11 movies that no one expected to be smash hits

20 January 2016 - 16:19 By Keith Tamkei & Sue de Groot
'Cloverfield' - a found-footage monster movie - proved to be a hit with audiences when it opened in 2008.
'Cloverfield' - a found-footage monster movie - proved to be a hit with audiences when it opened in 2008.
Image: Supplied

With the trailer for the sequel to the surprise 2008 hit 'Cloverfield' having recently been released, we look back at this and some of our other all-time favourite sleeper hits.

These are movies with small production and marketing budgets, which audiences found surprisingly good and went on to be big successes.


This found-footage monster mash left everyone guessing as a group of friend's farewell party is rudely interrupted by a Godzilla-like creature going on a rampage through New York City - even decapitating dear Lady Liberty for good measure.


Will the sequel, 10 Cloverfield Lane, be another smash hit?

Surely in another universe J J Abrams would be a big haul poker player. Amidst the furore of the opening of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the director kept straight-faced and zip-lipped about a hidden trump: 10 Cloverfield Lane, the sequel to Cloverfield. In fact, it came as a surprise to many when his production company, Bad Robot, recently released the trailer.

Abrams has been cryptically quoted as saying 10 Cloverfield Lane "is a blood relative" to the original, so perhaps this will be more of a spin-off than a straight-up sequel. Time will tell when the movie hits cinema screens on March 16 2016.

In the meantime, here's a look at the trailer:



This space oddity with a Wookiee and a giant planet-destroying orb proved a hard sell initially; it opened to only 32 theatres in May 1977. Hard to believe it would spawn several sequels - and *shudder* prequels - with the latest installment in the series continuing to destroy global box office records.

(Read more: Star Wars passes Avatar to become North America's top-grossing movie of all time.)



Reports of people running out of the theatre and throwing up due to the shaky found-footage format did little to stop audiences from flocking to watch this supernatural horror. It might surprise us now, but one of the reasons this low-budget film caused such a stir at the time was because many thought the footage was real.



The perfect bad good guy in Gary Oldman, the perfect good bad guy in Jean Reno, and a plant-toting orphan (Natalie Portman) with Stockholm syndrome, an unlikely winner, but one anyway.


5. DISTRICT 9 (2009)

This film by unknown director Neil Blomkamp turned sci-fi on its head. Not since the TV series V have audiences felt such concerns for the dietary choices of an alien species.



The phrase "I see dead people" no longer accompanies the shards of ice that slide down your back once it's uttered. Thank you for that, and for one of film's biggest twists, M Night Shyamalan.


7. JUNO (2007)

This comedy-drama featuring Ellen Page, Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman garnered critical and wide audience acclaim in its accepting approach to the stigma of teenage pregnancy.



What could be a more unlikely hit than a film about a transgender and two transvestites traversing the Australian outback in a bus? It swept up audiences, but not without criticism from both the pro- and anti-LGBT corners.



This typical underdog film about a female singing group hit high notes with audiences based on the strong performances of its young cast - and catchy song choices. So much so, a sequel soon hit the big screens with a third movie planned for 2017.


10. THE SUM OF US (1994)

This bittersweet comedy set in Sydney starred Russell Crowe long before anyone knew who he was. It became a cult classic, not because of Crowe, but because it was emotionally pitch-perfect in its portrayal of a father's unconditional love for his gay son.



The film that paved the way for this Australian sleeper hits gave the formidable Toni Collette her break. Who would have thought that the terrible Muriel from Porpoise Spit would become an international sensation?