Buffy, the Vampire Slayer slipped into theaters in the summer of 1992, introducing viewers to a popular cheerleader named Buffy Summers (Kristy Swanson), who learns that she has been chosen to help protect the world from vampires. Directed by Fran Rubel Kuzui, it did a modest $16.6 million at the box office and was generally brushed aside by critics. But its screenwriter—a fellow by the name of Joss Whedon, who had been a staff writer for Roseanne and was making his feature-film-writing debut—wasn’t happy with the way his script made its way to the screen as a goofier sort of action picture than he envisioned. Plus, it prominently featured Luke Perry. I mean, seriously.
So in 1996, he brought Buffy to the small screen. And with the birth of the cult-favorite television series was born the career of Joss Whedon as a beloved creator of fantasia, including the short-lived series Firefly and its spinoff film Serenity, the TV series Angel and Dollhouse, and a little something called Marvel’s The Avengers.
Buffy, the Vampire Slayer (the film) featured none of the iconic supporting characters who became so crucial to the television series, and in significant ways it might as well have been about a completely different character. Yet, it’s worth a hat tip to the movie that effectively launched Whedon’s career—a cinematic disappointment that ultimately changed the pop-culture landscape.