Pretty much every movie that we now consider a classic had some people who hated it when it first came out. This is true for two simple reasons: One is that art is subjective, and the other is that having opinions every day is hard. Movie reviewers see like three or four movies a week -- they're going to occasionally be on the wrong side of history for the same reason that I will, occasionally, get to the end of a paragraph, realize I didn't include any jokes, and hastily try to sneak one in at the last-minute dog penis.
But, sometimes, classic movies were almost universally hated for what we now understand to be their best parts. Which just goes to show you: The whole of everything is stupid.
5Critics Thought The Empire Strikes Back Was Too Much Of A Bummer
Universally considered to be the best Star Wars film by people who know what they're talking about, The Empire Strikes Back is also notable for being the only VHS tape in my home that childhood-me was allowed to watch (the other two were Dirty Dancing and Staying Alive). By taking a darker tone and broadening the Star Wars wor- uh, galaxies, Episode 5 of the Star Wars sextology (a real word, people) cemented its franchise as the No. 1 thing that 8-year-old boys would scream at their mothers to buy them in Target for at least three more decades.
The Negative Reaction
When people first started reviewing The Empire Strikes Back, they weren't reviewing a follow-up to a sci-fi classic; they were reviewing a sequel to a successful summer action movie. And that's why the reviews tend to sound like a bunch of old folks trying to describe a video game. The New York Times reviewer said he didn't understand the plot and that the ending was too depressing. The Telegraph reviewer didn't care about the world and said that the dialogue -- which includes lines like "Do or do not. There is no try" and "I am your father" and "Never tell me the odds" -- was "dull."
These aren't the outliers, by the way -- the initial critical reception of The Empire Strikes Back was "mixed, lukewarm, and indifferent," largely because of how dark, slow, and brooding it was. Now if anyone can prove that Lucas actually read those reviews, then we know who to blame for the Ewoks.
"You want cheerful and kid-friendly? I'll give you cheerful and kid-friendly!"
4Horror Fans Hated The Thing For Not Being Like The Original
In The Thing, Kurt Russell plays a man-shaped slab of raw, uncut man meat who must mannishly do battle against the coolest monster effect in the history of the world. It's loosely based on an older film called The Thing From Another World, about a plant-like alien that reproduces through spores, but John Carpenter's remake ups the ante by making the alien a shape-shifting demon-monster that can imitate humans perfectly before transforming into any kind of horrific beast it wants.
Even a Wilford Brimley.
It's so cool, guys, like -- OK, so there's this one dope scene where they're trying to defibrillate this guy, but his chest turns into a giant shark's mouth and bites off the dude's arms, and the guy's all, "Argggh, my arms!" And then the first dude -- the one with a shark-mouth chest -- his head straight-up falls off and crawls away like a fucking demon spider. Do you want to watch this movie right now? Seriously, let's blow off the rest of the day and I'll come over and we'll just watch The Thing.
The Negative Reaction
Critics hated The Thing (legendary critic Roger Ebert called it a "barf-bag movie" and guy-whose-name-I-recognize Vincent Canby said it was a "moron movie," which is, jeez, rude), but that's to be expected. It's a gory creature flick; mainstream critics always hate those movies. What matters is what horror fans think, right?
The problem is that horror and sci-fi fans hated it too. Including the director of the original movie.
"Yeah, fuck you too!"
Turns out that people liked The Thing From Another World so much that they felt like turning it into a gory monster flick where a guy's face splits open and eats another man's head was sacrilegious. Meanwhile, because the movie bombed, the studio was pissed at Carpenter for being so stupid as to release a scary alien movie the same month that E.T. was seducing the box office with its charming story of a goofy alien visitor who dooms his host family to federal prison. Poor Johnny Carps was getting brutalized on both sides.
So, full disclosure, my brain can't actually process the information I just told you. I saw The Thing when I was so young that I think it technically qualifies as child abuse, so in my mind, those special effects are the benchmark against which all other creature scenes are judged. So what is the next generation of movie fans going to see as a classic? Will Transformers be seen as a CGI masterpiece? Is Star Trek Into Darkness a seminal entry in the pantheon of action movies that had the balls to not make any goddamn sense?