There is no business like the entertainment industry regarding the amount of rejection that it experiences daily. Film and television artists have been told no countless times by directors, actors, studios, agents, and managers. Even the most successful artists have been told no by directors, actors, studios, agents, and managers. Because they keep going, they’ve become successful.

The filmmakers and showrunners behind the ten films and television shows listed below are acutely aware of what I mean. It is widely accepted that these films and series were some of the most popular of their time. Millions of people around the world adore them. However, all of them were rejected by a studio or network executives at some point in time — in some cases, multiple times. One of the most popular shows on streaming television was rejected up to 20 times before it became a smash hit. Here are the tales of their failures and subsequent triumphs.

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Many studios and network executives rejected these critically acclaimed series and films before they made it to the big screen.

1. Squid Game

While Squid Game became Netflix’s most popular series in its first 28 days on the service, it wasn’t an overnight success for Hwang Dong-hyuk. When Hwang first came up with it, he couldn’t get any networks or production companies to back it. In 2019, Netflix finally entered the fray. A cautionary tale for studio executives who turned down one of the most popular television shows of the decade is an inspiring story for would-be screenwriters.

2. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Spielberg had already made Close Encounters and Jaws by the early 1980s, and Raiders of the Lost Ark was about to open in theatres. Using material from an unproduced script called Night Skies, Spielberg combined his feelings about being a child of divorce with the story of a friendly alien who gets stranded on Earth. Despite Spielberg’s reputation, Columbia Pictures didn’t like the original screenplay, which was titled E.T. and Me.

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They gave the script to Spielberg, who was able to bring the material to Universal Studios. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial was released in 1982 after they purchased it. Within a year, it had become the most popular film of all time.

3. The Walking Dead

For a decade and a half, AMC’s The Walking Dead was a mainstay. During that time, it remained one of cable’s most popular shows and spawned a number of spinoffs. However, AMC was not the first network to acquire the content. Although the show had previously been pitched to both NBC and HBO, both networks rejected the idea. Those networks are said to have requested that the show tone down the violence and gore in the original Walking Dead comics. AMC welcomed the edgy content and rode Walking Dead to the top of the cable rating charts after producers refused.

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4. Back to the Future

Back to the Future’s original script was rejected numerous times before Universal finally gave it the go-ahead. Executives rejected some projects. They didn’t think they had enough sexual content, and others because they thought it had too much. The main reason for this was sexual content, but sometimes it was rejected. It had too little and other times because it had too much (Disney passed because they disliked the jokes about incest involving Marty and his mother). Only Steven Spielberg’s support and Robert Zemeckis’ success with Romancing the Stone allowed Back to the Future to be made.

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5. The Sopranos

While The Sopranos is now regarded as HBO’s crown jewel and the series that paved the way for the modern era of prestige television, the show nearly didn’t happen at all. After a pitch to Fox, the show was turned down by creator David Chase. While working with HBO, he approached them about making a pilot, but the show almost didn’t get picked up. “After it had been shot and edited, the pilot was test-marketed in several cities, to a tepid response,” the author James Andrew Miller writes in his book Tinderbox, and that most other networks would have pulled the plug at that point. It was only because HBO executives were so enamored with the show’s content that it could air.

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6. Pulp Fiction

Jersey Films’ development deal with TriStar meant that TriStar got first dibs on Quentin Tarantino’s next project: Pulp Fiction, a witty and violent crime thriller that Tarantino dubbed a sequel to Reservoir Dogs. His script was reportedly deemed “too demented” for production by TriStar, who reportedly turned him down outright. After Disney acquired Miramax, Tarantino’s producer gave the script to its new owners, who made it one of their first projects after the acquisition. Film’s creative and commercial success bolstered both the studio and Tarantino’s brand recognition.

7. Stranger Things

While working on the television series Wayward Pines, the Duffer brothers pitched a nostalgic teen horror show set in the 1980s to Hollywood networks. In the words of the Duffers, they were rejected by “15 to 20 networks” before finding a home on Netflix. Concerns about the series’ dark and spooky atmosphere and a cast of mostly teenagers dominated the show’s criticisms. There were reports of an executive saying, “You’ve got to make it into a kids show or make it about this Hopper [detective] character.” In retrospect, I’m not sure that was the best move.

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8. Dumb and Dumber

Dumb and Dumber was so difficult to promote that the Farrelly brothers had to keep changing the title. We changed the titles because we couldn’t get agents to deliver a script called Dumb and Dumber to their clients because they thought this guy might fire me,” said Peter Farrelly. People at least took a look at the new title, “A Power Tool Is Not a Toy.” The Farrellys still claim that hundreds of actors were turned down for the role before getting Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels on board.

9. Buffy: The Vampire Slayer

Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, had a difficult road ahead of her when she made her debut on television. Joss Whedon, the show’s creator, was skeptical that the material could be resurrected for television based on the film. They were convinced to try by a studio executive, And they sent a pilot out to all the networks, who all turned it down. At the time, The WB was still a fledgling network looking for original programming and not afraid to take chances. However, Buffy became an immediate and hugely successful hit for the network, inspiring numerous spinoff series and a plethora of related media.

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10. American Graffiti

George Lucas began writing a screenplay about his adolescent years in Modesto, California, not long after the release of his debut film, THX 1138. He had a vision of a film about driving around in vintage cars and listening to retro pop music. It was rejected because of THX’s distributor’s lack of commercial viability, United Artists (and did not want to license all those songs). After that, Lucas put the project out to various studios, including Fox, MGM, Columbia, and Paramount, among others.

They all rejected the idea. He finally got a deal with Universal, but only after agreeing to shoot the movie on a shoestring budget. After all, American Graffiti went on to be one of the highest-grossing films of all time, and it served as an inspiration for a bevy of other teen hangout flicks with catchy pop songs. (Be careful not to overestimate Universal’s contribution.) They had the opportunity to distribute Lucas’ American Graffiti sequel but declined it. Star Wars was the name of the science-fiction film that was made.)

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