A cyberpunk cult classic that bombed so hard it almost ruined careers claws its way back into the spotlight

strange-days
via 20th Century Fox

On the surface, a blockbuster-sized sci-fi thriller from the director of Point Break – which also happened to be co-written and produced by Terminator 2: Judgement Day’s James Cameron – sounds like a shoo-in for success, but things couldn’t have gone much worse than they did for Kathryn Bigelow’s Strange Days.

The stylish cyberpunk spectacular was arguably ahead of its time, leaving audiences exceedingly disinterested as a result. Ralph Fiennes’ former cop now sells VR recordings on the black market that allow users to relive the memories of other people, but one accidental uncovering of a murder leads him down a rabbit hole to unravel the mystery and expose a far-reaching conspiracy.

strange-days
via 20th Century Fox

Reviews were generally encouraging across the board for Strange Days, but the box office numbers were not. On a budget of $42 million, the impressively-assembled futuristic adventure could only cobble together a disastrous $8 million from theaters, and almost derailed Bigelow’s career entirely.

It would be four years until she helmed another feature, and a dozen before The Hurt Locker catapulted her back into the mainstream spotlight with its Academy Award success, but one failure is a severely unfair trade for being forced to spend so long in the Hollywood wilderness.

Thankfully, Strange Days‘ reputation and status among genre aficionados has only increased over time, to the extent Redditors are now firmly in agreement that it’s a true unsung gem, and an underrated exploration of some seriously hard-hitting themes, all wrapped up in the trappings of a fast-paced and frantic murder investigation.