Follow TV Tropes

Please don't list this on a work's page as a trope.
Examples can go on the work's YMMV tab.


And You Thought It Would Fail

Go To

"If I had a penny for every time someone said making a Marvel movie with a talking raccoon was dumb and that Guardians was going to bomb, I'd probably have just about the amount of money Guardians has made so far."
James Gunn on the expectations for Guardians of the Galaxy

There are two ways the It Will Never Catch On trope could play out: it actually doesn't, or this. A work of literature, film or television — just getting started, purely original (if there is such a thing), unaffiliated with any previous book, movie or TV show, or if it is an adaptation, the work is relatively obscure — has little hope of standing out among the established goldmines of franchises. Critics mock it. The public isn't expecting it. It gets even worse if things go awry on its production. Then, when released, it pulls a megaprofit stunt and becomes an instant classic. Contrast with Vindicated by History, where a work initially fails but then gradually builds a very high reputation.


Subtrope of Sleeper Hit; in this case, the work must be actively derided before release, not just ignored. Compare It Will Never Catch On. See also Magnum Opus Dissonance when it's the creator who doesn't expect the work to succeed. It can also be combined with Hollywood Hype Machine, if the contrast between expectations and popularity is too great, and some of the audience turns to the initial fears as still meaningful.



    open/close all folders 

  • Hal Johnson, an African-Canadian athlete turned TV journalist, tired of the racist mistreatment he was enduring on The Sports Network among other Canadian broadcasters, proposed the Body Break series of TV fitness and nutrition informational spots with himself and his white wife, Joanne McLeod. TSN turned it down flat, claiming that the Canadian public would not accept a mixed-race couple on TV. Johnson and McLeod approached the Federal government funded fitness promotion organization, ParticapACTION, and they agreed to fund the series. Body Break would become a mainstay of Canadian TV for decades, and when Johnson came forward in 2020 about the story of the series' creation, TSN posted an official apology for how they mistreated him.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Assassination Classroom hinges on kids learning how to kill their teacher with guns, which given the history of school shootings in America, didn't seem it would fly high. That fact is why it took so long to avert No Export for You. However, once it finally did, it's been a fixture on the New York Time's bestseller lists, so it's safe to say it's done well despite all the fears.
  • Masayuki Ozaki, the executive producer of Tiger & Bunny, stated that just about no one expected the series to be successful (namely because of the belief that nobody would want to watch a superhero anime with a middle-aged single father as its primary protagonist), much less become the instant Cash Cow Franchise it is now.
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion was basically a last-ditch attempt by Studio Gainax to stay afloat, and was not expected to turn out extremely well. An Urban Legend even claims that investors were hoping for a Springtime for Hitler situation.
  • Before the English release of SHUFFLE!, anime based on eroge with the porn removed from the adaptation were not commonly licensed, with rumors flying around that Moral Guardians would throw a fit if they ended up on store shelves. When FUNimation licensed the series, nearly every blog and forum was raising its collective eyebrows and wondering why the distributor obviously hated making money. The first volume of SHUFFLE! came out and sold tons of copies, and FUNi decided to give the final volume a special edition art box release (which had been common a few years earlier, but in the wake of Geneon's fall, not so much) if the second volume sold as well. It did. Now you can't walk into a video store without tripping over eroge adaptations, whether or not they actually have a plot.
  • Code Geass was the very definition of Troubled Production thanks to this trope. Director/co-creator Goro Taniguchi asked for a 50-episode series, but Bandai Namco only gave him 25, for reasons that remain unclearnote . Even then, the staff had limited resources and had to piggy-back off of other Bandai shows in production at the time. When the show took off and became the Next Big Thing, Bandai was quick to embrace it, though unlike Yoshiyuki Tomino and Gundam, Taniguchi and fellow co-creator Ichiro Okouchi were smart enough to hold onto the rights.
  • The first Attack on Titan manuscript was sent to Shueisha to publish in Weekly Shonen Jump, who said it was good, but not good enough for Jump, and rejected it. The author then sent it to rival Kodansha, who published it in their monthly Bessatsu Shounen Magazine. Considering what trope page this is, it goes without saying it became a Sleeper Hit, growing in popularity to surpass famous long-runners like Bleach.
  • Ask any voice actor of any anime that was successful in the US. None of them expected the shows they were working on to be anything more than weird little projects with quick paychecks. This goes all the way back to Speed Racer, later Robotech, and continued with Ranma ½, Tenchi Muyo!, Sailor Moon, Dragon Ball Z, Pokémon, Cowboy Bebop, and others. The Pokemon voice actors didn't expect to work more than 26 episodes, let alone hundreds, for their show to be parodied on South Park and The Simpsons, and continue to have a lasting fanbase twenty years later.
  • Yuri!!! on Ice: Before its first episode was released, there was not much hype for the anime, especially since there were two anime adaptations from popular Cast Full of Pretty Boys-focused franchises airing in the same season (the fourth season of Uta No Prince Sama and Touken Ranbu - Hanamaru). The anime not only outdid the other two, it also became an internet juggernaut, constantly trending on Twitter and Tumblr (in the latter network, the anime steadily kept first place on the trending tags every Wednesday and Thursday, even on the day of the 2016 US Elections, and crashed Tumblr when the final episode came out). The anime even attracted the attention of professional figure skaters, and has a large LGBT Fanbase, besides the average sports anime fan. The fact that it went to groundbreaking lengths by making the two male leads an Official Couple, portraying a healthy normalized same-sex interracial couple, besides the diversity of nationality and race of the rest of the cast, a first in mainstream and sports anime, helped the show go neck-to-neck with other extremely popular series like One-Punch Man and Attack on Titan and surpass all other sports anime that aired in 2016.
  • While he never outright stated it would fail, Eiichiro Oda never dreamed that One Piece would become the smash hit it did, planning on ending the series after five years. He was off by a few decades.
  • Prior to its release, people unfamiliar with Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid were angry at KyoAni because they were under the impression that it was generic fanservice and moe. Those who had read the manga merely laughed as everyone else quickly changed their tune when it came out.
  • The Irregular at Magic High School was this for its Dengeki Bungo publishing house. While this novel was quite popular on the Internet, none of the publishers wanted to license it, since the settings for Invincible Hero with his ideal Big Brother Worship sister, which are a step away from Brother–Sister Incest, would obviously have very poor sales. Even the editor who gave him the greenlight said that this work "completely contradicts all those rules, which must correspond to a good light novel." Nevertheless, he decided to take a risk, and in the end, this novel became the second title for the popularity and sales of volumes in the publishing house.
  • Kemono Friends: Based on a dead mobile game about animal girls with only ten people working on it for five hundred days, No Budget and full of incredibly obvious 3D mixed with 2D, even the creators expected it to flop terribly. Yet the generally decent writing, solid character designs and surprisingly compelling Ontological Mystery made for a solid watch, and it ultimately became extremely popular through internet word-of-mouth. Its first episode became the most-watched anime episode on Nico Nico Douga; disc sets and merchandise quickly sold out, and the "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune reached #3 on Japan's iTunes rankings.
  • King of Prism was initially planned as a 13-episode late-night television series, and Masakazu Hishida had always wanted to create a spin-off of Pretty Rhythm Rainbow Live that would focus on the male characters. However, Avex rejected the proposal twice, the second time after they had reworked it into a film, and told them that they would only follow through if they could provide evidence people wanted it. After Hishida and other staff members managed to accrue evidence, Avex allowed them to make the film but gave them very little budget and promotion in addition to limiting the film to only 60 minutes. In fact, the film was actually given screening events in 14 theaters. However, when the cheer screenings became popular and famous media figures like Tomokazu Sugita promoted it, the film actually ended up grossing 800 million yen and became one of the most successful films in 2016. A sequel immediately followed, along with a franchise.
  • When he first released the first chapter of his third manga series, Kohei Horikoshi felt it might not stay popular, but carried on with it because he enjoyed it. My Hero Academia ended up becoming one of the most popular mangas of the modern age.
  • Not many analysts even made any predictions about Dragon Ball Super: Broly international release. Those that did predicted the film's limited release would probably do about as well as the two other recent Dragon Ball movies — which is to say, not well at all. Those within the Dragon Ball fandom were skeptical that a film starring a re-imagining of such a Base-Breaking Character like Broly could do well. Dragon Ball Super: Broly ended up being the number one movie in the USA for several days, and stayed in the top five during its opening weekend. It far surpassed any of the previous international releases of Dragon Ball movies, and was the third most successful anime movie ever in the international market. It also was met with fairly positive critical praise, again atypical for anime movies. Experts were baffled that a movie that hadn't been on their radar was crushing it.note 

    Comic Books 
  • IDW's Jem and the Holograms is an unusual concept. It takes a thirty years dead series and modernizes it. That in itself is risky however prior to release people were bickering about everything from the designs to Kimber being lesbian. It's also an extremely feminine comic and those tend to be niche. The series became a hit.
  • Archie Comics has a specific reputation of being squeaky clean and cutesy, though it's not too true. So when there was news there was gonna be an Archie's comic set in a Zombie Apocalypse people laughed. Archie fans were skeptical about the Darker and Edgier take and others thought it was just another zombie story riding off The Walking Dead's back. The first issue sold out twice in a row and is recognized as one of the best horror comics of the early 2010s. There are talks of a Live-Action Adaptation and the series made Archie experiment with other series like Archie vs. Predator and Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.
  • Mark Millar recreated many characters successfully in the Ultimate Marvel line, and yet his proposal of gathering the heroes together was constantly shot down by the publisher, and once Marvel relented, they asked him not to call them The Avengers "because they thought Avengers was such a dead franchise that I had to call it 'Ultimates' instead." The Ultimates was a highly acclaimed best-seller that helped the Avengers finally become the premier Marvel team above the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, and was a major influence for the Avengers movie.
  • Ms. Marvel (2014) had a lot of factors working against it. Affirmative Action Legacy characters tend to be very divisive as a general rule, and while some catch on, many end up being done away with so the original can return. The creative team wasn't exactly A-list. While a fan favorite, the previous Ms. MarvelCarol Danvers, who is now Captain Marvel — had something of a spotty sales history. Many books starring female heroes still have a tough time finding an audience, as do books starring minority leads (the new Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, is both). Despite this, the book became a sales success, and Kamala has become one of Marvel's most successful new characters in years, to the point that she is often marketed alongside Marvel's flagship characters who feature in the MCU, even though she has no such counterpart until Marvel made an announcement that she would have her own series on Disney+. Even the author, G. Willow Wilson, said she thought the book would only make it to 7 issues before being cancelled.
  • If you would believe it, Spider-Man of all things got this treatment. At the time Stan Lee went to publish it, teens were usually portrayed as sidekicks (i.e. Robin, Bucky) and weren't seen as solo heroes. An exec even commented on the concept because people have arachnophobia and would be turned off by the character. Marvel even put Spidey's debut story in a title that was about to have its last issue. However, Spider-Man beat the odds and became Marvel's flagship hero as well as one of the most well-known superheroes of all time next to the likes of Batman and Superman (even teamed up with both of them at one point).
  • In the 15th-anniversary edition of Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, writer Grant Morrison notes that most of the people who looked at an earlier script thought his attempt at symbolism and psychological horror would fail. Their response 15 years later was "Who's laughing now, asshole?"
  • The Marvel: A Fresh Start initiative was groaned at when first announced. The initiative was just the latest of Marvel's ridiculous relaunches since All-New, All-Different Marvel and it was quite obvious that this was being done as the previous relaunch, Marvel Legacy, was seen as a failure. However, to many people's surprise, the initiative proved to be a rousing success. The initiative saw Editor-in-Chief Axel Alonso replaced with C.B. Cebulski (who survived a Never Live It Down moment when he was outed as a writer named "Akira Yoshida"), the departure of Brian Michael Bendis to DC Comics and the shuffling of various creative teams to other titles. In terms of titles, it lead to things like Nick Spencer's Spider-Man, which saw Spidey restored to a beloved status and lead to a number of spin-offs for some of the franchise's leading ladies, Jonathan Hickman's X-Men, which saw the Marvel's Merry Mutants return to prominence after being co-oped by The Inhumans, and the return of the Fantastic Four, who was shuffled away after ANAD Marvel.
  • When Miles Morales first took over Ultimate Spider-Man, he had many detractors due to replacing the iconic Peter Parker as well as the fact that he was a biracial superhero. These same detractors thought he would a very short time in the Marvel comics. Miles became one of the most popular superheroes over time, has starred in a number of animated TV shows, and was the central protagonist of his own movie, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which became a critical and commercial success.
  • When Jane Foster was announced to be the new Thor in Thor (2014) caused a controversial stir in the Marvel community, as many thought it would be a failure because of the successor being a woman. After the comic series came out, it was met with both commercial and critical success.

    Comic Strips 
  • Hergé started with Tintin in 1929, at a time when Europe had no tradition in creating comic strips with text balloons. The comic strip was some filler material in Le Petit Vingtième, the youth section of newspaper Le Vingtième. After he had finished the first story the redaction proposed a publicity stunt in which an actor playing Tintin would arrive on the Brussels station, just like Tintin did at the end of Tintin in the Land of the Soviets. Hergé agreed, though he was sure that nobody would be around to witness it. To his surprise, the place was full of people! In an interview, he said: "From that moment on, I realized Tintin was on its way up!" And it did. By the end of Hergé's life Tintin had become and still is the most successful European comic strip in the world, about as widespread and popular as any of the Walt Disney comic strips!

    Fan Webcomic 

    Films — Animation 
  • Walt Disney is the all-time master of this trope.
    • Nobody but Walt expected Flowers and Trees, a cartoon in full color, to get people flocking to it. The short film was originally black & white; Walt had it completely redone despite the financial risk involved.
    • Animation was considered a medium inferior to live-action, and destined to remain seven-minute-long curtain raisers to feature films. That is, until Walt Disney decided to make Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the first feature-length animated movie by a major American studio. It was labeled "Disney's Folly" by film industry insiders at the time, a project destined to send Disney into bankruptcy. At its premiere, Snow White proved to be an amazing picture, and the worldwide highest-grossing sound film until Gone with the Wind. Since then, it has become the subject of much strife for being the comparison point for all other animated features (Walt himself fell victim to that).
    • After the box-office wipeout of Fantasia and the further financial strains of World War II on his studio, returning to full-length animation was a gamble; on the other hand, branching out into non-cartoon movies and even documentaries (!) was (in the eyes of critics in the late 40s) absolutely impossible for Walt. Cinderella, Treasure Island and The Living Desert (1953) proved the naysayers wrong, again.
    • In a case that extended to within Disney, two projects started concurrently, Pocahontas and King of the Jungle, something about lions in Africa. Most of the animators picked the former feeling it would be the high-profile movie, leading the latter to have only newcomers or people with an interest in animating animals. Even the writing staff felt insecure about the project during non-stop rewrites. The resulting film, The Lion King, is the highest-grossing traditional animation ever and widely regarded as the apex of the Disney Renaissance.
    • In 2002, Disney, specifically CEO Michael Eisner, found itself doubting Pixar could keep the big hits coming in 2002 with Finding Nemo. When that became Pixar's biggest hit yet, Eisner found himself in an impossible position trying to renew Disney's contract with the studio with Steve Jobs, who personally loathed Eisner, in a position to demand all but a blank check lest Pixar goes with any of Disney's competitors eager to hook up with it.
  • Sing: Not too many people expected this film to succeed, with many claiming that it was a stale copy of Zootopia with a very cliché, unoriginal plot about a singing competition. Despite all this, the movie managed to earn nearly $200 million in under two weeks, was the second leading film during Christmas weekend at the box office and has gotten mixed to positive reviews by both critics and fans alike. The film was nominated for the Best Animated Feature Golden Globe in 2017.
  • While the franchise that The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water is based on is highly profitable, it had gone through a lengthy period of Seasonal Rot, so people didn't have as much confidence in the film as they did with the first (a beloved classic), predicting that it would be just a standard, boring kiddie fare. The fact that it was done by the show's current crew, whom the fans blamed for its declining quality, supported their theory. Despite what the trailers presented, the creators outright confirmed that the film would, like the show, be mostly 2D animation, a major concern for some considering that the 2D animation genre had generated flop after flop over the years (the last 2D animated hit was the movie's predecessor, over ten years ago). It also went against the visual-heavy and high concept blockbuster Jupiter Ascending. Despite these odds, it managed to cannibalize the box office in its opening weekend, went on to surpass the domestic box office of the first film both unadjusted and adjusted for inflation, and won plaudits for featuring the witty humor that the series was once known for from both critics and long-jaded fans.
  • As soon as Teen Titans Go! To the Movies was announced, many immediately dismissed the idea due to it being a spinoff of one of the Internet's most hated modern cartoons, even going so far as to say that it would be as bad as, or worse than The Emoji Movie, which is not eactly well-regarded itself. By the time of the film's release, however, it received largely positive reviews, gaining a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes, and did mildly well at the box office.
  • When The LEGO Movie was announced, it was scorned by critics and most believed it would be nothing more beyond a glorified toy commercial. Few could have predicted it would turn out to be a fresh, original film with stellar animation, witty humor, memorable characters, an engaging plot, and a brilliant deconstruction of The Chosen One trope. The success led to both a sequel and the spin-off The LEGO Batman Movie.
  • Not many analyst even made any predictions about Dragon Ball Super: Broly's international release. Those that did predicted that Film's limited release would probably do about as well as the two other Dragon Ball movies. Those within the Dragon Ball fandom were skeptical that a film starring a re-imagining of such a Base-Breaking Character could do well. Dragon Ball Super: Broly ended up being the number one movie in the States for several days and still stayed in the top five during its opening weekend. It far surpassed any of the previous international releases of Dragon Ball movies, and was the third most successful anime movie ever in the international market. It also surprisingly was met with fairly positive critical praise, again atypical for anime movies. Experts were baffled that a movie that hadn't been on their radar was crushing it. note 
  • This was the fan community reaction to the Friendship Is Magic spin-off My Little Pony: Equestria Girls, due it being a High School A.U. of My Little Pony... without the ponies. Things only seemed to get worse as pictures of the prototype dolls and stock art leaked, with more than one person crying that the parent show was Ruined Forever and that it would be a Franchise Killer. Instead, it became a big enough hit to warrant multiple sequels that each received better reception than the last, with the Big Bad (and later Hero Protagonist) of the spinoff franchise becoming a fan-favorite character.
  • Trolls: World Tour: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic causing theaters to shut down worldwide, World Tour was one of the first films to be released on video-on-demand rather than be postponed to a later date. Many initially viewed this as Universal giving up on the movie and just trying to recoup their losses, especially after the massive flops of Cats and Dolittle. Within three weeks, World Tour made over $100 million dollars in rentals, breaking digital records across the board and making more money for Universal than the first film made for 20th Century Fox within five months.
  • The Croods: A New Age was released in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. Even though the first movie was a hit and well received, it came out seven years prior and no one thought that it had a large enough following to justify a trip to the theater (at that point, the only tentpole released was Film/Tenet, which bombed). It opened to $9.7m in its opening weekend (the highest since Tenet), but it went on to have a greater staying power, earning $49m to date domestically (a x5 multiplier) and more than $150m worldwide, making it one of the few cinematic success stories of the pandemic era.
  • Kung Fu Panda was announced at a time when most DreamWorks Animation movies were receiving mixed to negative reviews (especially Shark Tale and Bee Movie) and had suffered from Audience-Alienating Premises. Kung Fu Panda was expected to be a movie with a one-joke premise (a fat panda doing Kung Fu), but what audiences got was an action-packed animated flick with enough heart, humor, and fleshed-out characters to go around. Add on respect to Chinese culture and a good message, and you have a movie that not only restored audience faith in Dreamworks, but is also considered to be their best movie (alongside How to Train Your Dragon). Its success inspired 2 sequels, 2 TV shows, and countless rip-offs.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Shaggy Dog, Disney's first attempt at making live-action comedies, was not considered a good idea, but this film, The Absent-Minded Professor and others of its kind cleared the Disney Studio of financial debt by 1961.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl was expected to be a flop by many entertainment writers. The film was conceived by Disney as the second of three Disney park ride adaptations, along with The Country Bears and The Haunted Mansion, at the time considered a bizarre concept to base a film upon. The pirate subgenre had also seen numerous costly flops, with Cutthroat Island being one of the biggest money losers ever. Eisner also hated Johnny Depp's eccentric performance of Captain Jack Sparrow, at one point yelling on set that Depp was "ruining the film." The film took off at the box office, buoyed by positive reviews and word of mouth and ended up becoming one of the highest grossing films of summer 2003. The second film, Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, was an even bigger hit, setting the North American opening weekend record and was the highest grossing film of 2006. Four more sequels followed.
  • Critics were very hostile to King Kong. "A 50-foot gorilla attacking New York City? And on top of that, falling in love with a human woman instead of eating her? Nobody's ever gonna pay to see THAT!" Take a guess at how wrong they were. It's one of the earliest examples of Critical Dissonance in cinema.
  • The Philadelphia Story was released at a time when Katharine Hepburn was considered "box office poison". The film became a resounding success and subsequently restored Hepburn's reputation.
  • The Bengali coming-of-age film Pather Panchali had little hope of being recognized as more than a renegade/experimental Indian product. Upon release, it quickly made heaps of money everywhere it was shown and through this Satyajit Ray introduced the world to the possibilities of low-budget filmmaking.
  • Godzilla (2014) had a lot to live up to as it was the second American reboot to the series, which left many longtime fans feeling skeptical about whether or not they would be able to pull it off after the last attempt (even in spite of Toho’s approval before release). Not helping matters was that the film's director, Gareth Edwards, had only done one smaller scale film before this, and on top of that there was the amount of articles written by various entertainment outlets that predicted it would be a Box Office Bomb on the grounds that it was a Godzilla movie, a series that has been mostly ridiculed by many western critics as poorly made, nonsensical kids flicks. It ultimately grossed $524 million at the box office, went on to launch the MonsterVerse and won over both film critics who praised it for its visual effects and human drama, and series fans who thought it did the character justice.
  • United Artists did not have much faith in Dr. No, giving only $1 million to the producers and releasing it in the Midwest before the big American markets. It went on to launch the still-thriving James Bond film franchise.
  • Warner Bros. wasn't expecting Bonnie and Clyde to work at all, but it was a megahit and helped change the way filmmakers would depict violence in future works.
  • A fictional example occurs in The Producers: a sneaky Broadway showman and his accountant/henchman put on a play called "Springtime for Hitler" specifically BECAUSE it will flop, allowing them to keep the excess money they raised but didn't need. Then they got a little surprise. (Ironically, the original 1968 film flopped, though it eventually became Vindicated by History and is now widely regarded as a huge classic.)
  • Many of the films that became the highest-grossing movie ever at that time were this:
    • Paramount had no expectations in The Godfather, despite being based on a best-seller. Francis Ford Coppola was hired only for his Italian origins, the studio gave him limited funds and complained about every decision of his. It became the highest-grossing movie ever upon release and is frequently in "best of all time" lists.
    • Jaws was initially picked up as a script treatment by Universal Pictures, but ran into problems almost immediately. A rookie director who only had one other feature film — that bombed in theatres — to his name was chosen to direct the film. An actor who believed he was now box-office poison because of his prior work signed up as one of the main characters. Filming ran over-budget and overtime, with executives denying funding for key reshoots (which then had to be paid out of pocket). There were accusations that the practical effects were cheap and laughable, forcing the filmmaker to improvise by keeping it off-screen for most of the run-time. Yet, contrary to Steven Spielberg and Richard Dreyfuss' beliefs, Jaws became the first film to see wide-release distribution, became one of the highest-grossing films of all time and ushered in a new wave in American film-making.
    • It's hard to believe now, but 20th Century Fox had very little faith in Star Wars: A New Hope making much money.note  They put it out as sort of a "last hurrah" to hold off bankruptcy and tasked Alan Dean Foster with writing Splinter of the Mind's Eye, a sequel novel written for the sole purpose of facilitating a quick low-budget movie adaptation. Fox had to bully theaters into showing Star Wars, as theaters simply wouldn't touch it and Fox had to make some money back on what they assumed would be a financial fiasco. Fox threatened to withhold the period drama The Other Side of Midnight, which had been tipped to be a hit that summer, unless the theater agreed to screen Star Wars for a couple of weeks. The Other Side of Midnight made its budget back, but it was steamrolled at the box office by Star Wars. Fox had given George Lucas exclusive rights on The Merch related to Star Wars in exchange for paying him less. They figured the movie would bomb and no one would make, never mind buy the merchandise as a result. And that's why no publisher ever gives exclusive merchandising rights to the creator anymore.
    • E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial was going to be just a forgettable kids' movie about a lost alien, until preview audiences got a grip on its true magnificence and spread the word. It soon out-grossed Star Wars and became the top worldwide moneymaker until Jurassic Park. M&M-Mars certainly thought it would be forgettable. Hershey, on the other hand, gave it a chance. Thus, the film put Reese's Pieces on the candy map.
    • James Cameron's Titanic ran over budget, gathered plenty of naysayers, and became the first film in history to make $1 billion worldwide.
    • James Cameron's Avatar ran over budget, gathered plenty of naysayers and became the first film in history to make $2 billion worldwide. Even more insane, it made over $2.78 billion worldwide. If you don't adjust for inflation, no movie except Avengers: Endgame has gotten even close to the amount of money it made.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe had an uphill climb to prove itself in its early days.
    • For starters, Marvel had signed away the rights to their most well-known properties and was now trying to produce their own films with characters largely considered "B-List". Moreover, at time, movies based on Marvel properties were a mixed bag, ranging from the well-received (X-Men Film Seriesnote  and the Spider-Man Trilogynote ) to the utter flops (Daredevil and Fantastic Four). On top of that, the idea of doing a Shared Universe was considered extremely risky, as earlier superhero films, despite the odd Mythology Gag and in-joke, had heroes existing in the world as the only beings of their kind, be it Batman, Superman, or even Spider-Man and the X-Men. Yet the risk paid off, as the MCU is now the biggest blockbuster franchise of all time and marked a Genre Turning Point for superhero movies in general.note  Specific movies include:
    • Iron Man: B-list comic book character who Marvel fans were soured on thanks to a then-recent controversial story arc? Washed-up actor who had very publicized problems with drug abuse in the lead role? Director whose last film hadn't been so much of a success? In hindsight, it was the greatest decision Marvel ever made, as the movie helped boost the character's popularity with the mainstream, gave Robert Downey Jr. a massive Career Resurrection, and convinced Marvel that even their less popular heroes could indeed become box office draws.
    • Before Thor was released, a lot of critics and bloggers thought it wouldn't do well because the title character wasn't as much of a household name as Superman, Batman, Spider-Man, or the X-Men, involved a lot of super-shiny costumes and set pieces, and it was directed by someone primarily known for Shakespearean adaptations who hadn't directed a big action movie before. And then it made $181 million in the U.S. and well over $400 million worldwide, was pretty well-received critically, and gained an active and devoted fandom.
    • Captain America: The First Avenger: A movie centered on a Captain Patriotic character embodying a country with a polarizing reputation (to put it simply) and whose last movie adaptation was a laughable bomb, being played by an actor whose last foray as a Marvel superhero was less than well-received (even though his performance was seen as one of the film's highlights)? Yet it worked out better than anyone could've expected.
    • The Avengers. Having an ensemble cast of several superheroes? But it worked far better than ever thought possible. Also, ever since the nineties it was declared over and over by fans that a movie about a Super-Team consisting of superheroes each big enough to have his own solo movie, thus requiring a lead-star-capable actor for each role, would never be more than a fanboy's daydream.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy was considered a risky venture, being an obscure comic property featuring a gun-toting raccoon and an animated tree amongst its lineup. Predictions of failure abounded, despite the film being handled by the one who brought the world two Scooby-Doo films (along with weird horror). Its $94 million opening weekend take exceeded projections and expectations, and its worldwide earnings exceeded its production cost after less than a week. The quote atop this page just says everything.
    • Ant-Man was expected to be a flop, not only because of being an obscure character (even as a Legacy Character) infamous for having "lame" powers as well as an infamous Never Live It Down moment and a notoriously well-publicized Troubled Production. However, while it wasn't as successful as Guardians of the Galaxy, it still proved its chops, beating Minions' second week during its first week and staying at the top in its second.
    • Black Panther faced a lot of doubters simply due to the belief that general audiences wouldn't want to see a movie with a black superhero, never mind an all-black cast (it was the first major tentpole with an all black cast since the film version of The Wiz, in 1978). The film quickly obliterated that idea and rapidly began knocking down box-office records across the world, including the first film since Avatar to remain #1 at the box office for five consecutive weekends, third-highest domestic box office ever (beating Titanic), ninth highest-grossing film ever, and highest grossing solo superhero movie ever. And the icing on this tower of a cake: it won three Oscars and became the first ever comic book movie to ever be nominated for Best Picture.
    • While practically nobody thought Avengers: Infinity War wouldn't be financially successful, several critics predicted that there was practically no way it actually be a satisfying movie. There was simply too much build up to the movie that the payoff couldn't be worth it. Indeed some critics said that with what we knew of the main villain, Thanos, the movie would have to almost be about him and ditch the normal conclusive happy endings that the Avengers movies normally went for. Apparently, Marvel listened.
    • Captain Marvel had a vocal backlash, leading to a very low "Want to See" score on Rotten Tomatoes. On top of that, Wonder Woman had already proven that female-led superhero movies could be successful, so this movie had plenty to live up to. In the end, Captain Marvel didn't have to prove anything to the doubters, because it ended up making more money than Wonder Woman, becoming the first female-led superhero movie to make over a billion dollars at the box office. And the kicker? Rotten Tomatoes removed the "Want to See" aggregate score and overhauled their system to display the audience ratings of people who actually paid money to see a movie by default. On top of that, Disney gave Marvel head Ike Perlmutter the pink slip later that year in part because of his lack of faith towards Captain Marvel and Black Panther.
  • Blazing Saddles was a quirky Blaxploitation comedy set in the Wild West. Warner Brothers almost didn't release it at all because they figured it just wouldn't sell. But it did.
  • Animal House was the ambitious foray of the National Lampoon magazine into silver-screen entertainment. Universal execs politely allowed the filmmakers to go wild in their own special way, quietly hoping Animal House wouldn't damage the company's checkbooks. Donald Sutherland famously chose several thousand dollars in payment over a percentage of the box-office gross, expecting the film wouldn't sell. However, Animal House's charmingly dark and hard-hitting observations on college life, as well as its undeniably quirky brand of vulgar humor, was so refreshing to moviegoers in the late 70s that the film recouped its $2 million budget 50 times over. Donald Sutherland, as you might imagine, was not pleased.
  • Grease was not expected by Paramount to be a blockbuster, despite being based on a successful stage musical. The studio expected Pretty Baby, a period drama about child prostitution set in Louisiana in 1917, to be the studio's hoped-for blockbuster that year. Pretty Baby did make its budget back, but it was dwarfed at the box office by Grease.
  • Airplane! was the first shot at a mainstream movie by the people who made The Kentucky Fried Movie. With its obsession with puns and its throwing of conventional plotline out the window, many believed it had box-office disaster written all over it. It became one of the highest-grossing films of 1980.
  • Romancing the Stone. 20th Century Fox was so certain that it would fail, they fired Robert Zemeckis from directing Cocoon. This turned out to be a benefit: Zemeckis and his friend Bob Gale then had the freedom to pursue their pet project Back to the Future, and in the meantime Romancing the Stone was the surprise box-office smash of the summer of '84.
  • Back to the Future was rejected by every major studio when first pitched in 1980, as the Lorraine/Marty subplot wasn't risque enough to match other teen comedies at the time (or, in the case of Disney, was TOO risque). This caused some embarrassment for a number of Hollywood execs when five years later, Zemeckis and Gale made Future under Amblin (with distribution by Universal) and it became the highest-grossing picture of 1985. Plus, an exec at Universal hated the name Back to the Future because he felt that any movie with the word "future" in the title was box office poison. It took the intervention of Steven Spielberg for Zemeckis and Gale to keep the original title.
  • Orion Pictures had little faith in Hoosiers, a film that ended up almost as successful as Platoon, the other big Orion release of 1986.
  • According to Spike Lee, if he can make hit movies, ANYONE can make hit movies. Do the Right Thing came out of nowhere in 1989, exceeding every low expectation set upon it and holding its own against a crapload of high-profile summer blockbusters.
  • Home Alone is the ultimate example: anticipated as another John Hughes concept gone awry, its cartoony slapstick combined with an unexpectedly heartwarming story won audiences over and it became the top-moneymaking comedy of all time (keeping the title until Night at the Museum).
  • Clerks, Kevin Smith's shoestring-budget debut, simply popped out of nowhere and made a heaping wad of cash.
  • Cameron also has a downplayed example, Alita: Battle Angel, which he wanted to adapt for years (though he wound up only writing and producing due to the Avatar sequels, with Robert Rodriguez directing), and prior to release was being considered one of those expensive and disappointing pet projects, with the bad reputation of Hollywood adaptations of anime\manga, and the Uncanny Valley complaints about the title character's Big Anime Eyes not helping matters. Instead, it got a positive reception from audiences (critics were more lukewarm), deeming it the first time Hollywood made a manga movie well, and while it underperformed domestically, the $400 million worldwide earned by Alita were a good and slightly profitable sum.
  • The premise of Napoleon Dynamite sounded a bit stupid before its premiere. It became an indie sensation and "Vote for Pedro" became a catchphrase at the time of the film's release. It became a cultural phenomenon in Idaho and even got a unanimous vote of the Idaho legislature in its favor.
  • Rocky:
    • Rocky Balboa was not only expected to fail at the box office but was also the butt of many jokes by comedians and film fans due to star/writer/director Sylvester Stallone's age (he was 59 at the time of the film's release) and lack of box office success in the early part of the 2000's. Then the film was released, had positive reception from critics and audiences, managed to be a profit-making hit for the studio and gave Stallone a Career Resurrection.
    • Fans thought that the seventh follow-up, Creed, was completely unnecessary because the previous entry wrapped everything up nicely. In addition, audiences and Stallone himself hated the last film that had Rocky as a mentor, so how could a second attempt at that work? Creed managed to gain even more critical acclaim than Rocky Balboa, turned in a respectable profit, and brought Stallone both a Golden Globe win and an Oscar nomination for his supporting role. It even had its own sequel.
  • A first-time director decides to shoot his own horror movie in his own house and goes so far as to remodel his own home to use as the setting and hire two unknown actors to play the lead characters. The film was shot in 7 days and was eventually submitted to the ScreamFest Horror Film Festival, where an executive from Miramax Films saw it and approached the director to rework it for Sundance (he rejected it). Dreamworks Pictures saw potential in the film, but they didn't know what to do with it and decided to hold a test screening (which they thought initially bombed after people started walking out). The film was then delayed for several years while shakeups and management changes occurred at Dreamworks. In addition, this came during the time when the Saw franchise debuted to considerable commercial success. The film, Paranormal Activity, was eventually shunted out the door as a test for viral film promotion, and was expected to flop against the then-released Saw VI. However, the $15,000 film was a smash hit with audiences, and eventually grossed $189 million in total, leading to two sequels, while Saw VI's disappointing box-office performance temporarily killed the series (there was one more Saw movie a year later, followed by a seven-year gap between it and Jigsaw).
  • Executives were certainly nervous about X-Men, starring a group of superheroes who had never been on the big screen before. This was a time when the failure of Batman & Robin was still fresh in everyone's minds, when Superman's fifth movie languished in Development Hell, and when the only successful Marvel movie had been 1998's Blade. Of course, there are stories (per Moriarty over at Ain't It Cool News) that executive Tom Rothman really opposed this project. It went on to be a long-running 20 year franchise over 13 films, even predating the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

  • Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol: Mission: Impossible III had performed below expectations at the box office, as well as Tom Cruise's last few films, and many prognosticators were surprised the studio had approved of a fourth film. Box office analysts thought it was a bad move for Paramount to schedule the film for Christmas weekend, already crowded with other releases, and a season that wasn't known for being fertile ground for action films. Strong word of mouth, with many calling it the best film of the series, propelled it to a strong box office, becoming one of the highest-grossing films of the year and easily leading Christmas weekend. It led to two more follow-ups that were just as successful, if not more.
  • When Dirty Dancing was screened for Aaron Russo, a producer at Vestron Pictures, his reaction to the film was "Burn the negative and collect the insurance." Dirty Dancing would become one of the highest-grossing films of the year.
  • Before Big was released in June 1988, there'd already been three Overnight Age-Up comedies made between 1987 and 1988: Like Father, Like Son, 18 Again! and Vice Versa (plus the Italian film Da grande, which was this film's direct inspiration), so many expected this film to tank and be forgotten. Instead, Big became the highest-grossing and most highly-praised film of the bunch, earning Tom Hanks his first Oscar nomination.
  • RoboCop was expected to be a relatively low-budget B-movie that wouldn't do very well at the box office and even the director, Paul Verhoeven, turned it down at first and had to be convinced by his wife to take on the project. Instead, it became one of the biggest films of the year and a sci-fi classic, and launched his career in Hollywood (previously he had only directed arthouse films in the Netherlands, and the last movie he had made, Flesh+Blood, was a huge flop).
  • Planet of the Apes: Pierre Boulle, author of La planète des singes, considered it to be one of his lesser works and that any film based off it had no potential for screen success. Fox even only greenlit the movie to compensate the hell producer Arthur P. Jacobs faced with Doctor Dolittle. Yet it was a great hit, considered a sci-fi classic and kick-started a franchise.
  • Rise of the Planet of the Apes was widely mocked before release as appearing to be an ill attempt to revive what was a dead franchise, especially after a bomb of a remake ten years before. Then it came out and, to everyone's surprise, turned out to be a critical success, with a groundbreaking performance by Andy Serkis, as well as a commercial success, bringing hope back to the series. The sequel, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, was even more successful, and ended up being one of the most acclaimed movies of Summer 2014; several film critics even held it up as an example of the kind of film that other Summer blockbusters should strive to be. A trilogy closer, War for the Planet of the Apes, was also highly acclaimed even if it didn't make as much money as Dawn.
  • Apparently, before Bruce Willis was approached to play John McClane in Die Hard, the job had already been turned down by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Burt Reynolds, Richard Gere, Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson, who didn't believe in the script, and John McTiernan, who would later direct it, even turned down several offers. When his agent delivered the news to Willis, he immediately advised him not to do it, thinking he'd make a complete fool of himself. However, due to the payment being simply too good to turn down, Willis accepted to play McClane, kicking off his career as one of Hollywood's most popular and well-paid actors. And the movie became influential in formula and protagonist type of later movies. It is now virtually impossible to find a Best Action Movies list that does not contain it, more often than not, at the top of the pile and even frequently is on Best Christmas Movies lists, which if you had told anyone before it came out they would have had you institutionalized.
  • Early trailers for Paddington focused on Toilet Humor and Paddington's Uncanny Valley look, and with Colin Firth dropping out many thought the film would flop. When it actually came out it got rave reviews from critics on both sides of the Atlantic for being not only a delightfully sincere family film but also staying very true to the spirit of the books. It was also a financial success, grossing over $259 million with a $55 million budget.
  • Nobody really thought Straight Outta Compton would be a hit, thanks to the subject matter, the R-rating, and the lack of established actors outside of Paul Giamatti. The film not only won rave reviews but is currently the highest grossing musical biopic of all time, even beating out Walk the Line.
  • Mad Max: Fury Road was an R-rated summer blockbuster that was a revival of a franchise that hadn't seen a movie in three decades and was regarded as an aged product restricted to The '80s. It had also spent ages in Development Hell and had a notoriously Troubled Production that included losing Mel Gibson, plus tension between Tom Hardy and fellow star Charlize Theron and director, George Miller. The fact that it was described as a film-long chase sequence did not raise hopes. On release, it became a box office success, a cultural sensation, and one of the most critically acclaimed films of 2015, praised for its incredible action and near peerless storytelling. The praise and enthusiasm from critics and the public lasted all the way to the end of the year, becoming surprisingly one of the biggest award season contenders, eventually getting ten Oscar nominations including unheard of nominations for Best Picture and Best Director. It ended up winning six, nearly sweeping the technical categories — even outclassing The Force Awakens.
  • Deadpool: Infamous Executive Meddler Tom Rothman (the same guy who previously mandated that Deadpool's mouth had to be sewn shut) was strongly opposed to the movie getting made up until he left Twentieth Century Fox out of fear that the movie wouldn't click with audiences. After he left the company, the movie was officially greenlit, and it recuperated its entire budget five times over in a single weekend. To add insult to injury toward Rothman, in that same opening weekend, the movie made more than the last superhero movie that Rothman greenlit did in its entire lifetime, and overtook the main X-Men series in the process.
  • What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? was expected to flop, particularly after the stories leaked to the press about the quarreling between stars Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, but the film turned out to be a critical and commercial hit, even earning an Oscar nomination for Davis.
  • DC Extended Universe
    • Wonder Woman had been in Development Hell for years and the failures of Catwoman (2004) and Elektra had many executive producers convinced that superheroine movies wouldn't sell well. Moreover, the mixed-to-negative reception of the first three DC Extended Universe movies (Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Suicide Squad) had many expecting that Wonder Woman would follow the same path. Fortunately, the film earned positive critical and audience reception, with plenty acclaiming it as one of the greatest superhero films ever made, and it became the highest-grossing comic book superhero film with both a female lead and female solo director, earning $200+ million worldwide in just its opening weekend and going on to finish its run with $821 million worldwide. By the end of its theatrical run, it became one of the highest grossing superhero origin movie ever, beating movies now considered genre classics such as Superman (1978), Batman (1989), Spider-Man (2002), Batman Begins (2005), and all the prior MCU origin films.
    • Aquaman seemed doomed going is since it stars the most infamous Memetic Loser in comics (mostly for people not familiar with the comics) and was coming off the disappointment of Justice League (described as "the most successful Box Office Bomb ever"). It became a box office juggernaut that quickly outgrossed Justice League globally in just three weeks and managed to crack the $1 billion worldwide gross, a feat that Batman v Superman and Justice League failed to achieve despite starring more popular heroes. As of this writing, it has become the highest grossing film in the entire franchise and the biggest unadjusted DC Comics film grosser period. Even its critical and audience reception is warm enough to invoke this.
  • Almost nobody was counting on Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle to be even remotely successful, with a good number of people even predicting it would become a box-office bomb and ruin the credibility of many of its cast members. Reasons for this mentality included Sony's last attempt at rebooting a classic comedy being one of the most divisive movies of the decade, the concept of having the main characters be the in-game avatars of a group of high-schoolers in a video game baffling many and overall just the fact that Robin Williams is such a beloved figure that many thought remaking the movie would be an insult to his memory. Upon release, however, people wound up praising the cast, the comedy and how it acted as both a love letter to old-school video games and a surprisingly well-done parody of them, while also being respectful of the original film without relying too much on the nostalgia of the original. Even more surprisingly, despite people thinking it would bomb at the box-office considering it would be released around the same time as The Last Jedi, it wound up doing the opposite, even taking the #1 spot from The Last Jedi after three weeks of release and grossing over $900 million worldwide, making it the 5th highest grossing film of 2017. For a film many counted on crashing and burning at the box-office, to say this is quite the turnaround would be an understatement. It even led to another sequel, Jumanji: The Next Level.
  • Nobody expected wrestler Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson's acting career to go anywhere. Despite a misstep or two early in his Hollywood days, The Rock of today is a bonafide movie star and consistent box office draw.
  • Crazy Rich Asians: There hasn't been a Hollywood movie with an all-Asian cast in a modern setting since The Joy Luck Club back in 1993 and there were producers who wanted to change the female lead into a white woman, believing that casual audiences would not connect with an Asian lead, which author Kevin Kwan had none of that. He ended up selling the rights for $1 to ensure that the movie wouldn't be white-washed. Likewise, the film is directed by someone whose filmography has movies of questionable quality (his only Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes was a Justin Bieber concert movie!). The producers even refused the safer bet of going with Netflix, who even offered to finance a whole trilogy, to remain with Warner Bros. and get the movie in theaters. Crazy Rich Asians crushed those doubts after breaking the box office with $167.3 million worldwide as of this writing and earning crazy positive reviews. The sequels based on literary follow-ups China Rich Girlfriend and Rich People Problems are already in the works.
  • Venom: Between controversial staffing (most infamously being produced by Avi Arad, whose meddling sank the Spider-Man film franchise twice, as well as Amy Pascal, who became widely hated online for greenlighting Ghostbusters, and being greenlit by the aforementioned Tom Rothman), multiple online backlashes to various decisions (especially the decision to completely divorce Venom from Spider-Man, which led to comparisons to Catwoman (2004), which also infamously divorced its titular character from Batman), and an array of trailers with questionable taglines and some awkward scenes and dialogue, plus a smear campaign by fans of Lady Gaga to support their star's competing film, was anyone expecting Venom to get a box office of $370 million, nearly four times its budget, before a fortnight was over?
  • Virtually nobody in Hollywood saw the success of Twilight coming. When it was first picked up by Paramount, they tried turning it into an action-horror movie that had more in common with Underworld than the book it was based on, thinking that a vampire romance movie, without any horror elements, would bomb. Reportedly, after Stephenie Meyer took Twilight to the smaller studio Summit Entertainment, where it became one of the biggest hits of 2008 despite a then-unknown cast and low budget, heads rolled at Paramount as executives argued over who let the film slip through their grasp.
  • No one had faith in Smokey and the Bandit during production. The film's writer/director Hal Needham envisioned it as a cheap B- movie. Burt Reynolds hated the script, calling it the worst script he'd ever read, so much so that 90% of the dialogue in the final film was reported to be improvised. And the crew ran into budget issues as well. Who'd have guessed this would end up being the second-largest grossing film of 1977, beaten out only by Star Wars?
  • A biographical account of a wrestler who's not only still alive but may not be as mainstream as other wrestlers worthy of movies about them, directed by a guy primarily known for comedies and having The Rock as a producer despite being more of an action movie star? Yeah, Fighting with My Family had an uphill climb from the start despite its impressive cast and being endorsed by WWE themselves. Yet come release week, it manages to not only win acclaim through its humor and heart but also easily makes back its budget, managing to wrestle the UK #1 spot from The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part and do surprisingly well in the rest of the world.
  • Very few people seriously thought that Pokémon Detective Pikachu would actually be a hit. Not only was it a live-action film adaptation of a video game (a notorious curse in the film industry), it was an adaptation of a mostly obscure spinoff of a video game franchise that peaked in popularity in the West the late 1990s, and hadn't had a theatrical film release in the West over a decade. It wasn't expected to be a Box Office Bomb, but it surprised a lot of people when it made back almost three times its budget and got positive reviews from most film critics—including plenty of critics who openly didn't like Pokémon.
  • When Dora and the Lost City of Gold was announced, many people rolled their eyes because the preschool show it was based on had become a target for mockery. Not helping was the fact that the show ended in 2014, meaning that the potential audience had grown up with no one to take their place. Furthermore, the last attempt at a live action adaptation of a Nicktoon was a failure at every level. Henceforth, it was a surprise when the movie ended up getting 85% on Rotten Tomatoes, with praise going towards the Indiana Jones style adventuring and self aware humor. It made nearly $120m worldwide on a $49m budget. Its sucess also convinced Nickelodeon films to green-light a movie based on PAW Patrol for a 2021 theatrical release.
  • The marketing for Good Boys made it look like a movie with a one joke premise (kids swearing), and it was released at a time when R-rated comedies were losing popularity (Long Shot - Seth Rogen's prior comedy before this one - had bombed). It therefore came as a surprise when it got positive reviews and overperformed in it's opening weekend, being the first live action and completely original movie of 2019 to top the box office in it's opening weekend. Most of the positive reviews praised the movie for being a genuinely mature coming of age story.
  • Even Warner Bros. didn't expect Joker to be a success, to the point that they gave it a budget of less than $100 million (possibly in an attempt to dissuade director Todd Phillips from making it). It went on to get rave reviews at the Venice Film Festival and the Toronto Film Festival, even winning the prestigious Golden Lion at the former. Despite being the subject of controversy over its depiction of violence and mental illness, it broke several box-office records, made almost four times its budget in its opening weekend alone, and eventually beat Deadpool to become not only the highest grossing R-rated film of all time, but the first R-rated movie to make a billion dollars worldwide. It further cemented its success with 11 Oscar nominations, the most of any comic book film in history (winning both Best Actor for Joaquin Phoenix's Joker and Best Original Score), making it a potential game-changer for the genre.
  • No one expected Bad Boys for Life to be anything but a late and unwanted sequel to two dumb action movies directed by the polarizing Michael Bay (who wasn't involved in this film) and received negative reviews. Similarly, both lead actors had seen their star power fade over the course of two decades. It was initially set for a 2017 release date, before being cancelled and moved to 2020, in the dump month of January. Bad Boys therefore came as a surprise when it earned $73m in its opening weekend, outgrossed the first two movies, and ended up earning over $424m worldwide, and received glowing reviews deeming a more mature and well-done film than its predecessors. The success was cut short by the COVID-19 Pandemic, but it led to Sony greenlighting a sequel.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog had a massive uphill battle against it. For starters, it's a Live-Action Adaptation of a video game series (which hasn't had a great track record) of a character that, while still fairly popular, is way past his heyday. Then the project suffered a Channel Hop that saw the rights going from Sony to Paramount. And then the previews came out, with the first posters and trailers revealing an Uncanny Valley humanoid design that horrified fans, non-fans, and even Sonic's creators, leading to a vocal backlash. To everyone's surprise, Paramount actually delayed the movie to February 2020 from its initial November 2019 release date to modify Sonic's design. When the second trailer dropped, revealing Sonic's new design, everyone greatly approved of it. And then the movie actually had surprisingly decent reviews and adoration from audiences, also breaking the video game movie curse by having the best opening of the genre (over $110 million worldwide over President's Day weekend, about $70 million domestically, surpassing Pokémon Detective Pikachu). By March 15th, it has made over $300 million globally and $145 million domestically, becoming the highest-grossing video game movie ever in the latter category. And this was without the aid of neither Japan nor China, both countries having to delay their movie premieres due to the COVID-19 Pandemic.

  • Anthony Burgess wrote his first novel, A Clockwork Orange, as a form of therapy in an emotionally turbulent period in his life. He figured that once published it would be quickly forgotten, and he would turn his attention to his next book. Clockwork Orange propelled Burgess to international fame instead.
  • First editions of The Colour of Magic, the first Discworld novel, are quite rare because no one really thought it would sell and the publishing run was therefore rather low.
  • Harry Potter. Publishers were afraid children wouldn't read such long books. Literary critics pigeonholed the first book as lame 1990s juvenile fantasy, destined to be forgotten. Not only did the series become some of the best-selling books in history, but it also got film adaptations, and is still seeing some new merchandise and materials to this day.
    • Even the publishing house that finally accepted Philosopher's Stone wasn't going to at first. They saw no market or promise in the book. The editor charged with reading the manuscript took the first chapter home, didn't want to read it, and gave it to his eight-year-old daughter... who read the entire chapter at breakneck speed and began immediately pestering her father non-stop for the rest of the book so she could find out more about "the little boy." The editor went back to work and told his bosses that they just might have something here...
    • Even better, when Philosopher's Stone had its first printing, JK Rowling sat for a story with the book critic for a small local paper. At the end of the interview, she gave the critic a signed copy of the book as a gift. On the way back to the office, the critic tossed the book in a trash bin, thinking it was worthless. To be clear, the critic threw away a signed, first edition printing of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone... copies of which have sold for over eighty thousand dollars.
  • The original novel of M*A*S*H was rejected by over a dozen publishers, which was a record for the agency selling it. It eventually spawned a movie, numerous sequel novels and a tv series that ran for eleven years (and whose final episode was the highest rated show ever broadcast at that time).
  • Animal Farm was turned down by a publisher who told George Orwell in the rejection slip, "It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA." The slip in question was from The Dial Press of New York. To quote Christopher Hitchens in response: "And this, in the land of Disney..."
  • In case you need proof that most publishers thought Stephen King's Carrie would fail, King has saved all the rejection letters he got while trying to sell it. One of them said, "We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell."
    • Even King himself had no faith in the story―at first. After writing a few pages of the opening scene, he felt that Carrie would have to be much longer than he'd envisioned (which meant no magazine would buy it), he wasn't emotionally invested in the story or characters, and he didn't know enough about teenage girls to write about them convincingly. So he crumpled up what he'd written and threw it away, only to be presented with the papers later by his wife Tabitha, who'd found them in the trash, smoothed them out and read them. She'd been intrigued by what Steve had written and wanted him to continue.
    • After King made it big with Carrie, and followed it up with 'Salem's Lot, then followed that up with The Shining, his editor and close friend advised him that if he wasn't careful, he was going to get classed as a horror writer, and horror writers never experienced long term success...
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne did not expect The Scarlet Letter to be popular. It was.
  • Beatrix Potter at first had absolutely no luck finding an editor who liked The Tale of Peter Rabbit. Eventually, she used her family's wealth to publish it privately, and after some moderate success on this limited distribution, an editor was convinced that it would sell and, well, it certainly did.
  • As hard as it is to believe, one publisher rejected Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl, claiming in the rejection slip, "The girl doesn't, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above 'curiosity' level." (The name of this publisher has been lost, and more than likely, he kept quiet about it.)
  • Astrid Lindgren was rejected by one publisher, Bonniers. But she finally was accepted by another publisher, Rabén & Sjögren, and she would (mostly) remain faithful to them for the rest of her career. And it was a good career too, as she became one of Sweden's most-loved writers of children's literature.
  • Simona Ahrnstedt was determined to bring the Romance Novel to the Swedish literary scene. But it wasn't easy for her to find a publisher for her debut novel, Överenskommelser, and critics continued to ignore her. While she maybe isn't a household name, she's got a steady fanbase, she has published four more novels and has proved that there is a market for Swedish Romance.
  • Ted Geisel - better known by his pen name, Dr. Seuss - tried twenty-seven times, unsuccessfully, to sell his first children's book. You probably know it as And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street. And he almost Gave Up Too Soon. He was so frustrated after the 27th time, he decided to go burn the manuscript when by pure chance, he ran into an old friend... who had just happened to become a publisher.
  • A Confederacy of Dunces was rejected as being pointless by multiple publishers. After the author committed suicide, his mother found a smeared copy of the manuscript, and tried to get publishers interested for the next 11 years. Finally, she browbeat an established author into reading it, and he was so impressed, he used his influence to get it published. The novel won a Pulitzer Prize the next year.
  • J. R. R. Tolkien tried several times throughout his life to sell one version or another of what eventually became The Silmarillion, but gave up after many rejections, finally concluding that the work was best viewed as a personal hobby, inventing a setting in which to place his invented languages but of little interest to the greater public. Finally completed by his son Christopher and published posthumously, it never achieved the same heights as The Lord of the Rings (which incorporated a great deal of it into its backstory, making its status as a sequel to The Hobbit something of a Dolled-Up Installment), but it turned out to be of great enough interest to Tolkien fans to enjoy the sort of popularity that would make many a lesser fantasy writer envious, and enough interest remained for Christopher Tolkien to publish his father's notes in a more complete form as first Unfinished Tales and then the multi-volume The History of Middle-earth, and expand one of its story arcs to the novel-length The Children of Húrin.
  • Because people tend to remember the movie Gone with the Wind, it's easy for many to forget that Margaret Mitchell's book, which inspired it, was rejected over thirty times. It was an immediate bestseller and is the second-most read and bought book in the United States (the Bible is number one), and is the most successful novel in the US.
  • Everyday Saints is a book written by a Christian bishop about his conversion, the monasteries he lived in and the ascetics who influenced his religious life. Nobody at all expected it to be a success among anyone but devoted churchgoers. Instead, it became wildly popular, topped the 2011 bestseller list in Russia, had to be reprinted six times within a year from the first publication, and was translated into over a dozen languages.
  • A Wrinkle in Time was rejected at least 26 times before Madeleine L'Engle found a publisher. Reasons for rejection included the fact that it was a sci-fi story with a female protagonist and its frank depiction of evil being inappropriate for children. It went on to become a beloved novel with multiple sequels.
  • Jim Butcher didn't think much of his first attempt of The Dresden Files series. Many of his peers and writing teachers had tried to beat bad writing habits out of him, and so to spite them, he sat down and wrote the most cliched, formulaic story he could think of involving an Occult Detective in an Urban Fantasy setting just so show that he could. He shopped it around to publishers a bit halfheartedly, not really thinking much of it and looking towards his next project now that he'd gotten it out of his system, and was rather surprised when he found a publisher willing to take it on and commission sequels.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Walt Disney strikes again. At a time when the major studios were still fighting a desperate and doomed war against the new menace of TV, Walt embraced it; predictably, the established studios mocked. 35 years later, after becoming the first show to air on American TV's "Big 3" (ABC, NBC, CBS) and cable, the show that started as simply Disneyland finally left the air. See below for more about the show's namesake.
  • Saturday Night Live was considered a filler for dead airspace that was only created to replace old reruns of Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show and only appealed to stoners and insomniacs. Almost 40 years later, and the show (despite its ups and downs in quality, three threats of cancellation, and its constant changes in cast and crew members) has become a New York institution, is the longest-running sketch show in America, has old and new fans (some of which will forever argue over whether or not the show is still worth watching or if there's anything out there that can be a worthy replacement), beat 99% of the sketch shows that were put on the air to replace itnote , is more popular than ever in the viral video/Internet comedy era, and has accrued a vast wealth of memorable characters and moments (both funny and serious).
    • Writers were worried that the audience would respond negatively to "Lazy Sunday". Instead, the audience loved the song, it became the most popular SNL skit in years, brought the show out of its Dork Age, and introduced the world to The Lonely Island.
    • When Jon Hamm was announced as a guest host in 2008, the fan reaction was mostly "Huh? The Mad Men guy? Whatever." But his first hosting stint turned out to be an instant classic episode and also boosted his career by showing he could do comedy exceptionally well.
  • The Swedish Children's series Fem Myror Arfler An Fyra Elefanter (Five ants are more than four elephants). When the series premiered in 1973, nearly all children's shows produced in Sweden had a highly (nearly always Left-wing) political or social realistic overtone, commonly concerning capitalism and the Vietnam War, with many scenes that would be considered shockingly mature for a program aimed at children today. Then this series dumped down, nearly as an antipole against that kind of show, with its glamorous furnishings and carefree tone. Therefore, it was at first met with severe criticism, as many denounced the show as over-polished and unnecessary. 40 years later, the series is still watched and beloved by young audiences who are learning to read and count, while its contemporaries with their deeply political and somber tone are largely forgotten.
  • 24 initially began its existence as a romantic comedy-drama about the planning of a wedding over the course of a single day — before being reworked by producers Joel Surnow and Robert Cochran into an action-thriller about a government agent trying to rescue his family during a Presidential primary election in Los Angeles. The series wasn't expected to last a full season. FOX executives ordered 13 episodes and aired it with virtually no promotion whatsoever (and in a Tuesday timeslot, which was uncharacteristic for an action show). It was only due to lead actor Kiefer Sutherland winning a Golden Globe Award for his work on the first ten episodes that made executives order an additional 11 scripts to fill out the season. However, the series become much more critically-lauded, was a smash hit on DVD (so much so that it increased viewership of the second season by a full 25%) and eventually led to a franchise that lasted eight seasons (and a TV movie), with tie-in materials and a proposed feature film continuation, in addition to a sequel mini-series in 2014.
  • The Wire was initially rejected by HBO, who weren't even sure that they wanted a police procedural in their programming lineup - they had to be convinced by David Simon (who had previously collaborated with them on 2000's The Corner) to produce a pilot episode. The resulting season didn't fare so great in the ratings, and the series was on the verge of cancellation - until critics started promoting the show as one of the best new series in years. The show subsequently survived multiple attempts at cancellation, lasted five seasons, and has been regarded as one of the best dramatic series produced from the 21st century.
  • When the Sci-Fi Channel first aired the Battlestar Galactica (2003) pilot miniseries, fans of the original absolutely tore it to shreds, complaining about the changes to the characters (Gender Flipping Starbuck and Boomer for starters), making humanoid Cylons, a stronger emphasis on political and religious themes, the Darker and Edgier tone and more, to the point it was popular to call the reimagined series Galactica In Name Only. Others were turned off by the name and the association to what was perceived as a hokey Star Wars rip-off from the '70s. Better yet, the first season of the show was broadcast in the U.K. months before it aired on American television, and fans continued to tear into it - then, the show started to receive massive critical acclaim from critics across the world, and when the show debuted on Sci-Fi, it garnered some of the highest ratings for any sci-fi show in history. It lasted for four seasons, got two tie-in films, supplementary comics and novels, and resulted in two spin-offs (Caprica and Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome).
  • In late 2003/early 2004, Lloyd Braun and a few other ABC executives were fired because they had greenlighted a strange project called Lost. What is Lost, anyway? A rehash of Gilligan's Island with a dramatic angle? And the enormous budget that somehow got approved for this thing... worst blunder ever! Yet despite the lack of faith from the top brass, Lost became an overnight sensation and producer J. J. Abrams became a household name.
  • ABC started garnering a few tentpole series from midseason replacements, which in general are held for midseason because they're not considered good enough for the fall schedule. The first midseason replacement to become a hit was Grey's Anatomy. The second was Castle. The third, though not as big as the other two, was Body of Proof.
  • The U.S. adaptation of The Office was heavily criticized by both media pundits (for being an adaptation of a cult British series that lasted a grand total of 12 episodes and a Christmas special) and its original creator, Ricky Gervais (who feared that viewers would hesitate watching an American reworking of a British show — i.e. the American Coupling). The show had a six-episode first season where ratings fell sharply in between the premiere and season finale (due to NBC shuffling its timeslot around), and was in danger of being canceled (in addition to scathing reviews from major U.S. publications). However, the show quickly found a footing by differentiating itself in tone and content and found a distinct identity from the British series, and went on to become NBC's highest-rated comedy with nine seasons, launching the careers of several of its cast members and helped launch the writing career of Michael Schur.
  • Parks and Recreation went through a similar trial. Originally conceived as a spin-off from the American Office by the same writers before being made into an independent entity, reception to its six-episode first season was lukewarm at best, with critics dismissing it as a pale clone of its parent show. However, Parks would go on to Grow The Beard tremendously in its second season and found more of its own unique identity in the process. While it was mostly a Quietly Performing Sister Show in comparison to The Office (which got more attention and higher ratings), Parks went on for seven seasons, became a critical darling, and built up a loyal fanbase, with many considering it equal to, if not better than, its parent series.
  • The Disney TV movie High School Musical. Nobody, absolutely nobody, saw its mega-popularity coming.
  • In fall 2006, NBC premiered two primetime shows that took place behind the scenes of a sketch comedy show that airs live every week: Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and 30 Rock. It was widely expected that 30 Rock wouldn't last past the first fifteen minutes of episode one while Studio 60 would go on to success and acclaim. A year later, Studio 60 was the one dead in the water and 30 Rock had picked up the Emmy for Best Comedy. Two more years later, 30 Rock had three Emmys for Best Comedy and Studio 60 is yet another forgotten short-running show that will live on in the minds of die-hard Aaron Sorkin fans.
  • AMC was never considered in the same league as HBO, with original shows not being up their alley... until the double-whammy of period drama Mad Men and dark comedy/drama Breaking Bad. And once the two shows were joined by sci-fi megahit The Walking Dead, AMC became the most desirable network for drama on cable television. Breaking Bad was a particularly unexpected success for the network. When it was first greenlit, nobody thought that it would amount to anything. Even its creator, Vince Gilligan, didn't know if it would work. One executive described the idea of a high school chemistry teacher turning to dealing crystal meth, "the single worst idea for a television show [he'd] heard in [his] whole life". When it aired, despite getting mediocre ratings for most of its run, it was critically adored, with the acclaim increasing every single year. Finally, the last eight episodes of the series saw an astronomical increase in ratings in addition to almost universal acclaim, seeing the show go out in a blaze of glory both critically and commercially, with one of the most watched series finales in the history of cable television, firmly securing it a place in discussions of the best television dramas ever.
  • Glee, a somewhat weird show (even for FOX) about Midwestern high-school misfits partaking in song-and-dance competitions, was never expected to climb high enough in viewership to make an impact, let alone end up a top TV franchise. But it did, due in large part to razor-sharp plotlines (at least in the first season), impeccable musical direction, and the one-of-a-kind acting chops of Matthew Morrison, Lea Michele, Chris Colfer, and Jane Lynch.
  • Before it launched, the ITV 2 series The Only Way Is Essex was derided as a pointless knock-off of a more serious but otherwise similar series on Channel 4 called Seven Days. Not only did TOWIE become an unexpected hit, but who even remembers Seven Days now?
  • For the Friday night new shows on fall 1993, Fox decided to put a Western with big names up front, and some sci-fi show starring two unknowns afterwards to get the residual audience from its predecessor. The former is The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., which only lasted one season. The latter is The X-Files, which was highly influential, acclaimed, and popular during its nine seasons.
  • In 1975, when Phil Redmond was touting the idea for Grange Hill around most of the UK's television companies, no one was prepared to believe that schoolchildren would want to watch a realistic drama series about children at school. Finally taken up by the BBC in 1976 and launched in 1978, the series ran for 30 years, racking up 601 episodes.
  • Gardeners' World has been running since 1968, has its own magazine, and is practically an institution in its own right. But when it was first proposed, commissioners at the BBC didn't believe there would be an audience for a program about gardening and were even more skeptical that anyone would be able to find enough material to keep it running.
  • In the fall of 1994, ER and Chicago Hope premiered on NBC and CBS, respectively, in the identical Thursday at 10 pm time slot (and both set in the same city). While not exactly expecting ER to fail, many critics deemed Chicago Hope the better show and assumed that it would win the ratings battle. Instead, ER trounced Hope so thoroughly that within weeks the latter show moved to another time slot and was off the air in six seasons (perfectly respectable, but nothing compared to ER's fifteen).
  • The fifth episode of The Sopranos, "College", was initially met with extreme resistance from HBO executives because it showed Tony committing his first on-screen murder, and they felt that the audience would never be able to feel sympathy for the show's protagonist if he remorselessly killed an FBI informant without consequences. Being early in its run, The Sopranos had yet to become the critical powerhouse that it would eventually be, and the network still worried about its ability to sustain an audience. HBO tried to convince David Chase to write an alternate version with Tony letting the informant live; Chase ultimately compromised by agreeing to make him as unsympathetic as possible. In the end, though, not only did "College" end up winning a Primetime Emmy for "Outstanding Writing", it was eventually ranked the greatest episode of the series by Time Magazine, and it was ranked the second greatest television episode of all time by TV Guide note . To this day, fans frequently cite it as the show's Growing the Beard moment.
  • Once Upon a Time. A mythology-laden show bringing scores of fairy tale characters to life with an incredibly complex backstory and mostly unknown actors? Almost every TV preview of 2011 dismissed this as a flop that would be gone in a dozen episodes. Instead, it became a massive ratings hit and would run for seven seasons.
  • Orphan Black was expected to bomb on BBC America because it wasn't British. Instead, it became the network's third breakout hit after Doctor Who and Sherlock and the biggest Canadian-exported show in years. It gave Tatiana Maslany worldwide recognition after years of being only known in Canada, to the point that her snub for a Best Actress Emmy nomination in 2014 was seen as the biggest of the year.
  • J. Michael Straczynski had tremendous trouble getting Babylon 5 on the air. He shopped the concept around to multiple networks but it was rejected by all of them for, essentially, being too different from Star Trek, which at that time was believed to have set an unbreakable standard for live-action TV science fiction. It was finally picked up by the teeny-tiny "network" Prime Time Entertainment Network ("network" because it was essentially a syndication block operated by Chris-Craft the boat company and Warner Bros.) and proved to be popular enough to keep the troubled "network" afloat single-handedly. Granted, the franchise did not achieve the spectacular popularity of Star Wars or Star Trek, but it left an indelible stamp on the sci-fi landscape even as just about every single critic predicted it would fail before its second season, but instead, albeit with a lot of compromises and a last-minute Channel Hop, it achieved its goal of a five season run, making it the longest running SF space drama of its time.
  • Prior to release, Elementary received heavy criticism for being seen as an American ripoff of the BBC adaptation of Sherlock, and that's not even getting to the accusations of homophobia the producers got for gender-swapping John Watson. When it aired, however, it ended up becoming very successful, and while it doesn't have quite as large a fandom as the BBC show, Elementary gathered a decently sized and loyal fanbase and came to be considered a worthy adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle's stories, if not one of the best modern Sherlock Holmes adaptations on TV.
  • Red Dwarf was continually rejected for what seemed to Grant Naylor to be bizarre reasons; one executive claimed you couldn't have a sitcom without French windows. When they pointed out you couldn't have French windows on a spaceship he said "Exactly. And that's why a sitcom on a spaceship doesn't work."
  • Believe it or not, Power Rangers was pitched to American executives for years as an adaptation of the Super Sentai series already airing in Japan. But for years on end, Haim Saban couldn't find anyone who would take it until an executive at Fox Kids asked Saban for a boy-targeted action comedy show. As it turned out, said executive, Margaret Loesch, had alongside Stan Lee at Marvel Comics, attempted to bring the Marvel co-produced Super Sentai installment Taiyou Sentai Sun Vulcan to America years earlier, so she was more than willing to fight on the show's behalf against everyone else at Fox, its affiliates, and advertisers. Still, there were already had plans to have it just be a clean 40 episode show, and nobody would be the wiser. And then, well, it went Kaboom into the popular consciousness of the '90s, and still manages to truck on today despite numerous Channel Hop, Executive Meddling, and Troubled Production to the series's credit.
  • Mr. Robot: No one expected anything from a show on the USA network (not known for high-quality original content) and starring Christian Slater (a faded film star not known for his dramatic weight). Even the name didn't sound like something to take seriously. However, the show proved quite popular with critics and audiences alike.
  • Supergirl played with this. The show had a large hill to climb, given the perceived lack of mainstream appeal for the titular character thanks to the Girl-Show Ghetto. While it had to Channel Hop to the CW because the budget was too high for its original network, it managed to gain a devoted fanbase and a spot as one of the most beloved shows of the Arrowverse.
  • Game of Thrones: Apart from being an adaptation of a book series that, while a bestseller, was largely obscure to most of the mainstream, early reviews were not kind to the show's first few episodes due to the Fantasy Ghetto, expansive setting, and the Loads and Loads of Characters, and several critics decried that HBO (a channel whose previous original programming leaned towards gritty urban dramas and showbiz comedies) was heading straight into Network Decay. However, GoT would ultimately get the last laugh, as it would go on to gather a massive fanbase (as well as creating a Newbie Boom in readers for the original novels), earn nigh-universal critical acclaim, winning several awards, and brought back interest in the Dark Fantasy genre, along with inspiring other networks to make their own big-budget medieval/fantasy shows (Vikings, The Witcher, Prime Video's Lord of the Rings and so on).
  • Cobra Kai: When a series taking place 34 years after The Karate Kid featuring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka reprising their roles as Daniel and Johnny was announced, it was dismissed by many as yet another unnecessary Hollywood revival of a long dead franchise trying to cash in on its nostalgic value and that it would flop. The fact that it was premiering on YouTube Red, a service which has struggled to gain traction against streaming giants Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime also didn't help. When it premiered, critics praised it for being a well-written series that manages to balance the nostalgia from the films while also expanding on the film's concepts in the modern age and bring new energy and dynamic characters to the mix. Audiences agreed that it was a worthy new installment to the franchise and the first episode wound up being watched by 5.4 million viewers on its first day. The series was quickly renewed for a second season as a result and the show's popularity has only continued to grow following a Channel Hop to Netflix prior to the release of season three.
  • There wasn't much hope for Seth Macfarlane's Star Trek parody series The Orville, a big-budget sci-fi series from the creator of Family Guy, airing on a channel known for not being kind to the genre. On top of that, Dueling Shows was expected, as this was coming out at the same time as the much-anticipated Star Trek: Discovery. To the surprise of practically everyone, Orville was a bonafide hit with viewers, getting praise for its smart blend of sci-fi adventure and sharp humor, as well as being accepted by Trek fans as a clear love letter to the franchise. Despite mixed critical reception, its ratings were enough to help it land a second season.
  • The Conners had a massive uphill battle to climb. It initially started off as the second season of the revival of Roseanne... then, it's star, Roseanne Barr, was fired from her own show after getting caught up in a racist Twitter spiel. When the series was retitled The Conners, fans of Barr were sure that the series would flop, even going so far to review bomb various sites to try to destroy any chances of success. While it was nowhere near as popular as Roseanne's revival ratings-wise, the fact that it either surpassed or kept up with The Voice proved that it had the chops to continue despite everything and earned itself a second season, making it probably the most durable of the 2010s class of '80s/90s sitcom revivals.
  • Schitt's Creek: Despite being co-created by comedy legend Eugene Levy and starring Eugene and his frequent costar Catherine O'Hara, the series was met with lukewarm and dismissive reviews and in the USA aired on the obscure Pop TV channel. Many viewers were turned off by the name and some of the initial promotion focused more on the show's slapstick/broad humor rather than its more sophisticated jokes. Thanks to strong support in its native Canada and the faith Pop network executives had in the show, it was kept on the air, and show runner and co-creator Daniel Levy was left to his own devices. The show, which was never bad, gradually improved over the first three seasons so that when it landed on Netflix, it became a big hit with viewers who appreciated its queer sensibilities and positive but still sharp sense of humor. When the series ended by choice in 2020, the New York Times critic who had panned it wrote a piece defending himself and giving himself permission to reevaluate the show.
  • When it was announced that HBO would be creating a live-action Watchmen Sequel Series, to say that the initial fan reaction was skeptical is... quite an understatement, to say the least. That it was being written by Damon Lindelof only added to concerns, as his writing was most strongly associated with Lost gradually turning into a convoluted mess and Prometheus just being So Okay, It's Average. But several episodes and positive word of mouth later? The show averaged around 9.6 million viewers by the end of the series. This made Watchmen HBO's most watched new series since Big Little Lies, with its first episode alone garnering more than 1.5 million viewers across both broadcast and streaming services according to HBO.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus: In hindsight, it's almost a miracle that this show ever got made and managed to find an audience. Why would anyone want to watch a comedy show where half of the time the sketches go nowhere and punch lines are almost non-existent? In every episode, confusing things happen at random and without any sense of context or continuity. Sometimes the show appears to end but still goes on for several minutes. Other times it seems as if another show is playing. There's a lot of male crossdressing and homosexual innuendo (back in the 1960s and 1970s far more audience alienating than nowadays). Many intellectual references are made, often to very obscure stuff that would make an encyclopaedia come in handy. And several scenes are intercut with amateuristic cut-and-paste cartoons that border between the macabre and the grotesque. Indeed, the general public didn't know what to think of it. Most of the time the studio audience hardly snickers. Even the BBC tried to axe and boycott the show several times, even going so far to think of erasing all seasons in 1975 (urban legend claims that the Pythons only managed to avoid this by buying back the master tapes out-of-pocket). And how do you export this bizarre series to foreign countries? Apart from the sheer bizarreness mentioned earlier, a lot of jokes refer to things only British people would get (and only those who remember the late '60s and early '70s at that). But, despite all odds, a cult following came about and the show caught on outside the UK as well. Still, for many years they polarized a majority of the audience and the Pythons were amazed that several decades later public opinion has changed so drastically that suddenly they have become the darling boys of comedy. The cast was fully aware of this, as well. In an interview, John Cleese said he was in makeup with Michael Palin and said: "Do you realize this could be the first comedy in the history of British television where no one laughs?" Palin reportedly responded, "I was just thinking the same thing."
  • Goodbye My Princess: Fans of the novel Eastern Palace were unimpressed when its drama adaptation was first announced, especially because neither of the lead actors were well-known. Everyone expected it to be just another of the many Chinese period dramas that fall into obscurity within months. Instead the drama became wildly popular.
  • CBS initially responded to Lucille Ball's insistence that Desi Arnaz play the husband on I Love Lucy by saying they weren't sure if audiences could believe that a celebrity like Lucy was married to an obscure Cuban bandleader. In response, Lucy and Desi gave a vaudeville tour across the country. The tour became a success, proving to the networks that a TV show of the duo would be huge. 70 years later the show is still recognized as one of the greatest and most important sitcoms of all time.

  • In 1982, Epic Records thought Thriller, Michael Jackson's follow up to his 1979 smash Off the Wall, would flop, due to its Genre Roulette. One hundred million copies, seven top ten singles, and eight Grammy Awards later, Michael Jackson would cement his legacy as the "King of Pop".
  • After Hearts and Bones flopped, Warner (Bros.) Records basically wrote Paul Simon off as a has-been. When they heard that his next project was going to be a fusion of pop and the music of South Africa, the label just rolled its eyes and let Simon do what he wanted with no interference, since odds were that no one would buy it anyway. Instead, Graceland revitalized his career.
  • When 1967's "Penny Lane" became the first Beatles single in four years to not hit #1 in England (it got to #2, kept out of the top by Engelbert Humperdinck's "Release Me"), the British press concluded that their successful run as artists was finally coming to an end. Then they released a little thing called Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
  • In 2000, the French hip-hop duo Lunatic (Booba and Ali), released their first and only album, Mauvais Œil. Due to the nature of the lyrics (dark, gritty, violent and nihilistic), the album had little to no mainstream radio support, and Booba later stated in a 2008 interview that he'd considered selling merely 50 000 copies a success. Despite all of these factors? Mauvais Œil defied all expectations, went Gold (one of the first French rap independent albums to do so), was critically acclaimed and is now considered a French Rap Cult Classic.
  • Booba, with Temps Mort, his first solo album, reiterated the same success. While Mauvais Œil had some mainstream radio "support" (and by that we mean broadcasting a few songs at night and in the weakest listening times), Temps Mort had none, with Skyrock director Laurent Bouneau (Skyrock was the big French radio at the time) referring to the album as "village rap". Temps Mort nonetheless went Gold, the 2003 re-release only boosted the sales (thanks to the Destinée song, which was much more mainstream-friendly, leading to Skyrock broadcasting it, even though the album was already selling well), the album was critically acclaimed, became yet another French rap Cult Classic, and Booba still remains a heavily successful French rapper today.
  • German Industrial Metal band Rammstein had a lot of factors working against them for making an impression beyond the alternative metal scene of their home country, much less in America. Between their provocative imagery, performing all of their songs in German (American music listeners are especially resistant to songs sung in any other language than English), and lyrics covering dark subject matter, no one, much less the band members themselves, thought they'd make any splash. But those very factors (as well as a Colbert Bump from Trent Reznor putting them on the soundtrack of Lost Highway and appearing in XXX) helped launch Rammstein into global stardom, with the band being considered one of the greatest bands in the metal genre's history and their American fandom is so massive that the German version of the trope Germans Love David Hasselhoff is actually titled "Americans Love Rammstein".
  • When Columbia Records executives heard the completed version of Pink Floyd's The Wall, they were apparently unimpressed. The label balked at releasing a double album, proposing reduced royalties. One exec even proposed flipping a coin with Roger Waters over it, but Waters refused, saying that he shouldn't have to gamble on something he owned. The label backed down, and the album became one of the band's most popular, second only to The Dark Side of the Moon in terms of sales.
  • Atlantic Records, Peter Gabriel's U.S. label at the time, declined to release his third self-titled album (Melt) because they thought it was uncommercial. Not only did they think it would flop, they thought Gabriel had completely lost his mind. Mercury Records released it instead, with the single "Games Without Frontiers" becoming a hit in the U.K. and reaching the Top 100 stateside. The album also reached number 22 on the Billboard charts and went gold. The Atlantic exec who made the decision to drop Peter Gabriel, John Kalodner, quickly snapped him up for Geffen Records when he moved to the fledgling label, which later reissued the album.
  • Also from Atlantic was Hootie & the Blowfish's debut studio album Cracked Rear View. Tim Sommer, the A&R man who signed Hootie to Atlantic and helped co-produce the record, tells the story in this article, saying that, in 1993, the only rock bands that any record label wanted to sign were grunge bands that sounded like Nirvana. Sommer had to fight tooth and nail to get Atlantic to give Hootie any support at all, receiving only a fraction of the money normally given to new artists, and when the head of A&R at Atlantic first heard Cracked Rear View, he described it as "unreleasable" and said that it had no singles. Sommer and product manager Kim Kaiman had to concoct a release strategy in which the first run of Cracked Rear View would go mainly to the Carolinas, where Hootie and most of their fanbase was from, and let it grow from there rather than try and release it nationally. Sommer took it as an omen when, just before he flew out to South Carolina to see Hootie perform for the first time, he took a look at the Billboard album charts and saw that Bob Seger's Greatest Hits Album was in the Top 10note  — to him, a sign that there was a vast market of rock fans who didn't like grunge and had been left sorely under-served by the major labels. Twenty million records later, and Sommer's hunch was very much vindicated.
  • All major record labels in France rejected Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygène because it lacked everything that they thought good music needed like vocals and guitars. Nobody would want to listen to eight-minute tunes fading into each other anyway and such. They had to seriously reconsider after Oxygène was published by the small jazz label Disques Motors — and sold ten million copies right away.
  • Willie Nelson released his Stardust album of jazz standards in 1978 amid heavy doubts from his record label, who didn't think a jazz album from an outlaw country singer would have a chance. Ten solid years on the charts later...
  • Weezer, following up from the success of the light and peppy Blue Album, released Pinkerton, a much darker, more personal record inspired by frontman Rivers Cuomo's Creator Breakdown. At the time, this drastic shift didn't sit well with fans nor critics and it sold poorly, resulting in the band going on hiatus for three years and taking a Lighter and Softer direction afterwards. However, the album later became a Cult Classic and critics eventually put it in higher regard, along with going Platinum twenty-two years after release.

  • Random Assault: The podcast had many naysayers back when it was starting out on the Games Radar forums, especially with people thinking of them as a PCN-Gen rip-off.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Ronda Rousey's badass image took a significant hit after her bad losses in UFC, giving people who had previously liked the idea of her coming to work in WWE serious doubts about it. But when she finally made her in-ring debut at WrestleMania 34 in a mixed tag match with Kurt Angle against Stephanie McMahon and Triple H, it was considered by many to be the show-stealing match on the card- and despite the combined years of experience WWE had put in the ring with her to help guide her in the match, most of the credit for its awesomeness was laid squarely at Ronda's feet, with everyone who had expressed doubts about her eating their words and admitting that she looked amazing. Since then, she's been regarded as one of the best-booked women in the company throughout 2018 and has been hailed as having one of the best rookie years in a long time, including winning the Raw Women's Championship without feeling like she was being rushed to it.
  • Ricky Morton and Robert Gibson were put together as The Rock 'n' Roll Express in Memphis in 1983, based off of their first initials. Jerry Lawler hated the name and thought it was the worst name he had ever heard and that they'd use it for one night but would try to come up with something better. As all those screaming girl fans shouting "ROCK N ROLL! ROCK N ROLL! ROCK N ROLL!" proved, he was wrong.
  • ECW's Tod Gordon originally dismissed The Dudley Boys and The Blue Meanie as "drunken Raven ideas."note  While it took a while for the Dudleys to find the right combination (Buh Buh Ray and D-Von), they did eventually get over and became very successful, and are now known as possibly the most prolific tag team in the history of the business. The Blue Meanie couldn't match the Dudley Boys' career achievements, but, the fans did come to love him.
  • On paper, WhatCulture Pro Wrestling/Defiant Wrestling should have never worked. A YouTube channel-backed wrestling promotion originally centered around its cast with many unknown faces alongside some of the best indie talent in the world. Yet, it ended up introducing many wrestling fans to the british wrestling scene, managed to produce many memorable matches, storylines and events, and became itself the launching pad for many other wrestlers. And it managed to pull off a big world tournament which went mostly without any big hitches. At its peak, it was considered one of the (if not THE) best promotions of the UK wrestling scene. Too bad that YouTube's demonetization of anything wrestling-related, the departure of the What Culture Wrestling cast and the eventual launching of NXT UK happened.
  • WWE Evolution had quite a lot of skepticism at first. While the women of the company have been treated much better over the past couple of years compared to the mid-aughts, many still doubted they'd be able to pull off an all-female show, especially with some questionable booking choices leading up to the event. In addition, many felt that the show was WWE trying to save face after their highly controversial Saudi shows (including the upcoming Crown Jewel) would not allow women to compete due to cultural reasons. Come the day of the event, and many were caught by surprise at how well done the show ended up being, with particular praise going towards the production, crowd energy (comparable to that of NXT), usage of the women on the card, and especially the brutal Last Woman Standing match between Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair, which many deemed a Match of the Year contender in a year full of them (Omega/Jericho, Gargano/Almas, Gargano/Ciampa II, Okada/Omega IV, NOLA Ladder Match just to name a few). By the decade's end, many were naming it one of WWE's best shows of the decade, while the aforementioned Crown Jewel (which WWE tried so hard to hype up as a Saudi WrestleMania) was constantly named as one of, if not the worst show WWE put out in that same period.
  • WrestleMania 36:
    • In general, many weren't sure if the company should've still hosted the event considering the COVID-19 Pandemic, and when they revealed that they were still going to host it via stitching together pre-taped matches and segments that would be broadcast over two nights, fans were skeptical over the final product. It turned out to be one of the better WrestleManias over the last few years, with some even calling it the best since WrestleMania 31.
    • There was a lot of uncertainty surrounding the Boneyard Match between The Undertaker and AJ Styles. While the build was good, the Undertaker's matches for the last few years generally haven't been the best and many weren't sure if even AJ (oft-regarded as this generation's Shawn Michaels) could get a good match out of him. Not helping the matter is that, since the announcement of the match, no one was exactly sure what a Boneyard Match was (including the participants).note  WWE allayed these filming it as a campy horror-esque cinematic vignette in the vein of the Broken Universe and Lucha Underground. By the time it was over many were unironically calling it the greatest WrestleMania main event ever.
    • John Cena vs. "The Fiend" Bray Wyatt in a "Firefly Funhouse Match" had the fans nervous if it would be like the infamous "House of Horrors Match" Wyatt had with Randy Orton three years ago. To people's surprise, it was more like a vignette that has multiple references to WWE, deconstructing John Cena's career and a lot of meta Mind Screw as if it was something filmed by David Lynch or an episode of Black Mirror. The consensus was that the crowd was loving this at the end, and could give the Boneyard Match a run for its money.

    Puppet Shows 
  • Jim Henson couldn't get any of the US networks to support a prime-time variety show featuring those puppets from Sesame Street. Lew Grade, of the UK-based ITC Entertainment, saw something no-one else did and agreed to produce the show and broadcast it on ITC's ITV station ATV. That was, of course, The Muppet Show.

    Tabletop Games 
  • When Catalyst Game Labs announced that they were going to have a Kickstarter drive to fund a Clan Invasion Box Set for BattleTech, there was a lot of doubts about whether or not it would succeed. When it finally went live, it met its funding goal of $30,000 in seven minutes and ended up receiving in excess of two and a half million dollars in pledges, making it not only one of the most successful gaming Kickstarters ever but one of the 100 most successful Kickstarter project period.
  • From the game's creator, of all people. Princess: The Hopeful was initially designed as a parody with no intent to be taken seriously. People ended up liking it so much it was developed into an actual fan line. Nowadays, it's considered one of the best fan-games in the community.

  • The concept of doing a hip hop themed musical about Alexander Hamilton sounded very stupid to many people, and Jon Stewart even mocked the premise in an episode of The Daily Show. Hamilton star Daveed Diggs thought it was a terrible idea before signing up. Even the guy who came up with the idea, wrote the music, book, and lyrics, and played the lead man thought it wouldn't do very well. Despite this, Hamilton became a smash at the box office, and won near-universal acclaim.
  • Oklahoma! is apocryphally associated with reluctant backers' premature verdict of "no girls, no gags, no chance," referring to the musical's relative lack of Fanservice and broad clowning compared with the oversexed star-comic vehicles that proliferated on Broadway during World War II (and flopped more often than not).
  • The SpongeBob Musical was dismissed as nothing more than a cash grab by Nickelodeon. Instead, critics found a surprisingly heartwarming and funny musical.
  • Forty years before Hamilton, the other great political musical — 1776 — encountered much the same. Sherman Edwards didn't find many takers for his idea for a musical where everyone in the audience would know the ending in advance; by the time it finally reached Broadway, it had a first-time songwriter (Edwards), a producer who had never had a hit, a book writer whose only previous Broadway credits were two musicals that flopped, and a director whose only previous Broadway credits were as a lighting designer. It had no stars — the lead role was played by character actor William Daniels — only two women in the cast who both have minor roles, and several long scenes with no music where men argue over Congressional votes and the wording of a document. Of course it became a smash hit.

    Theme Parks 
  • Disneyland was known as "Walt's Folly" in Hollywood while he was building it and 'Walt's Nightmare" in the press after a disastrous opening day. After said opening day, it has become one of the most successful theme parks in America, even acquiring many more theme parks around the world.
  • Race Through New York Starring Jimmy Fallon at Universal Orlando Resort was initially thought to be a failure by theme park enthusiasts, stating that Universal was hitting the bottom of the barrel when it came to simulator rides. However, the ride is immensely popular at the park, even to this day.

    Video Games 
  • Then-president of Sega of Japan, Hayao Nakayama, thought then-president of Sega of America, Tom Kalinske, had made a mistake in 1991. Kalinske decided to bundle the company's Killer App Sonic the Hedgehog with the Sega Genesis for the upcoming holiday season, despite being released only a few months ago. While Nakayama didn't interfere with this plan, he thought it was an awful idea. Sega of America's gamble paid off, with the Sega Genesis outselling Nintendo's SNES almost two to one during the holiday season. This caused Sega's market share in the 16-bit console to skyrocket up to 65% in January the following year, dethroning Nintendo as the console leader for the first time since December 1985. This established Sega as a serious contender against Nintendo, starting the Console Wars that shaped a good part of the video game landscape in the 1990s.
  • Nintendo is very familiar with this trope.
    • The Nintendo Entertainment System in North America. After The Great Video Game Crash of 1983, there was a period when people thought that video games were just a passing fad. For this reason, many thought the NES would be a failure. It went on to become one of the most successful gaming systems of all time, and is considered to have single-handedly saved the video game market in the West.
    • Nintendo didn't have a good response to Super Smash Bros. 64 when Masahiro Sakurai presented it to them. Nonetheless, they decided to green-light its release while believing it would bomb in sales. After its sudden rise in sales and popularity, its later sequels quickly established it as one of the most popular fighting game franchises of all time.
    • Pokémon, Game Freak's Cash Cow Franchise, was practically declared a failure and a loss by Nintendo, and they never paid it much mind. In fact, Pokémon was put on the Game Boy out of desperation more than anything else — no one but Satoshi Tajiri, the creator, was interested in releasing something for the aging, forgotten Game Boy. Tajiri simply wanted to see his game available to the public. The franchise ended up saving the Game Boy; it was a massive boon for Nintendo, who had back then found themselves with a major competitor in the form of the PlayStation that was hurting their market share in the home console market. The anime adaptation also helped popularize anime in the West. Ever since its release, Pokemon has been the cornerstone of Nintendo's nigh-unstoppable success in the portable gaming market - because it's a franchise that relies on the handheld, Nintendo handhelds can always rely on it to help boost sales with every new release.
    • Metroid:
      • Before its release, Nintendo and Retro Studios made so many controversial choices with Metroid Prime that no one, not even levelheaded fans and critics, was kind to. First off, Nintendo let Retro, an unproven American studio, develop the game rather than doing it themselves. Second, they made it in 3D which many expected but was still a controversial choice - the Polygon Ceiling was still looming over the industry like a vulture. Finally, they also made it first-person, which was thought to be the final nail in the coffin for the game having any hopes of being good and feeling like Metroid. When it came out, not only did everyone feel like Prime was a true Metroid game, it was a commercial hit, and the Prime trilogy is generally considered to be among the greatest games in series, plus regular contenders in "top 100 games of all time" lists.
      • According to Yoshio Sakamoto, Super Metroid was nearly canned three times. And its biggest detractor was its producer and series creator, Gunpei Yokoi. He often angrily asked the team "Are you trying to make a goddamn masterpiece?" Super Metroid is now regarded as a goddamn masterpiece, and the quintessential game of Metroidvania genre, with overwhelming praise for everything from the gameplay and level design to its atmosphere and minimalist visual storytelling. It has been at or near the top of numerous lists of the best games of all time. Yokoi himself eventually came to see it as a reference of exactly what a good game should be. The main reason an N64 Metroid game was never made was primarily that no one had the confidence that they could make a worthy successor.
    • The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker introduced a radical Art Shift to a new cel-shaded style that was met with massive backlash on reveal; the Fan Nickname "Celda" was used derogatorily. This is especially due to a prior showcase of the Nintendo GameCube's hardware having footage of Link and Ganondorf fighting in an updated version of the relatively realistic style used in the Nintendo 64 games. Plus, Nintendo's stigma of making games mostly for kids and families were beginning to hurt them, as their new competitors focused more on the teen and young adult demographic. However, upon release, it became one of the system's most popular titles. The Wind Waker is now considered one of the best games in the franchise, and future Legend of Zelda titles would go on to use the same art style.
    • The Nintendo DS and Nintendo Wii were both expected to be failures with terrible gimmicks by both critics and fans before release. The Nintendo DS was expected to be surpassed by the PSP, and many thought the Wii would force Nintendo to leave the console market like Sega did the previous generation. The former went on to become the top-selling handheld dedicated game system of all time. The latter went on to become the company's best-selling home console and outsold its competitors by a far margin as well.
    • The Nintendo 3DS received much skepticism before and during its launch period. People thought that its glasses-free 3D wouldn't be appealing to consumers, and some also thought that its name was too similar to its predecessor's for consumers to realize it was a new product (the latter would end up being a factor in the failure of the later Wii U). Analysts also predicted that Nintendo would face much greater handheld competition this time, not only from Sony with their PlayStation Vita, but also from what was now the massively popular mobile game market. The 3DS did indeed struggle during its first year, but a quick price cut and a steady release of must-have titles soon turned things around; the system would end up selling about 75 million units. Meanwhile, the Vita ended up selling so poorly that Sony decided to abandon handheld gaming entirely, and while the mobile game market became much more lucrative than the 3DS, it soon became known more for low budget Free-to-Play experiences that never tried to directly compete with the kinds of games typically released on the 3DS.
    • Considering that sales for the Fire Emblem franchise had been on the decline for years, Intelligent Systems considered it a very real possibility that Fire Emblem Awakening would be their last FE game ever. They even said in an interview before release that they would likely shelve the series indefinitely if it didn't sell at least a quarter of a million units. It went on to be the most successful game in the entire franchise, both critically and financially (around 2 million units worldwide), especially in West. This led to Fire Emblem becoming one of the big hitters of Intelligent Systems.
    • While the game immediately gained attention from its first trailer at E3 2014, there was a lot of skepticism about the first Splatoon's chance of success. It was a new intellectual property during a period where established franchises were the status quo. It was Lighter and Softer than every other shooter on the market. Nintendo had rarely worked on games in the shooter genre prior to Splatoon, and they had never made a game where the core focus was online play. As a Nintendo game, it was released solely on the severely under-performing Wii U, whose small audience likely didn't have any interest in the shooter genre. And despite being an online multiplayer game, the developers staunchly refused to support voice chat. You'd be forgiven for thinking that it would be a niche title at best. But then it sold 1 million copies in a month. Cue the wall of shame. Nintendo quickly labeled it as one of its most important franchises, with the even greater success of its sequel two years later further cementing this status. And you want to take a guess where the franchise is most popular? Japan.note 
    • On paper, Fire Emblem Heroes is a game with plenty of factors stacked against it. It's a Gachapon, a genre that is not held in high regard among Western players. It is published by a company whose previous mobile offerings have struggled to maintain long-term support and relevance, something vital for a Gachapon. The core gameplay's simplification of mainline Fire Emblem games doesn't satisfy hardcore fans, while the Fire Emblem brand isn't quite mainstream enough to pull in casual players. And yet in spite of all that, it is highly successful worldwide thanks to its careful application of Revenue-Enhancing Devices making free-to-play or budget conscious players valid, while also providing a surprising level of depth when it comes to building your team. It also won weary fans over by being a celebration of the franchise as a whole. Nintendo later stated Heroes was a core part of their revenue for 2017, making it incredibly influential to how the company has since handled mobile gaming.
    • The concept of a Mario and Raving Rabbids crossover, which later became Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, was thought to be so stupid that initial leaks concerning the game were instantly disregarded. When it became clear that this game was legitimate, there was instant skepticism about how good this game could possibly be. Then the game's E3 reveal showcased well thought-out Turn-Based Strategy gameplay similar to the XCOM games and humour on par with the Mario RPGs, putting most gripes to rest. The game received good-to-great reviews and quickly became one of the best selling third-party games on the Switch.
    • After the relative flop of the Wii U, people were skeptical about the Nintendo Switch's chances of success. While the concept was interesting, there were those that were doubtful there was a market for what was essentially a gaming tablet with TV Out. The reveal of the Joy-Con's HD Rumble function and 1-2-Switch also had people wondering if Nintendo was just trying to recapture the Wii audience again with a bunch of gimmicks. But thanks to a steady streak of first-party releases during its first year and the allure of being able to play various AAA and indie games both new and old on-the-go, the system went on to surpass the lifetime sales of the Wii U in ten months, then the Nintendo GameCube after another ten months, and then the Nintendo 64 during its first two years. It has since then become Nintendo's second best-selling system in their history, only behind the Wii.
    • When Pokémon Let's Go, Pikachu! and Let's Go, Eevee! were announced, they were derided by Pokémon fans as cheap-looking and dumbed-down remakes that would end up alienating too many people to sell well. As those games and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate were Nintendo's major new releases for the 2018 holiday season, people took it for granted that the latter game would have to do the heavy lifting to boost sales of the Switch hardware. The Let's Go games ended up selling a combined 10 million units by the end of the year while also giving the Switch hardware a massive boost in their launch week despite the games coming out before the week of Black Friday.
    • Pokémon Sword and Shield were also met with derision by sections of the fanbase after the announcement was made that features and monsters from previous titles would not be initially present; some even going so far as to suggest the changes would make the eighth main generation of the franchise its last. Instead, the games ended up having the most successful launch for the series and the Switch overall up to that point; even eventually outselling Super Mario Odyssey as one of the bestselling games on the Switch and the top 3 in the entire franchise.
    • Ring Fit Adventure was met with laughter and derision when it was revealed, due to being a strange mixture of fitness and RPG mechanics. The weird peripherals were also met with snickers. However, thanks to its fun factor and overall uniqueness, it managed to sell incredibly well. It also saw a huge spike in sales as a result of the COVID-19 Pandemic forcing many gyms to close. It currently sits 12th on the list of best selling Nintendo Switch games, just behind Luigi's Mansion 3 with 8.68 million copies sold as of the end of 2020.
  • When Microsoft unveiled the original Xbox, it was not expected to compete significantly with the other consoles out there. For one thing, American-made video game consoles were considered lost causes in the aftermath of The Great Video Game Crash of 1983, with the major failure of the Atari Jaguar just a few years before heavily coloring people's expectations. Furthermore, people didn't think it was possible for the console market to sustain more than two major competitors; this was a period when Sega was starting to flounder while Nintendo held onto their market space and Sony was starting to ride high from their introduction of the Playstation brand (the fact that Microsoft had collaborated with the Sega Dreamcast didn't help matters). But very good word of mouth for Xbox launch title Halo: Combat Evolved helped push initial sales of the console, and the hardware's largely unprecedented focus on online multiplayer through Xbox Live was successful enough for Nintendo and Sony to start looking into it themselves.
    • Speaking of, Halo itself was an example of this. Before Halo, the First-Person Shooter was generally seen as impossible to pull off on consoles, with any sucesses being few and far between. The game's underwhelming showing at E3 2001 didn't help matters either, leaving many wondering just want Microsoft was thinking with making Halo of all games one of their launch titles. No one at Microsoft expected the game to be one of its heavy hitters either, but come launch day, it became an instant classic that would turn the FPS genre from something no one in their right mind would try without a keyboard and mouse into one of the most popular genres in the medium, displacing the Platform Game.
  • Combining Square and Disney's ability to pull this off, when people first heard about Kingdom Hearts, a game where a Square-ish character travels through the worlds of various Disney movies with Donald and Goofy, most people thought it was going to be a quirky kids game and that's it. Instead, it was a huge success and became Square's second-biggest series (right under Final Fantasy).
  • The first game in the Mega Man franchise didn't do so well, but the devs still wanted to make a sequel. Capcom gave them permission to do so only if they did so in their spare time. Cue Mega Man 2, and the rest is history.
  • Sony didn't bother to publish Demon's Souls themselves as a first-party PS3 title in the west because they thought it wouldn't sell well. Demon's Souls wasn't just published by Sony's Japanese division; the game was co-developed by SCE Japan Studio. Luckily, publishers like Atlus and Bandai Namco picked up the title, and the rest was history. Demon's Souls ended up as a big Sleeper Hit in 2009 and much to Sony's surprise received positive reviews from both gamers and the press. For a lightly-marketed game, it sold more than 150,000 units in its first month alone. Sony to this day regrets not publishing Demon's Souls themselves in the west and losing out on a potential first-party Killer App.
  • Spyro the Dragon fans and critics alike thought Skylanders would be a bomb. Instead, it's become a Cash Cow Franchise that has more than surpassed the original Spyro games, with over 700 million dollars in sales and several titles.
  • The Ace Attorney series' creator, Shu Takumi got told his idea of a lawyer main character would fall flat on its face. Judging from the number of sequels, additional media, and fan bases, it's clear that Takumi had the last laugh.
  • This happened with Will Wright's two big projects, SimCity and The Sims.
    • The first version of SimCity was finished in 1985, but publishers at the time refused to release it because it was a non-standard game without a clear goal. So Will Wright and Jeff Braun had to open their own company, Maxis, to get it out. Even then, when SimCity was first released in 1989, it sold very poorly in its first few months in retail. It wasn't until game reviewers and journalists got hold of the game that it became successful, selling over 1 million copies in 1992 and winning multiple awards, with the game receiving numerous custom versions, including a Teacher's Edition of the game for use in classrooms.
    • When The Sims was codenamed "Dollhouse" (and was originally conceived as a house-building simulator where virtual people would judge the player's houses) during its development in the '90s, focus groups who tested the game hated it and Maxis had little faith in Will Wright's next project after SimCity, thus shelving it. When Electronic Arts bought out Maxis in 1997, Wright's project was given a second chance, and after years of hard work, The Sims was released in February of 2000, selling millions of copies and becoming a Cash Cow Franchise that spawned several sequels and expansions.
  • Very few journalists and gamers were initially optimistic about Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor beating The Problem with Licensed Games. For one thing, it was announced around the time that audiences were getting sick of The Lord of the Rings, thanks to the mixed response to The Hobbit. For another, early gameplay previews made it look suspiciously similar to Assassin's Creed (complete with a Tolkien-flavored version of Eagle Sight), to the point that many gamers accused it of being an outright clone. And the developer spent so much time hyping up the Enemy Hierarchy mechanic that it made gamers roll their eyes, sure that it couldn't possibly be as open-ended as it looked in the trailers. But in the end? Though it took some clear inspiration from other games, Shadow of Mordor was roundly praised for its engaging combat and original story, and the Hierarchy system was praised as one of its best ideas; Orcs really did remember past encounters, level up after fights, advance in rank, and even challenge other Orcs in exploitable power struggles.
  • DOOM (2016) had all the hallmarks of a bad reboot: a generic "guy with gun" cover, a disappointing multiplayer beta showing off the undoubted weakest portion of the game, no input from creators John Carmack and John Romero, Denuvo DRM on the PC, and no mod support. A lack of advance review copies from Bethesda seemed to suggest not even the publisher had any faith in what was by now all but a confirmed flop. Yet, its single-player campaign alone carried the title to win multiple "Game of the Year" awards. The campaign was so well-received that when the later Switch port made the multiplayer mode a separate download to save on cartridge space, people didn't really mind all that much.
  • Reaction to Watch_Dogs 2 was mixed, largely due to the first game, and many thought that players would largely avoid the franchise's second outing. At first, that seemed to be the case, with sales being nowhere near that of the first game. But then word of mouth got out about how much of a Surprisingly Improved Sequel it was, and the game managed to have good long-term sales that resulted in Ubisoft announcing that they were happy with the game's performance, even adding a Sequel Hook in a post-release patch.
  • Life Is Strange was a video game with a female protagonist, very little Fanservice, a focus on relationships, and only a minimum of gaming goes against the stereotypical views of video game requirements for success in every single way. Instead, it was a critical and financial success that turned out to be one of the sleeper hits of 2015.
  • Hiveswap was attacked by two sides before release. On one side, you've got the people who despise the source material and its fans, and they just want the series to fade into irrelevance. On the other side of the spectrum, you have the cynical Homestuck fans who expected the game to be the next Mighty No. 9 in that it would be an ambitious yet disappointing Kickstarter game riddled with delays and Troubled Production, and that it would further tarnish the webcomic's reputation. Once it released, it turned out to be an enjoyable text-based adventure game that both Homestuck fans and non-fans could enjoy.
  • Warframe: When Digital Extremes made the decision to revive their original design concept for darkSector and make the game they'd always wanted to make, every publisher they brought the idea to told them directly to their faces "this will fail". Every single one. Who eventually decided to take a chance on it? Nobody- so Digital Extremes said "screw it" and decided to self-publish Warframe themselves. Keep in mind, Warframe wasn't a small indie single-player game, it was a full-bore action-MMORPG, and DE was literally betting everything they had on their belief that people would want to play their game- Warframe would succeed, or Digital Extremes would die. And in the 5+ years since it first entered open beta, Warframe has grown to become not only one of the most popular F2P games in the world (it has a secure hold on its place in the top 5 most-played games on Steam alone, to say nothing of its release on consoles and its own independent PC client), it has also become a shining beacon of creativity, daring design, and in-depth community interaction, hailed as a role model that all F2P games should strive to emulate. Now, the same publishers who dismissed the game as having a literal 0% chance of succeeding are coming to DE with cap in hand, begging to be taught the secret to succeed in the F2P market the way Warframe has.
  • When Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate was announced for the West, many fans were concerned that it would sell poorly even relative to games before it due to being released after Monster Hunter: World (unlike in Japan where it was released before), which became a blockbuster hit because of the many changes made to the series' long-standing formula to appeal to a wider audience. For what it's worth, Capcom seems to be calling GU's Western release a success, suggesting that while Generations Ultimate obviously doesn't come anywhere near the worldwide standing ovation that its immediate successor got, it sold just as well as its 3DS predecessors.
  • Soulcalibur VI had an uphill battle from the start, right up to just getting made. After Soulcalibur V underperformed and was hit with a widespread backlash, Namco didn't think the series was worth keeping around. The franchise had also been out of the limelight for many years, with fans having long given up hope that Soulcalibur would return. When the game was announced, it received much fanfare, but many were worried that series would effectively die with VI when word got out that Namco didn't even want to make it, and Project Soul head Motohiro Okubo had to convince them to allow it. When the game released in 2018, VI garnered an 84 on Metacritic, making it one of the highest-rated fighting games of the eighth generations, and it quickly outpaced its predecessor in sales, selling a million in a month. By Namco's own admission, the game was successful. Then it got an easy ticket to EVO 2019, where it became one of the biggest games there, and the game remained alive and active with DLC, Guest Fighters in the form of Geralt and 2B, while also having the prospect of a second season. Soon enough, it became clear that Soulcalibur got its groove back.
  • Until 2012, the thought that a tiny group of unpaid 4chan anons were planning on making a free dating sim about girls with physical handicaps based on a single piece of obscure Japanese concept art would've probably either been met with ridicule or followed by the assumption that the result would be the vilest of insensitive troll games. Cue Katawa Shoujo, a game hailed by both amateur and professional game journalists for its lovable characters, gripping storyline, and beautiful soundtrack, credited by many as having singlehandedly renvigorated the OELVN market and introducing many of the medium's current Western fans to visual novels.
  • Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy was fighting an uphill battle when it was first announced. Not only was it another Crash game distributed by Activision (whose track record with the Crash Bandicoot series have been highly controversial among fans), but it was being developed by Vicarious Visions, who prior to N. Sane did the GBA Crash games, which were seen as So Okay, It's Average at best. To add more fuel to the fire, they were HD remakes of the first 3 PS1 games by Naughty Dog. Even Activision thought the game wasn’t going to sell that well upon release. The result? It became one of the highest selling games of 2017, it got rave reviews from critics, was well received by fans of the classic games, and even Naughty Dog, known for their strict stance on Only the Creator Does It Right regarding every Crash game post Team Racing approved of the remastering job. It was so successful that it led to the Spyro Reignited Trilogy and Crash Team Racing: Nitro-Fueled, both of which were also well regarded.
  • While NieR: Automata was not exactly expected to fail, it was nonetheless expected to end up as more of a niche game, being a sequel to a low-budget, under-the-radar title and being directed by an infamous eccentric who has never had much success in the past. It was also being developed by PlatinumGames, a company that has a track-record of fantastic titles that fail to translate to financial success. The fact that Platinum was going through both financial and creative troubles at the time didn't help matters. But against all sense and reason the title ended up being a smash hit and performed well beyond what anyone expected and even saved Platinum from bankruptcy.
  • Omori had six years in development, had to move the game from RPG Maker VX to MV, canceled the Nintendo 3DS version plus the lack of communication between developers and backers, many expected the game to be the next Mighty No. 9: another broken game and another Kickstarter failure that didn't deliver what it was promised. Thankfully this wasn't the case: the game came out on Christmas Day 2020, and it got a lot of positive reception from backers and players alike.

    Web Videos 
  • The DVD commentary of The Nostalgia Critic's Pixels review had Rob mocking anti-clipless people by saying the episode was the second highest viewed on the YouTube page, and that all the other clipless reviews have done really well regarding hits too.
  • This is one of Muselk's main sources of humor. Strats like the sexy Junkrat and surprise Bastion were admonished by his friends for being useless and foolish, but worked insanely well for quite a while until the fanbase caught on.
  • The idea of an English branch of hololive was long treated by many as a joke: after all, why would English-speaking audiences turn out to streams of new Vtubers from a Japanese company when they could watch established streaming personalities on Youtube and Twitch? Once the first generation of hololive EN launched, however, it became a runaway success, with all five founding members earning a combined total of around $100,000 in Superchat donations from their debuts. Gura Gawr, one of the members of hololive EN, would later go on to be the first hololive star to break a million subscribers, helping to solidify her place, as well as those of her companions, in the video game streaming landscape and the Vtuber industry.

    Western Animation 
  • Many initially despied Batman Beyond for its premise alone (a future-Batman who wasn't Bruce Wayne or any of the Robins, but in fact a Canon Foreigner who was in high school), and even more the notion that it was set in the continuity to Batman: The Animated Series (with many seeing TNBA as a weak follow-up and wanting a true sequel series). Instead, it became far and away the most successful legacy adaptation for DC, embraced by audiences of both the classic and new Batman, and seen to sit side-by-side with Frank Miller's Batman: The Dark Knight Returns as a "future Batman" story with Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker in particular considered not only one of the best DCAU films (if not the best) but one of the greatest Batman and Joker stories period, with many parts of it being adapted again in the Batman: Arkham Series. Terry McGinnis also came to be embraced as a worthy successor to Batman in the mode of Wally West and Kyle Rayner.
    • Furthermore, many Batman fans are dreaming a live-action adaptation, with Michael Keaton as the elder Bruce Wayne.
  • Beast Wars; it was expected to fail so hard due to the massive amount of changes to the Transformers formula, the Fan Dumb cry of "Trukk not Munky!" is burned into all Transfans' minds. Turns out, the quality of the show probably saved the franchise from dying out and became the standard for what all future western-made Transformers would be based on.
  • Bojack Horseman was initially seen as yet another dime-a-dozen lewd, crude and cynical animated comedy for adults. Coupled with the mediocre to outright bad reviews the first season got and it's a surprise that the show became one of the best reviewed of the 2010's. The initial reviews for the first season only covered the initial six episodes, meaning the main dramatic climax (and by proxy, the Signature Scene of the show in "The Telescope") weren't shown off to the reviewers.
    Raphael Bob-Waksberg: Funnily enough, we only sent the first six episodes to critics. Which, looking back, might have been a mistake. (laughs)
  • An animated series based on the Castlevania games seemed like it would be too niche to attract a sizable audience, if not suffer the usual reputation of game adaptations, nevermind that the idea had been shopped around and trapped in Development Hell for a decade. To nearly everyone's surprise, the show turned about to be a notable success with that was faithful to the source material while adding its own twists, featuring violence and dark themes that not only wasn't watered down from the games but also went further than any game had previously. The only major complaint was its short length, confirmed as a pilot for a longer story. Thankfully, its strong reception ensured it a second season a day after it went up, with it later confirmed that said season would be twice as long as the first one, answering the major complaint.
  • A Charlie Brown Christmas was considered almost radioactive by CBS. To them, an animated special with actual children doing the voices, a jazz soundtrack, no laugh track, and a Bible recitation seemed a ludicrous recipe for TV disaster. Instead, it became the greatest Christmas Special of them all.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic had a lot stacked against it. To start, it was the next incarnation of a franchise that was not only viewed as the embodiment of the kind of Tastes Like Diabetes stuff aimed at little girls that was ripe for all kinds of mockery, but a franchise that had undergone a steep slide in quality since its inception. Meanwhile, long-time fans of the Craig McCracken-Genndy Tartakovsky group, as well as television critics, were skeptical it would be anything more than your standard, bland Merchandise-Driven cartoon, with some even pointing to it as being the herald to the end of the "creator-driven" era of TV animation. On top of that, this was to be a flagship show on the fledgling network The Hub, a channel co-owned by the toy company Hasbro. The show's creator Lauren Faust also received a lot of harsh words from every corner of the internet about selling out and her supposed lack of artistic integrity, to the point where she feared the show would flop and this would be her Creator Killer. Despite this vitriol, or perhaps because of it, the show wound up succeeding with not only its target audience, but also breaking out of the Girl-Show Ghetto by gaining a large Periphery Demographic nobody expected, not only boosting a dying toy franchise back into popularity, but also allowing The Hub (now known as Discovery Family) to be seen as a real contender for the likes of Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. Once everything was said and done, Friendship Is Magic got nine seasons, a spin-off series, books, and a theatrically released movie over the course of ten years, and inspired a comic and manga which are both still running.
  • The Powerpuff Girls: The test screening for the first pilot was an absolute disaster, with children complaining about the unusual character designs and one even going as far as to say that creator Craig McCracken should be fired. Craig went to work redesigning the characters with more traditional features, but then-president of Cartoon Network and future [adult swim] founder Mike Lazzo reassured him that a negative reaction was better than a lukewarm reaction and that they shouldn't change a thing. The kid that called for his termination would later serve as the inspiration for the show's bully Mitch Mitchelson.
  • A Christmas television special using stop-motion puppets was a strange concept on the part of NBC and Rankin Bass, the studio they hired to make Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Instead of being completely ignored, however, Rudolph proved to be a huge hit and a staple of the holiday season.
  • The Simpsons:
    • When Matt Groening was invited to pitch a series of animated shorts for The Tracey Ullman Show, he got cold feet and made up a pitch on the spot about a sitcom family with the names of his parents and siblings rather than take a chance on allowing his Life in Hell characters to be tied to a failure. When he first met up with the animators to work on the first short for the The Tracey Ullman Show, they reckoned that it would take around two weeks to complete... and that they would get about three weeks of work out of the entire project before it was shelved. Then...
    • Very few people expected The Simpsons to make a successful transition from skits on The Tracey Ullman Show to half-hour show of its own. Even Matt Groening was having doubts on its first season and was threatening to have it canceled since he was having issues with the animation. Despite that, The Simpsons remains the longest-running sitcom in America, a universal favorite (it's been dubbed and subtitled in a lot of languages), a Cash Cow Franchise, and a critical favorite, both adored by the general public and critics.
  • Sonic Boom had a massively long road ahead of it. Fans were already weary of the franchise due to the significant character design changes, especially to Sonic and Knuckles. Then, came the release of Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric and Shattered Crystal, both of which were critically and commercially panned. Especially Rise of Lyric, due to it being an Obvious Beta. Then the comic series found itself canceled just as a crossover they were involved in was getting started, the final issue being released after the crossover was completed. To many mainstream Sonic fans, the cartoon was the last piece that needed to fail before Sega could finally do away with this incarnation of the franchise and get back to "their" Sonic. Surprisingly, the series did well enough on Cartoon Network, to gain a second season on sister channel Boomerang. The series is now considered by many to be the only redeemable part of the "Boom" experiment, next to the aforementioned canceled comic, thanks to its surprisingly witty dialogue and character portrayals.
  • South Park of all things, started out miserably when Trey Parker and Matt Stone's tiny cult hit joke-animated short "The Spirit Of Christmas" got picked up for a pilot. The first episode "Cartman Gets An Anal Probe" was completed and submitted. It was pounded into the ground by test audiences who were baffled by the (intentionally) terrible animation, the juxtaposition of cute characters spewing vulgarities in steady streams (with the highlight being Kyle's heavily censored tirade towards the end), and the overall bizarre nature of the plot. It was deemed a complete and utter failure and Comedy Central was very unconvinced that South Park had any future, but still encouraged Matt & Trey to create a few more episodes such as "Weight Gain 4000". These too did not impress the network, and many people thought the show was directionless. With much hesitancy and uncertainty, they aired the shows. While mainstream critics even were very slow to warm up to the show, they eventually did, and it became a more impressive hit than Comedy Central expected. However, major problems and waning fan interest after only Season 2 (a season Matt & Trey have gone on to say was their absolute worst season) they figured that South Park was all but finished. During Season 3, they produced South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, while being faced with immense Executive Meddling from both Paramount and the MPAA, they figured the movie would flop miserably and would be their triumphant last hurrah. Instead, it was critically acclaimed and a box office success and brought more attention to the show. Cut to today, where South Park's renewed contracts with Comedy Central will take the series up to an unprecedented twenty-six complete seasons.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars was against the odds due to the initial Animation Age Ghetto, the ties to the divisive Prequel Trilogy (which the installment is set during), and the inevitable outcome being that the protagonists' actions will be for naught. In the end, it became extremely popular for its action and plots and helped remedy certain aspects in the story and characterizations from the movies that were controversial with fans, and as of 2018, has been renewed for a seventh season.
  • Before Unikitty! aired, many detractors expressed worry, especially considering it was advertised as being from people who worked on Teen Titans Go! (in reality, just the same animation development team, though Aaron Horvath is a staff member), but it has proven to be good to many people and profitable for the network.
  • Back in 2015, Disney announced a reboot of DuckTales was in the works. Many fans didn't take kindly to this. Reboots such as Teen Titans Go!, The Powerpuff Girls (2016) and Ben 10 (2016) proved polarizing amongst fans of the original and many thought the DuckTales (2017) reboot would be the same. But when the trailer debuted on YouTube, many fans changed their minds upon viewing and when the first episode aired, fans, old and new, fell in love with the show. Many now regard DuckTales (2017) as superior to the original show and it's viewed as an example of how to properly reboot a series.
  • Carmen Sandiego: When the first trailer premiered, it was praised for its appealing art style but otherwise expected to be no more special than any other reboot that was capitalizing on both millennial nostalgia and "wokeness" by turning a Villain Protagonist from the '90s into a hero. Thanks to positive word of mouth about it's gripping plot and excellent characterization once it premiered, it quickly became one of Netflix's most popular animated shows and is largely seen as one of the best reboots ever.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power, a Continuity Reboot of the 80s cartoon show She-Ra: Princess of Power, went through a similar trial. Before it first came out, many weren't thrilled about this series due to the original's origins as a spin-off of He-Man while others found the new show's aesthetic more childish than the original series, but after the first set of episodes were released, it rapidly found an audience that appreciated the more serialized storytelling and emphasis on characterization compared to the original along with a more mature tone, with many calling this new series better than the original.


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: