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Vindicated by Cable

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"Even the theatrical release of The Shawshank Redemption had a TNT logo in the corner!"
Jebidiah Atkinson, Saturday Night Live, "Weekend Update"

This is a subtrope to Vindicated by History. These are films that usually bombed at the box office in first-run and might otherwise have been left to rot in the dust bin of history. Not all of them did, though.

Through frequent airings on premium or basic cable channels because they're cheap, handy filler, they gather a devoted audience that sees its entertainment value despite the obvious flaws. Sometimes, these films bombed when they were first released and were just misunderstood at the time, but a later time period and cable made them popular. Other times, the show in question is aired so often that viewers mistakenly believe it must be some sort of classic... so they keep watching and rewatching it to the point that it does become a classic. This can also happen to a film if it gets featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000, and, in fact, is the cause of many a Missing Episode of said series; after a movie was MiSTied, it often gained in popularity, which raised the price for the rights beyond what Best Brains (or Rhino or Shout! Factory) was able to pay.

An interesting effect of this process can happen when the TV rights to sequels of classic movies are cheaper than the rights to the original movie. Thus, while the original was already popular, for generations who grew up after its release, their largest exposure to the franchise is often the sequels. Thus, for certain groups, otherwise detested sequels can be viewed through Nostalgia Filter.

Compare Critical Dissonance, Quality by Popular Vote. Vindicated by Reruns is the television counterpart.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • MD Geist got surprisingly good ratings on Sci Fi Channel, and when 7chan was exposed to it through their "Channel 7" streaming TV service, the turnout was rather impressive. The DVD has since been re-released by ADV Films after being out of print for years, partly due to the Sci Fi turnout.
  • Betterman was (and still is) a rather obscure anime series when it came to America back in 2002. The reason why anyone today even knows of the series is thanks to the Tech TV Anime Unleashed broadcasts.
  • Robotech could be classed as this in the UK, seeing as the full series never got released either on terrestrial TV or on video (only the first 2 episodes, the Codename:Robotech feature-length pilot, and the obscure Robotech The Movie), though was shown on various cable channels throughout the '80s and '90s.
  • Despite its paramount success in Japan, Princess Mononoke was a box office bomb in the United States, in part due to Hayao Miyazaki insisting that the English dub be released unedited.note  Luckily, its immense critical acclaim gave it newfound success from television syndications and home media releases, bringing it on par with its Japanese performance by becoming the highest-selling anime production of 2001, and quite likely paving the way for the runaway success Spirited Away, Studio Ghibli's following release, became.
  • Genesis of Aquarion is a comparatively rare example of Vindicated By Theme Song - despite being helmed by Macross creator Shoji Kawamori, the series largely flew under the radar until 2007, when the usage of its Yoko Kanno-penned opening song in a pachinko game commercial catapulted the song to triple platinum status and Aquarion itself back into the limelight, leading to first an OAV series and later the 2012 TV continuation Aquarion EVOL.

    Films — Animation 
  • Since it couldn't compete with Disney's The Little Mermaid, All Dogs Go to Heaven was a failure in cinemas. However, home-video rentals made this movie a bestseller in the market, a Cult Classic among animation buffs and consequently a popular entry in the Don Bluth canon.
  • Bébé's Kids bombed at the box office, but home-video rentals and cable showings elevated it to Cult Classic by the time the 2000s rolled around.
  • Warner Bros. has a bad track record with this:
    • Cats Don't Dance was a box-office flop, buried in an Easter-weekend release by Warner Bros. (as Time Warner had just merged with Turner, which made the movie), with scant advertising and a barely promoted Subway tie-in. At the time, the only people really talking about it were the animation community (who went on to award it the Annie for Best Picture) and the Furry Fandom. Eventually, the film did become a Cult Classic after its subsequent video release, and airings on Disney Channel, Starz, and Cartoon Network (in the latter's case, presumably trying to make up for their corporate cousin's failure).
    • The Iron Giant failed at the box office thanks to Warner Bros having no faith in the movie. Fortunately, one of those who did see it was Ted Turner, who loved it so much that he had Cartoon Network run a 24-hour marathon of it on Thanksgiving, a tradition that continued for many years (back when he saw it he was still running his own company, he left after the disastrous AOL/Time Warner merger). It's easy to see why this film in particular would complement Thanksgiving day — the vague 1950's small-town America setting is plump with nostalgia, and the plot is a wholesome Boy and His Robot story, which only reveals more layers as the viewers grow up.
    • Osmosis Jones (which actually is a live-action/animated hybrid) was already a hard sell, with its disgusting scenes, lots of Parental Bonus and just being part cartoon, and subsequently tanked as the studio dumped with little fanfare in one of the Dump Months. Good video sales and frequent airings on Cartoon Network (along with a kid-friendlier spin-off) made it grow a fanbase, who liked the animation and a few good ideas — some fans noted the scenes in the host body's mind wound up oddly prescient to what would appear in Inside Out. It also gained a second life being shown in classrooms, of all places.
  • The Japanese release of The LEGO Movie bombed because it came out during the 16-week box office romp of Frozen, which gathered a lot of attention during those weeks with Japanese moviegoers. It later became one of the biggest-selling Western animated films when the DVD came out.
  • Lilo & Stitch is a relatively minor example, as it did decently at the box office (it made over three times its $80 million budget at the global box office), but it didn't become as popular as it was until its home video release during the 2002 holiday season, which sold over a million DVD copies in its first year.
  • The Powerpuff Girls Movie had a decent reception with critics and fans, but with Warner Bros. opting to market the Live-Action Adaptation of Scooby-Doo instead, it was opened against Men in Black II. Despite heavy promotion on Cartoon Network, it bombed at the box office. Home video and showings on Cartoon Network and Boomerang helped it gain a strong audience.
  • Several of the 2000s Disney films, formerly considered to be part of the Audience-Alienating Era like Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Brother Bear, and Treasure Planet have all received a much better rep outside of theaters. A large part of this was due to high DVD sales and reruns on Starz, Disney Channel, and ABC Family.
  • The Swan Princess bombed at the box office, but made enough money on home video to spawn six sequels.
  • Despite receiving wide acclaim, Winnie the Pooh (2011) made just enough money to make up its $30 million budget due to Disney releasing it in the middle of the summer blockbuster season, and on the exact same day as the much anticipated final installment of the Harry Potter series. Thankfully it managed to become a big seller on Blu-ray/DVD and got frequent reruns on cable.
  • The combination of a bigger budget than its predecessor and being released by a studio (Cinema Center Films) on its last legs helped doom Snoopy, Come Home at the box office in 1972. It gained belated success after being frequently featured on HBO in the 80s and Disney in the 90s.
  • Batman: Mask of the Phantasm performed badly at the box office when released in theaters, due to poor advertising on WB's part, but made a profit of millions when available on video the following year.
  • My Little Pony: The Movie (2017) suffered from a combination of poor advertising due to a dispute between Hasbro and Lionsgate, was released in a Dump Month with said release occurring on the same weekend a hurricane hit the Gulf Coast of the United States, and was seen by critics as being too saccharine. When the film was released to DVD, it was much more popular, with the digital release being one of the most popular titles on Amazon Prime Video, beating out shows like SpongeBob SquarePants and Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood and every film of the Disney Animated Canon except for Frozen.
  • Despite being a Surprisingly Improved Sequel to its predecessor and dethroning Pokémon Detective Pikachu as the highest-rated video game movie, The Angry Birds Movie 2 flew under the radar upon its initial release, due to said release happening at a time where the Angry Birds franchise was no longer the cash cow it was years ago. Once the film hit Netflix, it stood on the top 10 for weeks, which led to Rovio Entertainment to green-lit a spin-off show excusively for the service.
  • Rise of the Guardians made back its budget, but the distribution costs for the film lost the studio $87 million, forcing DreamWorks to lay off over three hundred workers. Not helping matters was the fact it was head to head with The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 2, Skyfall, and Lincoln as well as Wreck-It Ralph at the box office. It was on home video and streaming where it finally found its audience, elevating the film to Cult Classic status by the time the mid-to-late-2010s rolled around.
  • Encanto may win the record for the fastest turnaround of a film's fortunes from cinemas to home video. At the box office during a spike in COVID cases in a year when audiences were still weary about returning to the cinema, it earned $257 million worldwide ($96 million domestic) on a budget estimated to be somewhere between $120 and $150 million, meaning that it most likely either lost money or just barely broke even. Upon its release onto Disney+ however, it became an immediate smash hit and genuine worldwide cultural phenomenon driven by both the film itself and its soundtrack, ultimately ensuring that nobody today considers the film to be a flop.
  • Elemental only earned around $154 million domestically, but became the most viewed premiere on Disney+ of that year, making it a streaming hit similar to Encanto. Unlike Encanto, however, this was preceded by a remarkably strong international run in theaters (particularly in South Korea), earning $341 million for a worldwide total gross of $495 million.
  • Thomas and the Magic Railroad was critically panned and derailed (no pun intended) at the box office. However, it did much better on video to the point where it grew a small cult following and eventually got a Blu-ray release in 2020.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The 13th Warrior is one of the biggest bombs ever filmed. As such, it was very cheap to buy for variety of TV networks and channels. Cue everyone airing it at least once per week anywhere in the world. For years. The end result is genuine confusion of to why this film even bombed in the first place, since it gained a reputation of a well-made adventure flick without any major or obvious flaws.
  • Comedy Central seems to have rescued Accepted. Previously, PCU was equally Adored by the Network.
  • As with many of the other examples on this page, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension was an obvious cult film that its studio unwisely tried to sell to a mainstream audience. It only made $6 million (on a $17 million budget) in theaters. It finally found its cult on cable.
  • The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland bombed at the box office because of its target audience, but later became the biggest-selling children's VHS of the early 2000s.
  • The 1994 comedy Airheads bombed at the box office and was thrashed by critics. But due to the fact that it was played heavily on Comedy Central during the late 1990s, it has managed to achieve Cult Classic status — especially among fans of hard rock and Heavy Metal music, due to all the rock & roll in-jokes and the cameos by famous rock musicians.
  • Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery did alright at the box office (it recouped its budget), but not exceptionally. It was only when it reached home video that it became a pop culture touchstone. Tellingly, its sequel earned five times what the original did at the box office.
  • Barney's Great Adventure (much like Elmo in Grouchland above) was not a box office success due to the franchise's target demographic, but sold incredibly well on video.
  • The Beastmaster was a critical and box office failure upon its 1982 release, grossing just $3 million against a $9 million budget. However, it subsequently received significant cable airplay, notably HBO and TBS, where it became a TV mainstay and viewer favorite. Its replay was so common that some waggishly dubbed TBS "The Beastmaster Station", and HBO "Hey, Beastmaster's On".
  • Big Fat Liar was a modest success at the box office, but it received mixed reviews from critics. Disney Channel's airings in the mid-2000s helped make it a viewer favorite.
  • Birds of Prey (2020). For various reasons, including some Misaimed Marketing, an R rating that locked out a lot of the younger fans of Harley Quinn, and a short theatrical run due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, it had a pretty underwhelming box office outcome, not quite a flop (it made back double its budget) but inarguably below studio expectations. However, the film performed much better when it made its way onto HBO Max, consistently ranking as one of the most-streamed films on the platform during its first year. The vindication ultimately led to a successful push for a Spin-Off starring the film's incarnation of Black Canary, to be made with HBO Max in mind.
  • Black Dynamite was a flop at the box office due to poor marketing and a distributor change a few months before release, but it got noticed through DVD and airings on the Starz network, which led to an animated series being greenlighted by [adult swim].
  • Blade Runner's theatrical release was on the last weekend of June 1982, at the height of a now-legendary summer of blockbusters, most in the sci-fi/fantasy/horror vein (E.T. was king, but it was also the year of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Poltergeist). Trailing stories of its lengthy Troubled Production, it premiered to disappointing reviews that praised its visual splendor but found everything else moribund. It did poorly, but thanks to this trope and home video it was seen as one of the decade's most influential films by the end of the 1980s. It even managed to get a belated sequel over 30 years after the fact.
  • BloodRayne made less than $4 million at the box office worldwide, against its $25 million production budget - yet its near-immediate release to airings on Syfy (and better-than-expected DVD sales) exposed it to bad-movie connoisseurs and justified two direct-to-video sequels.
  • Attempting to mimic the success of The Original Kings of Comedy, Blue Collar Comedy Tour: The Movie bombed in theaters, but did much better on DVD. The two follow-up movies bypassed the theaters completely after it was realized that their audience didn't want to see them there.
  • Scrooge (1951) was a box-office disappointment when released. After being on cable for a few years, it went on to become a classic and considered one of the best adaptations of A Christmas Carol.
  • A Christmas Story. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the film began airing quietly on the "superstations" WTBS and WGN as a Thanksgiving movie, where it started to grow in popularity. Because it was a seasonal movie, the studio only ran it for a couple of weeks in December during its original release, so it owes all of its reputation to cable, video, and word-of-mouth. Since 1997, the film has aired for 24 consecutive hours on Christmas Eve on TNT and TBS.
  • Citizen Kane. While it had received much critical acclaim and nine Oscar nominations (though it only won for Best Original Screenplay), during its release, it was far from a box office hit, due largely to William Randolph Hearst using his media empire to bury and smear the film due to its unflattering portrayal of him. It quickly dropped out of the public eye until RKO released its catalogue to television networks.
  • Clue bombed at the box office, partly due to its multiple endings. However, VHS and cable showings (with all the endings) helped rescue it from obscurity.
  • Dirty Work was a critical and financial flop when it was first released in 1998. But once it began airing on network TV, it became a Cult Classic, causing speculation of a sequel. Alas, all hopes of a sequel ended with the deaths of star and co-writer Norm Macdonald in 2021 and director Bob Saget in 2022.
  • Doctor Sleep was unfortunately an Acclaimed Flop when it was first released in 2019 thanks to a mediocre marketing campaign, but has enjoyed a noteworthy resurgence in popularity on streaming services (e.g., Prime Video) during/following the 2020 coronavirus pandemic and resulting quarantine.
  • Barely anyone saw Donnie Darko during its four-week limited release theatrical run, but it became a cult hit once it hit DVD (and had become a hit in the UK) and strong sales led to a theatrical reissue and extended cut.
  • Dredd was another example of an Acclaimed Flop that was redeemed by this trope. It bombed at the box office for many of the same problems Scott Pilgrim did (an over-reliance on geek and internet buzz, lingering memories of the disastrous 1995 adaptation with Sylvester Stallone), but it did so well on DVD and Blu-Ray that there was briefly talk of greenlighting a sequel based solely on home video sales.
  • David Lynch's 1984 adaptation of Dune was a flop, but became a cult classic through TV airings and on home video.
  • Eddie and the Cruisers was a major and critical flop when it came out in 1983, but when Showtime started to air it, its popularity was such the studio made a sequel, Eddie and the Cruisers II: Eddie Lives.
  • Flash Gordon: Its popularity in America was due in part to airings on HBO.
  • The Great Santini was a flop when it was first released due to Warner Bros. not knowing how to handle the film (it was tested in some markets as a war film and others as a drama). Then the film began heavy rotation on HBO, which finally got people to notice how good it really was. The cable airings were also credited for getting Robert Duvall an Academy Award nomination for his performance.
  • Heathers got good reviews but bombed in its theatrical run, as its distributor New World Pictures was going bankrupt at the time and couldn't afford to advertise it. (One of its producers even paid for an ad in the Los Angeles Times out of pocket because New World wouldn't!) Home video and airings on basic cable, combined with its edgy subject matter making teenagers morbidly curious (especially after Columbine), helped it build a cult fandom in The '90s, and now it's remembered as one of the best teen comedies of all time.
  • Heaven's Gate. Well-publicized reports of its Troubled Production meant that film critics approached it with their knives drawn, and it was completely demolished by vengeful New York Times critic Vincent Canby and became one of the biggest flops in film history. Along came The Z Channel, who aired a re-edit which made critics rethink their opinions on the film, and the film began to earn a better reputation.
  • Highlander was a financial flop in its theatrical release. It went on to do very well in home video sales, and spawned the Highlander franchise.
  • The Hobbit. Its divisive status is still there but it's noticeably lessened over time, with people slowly warming up to it, thanks to the release of the Extended Cuts (which are the preferred versions by the cast and crew, including Peter Jackson himself) and the news of the Executive Meddling by Warner Bros. and the resulting Troubled Production coming to light, which garnered sympathy for the crew. The Better on DVD state of the films helps too.
  • Hocus Pocus was critically and commercially unsuccessful during its theatrical release. Then it began showing up on the Disney Channel on an annual basis during Halloween, gaining a cult following that grew year after year, and within 15 years it entered the cultural mainstream and has become a beloved Halloween movie getting a sequel in 2022..
  • The Incredible Mr. Limpet was only a modest success at the box office and receives mixed reviews from critics, but TV and home video turned it into a family favorite.
  • Steven Spielberg's Hook did make a nice profit, but poor reviews and being outcompeted by Disney's Beauty and the Beast gave the film a rather bad reputation. It has become much better received on cable.
  • Idle Hands tanked at the box office (not helped by Columbine happening a few days before release, and the backlash against violent content doubles for a Horror Comedy with high schoolers) and was hated by reviewers. But over time it gained a cult following for its clever horror comedy and quotability.
  • The film It's a Wonderful Life didn't make a whole lot of waves upon its release, having received mostly dismissive or negative reviews. One of the few positive reviews was from Time magazine, and even they complained that it was ultimately superficial and sentimental. However, after it was accidentally released into the public domain in 1974, it became a Christmas standard, and a new generation came to see it as a classic. In this case, it was repeated airings on broadcast stations, not basic cable, that brought the film its new status, but the principle is the same.
  • Several of John Carpenter's films (Escape from New York, The Thing (1982), Big Trouble in Little China, etc...) did much better on cable and home rental than in the theaters. Kurt Russell, who starred in several of said films (including the three mentioned), has remarked a few times that he wouldn't have a career if it weren't for such.
  • The Last Dragon was an odd mix of mid-'80s black culture and '70s Martial Arts Movie genre. Though a modest success in theaters, it found a home on Saturday Afternoon movie blocks and introduced us all to Sho'Nuff, the Shogun of Harlem, and Bruce Leroy.
  • The Legend of Billie Jean was a box office bomb during its original release, but started to gain popularity as it began to play on syndicated networks years later.
  • The Swedish film Let the Right One In was an average performer in American theatres (though it grossed over $750,000 and played for five months in one New York theatre) but amassed a large following through DVD and on-demand rentals, to the point where it received an American remake two years later.
  • Love & Basketball didn't exactly bomb when it came out, but it probably would not be nearly as popular among African-American youth (some of which were only 4 or 5 when the movie came out) if it weren't for the constant repeats on BET. The movie even occasionally becomes a trending topic on Twitter when it's on.
  • Two of Mel Brooks' films, Spaceballs and Robin Hood: Men in Tights, received a cold reception when they were first released. The former was the the start of the fall of his directorial career while the latter helped to solidify it. Years later, both films have become fan favorites.
    • Spaceballs deserves a special mention in regards to this. When the film released in 1987, it was largely seen as a Narrow Parody since it was a spoof of the Original Star Wars Trilogy, whose last film Return of the Jedi only released four years prior and was seen mainly as topical. Thankfully for the Mel Brooks movie, the Star Wars Trilogy have become some of the most iconic, beloved, timeless film series that remains extremely popular to this very day, meaning Spaceballs likewise continues to resonate with audiences.
  • Mike Judge is one of the kings of this trope. Office Space is the quintessential example, with tepid box office numbers at best, only becoming a Cult Classic after being shown ad nauseum on premium cable (and, later, Comedy Central). Idiocracy bombed similarly in theaters, a victim of little to no promotion by the distributor, 20th Century Fox (all the film's cheap shots at the FOX network and its news division probably didn't help Judge). Thanks once again to cable, the film seems to be well on its way to this trope if it's not already there.
  • The Monster Squad bombed in its original theatrical run in 1987. It was marketed as a campy, lightweight film despite its PG-13 rating and dark tone that, while still a horror-comedy with kid protagonists, largely took its Universal monster villains seriously, which led families to steer away and left critics not knowing what to make of it. Furthermore, it was released just two weeks after The Lost Boys, and got run over at the box office as a result. Even afterwards, it only received a single lone VHS release that quickly went out of print. HBO, however, screened it frequently through The '90s, allowing it to build a cult fandom that culminated in a 20th-anniversary cast reunion at the Alamo Drafthouse and a feature-packed DVD release. Nowadays, it's ranked next to The Goonies and E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial as one of the great kids' adventure films of The '80s. The documentary Wolfman's Got Nards goes into detail on how the film built its following over the years.
  • Out Cold bombed in its theatrical run and met scathing reviews, but quickly became a staple of Comedy Central. Extreme sports fans especially loved it due to its mix of a Sex Comedy with an Extreme Sports Plot, having been directed by the makers of the surfing documentary Thicker Than Water and featuring a lot of scenes of snowboarders carving up the slopes of British Columbia (doubling for Alaska). Now, it's remembered as a hidden gem of the late '90s/early '00s sex comedy boom that followed American Pie.
  • Overboard has been a cable-TV favorite for years despite its limited theatrical success, such that it was eventually remade in 2018.
  • The 1980 live-action movie version of Popeye also gained Cult Classic status thanks to HBO, as did the camp, glitzy, all-star movie musicals Tommy and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.
  • Another film rescued by the Z Channel was Once Upon a Time in America, as it was shown on the station in its original form after the theatrical version was Screwed by the Network.
  • According to Wikipedia, “Film/Paulie” had a decent critical reception, but it flopped at the box office. However, it found a new life on home video.
  • The Princess Bride recouped its budget (it made $30.9 million at the box office), but wasn't really a big success. It was thanks to VHS and cable that it became a pop culture cornerstone.
  • Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins was in pretty much every weekend afternoon movie block in the '80s.
  • The Rocky Horror Picture Show isn't this trope exactly, but is close enough. The film flopped in the initial release but became a cult classic when it was shown as a midnight movie. To date, RHPS has grossed over $130 million and has played in theaters for over 30 years.
  • Road House (1989): When it was released, it got panned by critics and was considered a Follow-Up Failure for Patrick Swayze after the success of Dirty Dancing. In The '90s, the number of cable channels exploded, all of which needed 24-hour programming. So the rights to lots of cheesy action movies were scooped up, and those movies put into heavy rotation. And it wasn't long before TBS discovered the movie was drawing phenomenal ratings; Perhaps Road House is the very reason TBS is a "superstation".
  • The Room (2003) was only released to a few select theatres in Los Angeles, where it received scant advertising and was slammed by critics. Then [adult swim] started airing it on April Fools' Day for 3 years, and it became the cult phenomenon it is now.
  • James Woods got national recognition and an Academy Award nomination solely because the Z Channel championed a little-seen indie film Salvador.
  • The Sandlot was a minor success at the box office, but the film became a best seller on VHS and DVD and frequent airings on basic cable.
  • Despite very good reviews, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World did poorly in its theatrical release. For one thing, it starred Michael Cera, whose career was in a tailspin at the time thanks to his Typecasting in "hipster" roles. Furthermore, it was directed by a cult British filmmaker and based on an indie comic book, both of which were largely unknown outside of their respective geek fanbases, limiting its appeal and guaranteeing that it would've struggled at any time of the year. Finally, it was released against The Expendables, a far more mainstream-friendly action film with a similar target audience and a lot more hype behind it. However, when it hit home video it was a far bigger hit than it had been in theaters, finally becoming the Cult Classic that it failed to become initially.
  • Sesame Street Presents: Follow That Bird was an Acclaimed Flop who's failure wounded the Children's Television Workshop financially and led to another Sesame Street movie not being made until 1999's The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland. However it reached an audience through frequent showings on cable TV, including HBO.
  • The Shawshank Redemption also failed at the box office despite some critical acclaim. Most of its success came from the fact that Ted Turner (who owned Castle Rock Entertainment at the time and thus owned the rights to the film) loved the movie, and he made sure it was aired on his TNT and TBS networks almost every weekend for years. The film slowly picked up a fanbase from these airings, and it's now considered one of the best films of all time. Even before the television rescue, it was also Vindicated by Video: since it got many Academy Award nominations (including Best Picture) and was already available in VHS at the time, a lot of people decided to rent it.
  • Showgirls was a major flop when released in theaters (some chains refused to carry NC-17 rated movies), but it became one of MGM/UA's biggest-selling home video titles and has become a Cult Classic.
  • Somewhere in Time was unsuccessful at the box office. Later cable showings increased its popularity to the point that it had a significant cult following, unusual for a pure romance, along with movie tourists who made yearly pilgrimages to the real-life Frozen in Time Mackinac Island in Michigan to get the full experience of the film.
  • SpaceCamp: Endless showings on HBO helped people forget that it was released not long after the Challenger disaster.
  • ¡Three Amigos! was only a modest money-earner and received mixed reviews on release. Today it's more fondly regarded by fans of '80s comedies, thanks to plenty of repeat showings on HBO (which owns the film), and eventually earned a spot on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies" list.
  • Trading Places was the fourth highest-grossing film of 1983, but it might've fallen into obscurity if not for yearly airings around Christmas time. In Italy, it's become the Christmas film, always airing on Christmas Eve since 1997, to the point where many Italians joke "It isn't Christmas without Trading Places.".
  • Tremors was a box office disappointment, but it made a killing once it hit home video, making enough money that a sequel was greenlit.
  • Troy is a nascent example of the trope, as it underperformed at the American box office (but much better overseas) and is polarizing among critics, but has developed a devoted fanbase since being released to cable and video, possibly in retrospect compared to later films like 300.
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic's UHF. Ironically, it didn't have to be this way. The movie got such an amazing reception by test audiences that Orion Studios decided to put it in direct competition with other movies in the summer of 1989, which included Tim Burton's Batman, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Lethal Weapon 2, Ghostbusters II, Licence to Kill and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. UHF ultimately got lost in this shuffle. As Al would sing in the commentary, "Orion! Orion! Is bankrupt now!".
  • Unbreakable was initially seen as a Sophomore Slump for M. Night Shyamalan, but as superhero movies became increasingly popular in the ensuing years, it was rediscovered by critics as a potent Genre Deconstruction. The release of Split, however, sparked a surge of mainstream interest due to its Canon Welding post-credits sequence, such that when the sequel Glass (2019) was released, many people already knew the story it was based on, most of them through watching it on home video after seeing Split and wondering what the fuss was.
  • A zig-zagged example: The Universal Horror movies were extremely successful in their own era of the 1930s and '40s... but it would also be hard to deny that the true height of their popularity was the mid-1950s through the early '70s, when the success of the Shock Theater television package sent them into every American kid's home, and resulted in a huge slew of new memorabilia, including Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine, the Aurora monster kits, and the immortal song "Monster Mash".
  • Willow didn't live up to box office expectations in 1988, but thanks to video and cable it gradually became a favorite among sword and sorcery fans and children of the '80s and early '90s in general.
  • Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory barely made its budget back in 1971 but went on to become a Cult Classic thanks to repeated showings on HBO (and later, TBS and ABC Family).
  • Wing Commander was a bomb at the box office, but video rental income has made good the production costs, and given its regular airing on cable channels (particularly non-US ones) it even has something of a genuine fandom (as opposed to a So Bad, It's Good one).
  • The Wizard of Oz became the classic it is now for being screened over and over on the TV networks.
  • Xanadu, thanks to premium cable, was exposed to a generation of young girls who later made up a large fanbase for this movie.
  • Xtro was an obscure British sci-fi flick, but in the late '80s, it began running heavily on HBO, giving it a cult status and two sequels.
  • Zoolander. While it did receive positive critical reception, it came out barely two weeks after the attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001 and as a result, it tanked. But it did go on to have strong DVD sales and high ratings on cable, and eventually got a sequel, Zoolander 2, in 2016.

  • The Spongebob Musical sold poorly during its Broadway run, but the soundtrack was a hit on the Billboard Kids' Audio charts, staying there even after it had ended its run until Pinkfong: The Best Of Baby Shark knocked it off the top 25 in January of 2019. Songs from the musical also played frequently on children's radio station Kids Place Live, usually during their Couch Potato Stew block.

    Video Games 
  • Psychonauts is a Cult Classic. A Steam sale, however, managed to boost it to that week's number one (by revenue), beating out quite a few new releases. It generally occupies the top-seller space on when there isn't a sale going on.
  • EarthBound suffered from poor critical and commercial reception upon its first release in 1995, thanks to a poor marketing campaign and it coming out near the end of the Super Nintendo's life cycle. However, the game slowly picked up a cult following through emulation and this trope really came into effect when Nintendo finally granted the game an official re-release on the Wii U Virtual Console, of which audiences and critics were much more appreciative. Marth Debuted in "Smash Bros." is also partially responsible, as more than a few gamers were introduced to the quirky world of Mother through the Super Smash Bros. series having the main character Ness as a playable fighter.
  • On a smaller scale Pulseman also counts since not many people knew about it before it was on the Wii Virtual Console. Being created by Game Freak is also enough to spark some curiosity from those wanting to see how they were before their most famous creation.
  • Larian Studios did this with their older role-playing games in the Divinity series, after receiving increased mainstream recognition for their Kickstarter-funded Divinity: Original Sin and its sequel. Their older games are frequently sold digitally as cheap anthology packages or bundled with special editions of their new titles.
  • Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars sold well below expectations when it was released on the Nintendo DS and did even worse on the Playstation Portable; simply put, it was an Acclaimed Flop on those systems and an unusually low seller for a Rockstar game. The iOS version, however, was far more successful, and reached the top of the App Store charts.
  • Planescape: Torment had good reviews, but rather poor sales when first released. The digital re-releases by and Steam, however, are top selling.
  • Rayman Legends was acclaimed, but sold poorly when it was released in 2013, because of the controversy Ubisoft generated when they announced it would go Multi-Platform after initially planning it to be a Wii U exclusive—much to the displeasure of owners of that console, who thought a Wii U exclusive would give more gamers a compelling reason to buy the then-new console—and because the change of plan delayed the game by over six months just in time to be curb-stomped by Grand Theft Auto V. However, both positive word of mouth and future ports to the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch steadily increased sales over time.
  • The Atari Jaguar was a commercial failure that helped bring down Atari Corporation. However, Hasbro Interactive releasing the patents into the public domain and declaring it an open platform opened the doors for extensive homebrew development, which helped to moderately improve the console's reputation after its lifetime.

    Western Animation 

    "Vindicated" by Mystery Science Theater 3000 
  • Roger Corman, Robert L. Lippert, Ed Wood, and to a lesser extent Bert I. Gordon. Corman despises the show for mocking his films. However, MST3K helped generate a new appreciation for that era's B Movies, and some of his films, such as It Conquered the World, has huge fans who were introduced to it by the show. Moreover, fans of the show recognize the good points of his films (such as Corman's preference of the Action Girl over the Neutral Female).
  • Manos: The Hands of Fate was an amateur horror film made in 1966 by a fertilizer salesman on a dare. It was screened at a few local drive-in theaters before being shelved and completely forgotten by all but those personally involved in its making. In The '90s, it was discovered by the makers of Mystery Science Theater 3000 and quickly became known for being the worst film ever featured on the show. The character Torgo, along with his theme music, became a Memetic Mutation.
    • In the 1995 Video Watchdog, the entry for Manos was a brief two-sentence entry. The 1996 edition, however, had a four-paragraph entry detailing its badness and its relation to MST3K.
  • The Final Sacrifice was pretty obscure until MST3K aired it. Thanks to that, viewers got to know Rowsdower, a very flawed but likable character.
  • Merlin's Shop of Mystical Wonders is partly a recut version of the 1984 horror film The Devil's Gift. Having been made more family-friendly, this Nightmare Fuel-laden movie became suitable for Mystery Science Theater 3000.
  • Prince of Space was dismissed at theaters and forgotten until it was MSTed, at which point fans realized that it was a very early example of Toku, and had several supplemental films attached to it.
  • Space Mutiny, a cheesy Sci-fi movie with a well-built guy named David Ryder who Screams Like a Little Girl, got featured on Mystery Science Theater 3000.
  • The So Bad, It's Good Sandy Frank dub's of the show's Gamera films, as well as other Toku shows like Mighty Jack and Star Wolf.
  • Hobgoblins was suggested to the MST3K gang by the person who directed it. "It shoots right to the top of the list of the worst movies we've ever done," writer Paul Chaplin commented. Enough interest was generated in it that a sequel was made for it, 21 years after its original premiere.
  • Although not technically a film, the advertisement Mr. B Natural was so popular that MST3K and Rhino Home Video had trouble getting the rights to it again after it first appeared on television.
  • In an interesting case, while Clonus was a bomb when it was first released, its exposure on MST3K not only allowed the movie to be re-released on DVD to be seen whole but also helped its director when he sued Michael Bay for his movie The Island (2005).
  • The Brain That Wouldn't Die, as the documentary Schlock! The Secret History of American Movies pointed out, has become a feminist parable, though it certainly didn't intend to be one.

Alternative Title(s): Vindicated On Video, Vindicated By Video