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Magnum Opus Dissonance

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"Her first book, labored over for years, and launched full of the high hopes and ambitious dreams of youth, floundered on its voyage, though the wreck continued to float long afterward, to the profit of the publisher at least. The hastily written story, sent away with no thought beyond the few dollars it might bring, sailed with a fair wind and a wise pilot at the helm into public favor, and came home heavily laden with an unexpected cargo of gold and glory."
Louisa May Alcott's vicarious description of her experience writing Little Women, from Jo's Boys

The serious work that you lavish all of your efforts on and have the highest expectations for will not receive nearly as much acclaim or success as the one you just toss out to pay the bills.

What happens when a writer or artist deliberately tries to create their Magnum Opus? They slave over it for years, pouring 110% of their heart and soul and energy and sanity into it, and confidently expect it to be huge, monumental, Genre-Busting, and assure them eternal fame and honor... and what is the response? At best, "Meh, it's So Okay, It's Average". At worst, "Wow, it's So Bad, It's Horrible".

But what happens when the same artist just writes or creates something for fun or profit or out of contractual obligation with no big plans, hopes or expectations for its success? Heck, they know it's not that good but figure it will at least pay the bills this month. They're so busy working on that inevitably earth-shattering magnum opus, they don't even give this other silly little project much thought. Whoever commissioned it is sure to be disappointed, but it's no big deal; the public won't even notice its existence enough to laugh at its pointlessness anyway.


Cue Situational Irony! That book, movie, or painting that the creator couldn't care less about becomes an instant sensation. They're hailed as a genius, worshipped for blessing the world with this wonderful new classic, immortalized in parodies and homages, and earn an eternal place in history for their brilliance and creativity. That masterpiece they had such high hopes for will quickly fade into obscurity, but they will be remembered and celebrated for this little hackwork forever.

There are multiple causes behind this. Creators have different expectations and standards they apply to themselves than the audience and critics do; their definition of a Magnum Opus might simply be the one that was the most perfect, smoothest, with the fewest hassles that went into making it. Some of them tend to be The Perfectionist, and where audiences might forgive one or two mistakes or blemishes, the creator can't and will keep striving to achieve that ideal. Often, the author put so much pressure on themselves that it actually damaged the creative process, whereas giving their creativity free-rein produced better results despite them paying less attention. Also, works intended to deliver a deep, profound, important message have a tendency to come across as Anvilicious-esque, while works that are written without such concern end up focusing more on the story itself. This can also be related to One for the Money; One for the Art; after succeeding with a crowd-pleasing work, a lot of creators get to work on their masterpiece, and said work may suffer from Protection from Editors due to a swollen ego or Development Hell due to the creator trying to get it just right.


Alternatively, writers are as human as the rest of us and, as individuals, can hold different opinions than their fanbase (or what they think is their fanbase); this includes both expectations of audience experience and perceived aesop importance/acceptance. And their tastes might evolve over time: their latest work is more likely to match what the creator currently prefers, as well as represent their accumulated experience throughout their career, but fans' tastes are much less likely to evolve in the same way as the creator, causing them to cry They Changed It, Now It Sucks! instead. In some cases, however, the author does indeed know better and over time the work of art they are proudest of might become Vindicated by History.

All of the above aside, this isn't necessarily as black and white as it sounds. As some of the examples below demonstrate, the opus can, in fact, have its own substantial fanbase and perfectly respectable sales and reviews...but it just ends up Overshadowed by Awesome compared to the other works. Some fans may even agree with the author and prefer the opus to the author's other creations.

When the effect is somewhat delayed, see Vindicated by History. For the inverse, see Old Shame.

Sub-Trope of Murphy's Law and the Centipede's Dilemma and Sister Trope to Creator Backlash (often a good source thereof, too). Breakout Character is sometimes related when a specific character rather than an entire work becomes far more popular than was ever planned. See also Creator's Favorite Episode, where that choice may potentially result in this.

Compare Self-Deprecation, Sweet and Sour Grapes, Springtime for Hitler, It Will Never Catch On, I Am Not Spock, Never Live It Down, and And You Thought It Would Fail. Some examples also drive on the Sunk Cost Fallacy as a creator can believe his best work is the work he spent the most time working on. May overlap with My Greatest Failure if the creator takes it hard. Also see Consolation Award for when the work that is considered the best by the public is not the most awarded. Can be the result of You Were Trying Too Hard. Compare Black Sheep Hit, where a work atypical of the creator's style attracts new fans... who often clash with the existing fan base. Often overlaps with One-Hit Wonder.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Guilty Crown, created by the minds behind hit anime including Death Note, Macross Frontier, Code Geass, and Attack on Titan was hoped to be the creation of the next generation of anime, and is admitted to be the favorite work of many of the writers. Many viewers have thought otherwise, however.
  • Osamu Tezuka's most beloved work is, indisputably, Astro Boy. At least by his audience. Tezuka himself eventually got fed up with Astro Boy, and only continued making it because it was such a Cash-Cow Franchise. His personal favorite of all his manga series was Ode to Kirihito. He also intended for Phoenix to be his Magnum Opus, but his own premature death prevented it.
  • Takashi Hashiguchi considers Saijou no Meii his most important work, having created it in an attempt to get young people more involved in the notoriously conservative Japanese medical establishment, but the world will always know him as the Yakitate!! Japan guy.
  • ChiChi ChiChi by Cool-Kyou Shinsha features an in-universe example where Hiraku gets depressed after an erotic novel he wrote sold better than his picture book series.
  • Masami Kurumada has said that his favorite manga he ever wrote was Ring ni Kakero, which was based on his real-life experiences as a martial artist. However, his longest-running and most successful series, and the one which he is known the world over for, is Saint Seiya.
  • Katsuwo wrote Hitori Bocchi No Marumaru Seikatsu as a gag-a-day side project while most of his attention was focused on his serialized manga Mitsuboshi Colors. But the anime adaptation of the former and genuinely entertaining and endearing characters caused its profile to rise much higher than the latter ever did. Colors ended quietly in 2019, while Bocchi still continued to run until 2021, having attained a level of popularity its sister series never reached.
  • Dragon Quest: The Adventure of Dai has an In-Universe example as part of the Back Story of Lon Berk, the Demon World's Ultimate Blacksmith. While working for Demon King Vearn he created a number of novel magic weapons, as well as the Staff of Edacity - a simple upgraded version of the common Somatic Staff (a weapon for mages which converts the wielder's Mana into physical attack power). Due to Vearn's immense mana, in his hands the Staff of Edacity becomes the most powerful weapon in existence; Vearn is so pleased by it that he outright tells Lon Berk to retire as a smith, offering to make him his top general instead. Lon Berk is honoured by the offer, but so deeply unsatisfied at the Staff being his greatest achievement that he instead leaves Vearn's service to continue honing his skills. After multiple decades of trying and failing to create a weapon superior to the Staff (now widely known as "Lon Berk's masterpiece"), he gradually loses all passion for his craft; by the time the protagonists meet him he's been reduced to a jaded alcoholic who makes a living by selling sloppily-crafted weapons to humans.
  • Aka Akasaka's debut manga ib: Instant Bullet was what he considered his life's work, as he had been writing the story since high school, but it was unceremoniously Cut Short and he was fired from his publishing house before he could even reveal the meaning of the title, resulting in him hastily wrapping it up with a wall of text. Searching desperately for work following that, he pitched a rom-com about "a couple of stupid children" to Shueisha because he knew that was what the executives wanted to see. That hasty pitch ended up becoming Kaguya-sama: Love Is War, which has sold 19 million copies and counting.

    Comic Books 
  • Peyo's favorite work, and actually his original main one was Johan and Peewit (Johan et Pirlouit in its original French title)... But, one day, in one of this series' album, appeared a certain band of little blue creatures. They were intended to be one-shot characters but quickly became Ensemble Darkhorses... And from then, The Smurfs (Les Schtroumpfs) became the single most remembered work of Peyo.
  • Spider-Man co-creator Steve Ditko didn't like to talk about Spider-Man. More precisely, he preferred not to talk about the character and he vowed never to draw the character again after he left Marvel in 1967. He occasionally popped up to complain that Stan Lee takes too much credit for Spidey's creation, but that's the extent to which he discussed Spidey. Ditko preferred to promote his Ayn Rand-inspired comics, but most of the readers who even know about those works have judged them tedious and unreadable.
  • Steve Gerber evidently considered the 1990-91 Foolkiller limited series his greatest work. However, it seems that he will always be known best for Howard the Duck.
  • Suske en Wiske creator Willy Vandersteen considered Robert en Bertrand to be his best work. This comic strip series never reached the same popularity Suske en Wiske did and was discontinued quickly after Vandersteen's death, while Suske en Wiske just keeps on publishing new stories.
  • Asterix co-creator Albert Uderzo considered Asterix in Corsica to be the best entry in the series, and while it's a very popular entry in France, in other countries it's seen as a decent but unexceptional story.note 
  • Blake and Mortimer: The entire series was considered one by its author, who was trained as an opera singer and really thought it was his true calling.
  • Mark Waid does not mind that Kingdom Come is his most popular comic, but he has said that his favorite comic he has made is Superman: Birthright. Birthright's still very well-regarded, mind, but it didn't do as well as Waid had hoped when it came out.
  • Dan Didio listed his ten favorite moments as an editor of DC. Several of the listed comics are considered mediocre or controversial (Identity Crisis, Countdown to Infinite Crisis, Batman: Hush, the Supergirl relaunch, Superman: Earth One, the entire New 52 initiative), and he even suggests that Before Watchmen would have made it in, had it come out a little sooner. More universally well-regarded projects, like All-Star Superman, DC: The New Frontier, Seven Soldiers, and Wednesday Comics were given nods, but didn't make it in. A lot of this is because he's an editor, and would consider his biggest successes to be cases that required some major wrangling of writers and artists, over something that took no more work than "take a good creator, let them do whatever they want for twelve issues."
  • An In-Universe example in Misfit City. Garth Hemming is an actor best known for his role in the universe's The Goonies Expy, "The Gloomies". However, he immediately takes a shine to Luther for knowing him in other roles he played, including the one he seems to have enjoyed the most in "The Spooky Squad".
  • Ken Penders considers the "Mobius: 25 Years Later" arc of Sonic the Hedgehog (Archie Comics) to be his all-time best work, has a story in Development Hell that he claims will make heavy use of it, and has gone on record as saying that if he were to be reinstated on the title, he would declare it the only canon possible future. In fact, he banned another writer from his forum for suggesting that it was just a possible alternate future—not even that it was non-canon, just that it wasn't necessarily the One True Future. Most fans consider it to be one of the comic's biggest low points, as it had a massive amount of buildup making it out to be the fight of a lifetime, but its actual stakes and plotting were borderline nonexistent (a big chunk of its twelve issues is the cast getting ready for a dinner party) and the future versions of characters were just boring dads or housewives with boring Generation Xerox kids. Fan opinion varies on what the actual best part of Penders's years on the title was, but very few people would give the title to M25YL.
  • My Little Pony: Friends Forever #14 was self-described as "the most socially and politically conscious pony comic you ever read" within 10 minutes of its release on writer Jeremy Whitley's twitter... who went on to fiercely defend it and blocked the author of a scathing article that pointed out the many problems and complaints of the issue, which was almost universally disliked. Compare and contrast his FIENDship Is Magic issue that featured King Sombra's origin which, despite releasing with much less fanfare, was praised as not only the best of the entire Fiendship series but one of the best issues in the entire IDW comics run.
  • Alan Moore has a few notable examples:
    • Moore has once said that the only copies of his comics that are in his house are From Hell and Lost Girls. They are likely the works he is proudest of (and that he owns the rights to). Compare that to most fans gravitate to Comic Book/Watchmen or V for Vendetta.
    • The Killing Joke is one of the most famous stories that Alan Moore wrote in DC continuity, having gotten a film adaptation, sold incredibly well in trade, and regarded as the Joker story by many. Alan Moore, meanwhile, considers it one of the worst books he's written. He judged the overly-dark style to be unfitting for a character meant for wild adventure, the observations on Batman and the Joker shallow and low on Applicability (since it's dealing with two characters who don't act anything like any person ever has), and the blatant use of Collateral Angst something he should have realized was a bad idea from the get-go. In general, Moore doesn't seem to be fond of being regarded as an important Batman creator when he only ever wrote two issues starring him—he considers the other story he wrote, "Mortal Clay", to be much better, despite it being infinitely less well-remembered.

    Fan Works 
  • The brain-breakingly epic Tamers Forever Series (based on Digimon Tamers) was originally intended to be a mere side project while the author overcame his Writer's Block.
  • The Games We Play, a 379 page drama, while far from being an unnoticed piece of work, was promptly out-viewed by the author's later fic — a one-shot of the philosophical ramblings of Pinkie Pie watching paint dry, something the author wasted little time pointing out in a blog post.
  • Jade Ring, after dabbling in My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fanfic for some time, tied together most of his stories through shared references, forming The Dear Sweetie Belle Continuity. While the eponymous "Dear Sweetie Belle" is the single installment he is most proud of and it and its sequels are rather well-regarded, it developed some backlash over the idea of Rarity being Sweetie's biological mother, and later entries in the continuity either encountered further criticism over character treatment or were largely ignored. Then, after watching Rainbow Rocks, he was compelled to create a small SunLight clopfic- straight into FIMFiction's feature box, fanart the same day, expansion on the actual clop by popular demand, and a sequel with another on the way. Once again, Sex Sells.
  • Kelly Green has deleted some of her funniest The Mansionverse comics over and over again, forcing fans to go out and tell her they love it and want it back every time. Even this failed for a few comics, but fortunately the fans Keep Circulating the Tapes.
  • In 2006, while working on the Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers Fan Fic series that became The Midnightverse, Midnight Man expected the three-act novel Lost And Found to become his magnum opus. What he got the most praise for, however, was First Date and Last Date whose combined length would still remain below novel size, comparing it with award-winning fics (the Dates were nominated, but never won anything), in one case even seeing Last Date on par with the legendary Graphic Novel Of Mice and Mayhem from the same fandom. Even Midnight had to reconsider by 2008 when Diamonds In The Desert (that wasn't even planned yet when he wrote Lost And Found) neared its completion and slowly clocking in at more than twice Lost And Found's size, also since it's his only fanfic that ever won Golden Acorn Awards (one in 2007 and 2008 each).
  • Prehistoric Earth: In the retrospective released in July 2020 for the 4th anniversary of the story he and Nathanoraptor wrote together, Drew Luczynski has made it clear that he has largely come to immensely dislike how the story ultimately turned out once the writing for it ended up increasingly in the hands of Nathanoraptor. Specifically, he's made it clear that he believes that the chapters that made up 'Season 1' are the only good parts of the entire story since those are the ones that most closely adhered to his own personal vision of the story. The story's readers and Nathanoraptor have the complete opposite opinion (specifically, they consider the 'phase 1' to be a weak and aimless start, believe the 'second and third seasons' to be the moment the story reached its full potential and found all the 'side characters' arguably more interesting than the 'main protagonist').

    Films — Animation 
  • Disney:
    • Walt Disney naturally had a soft spot for his trademark character Mickey Mouse, but never understood the international success of Donald Duck.
    • During the early 1940s, Disney released the artistically advanced Pinocchio and Fantasia, then the relatively cheap Dumbo. The first two of those movies flopped at the box office (partially because World War II cut off overseas markets), while Dumbo proved profitable enough to keep Walt Disney Animation Studios afloat. Pinocchio and Fantasia did later become some of Disney's most acclaimed movies, though. Possibly, in Fantasia's case, it was because it was not exactly a broad-appeal film (in the 1940s, classical music was already considered a highbrow subject; the stories built around the pieces were intended to be agreeable to the masses and introduce them to classical music, which had positive effects for "Night on Bald Mountain", "The Sorcerer's Apprentice", and "The Rite of Spring".
    • Discussed in Fantasia, when the host introduces the sequence based on "The Nutcracker Suite", he mentions that Tchaikovsky, the composer, did not consider it his best work, while it is unquestionably the most popular of all his compositions.
    • Among all the films made within Walt's lifetime, it is said that Bambi was his favorite. Though the film is indeed quite acclaimed today, it was a box office failure upon its release (for the same reasons as Pinocchio and Fantasia) and even to this day, his first venture into feature-length animation Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is often considered his most iconic film.
    • Walt himself intended both Sleeping Beauty and Alice in Wonderland to be his joint magnum opus, but neither movie turned a profit during its initial box office release. In the case of Alice, Walt disliked the film even before it flopped due to its Development Hell issues and regarded it as a mistake for the rest of his life, and the Troubled Production of Sleeping Beauty (the reason they were his "joint magnum opus" is because they were both conceived at the same time. However, animation bottlenecks held up work on the film for five years; it didn't reach the cel-painting stage until 1957, four years after the live-action reference footage had been shot and the voice tracks laid down). Both of them have long since been Vindicated by History.
    • Oliver & Company (1988) and The Little Mermaid (1989). Oliver & Company was focused on to be an immediate release and The Little Mermaid was thought by Jeffrey Katzenberg to be nothing but a girl's film. However, Oliver & Company was a box office success (but a critical failure) prompting Disney to release at least one film per year while The Little Mermaid in 1989 signalled the Disney Renaissance.
    • In the early 1990s, Pocahontas was in production at Walt Disney Pictures, and everyone involved was convinced that this would be the great landmark animated feature of the revitalized Disney. By comparison, The Lion King was simply a filler project to tide things over for 1994. But The Lion King became the mega-smash hit that would prove to be the financial pinnacle of Disney's Renaissance, while Pocahontas in 1995 became more of a letdown that signaled the decline of the company's success.
    • After floundering in the 2000s, it's clear they had high hopes The Princess and the Frog would be the start of a Second Disney Renaissance (the first having been The Little Mermaid), releasing it amid a wave of publicity and hype regarding its protagonist Tiana, the first black Disney Princess. The movie did well, but, thanks at least partly to being released in an absolutely brutal winter season (Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, and the Alvin and the Chipmunks sequel were all released around the same time), it didn't do quite as well as Disney had hoped. The next two Disney Princess films, Tangled and Frozen on the other hand, while not disliked, each spent a long time in Development Hell and dealt with heavy Executive Meddlingnote  Despite that, they each did infinitely better at the box office and got the praise that Frog was aiming for. Frozen especially so.
  • Dreamworks with The Prince of Egypt to Shrek. The former was Katzenberg's baby, receiving all of the talent and money, while the latter was the discount animation project, with production shut down several times. (In fact, the term "shreked" became a company term for someone who was sent to work on the film, presumably as punishment.) The Prince of Egypt had much critical success and a fairly good box office return; it was the highest-grossing non-Disney 2D animated movie until The Simpsons Movie came out, so it can't be said to have been a failure. That said, Shrek became the company's Cash-Cow Franchise (until Kung Fu Panda took that crown) and won the first-ever Academy Award For Best Animated Feature! It also didn't help that Egypt was focus-grouped to death (naturally, given its potential controversy as a Bible adaptation), whereas Shrek got a lot of stuff past special interest groups and critics because no one cared.
  • The Thief and the Cobbler was the 30-year labor of love of Richard Williams, better known for Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Sadly, the copious Executive Meddling that the project received caused him to disown the film until the last few years of his life, giving his seal of approval to The Recobbled Cut.
  • Pannonia Film Studio's Son of the White Horse was an ambitious, personal work director Marcell Jankovics created strictly for his domestic audience in Hungary. Yet, the film flopped, never came close to topping his hugely popular Johnny Corncob, and he expressed dissatisfaction over it for years because it was hard to make and got nerfed by censors. Since then, he has come to regard it as his best feature film, and foreign viewers agree: in international circles, not only is it his most recognized work, it is the best-regarded Hungarian animated film of all time. But in his home, the studio's other creations, like Johnny Corncob the enormously popular Cat City and Vuk the Little Fox, and their numerous TV series (many of which also carry Jankovics's fingerprints) still overshadow it by a huge margin. Meanwhile, these have gotten little worldwide attention, and even that has been mixed.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Orson Welles' most well-known and celebrated film by far (if not the only film of his many people can name) is Citizen Kane, but he believed that his greatest completed film was either Chimes at Midnight or The Trial. Many people react with shock when they do some checking and realize that Citizen Kane did not win Best Picture at the Oscars, or indeed that Welles himself never won Best Director or had a film win Best Picture, with Welles sharing the Best Screenplay Oscar with Herman J. Mankiewicz.
  • Carol Reed was a legendary British filmmaker, known for thrillers like Odd Man Out, The Fallen Idol and The Third Man. A majority of his filmography reads like a list of the greatest movies ever made. He never won an Oscar until he went against type and directed Oliver!, a colourful, family-friendly musical based on the Dickens novel Oliver Twist that hardly features a single tense, dangerous moment.
  • This is something of a recurring narrative in the New Hollywood era of the 1970s, with numerous directors agreeing to do studio pictures in order to get the funding for the more personal pictures that they wanted to make. The studio pictures, which were usually made under some level of studio observation (however minor), would go on to be widely acclaimed as great films, whereas the more personal pictures — usually made under an atmosphere of Protection from Editors and the director's ego (and in some cases personal life/problems) having spiralled completely out of control — would bomb disastrously.
  • The Western Heaven's Gate was the passion project of Michael Cimino, director of the acclaimed Vietnam War movie The Deer Hunter. It's considered one of the biggest bombs in film history; it ended Cimino's career and the New Hollywood era. Some consider it to have been Vindicated by History; it has a strong vocal audience today, to the point where restored re-releases have received great reviews.
  • Most of the Monty Python crew (John Cleese in particular) consider Monty Python's Life of Brian to be their greatest work, in part because it has a central theme and tells a complete story, while their other works are more or less a series of sketches. Monty Python's Life of Brian is still very popular with Python fans, many of whom consider it to be the superior film, but Monty Python and the Holy Grail has penetrated pop culture to a far greater degree (to the chagrin of the creators, who have lingering bad memories of its Troubled Production).
  • Star Wars:
    • George Lucas put a lot of work into the series, but he always intended to use the money it raised to work on the smaller, more personal projects that had brought him fame, such as American Graffiti and THX 1138. Many years and billions of dollars later, the smaller, more personal projects did get made (but with different directors), in the form of Radioland Murders (1994) and Red Tails (2012).
    • Lucas has stated that one of the reasons he keeps going back and tinkering with the initial Star Wars trilogy is that he was never happy with the final product and that the newer versions are what he always envisioned. Fan reception, on the other hand, is strongly in favor of the originals.
    • Sir Alec Guinness had a long and varied career, first on stage where he held his own against Laurence Olivier, then in a film career filled with tour de force performances that culminated in his own personal favorite, Adolf Hitler in The Last Ten Days (a proto-Downfall, if you will). So what film is Guinness best known for? A sci-fi quickie he lambasted as "fairy-tale rubbish".
    • While Mark Hamill has been unwavering in his love of the franchise and pride in working on it, he has a withering opinion of his own performance in the original trilogy, to point he's stated on Twitter he hasn't watched the films since their Updated Re-release in The '90s and only because his kids wanted to see them.
    • While Han Solo is often considered the best character Harrison Ford ever played, Ford himself said he didn't find Han terribly interesting. In contrast, Ford loves playing Indiana Jones and will play him for as long as he is able to.
  • Ask people what Alfred Hitchcock's best movie was, and you'll get different answers. Maybe Psycho, maybe Vertigo, maybe North By Northwest. Most probably won't mention the film Hitchcock regarded as his favorite, 1943's Shadow of a Doubt.
  • Frank Langella considers Masters of the Universe his favorite role of all, despite the film's less-than-stellar reception. He also enjoyed Cutthroat Island, a box office bomb, another favorite of his since he always wanted to play a pirate.
  • Dennis Hopper's attempt to follow Easy Rider with an ambitious project he was conceiving for a while, The Last Movie, bombed so hard that it prevented Hopper from directing again for nearly a decade.
  • Leo McCarey directed two movies of 1937: the light comedy The Awful Truth and the cynical drama Make Way for Tomorrow. When he received the Best Director award for The Awful Truth, he said that he'd been awarded for the wrong movie. That said Make Way for Tomorrow is highly prized and rated by cinephiles and film-makers like John Ford, Jean Renoir, and Errol Morris.
  • Out of all the actors to play Batman, Val Kilmer has never been very well-received. Many loved Michael Keaton and hated George Clooney but were really just indifferent to Kilmer, finding him dull. Despite this, Bob Kane considered Kilmer to be the best actor to play Batman. (Kane is widely reviled throughout the comics industry and fandom for stealing credit for creating Batman from Bill Finger and others though, so this is probably not the best indicator of quality.)
  • Roberto Benigni has stated in several interviews that he wanted to do his version of Pinocchio (2002) since he was a child. It was only after the success of Life Is Beautiful that he was given the freedom to pursue this project, which was poorly received.
  • Sucker Punch was a pet project of Zack Snyder that he worked on for years. However, the final movie bombed at the box office and was panned by critics as his worst movie whereas his previous live-action movies were critically praised.
  • Rob Reiner made North with the hopes that it would be his own equivalent to The Wizard of Oz. It wasn't. And to add insult to injury, many pointed out he'd already made such a movie several years earlier.
  • Paul Verhoeven has stated that science fiction is not his favorite genre. Ironically, his most popular movies, RoboCop (1987) (a film he almost turned down), Total Recall (1990) and Starship Troopers, are science fiction, while his non-sci-fi movies have either been largely forgotten, or lambasted.
  • Marlon Brando has stated his personal favorite movie that he worked on was Burn!. The film was a commercial failure when it originally came out. Later on in his career, despite garnering critical acclaim for his performance as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather, he turned down his Oscar and didn't attend the ceremony.
  • Crossing with This Is Going to Be Huge: Fox joined forces with Arthur P. Jacobs on Doctor Dolittle, considering that the best-seller adaptation would be the start of a new franchise. It was a wretched Troubled Production that caused a heart attack on Jacobs, and upon release was badly received by audiences and critics alike. But as Jacobs finished the movie, Fox accepted to green-light an adaptation of a science fiction novel he had the rights to given he kept the budget low. The result was Planet of the Apes, the first of a Cash-Cow Franchise.
  • M. Night Shyamalan thought that The Last Airbender would be his greatest work and bring him back up to his once great director status. All those Razzie Awards, critics, and fans of the animated series beg to differ, and the film instead ended up as the biggest flop in a series of poorly-received films that essentially torched Shyamalan's career. It took until the release of The Visit, the first season of Wayward Pines and Split before his reputation was restored.
  • Stanley Kubrick regarded Eyes Wide Shut his finest contribution to cinema. This is one of his only films that hasn't been Vindicated by History. Yet other accounts claim he considered it to be his worst.
  • Georges Méliès insisted that A Trip to the Moon was by no means his greatest achievement, saying he was proudest of a serious, deliberately depressing historical film called Humanity Through the Ages. Still, the former became an international success, contributed an iconic image to the history of film, and is still regarded as one of the most historically significant films of all time.
  • Woody Allen has stated he feels his films have only continued to improve as the years have passed, with the ones he puts out now being far better than his earlier work, a view most critics and many fans find difficult to agree with.note  Allen has also expressed confusion with the underwhelming response to his film Hollywood Ending, which despite his usually withering opinion of his own work, he sees as one of his funniest films. He did, however, agree with the negative response to The Curse of the Jade Scorpion.
    • Allen has stated that Annie Hall is not his favorite creation, but Stardust Memories is. Fans have long come around to love the latter, but still think the former is his best film, if not Manhattan.
  • With regard to his acting career, Ronald Reagan considered his finest performance to be in King's Row although most people remember him better for Bedtime for Bonzo or Death Valley Days. Despite this, King's Row did get Academy attention, and is considered a classic.
  • Ishiro Honda considers his finest film to be Matango, a film virtually unknown to all but Toho sci-fi fans. Instead, his most well-known and best-remembered work is, of course, Gojira. Subverted in that those who have actually watched Matango usually consider it among his best works.
  • David Lean tends to be known for his small-scale but stylish early films (Great Expectations, Brief Encounter) or his later epics like Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago. His personal favorite was the comparatively obscure Summertime (1955), starring Katharine Hepburn and filmed in Venice.
  • Bring up Jack Nicholson at a party these days and you'll most likely be hit with a reference to The Shining or perhaps his turn as The Joker in Batman (1989), rather than any one of his twelve Oscar-nominated roles, the sole exception perhaps A Few Good Men, and even that's because of his "you can't handle the truth!" outburst. He holds the record for most Academy-Award-nominated performances by a male actor, but how many "Jack Nicholson fans" even know what you're talking about when you say Five Easy Pieces, The Last Detail, Reds, Terms of Endearment or Prizzi's Honor?
    • One could argue that his first Oscar-winning role in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest is well-remembered, and it is, but mostly by film buffs and psychology majors. The film is mostly remembered for Louise Fletcher's Nurse Ratched (used to make comparisons with any real-life uncaring medical professional) or is used to compare to real-life mental institutions.
    • Nicholson's own favorite of all the films he made is Michelangelo Antonioni's The Passenger (1975). He loved that movie so much he bought the negative, provided commentary for it on DVD, and later provided the director with a Lifetime Achievement Award. He calls it, "the adventure of my lifetime".
  • In 1977, 20th Century Fox released two films that summer: One was The Other Side of Midnight, which was expected to be a huge hit thanks to being the adaptation of a bestselling book. The other film? Some weird space-opera from that guy who did American Graffiti and starring a bunch of nobodies and old out-of-work actors. The connection between the two was that if a movie theatre wanted a print of the former, they had to show the latter as well. The result? Star Wars became the highest-grossing movie ever for several years and became one of the most iconic moments of pop-culture ever made, while The Other Side Of Midnight was poorly-received and quickly forgotten.
  • A lifelong fan of the novel, Richard Stanley's dream project was to make the most faithful adaption of The Island of Doctor Moreau ever put on screen. Once his script was greenlit, Stanley, who had made his mark on low-budget indie films, was quickly overwhelmed working on a Hollywood-scale project, and by trying to direct the increasingly difficult Val Kilmer. Stanley was fired from the production before Marlon Brando had even arrived on set, and the replacement director, John Frankenheimer, didn't fare much better. Stanley was so burned by the experience he didn't make another (short) film until 2011.
  • While most viewers would argue that Quentin Tarantino's best work is Pulp Fiction, and everyone will agree it is his signature film, there's a pretty big hint in Inglourious Basterds that he considers that to be his magnum opus. Specifically, the film ends with a character (who was originally going to be played by Tarantino) looking directly at the camera and saying "I think this might be my masterpiece." That being said, there are some people who agree with Tarantino, and even those who put Pulp Fiction in first will often cite Basterds as the runner-up.
  • In interviews with Deadline and Empire, Ridley Scott speaks highly of his much-derided Cormac McCarthy-penned thriller The Counselor, saying that it was "One of the best things I've done and it got fucking murdered".
  • While it's hard to call anything made by Herschell "the Godfather of Gore" Gordon Lewis an opus, he considers A Taste of Blood to be his best film, though ironically it's usually seen as one of his worst. Blood Feast is his most well-known, and Two Thousand Maniacs! and The Wizard of Gore are generally seen as his best.
  • The Italian film Youth, which is set in a Swiss pension, has 2 in-universe examples.
    • One is with a side character which is a retired actor. He had a few big and dramatic roles throughout his lifetime, but he is only well-known for his role in a few robot movies. He was surprised to hear of a girl that she knows him from his favorite acting role.
      • The very same actor also thinks that Simple Songs is this for the main character (a composer), but it turns out that the main character thinks rather highly of it as he has written the music because it allows his wife to sing something.
    • The other of the 2 main characters (a film director) thought of a certain actress that he found on the streets that he trained to become one of the truly greatest actresses of the world as his biggest achievement. By the end of the film, it is revealed that the actress barely cared about her life with him, saying that she found her own hard work on the streets to learn how to act well prior to joining him more admirable than the pure carelessness that the film director had for her during the time when she was an actor under his thumb. She even said that she had no interest to participate in one of his final films and that she already had a role in a US telenovela that she would prefer to do.
  • Most Jackie Chan enthusiasts tend to agree that Drunken Master II is his best film, or at least the one with the best fight scenes, and it's likely his most widely-seen Hong Kong film in the west. However, Chan feels that the comparatively obscure Police Story is his best.
  • Crimson Peak was divisively received, and failed to make back its budget. Despite fans proclaiming it to not be up to the director's standards, Guillermo del Toro still regards it as one of his three best films.
  • Deborah Kerr was a highly decorated actress in Hollywood in the 1950s, with six Oscar nominations to her name. The films she is most remembered for today are The King and I, From Here to Eternity and An Affair to Remember. But the film she considered to be her best performance? The 1960 British ghost story The Innocents, which, while a Cult Classic these days, was soundly ignored at the time by every major awards organization going. Of the films that did earn her Oscar nominations, she says that it's The Sundowners that she should have won for.
  • Michelle Pfeiffer experienced this when Matthew Vaughn cast her in Stardust. He told the actress what his favorite film of hers was - and it was Grease 2. Her reaction was a Flat "What" (as the movie is a major Old Shame for her).
  • Errol Flynn was best known for starring in Swashbucklers, yet his personal favorite film of his own was the boxing picture Gentleman Jim.
  • John Ford's most famous films in his lifetime were The Quiet Man, How Green Was My Valley, The Grapes of Wrath, The Informer, Stagecoach. Critics would cite Young Mr. Lincoln. Later generations of film-makers and audiences cited The Searchers and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. What were Ford's favorites?
    • Wagon Master which he described as "the purest, simplest Western I ever made." A rare title that Lindsay Anderson called "the first avant-garde Western" citing its unconventional use of music, gorgeous composition and minimalist storyline and its plot of multiple characters with no real central figure.
    • The Sun Shines Bright which despite its Executive Meddling, he felt was a film he achieved what he wanted to. Another obscure title.
    • Even more extreme is The Fugitive, his 1947 adaptation of Graham Greene's novel The Power and the Glory. Ford once called it the most perfect movie he'd ever made. Critics (and Graham Greene himself) hated it, and still do.
  • Christopher Lee was best known for playing Dracula, but he felt that the best Hammer Horror he made was The Devil Rides Out, and his favorite role was Lord Summersisle in The Wicker Man (1973).
  • While she was working simultaneously on the screenplays for both films, Sofia Coppola felt that Lost in Translation would be just a little-seen arthouse film, and Marie Antoinette (2006) would be the Magnum Opus that she'd be remembered for. Instead, what happened was essentially the opposite — Lost in Translation was a smash hit that got Coppola an Academy Award for Best Screenplay, while Marie Antoinette proved a critical and commercial bomb — and the resulting Artist Disillusionment that Coppola felt was enough for her to swear off making films for mainstream audiences, focusing mostly on indie productions and reportedly only agreeing to make the Netflix special A Very Murray Christmas as a personal favor to Bill Murray.
    • However in recent years Marie Antoinette is getting reevaluated as a feminist studyof a reviled (female) historical figure which many believe was why it was critically hated in the first place.
  • In her later years, Ingrid Bergman admitted to being somewhat rankled that Casablanca ("an assembly-line wartime propaganda picture") came to eclipse her more "important" and artistic films with Hitchcock and Rossellini, and her collaboration with Ingmar Bergman, among others; in her own words, all people ever wanted to talk about was "that one with Bogart".
  • Die Hard: While Bruce Willis believes the first film is the best one, he's said that among the sequels, Live Free or Die Hard was the best one. Many fans, however, tend to think Die Hard with a Vengeance was the best, in large part because it's the only one directed by the original Die Hard director, John McTiernan.
  • Shinya Tsukamoto regards his second film, Hiruko the Goblin (an Affectionate Parody of American horror movies, including The Thing (1982), The Evil Dead, even Ghostbusters (1984) and Gremlins) to be more representative of his film making style than Tetsuo: The Iron Man. The latter is a Cult Classic, the former wasn't released to the states until 2002, and was left out of a Blu-ray retrospective of the director's films.
  • Brooke Shields is known primarily as an actress, but her acting career is pretty undistinguished. She must be considered and better remembered as a fashion model.
    • Pretty Baby is the movie where Brooke Shields got her first starring role, and the only one she enjoyed during filming, but is not considered among Louis Malle’s best works. Malle never considered in his lifetime Pretty Baby his finest film; it was just a filler film between Black Moon and Atlantic City, and, as a result, was left out of a Blu-ray retrospective of the director's filmography.
      • And Pretty Baby, the movie that Paramount hoped to be the studio's potential blockbuster for 1978, was soon dwarfed at the box office by an adaptation of a successful stage musical the studio had little hope. The result: Grease was the year's highest-grossing movie and a pop-culture event, while Pretty Baby was poorly received and quickly forgotten (probably for the best, as it attracted the interest of certain people due to 14-year-old Brooke Shields portraying a prostitute.
  • Max Landis wrote Bright intending it to be his A New Hope - but after the film received copious rewrites by director David Ayer, Landis liked a tweet calling it "an embarrassing disaster." Most people now know him for co-writing Chronicle with Josh Trank (and being John Landis' son).
  • Patty Jenkins enjoyed working on Wonder Woman 1984 more than she did on the first, having criticized some things from the latter in the lead-up to the release of the sequel, like Diana using a sword or the studio-enforced third act, and she defends it to this day. WW84 is how she prefers the superheroine to be, but most critics and audiences prefer the first film.
  • When Steve Martin met Olivia Hussey, he gushed that she had starred in his favorite movie growing up. She thought he was talking about Romeo and Juliet (1968). Nope - Black Christmas (1974).
  • Ishir⁠ō Honda, best known for directing Godzilla (1954) and kickstarting the entire kaiju genre, considered All Monsters Attack to be one of his favourite films to have directed, likely due to its grounded tone, which relegates fantasy kaiju elements to Dream Sequences, and a familiar domestic Japanese setting with more realistic issues, rather than another sci-fi giant monster flick, which he was frustrated he was pigeonholed into later in his career. Among Godzilla fans, it's widely considered one of the worst, if not the absolute worst film in the entire franchise for its annoying child protagonists, shoddy production value, and overuse of Stock Footage.
  • Roland Emmerich is best known for keeping the Disaster Movie alive. Yet his favorite movie of his own is Anonymous, a historical drama questioning whether Shakespeare wrote his own plays.
  • The Dirty Dozen: Despite being one of his biggest hits, star Lee Marvin reportedly wasn't happy with the final product, which he described as a "dumb moneymaker" that didn't properly capture how this situation would have really played out in the actual war - and he would know, being a World War II veteran himself. Marvin even went as far as to compare this film, unfavorably, to his later WWII epic The Big Red One which he said was a much more accurate depiction of WWII.

  • Tolkien's Legendarium:
    • J. R. R. Tolkien wrote The Lord of the Rings merely in accordance with popular demand for a sequel to The Hobbit - his true labor of love was The Silmarillion, which he spent essentially his entire adult life writing and which he was still polishing and rewriting when he died. In fact, he initially advanced the The Silmarillion for publishing instead and only wrote The Lord of the Rings when he was told his Elvish History would not ever be published.
    • The Hobbit was written as a story for Tolkien's children, therefore he tried to make it good enough that his children would enjoy it. Meanwhile, The Lord of the Rings was written as commissioned by Tolkien's agent as a followup. Despite this, the latter is more well-known and more often referenced.
    • On top of this, there is also the fact that Tolkien was a well-respected professor of philology at Oxford, and while he can hardly be counted as a prolific academic writer, he did write a number of very influential academic works. These include definitive Modern English translations of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Beowulf, along with a very spirited defense of the literary value of Anglo-Saxon poetry and a dictionary of Middle English, each of which could be considered a magnum opus.
  • Ender's Game was originally just another short story that Orson Scott Card wrote to pay the bills. He only expanded it into a novel so that it could serve as an introduction to Speaker for the Dead (the story that he really wanted to tell); he feels his best work is his short story Unaccompanied Sonata. While these are certainly well-regarded among those who have read them, Ender's Game has become one of the most widely read sci-fi novels of all time, is required reading in many middle schools, and received a film adaptation.
  • Robert Louis Stevenson only wrote The Black Arrow for a quick buck while he penned Prince Otto, which he considered a superior work. However, The Black Arrow ended up being much more popular and his third best known work, whereas Prince Otto became forgotten.
  • Neuromancer is William Gibson's most famous and acclaimed work because it invented the Cyberpunk genre and featured commentary on the information age decades ahead of its time. But in terms of actual literary merit, Gibson considers it one of his weakest works (though it was his first novel). Compared to his later novels, its characterization is minimal, and the plot is very straightforward.
  • Little Women for Louisa May Alcott. She cobbled together a few stories based on herself and her sisters, and it was a rip-roaring success. She made the same thing happen to Jo in its final sequel Jo's Boys.
  • Jane Austen thought Pride and Prejudice, her most popular novel, was "too light and bright and sparkling" and deliberately planned afterward to write something more serious with a little "shade." The result was Mansfield Park, a textbook case of Genre Adultery and her least popular novel.
  • Mark Twain waffled between saying that his favorite of his works was Huckleberry Finn, which has come to be his most respected novel, and Personal Recollections of Joan of Arc, which few have even heard of. At one point, he claimed, "I like Joan of Arc best of all my books; and it is the best; I know it perfectly well. And besides, it furnished me seven times the pleasure afforded me by any of the others; twelve years of preparation, and two years of writing. The others needed no preparation and got none."
  • Lewis Carroll greatly preferred Sylvie and Bruno to his Alice in Wonderland books.
  • Charles Dickens wrote enough other highly acclaimed and popular books that he only presents a borderline example, but A Christmas Carol follows the mold: he wrote it in a hurry for the money and it continues to be one of the best known and most imitated of his works. However, of his own works, his favourite was reportedly the novel Martin Chuzzlewit, which hardly has the universal acclaim or influence of, say, Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations or the aforementioned Christmas Carol.
  • Robert Asprin started work on Another Fine Myth for laughs, merely to give himself a break from the grimness of another book he was writing, The Cold Cash War. Nowadays, he is fondly remembered for the Myth Adventures series, while Cold Cash War gathers dust alongside other ur-cyberpunk dystopian sci-fi.
  • William Shakespeare apparently thought more of The Rape of Lucrece than King Lear. This is largely due to Values Dissonance; at the time, epic poetry was considered the highest form of literary art; plays, on the other hand, were seen as lowest-common-denominator trivialities. Today, of course, his plays are better known than his (still great) poetry.
  • 19th-century British Romantic poets such as Lord Byron, John Keats, Percy Shelley, and their peers were obsessed with reviving English verse drama and kept churning out faux-Shakespearean plays that seldom rose above mediocre. In time, many of them thought that this failure invalidated Romanticism. When worrying over how posterity would judge them, they never thought their lyric poetry could count for much.
  • David Weber is famous for his Honor Harrington books, while his Safehold books are being considered the critically preferred work. But it's The War Gods that's his favorite, and he's described what he's written as far as The Hobbit in that series to the The Lord of the Rings, and states that work will be the one that lasts.
  • Stephen King:
    • When most people think of him, they think of The Shining. And while The Shining was indeed a very personal work to King (it being an analogy for King's own alcoholism) he has gone on record stating that he feels Pet Sematary was the scariest novel he ever wrote.
    • Most people only know The Shining because of the film, not the book (It would fall into a similar category). King himself would consider The Dark Tower to be his Magnum Opus, a truly huge, multi-volume work that took him years to write (and he notably made a point to finish after he nearly died). However, most literary critics, King fans, and even King himself in the forewords of some of his books, would hold The Stand to be his single best work.
  • H. P. Lovecraft:
    • Lovecraft considered The Call of Cthulhu to be one of his weaker stories. Although many of his actual readers agree, Cthulhu is by far his most well-known creation.
    • Both Lovecraft and his later readers hold the highest esteem for The Colour Out of Space, considered to be the quintessential Cosmic Horror Story.
    • This arguably applies to the whole of Lovecraft's work: While he's considered to be one of the greatest American horror writers, he considered himself to be mediocre at best. (He was an Ascended Fanboy of Robert W. Chambers.) For example, he had this to say about his writing:
      "I have no illusions concerning the precarious status of my tales, and do not expect to become a serious competitor of my favorite weird authors - Poe, Arthur Machen, Dunsany, Algernon Blackwood, Walter de la Mare, and Montague Rhodes James. The only thing I can say in favor of my work is its sincerity."
  • At different times in their careers, both the poet T. S. Eliot and the author Henry James thought their real destiny lay in writing for the theatre. Unfortunately, James was not a particularly good dramatist, and while Eliot did write some well-known plays (such as Murder in the Cathedral), none have reached the fame of The Waste Land or "Prufrock".
  • Anthony Burgess resents that he's best known for A Clockwork Orange, which he thought shallow compared to his other works. (He dismissed it as "a novel I am prepared to repudiate... a jeu d'esprit knocked off for money in three weeks.")
  • Harlan Ellison expresses his frustration in one of his audiobooks over the fact that I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream, a story he banged out in a day, is so popular and has been reprinted many, many times; whereas "Grail", a story he slaved over for weeks, revising it several times, and in his opinion one of his best, had never been reprinted.
  • While Mario Puzo is known for his novel The Godfather, which was a smash hit in the 1970s and turned into an even more popular film, Puzo always considered his earlier novel The Fortunate Pilgrim to be his best. It's perhaps fitting that people generally remember the original The Godfather book as a fairly pulpy story compared to its adaptation.
  • Ernest Hemingway regarded the critically lambasted Across the River and Into the Trees as his greatest work.
  • Cecil Day-Lewis (Daniel's father) was Poet Laureate in the UK and wrote a lot of serious poetry and verse drama, but he also wrote detective novels to pay the bills. Particularly in the 50s and 60s he was far better known for the detective books (written under the name Nicholas Blake), some of which were adapted for film and TV. His poetry was never the equal of contemporaries like Auden or Larkin and is now largely forgotten, but his detective novels are still regarded as classics by some.
  • Philip Larkin, meanwhile, wanted to be a novelist rather than a poet. His two novels are read only by a few academics, but his poetry remains popular, acclaimed, and widely quoted.
  • Charles Perrault published writings and essays about art that have mostly been forgotten centuries later. But the work he is still most famous for, his Fairy Tales, are still popular today and indeed do much to define those that are in the Small Reference Pools. Ironically, enough Perrault felt ashamed about these childish stories and published them under his son's name.
  • Same holds for the Brothers Grimm, who considered their work on historical linguistics their greatest achievement. Although linguists still use it (Grimm's Law, a sound change that occurred in Proto-Indo-European that moved towards Proto-Germanic) and respect them as early forayers into modern linguistics, everyone else remembers their Fairy Tales.
  • Thomas Hardy considered Jude the Obscure his favorite and best novel. Critics at the time hated it and Hardy only wrote poetry for the rest of his life. Subsequent scholars (and readers) have taken Hardy's side.
  • Edgar Rice Burroughs considered John Carter of Mars stories to be his best works. They are obscure compared to his other series, Tarzan. One need only look at Burroughs's Hollywood legacy. Tarzan has been adapted countless times since the days of silent movies, and has been an enormously successful property, while the film adaptation of John Carter spent 81 years in Development Hell, was completed by Disney in 2012 and promptly bombed in a spectacular way.
  • Pyotr Pavlovich Yershov wrote dozens of poems, plenty of stories, and considered them to be much better than some fairy-tale poem he wrote in simpleton language when he was young. Except that today, the poems and stories are all but forgotten, while The Little Humpbacked Horse earned him a statue for composing a folk tale.
  • John Buchan is most remembered for codifying the Spy Genre with The Thirty-Nine Steps, but the novel he considered his best was the historical romance/fantasy novel, Witch Wood.
  • Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote. At the 1600s in Spain, money was found in theater, and glory was found in poetry. Miguel de Cervantes wrote a comedy book that didn't get noticed by critics. Nonetheless, it was successful enough for the editor kept asking for a continuation. But Cervantes had Attention Deficit Creator Disorder and wanted to write a lot of projects that would bring him glory, like "Los trabajos de Persiles y Segismunda". No one took the comedy book seriously, not even Cervantes. Maybe that continuation would have never seen the light of day if not for a fanfiction writer that wrote himself the second part, doing the worst insult you can do to an author: A Fix Fic, because Cervantes wrote some characters deserving of a better writer. Cervantes decided to write the best second part he could, and so we have now the second part of Don Quixote.
  • Doctor Arthur Conan Doyle created a detective character based on an old medical professor whose techniques and insight had always impressed him to pay the bills while he worked on the historical epics he loved so much and which he was sure would make his name and reputation as a writer and artist. Unfortunately for Conan Doyle, the detective character was Sherlock Holmes, who became one of the most iconic characters of all time, while Doyle's historical dramas, which he much preferred, are largely forgotten. Doyle was not happy about this (he even tried killing Holmes off at one point, but fan backlash forced him to do an about-face).
  • Isaac Asimov's "Nightfall (1941)": "Nightfall" was, to Isaac Asimov, just another story, though it regularly appears at the top of lists of the best SF story ever. It especially irked him because he wrote it when he was 21 and was somewhat offended by the implication that, in fifty years and hundreds and hundreds of works, he never did anything better. His own favorite was "The Last Question".
    • Asimov also recalls that he thought Strikebreaker would be a social commentary bomb. It remained instead a relatively obscure short story, and he has explicitly contrasted it with Nightfall.
  • C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters and his Narnia series sold phenomenally, by his standards, but his own favorite was Till We Have Faces. Then, his big problem with Screwtape was that it, alone among his works, was actively unpleasant to write. Another one of Lewis' favorite books that he wrote is Perelandra, which he once said was worth ten 'Screwtapes'.
  • Reki Kawahara's light novel series Sword Art Online was originally a one-volume stand-alone story written for a literary competition in 2002 that he didn't even submit it to. It was instead put on the web, and only after gaining popularity, did he decide to start writing follow on volumes. SAO eventually got so big it was published to paperback in 2009 and is now eleven volumes and still going, with a Manga, Anime, and Video Game adaptation plus a huge fanbase.
  • Neil Munro considered himself an author of historical novels, his Para Handy stories being something he wrote to pay the bills. A hundred years later, the Para Handy stories are still well-loved Scottish literature and have been adapted several times. Fans might also be familiar with his other humorous stories, Erchie, My Droll Friend and Jimmy Swan. The historical novels are mostly known as "that thing Munro did that wasn't as good as Para Handy."
  • J. D. Salinger, in a very, very rare interview said that The Catcher in the Rye was a mistake, and the bulk of his writing since then has been about the Glass family, as well as nonfiction about Vedāntic Hinduism.
  • K. A. Applegate enlisted Ghost Writers to help her complete Animorphs so that she could instead give Everworld her full undivided attention. Everworld went on to become a rather obscure book series while Animorphs was, for a time, the most popular children's book series in America.
  • Gene Wolfe is best known for The Epic Mind Screw The Book of the New Sun. The author himself considers it overrated, and his own favorite is the later Fantastic Romance There Are Doors.
  • Robert Rankin's novel The Fandom of the Operator actually revolves around this trope. The villain turns out to be a deceased author suffering from Magnum Opus dissonance, driven mad by a botched attempt to raise him from the dead to continue writing the detective novels that he always considered vastly inferior to his beloved but much less popular space operas.
  • Herman Melville had a very strange relationship with this phenomenon:
    • During his own lifetime, Melville was really only respected for his first two books, Typee and Omoo, quasi-biographical adventure stories based on his own experience in the South Pacific. These two works are now only taught in dedicated Melville classes, and towards the end of his career, with no knowledge of Moby-Dick coming down the road, he expressed regret that he would be forever known as "the man who lived among the cannibals."
    • Melville's first serious attempt at great fiction was Mardi, a Wacky Wayside Tribe-laden adventure story bogged down with snarling philosophical tangents, a protagonist who up and disappears for two-thirds of the novel, and an open ending. Despite all this, he called Mardi his "child of many prayers" and hoped it would blow audiences away. It was blasted by critics for all of this and for being quite different from his first two novels; modern scholars often consider it the only outright bad thing he wrote.
    • Moby-Dick is, of course, Melville's most famous novel, and as with Mardi he set out intentionally to write a magnificent work - calling it this time a "mighty book on a mighty theme." While Moby-Dick is now one of the fixtures in the canon, it was very poorly received and called blasphemous by the press of the day. Though Melville anticipated the controversy, he told Nathaniel Hawthorne in a letter that he had written "a very evil book". On top of that, Melville actually thought he could write an even better novel, and only gave up that notion after Moby-Dick failed. Though the books after that, Pierre; or the Ambiguities, The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade and his posthumous work, Billy Budd are regarded among his best writings today.
  • V. C. Andrews is most known for her gothic, incest-laden family sagas like Flowers in the Attic, but she was particularly proud of Gods of Green Mountain according to her brothers. Never heard of it? That's because it was published years after her death and is only available in eBook format. It's also notable that this was the only science fiction novel to ever be published under her name.
  • John Gardner considered The Man from Barbarossa, his eleventh James Bond book, to be his best in the series. Critics and some of the readers hold it as one of his weakest and think of his earlier stories in higher regard.
  • Georgette Heyer wanted to be taken seriously as a historical novelist and expended much effort and research on works such as My Lord John (a novel set in the Middle Ages, left unfinished at her death), considering her sparkling and enduringly popular Regency romances to be fluffy potboilers. Readers almost unanimously agree it's in the Regency-set fiction that she displays her true genius.
  • "September 1, 1939" is one of the most famous poems by W. H. Auden; however he came to dislike it, and decades later, he only allowed it to be reprinted in an anthology with a note saying that he considers it to be "trash which he is ashamed to have written."
  • The best-known work of Shel Silverstein was his children's book The Giving Tree. However, Silverstein openly confessed during his life that The Giving Tree was not his favorite of his books.
  • Dorothy L. Sayers remains best known for her mystery novels starring Amateur Sleuth Lord Peter Wimsey, but she personally thought her best work was a translation of The Divine Comedy.
  • Alfred Bester thought Golem100 was his best work. Most of those who've read it consider it to be one of his worst.
  • Zigzagged by the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Jeff Kinney, the author, has said that his favorite book of the series is The Long Haul, which many fans consider the beginning of the series's Sequelitis. However, the instalment Kinney is proudest of the very well-received first book.
  • L. Frank Baum will always be best known for The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, but afterwards he was roped into making it a series. By the fourth and fifth books, his introductions become pleas to his fans to allow him to write anything else. After the sixth book, he finally tried to quit and began a new series which he considered his best work. After two books, The Sea Fairies and Sky Island, it became clear that the series was a flop, and with his mounting financial troubles, Baum would have to return to the Oz series to pay the bills. He would work on the series until his death. As an aside, his favorite Oz book was The Scarecrow of Oz, perhaps because it includes the main characters from his other failed series and almost acts as a suitable conclusion to the series. It is rarely cited as a favorite among fans, tellingly.
  • Zig-Zagged by Dr. Seuss. He considered The Lorax to be the best book he ever wrote, but general audiences found the book to be too anvilicious. However, it has since been Vindicated by History.
  • Gabriel García Márquez talked about his displeasure that he got international fame for writing One Hundred Years of Solitude and his dislike for what many critics consider as the greatest novel in Latin American literature. His dislike for it stems for how it overshadowed the rest of his work, for how critics and intellectuals have praised it without understanding it properly, brought him unwanted amounts of fame, and lastly, he considers his other novels to be far superior to it.
  • William March considered his 1954 novel The Bad Seed to be thoroughly mediocre, though it is his most well-known and praised novel today.
  • Beatrix Potter's favorites of her own books were The Tailor of Gloucester and The Tale Of The Pie And The Patty Pan, but her most popular book by far is her first one, The Tale of Peter Rabbit.
  • Franz Kafka despised his work so much that, on his deathbed, he asked his friend Max Brod to destroy his manuscript and notes. Had Brod not declined his friend's dying wish, Kafka's most famous works like The Trial and The Castle wouldn't be around today. The only one of his works Kafka had anything good to say about in his lifetime, meanwhile, was The Verdict, a short story which is now either dismissed as a piece of juvenalia or forgotten entirely.
    • Asking Brod to destroy his manuscripts and notes is an interesting story. Kafka mentioned several times before his death that he intended to ask Brod to do so, and Brod always told him that he wouldn't do it, as he respected Kafka's work and disagreed with Kafka's desire to have it destroyed. He even believed Kafka really didn't want his works destroyed, because if he did, he would have either done it himself or asked someone else to do it.
  • Turkish science fiction writer and artist C. M. Kosemen is most famous (on the internet, at least) as the writer of All Tomorrows. However, he has personally claimed that his favorite work is his long-gestating Speculative Biology project, Snaiad.
  • Downplayed with Agatha Christie, as both her main characters are successful and well-loved by the public. However, Poirot is slightly more well-remembered and ingrained in popular culture, whereas Miss Marple was Christie's own favourite of the two.
  • Clement Moore, a 19th Century writer, and theologian considered his American-Hebrew Dictionary to be his greatest achievement. What he is most known for, however, is a small poem he wrote for his young children called 'Twas the Night Before Christmas.
  • Henry De Vere Stacpoole considered his most famous work, the 1908 novel The Blue Lagoon to be an inferior work. He called his later novel The Man Who Lost Himself (1918) his masterpiece. He also disliked the Blue Lagoon sequels, which he did mainly to pay the bills.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Something of a Zigzagging Trope with Adam West. He aspired to be a major movie star and considered his TV work as just a means of getting some media exposure, so he'd have a nice resume when casting directors started looking him up for their films. However, when he read the script for the very first Batman (1966) episode, he became so enthusiastic about that project that he accepted the role of Bruce Wayne immediately and continued to be proud of his Batman work until the day he died. However, it made him unhappy that the style of the 1960s show is often misunderstood, and that very few people give him the credit he thinks he deserves for reviving the character's popularity (Bruce Timm is one of the few that does, as evidenced by "Beware the Gray Ghost".) At the same time, West's big movie career never materialized, but he was pleased with his extensive TV work over the past half-century.
  • Many TV actors naturally want the prestige and profit of a movie career, but sometimes they find success in TV and become quite comfortable in that role. One example is Alan Alda of M*A*S*H fame.
  • Gene Roddenberry saw Star Trek: The Original Series as just the latest of a series of TV shows he hoped to create. He did produce others, but there's no Genesis II franchise or The Lieutenant conventions to go to today.
  • Referenced in an episode of QI. When discussing a bizarre gardening contraption that is, for all intents and purposes, a glass bottle with the top cut off, Stephen Fry mentions that it was created by the same man who invented the train - provoking David Mitchell (Actor) to bet he was "really tedious and wouldn't talk about the train in interviews, and would insist on talking about his bloody bottle".
  • That Mitchell and Webb Look had a sketch where Neil Armstrong has embarked on a new career as a singer-songwriter and his manager tells a prospective interviewer that he will not be taking any questions about walking on the moon.
  • While most viewers of Kamen Rider Zero-One consider the Workplace Competition the low point of the show (if they don’t consider it a Filler Arc), producer Takahito Omori is proud of it, as it allowed the creative team to do things they normally wouldn’t be able to do in a Rider show.
  • John Cleese is not particularly fond of most of the Monty Python's Flying Circus episodes, mostly because it was all shot on a such a low budget and, in his opinion, was all made too quick "to get it right". He also felt the concept started to get stale after a few seasons, which is why he left after the third one. One of the sketches he's particularly remembered for is the fan-favourite "The Ministry of Silly Walks", yet according to the book "The Pythons", he never liked it all. He called it a very "ordinary sketch" and he even took legal action to prevent a sculptor from making a statue of him in the Silly Walk pose. The Die Another Day folks slipped one in, anyway. And in 2014, for a milestone anniversary, the remaining Pythons reassembled and John Cleese promoted the hell out of a "Ministry of Silly Walks" iOS game on his Twitter.
  • Dave Chappelle's distaste for the success of Chappelle's Show is fairly well-documented; he disliked the attention it gave him from fans and over time became disturbed at the jokes he was making in regards to race, afraid he was re-enforcing stereotypes rather than satirizing them. Chappelle himself preferred doing stand-up, regarding it as the most important part of his creative work. One of the many factors relating to his retreating from the show was that its popularity was starting to interfere with his ability to do stand-up; when at a show, his material was drowned out by the crowd chanting "Rick James," causing him to call his own audience idiots.
  • House of Cards (US) was Netflix's breakthrough in their original programming library and the show the company wanted to promote as their equivalent to Breaking Bad or The Sopranos. Plus, Arrested Development's comeback was one of most heavily hyped up returns in TV history and easily the most anticipated arrival on the network. But it was the underdog success of a prison dramedy targeted towards female audiences that would become the cornerstone of the empire — with the only shows of theirs that can compare to it in popularity being an interconnected universe of six comic book shows, and an '80s throwback sci-fi/horror series.
  • The standup comedian Sean Hughes first broke out as the star of No Fourth Wall sitcom Sean's Show and then spent ten years as a team captain on panel show Never Mind the Buzzcocks. He left the show before any of the other regulars and turned to first novels (he published several) and then back to standup, which he considered his real talent.He said in at least one interview that he didn't want to only be remembered as the guy from Buzzcocks, but sadly, when he died in 2017 most of the headlines referred to him as "Buzzcocks star...".
  • In contrast with his successors on the show, Christopher Eccleston is not particularly fond of Doctor Who due to Hostility on the Set with the show's producers, and reportedly said that he didn't enjoy playing the main character, yet the Ninth Doctor remains his most famous role. When he returned to the role in 2020 for Big Finish Doctor Who, he said that he was genuinely very excited to the return to the role after so long in a different environment where he can "forget producers, forget politics".
  • Bea Arthur declined most interviews to talk about The Golden Girls, saying she didn't enjoy making the show, that it was from an unhappy period (she went through a divorce during production), and she had far warmer memories of Maude. Nowadays, Arthur is far better remembered as Dorothy Zbornak than her Star-Making Role as Maude Findley.
  • Father Ted co-creators Graham Linehan and Arthur Mathews have both said that the show's second episode "Entertaining Father Stone" is by far their favorite episode of the series. Among fans, the episode is a lot more divisive — some considering it to be a masterpiece of Cringe Comedy, but others criticizing it for being very slow-paced and relying on the same main joke over and over — with "Hell", "Are You Right There, Father Ted?" and "Kicking Bishop Brennan up the Arse" being the more usual contenders for the show's best episode.
  • When doing Turkey Day 2018, Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson and third series host Jonah Ray both expressed surprise when it turned out that the Netflix revival's second episode, featuring Cry Wilderness, was the fandom's favorite episode as Joel had expected the episode featuring Carnival Magic to be the popular episode.
  • Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak is not too fond of the shopping format the show had note , mainly because of how it slowed the game down and how much time it took for contestants to pick their prizes to shop for. Many of the fans think otherwise.

  • David Bowie's entire career is rife with this, with the songs he wrote for art generally not as well known as those he wrote for commerce (though there are exceptions: "'Heroes'" may not have been a hit when it was new but is now a candidate for his Signature Song). However, the first and biggest example for him would be a little song he slapped together out of boredom... he was actually embarrassed by it. "Space Oddity", his first hit - and still popular to this day.
  • Elvis Presley was the undisputed King of Rock. But he never wanted to be. He wanted to be a Gospel Music singer. His heroes growing up were people like Jake Hess, James Blackwood or JD Sumner, names you've probably never heard of. Before he was anybody, he auditioned to sing with a southern gospel quartet, but was told to stick to driving trucks because "you can't sing a lick." This is likely what led Elvis to sing whatever songs would get people to listen, and thus he became the Elvis that everyone knew. Once his career had reached such heights that he could do whatever he wanted, he began recording albums like Peace in the Valley, His Hand in Mine, How Great Thou Art and He Touched Me. He also began touring with southern gospel quartets, including JD Sumner and the Stamps, the Imperials (no, not Little Anthony's group) and the Jordanaires. He considered his gospel albums to be the greatest thing he'd ever done, as opposed to "Hound Dog", "Love Me Tender", "All Shook Up" or "Jailhouse Rock". It's doubtful most Elvis fans think the same. (Though the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences did; all of Elvis' competitive Grammy wins came in the Gospel category.) Similarly, the world heralded Elvis as "The King of Rock 'n' Roll" or just "The King". As far as Elvis was concerned, "The King" was Jesus and "The King of Rock 'n' Roll" was Fats Domino, and he resented the fact that he was more popular than Domino just because he was white.
  • Warrant's "Cherry Pie", written in about twenty minutes at the request of the producer who didn't think the album they'd recorded had a radio hit. This joke song worked far better than intended, overshadowing their other work to the point that many people think it was actually recorded by Poison.
  • The title song on Black Sabbath's second album (released in 1970) was originally going to be "War Pigs," but their US label Warner (Bros.) Records informed the band that an anti-Vietnam War song would not be well-received as a pop hit. In response, Sabbath cranked out "Paranoid" in only five minutes. And what became of this song? Not only was the entire album renamed after it, Paranoid, not only did said album become their most successful of all, but "Paranoid" the song became one of Black Sabbath's highest-charting hits!
  • Van Morrison does not consider "Brown-Eyed Girl" to be among his best songs. Most people feel differently, although critics tend to prefer material from albums like Moondance and Astral Weeks. Morrison didn't particularly like the latter album, either (although he later warmed enough to it to have performed it live in its entirety).
  • The Hollies' recording of Graham Nash's big Sgt. Pepper-style production, "King Midas in Reverse", made only a small dent on the UK singles charts. Their next single, "Jennifer Eccles", a lightweight pop number they pretty much wrote as a joke, became a huge hit. Nash wasn't pleased.
    • According to interviews, this kept on happening, with the band alternating between flops they put their heart and soul into, and Silly Love Songs dashed off in five minutes that became big hits. Needless to say, this wasn't encouraging to the band.
  • Gustav Holst's The Planets is the most popular of his works. However, Holst himself did not count it as one of his best and was disillusioned by this composition's popularity overshadowing his other works. It reached the point that he expressed no interest in composing a movement for Pluto when it was discovered in 1930. Further, Holst's favorite movement of The Planets was "Saturn", but it's usually "Mars" or "Jupiter" that are the most popular with audiences. Holst himself thought that "Edgon Heath", a tone poem and homage to Thomas Hardy, was his best work, a sentiment shared by Ralph Vaughan Williams and others.
  • Rivers Cuomo of Weezer stated for a long time that he was embarrassed by Pinkerton, typically considered to be the band's finest moment. However, as with Morrison and Astral Weeks, he warmed to it in later years.
  • Guns N' Roses created "Sweet Child O'Mine" from Appetite for Destruction as just a song to fill space on the album. It wasn't expected to do particularly well. Now, it is quite possibly their Signature Song. Particularly Slash, who mindlessly came up with the main guitar riff as he was warming up, and the rest of the band thought it was so good they had to build a song around it.
    • The song is so popular amongst fans, that despite Slash publicly saying he hates the song, he still played it every night on his solo-tours, simply because the fans wanted to hear it.
    • When "Sweet Child o' Mine" was voted 8th best guitar riff of all time, Slash also commented that that song shouldn't even be on the list and that other Guns N' Roses-songs would be better qualified. Clearly, the fans disagree.
  • At one point, Glenn Hughes of Deep Purple has stated he never thought very highly of the song "Burn", claiming that he found the "Couldn't believe she was Devil's Sperm"-line disturbing, and that he liked "Stormbringer" a lot more. The fans, however, generally rate "Burn" as one of Deep Purple's best songs, while the entire Stormbringer album is more or less ignored, with "Soldier of Fortune" being the main exception.
    • Nobody in the band seems to hold a particularly high opinion of the legendary "Smoke on the Water", with guitarist Ritchie Blackmore in particular considering it So Okay, It's Average.
  • Kurt Cobain of Nirvana didn't think much of "Smells Like Teen Spirit", describing it as "my attempt at writing a Pixies song." In fact, he didn't like Nevermind much as a whole, thinking the whole album sounded much too polished. One of the exceptions, however, was "Drain You", which he always thought was one of Nirvana's best songs, and couldn't understand why it was never the hit he thought it should have been.
  • Scott Joplin had a good career writing light ragtime and other entertainment tunes, and enjoyed far more popularity than would have been expected for a black man in Reconstruction-era Texas, However, Joplin yearned to be taken seriously as a composer, which, at this time, meant writing romantic operas, so he did. Two of them. However, both flopped spectacularly and were forgotten for decades, until Treemonisha was rediscovered and staged in The '70s.
  • Arthur Sullivan would have preferred to be famous for his serious music, like "The Golden Legend", a cantata based on the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem of the same name; "The Martyr of Antioch", an oratorio about the martyrdom of St. Margaret of Antioch; and Ivanhoe, a grand opera based on the Walter Scott novel of the same name; rather than the comic operas he wrote with W. S. Gilbert.
  • Camille Saint-Saëns did not allow The Carnival of the Animals to be published in his lifetime because he feared it would overshadow his other work (which he considered superior). To this day most people know him for "The Carnival of the Animals" and "Danse Macabre", another small atmospheric lightweight piece. He considered his magnum opus and the culmination of all his orchestral technique to be his Symphony No.3.
  • The Turtles wanted to move on from their hits and create Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band/The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society type works, but the record company insisted on more hit singles in the vein of "Happy Together". Their response was "Elenore", a deliberately lightweight pastiche of their earlier works intended as a Take That!, which inevitably went on to become a hit. Their later albums, including one produced by Ray Davies, tend to be overlooked.
  • While Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band would become renowned as one of the best and most important rock albums ever, the members of The Beatles themselves were divided on the issue; certainly, George Harrison and John Lennon, while not exactly disliking it, later admitted they couldn't see what all the fuss was about. Lennon himself preferred The White Album — which, while also well-acclaimed, tends to be the subject of more criticism due to its disparate sound and length. For his part, Ringo Starr mainly remembers the sessions as him not having much to do since many of the songs didn't require him to drum on them. Paul McCartney seems to view the album quite fondly (perhaps because he was the driving force behind it).
  • Cheap Trick is probably best known for three songs; "I Want You to Want Me", "Surrender", and "The Flame". Good luck trying to get them to perform "The Flame" live, however. They've hated that song from the beginning.
  • During the production of their third album Silver Side Up, Canadian rock band Nickelback (who were previously known for their alternative-rock sound) crafted another album of hard-hitting songs that they believed would finally bring them mainstream success. However, they also cranked out a song in twenty minutes on a lark to fill out the album's running time. That song, "How You Remind Me", became the group's biggest hit, and came to define their musical output since then. It's also been used by critics to show how the band was a musical punchline in the rock world (although not to the extent of their later songs).
  • When The Who were in the process of recording Tommy, Pete Townshend slapped together a Power Pop ballad with no real relation to the story in order to get the attention of New York Times music critic Nik Cohn, who was known to be a fan of certain arcade novelties. That song was "Pinball Wizard", which easily became the most recognizable song on the album. And while Tommy came to be considered The Who's finest work to date, Townshend's aspirations were pegged on its ambitious follow-up, Lifehouse - which ultimately fell apart due to miscommunication and the Who parting ways with their manager, and stayed dead until Townshend revived it as a solo album and radio play nearly 30 years later, by which time his work was no longer receiving notice on the pop charts. (The album which resulted of the failed Lifehouse sessions, Who's Next, competes with Tommy as the band's most acclaimed.)
  • Lou Reed's followup to the hit album Transformer was Berlin - a Darker and Edgier Concept Album about drug use, depression, abuse, and suicide. He considered it his masterpiece. It flopped. He followed that up with the poppy, lightweight Sally Can't Dance which was a hit, and then acknowledged the trope and commented that maybe he shouldn't be on the next album at all. Cue Metal Machine Music...
  • Duke Ellington believed that his Sacred Concerts, which mixed jazz and church music, were the most important thing he ever wrote. Listeners aren't so sure; critics are more likely to cite Duke's collected 1939-1942 recordings, or The Far East Suite, as his greatest work.
  • While most My Chemical Romance fans consider Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge or The Black Parade their Magnum Opus, vocalist Gerard Way considers Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys as such.
    "It was our best work, my favorite album we’ve done, and the one I’m most proud of."
  • The Sisters of Mercy's front-man, Andrew Eldritch, considers the 90s album Vision Thing to be their best. Most fans agree that their best album was the first, ironically titled First and Last and Always... after making which lead the band to a falling out and lineup overhaul.
  • In many interviews, Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour mentions that his favorite Floyd album was neither The Dark Side of the Moon, nor The Wall, but Wish You Were Here (1975). Drummer Nick Mason has stated his favorite album was A Saucerful of Secrets.
  • Even though Frank Zappa never named Thing-Fish his masterpiece, he often called it an essential album because of the political message. Yet to this day many Zappa fans revile it as his worst, least imaginative and most unenjoyable record ever! Even the political aspect is so far-fetched that it loses its impact because people are unable to take it seriously.
  • During his 1993 interview with Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jackson claimed he was unhappy after his famous performance of "Billie Jean" during the 1983 Motown special, solely because he was unable to keep standing on his toes after performing the moonwalk for the first time in public. Still many people consider this show to be his crowning performance achievement. Various comments he made about "Heal the World" from Dangerous and "Earth Song" from HIStory: Past, Present, and Future -- Book I also suggest he intended them as his magnum opuses that would become international anthems. To the general public, they mean little compared to "Billie Jean", "Beat It", or even "Man in the Mirror".
  • Slayer guitarist Kerry King prefers 2001's God Hates Us All over Reign in Blood.
  • Claude Debussy's opera Pelleas and Melisande was by far his longest completed work and one that he took personal pride in, though it remains one of his less popular works to this day. A few years later financial circumstances forced him to publish "Suite bergamesque," a piano piece dating back to his Old Shame period; its third movement, "Clair de lune," is one of his most famous pieces.
  • Robert Plant did not believe "Stairway To Heaven" from Led Zeppelin IV was the definitive Led Zeppelin song; he believes that honor should go to "Kashmir" from Physical Graffiti (still likely their second best-known song). It is rumored that the fact that he would have been forced to perform it repeatedly on tour is one reason that Zeppelin's reunion was short-lived.
  • Dutch poet and singer Drs. P found his poetry to be his crowning masterpiece, but it's already clear now that he will be better remembered after death for his comedic songs.
  • Maurice Ravel didn't particularly like his piece Boléro, criticizing it heavily and calling it "orchestral tissue without music" that consists of one big crescendo. He was genuinely baffled by its popularity (believing his piano concertos to be better). Most people nowadays would be hard-pressed to name or recognize anything else he wrote.
  • Doris Day didn't think highly of her now most famous song, the Oscar-winning "Que Sera Sera". After she recorded the single, she proclaimed, "That's the last time you'll ever hear that song." She didn't even consider it the best of her two new songs from The Man Who Knew Too Much. Instead, she picked, "We'll Love Again", which viewers can barely hear over the rescue of Day's onscreen son.
  • According to Keith Richards' autobiography, Mick Jagger looked at Exile on Main St., widely cited as the band's greatest work, as just another album. It also took a while for its critical reputation to build.
  • Dr. Dre:
    • The Aftermath was supposed to be his masterpiece. He spent a lot of time and effort to make an album superior to The Chronic. He even spent a lot of money making extravagant music videos to promote the album. However, the album received mostly negative reviews from critics and a huge backlash from fans for being too mainstream and pop like. This resulted in Dr. Dre not making any personal albums for a while, producing work for artists like Eminem instead. Years later, he made The Chronic 2000 which featured the song "Forgot About Dre", featuring Eminem. The song, itself, was a personal Take That! to all the fans and critics that bashed him for The Aftermath. Though it wasn't expected, the album was a surprising success, and considered the second best Dr. Dre album, behind the original The Chronic.
    • For many, outside his generation of music, the only thing they know about Dr. Dre are his headphones (Beats by Dre), which have made him more money alone then all his rap career put together.
    • Due to Eminem's pop/rock crossover appealnote  bringing him to audiences with no interest in N.W.A, there is a certain demographic that thinks of him primarily as a footnote to Eminem rather than as a legend in his own right.
  • Eminem:
    • Eminem went through a phase where he refused to play "My Name Is" at shows, or would do a bit of it and then interrupt it by saying he was sick of it. He later clarified that he accepts it's a great record, but resented it as being a novelty record that eclipses his more serious, personal and experimental work - particularly "The Way I Am" - and the way it typecast him into launching every album with a novelty hit for a whole decade. He's also been critical of his technical ability on the track, saying that he hates how behind-the-beat he is on "My Name Is" and the rest of The Slim Shady LP in general.
    • "Rap God" is generally held to be the Signature Song of at least his post-overdose career, if not his high point altogether. While Eminem is proud of the song, he has stated he felt the focus it gets to be overblown, as he views it as little more than a cleaned-up freestyle that he slapped together out of a bunch of stream-of-consciousness ideas. Many sections of the song intended as parody (the speed-rap section, the "lookin' boy" part) were taken seriously by an audience who didn't get the references, and spawned a lot of Follow the Leader flow trends in hip-hop that Eminem has been critical of.
    • Eminem was unsure about Revival, but felt good enough about it to release it. The album is widely considered to be his worst ever, with even his late-career defenders like Robert Christgau having little time for it. In response, Eminem released Kamikaze, a much shorter, angrier and rawer album made on a rapid turnaround that was mostly about yelling at critics for not liking Revival while mocking lazy modern trap flows, which received a far more positive response than Revival, with even some of his harshest detractors calling it his best album since his overdose.
  • Mike Patton has lamented the rap-metal hit "Epic" being Faith No More's Signature Song, given the band spending years building a reputation for more intense and experimental work. Fortunately for them, over time their follow-up album Angel Dust has become increasingly become considered the band's definitive work by both fans and music publications. Interestingly and ironically enough, this was the reverse case during the initial recording and release of The Real Thing, as "Epic" was considered the album's Magnum Opus at the time by the band. The record label had comparatively little confidence in the song, and it wasn't until after "From Out of Nowhere" flopped on the airwaves that "Epic" was chosen as a single. The rest is history.
  • Although The Smiths' The Queen Is Dead is commonly considered their greatest album, all four members have gone on record proclaiming Strangeways, Here We Come as their masterwork.
  • "A Moment Like This" the inaugural song by the first winner of American Idol, Kelly Clarkson was a big hit and had the biggest leap to number one since The Beatles. Kelly, however, hates the song, and since then refuses to sing it at her concerts.
  • 80s one-hit-wonder band Quiet Riot ended up recording a remake of a silly, forgettable song, which they only recorded because their producer thought it would get their name out there, and then they could follow that up with their original material which they considered to be far superior. That one hit in question? "Cum On Feel the Noize" (originally by Slade).
  • The operetta Eileen was a flop, though it was Victor Herbert's personal favorite of his works.
  • While he never hated the song, Rod Stewart never fully understood the appeal of "Maggie May", which he initially released as a B-side track, but ended up getting a lot of radio play.
  • Jim Kerr of Simple Minds has mentioned that he likes their album Sons And Fascination/Sister Feelings Call more than its follow up, the widely considered magnum opus New Gold Dream. In fairness, so do many fans. The two albums are quite similar in style - the basic difference is that New Gold Dream is a shorter, more refined album with more hits on it, whereas SAF/SFC is a double album with an epic quality.
  • Rush fans tend to think that Moving Pictures or 2112 is the band's greatest. Neil Peart, the drummer and lyricist, considered Clockwork Angels to be their finest. (Some fans agree, though the majority still prefer the earlier works.)
  • Sammy Davis Jr. hated his Signature Song "The Candy Man". He sang the "Timmy-two-shoes, white bread" song in one sanctimonious, condescending take - you can actually hear him forcing a smile. Upon hearing the playback, he swore the song would drag him and his whole career into the sewer. Whereas Sammy's first big-budget record under the Motown label bombed (leading them to shelve the second), "The Candy Man" spent three weeks at the top of the Billboard charts in 1972.
  • Louis Armstrong felt he was a much better trumpet player later in his career than compared to the improv pieces that can be heard on his The Complete Hot Five and Hot Seven Recordings albums. All his admirers would disagree, cherishing those 1920s recordings over his arguably much better playing in the last decades of his life.
  • A minor example: KISS vocalist/guitarist Paul Stanley often cites "Love Gun" as the best song he's ever written. While "Love Gun" is certainly well known (you're almost guaranteed to hear it at a Kiss concert), "Rock and Roll All Nite" and "Shout It Out Loud" are infinitely more famous (you'll definitely hear them at any Kiss concert). Ironically, the 1977 album "Love Gun" was on (called, appropriately enough, Love Gun) did a lot better in sales than either Dressed to Kill or Destroyer.
  • The Foo Fighters' second album, The Colour And The Shape, is often thought to be the band's most widely regarded album, but the members are critical of it, feeling they've got a lot better since then, but that critics take no notice. This is illustrated in Nate Mendel's comments in the liner notes of the 10th Anniversary Edition of the album.
  • Pop singer Lady Gaga considers her 2013 album ARTPOP to be her best work, but a decent number of fans consider either Born This Way or The Fame/The Fame Monster her best album(s). While certainly not a hated album, and it still sold well, ARTPOP is seen by some more mainstream outlets as where Gaga began to decline in popularity among the mainstream pop music audience despite being quite huge just years prior.
  • "Sleeping Sun", one of best-known songs by the band Nightwish, and a highly successful single, was reluctantly composed by the band's keyboard player, Tuomas Holopainen, after the band's manager suggested he'd write a formulaic, short, catchy ballad to commemorate the European total eclipse of the summer of 1999, in order to boost the sales of the album they've just released (Oceanborn; in fact, that song wasn't even originally in the album, but was added for its reissue). Holopainen said he was against the idea and afterward told the manager not to ask him for one single song ever again.
  • Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 14 in C♯ minor (Moonlight) was hugely popular in its day and is still an instantly recognizable piano piece. Ludwig himself though couldn't understand all the fuss. He reportedly said to his student, Carl Czerny, "Surely I've written better stuff than this."
  • Tom Lehrer, who rose to fame as something of a countercultural icon in The '60s as a singer, pianist and writer of darkly humorous songs, was, before, during, and after his musical career, employed at Harvard University as a Professor of Mathematics, and never considered his career as a singer and comedian to be anything more than a hobby.
  • Billy Joel gets hit with this a lot. His Signature Song is "Piano Man", and while he likes the lyrics, he considers the music to be repetitive. He also dislikes his only number one hits, "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me" (he considers it pretentious), "Tell Her About It" (he refuses to play it in concert) and "We Didn't Start the Fire" (he thinks it's a just a novelty song and not one of his best melodies). He considers "Vienna", "She's Right on Time", "You May Be Right", "And So It Goes" and "Scenes From an Italian Restaurant" to be better songs. Arguably, the work he poured most of his heart and soul into was "The Downeaster Alexa," given that he spent years of his life in the line of work portrayed in the song.
  • Soundgarden's biggest hit, "Black Hole Sun" was written in just fifteen minutes but went on to become their Signature Song.
  • Styx: Dennis DeYoung's labor of love was Kilroy Was Here - a sentiment not shared by any other band member, which broke up shortly thereafter and reunited in 1990 - without DeYoung.
  • What are the two signature songs of Evanescence? "Bring Me to Life" and "My Immortal". Singer Amy Lee has gone on record multiple times saying she doesn't particularly love the former, as it was heavily rewritten by Executive Meddling, or the latter, as it is not grounded in reality and is ex-guitarist Ben Moody's creature anyway. Songs that are much more personal to her don't get nearly as much commercial recognition, nor are so ingrained into pop culture – "Good Enough", for instance, is a similarly piano-driven ballad, inspired by her then-fiancé and current husband, but its release as a single was cancelled by the label.
  • Aram Khachaturian never actually disowned the Sabre Dance, but claimed that, had he known how much it will overshadow all his other worksnote , he would have never written it.
  • Kanye West's 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is widely considered to be both his personal best and one of the best albums of the 21st century, but he personally considers his 2008 album 808s & Heartbreak his best. He's even described MBDTF as being an "apology" record after 808s polarized critics and audiences alike at the time of its release (funnily enough, while MBDTF is still largely considered his opus, time has been kinder to 808s based on its impact left behind developing in the soft rap/R&B sounds of The New '10s, so he might have been onto something).
  • Despite Faith being his most popular and acclaimed record, George Michael revealed in his final interview before he died that he considered Older to be his greatest work, stating, "I think I wrote the best, most healing piece of music that I've ever written in my life with that album." In regards to individual songs, he stated multiple times that he never understood why everyone loved "Careless Whisper" so much, which was because he wrote the song when he was still a teenager and he believed he had written much better songs since.
  • If there's one piece by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky that everybody knows, it's his 1812 Overture, which has attained Standard Snippet status. However, he personally hated the piece. It was done strictly on commission and he felt no personal or artistic connection to it whatsoever. His ballet music for The Nutcracker is also very widely known and, while he didn't dislike that music, he didn't consider it his best work, either. Rather, he preferred The Sleeping Beauty and The Snow Maiden, the latter being an obscure incidental music composition based on the play of the same name.
  • "Thank You for Being a Friend", the 1978 hit that became especially popular once used as the theme song for The Golden Girls, was just "a little throwaway song" that took "an hour to write" according to writer Andrew Gold. Almost nothing else in his career penetrated American pop culture quite like it (except, thanks to Memetic Mutation, the children's Halloween song "Spooky Scary Skeletons").
  • Brazilian indie band Los Hermanos is best known to the public at large for "Anna Julia", the lead single of their debut album, in 1999. It was a bubblegum pop composition about an ex-girlfriend of their producer, and it became such a huge hit that even George Harrison recorded an English version penned by Jim Capaldi. The band themselves, however, soon grew tired of being overexposed because of one song that did not reflect their style, and even though their next two albums were very praised by critics, they never got another hit like "Anna Julia" again - not that they care, considering how the song was excised from their live setlists not long after its heyday passed.
  • Radiohead became big off the back of the hit single "Creep", which they either detested at the time they were recording it, or grew to detest through overexposure to the point that they refused to play it in concert for decades.
  • Everyone has heard one piece of music by Julius Fucik, namely "Entry of the Gladiators" (That's "the Circus tune" to those too lazy to click the link). Fucik considered it an irrelevancy, and was somewhat distressed at its popularity. His favorite composition was the "Florentinermarsch". March aficionados fairly consistently vote "Florentinermarsch" one of the greatest, if not the greatest, march of all time, but the number of people who would recognize it if they heard it is negligible compared to "Entry".
  • While "In the Hall of the Mountain King" is popular and reached memetic status in the modern day, Edvard Grieg referred to it as "something that I literally can't bear listening to".
  • Annie Lennox has said how proud she is of Eurythmics soundtrack to the movie adaptation of 1984, For the Love of Big Brother. Most fans and critics either consider it a throwaway Creator's Oddball, or simply overlook its existence entirely.

  • Jonny Sims of The Magnus Archives is surprised at how popular the Season 3 premiere episode "A Guest For Mr. Spider" became. Simms considers it to be one of the less inspired episodes of the story, referring to it as "horror on easy mode." Nonetheless, he's quite flattered at the attention it's gotten.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Most marks claim Mick Foley's best match to be his 1998 Hell in a Cell against The Undertaker. However, the man himself would vouch for either his 1996 match against Shawn Michaels or his 2004 bout with Randy Orton. This may be due to the fact that Foley has no memory of the Undertaker match due to all the blunt trauma he suffered in it. 'Taker himself doesn't like talking about the match, as he'd legitimately thought he'd killed Foley after one of the big bumps. Vince McMahon himself hated the match.note 
  • Molly Holly held two WWE Women's Championships, won and lost the Hardcore title at WrestleMania 18 and earlier managed Randy Savage. Her favorite part of her career? A Romeo and Juliet-style romance angle she did with Spike Dudley. That was Molly's favorite storyline, as well as Spike's. She considers getting her head shaved at WrestleMania XX to be her greatest single moment.
  • The Ric Flair - Ricky Steamboat trilogy of matches in 1989 for the NWA World Heavyweight Championship are considered one of the best series of matches in history, with The Wrestling Observer Newsletter giving all three matches five stars. But according to his autobiography, Flair felt that his earlier matches with Steamboat at various house shows in the 1970s were better than that.
  • Tony Schiavone is best known to wrestling fans as the voice of WCW, but Tony himself has stated that his one-year stint as a commentator in WWF from April 1989 to April 1990 was more enjoyable for him and he wishes that he'd have stayed longer.
  • Dave Meltzer has stated repeatedly he regards rating matches is the least important thing he does as a wrestling journalist, and doesn't understand why others make such a big deal out of it.
  • The Undertaker much prefers his reviled "American Badass" gimmick than the quasi-supernatural "Deadman" that fans love.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Richard Garfield spent a lot of time creating a variable-board racing game starring little robots that were controlled by programmed instructions set by their masters at the beginning of each round. But the heads of Wizards of the Coast thought they needed a quick money boost before they could put such a game into production, and asked Garfield to come up with something. He came back to them relatively quickly with a little card game that somewhat replicated a wizards' duel not unlike in D&D (even borrowing the Chromatic Dragons' colors of Red, White, Blue, Green, and Black for the game's energy-currency). These days, it's extremely hard to find someone under the age of 40 who hasn't at least heard of Magic: The Gathering, given how it's dominated the Collectible Card Game world since its inception and is lauded as important to modern popular tabletop gaming as Dungeons & Dragons, while very few people outside of the hardcore gaming community have heard of Robo Rally.

  • Stephen Sondheim's "Send In The Clowns" is thought by many to be one of his greatest songs, if not the greatest, and it's been covered many times, even by artists who don't usually do show tunes. Sondheim himself, however, considers it to be nothing special, just something he wrote in ten minutes or so. He also doesn't much care for his other most well-known song "I Feel Pretty" from West Side Story, though that has more to do with it not fitting the character or atmosphere of the show, rather than it being a bad or inferior song in general.
  • Roger from RENT spends the entirety of the show agonizing over creating one last song before he dies of AIDS, never being able to find the right words. When he finally plays it over the dying body of Mimi, it's...kinda bad. His final song is commonly thought of as the worst song in a show full of otherwise outstanding musical numbers.

    Video Games 
  • William Higinbotham, an American physicist, retooled his analog computer's oscilloscope program to run a very low-tech tennis game all the way back in 1958 (called Tennis for Two), creating the very first electronic game to have a video display (the first "video-game"). He stated before his death that he regrets being known for inventing the video game because he would have liked to be known for his work on nuclear nonproliferation.
  • Series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi has stated that Final Fantasy IX is his favorite in the series. Its sales were the worst of the PlayStation era, with Final Fantasy VII and Final Fantasy VIII selling betternote . The fans, on the other hand, are a different story.
  • Nobuo Uematsu, known for making a great many soundtracks to JRPGs, has stated that he believes his greatest work was the soundtrack to Final Fantasy IX. However, while the soundtrack fo IX is well-received by the fans, "One-Winged Angel" and "Dancing Mad" are viewed as two of if not THE greatest Final Boss pieces ever composed in all of gaming, and many feel that Final Fantasy VI is his best overall soundtrack, particularly given the miracles Uematsu was able to work in getting such complex and diverse music to sound as gorgeous as it does on the limited SNES hardware.
  • Grand Theft Auto: Vice City features an In-Universe example on the radio. Claude Maginot stars in the lowbrow sit-com "Just the Five of Us" and the avant-garde play "In The Future, There Will Be Robots". When he's interviewed on K-Chat, he keeps trying to steer the topic towards "Robots" while the airheaded host only wants to discuss his sit-com, and he mentions being prouder of "Robots" while reluctantly admitting it's not doing as well as "Just the Five of Us".
  • Yoshio Sakamoto single-handedly wrote Metroid: Other M so it would have the best story in the franchise and make protagonist Samus Aran a truly developed, rounded and sympathetic character. Sakamoto stated in interviews that he even cried when seeing some of the scenes of the game for the first time, showing how emotionally invested he was in the project. He even went out of his way to choose and voice direct the English voice actors himself (despite not speaking the language himself). The result, however, was seen by much of the Western fanbase (which makes up the majority of Metroid's fans) as a massive disservice to Samus, leading to intense negative reaction and the game becoming a flop in the Western market. The reaction to the story amongst Japanese players, whom the game was obviously intended to draw in, was fairly muted if not quite as vitriolic, and the game completely failed to halt the series sale's slide in the country. Sakamoto would step away from the series for a few years afterward, before returning with Metroid: Samus Returns, a co-production with MercurySteam which was considered a much-needed return to form.
  • This tends to lead to the downfall of many a game creator and/or studio. Many times, a game director will invest millions of dollars and mass amounts of time and resources into a game which they believe will become the game to which they will be remembered for. When the opposite happens, it usually spells doom for the studio and director, as when the returns aren't as good, it can lead to serious financial issues, which often bankrupts them and forced them under. To wit:
    • Silicon Knights' Too Human was the passion project of studio head Denis Dyack, having spent nine years in development across multiple platforms. Originally going to be a Sega Saturn /PlayStation game, it was first shifted to the Nintendo GameCube and then finally to the Xbox 360 due to its enhanced graphical quality, as Dyack was disgusted by the Wii's weaker hardware. The result? Mediocre sales and reviews, which lead to the studio's eventual decline. Meanwhile, most fans would agree that Eternal Darkness was their best game.
    • George Broussard, the head of 3D Realms and the creator of the Duke Nukem series, spent over a decade working on Duke Nukem Forever in order to ensure that it would be the most groundbreaking title in the series, which lead to multiple engine switches, delays, and very little to show for it. Needless to say, the fact that it not only took down his career and studio but also finally released to poor reviews calling it "outdated and immature" proved otherwise.
  • Arcane Kids, the developers of a freeware game called Zineth, and a as-yet unreleased game called Perfect Stride (initially announced in 2013), had also made a lot of joke games. One of them was a Bubsy fangame called Bubsy 3D: Bubsy Visits the James Turrell Retrospective. It became their most popular game within a few days, and while Zineth videos linger around the 5000-10,000 views, many videos of the Bubsy fangame have hundreds of thousands of views. History repeated itself with Sonic Dreams Collection, which became a massive hit with Let's Players thanks to its weird, creepy atmosphere and satire of the Sonic fandom.
  • The lukewarm reception of Mega Man 10 can be partially attributed to the game maintaining 9's gameplay Reset Button to Mega Man 2, considered by the developers to be the best in the series. The game after that one was considered a relatively poor product by the developers partly due to being rushed (pun not intended), but several fans hold it in higher esteem than 2, in part due to concepts in that game that weren't repeated ad nauseam (unlike the ones introduced in the game following that one).
  • In Team Fortress 2, Hydro was one of the maps Valve worked hardest on. Go through it some time and look for the developer commentary; they spent a long time designing it and created a new game mode for it - Territory Control. When they included it in the original six maps, it... went nowhere. Turns out a series of very small maps, plus control points, meant that every match was either two minutes long or two hours long, not to mention how utterly confusing the layout is for anyone who hasn't dedicated hours upon hours to learn it. It was (and still is) very common for the defending team to lose a round within 45 seconds because none of them can find the point they need to defend. The map has been all but abandoned ever since; when Jerma985 did a basic search of total TF2 servers available, he counted over 1200 servers and only two Hydro ones, each of which had only three people on them. The only reason most players still go to Hydro is to go there for a short time to get the World Traveler Achievement.
  • As revealed in this interview, developer Seibu Kaihatsu expected Dynamite Duke to be their marquee title, but the game flopped. The company's breakout title ended up being their next game, a low-budget vertical shmup nobody involved had faith in.
  • Famous Commodore 64 designers Jonathan Temples and David Temples are most well-known for their work on Nobby The Aardvark, which is considered to be one of the best games for the Commodore 64. In an interview, they stated though that their favorite work was CJ's Elephant Antics. Though it is not as big as all other examples on the list since CJ's Elephant Antics is quite loved as well.
  • Dead Island: In-Universe, Sam B wanted to be a political, socially conscious rapper and considered his political material to be his life's work. Realizing that the only song he ever wrote that anyone wanted to hear more than once was "Who Do You Voodoo, Bitch?!", a Horrorcore track he wrote as an elaborate joke for a Halloween party, made him very bitter. The only reason he's on the island of Banoi prior to the zombie outbreak is to do yet another show of that very song.
  • Fallout 4 has an in-universe example with a renowned pre-war painter transplanted into a Robo-Brain for immortality. He is responsible for all the prolific cutesy kitten/puppy paintings you see throughout the game... and he hates them and made them under an alias, despite them making him filthy rich.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog frequently calls back to the half-pipe special stage from Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in an attempt to fuel some nostalgia for the longtime fans. Many fans, however, criticize them for their Fake Difficulty, touchy controls, poor implementation of Tails and reliance on Trial-and-Error Gameplay, generally preferring the blue spheres special stage from Sonic the Hedgehog 3. Their implementation in Sonic Heroes didn't help matters and players got sick of seeing them repeated over and over again in every game. They were at least more warmly received in Sonic Rush however due to the stylus control giving players the precision they needed to make the stages challenging but fair and fun.
  • Despite the fan backlash to Paper Mario: Sticker Star, Nintendo themselves have praised the game on occasion, stating that it should be the template for the Paper Mario series going forward. Indeed, the game's influence can be seen in its two successors Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam and Paper Mario: Color Splash. To say the fans disagree is an understatement. Many would rather see the series return to the style of Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door, which is beloved for its story, Ensemble Dark Horse partners and battle style.
  • After Worms 3D got a mixed critical reaction but sold fairly well, Team17 poured a lot of time, effort and money into making sure that the next main-series entry, Worms 4: Mayhem would correct all the faults of its prequel and be the best Worms experience ever, while having a smaller team work on a portable entry called Worms: Open Warfare, which was a throwback to the earlier 2D Worms games for portable systems, as neither the Nintendo DS nor PlayStation Portable was powerful enough to feasibly handle a 3D Worms game. As it turned out, however, Worms 4 got only slightly better reviews than 3D and flopped massively sales-wise, coming within an inch of being the Creator Killer for Team17... who were dragged back from the brink by unexpectedly strong sales of Open Warfare. Afterward, Team17 refocused themselves exclusively on 2D (and 2.5D) Worms games and, save for a Compilation Rerelease of 3D and 4, have made it very clear that under no circumstances will they ever make another 3D entry.
  • Neil Druckmann considers The Last of Us Part II to be the greatest work he's ever made and, within that game, Abby to be his favorite character. Fans, however, have a much more divisive view of both.
  • Shouzou Kaga, generally recognized as the creator of Fire Emblem and the director of its first five games, considers his best work with the series to be the Jugdral games: Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War and Fire Emblem: Thracia 776. While the general consensus among the fandom does tend to agree that the Jugdral games are his masterpieces (being the most ambitious, well-plotted, and feature-heavy), his most successful and famous game is Fire Emblem: Mystery of the Emblem, along with the game it has a remake of, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon & the Blade of Light (otherwise known as "the one with Marth"). Genealogy did rather well for itself and has a strong following, but isn't nearly as iconic or well-known (especially overseas), and Thracia 776 was an Acclaimed Flop due to launching extremely late in the Super Famicom's lifespan.
  • Bugsnax: Another In-Universe example. Wiggle Wigglebottom's only hit was "Do The Wiggle", a song she wrote in a sleep-deprived, caffeine-fueled haze after arriving late to the studio, and which she admits to not even remembering writing (and even at the time she had no idea where she got the banjo for the background track). Her trip to Bugsnax Island was in part to seek new inspiration, but also to try to get over her bitterness about no-one else caring about the material she cared about.
  • The creators of Balan Wonderworld were strongly against the idea of including prerendered cutscenes, with them being handled by a different branch within Square-Enix who apparently insisted on getting involved with the project. Many people upon playing the game remarked that those prerendered cutscenes were by far the strongest part of the overall product, with the game the creators worked on being lambasted.
  • Orteil, a French game designer, considers his favorite project to be Nested, a rather fascinating bit of procedural generation that essentially creates an entire universe, down to the subatomic particles in a man's pocket lint. However, it's completely overshadowed in his oevure by a little project called Cookie Clicker, which was created as a joke and ended up spawning the entire Idle Game genre.

    Visual Novels 
  • The Echo Project is resposible, for, well, Echo, and is most invested in its 'verse, including the preequal The Smoke Room and sequel Arches. However, Adastra (2018) is by far their most popular product, and notorious for a Troubled Production in regards to its following installments. Critics and staff alike tend to preffer the former, with some in the dev team even going as far as claiming that Adastra doesn't really represent the project's ambitions.

    Web Comics 
  • Jennie Breeden, author of The Devil's Panties has clearly encountered this trope.
  • Ryan Sohmer made a name for himself with the... divisive Least I Could Do. Then, he decided to do a little side project lovingly spoofing two things he enjoyed: World of Warcraft and Dungeons & Dragons. With a more likable protagonist, a cool supporting cast, a good Myth Arc, some Growing the Beard and a certain Heroic Comedic Sociopath warlock, Looking for Group grew to vastly eclipse Least I Could Do in popularity and acclaim. Sohmer himself began to eventually view LFG as his magnum opus, as well.
  • Referenced in Married to the Sea. "Shakespeare got to get paid, son."
  • This is part of why RPG World has No Ending - the artist grew frustrated that the photo-comic "real world" sections weren't regarded as well as the drawn sections and stormed off the Internet.
    • He would eventually return to give it a proper ending and the character reappeared in his cartoon show, OK K.O.! Let's Be Heroes.
  • Megatokyo originally started out as a way for Fred to improve his writing and drawing skills before starting on his main project Warmth. Despite Fred stating multiple times that Warmth is not abandoned and he plans to continue it in the future, Megatokyo is clearly the one that has attracted massive fan attention.
  • The One-Punch Man webcomic by ONE was a side hobby when compared to his second work, the actual serialized series Mob Psycho 100. But it became wildly popular and was adapted into a manga with greatly updated artwork by Yusuke Murata and later an anime series.
    • Actually reversed later on, with Mob Psycho 100 also receiving an anime adaptation, and a second season before One-Punch Man; while One Punch Man is still indisputably the more well known of the two, it's viewed as more one-note and comedic compared to Mob Psycho 100, which explores similar themes with more emotional depth.
  • Rich Burlew originally started The Order of the Stick as a small, fun side project to draw traffic to his website, which was mostly dedicated to game design articles. However, it quickly eclipsed his other writing and became the main feature of the website.
  • Played for Laughs in Hark! A Vagrant where the author Kate Beaton has poked fun numerous times at how her "Ooh Mister Darcy" bit, a deliberately bad comic, is easily her most well-known and beloved strip. The description of the comic now reads "Oh god, what have I done", and there's also a comic where she's pestered to write another Mister Darcy story while she's trying to write social commentary.

    Web Original 
  • Egoraptor claims that his best work is Sequelitis, as compared to Girl-chan in Paradise or the Awesome Series, due to both the time and effort he put into the episodes and the fact that he values an ability to make people think over an ability to make people laugh. Not that Sequelitis isn't appreciated, but it's overshadowed by the aforementioned works, the works that built up his fanbase for years before Sequelitis even existed.
  • James Rolfe made amateur movies for most of his youth and intended to become a film director himself. Between making these films, he also made Angry Video Game Nerd, but purely as a form of entertainment for his friends. Ironically enough, the AVGN videos launched his career and remain better known and loved than his amateur movies. He considers Cinemassacre 200, The Dragon in My Dreams, Cinemaphobia, The Legend of the Blue Hole, and The Deader the Better to be the best of his hundreds of short films, but none of them are as recognized as the average AVGN episode.
  • Doug Walker's Demo Reel had been a project that he'd wanted to do since 2008, and finally came to fruition after sending off his first major series The Nostalgia Critic in the Grand Finale special To Boldly Flee. Despite a bigger cast, a larger location, a dramatic Story Arc and Pandering To The Feminist/Male-Attracted Base, the series proved not to be cost-effective enough to keep going; it had a much higher budget than anything done on the site before, at a time when a loud number of the fans had made good on their promise to flee the site after Critic died. The series wasn't particularly well-received either. A particularly sad example revealed on "The Review Must Go On" commentary, as apparently when Doug was told he had to bring Critic back, he was also given the option of keeping the dream project but was so upset that he torched it.
    • He considers the "Musical Trilogy" (Moulin Rouge!, The Phantom of the Opera, and Les Misérables, with The Wall later on), to be among his favorite reviews, The first of the bunch was what convinced him to do Demo Reel, as he thought it had turned out so well that it proved he didn't need to rely on the Critic. Fan reception of them is a lot more negative, with most regarding them as overproduced, unfunny, and shallow (especially the last one).
  • Freeman's Mind began as an experimental "side series". Ross Scott's main project was Civil Protection, which began life a year earlier. Despite a positive response to Freeman's Mind, Ross planned to terminate it two episodes in, because he didn't like the creation process or the restrictive format. However, it was much faster and easier to make, and so he started putting out new episodes to tide people over between Civil Protection episodes. It became his most popular and famous series, and remains so more than a decade later, to the point that it's hindered his work on other projects that he cares about more, like Civil Protection and THE MOVIE.
    "I read before that Blizzard wanted to work on Diablo and StarCraft sequels for years, but they couldn't because World of Warcraft was so successful. They had to throw everything they had at it. Well, Freeman's Mind has been a little bit like that with me. On one hand, some people want me to make nothing but Freeman's Mind, forever. … On the other hand, I've had a lot of other things I've wanted to work on also, and I always have to sacrifice something."
  • SuperYoshi doesn't see the big deal behind "I'D SAY HE'S HOT ON OUR TAIL," outside of being the first YouTube Poop ever made. He considers this his poop masterpiece.
  • The SCP Foundation has SCP-3333, which had a tumultuous history. In its original form, it was one of the most popular articles on the site, but the author came to dislike several aspects of its writing, so they had SCP-3333 rewritten to a version they felt was an improvement. Unfortunately, the rewrite was almost universally disliked by the community, after which the author was forced to admit that people enjoyed the original version they hated more than the new version they felt better about, and reverted the article back to its original form. (The author expounded on their thought process in this essay.)
  • Krunkidile, the maker of Team Service Announcement, claims the series has become less fun for him to make and also doesn't think highly of his most viewed video One Step Ahead. His favorite of his videos is CARTOON DOG HAT, which is just the same clip over and over again.
  • Episode 10 of Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series (the one with Panik, Yu-Gi-Oh DMX, "I'm just talkin' 'bout Yugi!") regularly places high on "best episode ever" lists. LittleKuriboh claims that it's not even a good episode.
  • Chuggaaconroy's Super Mario Sunshine Let's Play is one of his most popular works, and is widely credited with renewing public interest in a slightly obscure game that, prior to his LP, was considered divisive at best. However, Emile later went on to say that that he considers it one of his least favorite, due to him going through a rough patch in his life and faking a lot of his enthusiasm during the LP due to that.
  • Of all the Let's Plays created by Achievement Hunter, the most popular by far are their Minecraft and Grand Theft Auto IV/V series, which are updated weekly and bring in views unlike anything else they produce. However, most of the AH crew considers their Let's Plays of various Worms games, and 3D Ultra Minigolf Adventures and its sequel to be their best works.
  • According to this video, two of Peter's five favorite Epic Rap Battles of History are from season 1, which was still when the series was finding itself. None of them are from season 2 despite that season containing more battles than any other seasons. Many, if not most, fans consider season 2 to be their favorite season.
  • The Runaway Guys have frequently cited their favorite projects are things like the Rayman and LittleBigPlanet LPs due to having more fun with them, but most fans gloss over those projects.

    Western Animation 
  • The Simpsons:
    • The show in general is one of the most famous examples in Western Animation. Matt Groening created the show hastily in the lobby of James L. Brooks' office, after realizing that if he accepted his planned Life in Hell pitch, he'd lose the rights to the series. At the time, Life in Hell was his most notable work, and had been running for around 10 years in newspapers, so it was a logical move. Fast-forward a decade, and The Simpsons would become one of the most successful, beloved, and influencial TV series of all-time. In contrast, Life in Hell is now one of Groening's lesser-known works, with many not being aware that he continued making the newspaper strip until 2012.
    • Groening once made a list of his favorite Simpsons episodes, and choose mostly examples from the first and eighth seasons, while many fans consider the third to seventh seasons to be the show's Golden Age. The first season is considered to be mediocre at best since the show was still searching for its form in those days and fans feel that a few episodes from the first season are too slow, not particularly funny, and uncharacteristic.
    • On both sides of the coin, Groening has mentioned "Homer's Enemy" as being his favorite episode ever, while Al Jean, the current executive producer, has said that "Homer's Enemy" is his least favourite episode. The episode has, at least, a Broken Base between fans who agree it is one of the best and those who think it was the start of the Seasonal Rot due to being too dark and perceived Character Derailment of Homer and many secondary characters.
    • Ken Keeler has said the highly-controversial episode "The Principal and the Pauper", which many fans consider the worst Simpsons episode ever, has been his best work for television, despite doing more-favorable received episodes on The Simpsons and Futurama. Then-showrunners Bill Oakley and Josh Weinstein have defended the episode, as well.
    • "Cape Feare" was an episode none of the creators felt very confident about; they couldn't come up with enough material for it and had to pad it out (including giving it a long Couch Gag). It's regarded as one of the funniest episodes of the series, and particular acclaim is lavished on the "Sideshow Bob steps on rakes" sequence, which was originally added solely to pad the runtime.
    • Writer Ian Maxtone-Graham blames himself for the show's downfall, as he admitted in a 1998 interview that he had barely seen the show when he was hired. This is actually more of a reason to love him than to hate him, as he wrote "Homer vs New York", the last episode to score more than 90% on IMDb. He also wrote four episodes that made IGN's list of the ten best episodes after season 13.
    • "Saddlesore Galactica"note  has been cited by many fans as the point in which the show stopped being realistic and started slavishly following in the footsteps of South Park and Family Guy and is often cited as one of the worst episodes ever. The DVD commentary, on the other hand, reveals the writers loved making the episode, noting that it was a deliberate, tongue-in-cheek mockery of such shows, and a piss take against The Simpsons itself for recycling old stories and the fans who complain about them, hence the part where the Comic Book Guy points out that the Simpsons taking in a horse as a pet has been done before, with Homer asking if anyone cares what he thinks.
    • Despite "Marge Vs the Monorail" often being considered one of, if not the best episode of the series, Yeardley Smith has been vocal in her dislike of the episode. In a 1995 interview, she heavily criticized it for not fitting in well with the show's then-usual style.
  • Family Guy:
    • The series has an In-Universe example with Brian Griffin. His labor-of-love novel, Faster than the Speed of Love, becomes a massive bomb due to its being an incredibly trite Cliché Storm that unintentionally rips off the Iron Eagle series. After he trashes schlocky self-help books and says anyone could make one, Stewie challenges him to do so, so he throws together Wish It, Want It, Do It, which becomes a smash hit — until Bill Maher, Arianna Huffington, and Dana Gould criticize Brian and all self-help authors for peddling crap to naïve readers.
    • Another In-Universe example: in "Brian Wallows and Peter's Swallows", Brian is forced to care for a cranky shut-in after a DUI arrest, later telling her to drop dead after taking so much abuse from her. After watching a documentary on TV about how she was a famous singer who quit the business after fans wanted to hear her more well-known radio jingles rather than the operas she really wanted to perform, Brian stops her suicide attempt after telling her how much he loved her operas, which kickstarts their new-found friendship.
  • Dr. Seuss has claimed that Ralph Bakshi's TV special of The Butter Battle Book was the most faithful adaptation of all his works. It's also one of the most obscure. Arguably the most iconic adaptation made with Seuss' cooperation before his death is Chuck Jones' version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, which Seuss expressed dissatisfaction with due to Jones' art direction taking over his own compared to Bakshi and Friz Freleng's works.
  • Tex Avery, despite eventually becoming an animator, originally wanted to become a comic strip cartoonist. Most of his cartoons were made with the intention of eventually making that other career choice. Finally, he was so burned out that he gave up the animation business all together and spent the final years of his life almost exclusively as an artist for TV commercials. Even when people lauded him with praise about the hilarious cartoons he always shied away. He never considered them to be that great and seldom gave interviews. He practically died in obscurity, despite his cartoons living on as examples of everything that defines Western animation: (wild takes, fourth-wall breaking jokes, Amusing Injuries, visual and verbal gags that aren't appropriate for younger viewers or prudes, Self-Deprecating corny gags, talking animals, etc).
  • In-Universe in Rocko's Modern Life. After finishing The Fatheads, Rachel Bighead (née Ralph) wants to move on from cartoons to make "real art," but is under contract for another show. She decides to hire Rocko, Heffer and Filburt as writers so that the show will quickly fail. The resulting nonsense, Wacky Delly (yes, misspelling and all), is a massive success that only becomes more popular when Rachel tries to sabotage it. When Rocko convinces Rachel to compromise and try to infuse the show with her artistic passion, it is immediately cancelled, freeing her to enter the art world. Years later, Rachel finishes her "real art" out in the desert, but the first person who sees it compares it to Wacky Delly: the first season, of course, before that new guy ruined it.
  • Season 5 of Beavis and Butt-Head is considered a weaker season by fans due to many episodes having meandering plots without resolution. However, it is a favorite of Mike Judge; on the Mike Judge Collection DVD sets, it is by far the season least affected by missing episodes or "director's cut" edits.
  • South Park:
    • Implied In-Universe—in "Free Hat," Steven Spielberg's home is decorated with posters of his least popular movies.
    • Out-of-universe, "Not Without My Anus" is the only episode from the first three seasons that Trey Parker and Matt Stone aren't ashamed of, and like it for being "something weird and different." It was an April Fools' Day joke interrupting a two-part episode (and this, after a season break), which infuriated fans at the time. Stone admits that this makes him like it more. While the episode is nowhere near as hated today, there's still some debate over whether the prank was funny.
  • Peanuts specials:
  • Both Cree Summer and Tara Strong have pointed to their characters in Drawn Together as being among their favourite voice acting roles. The series itself is rather polarizing and far from their most iconic roles.
  • Butch Hartman regularly cites Phantom Planet to be one of his favorite episodes of Danny Phantom, while the fanbase considers it to be the most polarizing episode in an already disliked final season.
  • Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird don't really care for the bumbling henchmen Bebop and Rocksteady from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) cartoon that put their creation on the map, being as they were new characters made for that adaptation purely to sell toys. Word of God is that Expies Tokka and Rahzar from the 2nd live-action film were created for it rather than having Bebop and Rocksteady being used as per Eastman & Laird's request (partially because of the legal clearances required to use them), and why they have been largely Put on a Bus in newer works for years much to the disappointment of fans who grew attached to them.
  • While the Scooby-Doo franchise's most well-regarded installments among the fanbase are those that take the Mystery Inc. gang out of their usual "Scooby-Doo" Hoax comfort zone to face with real monsters or supernatural threats (such as Scooby-Doo on Zombie Island and Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated), most of the people who've worked on these various shows and films as producers and showrunners feel that the meddling kids and their mangy mutt are more in their element when the threats they deal with have a grounded explanation or Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane (ala the original show).
  • Danny Antonucci has stated that the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "If It Smells Like An Ed" is his favorite episode. Said episode is one of the most divisive, with many fans feeling that it was one of the few instances where the Eds didn't deserve the punishment they got.
  • The Loud House showrunner Michael Rubiner has cited the show's April Fools' Day episodes about Luan pranking the family ("April Fools Rules", "Fool's Paradise", "Fool Me Twice", etc.) as among his favorite episodes, with producer Karen Malach agreeing. Conversely, the show's fandom is mixed towards these episodes, mainly because of how Luan is portrayed in all of them.

  • Isaac Newton is undoubtedly one of the greatest scientists who ever lived, and made multiple groundbreaking contributions to several scientific fields. His Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, which laid the foundation of classical mechanics is considered one of, if not the most important scientific works of all time. Yet the latter was only published due to the insistence of Edmond Halley: Newton considered his most important work to be his studies in occultism and esoterism, which comprised about two-thirds of his work. And in his own lifetime, Newton was best known for his work at the Royal Mint, which is why the design of his tomb in Westminster Abbey incorporates many references to coinage and currency, but none to science. Because of this, many historians claim that Newton wasn't the World's First Scientist; but rather the World's Last Alchemist (there being some overlap).
  • Photographer Eddie Adams was best known for his Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a Vietnamese police chief about to execute a Viet Cong prisoner, which became an icon of the Vietnam War protest movement. Adams later regretted the photograph's notoriety, particularly the demonizing of the Vietnamese forces and the specific officer depicted, wishing instead to be remembered for a series of later pictures depicting Vietnamese refugees to Thailand. Needless to say, they are nowhere near as famous.
    • Part of this stemmed from the lack of context around the photo—it was perceived as a pure act of brutality, whereas in fact, the man being executed was part of an assassination squad tasked with murdering South Vietnamese police and their families. When the photo was snapped, he had just been caught disposing of the bodies of wife and children of the police chief's close aide and best friend... who were also the chief's godchildren.
  • Israeli photographer David Rubinger's most famous picture is undoubtedly the scene of soldiers staring in awe at the Western Wall right after its liberation from Jordan. However, he maintained that the photo wasn't very good because you couldn't make out everyone's faces. He preferred this image from the same event, of Rabbi Shlomo Goren blowing a shofar (ceremonial horn) in celebration. (Which is odd, because you can't see all the faces there either.)
  • Thomas Jefferson wrote the epitaph on his own gravestone, which reads: "Author of the Declaration of American Independence [and] of the Statute of Virginia for Religious Freedom and Father of the University of Virginia." You might notice that "President of the United States" didn't warrant a mention. (Which makes some sense, given that he was in favor of a less centralized government.)
  • William Howard Taft was more proud of his time as Chief Justice of the US Supreme Court than as President. It's just that modern Americans aren't exactly familiar with the Chief Justices as they are with the Presidents, so it's clear which office people knew him by.
  • An episode of QI brought up C.B. Fry, an ancestor of Stephen Fry's and a successful turn of the century British sportsman. He represented England in football and cricket, equalled the world long-jump record in 1893, and reportedly was offered — and refused — the throne of Albania following World War I. He could also jump onto a mantlepiece backwards without losing his balance. Much to Stephen Fry's growing irritation, that was the only thing that anyone on the panel for that episode wanted to talk about. This does give pause for wonder as to what he expected, however, seeing as the panel was composed largely of comedians and aside from the mantel-jumping, C.B's other cited achievements, remarkable though they may have been, weren't exactly the stuff of potential hilarity.
  • Aristotle is mainly remembered today for his works in philosophy and politics. However, he considered them secondary to his real work - the books on zoology. No one reads these today due to Science Marches On—though actually his zoology was pretty good, and, contrary to what's often claimed, definitely involved actual observation (he knew how octopuses reproduce, for instance, something we wouldn't rediscover till the late 19th century). It was his physics that was bad because they were derived from his biology. His reputation as a biologist tends to get tainted by association, mostly because actually studying the history of science is more work than claiming to be smarter than dead people.
  • Robert Ballard has admitted in interviews that his tombstone will state that he discovered the wreck of the RMS Titanic, even though he's more proud of some of his other discoveries.
  • Benjamin Franklin put politics at the bottom of areas of knowledge he wanted to be known for, but he is best remembered as one of the United States' Founding Fathers and the man on the US $100 bill (to the point where their slang term is "Benjamins.") However, his best-known achievements are all science-related (the kite experimentnote , Poor Richard's Almanac, the Franklin stove, bifocals, etc.)
  • The Jesuit priest James Martin tells an anecdote in his book Between Heaven and Mirth; a homily he spent the week lavishing over got no reaction from the congregation. The following Mass he threw his talk together at the last minute and parishioners came up to him in tears, saying it was one of the most moving sermons they'd ever heard.
  • Richard Dawkins is widely known by laymen for either his book The God Delusion, or The Selfish Gene by more scientifically-minded people, but he considers The Extended Phenotype his most important contribution to the Evolutionary Theory. It is also the most technical of his books.
  • Mathematician G. H. Hardy loathed applied mathematics and was most proud of his works on number theory and mentoring the math genius Srinivasa Ramanujan (he was slightly more proud of finding Ramanujan than all of his own achievements combined). However, most people remember him for the Hardy-Weinburg Theorem, a simple piece of applied mathematics (heavily used in genetics and ecology) he dashed off in a few minutes.
  • Pinball designer Claude Fernandez is a textbook case of this trope. His personal favorite game he designed was Baby Pac-Man, a hybrid pinball-video game arcade machine that was widely loathed by pinball players and video gamers alike. However, the machine pinball fans most appreciate him for, Flash Gordon, was merely a result of Bally wanting to play Follow the Leader with Williams and tasking Fernandez with building it, Fernandez largely going through the motions. During his speech at Pinball Expo 2014, Fernandez is admittedly puzzled but amused by this difference in opinion.
  • Olympic and World Champion sprinter Usain Bolt is perhaps best known for his exploits over the 100m (such as his 9.69s world record while slowing down or his current world record of 9.58s). However, it's the 200m that has remained his favourite event from when he was a teenager (although his favorite sport, and the one he originally practiced until a teacher recommended he give sprinting a go, is cricket).
  • Despite winning six Super Bowls overall, the Pittsburgh Steelers consider their 1976 team to be the best Steelers team, despite them losing Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw for the rest of the season, and were a game away from making their third consecutive Super Bowl.
  • Pope St. John Paul II's labor of love was a series of talks later published as Theology of the Body, in which he examines the nature of man and woman before the Fall, after it, and at the resurrection of the dead. He also explores the Catholic Church's teachings on sex, marriage, celibacy, and virginity, while expanding on the teachings of contraception as expounded in the encyclical Humanae vitae. Many Catholic theologians believe that it is one of the Pope's finest works, but it is not very accessible to the public due to the work's philosophical density.
  • Perhaps the most famous work by Søren Kierkegaard is Fear and Trembling, a book in which he, as Johannes de Silentio, talks about the teleological suspension of the ethical and uses the story of Abraham and Isaac as an example. Kierkegaard himself thought that Practice in Christianity, a work in which he talks about the importance of imitating, not merely admiring, Christ and critiques the Danish Church, was his greatest work, calling it "the most perfect and truest thing".
  • Samuel Morse, the inventor of the telegraph and the Morse code, wanted to be a famous painter more than anything. He expected his epic 1822 painting, "The House of Representatives," which depicted every sitting member of Congress sitting in a meticulously-researched rendition of the chamber, to be considered one of the greatest works of American art and earn him great fame and attention, but it got scant praise and is little remembered today. Morse came up with the telegraph idea on something of a whim, mostly as a way to make money.
  • Alexander Graham Bell became world-famous for inventing the telephone, but he personally wanted to be remembered more on his work for teaching the deaf to speak, even if the deaf community were angered by some of his... controversial views on them.
  • Christian apologist William Lane Craig is most known for his defense of the Kalam cosmological argument for God's existence, to the point he's almost synonymous with the argument. Craig himself regards his most important work as a scholar to his later defense on the doctrine of Penal substituion.