin, and Graham Chapman. The film stars Chapman as King Arthur, who recruits various knights to join him on his quest. Along the way, they encounter many obstacles and challenges, such as a killer rabbit, a taunting French soldier, a bridge of death, and a group of rude peasants. The film also features many memorable scenes and quotes, such as the "Knights who say Ni", the "Black Knight", and the "Holy Hand Grenade".

The film was made with a budget of £229,000, which was partly raised by rock bands such as Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, and Genesis. The film was shot in Scotland and England but faced many difficulties due to bad weather, lack of equipment, and legal issues. The film also had to use coconuts instead of horses for the sound effects due to budget constraints. The film was released by EMI Films but received mixed reviews from critics who found it too silly or vulgar. However, the film gained popularity among fans who loved its irreverent humor, absurd logic, and satirical commentary on history and religion. The film has been ranked as one of the best comedies of all time by various polls and magazines. The film has also spawned a musical adaptation called Spamalot and a video game called Monty Python & the Quest for the Holy Grail.

Amélie (2001, France)

This romantic comedy film tells the story of a shy and quirky waitress who decides to change the lives of those around her for the better. She also falls in love with a mysterious man who collects discarded photo booth pictures. The film was a huge success in France and around the world but received mixed reviews from some critics who found it too whimsical or clichéd. However, the film has become one of the most beloved and acclaimed films of the 21st century.

The film was directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet and written by Jeunet and Guillaume Laurant. The film stars Audrey Tautou as Amélie Poulain, a young woman who lives in Paris and works at a café. She has a vivid imagination and a keen sense of justice. She discovers a hidden box of childhood treasures in her apartment and decides to return it to its owner. This inspires her to perform various acts of kindness for other people, such as helping her lonely neighbor find love, avenging her co-worker from her abusive boss, or guiding a blind man across the street. She also becomes fascinated by Nino Quincampoix, played by Mathieu Kassovitz, a man who works at a sex shop and collects discarded photo booth pictures. She tries to find him and confess her feelings but faces many obstacles along the way.

The film was made with a budget of €10 million and was shot in various locations in Paris. The film used digital effects to enhance the colors and details of the city. The film also featured an original soundtrack composed by Yann Tiersen that matched the mood and tone of the film. The film was released by UGC Distribution in France and Miramax Films in other countries. The film was a huge hit at the box office and earned over €173 million worldwide. The film also received critical acclaim and won many awards, such as four César Awards, two BAFTA Awards, and five Academy Award nominations. The film was praised for its charming and whimsical story, its colorful and quirky characters, its beautiful and vibrant cinematography, and its uplifting and optimistic message. The film has also influenced many other films and TV shows, such as Pushing Daisies, The Good Place, and La La Land.

The Seventh Seal (1957, Sweden)

This drama film depicts a medieval knight who plays a game of chess with Death during the Black Plague. He hopes to delay his fate and find meaning in his life. The film was a breakthrough for Swedish cinema and director Ingmar Bergman. It was also a critical and commercial success around the world but faced some controversy for its religious and philosophical themes. However, the film has become one of the most influential and respected films of all time.

The film was written and directed by Ingmar Bergman, who was inspired by his own existential crisis and his fascination with medieval art and literature. The film stars Max von Sydow as Antonius Block, a disillusioned knight who returns from the Crusades to find his homeland ravaged by the plague. He encounters Death, played by Bengt Ekerot, who challenges him to a game of chess for his life. Block accepts the challenge and tries to use the time he has left to seek answers to his questions about God, death, and the meaning of life. He also meets various people along his journey, such as his squire Jöns, a troupe of traveling actors, a young girl accused of witchcraft, and a devout family.

The film was made with a budget of 150,000 Swedish kronor and was shot in 35 days. The film used natural locations and authentic costumes to create a realistic and bleak atmosphere. The film also featured a symbolic and allegorical script that explored themes such as faith, doubt, despair, hope, and morality. The film was released by Svensk Filmindustri in Sweden and Janus Films in other countries. The film was a hit at the box office and earned over $1 million worldwide. The film also received rave reviews from critics and won many awards, such as the Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival, the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and the BAFTA Award for Best Film from any Source. The film was praised for its profound and poetic story, its powerful and nuanced performances, its striking and iconic imagery, and its masterful and visionary direction. The film has also inspired many other filmmakers and artists, such as Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Federico Fellini, and Bill & Ted.

Life of Brian (1979, UK)

This comedy film parodies the life of Jesus Christ and the history of Christianity. It follows the misadventures of Brian Cohen, a Jewish man who is mistaken for the Messiah by a group of followers. The film was made by the Monty Python comedy troupe but faced many difficulties due to its controversial subject matter. The film was banned in several countries and denounced by many religious groups. However, the film was a huge success among fans and critics who found it hilarious and intelligent.

The film was directed by Terry Jones and written by Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Michael Palin. The film stars Chapman as Brian Cohen, who is born on the same day as Jesus Christ in a stable next door. He grows up in Roman-occupied Judea and joins an anti-Roman resistance group called the People's Front of Judea. He also falls in love with Judith Iscariot, played by Sue Jones-Davies. However, he is mistaken for the Messiah by a crowd of people who witness him escaping from the Romans. He tries to deny his divinity but ends up being followed by a group of fanatical disciples who misinterpret his words and actions. He also faces various obstacles from the Romans, the Judean rebels, the Pharisees, and his own mother.

The film was made with a budget of £4 million that was partly funded by George Harrison of The Beatles, who also made a cameo appearance in the film. The film was shot in Tunisia but faced many problems due to political unrest, cultural differences, and technical difficulties. The film also had to deal with censorship issues due to its satirical portrayal of religion, politics, and society. The film was banned or restricted in several countries, such as Ireland, Norway, and South Africa. The film was also denounced by many religious groups, such as the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church, and the Jewish Defense League. The film was accused of being blasphemous, offensive, and sacrilegious.

However, the film was a huge hit among fans and critics who found it hilarious and intelligent. The film was praised for its witty and clever script, its sharp and irreverent humor, its memorable and catchy songs, and its brilliant and versatile performances. The film has been ranked as one of the best comedies of all time by various polls and magazines. The film has also spawned a stage musical called Spamalot and a video game called Monty Python & the Quest for the Holy Grail.

La Dolce Vita (1960, Italy)

This drama film depicts a week in the life of a disillusioned journalist who wanders through the decadent and glamorous society of Rome in the late 1950s. He searches for love, happiness, and meaning but finds only emptiness, boredom, and corruption. The film was a huge success in Italy and abroad but faced some controversy for its portrayal of sexuality, religion, and morality. However, the film has become one of the most acclaimed and influential films of all time.

The film was directed by Federico Fellini and written by Fellini, Ennio Flaiano, Tullio Pinelli, and Brunello Rondi. The film stars Marcello Mastroianni as Marcello Rubini, a journalist who works for a gossip magazine. He covers various events and stories in Rome, such as the arrival of a famous actress, played by Anita Ekberg, the suicide attempt of his lover, played by Yvonne Furneaux, the miracle of a fake Madonna statue, the orgy of a rich aristocrat, played by Anouk Aimée, and the death of his intellectual friend, played by Alain Cuny. He also meets various people who influence his views and choices, such as his father, played by Annibale Ninchi, his fiancée, played by Magali Noël, his colleague, played by Walter Santesso, and a young girl, played by Valeria Ciangottini.

The film was made with a budget of 600 million lire and was shot in various locations in Rome and its surroundings. The film used a episodic and non-linear structure that reflected Marcello's fragmented and chaotic life. The film also featured a rich and expressive cinematography that captured the beauty and ugliness of Rome. The film also included many symbolic and surreal scenes that expressed Marcello's dreams and fantasies. The film was released by Cineriz in Italy and Astor Pictures in other countries. The film was a hit at the box office and earned over $19 million worldwide. The film also received critical acclaim and won many awards, such as the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, the Oscar for Best Costume Design, and the BAFTA Award for Best Film from any Source. The film was praised for its profound and poetic story, its realistic and complex characters, its stunning and innovative visuals, and its masterful and visionary direction. The film has also inspired many other filmmakers and artists, such as Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Sofia Coppola, and Madonna.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920, Germany)

This horror film is considered one of the first examples of German Expressionism in cinema. It tells the story of a mysterious hypnotist who uses a somnambulist to commit murders. The film is known for its distorted and stylized sets, costumes, lighting, and camera angles that create a sense of madness and horror. The film was a success in Germany but faced some censorship issues in other countries. However, the film has become one of the most influential and important films of all time.

The film was directed by Robert Wiene and written by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer. The film stars Werner Krauss as Dr. Caligari, a sinister hypnotist who exhibits a sleepwalker named Cesare, played by Conrad Veidt, at a carnival. He claims that Cesare can predict the future and perform other feats while under his control. However, he also uses Cesare to kill his enemies or rivals at night. He is pursued by Francis, played by Friedrich Fehér, who is a friend of one of Caligari's victims. Francis discovers that Caligari is actually the director of an insane asylum who is obsessed with an ancient legend about a monk named Caligari who used a somnambulist to kill people. However, the film ends with a twist that reveals that Francis is actually an inmate of the asylum and that his story is a delusion.

The film was made with a budget of 18,000 marks and was shot in 23 days. The film used a distinctive and innovative style that was influenced by the German Expressionist movement in art and theater. The film featured distorted and stylized sets, costumes, lighting, and camera angles that created a sense of madness and horror. The film also used a complex and nonlinear narrative that played with the concepts of reality and illusion. The film was released by Decla-Bioscop in Germany and Goldwyn Pictures in other countries. The film was a success in Germany but faced some censorship issues in other countries due to its violent and disturbing content. The film also received mixed reviews from critics who praised its artistic value but criticized its lack of coherence and logic.

However, the film has become one of the most influential and important films of all time. The film is considered one of the first examples of German Expressionism in cinema, a movement that influenced many other filmmakers and genres, such as horror, film noir, and surrealism. The film is also considered one of the first examples of psychological horror, a genre that explores the inner workings of the human mind and its fears and fantasies. The film has also inspired many other works in literature, music, theater, and art, such as The Cabinet of Dr. Ramirez, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Sandman, and The Cure.

Battleship Potemkin (1925, Soviet Union)

This historical drama film depicts the 1905 mutiny on the Russian battleship Potemkin and the subsequent massacre of civilians on the Odessa steps. The film is known for its revolutionary editing techniques, powerful propaganda message, and iconic images. The film was a success in the Soviet Union but faced some controversy and censorship in other countries. However, the film has become one of the most acclaimed and influential films of all time.

The film was directed by Sergei Eisenstein and written by Nina Agadzhanova. The film stars Aleksandr Antonov as Grigory Vakulinchuk, a sailor who leads the mutiny against the oppressive officers on board the Potemkin. He is killed by a lieutenant but his body is taken to the shore by his comrades. His death sparks a massive uprising among the people of Odessa who support the sailors and protest against the tsarist regime. However, they are brutally attacked by the army who fire at them from the top of the steps. The film ends with a hopeful note as the Potemkin sails away to join the revolution.

The film was made with a budget of 250,000 rubles and was shot in various locations in Crimea and Odessa. The film used a revolutionary editing technique called montage, which involved cutting and combining different shots to create a rhythmic and emotional effect. The film also used various cinematic devices such as close-ups, angles, movements, and contrasts to enhance the drama and tension of the scenes. The film also featured a powerful propaganda message that glorified the revolution and demonized the enemy. The film also included many iconic images that have become part of the cinematic history, such as the baby carriage rolling down the steps, the lion statues waking up, and the battleship firing at its own flag.

The film was released by Goskino in the Soviet Union and Sovkino in other countries. The film was a success in the Soviet Union but faced some controversy and censorship in other countries due to its political content and violence. The film was banned or edited in several countries such as Germany, France, Britain, and the US. The film also received mixed reviews from critics who admired its technical skill but questioned its artistic merit and ideological bias. However, over time, the film has gained recognition as one of the most acclaimed and influential films of all time. The film is considered one of the masterpieces of silent cinema and one of the pioneers of the historical epic genre. The film is also considered one of the best examples of Eisenstein's theory and practice of montage, which has influenced many other filmmakers and theorists, such as Alfred Hitchcock, Jean-Luc Godard, and Sergei Parajanov. The film has also been preserved and restored by various institutions and organizations, such as the Museum of Modern Art, the British Film Institute, and the Criterion Collection.

The 400 Blows (1959, France)

This drama film depicts the troubled childhood and adolescence of a young boy who rebels against his neglectful parents and oppressive school system. He runs away from home, steals, lies, and gets into trouble with the law. The film is considered one of the first and best examples of the French New Wave movement in cinema. It was also a critical and commercial success around the world but faced some controversy for its realistic and honest portrayal of youth. However, the film has become one of the most admired and influential films of all time.

The film was directed by François Truffaut and written by Truffaut and Marcel Moussy. The film stars Jean-Pierre Léaud as Antoine Doinel, a 12-year-old boy who lives in Paris with his mother, played by Claire Maurier, and his stepfather, played by Albert Rémy. He is unhappy and bored at home and at school, where he is constantly scolded and punished by his teachers. He finds solace in his friendship with René, played by Patrick Auffay, and his love for cinema. He also tries to escape from his problems by running away from home, stealing a typewriter, lying to his parents, and skipping school. However, he ends up being caught by the police and sent to a juvenile detention center.

The film was made with a budget of 32 million francs and was shot in various locations in Paris and Honfleur. The film used a semi-autobiographical and documentary style that was influenced by Truffaut's own experiences as a rebellious child and a film critic. The film also used a naturalistic and improvisational approach that involved using non-professional actors, handheld cameras, long takes, jump cuts, freeze frames, and voice-over narration. The film was released by Cocinor in France and Zenith International Films in other countries. The film was a hit at the box office and earned over $4 million worldwide. The film also received rave reviews from critics and won many awards, such as the Best Director Award at the Cannes Film Festival, the Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and the BAFTA Award for Best Film from any Source. The film was praised for its authentic and poignant story, its realistic and sympathetic characters, its innovative and expressive techniques, and its personal and universal themes. The film has also inspired many other filmmakers and artists, such as Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Wes Anderson, and J.D. Salinger.

Conclusion

The films listed above are examples of how art can transcend its initial reception and gain a new life and meaning over time. These films have survived their bad reviews and become cult classics because they offer something different, original, or provocative to audiences. They challenge the conventional standards of quality and taste and invite viewers to question their own assumptions and preferences. They also create a sense of community and identity among their fans who share a common passion and appreciation for these films. These films prove that art is not only subjective but also dynamic and evolving.

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Sherif M. Awad
Sherif M. Awad
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