Simply having one or two underperforming movies does not make a director or franchise "Deader Than Disco." There needs to have been irreparable damage done to the director's career or franchise's popularity, be it through a tarnished reputation or an inability to adapt to changing cultural tastes.
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- Film itself actually came very close to becoming this in the late 1950s. Due to the rise in popularity of television, movie attendance took a major nosedive. Mostly they were relegated to poorer neighborhoods who couldn't afford television. Movie budgets were down, as were budgets for theatrical cartoons (which were slowly eliminated throughout the 1960s as a result of the decline in popularity of motion pictures). While there were still a decent amount of classic movies released around this time (The Apartment, Breakfast at Tiffany's, Goldfinger, etc.), the majority of movies being made were low-budget flicks offering little that wasn't already available on television. And it was no accident that movies were getting increasingly gimmicky and genre-driven around this time (historical epics, science fiction, horror) - a clear sign of things to come. It wasn't until the late 1960s that movies finally made a comeback with decreased censorship policies and the rise of the Summer Blockbuster, finally giving the average American a good reason to visit his/her local movie house again.
- Thanks to the Hollywood Hype Machine, Hollywood is littered with the dead careers of actors who were hyped up thanks to a memorable role or two, then quickly faded away once the Next Big Thing came along, forcing them to rely on their (rather meager, more often than not) acting talent to make it. Rinse, wash, and repeat with the next hot new star. The lines outside casting agencies are so long that actors, especially those who rely more on their looks than their talent, are basically expendable in terms of hype burnout. To list them all would take a separate page — and as a matter of fact, we have just that.
- This is also a common fate for many Former Child Stars and Teen Idols, specifically those who turn into trainwrecks later in life. A combination of Contractual Purity and an incredibly snarky tabloid media means that, when a young actor's career and personal life spiral out of control, they very quickly become joke fodder, with their past films and TV shows somewhat marred by knowledge of what happened to them afterward. Some can recover, however; Drew Barrymore is one of the more famous examples of someone escaping the "former child star" trap.
- The entire spoof film genre, thanks to the works of Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer. Although the genre was already on life support before themnote , and the "take a popular film and put a wacky spin on it" formula would likely have died out regardless as audience tastes moved toward more intellectual comedies during the 2000s, it's rare that a genre has been killed so spectacularly. While Seltzer and Friedberg's movies still make money, that's almost solely on account of how cheap they are. (And with the release of The Starving Games, which failed to make back a budget pitiful by even Seltzerberg standards, even that seems to be no longer the case.) Another death blow was almost certainly due to David Zucker - arguably the uncrowned king of the spoof film - becoming disenchanted with Hollywood escapism and making the sociopolitical diatribe An American Carol, which turned off many of his former fans.
- Film serials, newsreels and theatrical cartoon shorts were pretty much wiped out by the rise of television.
- Animation as a medium for serious filmmaking was this for many decades in the west, a situation which has only begun to change in the 1990s and onward. This is due predominantly to the dual killer-blow of The Hays Code and The Comics Code; before which animation was growing just as popular as live-action filmmaking. The efforts of the Moral Guardians effectively destroyed the American animation industry, and what little was left became inoffensive cartoons aimed at children. Europe retained a substantial animation industry producing features for more grown-up audiences; but little of that was exported to the United States, and what did get exported was typically relegated to the art-house scene. An attempt to break out of the Animation Age Ghetto began in the late 1960s, and received another boost in the 1980s, but like European films, never broke out of the art-house scene. It wasn't until Beauty and the Beast became the first animated film nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards in 1991 and the huge influx of Japanese animation in the late 1980s and 1990s that it began to be considered a serious medium again. Even now, though, its place outside children's media is a rocky one, especially with anime's slow decline in popularity in the west and the death of several prominent licensing companies.
- Oscar Bait movies in general seem prone to this trope, especially if a) they fail to win many awards, or b) they are believed to have "stolen" awards from more deserving films. If the former is the case, then they are typically forgotten by the next morning (has anyone even watched The Cider House Rules or Chocolat in the past five years?), while if it's the latter, then they often earn a massive hatedom from fans of the movie that is perceived as having been snubbed. While many of them are good movies in their own right, more often than not, they straddle the line between touchingly sentimental and maudlin narm. The fact that it's almost impossible for comedies or niche genres like sci-fi, horror, or fantasy to win Oscars only reinforces this. Specific examples can be found below.
- 3-D movies went through this trope twice, and seem to be heading for it for the third time. Each time, it seems to be for many of the same reasons.
- First: The anaglyph format was popularized in the early-mid '50s by the 1952 film Bwana Devil. Horror icon Vincent Price got great mileage out of 3-D, starring in many such films, earning him the nickname "King of 3-D". However, 3-D quickly gained a substantial hatedom for the rather uncomfortable viewing experience and it mostly being used in gimmicky B movies. This, along with the expensiveness of the process, killed it off until...
- Second: the mid-'60s through the early '80s, with the advent of the single-strip process. While lasting much longer, and having two "peaks" at either end of the period, it was killed by the very same gimmick films (like The Stewardesses and Comin' at Ya!) and uncomfortable viewing experience. For decades after, 3-D was relegated to IMAX documentaries and theme park attractions (where the experience was more comfortable to view), until...
- Third: the late '00s to today, when the RealD Cinema system became popular. A string of box office and critical hits such as Avatar, Coraline, and Up that made heavy use of 3-D imagery served as Killer Apps for the format. However, a combination of factors eventually wore on viewers: the over-saturation of films that were quickly converted into 3-D without a care in the world just to make a quick buck, a similar oversaturation of 3-D rereleases, the rather high price of admission compared to 2-D films, the fact that the eye strain problems still hadn't been fixed, and the fact that wearing 3-D glasses over prescription glasses can be a royal pain, especially given that most theaters don't offer special 3-D glasses for those cases.
Today, the only thing keeping the 3-D movie trend alive is their popularity in Asia and South America, where they continue to pack theaters. In the West, 3-D ticket sales have fallen off sharply, currently averaging only a third of most films' grosses as opposed to double that at its peak, and many people see them as the studios' way of grabbing more cash out of their wallets. Most studios have stopped reporting how much of their weekend grosses have come from 3-D screenings, while some films (such as Darren Aronofsky's Noah) are being released in 2-D only for Western markets.
- B movies on the big screen. Originally, a B-movie was the bottom half of a double feature, with the main feature as the "A-movie". In The Golden Age of Hollywood, studios, under the practice known as "block booking", could supply a steady stream of product to theaters with low-budget productions shoring up the big-budget ones. Big studios switched to making mostly A-movies in The Fifties after block booking was banned, but independents like American International Pictures picked up the slack to cater to the thriving drive-in market (where patrons would likely not be paying full attention to the screen) with original and imported productions. For many viewers, the "B" in B-movies came to mean "Bad" or "Low Budget", especially with the rise of the Exploitation Film, but not all were low-quality, careless productions. Many genres primarily existed in the world of producers like Roger Corman, Lloyd Kaufman, the team of Menahem Golan/Yoram Globus, and Godfrey Ho for decades: Sword And Sandal, Hong Kong Dub kung-fu, Spaghetti Western, a variety of horror sub-genres (giant menace, zombie, slasher, etc.), kaiju, blaxploitation and (from The Seventies onward) ripoffs of the emerging Summer Blockbuster genre's codifiers.
The big-screen B-movie died a slow death in The Eighties as drive-ins and urban "grindhouse" theaters were superseded by multiplexes, home video, and audiences' taste for big-budget Summer Blockbuster fare affected their willingness to tolerate lower production values. B-movies adjusted by moving into the booming Direct-to-Video market, and today, low-budget movies that make it to the big screen are usually classier fare. Many of the B-movie genres survive on the big screen, but as tongue-in-cheek homages (Quentin Tarantino) or Summer Blockbuster efforts with far higher production values and ambitions (Peter Jackson, Michael Bay, Joss Whedon).
- Pornographic theaters boomed in The Seventies largely on the basis of the films that they showed (which more mainstream theaters wouldn't touch), but once porn began migrating to home video in The Eighties, such theaters fell on hard times, frequented only by the most desperately horny and often turning into dens of vice. When New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani undertook his crackdown on Times Square's porn theaters in The Nineties, he likely received few complaints even from the porn-consuming public.
- The fact that his mayorship coincided with the rise of the internet probably helped. Speaking of which...
- The rise of the internet in The Nineties and especially the Turn of the Millennium did the same thing to the professional adult entertainment industry, which was heavily invested in home video. The glut of free porn online, combined with upstart studios and independent porn stars managing to establish wildly successful internet business models outside the existing porn industry, did lasting damage to many established companies and rendered obsolete the idea of going to specialty stores to buy porn. This created the ironic situation where, while Moral Guardians were bemoaning the internet's perceived role in the "pornification" of society, the actual makers of pornography were claiming that the internet made it impossible for them to make a living.
- Porn with Plot in the US. The '70s and the early '80s had seen the rise and fall of "porno chic", with the porn industry coming the closest it had ever been to the cultural mainstream, pushing boundaries with films that, at the very least, had pretensions towards artistry. Some of the more acclaimed films even made it into "mainstream" movie theaters; The Devil in Miss Jones was notably among the ten highest-grossing films of 1973. This era is nowadays often called the Golden Age of Porn, idealized in films like Boogie Nights. However, The Eighties saw the rise of a more conservative sexual morality that pushed pornography out of the mainstream, while a new generation of porn creators, realizing that most porn consumers were just watching for the sex, popularized "gonzo porn" that was heavy on sex and thin (at best) on plot. Nowadays, Porn with Plot is rarely made, and when it is, it's typically a porn parody of a mainstream work or an indie production that mixes artistic merit with explicit material to shock the audience.
- The kiddie matinee. Starting in The Sixties, many theaters gave weekend mornings and afternoons over to kiddie movies. Kids could be dropped off, their parents could enjoy some downtime, and theaters could make a tidy profit even with discounted children's prices. Well into The Seventies — owing to Disney being the only major studio paying attention to children by then — business boomed for independent companies via imports (Santa Claus 1959, European fairy tale adaptations, etc.) and low-budget original productions such as Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Some theaters ran summer movie clubs that offered different movies (and/or compilations of animated shorts) every day. Even major studios like Paramount and MGM provided packages of older films to this market.
But like other varieties of the B-Movie, the kiddie matinee was wounded by the rise of home video in The Eighties — why drop off the kids when Mom or Dad can pop in a tape? (An early Calvin and Hobbes strip had Mom insisting they get a VCR after suffering through a matinee with Calvin.) Meanwhile, the success of Star Wars, E.T., and the like with kids encouraged major studios to make more A-list films for families. Thus, the kind of films that would have been kiddie matinee fodder in the past go Direct-to-Video today. It doesn't help the kiddie matinee's reputation that the movies made specifically for the market usually fell into They Just Didn't Care territory, and are rarely revived now except as subjects for RiffTrax and the like.
- Theatrical reissues in general were destroyed by the rise of cable and home video. Well into The Eighties, major studios would bring particularly big hits back into movie theaters (Gone with the Wind, the original Star Wars trilogy, etc.) a few years after their initial releases for a victory lap of sorts. Most of the Disney Animated Canon was kept in constant theatrical rotation for decades, with films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs getting a fresh go-round every seven years or so (Snow White's 50th anniversary reissue in 1987 got more publicity and hype than a lot of new releases at the time).
But Disney knew when a trend was fading, and their reissues were slowly phased out in The Nineties in favor of getting the films on video, where they now follow a similar release and rerelease rotation. Reissues briefly had a new lease on life at the end of the decade with the Star Wars special edition cuts, but when follow-the-leader reissues of The Wizard of Oz, Grease, and ET The Extra Terrestrial were disappointments, the trend fizzled. While arthouse and revival theaters still host touring reissues of the kind of titles The Criterion Collection specializes in, mainstream wide-release reissues are dead.
- In a Cyclic Trope, the 3-D Movie revival in The New Tens was capitalized upon by several studios that dressed up old favorites with 3-D conversions. Initially it showed promise — the 2011 reissue of The Lion King was a surprise smash (it probably helped that it opened in September, one of the Dump Months, and had virtually no competition), and a 15th anniversary rerelease of Titanic (which also coincided with the centenary of the original disaster) did well a few months later. But Disney/Pixar's 2012 slate of converted reissues didn't live up to those; Beauty and the Beast and Finding Nemo underperformed and Monsters, Inc. outright bombed. The Phantom Menace arrived to a middling reception and Disney, once they gained ownership of the franchise, canceled plans to rerelease the whole Star Wars Saga to focus on making new films. The announcement that The Wizard of Oz (a film made in 1939) would be getting such a conversion in 2013 went over horribly with fans, and the 3-D rerelease of Top Gun opened to an anemic day one total of $533,000. Many point out that theatrical reissues, even in 3-D, make little sense when most homes own the movies in question on DVD. The single exception to this backlash was the 20th anniversary 3-D reissue of Jurassic Park in 2013.
- Second-run theaters were also killed by home video, especially after the gap between theatrical releases and home video releases began to shrink.
- With fewer and fewer films having theme songs in favor of filling up the soundtrack with as many hot artists of the moment as they can, and less radio airplay for such songs, the Best Original Song category at the Academy Awards has fallen into this in The New Tens. It would probably be abolished altogether if not for the persistence of the Movie Bonus Song and Award Bait Song tropes, and even those don't always fill out the maximum five nomination slots — the 2011 winner "Man or Muppet" beat out one other nominee.
- Likewise, the tie-in soundtrack album. Movie soundtracks and Breakaway Pop Hits had been a thing for decades, but they reached their peak in The Nineties, when nearly every Summer Blockbuster featured at least a few pop songs aimed at becoming hits and cross-promoting the movie on Top 40 radio and MTV. However, the trend died out in the early '00s thanks to both overuse (Cracked cites the Big Lipped Alligator Moment with Macy Gray in the first Spider-Man as the tipping point for audiences) and the decline of the record industry around the same time, and nowadays, many such songs are remembered as kitschy commercialism at best. The only film soundtrack albums that still do well today tend to be either soundtracks for musicals, where the music is the whole point of the film, or instrumental scores; beyond that, only the James Bond films still use pop songs as their theme tunes, largely out of tradition more than anything.
- In addition to launching the CG movie craze, Toy Story was also largely responsible for ending the "kid empowerment" movie trend of the early-mid '90s. After Home Alone, there was a glut of kids movies which either ripped off that movie (Mr. Nanny, Camp Nowhere, 3 Ninjas, etc.) or placed kids in absurdly powerful positions and situations (Cop and a Half, Richie Rich, Blank Check, Little Big League, Rookie of the Year, et cetera). When Toy Story, which featured a perfectly normal kid doing perfectly normal things, became a much bigger success (both critically and commercially) than any of those movies, the "kid empowerment" style was gradually phased out, and is nowadays largely remembered as snark fodder for nostalgia shows. Even Home Alone, despite its enormous success upon release, hasn't aged that well.
- Similar to television, the anthology movie (which has been around since the Golden Age) has become this due to rising budgets and modern audiences wanting more of their favorite actors on the screen. Recent attempts at doing anthologies (such as Cloud Atlas) have been box office failures and had mixed critical reception, though a few, such as Tokyo! and Paris, je'taime, did well on the arthouse circuit.
- Movies based on animated television shows used to come out on a fairly consistent basis. The Care Bears movies were fairly successful but other '80s TV adaptations didn't do very well. The underperformances of The Jetsons and DuckTales movies in the summer of 1990 likely prevented studios from greenlighting other movies based on then-popular TV cartoons.
Several years later, Paramount had success with Beavis and Butt-head, Rugrats, and South Park movies that all came out in a three-year period. Suddenly, it seemed every somewhat popular TV cartoon was getting a theatrical movie, some studios going so far to reformat movies originally meant to be direct-to-video to theatrical release. The only one that did very good business during this era was Pokemon The First Movie, while movies based on Hey Arnold!, The Wild Thornberrys, Recess, The Powerpuff Girls, Veggie Tales, Digimon, Doug and Teacher's Pet, among others, did more middling business or outright bombed. While The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie (which was greenlit at the height of this craze but not released until it had died down quite a bit) and The Simpsons Movie were both more successful, it doesn't seem to be enough to encourage studios to greenlight, say, a My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic or Adventure Time movie (the limited release of My Little Pony Equestria Girls notwithstanding), and the Phineas and Ferb movie is stuck in Development Hell.
- The "'70s and '80s action heroes" revival that started around 2010. During the 2000s, R-rated action movies were overshadowed by the success of PG-13 blockbusters like Transformers, meaning a modern R-rated action movie only came to the big screen once in a while. The period even saw former R-rated franchises getting PG-13 installments to fit contemporary trends, for instance Terminator Salvation and Live Free or Die Hard. However, this seemingly changed in the late 2000s, when Sylvester Stallone enjoyed a Career Resurrection on the strength of Rocky Balboa, Rambo, and especially The Expendables, the latter two of which were decidedly old-school action movies. Action fans fought hard for people to see The Expendables over Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (which was released around the same time), and with huge success, as The Expendables outgrossed Scott Pilgrim vs. the World at the box office by a considerable amount. Because of the success of The Expendables, more R rated action movies were green-lit, including a sequel.
This turned out to be a short-sighted decision. In 2013, Escape Plan, Bullet To The Head, A Good Day to Die Hard, and The Last Stand (all films that were greenlit because of the success of The Expendables) were released with disappointing box office results, putting an end to this revival. Many suggested that the only reason why The Expendables was a hit was because of its All-Star Cast featuring not just Stallone, but most of the big action heroes of the '80s. Furthermore, while The Expendables 2 was a decent box office performer, the just released The Expendables 3 has opened to poor reviews and indifferent box office returns, so it's very possible even this franchise may be on its last legs.
- The teen sex comedy and its close cousin, the college frat comedy. Films about sex-obsessed teenagers and drunken college students became fashionable in the late 1970s starting with Animal Housenote , and the genre was solidified with Porky's, Revenge of the Nerds, and Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Though they were despised by criticsnote , audiences loved their gross-out and slapstick humor. They pretty much died out by the late '80s, due to a combination of low-quality ripoffs, the HIV epidemic making promiscuous sex look a lot less appealing, teenagers growing up and realizing that college wasn't High School Part 2, and the rise in more thoughtful teen-oriented movies such as The Breakfast Club and Say Anything, many of which were helmed or inspired by John Hughes.
The teen sex comedy made a brief comeback in the late '90s and early 2000s with films like American Pie, Van Wilder, and Road Trip. However, this revival gradually ended in the mid-late '00s thanks to the films of Judd Apatow, whose sex comedies were aimed at both teenagers and adults, and often focused on working adults as the protagonists (teens, if at all present, were usually just relegated to supporting roles). The genre was finished off by Apatow's Superbad in 2007, which gave a relatively glamourless depiction of teen partying and a cynical deconstruction of the Hormone-Addled Teenager; the movie made no bones about depicting its two leads' obsession with sex as weird and pathetic. Films in the genre that have come out since (such as Project X and 21 & Over) have mostly met lukewarm receptions from both critics and viewers, and today, the tropes of such films are often seen as sexist, promoting poor stereotypes of both women (as bimbos who exist only for the protagonists' pleasure) and men (as hormonal simpletons who think with their dicks).
- The "John Hughes-style" teen movie itself suffered a backlash in The Nineties, as Heathers' deconstruction of many of the tropes associated with those films made it harder to take their messages and characters seriously as representative of actual teenagers. Like the teen sex comedy, "lighter" teen comedies made a comeback in the mid '90s, starting with Clueless (a reconstruction of the genre) and continuing with films like She's All That, Can't Hardly Wait, Bring It On, Never Been Kissed, Drive Me Crazy, Get Over It, Whatever It Takes, and 10 Things I Hate About You.
Not Another Teen Movie in 2001 and Mean Girls in 2004 were arguably the Genre Killers, with the former viciously parodying the tropes of the genre (as well as those of teen sex comedies) and the latter raising the bar by tackling a slew of real-life youth issues in a way that made a lot of earlier films look uncomfortable in hindsight. While the better films from both periods are still remembered as classics, many of the other efforts, while successful in their day, are now looked back on as saccharine and unrealistic, remembered solely for '80s/'90s nostalgia.
- And the third "teen" genre of the late 20th century that went over this hill twice (and roughly followed the same peaks and troughs): the teen horror movie. While there were antecedents like Carrie, it was in The Eighties when slasher movies like Friday the 13th, A Nightmare on Elm Street, and their many copycats popularized the soon-to-be-timeworn tale of teenagers/young adults going into the dark woods or that creepy house just outside of town to get laid, get high, and get killed. Eventually, that tale came to be a bit too worn, and the teen slasher boom burned out by around 1990 and the horror genre in general fell into a Dork Age in the first half of the '90s.
The Scream trilogy in the mid-late '90s helped to revive both the teen horror film and the slasher movie by reconstructing the latter, spawning copycat films like I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Faculty, The Rage: Carrie 2, and Valentine. However, this short-lived boom was brought to a screeching halt on April 20, 1999 by the Columbine High School massacre, which made movies about teens in peril a lot more uncomfortable for both Moral Guardians and for their target audience. Most of the movies in the genre that came out after Columbine were already well into production by then, and most of them suffered from either heavy censorship, disappointing box office returns, or both. It didn't help when, about one year later, the genre was mercilessly parodied by Scary Movie. While the horror genre in general survived, relatively few horror films (outside the odd remake) have been explicitly oriented towards teenagers, with adult protagonists becoming the norm in the genre to this day.
- Bullet Time was both popularized and killed by The Matrix. While the technique has roots going back to the 19th century, it was with The Matrix when many people were first truly wowed by it. Unfortunately, thanks to The Matrix, bullet time was (often poorly) imitated and overused by pretty much every action movie in the early '00s, causing audiences to grow sick of it. Nowadays, as noted by Cracked, bullet time has become a Dead Horse Trope that's seen as a gimmick. The fact that The Matrix itself has also lost its luster over the years (see below) hasn't helped.
- Overtures, Intermissions, and Entr'acte in films. These use to be common in long running films prior to The Eighties. They were especially prevalent in big budget, epic films or films based on musicals (e.g. Doctor Zhivago, Spartacus, 2001:A Space Odyssey, West Side Story, Star Trek: The Motion Picture). At the start of showtime, before the opening title card, there would generally be a blank screen (or sometimes mood setting artwork) over which played a pivotal song (sometimes a medley) from the movie. This was a mood setting device that was borrowed from opera; appropriate as it gave the impression that these films were big events (this practice was not wasted on B or C grade films and A list movies that used this practice normally omitted any pre-feature material such as cartoons, newsreels, or trailers.). Intermissions, of course were provided due to the length of many older films. These were normally left out of TV and home video releases of the movies but DVD editions often include them. The disappearance of this practice can be attributed to several reasons, one of them most likely the increase of advertising and lengthy trailers prior to the start of the main feature have already greatly increased the showtime length by as much as 25 minutes. The actual film itself, is still shorter than the many epic films produced in the past, some of which ran three hours or more. Also, overtures often suggest a slow paced film. Considering the length of time which trailers and ads delay the feature presentation, filmmakers, not wishing to test the audiences' patience prefer to jump right into the story without delay.
- American remakes of Japanese and Korean horror films were very popular after 2002's The Ring, but 2008's One Missed Call was the last in a string of critical and commercial bombs that killed the trend.
- The all-star, cast-of-thousands war movie subgenre is almost completely dead. After The Longest Day proved a huge success in 1962, studios eagerly turned seemingly every WWII battle into an Epic Film. Problem is that audience interest waned through the '70s, with movies like Tora! Tora! Tora! and A Bridge Too Far becoming expensive bombs. Arguably the Genre-Killer was Inchon, a notoriously-terrible Vanity Project bankrolled by the Unification Church. Since the '80s, most war movies are variants on the "unit picture" format, focusing on front line soldiers rather than higher-ranking officers. Occasionally the old format makes a reappearance (eg. Gettysburg, Black Hawk Down) but these are definite aberrations.
- The Western genre was wildly popular in the early days of American cinema — for many reasons, not least of which was that they were superbly cheap and easy to film (who needs a complex studio setting when you can ride your crew to the Mojave Desert and hire some local ranchers as extras?). The genre reached its apex in The Fifties, when Westerns were a near-ubiquitous staple of both film and television. But Westerns have been running on fumes since the early '70s. The sheer number of parodies and deconstructions in the 70's was a big factor; along with shifting cultural norms (especially towards race and increasingly Gray and Grey Morality), the typical Western story of settling the frontier no longer appealed to moviegoers. Audience shifts towards contemporary action movies, and eventually big-budget blockbusters, further killed the genre.
Hollywood periodically tries to revive the Western, with limited success. The early '90s saw a brief revival with Dances with Wolves and Unforgiven winning Best Picture, and Young Guns and Tombstone proving box office hits. For whatever reason, this trend quickly petered out. Recent years have seen successful Westerns like True Grit and Django Unchained, but the colossal failure of Disney's The Lone Ranger again leaves the genre's future in serious doubt. Westerns have done better on the small screen, with shows like Deadwood and Hell on Wheels proving popular, but Western feature films remain a gamble for studios.
Specific examples — Films
- Airport was a blockbuster in its day. With a box-office intake of $100 million (about $600 million when adjusted for inflation), it was the second highest-grossing film of 1970, and the highest-grossing film Universal had made since Spartacus. Unlike most blockbusters, it was also a critical hit, being nominated for ten Academy Awards, including Best Picture (though it only won Best Supporting Actress). It spawned three sequels and enough imitators (with varying success) to kick-start an entire genre, the Disaster Movie. Even in its day, though, it got knocked for being cheesy and melodramatic, and when Airplane came out, it pretty much made Airport impossible to take seriously ever again... which is kind of crucial for a disaster film. While later '70s disaster films like The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure, and Earthquake are still regarded as classics of '70s Hollywood, Airport's stature has declined considerably, remembered only for its historical significance and for being "that campy '70s flick that Airplane! made fun of."
- Upon its release in 1999, American Beauty was widely acclaimed as one of the finest achievements in American cinema, quickly shooting to the top of the IMDb list and sweeping the Oscars. Ten years later, while it's still ranked high on IMDB's top movie list, it appears to have been largely forgotten. This is mainly due to a mix of Hype Backlash, a long list of films that ripped off its suburban angst plot, and the fact that many of the once-taboo subjects that it touched upon (such as repressed homosexuality) have become passť.
- It probably hasn't helped that Beauty came out the same year as several similar (thematically, if not stylistically) middle-class angst flicks like Eyes Wide Shut, Fight Club, and Magnolia. Despite its virtues, Beauty is very much of its (pre-9/11, pre-recession) time. The Nostalgia Critic discussed this in his evaluation of the film, arguing that the same factors that made it such a big hit in 1999 were also the reason why it became so dated afterwards — it captured the culture of late '90s American suburbia so perfectly that everybody at the time could identify with it, but as time passed, it became more difficult to connect with those same circumstances if you didn't live through them yourself.
- The Andy Hardy film series is an example from The Golden Age of Hollywood. From 1937 to 1942, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer produced 13 films of the series that were all enormously popular. They made a star out of Mickey Rooney, who was the biggest box office draw in the world for a time. They had broad appeal for the entire family, kids identifying with the exuberant Andy while the parents identified with the older, wiser Judge Hardy. Andy's temporary love interests for each film were promising young starlets, many of whom would become major stars in their own right thanks in part to their exposure in these films. They were even critically acclaimed at the time, winning a special Academy Award for "representing America", which might be the only time an Oscar ever went to an entire film series.
Rooney took a break from the series in 1943 to work on other projects, made one final film in 1944, then went off to fight in World War II. Trouble began when he returned to make another Hardy film in 1946 after the war. It fizzled. In 1958, an attempt was made to revive the series with Andy as the head of his own family. The film bombed, viewed as too squeaky clean, conformist and old-fashioned even by the famously buttoned-up cultural standards of the '50s. As critics looked back on The Golden Age of Hollywood, they would find ways to appreciate many other films of that period, but the Andy Hardy films only received scorn and contempt due to a combination of Values Dissonance, their Totally Radical slang that made "totally radical" sound fresh and cool, and Rooney's ridiculous mugging.note These were some of the most popular films from the most popular studio of the most popular period of film history, when more people regularly went to the movies than at any time before or since. Today, they're forgotten or derided even by many Golden Age enthusiasts. Only seven of the 16 films were ever made available on VHS, and until 2012 only four were on DVD — one of them because it fell into the Public Domain due to MGM forgetting to renew its copyright, and the other three because they're the only three films of the series to co-star Judy Garland in a recurring role. Over 2012-13, Warner Home Video brought out all 16 films in two box sets via its Warner Archive DVD-R on demand service, but it's telling that they didn't do a mass-market release.
- The Austin Powers movies have fallen into this. Insanely popular during the turn of the millennium, they were easily some of the most watched, quoted, and referenced movies of the time. However, since the release of the third movie, they've fallen out of favor hard. Thanks to the endless repetition of the movie's funniest lines, they stopped being funny fast. Add to that other factors, such as Seinfeld Is Unfunny (the movies took Overly Long Gag, beat it to death, then resurrected it to beat it some more, with diminishing returns), Mike Myers taking several hits to his reputation, and later spy movies (which these were an Affectionate Parody of) such as the Bourne saga and the Daniel Craig era Bond taking a more grounded and realistic approach that makes the exaggerated campiness simply not work. Occasionally, one of the movies will show up on cable (most often Goldmember, which is more likely to capitalize on Beyonce's popularity than anything,) but that's about it.
- The Billy Jack films. Billy, played by Tom Laughlin (who also directed all of the films and co-wrote all but the first), was a half-Native American Vietnam veteran who stood up to bikers, rednecks, corrupt authorities, etc. with martial arts moves when talking them down from bullying Native Americans, hippies, and youth in general didn't work. Billy Jack first appeared in the 1967 American International Pictures B-movie The Born Losers, but it was 1971's Billy Jack that became a massive mainstream hit via Laughlin's own marketing efforts. 1974's three-hour-long The Trial of Billy Jack was another hit, so much so that Laughlin organized an essay contest in which fans wrote rebuttals to the terrible reviews it got from critics!
But things fell apart fast. Laughlin tackled similar themes in a period Western setting with The Master Gunfighter in 1975, but it bombed, and a return to the series that made his name with 1977's Billy Jack Goes to Washington (yes, a remake of Mr. Smith Goes to Washington) didn't even make it to theaters. Since they were never critical favorites and quickly became unintentional period pieces for The Seventies, thanks largely to their heavy-handed socio-political commentary, they are mostly forgotten now. From The Eighties until his death in 2013, Laughlin (when not trying his hand at actual politics) tried to bring back the character in a new movie, with no success.
- The Birth of a Nation was the first Epic Movie, the film that proved cinema to be a viable entertainment medium rather than a passing fad, and the pioneer of countless filmmaking techniques. Modern-day film scholars and critics are still more than willing to acknowledge this part of its legacy. However, to say that the film's writing and story has not aged well... well, there's a reason why it's only watched today by film students (for the technical/historical aspects) and by people studying the history of racism. A big, white-hooded, cross-burning reason.
- When it opened in 2008, Cloverfield was considered by many as the future of sci-fi cinema and had an insane level of hype on the level of any summer tentpole. Nowadays, Hype Backlash of both the film and its producer J. J. Abrams, along with the rise of sci-fi tentpoles with wider appeal and more crowd-pleasing premises, led people to basically see it as nothing more than another monster movie with unlikable characters. Meanwhile, later Kaiju movies such as Pacific Rim and Godzilla (2014) made the bare-bones approach of Cloverfield seem uninteresting. (However, it did wonders for the careers of director Matt Reeves and writer Drew Goddard, who have continued to do well in spite of the film's declining impact.)
- Dances with Wolves has gone from being a well-regarded Kevin Costner drama to "that film that robbed Goodfellas of the Best Picture Oscar."
- Thanks to extreme Hype Backlash, The English Patient, a movie that won nine Academy Awards in 1996, is predominantly remembered today as the movie that Elaine bitched about on Seinfeld and that Yes Dear described as being a great movie "to put us to sleep." A large amount of this can be attributed to its overshadowing of Fargo, widely seen as the Magnum Opus of The Coen Brothers and declared by esteemed film critics Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert to be the best film of 1996. Yeowch.
- When it was first released in 2004, Garden State was hyped as the future of independent film and Zach Braff was thought to be a breakout star in the making. Cut to the present day, where its constant imitations, mockery of what was perceived as the film's hipster tendencies (most notably the infamous "The Shins will change your life" scene), and the decline of Braff's careernote have basically turned the film into a joke. In fact, one could say that, in the long run, this film and its copycats did more harm than good for independent film, causing the term "indie" to be associated with insufferable hipster stereotypes for years.
- When it was released, The Hangover was a huge success, particularly on the DVD market. You couldn't go anywhere without the movie being quoted at least once, and after its release there have been many movies released that have tried to copy The Hangover's formula (Bridesmaids, 21 & Over). However, the sequel was released with mixed results. Whilst a box office hit, it was heavily criticized for being a retread of the first film except it was set in Bangkok instead of Las Vegas, and also became controversial for an infamous joke involving a transgender prostitute. The third film was a Franchise Killer that, while still a hit at the box office, didn't come close to its predecessors' success and received an even worse critical reception.
- One of the most famous examples of the aforementioned "Award Snub backlash": How Green Was My Valley. While hardly one of John Ford's best movies, it still maintains a good reputation among film geeks, and it was good enough to win Best Picture in 1942. The problem? Also up for Best Picture in 1942 were Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon, both widely regarded as among the greatest films ever made. As a result, Valley is best known today as "that movie that won Best Picture over Citizen Kane and The Maltese Falcon". Talk about your Hype Backlash!
- The Last Picture Show was widely compared to Citizen Kane in its day. Today, it's remembered mainly for Cybill Shepherd's nude scenes.
- Roberto Benigni's Life Is Beautiful. Upon release in 1998, it received warmly positive reviews (still holding an 80% Rotten Tomatoes rating), became one of the highest-grossing foreign language movies ever, and won the Grand Prix at Cannes and several Oscars, including Best Foreign Language Film and Best Actor. Today it's rarely mentioned except to be criticized as either sickeningly sweet or an inappropriately comic treatment of the Holocaust, frequently turning up on lists of all-time worst Best Picture nominees.
- Another problem: This was another Miramax release/awards campaign in the year of Shakespeare in Love and their work was similarly aggressive, focusing on Benigni's goofy, broken-English publicity appearances — and from there, acceptance speeches. They became so well-known in showbusiness circles that when Ray Romano hosted Saturday Night Live in early 1999, they built a whole sketch around Benigni-being-wacky weeks before much of the rest of the U.S. was introduced to him via the Academy Awards ceremony. His antics there were so absurd that they became fodder for other comics (late night talk shows, etc.) and probably contributed as much, if not more, to the backlash than any shortcomings of the film itself did. His next film, 2002's Pinocchio (in which he played the lead!) completely flopped in North America, and since then his career has attracted little interest beyond his native Italy, where he remains popular.
- Further backlash arose due to Benigni's Best Actor win, which is now seen as one of the ultimate examples of an Award Snub, as he got his nomination over Jim Carrey's breakthrough dramatic work in The Truman Show (a film that has aged much better than Life is Beautiful due to its social commentary on the public's obsession with celebrity and reality TV), and he beat out other acclaimed actors who are still Oscar-less, like Ian McKellen for Gods And Monsters and Edward Norton for American History X.
- The Matrix, when released in 1999, took everyone by surprise and the world by storm. Many Western audiences were amazed by its dark Cyber Punk world inspired by anime such as Ghost in the Shell, critics loved its philosophical discussions about the nature of reality and free will, and everybody was stunned by its amazing special effects and action scenes inspired by Hong Kong action cinema. In particular, the Bullet Time effects of the film became amazingly popular, and the film actually went on to beat Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace for the best visual effects Oscar (the first time that a Star Wars film had not won the award). Two sequels were immediately greenlit, and soon there was a whole franchise composed of comics, video games, and specially made anime.
Unfortunately, problems very quickly began to emerge for the prospects of a long-running franchise like Star Wars or Star Trek. The first sequel, The Matrix Reloaded, was a box office smash but polarized critics and audiences, with many finding the philosophy in it to be pretentious, overwrought, and confusing, the action scenes overly long and suffering from too much Conspicuous CG, and too many scenes to be superfluous distractions. Then came Enter the Matrix, a game billed as an interquel between the two sequels, which was rushed to meet its release date — and it showed. Then at last came the second sequel, The Matrix Revolutions, which took all the problems people had with Reloaded and magnified them. It not only failed to answer the many questions raised at the end of Reloaded (especially the Mind Screw ending), it also raised several new ones, culminating in a Gainax Ending that fans to this day still debate and argue over. Revolutions was panned by audiences and critics alike, and while not a flop, did not make near the same amount as Reloaded. Between the sequels' and video game's failures, the franchise's innovative effects getting parodied and/or copied to hell and back by every other action film released during the early-mid '00s, and the films' visual style growing extremely dated, the franchise is now remembered solely as a relic of the turn of the 21st century.
- It probably doesn't help that one of the series' most famous metaphors, the "red pill/blue pill" scene, has since grown almost irrevocably associated with a particularly noxious brand of far-right activism on the internet. (The irony here is that one of the film's directors, Lana Wachowski, is transgender, though she still identified as male when the films were made.)
- Reality Bites, like American Beauty, is another movie that ultimately fell victim to changing societal norms. Upon release, this was seen as a definitive Generation-X movie, detailing the angst and disenfranchisement many Gen-X'ers were facing in the early 1990s. Unfortunately, as with American Beauty, a lot of the touchy subjects the film dabbled in (homophobic parents, etc.) have become old hat, while Gen-X rebellion itself has become a largely forgotten phenomenon thanks to the Nostalgia Filter rendering the Bill Clinton years as one of the most calm and prosperous eras in recent history — making the characters seem unintentionally whiny and selfish to modern eyes. The movie is now remembered (if at all) as a prime symbol of the aimlessness and self-absorption of youth culture in the early-mid '90s.
- Shakespeare in Love in 1998 suffered much the same fate as The English Patient two years earlier. Quite a good movie on its own, and very successful and popular at the time, but today remembered not just as the film that "stole" Best Picture that year from Saving Private Ryan, but for the aggressive campaign that Miramax ran to get the film that award, which, to many, was indicative of studio politics guiding Oscar decisions.
- The popularity of Shrek in the early '00s was due to it being a fresh alternative to the animated films that were being released at the time, with its smartassed toilet humor, pop culture jokes and celebrity voice casting being incredibly fresh compared to the "animated musical" format of Renaissance-era Disney. However, DreamWorks Animation went on to recycle the Shrek formula for several years, and every animation studio that wasn't Pixar started copying it; by the time Shrek the Third came out in 2007 the gimmick had long worn out its welcome.
In 2008 they released Kung Fu Panda, which ushered in a new era of DreamWorks animated films, featuring less reliance on pop culture jokes and more emphasis on story and characters — complete with tones and themes inspired by the very studio that Shrek was making fun of in the first place. While the popularity of the Renaissance-era Disney films has grown since the early part of the decade (thanks in part to films like 2009's The Princess and the Frog and 2010's Tangled taking their style directly from the era), and the Shrek film series still has a following (or, at least, the first two films in the series do), the "Shrek genre" of films is all but dead.
- Perhaps the biggest example of Dreamworks switch of focus was symbolized with the release of Puss in Boots, itself a spinoff of the Shrek series, which put more emphasis on High Fantasy Adventure than anything else.
- At least two Star Trek films have had this happen to them:
- When it was first released in 1998, Star Trek: Insurrection, the ninth Star Trek film, had pretty positive reviews, with some reviewers even saying that it broke the Star Trek Movie Curse (even-numbered movies good, odd-numbered bad). But as time passed, with more viewers agreeing with the villains, and the whole Trek franchise gradually grinding to a standstill by the mid-2000s, it's now regarded as one of the weakest Trek films.
- At the time it was released, many regarded Star Trek: Nemesis as an okayish film that had the bad luck to be released in perhaps the busiest holiday season of the modern era, being the only Trek movie to not turn a profit. Nowadays it tends to be considered the worst Star Trek film, or at least in a three-way tie with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier and Star Trek: Insurrection for that dishonor, since its financial failure led Paramount to reboot the franchise.
Specific examples — Filmmakers
- Fatty Arbuckle was a pioneering silent film comedian and one of Hollywood's first "movie stars", with studio contracts that were unprecedented at the time. His films had a major hand in shaping the development of comedy as a cinematic genre. However, all of that came crashing down in 1921 in the midst of a highly sensationalized murder case that saw Arbuckle accused of raping and murdering a young actress at a party. While he was acquitted, and most historians believe that he didn't do it, he was bankrupted by the legal fees and spent the 1920s toiling in obscurity under a pseudonym, effectively blacklisted from Hollywood and with most of the public convinced that he was a killer. He made an attempted comeback in the early '30s, only to die suddenly (at a party, no less) in 1933. When he is remembered today, it's usually for the scandal, with most of his work having faded into obscurity outside of historical interest in the early years of film comedy.
- Diablo Cody was once hailed as one of Hollywood's hot, fresh new creative voices, with her script for Juno winning the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay in 2007. Then her follow-up, the 2009 horror-comedy Jennifer's Body, bombed, and many began to dismiss Cody as a one-trick pony overly reliant on Totally Radical dialogue. Now, even Juno has gone from critically acclaimed to polarizing among critics and film geeks, largely due to Cody's writing — the very thing that it was once praised for.
- Mel Gibson went from beloved heartthrob to despised joke punchline upon the revelation of his antisemitism and Jerkass treatment of his girlfriend.
- Harold Lloyd was one of the biggest stars of the Silent Age of Hollywood. During the '20s, he controlled most of his own productions and thrilled audiences with both his comedy and his elaborate stunts, which he did all by himself. He made more money than even Charlie Chaplin at his peak, and used it to build the Greenacres estate that helped set a standard for celebrity mansions in the Hollywood Hills. However, his career lost steam in the talkie era, forcing him into retirement by the end of the '30s. Furthermore, his refusal to reissue his films commerciallynote , in theatres or on TV, prevented later audiences from being able to watch them and become fans, while Chaplin's works entered the Public Domain and his contemporary Buster Keaton made a comeback on television in the late '40s. Today, while Chaplin and Keaton are icons, the only film of Lloyd's that is still well-remembered is Safety Last! (chiefly for his famous clock stunt), the rest of his career having faded into obscurity outside of "a nice DVD set that you can buy, at least, finally."
- While not quite as big as Jim Carrey or Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler had a massive cult following stemming from his work on Saturday Night Live and, later, his own movies during the '90s and early-mid '00s. The majority of his earlier movies (Billy Madison, Happy Gilmore, The Wedding Singer, The Waterboy) were regularly quoted by a whole generation of teens and college kids, and despite never being accepted by critics, many people hailed him as one of the funniest comedians of that era. However, thanks to a long string of films in the late '00s and early '10s that met increasingly scathing receptions and, eventually, diminishing returns at the box office, Sandler's entire career post-SNL has received massive Hype Backlash, to the point where some began to rank him in the same category as Seltzer and Friedberg. Today, with the exception of his small number of more dramatic turns (like Punch Drunk Love, Reign Over Me, and Funny People) that even critics tend to like, many people are afraid to admit they'd ever liked his movies; even being a fan of his '90s films is now often a point of shame.
- Larry Semon. One of the most popular and highest paid comedians of the Silent Age of Hollywood (at one point second only to Charlie Chaplin), he quickly fell out of favor with audiences and is almost completely forgotten today, even by cinema buffs. Not only did he die before the end of the silent era, but most of his films were short subjects, a genre that fared poorly as feature films took over during The Golden Age. Furthermore, while the average Semon film had very high production values and lots of spectacle, they were often Strictly Formula affairs that were thin on plot and characters, and producers were often frustrated by his extravagance (a two-reel Semon short could cost as much as a five-reel feature). If he's remembered at all, it's for his In Name Only silent adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz or his work with Laurel and Hardy, both of whom acted in supporting roles in his films before hitting it big as a comedy duo.
- After The Sixth Sense was a smash hit, M. Night Shyamalan became one of the hottest filmmakers in Hollywood virtually overnight. Then he followed it up with Unbreakable and Signs, and before long, he was being seriously compared◊ to Steven Spielberg and Alfred Hitchcock. However, after a series of follow-ups (The Village, Lady in the Water, The Happening) that ranged from disappointing at best to just plain bad at worst, Shyamalan became a joke, viewed as having gotten lucky with his early films and having no tricks up his sleeve outside of twist endings. Eventually, trailers for his films were provoking laughter and jeers from moviegoers simply because his name was attached to them. Nowadays, he works as a journeyman director on blockbusters like The Last Airbender and After Earth (both of which were duds), his days as a respected auteur long in the past.
- Nowhere is this more evident than with the reversal in popular opinion towards Unbreakable and Signs. When Unbreakable was first released, it was considered to be a Sophomore Slump for Shyamalan, while Signs was considered a return to form and a worthy follow-up to The Sixth Sense, and was just as successful as that film. Nowadays, with the rise of superhero movies making it more relevant, more than a few critics have reevaluated Unbreakable and declared it to be Shyamalan's second-best film, while Signs, despite still being regarded as a decent horror film, is now considered to be the point where Shyamalan's career first began to jump the shark.
- Kevin Smith and his View Askewniverse films played a large role in both the explosion of independent cinema in the mid-late '90s and the popularization of geek culture during that same time period. However, as that culture evolved and became mainstream in the '00s (with sci-fi and superhero movies becoming Hollywood tentpoles), and as Smith's attempts to make films outside the Askewniverse were met with mixed receptions at best, he came to be seen as representing the sort of stereotype that more modern geeks were trying to leave behind (the hardcore, purist, almost hipster-esque fanboy who had been following the material long before its mainstream popularity, and complains about any and all changes to it). The fact that his movies were not only copied ad nauseum, but became almost a template for youth-oriented indie films afterwards, also causes them to suffer from Seinfeld Is Unfunny syndrome nowadays, while the decline of the comic book industry (even if the movies are doing better than ever) has similarly dated the films.
- The Trope Namer gets a reference in Airplane, where a radio announcer triumphantly proclaims that WZAZ is "where disco lives forever!" just before the plane knocks down its rooftop transmitting antenna. (This film came out in 1980, so the joke was extremely timely.)