Vindicated by History
"Some are born posthumously."
—Friedrich Nietzsche, The Antichrist
History is a fickle mistress. Many works that are well-received at their debut will fade into the mists of time as the public moves on to the newest thing, doomed to obscurity. On the other hand, a few exceptional (or lucky) works with unexceptional debuts will be re-discovered and re-analyzed and become critical darlings after about twenty years, as well as timeless classics in the eyes of the public, usually when their authors/producers are no longer around to bask in their belated fame. Unconventional and gloomily-themed works that star little-known actors are the most prone to this.
Inevitably causes most critics to rush to hail them as classics that were grossly misunderstood in their time, but now can be worshipped as the masterpieces they truly are. Oftentimes people in general forget that they were bombs to begin with. Parodies and Hype Backlash inevitably follow in their footsteps.
This is mostly a film/literature phenomenon: TV mostly avoids this, as how great or awful a series is tends to become clear during its longer run (or at least a few years later on DVD).
Of course, there are historical events that were controversial at the time, but later are felt to have been the right decision.
The Real Life counterpart of It Will Never Catch On. It can also lead to Follow the Leader, Hype Aversion, Hype Backlash. A Sub-Trope is Vindicated by Cable and Vindicated by Reruns; also arguably, as already mentioned, Better on DVD. Often these works were the victim of an Award Snub.
Compare Germans Love David Hasselhoff, where a different country does this instead of time, and Cult Classic, where something gains popularity but not on a widespread/mainstream scale (although the two tropes sometimes overlap). See also Popularity Polynomial. Additionally, see Dead Artists Are Better for cases where the belated popularity occurs because the artist is no longer around to bask in it. Contrast Deader Than Disco (something that goes from insanely popular to a popular target of mockery), And You Thought It Would Fail (a work that's expected to be a flop instead becomes a smash hit). Compare Acclaimed Flop, when the work is a critical success but a commercial failure when it comes out, and Sleeper Hit, when the vindication comes comparatively faster but still slower than the creators would prefer.
Beware the risk of Overly Narrow Superlatives, though. Practically anything could seem vindicated by history if the reference pool is small enough. The entry on this page for Videodrome, for example, describes it as "one of the most recognized Canadian-made films outside of Canada" (which, while true, is not a vindication).
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