It’s not that uncommon for movie critics to completely miss the boat on a movie. In 1986, Roger Ebert famously panned the David Lynch masterpiece Blue Velvet, giving the film one star out of a possible four. Blue Velvet, of course, became one of the best-reviewed films of the 1980s, according to Rotten Tomatoes. But what about when it isn’t just a single critic? Sometimes the entire population of movie critics seems to completely misjudge a movie upon release.
Here are four examples of those works of art too ahead of their time to be loved upon creation.
4. The Devil’s Rejects
Speaking of Roger Ebert, he was a single kind voice in a sea of haters when The Devil’s Rejects was released more than a decade ago. Actually, that’s not entirely true. A lot of heavy-hitting film critics liked The Devil’s Rejects. Peter Travers and Richard Roeper for example. And yet, the movie still gets marked as “rotten” on review aggregate giant Rotten Tomatoes. Though I suspect the 78 percent positive audience score is more indicative of this movie’s loyal cult following.
3. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Truth be told, it never touches the book. But trying to capture the brilliance of Hunter S. Thompson’s writing on the big screen was never going to entirely work. That said, Terry Gilliam does about as well as someone could do, given the complexity source material. Furthermore, Johnny Depp is both unrecognizable and hilarious as Raul Duke, Thompson’s fictional alter-ego. This movie is a head trip, it’s atmospheric, and has some fantastic acting. Yet somehow it has a lower score than the unremarkable celebration of mediocrity that was La La Land. Doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.
2. Con Air
Funny thing about Con Air is that I still don’t understand how this movie came to be. I recall in the ’90s, when this movie came out, it was advertised as though it was the most anticipated movie of all time. As if this was the movie we’d all been waiting for. But the sad truth is, I guess few people wanted a movie about Nicholas Cage — donning a southern accent and mullet — trying his best to get insulin for his dying prison buddy, while aboard a plane, hijacked by Steve Buscemi, Danny Trejo, and no one else who matters. Wait a minute… that’s not the premise of Con Air.
Actually, Nicholas Cage is, in fact, a good ol’ boy with a mullet, that part is true, but he’s actually trying to get a stuffed bunny across the country to his daughter, who he has never formally met because he’s kind of a murderer. The plane gets hijacked by a guy named Cyrus The Virus, meanwhile Dave Chappelle lights a man on fire. Actually, that’s not exactly the premise of Con Air either.
Honestly, I am not quite sure what the premise of Con Air is, but it’s fun. Planes, and cons, and John Cusack. It featured an all-star cast in a premise that was… special. If you can’t watch Con Air and have a good time, well you just can’t have a good time.
1. The Counselor
In all seriousness, The Counselor is a fantastic movie. It was poorly promoted as an action thriller, and it’s far from that. It’s more a literary tale of woe and pain. This film was written as an original screenplay by Cormac McCarthy (No Country For Old Men, The Road) and is so densely layered with nihilistic prose, it’s overwhelming at times. But make no mistake, this is a brilliant film and directed by Alien maestro Ridley Scott. Looking at the trailer now, audiences probably expected something closer to The Departed, but The Counselor intensely heavy and a very depressing. But where it lacks in pleasantness, it makes up for in poetry, acting, cinematography, and an amazing performance from Michael Fassbender. Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz, Brad Pitt, and Cameron Diaz also deliver incredible performances. The Counselor features some of the greatest dialogue in cinematic history and tells the story of why it’s never a good idea to get involved with a drug cartel.