Fads are interesting things. They come out of nowhere and turn into pop culture phenomenons, demanding our attention. It’s that game everyone’s playing, that musician everyone’s listening to, that dance move everyone’s trying to mimic. Most people embrace these fads, wishing to become a part of the craze. But there’s always those few haters, who refuse to give into the sensation. A fad sees a huge boost in popularity — and then just like that, it’s over. Most of them fade as quickly as they appeared. Others remain a part of pop culture, though their popularity is no longer what it used to be.
Hollywood loves trying to cash in on fads. Some of these movies are box office flops. Either the content doesn’t translate well to film or movie-goers are already over the fad. Many of these films are like time capsules. They offer a snapshot of the times and may look strange when you watch them years later. Here are ten movies that tried capitalizing on popular fads.
10 Slender Man (2018)
Slender Man is a supernatural creature that was born through creepypastas, which is a strange term for horror stories that are created and shared on the internet. He’s an extremely tall and thin humanoid with long limbs, a featureless white face, and a black suit. Creepypastas about Slender Man involve him stalking and abducting his victims, who usually happen to be children. His stories made him an internet sensation in the early 2010s but also inspired several violent acts among impressionable, young readers.
2018’s Slender Man tried capitalizing on the lore of its titular character, but the movie was poorly received by fans and critics and failed to live up to the horror of this internet legend. Slender Man creepypastas are still floating around the web, but the mythos surrounding his fictional character has definitely waned.
9 From Justin to Kelly (2003)
American Idol was a cultural sensation when it first premiered in 2002. The idea of musically talented nobodies from all over the country competing for a shot at super stardom, in front of a panel of judges and a national audience, was unprecedented at the time. And to make things more interesting, the semi-finalists and winner were chosen by the show’s at home viewers. Kelly Clarkson and Justin Guarini were the first two finalists in American Idol’s history, with Clarkson declared as the show’s first ever victor. From Justin to Kelly tried cashing in on the popularity of American Idol’s first season and these two budding performers. The film is a musical romantic comedy, where Clarkson and Guarini bond over their shared love of singing during a spring break trip.
Despite the American Idol tie-in, the movie bombed and is regarded as one of the worst movies ever made.
8 Roller Boogie (1979)
Roller skating and disco music. Put these two together and what do you get? A popular 1970s fad known as boogie skating, which was captured in the 1979 film Roller Boogie. Set in a suburb of Los Angeles, Roller Boogie is a romantic musical about two characters dancing and skating to disco music, as they fall in love and attempt to win their roller rink’s Boogie Contest. Although this film received negative reviews, it was a box office success thanks to the popular fad that the movie is based on. Roller rinks are still around, but it’s highly unlikely that you’ll find anyone in there skating while dancing to disco music.
7 The Emoji Movie (2017)
The Emoji Movie is exactly like it sounds. It’s a computer animated children’s film about emojis and the secret world inside your phone. It was an obvious attempt to capitalize on the popular fad of using emojis in text messages and social media posts. The film had a star-studded cast that included Patrick Stewart in the role of Poop. Although The Emoji Movie was a box office smash, critics loathed the movie. At one point, it actually had a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s been six years since the film’s release, and people still love using emojis instead of words. Are emojis really a fad that’ll eventually fade? Something that we’ll look back on in five years and think, “Wow, remember when we always used emojis to communicate?” The answer remains to be seen.
6 Breakin’ (1984)
Breakdancing was all the rage in the late 70s and early 80s. After starting out in African American and Latino communities, this raw, athletic dance style eventually made its way to every street in the world. 1984’s Breakin’ sought to capitalize on this trend. It’s another example of a negatively reviewed film that became a box office success. It even produced a sequel, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo. Breakdancing isn’t as popular as it was in the ’70s and ’80s. Because of this, the Breakin’ movies feel dated and don’t hold up as well on rewatch.
5 Spice World (1997)
The 1990s produced many musical stars. One of its biggest acts was a group of attractive, young British women called the Spice Girls. Their music preached female empowerment and dominated the world, so naturally, they were given their own movie. Spice World is a musical comedy that follows the famous pop group in their tour bus around London.
Thanks to the Spice Girls’ popularity, the movie was a hit at the box office, though the same couldn’t be said with critics. There seemed to be no stopping the Spice Girls back then — until the group broke up, ending their music career. Like fads, their immense popularity came and went, and they’re now a part of that time period’s pop culture. To this day, Spice World is the highest-grossing film by a musical group.
4 The Angry Birds Movie (2016)
In the early 2010s, it seemed like Angry Birds was being played on every cell phone in the world. Angry Birds is a strategic puzzle game that requires launching angry birds at green-colored pigs. Its low price, easy accessibility, and fun gameplay turned the game into a phenomenon and made it one of the most downloaded games of all time.
Everyone tried capitalizing on Angry Birds’s popularity. There were console video games, merchandise, an animated TV show, and of course, a film franchise. The idea of a movie based on a cell phone app made most people shake their heads. The Angry Birds Movie came out in 2016, followed by a sequel three years later. The Angry Birds fad is still going strong. Although the game isn’t as ubiquitous, it’s still popular enough to warrant another sequel in 2024.
3 Jackass: The Movie (2002)
It’s crazy to think that MTV’s Jackass only ran for three seasons. Yet its impact on pop culture in the early 2000s was tremendous. Jackass followed a cast of wild friends, who performed ridiculous pranks and risky, daredevil stunts. It became massively popular to the point where copycats were disregarding the show’s disclaimer and recreating the stunts. The franchise expanded into multiple TV spin-offs, like Viva La Bam, and four movies.
Like the show, the Jackass films showed the crew participating in a series of stunts that were disgusting, hysterical, painful, and mind-boggling all at the same time. The Jackass daredevil fad eventually wore off, though the crew did reunite for the fourth movie, Jackass Forever, in 2022.
2 Space Jam (1996)
Michael Jordan is hardly a fad. He’s the greatest basketball player ever and one of the most historic athletes of all time. However, the Michael Jordan craze of the 1990s was most definitely a fad. At the height of his popularity, Jordan was everywhere: on shoes, in commercials, on clothes, and of course, in the movies. Space Jam joined the Michael Jordan madness and drafted the NBA star to a basketball team that included Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and other iconic Looney Tunes’s characters. Although the movie was bashed by critics at the time, it’s remembered fondly by Millennials as one of the best films to blend animation and live action.
1 Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Saturday Night Fever is an interesting case. It was based on the 1970s disco fad, yet the movie’s critical and commercial success helped to further popularize that same fad. It starred John Travolta in his breakout movie role as Tony Manero, a young guy who cares way too much about his hair and spends his weekends dancing to disco music. Saturday Night Fever also explored the subculture of the disco era, including the clothing style and sexual promiscuity of the times.
Perhaps as famous as the movie itself is the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack, which included monster hits from the Bee Gees. The movie hasn’t aged too well. Its disco heavy focus and rampant misogyny could make it a harder watch for some modern viewers.