Sitting through a major motion picture that flopped majorly at the box office might feel like a miserable two hours you’ll never get back, and a waste of ten bucks to boot, but for the production company and investors in the film, it’s true misery. Imagine it from the production end, a box office flop would be more akin to an oopsie totalling $50 million dollars that they’ll never get back, plus an enormous waste of time for the many hundreds of people involved.
These official major motion picture flops may pull in millions of dollars in box office revenue during those fateful weeks, but be considered a big box office bomb because it cost more than twice that to produce – and that’s the basic definition of a “flop,” – any movie that is unprofitable because its production and marketing costs exceed its theatrical release revenues. For example, even though the 2016 theatrical run brought in over $299 million for Alice Through the Looking Glass, it cost $170 million to make and was recorded as a $70 million loss on Disney’s balance sheet, leaving its status forever memorialized on the box office bomb list. Here’s our top 40 list. The top 50 chart movie studios don’t want to make.
The Wolfman (2010) – Estimated loss: $76 – $80 million
Based on the 1941 American movie of similar title, The Wolfman has all the classic features one would expect of a werewolf story – the full moon triggers the mangy, monstrous metamorphosis – but it lacks a certain, let’s call it, edge, that Twilight fans expect. Although, nonetheless, it apparently hit the mark in some ways because it became a cult classic in spite of it all.
As per werewolf horror film protocol, the wolfman, played by Benicio del Toro, receives a bite on the neck which predictably transubstantiates his human existence into a fearsome monster, but only on full moons, obviously. The vivid and realistic special effects of which animate the gruesome transformations earned the movie an Oscar for makeup, by the way, but even that, as well as its big names, del Toro and Anthony Hopkins, could not make the venture profitable. The film lost $85 to $90 million, adjusted for inflation. In the film industry these numbers are always a rough estimate due to secrecy and uncertainty, real profit and loss margins may vary. Gross profit for The Wolfman is recorded at $139.8 milion while the production budget was $150 million. Universal calls it $90 million dollars in the red. However, merch-links to the 1941 American horror film The Wolf Man, and to the Twilight, supernatural cultists’ likes, wants and must-have Werewolf merchandising must have produced some unaccounted hidden profits. Next up an abysmal bomb.
Windtalkers (2002) - Estimated loss: $76 - $81 million
Now here’s a movie that bombed so badly it caused its distributor and production company, MGM, to fire its president of worldwide marketing and distribution and its stock to tumble down The New York Stock Exchange to nearly its four year low point. It wasn’t all Nicolas Cage’s fault. The movie was the fourth consecutive bomb for MGM, and the president who got canned was only on the job for one year.
Windtalkers was a movie that flopped because it was “meh,” it just wasn’t that good. Military enthusiasts didn’t like it, Native Americans didn’t like it, and even Roger Ebert only gave it two measly stars lamenting, “The Navajo code talkers have waited a long time to have their story told. Too bad it appears here merely as a gimmick in an action picture.” For a movie about war, American soldiers and Navajos, it seemed to turn off every audience. It bombed, even amidst an explosive war narrative. Adjusted for inflation it lost up to $110 million, while it grossed merely $77.6 million. The production budget practically mirrored its loss tally at $115 - $120 million. For the next flop, please thank Disney and their penchant toward unmitigated cross-marketing.
Tomorrowland (2015) - Estimated loss: $76 - $150 million
They called it Tomorrowland. Critics say, however, that as a Sci-fi film it veers too much into Fantasyland. But maybe, perhaps, it could be, blockbuster actor George Clooney and Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles and Ratatouille could save it? Or not. Tomorrowland is a, science fiction adventure where the two heroes, Frank, played by Clooney, an embittered, former boy-genius, and an optimistic teen partner, Casey, played by Britt Robertson, must not only save the world, they must also save the fantastical world of Tomorrowland! WIth a use of a lapel pin with a “T”, space/time warping and shuttling, a robot named Athena, and a staunch faith in science and technology, the task is managed - it’s Disney, don’t forget.
But all the magic didn’t save them from losing $79 - $155 million, adjusted for inflation. And it won’t bring back the $180 - $190 million budget. It grossed $209.2 million. On the upside, however, Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 50%, so, not too bad. Next up, Power Rangers…
Power Rangers (2017) Estimated loss: $76 million
The Power Rangers were immensely popular as a TV show and a phenomenon in the 90s. (If you were a kid) the live-action, Mighty Morphin Power Rangers likely captivated many a weekend morning. In this film version, it’s a gang of misfit teenagers who save the world, but not before becoming Power Rangers. Meeting each other in high school detention, the group of unlikely superheroes includes an autistic and an LGBTQ superhero, the first superhero movie to be so inclusive. The critics liked the cast starring Dacre Montgomery, Naomi Scott, R.J. Cyler and Becky G. As for the directing and editing, ...not so much.
Opening up against Guardians of the Galaxy, turnout for Power Rangers at the box office was thwarted and doomed. In fact, it brought in only $1.2 million on its first day. But with that level of competition, it’s also no surprise that fans and even some critics say it really wasn’t that bad. Many swooned toward the nostalgic visits of detailed references back to the minutiae of the TV show’s charms. Still, Power Rangers, the 2017 movie, lost 76 million dollars. Another complaint was its crude humor and incessant product placements. With a production budget of $100 million dollars and gross sales at $142.3, it’s an official flop. The next one stars Jack Nicholson. What went wrong?
How Do You Know (2010) Estimated loss: $76 - $105 million
For James Brooks, the director of the romantic comedy-drama film, How Do You Know, it’s not just a flop, it is a career ender - according to Bombreport, and a toppling of a comedy god - according to one LA Times critic. Responsible for such memorable and funny hits such as Terms of Endearment, As Good As It Gets, Broadcast News, and Taxi, not to mention The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and wielding a powerhouse (and very expensive) cast including Reese Witherspoon, Jack Nicholson, Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson - Brooks just didn’t pull it off - and it cost the production team $10 million for his time as director of the 2010 release.
Great director, stellar cast, and one of the most expensive loses ever. The budget for the Sony Pictures flop was $100 million. Gross profit was a paltry $48.7 million - and losses, adjusted for inflation, added up to $85 - $118 million. Nothing funny about that either. Next: not all action-packed movies pull a profit.
xXx: State of the Union (2005) Estimated loss: $78 million
As another failure for Sony, xXx: State of the Union plummeted to 17% favorability at Rotten Tomatoes, yikes! It was supposed to do better. They hoped for a theatrical debut topping $20 million, but bad reviews found it at one of the worst openings for a film of its size. The original film, xXx, released in 2002 and distributed by Columbia Pictures, succeeded in turning a profit, xXx: State of the Union didn’t. Both pictures are jammed packed with fast-paced, action-thrilling adventure and violence, it’s a tale of two flicks.
xXx: The State of the Union is a movie about secret agents racing against the clock to save the U.S. government from being toppled by a secret military coup. Sounds pretty good, ya? Nope. Critics say it was poorly executed and “so primitive,” according to a critic at WaPo, “it must have been written in lizard blood on animal skin.” Once again, big names and expensive actors were of no use. Famous rapper Ice Cube, Willem Dafoe, Peter Strauss and Samuel L. Jackson don the screen, but to little avail. The film’s flop was attributed, in part, to weak acting. All in all, the film lost $98 million, adjusted for inflation. It had a budget of $113.1 million and a worldwide net gross of only $71 million. Nevertheless, the xXx franchise remains alive and funded, maybe the next one will meet expectations. What’s our next flop? Can it get much drier?
Sahara (2005) Estimated loss: $78.4 - $100 million
Apparently. Disease, plus dust, plus third world poverty factored by war does not equal a blockbuster movie. Imagine: it was billed as a comedy-adventure film. Maybe 2005 was a bad year for movies, or maybe the movie is never as good as the book. The author, Clive Cussler, who was given a handsome sum for the rights to his book, $10 million plus creative control over the script, presumably agrees: the venture flopped. In fact, he was so unhappy with the theatrical release that he sued Paramount over it.
The movie, err-- the book-- Sahara is about explorer Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) and his zany sidekick adventurer Al (Steve Zahn) who find themselves in Africa following the tracks of mysterious sunken treasure that locals call “the ship of death.” On this quest to discover the elusive fortune, Pitt and his sidekick find themselves in present day Mali where they meet the stunningly pretty Dr. Eva Rojas (Penelope Cruz). She’s busy on her own quest chasing down a strain of an infectious disease for the WHO in order to save the Malian people, who are already mired in civil war, from a deadly plague. The plot finds the three wondering if their mysteries may somehow be linked. The movie received mixed reviews, not all bad. The book was a bestseller. The production was an international effort, a co-production between the UK, Spain, Germany and The U.S. Still, worldwide it bombed earning only $119.3 million. With a budget of $160, it lost big: $98 - $126 million after taxes. Next: Fantasy. Mythology. Action.
Gods of Egypt (2016) Estimated loss: $79 - $90 million
Spoiler alert: it flopped. Splat. Rotten Tomatoes rated it at 15%. Reviews were mixed. Some critics found it intriguing and entertaining. The flood of bad reviews may have in fact sunk hopes for a strong box office release, triggering director Alex Proyas to liken the critics, due to the gush of negativity pouring out of their trade, to “diseased vultures”. It must be frustrating standing by while ravenous scavengers tear your project apart on the eve of its release.
Set in ancient Egypt amongst gods and mortals, the fantasy film brings the superhero to the mythological realm. Gods of Egypt tells a story of Bek (Brenton Thwaites), a mere human, on a mission to take down the evil god Set. Bek turns for help to Egyptian god Horus, brought to life by the prominent Games of Thrones star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, in order to vanquish the vicious god Set, and, of course, save the beloved princess from the underworld. The movie also stars Gerard Butler, Chadwick Boseman, Elodie Yung, Rufus Sewell and Courtney Eaton. In the end, the fantasy-fiction film flopped. The production budget was $140 million. The box office brought in $150.7 million. All told, the loss for Lionsgate’s investment totalled from $81 to $92 million, adjusted for inflation. Up next, a spy movie twenty-one years in the making…
The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (2005) Estimated loss: $80 million
Based on the 1960s TV series with the same name, the rights to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. were procured by producer John Davis way back in 1994. The Warner Bros. release with director Guy Ritchie premiered August 2015, more than two decades later.
With Ritchie (Sherlock) at the helm as director and co-writer, hopeful optimism for a cool new retro-spy flick soared, and then flopped. While the film delivers style and image, crisp and clean, slick and smart, featuring choreography too beautiful to behold (as one would expect from a Ritchie endeavor), the Cold War era spy thriller that saves the world from a secret international crime syndicate did not nestle itself into a niche clever enough for critics. And, up against the grossly popular, quirky comedic phenomena Austin Powers, yet another 60s spy action-thriller comedy proved to be tough competition. The movie lost $83 million dollars. With a budget of $75 million and a box office gross of $109.8 million, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. is considered a flop. Up next is a fantastic flop.
Fantastic Four (2015) Estimated loss: $80 - $100 million
The Fantastic Four was the core of Marvel’s menu of superheroes, the original four characters developed by legendary comic icons Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, the title that dominated the vanguard popularity of the comic book series throughout the 60s and well into the 2000s. Every other Marvel superhero film has blasted the roof off the box office. So what happened?
Critics agree that it starts off pretty good. Unfortunately, they say, characters are underdeveloped, storytelling is weak, and dialogue gets downright corny at times. Twentieth Century Fox’s action-adventure, sci-fi fantasy film lost big. The production budget was $120 - $125 million. Gross sales were $168 million, and it lost $83 - $103 million. Next: The film that kinda almost didn’t flop…
Blade Runner 2049 (2017) Estimated loss: $80 million
K (Ryan Gosling) an LAPD cop and blade runner, finds himself situated in a futuristic Los Angeles, year 2049, in search of a long-buried mystery. The problem is, unearthing it could cause human annihilation. The movie also stars Harrison Ford and Ana de Armas. It’s a Warner Bros. picture directed by Denis Villeneuve, with a storyline influenced by Philip K. Dick’s book, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Blade Runner 2049 is the sequel to the original mega hit, Blade Runner, also based on Dick’s book, and one of the most celebrated science fiction films ever made. Released in 1982 and taking place in the vividly realistic-looking future 2019, It became so influential that it reigns as a genre-changer for modern sci-fi films, and it has become a sci-fi cult classic. The fact that the sequel did well with critics up against that measure says something. The critics didn’t just like it, they gushed over it. The “tomatometer” spiked to 87% for Blade Runner 2049. Entertainment Weekly proclaimed the sequel achieves “the elevation of mainstream moviemaking to high art.” The Seattle Times said, “it is the rare sequel that is at least the equal as its iconic original.” Resoundingly, Blade Runner 2049 was considered one of 2017’s best movies. It received five Academy Award nominations in March of this year, and won two 2018 Oscars: one for Best Cinematography and another for Best Visual Effects. Evidently, the 163 minute box office flop is worth seeing. Its production budget was $150 - $185 million. It grossed $259.1 at theaters, but it lost $80 million dollars. Next: Which movie gets a 0% on Rotten Tomatoes??
The Nutcracker in 3D (2010) Estimated loss: $82 million
Not only did the “tomatometer” register a 0 for The Nutcracker in 3D at Rotten Tomatoes, they had this to say about the production: “Misguided, misconceived, and misbegotten on every level, [the movie] is a stunning exercise in astonishing cinematic wrong headedness.” Okay, so the film buffs didn’t like it. What about parents? Well, at commonsense media, a website that polices films and TV shows for “age-appropriate,” suitable content, they said that the movie is “too dark” for children. They also complained that it barely passes as a representation of Tchaikovsky’s immensely famous “Nutcracker” ballet and “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” story.
It was either too scary, too boring or too weird for American critics. The Nutcracker in 3D had a budget of $90 million and it lost $92 million, adjusted for inflation. At the box office it took in $16.2 million. The film crashed, burned, and bombed during its 2010 Christmas release. There’s always Christmas season DVD sales for time out of mind… Next up, another sci-fi supernova implosion.
Supernova (2000) Estimated loss: $83 million
Supernova started out as a sci-fi B-movie way back in 1990. Ten years later, MGM’s financial albatross was produced by United Artists and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Sholder and Walter Hill. Hill was officially credited as Director, although, at one point, he became so frustrated with MGM and the film’s progress that he quit and demanded his name be removed from the project. It seems no one really wants their name associated with this movie.
Needless to say Supernova hit the big screen in the year 2000 (as we used to say) and bombed bombastically. Supernova is a U.S.-Swiss science fiction, horror adventure that takes place way off in the 22nd century. When the crew of the Nightingale 229 receive a distress call from a galaxy far far away, they shift into hyperspace and race off to respond to the medical emergency. Of course, on the way there they find their hurling ship getting sucked into an enormous dying star, aka as a supernova event. So now they must save themselves from certain annihilation. In the meantime poor acting, gratuitous sex scenes, and humor heavily weighted “down there” dominate. Don’t take the kids. Not all reviews were bad… Only 90%, according to Rotten Tomatoes. All told, Supernova lost $118 million, adjusted for inflation. The ten year project cost $90 million to make, and it only brought in $14.8 million during its box office showing. Next up, another expensive space adventure.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) Estimated loss: $84 million
Here’s a film that grossed nearly $226 million, yet managed to make the flop list. Critics either loved it or hated it. Reviews were definitely mixed - from “deliriously entertaining” to ‘a punishing 137 minutes’. All agree it’s a cutting edge, strangely original sci-fi with stunning cinematography. The story is based on the French comic book series called Valerian and Laureline. French director and filmmaker Luc Besson produced, wrote, and directed the film. His film studio Europacorp introduced the movie at Cannes in 2015, and it hit the big screens in the United States in July of 2017.
Fundamental Films provided the majority of financing for the $177.2 - $180 million budget. Worldwide gross sales totalled $225.9 million. $33 million of box office sales came from France, the French loved it! Unfortunately it flopped. Total loss stayed at $84 million. Up next, the fifth largest flop of a decade.
Town & Country (2001) Estimated loss: $85 million
A romantic comedy about a couple of wealthy NYC couples and a midlife crisis. Sounds funny… But wait! The all-star cast runs like a laundry list of Hollywood titans: Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Goldie Hawn, Garry Shandling, Andie MacDowell, Jenna Elfman, Nastassja Kinski and the immortal Charlton Heston to wrap it up. It’s a veritable line-up of comic legends. It’s got to be funny, right?? Well, if aging men chasing affairs seems humorous, this may be your movie. The NY Times review headline sums it up: “If the Sport of Infidelity Had an All-Star Game, Then This Would Be It.” Farcical situations and zany twists keep it moving, but it unravels with a weak script.
Fraught with internal issues and production hiccups which dragged production out for three years, New Line Cinema knew it was going to flop. After 12 delayed release dates, New Line finally premiered it April 2001 with a scaled back ad campaign - and then the critics pounced on it. As one of the biggest flops of the 2000s, Town & Country lost $117 million, adjusted for inflation. Grossing a paltry $10.4 million, the production budget literally dwarfs the gross at $90 million. Next up: a children’s classic.
Treasure Planet (2002) Estimated loss: $85 million
Treasure Planet is a Disney adaptation of Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. The only question left is: how do they ruin it? How about by dragging the venerable 18th century children’s literary classic into the land of sci-fi and CGI? Not exactly.
Treasure Planet ranks near the top of Disney animation’s all time worst performers. Estimated loss, adjusted for inflation was $116 million dollars, however, some suggest that doesn’t accurately reflect costs once Disney’s colossal ad campaign is calculated in. Still. The box office turned its back on it, squeezing out $13 million when it opened during the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Having said that, it was up against Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The fact remains; Treasure Planet was not received well. The production budget was immense, $140 million (not including tens of millions to market it). Gross sales, worldwide, totaled out at $109.6 million, while domestically it contributed a paltry $38.2 million. Ending on an up note, the movie that finally got made will live eternally virtually or by DVD. Next: another adventure tale by a different English author.
Seventh Son (2015) Estimated loss: $85 million
Hop back in the time shuttle and bolt five centuries back to the supernatural realm where knights battle dragons, beasts, and pagan evil in the days when evil was real, and when not all witch hunts condemned the innocent. Sir John Gregory, (Jeff Bridges) the seventh son of a seventh son, protects the country from Wiccan atrocity. And Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) is one wretched witch who must be vanquished.
Based on The Spook’s Apprentice series by English author Joseph Delaney, the fantasy adventure film version takes place in the 1600s. The cinematic action unfolds styled in Game of Thrones cloaks, with a little bit of the Lord of the Rings look thrown in. Directed by Sergei Bodrov, and released by Universal Pictures, Seventh Son did well overseas grossing a decent $96.9 million. Domestically, on the other hand, it lost out to the latest Spongebob movie… Total domestic box office flop total: $17.2 million. This brought the worldwide gross to $114.2 million. Estimated loss, adjusted for inflation, $88 million. Next: a Pixar flopped?
The Good Dinosaur (2015) Estimated loss: $85 million
Yes. A Pixar Animation Studios film flopped. The Good Dinosaur has the unique distinction of being the studio’s lowest grossing movie, and, their first box office bomb. The culprit, as far as I can tell: too much cute, not enough adult humor.
Distributed by Disney and produced by Warner Bros., critics liked Pixar’s sixteenth animated film. They called it a beautiful and charming, enchanting and sweet family film. Graphics and images are realistically and gorgeously rendered making the movie a visual masterpiece, as far as digitally generated animation goes, according to most critics. For some reason, the crowds simply didn’t show up to the box office. Adjusted for inflation, the movie lost about $88 million. Budget estimates are $175 - 200 million, a heavy investment eating into its gross of $332.2 million. Up next. A different boyhood fantasy from 2015.
Pan (2015) Estimated loss: $86 - $150 million
This could be one of those movies that really deserved to crash and burn. It had a ginormous budget, virtually no A-list names, a weak script, and a story that’s been told again and again and again... Yet again, some liked it. And not just a few found it delightfully entertaining. (Pan does possess the decorous and savvy Hugh Jackman as Blackbeard, afterall). Also, it’s got an edgy - love it or hate it - soundtrack. In this film’s case, however, the critics won out. The story of Pan works as an alternative tale of Peter from the originator’s Peter and Wendy, a prequel to that tale. Film reviewers were not impressed. You can almost feel the seething discontent at Roger Ebert’s site, “Why do filmmakers continue to feel the need to squeeze all the joy and magic out of such a remarkably enduring figure of Edwardian-era make-believe as J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan?”
Plainly, it flopped. Every which way. The budget, screaming to $150 million, is only matched by its marketing campaign that clocked in at around $125 million. And then there’s the extensive financial loss: $89 - $155 million, almost eclipsing the gross, $128.4 million. Up next, big name bumps fail to launch this one.
A Wrinkle in Time (2018) Estimated loss: $86 -186 million
The critics didn’t hate it, Oprah graced the big screen for the first time in, like, 20 years, it was based on the celebrated and adored children’s literary classic by Madeleine L’Engle, yet, somehow it only grossed its production budget. And, and, and, for goodness sakes, Disney backed it! Alas, herein lies the loss. At least in part. The children’s film production leviathan lavished upwards of $60 million on TV ads, marketing and other promos. They would not recover those costs.
Overall, Disney and feel-good themes predominate the fantastically visual production directed by Sundance Film Festival award winner Ava DuVernay. And overcoming evil, light over darkness, and the goodness of mankind preserving universal harmony, is exactly what you’d expect from Mrs. Which (Ms. Winfrey). Mrs. Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon) and Mrs. Who (Mindy Kaling) also assist young Meg (Storm Reid) search for her dad and vanquish evil. The film disappointed hopeful expectations at the box office with a gross of $132.7 million. The budget is nearly a carbon copy at $130 million. Estimated loss registers at $86 - $186 million. Next: Jack the Giant Slayer. No. It’s not a B-movie horror flick.
Jack the Giant Slayer (2013) Estimated loss: $86 - 106 million
Reviews were mixed. Critics called the film dull, lacking inspiration and over-produced. Others found it worth the fare and “reasonably engaging” (for a kids fantasy flick). The memorably versed narration, thundering, “Fee Fi Fo Fum!!” dramatizes the olde, English fairy tale for the big screen, and the production is billed as a deeper, backstory, to the 16th century tale - a story about Jack and the enchanted Beanstalk, rooted in English lore and imagination.
Jack the Giant Slayer was joint venture by Warner Bros.’ New Line division and Legendary. The fantasy adventure film was directed by Bryan Singer. Also starring, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy, and Ewan McGregor, the story was written by Darren Lemke, who has been pitching it since 2005. The production budget rang in at an alarming $185 - $200 million. Gross sales, worldwide, were $197.7 million. And, an estimated financial loss of, wait for it…. $90 - $112 million (ouch). Next: This one lost $120 million and you probably never heard of it.
Jupiter Ascending (2015) Estimated loss: $87 - $120 million
Jupiter Jones (Mila Kunis) is a young, ordinary girl who always thought she was destined by the stars for greatness. And then it happens. Tatum (Caine Wise) an interplanetary warrior comes down from the galaxy to inform her that she is, indeed, destined for greatness; a greatness that extends far beyond Earth.
If it sounds corny, it kinda is. Another flop financed by Warner Bros, but with some co-funding help by Village Roadshow and Rat-Pac Dune Entertainment. When it opened in January 2015, it floundered against The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, landing with a domestic run of $47.4 million at the box office. Directed and written by the Wachowskis with help from Grant Hill, critics shunned it, Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 26% - though it may just be that one movie you go see with your friends, just for kicks. “It’s so stupid it’s beautiful,” according to The Mary Sue review site. Gross sales for Jupiter Ascending totaled $184 million. Presumably, international distribution and marketing efforts by Australian based Village Roadshow lifted it from the embarrassing $47 million domestic gross. Next up, how does a movie make $307 million and flunk financially??
Rise of the Guardians (2012) Estimated loss: $87 million
DreamWorks Animation and Paramount produced and distributed the whopping flop, pouring $125 million into a massive marketing barrage. The movie marked the end of their contract that produced a slew of fantastic films. And Rise of the Guardians was a wonderful kids flick, however, it was also one of their biggest disappointments (from the profit margin angle).
On the big screen it looked awesome. Based on The Guardians of Childhood book series by William Joyce, and his short film, The Man in the Moon, partnering with Reel FX, all the troops must be called in to thwart Pitch Black from sinking the world into never ending darkness. They all report: Santa Claus, The Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, even the Sandman. Together they recruit Jack Frost to save the day. Cute. Fun. A little dark, in that childhood magical way that light always overcomes. And voices from a respectable cast bring the magical heroes to life. Alec Baldwin represents Santa, Hugh Jackman speaks for the Easter Bunny, and Jude Law is the voice behind the terrible Pitch. Of course Rise of the Guardians bombed. Adjusted for inflation, the loss is about $93 million dollars, after bringing in $306.9 million dollars! The monster budget of $145 million dwarfs the fearful spirit Pitch, and that’s okay. There may be a money making sequel in the future, if William Joyce has his way. Next up. I think it’s fair to call it dumb.
Evan Almighty (2007) Estimated loss: $88 million
Big on comedy legends, “short on laughs,” according to Rotten Tomatoes. Stunning special effects helped it register a 23%. Those special effects, CGI in order to animate an arkload of Noah’s species-protected beasts during the flood made it the most expensive movie at the time it was produced. (You should know, these numbers are always estimates due to Hollywood finance ledgers and the secretive nature of their business).
Evan (Steve Carell) who is a newly elected congressman of fictional town Prestige Crest, and a former local TV reporter, chills with God (Morgan Freeman) hoping the Almighty will answer the congressman’s prayers. He just won election on a campaign promise to save the world. John Goodman (the evil Congressman Long), Wanda Sykes (staffer Rita Daniels), and a cameo by Jon Stewart, as Jon Stewart, round off the comedy line up. Universal took the fall for the flick, the debt burden of biblical proportions for the most expensive comedy, ever. The production budget, officially $175 million, however, according to rumor, likely looked more like $210 million. The box office grossed at $173.4. Estimated loss: $104 million. Yikes. Next. Quite possibly the worst pirate movie ever made.
CutThroat Island (1995) Estimated loss: $89 million
If you like pirate movies and the eponymous pirate attraction at the land of Disney, then you may just love it. It’s got no shortages of explosions and it’s a tad bit raunchy. And, with Geena Davis bringing Morgan Adams, the sword-slashing, musket-wielding pirate(ess) to life, it’s an irreverent adventure comedy that says what it says it is, and means what it says. For MGM and United Artists, it’s called a box office bomb. It did so poorly that it frightened film companies away from the the “pirates life for me” genre for years to come; obviously coming to a sharp halt at the officially licensed Pirates of the Caribbean with Johnny Depp manning the helm.
Critics either liked it or they didn’t, their mixed reviews couldn’t say much more. The box office, alternately, had a lot to say with very few words: $18.3 million. Put that next to the production budget of $98 million and you’ll find the bottom line. CutThroat Island lost about $143 million. One hundred and forty-three million dollars. It bears repeating. On site filming in the gorgeous, see-through blue tropical seas, and all those exciting explosions sure adds up… To one of the biggest movie flops known to the big screen. “Arrrgh!” Up next: its title is an acronym.
R.I.P.D. (2013) Estimated loss: $91 - $115 million
Let’s clear up the frustrated ignorance right away. It stands for Rest in Peace Department, and it comes from the comic book series of the same acronym. It’s ripping cast includes Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Bacon, and it failed commercially and critically. Add it to ‘the books are better than the movie’ pile. Perhaps it’s just one too many editions of the Men in Black genre. Critics abhorred it. Jeff Bridges and others of the cast were commended for more than decent portrayals of already dead characters, but little other grace was found. Time magazine wondered if it was “Too Awful to Review.” Others called R.I.P.D., the movie, “a train wreck” that leaves potentiality “high and dry.” And one critic condemned it as “the worst comic book adaptation since” some other obscure title. I think, “the summer’s most inert movie” represents a critics consensus.
The massive production budget cost Universal $130 - $154 million, leaving box office cumulative sales infinitesimally dwarfed at $78.3 million. And, finally, total loss was also massive: $96 - $121 million. Next, a highbrow, historical drama. Need more be said?
The Promise (2016) Estimated loss: $94 - $102.1
Taking place during the fall of the Ottoman Empire, when Constantinople became Istanbul, and, tragically, during the Armenian Genocide which Turkey denies ever happening, The Promise is a sweeping historical epic with a dramatic love story. Incidentally, the U.S., also, has not formally acknowledged the genocide happening. So, here’s another reason the film flopped, but also the reason it was made. In fact, getting the story out was a personal quest for the late Kirk Kerkorian. He worked for decades and was involved in the early stages of production. After his death in 2015, the production company he owned became Survival Pictures. The Promise premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival September 2016, and negative political feedback fed by Turkish/American ‘anti’ propaganda negatively affected the critical reception.
Academy Award winning director Terry George was joined by a talented line up actors who often flock to films that are relevant and meaningful. The production budget was $90 million. It brought in a paltry $10.5 at the box office. And it lost, a lot. Adjusted for inflation, it squandered about $96 - $104 million dollars. I think Kerkorian would say it was worth it. Up next, an American battle locked and loaded with Hollywood industrial heavyweights.
The Alamo (2004) Estimated loss: $94 million
Produced by Ron Howard, written and directed by John Lee Hancock, and starring Dennis Quaid and Billy Bob Thornton, this version of the exceedingly overplayed battle of The Alamo backed by Disney’s Buena Vista distribution and Touchstone Pictures production was a major bomb at the box office. Many critics thought it was unmemorable, but reviews were definitely mixed. And, American history buffs and patriots likely loved it. One critic raved: “it’s a well-crafted, intelligent, no-nonsense western epic that zips us through the famous siege and the birth of Texas with style, verve and impressive historical accuracy.”
War movies generally don’t do that well, especially those that are not superbly done. In this particular rendition of The Alamo, It seems the Hollywood heavyweights sunk the budget. Disney’s Michael Eisner wrangled over the top-heavy investment including Ron Howard and Russell Crowe and opted to let go of Russell Crowe and bring in Hancock to take over directing. Ron Howard agreed to stay on as a producer. By the time of its theatrical release, it grossed an abysmal $25.8 million dollars. The production budget totaled in at $107 million dollars. And despite Eisner’s budget trimming, total estimated loss rocketed to $122 million! Next: This film sunk a company.
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) Estimated loss: $94 million
Someday this sci-fi film will be remembered. Not for stunning Computer Generated Images (CGI), but for outstanding computer-generated reality. Super-realistic digital graphics create an astounding visual of Earth in 2065. If you’re familiar with the latest generation video games by Xbox, you’ll have a quick sense of the augmented reality style that makes characters look real, and you’ll also probably know about the “Final Fantasy” hit video game series. The movie was based on the game created by Hironobu Sakaguchi and Square Company. Square USA, their animation house offshoot, took the hit. Financially, the film wrecked so badly in 2001 it forced the animation studio to close. (Works as a great ad for the game series though!)
Critics were definitely mixed. Its plot didn’t stack up to the titans of the sci-fi genre, while visually, it was an unprecedented eye-dazzler. But, seventeen years ago, the digital feat went by virtually unnoticed. It was trolloped by Legally Blonde. Total box office, worldwide: $85.1 million ($32.1 domestic). Columbia Pictures and Sony (and, of course, Square) shared a production budget of $137 million and a loss of $130 million. Up next: Johnny Depp!!
The Lone Ranger (2013) Estimated loss: $95 - $190
Johnny Depp and Pirates director Gore Verbinski teamed up with Disney once more to try to make the Wild West as entertaining (and as profitable) as the South Seas. The immensely successful Pirates of the Caribbean starring Depp scored $600 million at the box office. The Lone Ranger didn’t. Ranger John Reid (Armie Hammer) and his Indian sidekick Tonto (Depp) was flatly not entertaining enough, according to many critics. Yet, over at the Roger Ebert site, The Lone Ranger gets a thumbs up, while recognizing the challenges of making cowboys and indians wild again. Their critic appreciates the film’s character development, calling the lone ranger a “true moral authority” by the end of the story.
Other critics loathed Disney’s effort. Rolling Stone says Depp’s subversive humor playing Tonto almost saves it. Almost. Completed disappointed, and awarding it one measly star, he elaborates: “this two-and-a-half hour obstacle course of cinematic horse turds resists redemption even from Depp.” Typical of Disney production budget this one ballooned to up to $250 million. Gross sales matched it at $260.5 million. Estimated loss, adjusted for inflation: $100 - $200 million. Next up. Tom Cruise can’t save this one.
The Mummy (2017) Estimated loss: $95 million
The Mummy is the worst movie Tom Cruise has ever made, hands down. No contest. Universal’s had its share, but as a horror flick it did pretty bad. They pulled it from over 800 theaters in its third weekend. Why was it so terrible? First there was the iconic 1932 Mummy, and then there was the 1999 remake, The Mummy, and now the blockbuster reboot. Mummy burnout? In The Mummy (2017) Nick Morton (Cruise) is a U.S. soldier and a raider (and seller) of ancient relics and artifacts. While pilfering through antiquities, he ends up getting possessed by an ancient evil Egyptian, previously mummified, princess demoness. The battle between good and evil starts there. The critics were mixed, few were impressed.
The only winner here is Tom Cruise who busted through his worldwide premiere record - the Mummy is his career-top global opening at $169.3 million. It grossed $410 million. It seems almost respectable at first glance. Universal’s production budget was $195 million, although the total production costs added up to $345 million after ads and marketing. And it lost an estimated $95 million. It hits the target...as a blockbuster bomb. Next. A space comedy.
The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002) Estimated loss: $96 million
It grossed $7 million dollars. Really?? It got a 4% on Rotten Tomatoes! Seriously??? No joke. As it turns out, sci-fi comedy Pluto Nash is an infamous wipeout, crashing and burning at epic proportions. It made Time magazine’s list of the “10 biggest money-losers of all time”, placing 3rd. It’s so bad, watching it makes legendary and iconic comedian Eddie Murphy break down and cry, according to himself. “Pluto Nash, that breaks me down, that breaks me down all the way,” he said, ostensibly through tears of regret so woeful he poked fun at the idea of heading back to the lowly stand up stage where his phenomenal career began.
The story takes place in the 2080s, on the moon, where all Earth exiles are sent. Pluto Nash (Murphy) is assaulted by lunar gangsta thugs, forcing him to defend his nightclub and the rights of all of moonkind. Nothing in the world can save this epic flop from its notoriety. It grossed merely $7.1 million at the “flop” office and it cost Warner Bros $100 million to make. That leaves the endeavor at a 95% net loss! In dollars, the loss is $131 million. It’s not a stretch to say it’s the biggest box office bomb in Hollywood. Next up. No secret, Sony and Columbia misfire again.
Stealth (2005) Estimated loss: $96 million
The world’s top military jet fighter pilots face job automation. When a high tech, evil AI autopilot virus takes over, the flight crew fight back. It’s meant to be a fun and chill summer release. Critics mostly groan.
Proclaiming it plays out like a military recruitment tool and that it is so cornball it’s absurd, critics say Stealth, the action flick, is as audacious as it is dorky. Director Rob Cohen and co-pilot Columbia Pictures navigated this top-heavy ship to its crash and burn landing. Also on board, writer W.D. Richter and stars Josh Lucas, Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel and Sam Shepard. Stealth bombed at the box office internationally, nose-diving in nearly every nation and bringing in just over $44 million. Here at home, by the end of the domestic run, the smoldering remains of $32 million finished it, exacting a $76.9 million gross. The ground zero accounting ledger stands at $120 million in the red. A hefty $135 million in production and marketing expenses were absorbed by this Sony production. Next up. 18th century Japanese Samurai sword fight doesn’t meet all audiences. Go figure.
47 Ronin (2013) Estimated loss: $97 - $150
Neither is “monumentally dull” a big audience grabber. According to the Daily News in NYC, Keanu Reeves’ performance as Kai, a ronin or half breed Samurai, could not have been less inspired. 47 Ronin stars Hiroyuki Sanada, Jin Akanishi, Keanu Reeves, Kô Shibasaki, Rinko Kikuchi, Tadanobu Asano. Just imagine if they didn’t have any American movie stars! This film had everything going against it. Too much holiday box office competition opening on Christmas day, a suffocating budget as high as $225 million and very little interest, apparently. Opening in Japan, box office totals were a disappointing $3 million dollars.
47 Ronin was directed by Carl Rinsch, it was his directorial debut. Universal distributed the film and several production companies contributed resources, time, and money. What we know is: critics didn’t like it, audiences didn’t show up to see it, and it lost a bundle. Budget estimates went as high as $225 million, officially recorded at somewhere between $175 - $225 million. Worldwide, all told, it grossed $151.8 million, but it lost even more. 47 Ronin lost $102 - $158 million. Next. Hollywood heavyweights to no avail.
Titan A.E. (2000) Estimated loss: $100 million
This one stumbled out of the blocks with the producer and director getting canned $30 million into the production budget with little to show for it. It never fully recovered. Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, directors of Anastasia, took over from there. Alas, it was such a disaster it forced the FOX Animation Studios, the one responsible for the super-successful Anastasia, to close its doors, this according to Rupert Murdoch over at FOX. Murdoch even blamed the Titan movie’s abysmal box office sales for causing a 14% financial loss for the year at his insanely profitable News Corp.
According to critics, the storyline lacked originality, but the animation is a visual masterpiece, a riveting 94 minute digital canvas. The action adventure tale takes place in a post apocalyptic Earth, far off in the 31st century. Popular Hollywood legends Matt Damon and Drew Barrymore lend some weight to the film voicing Cale and Akima, respectively. The characters join the effort, the last-ditch crusade, that means to save the remnants of mankind left on the fantastical scorched Earth. It flopped. Box office totals for Titan A.E. were a pathetic $36.8 million dollars. It tanked locally and globally. Overseas sales? A wimpy $14 million. Production costs hovered around $75 - $90 million. Estimated loss: $142 million, adjusted for inflation. Next: Mars. Up up and away.
Mars Needs Moms (2011) Estimated loss: $100 - $144 million
One of the biggest flops ever recorded. (Maybe it’s the title??) Mars Needs Moms, the adorable animated children's flick about Martian leaders finding a use for moms on their planet was produced by Disney with animation studio partner, ImageMovers Digital (Polar Express). The book, authored by Berkeley Breathed, may very well be better than the movie. In any case, it has the same title. Milo (Seth Green) is an Earthling who gets grounded because he will not complete his chores. The movie revolves around the 9-year-old boy and his personal journey that, by quest’s end, finds him realizing the value of a loving family. Dan Fogler, Elisabeth Harnois, Mindy Sterling and Joan Cusack also have starring voices in the big-hearted family film. Critics were mixed - a lot of complaints, and a few who appreciated the adventure tale’s warm fuzziness.
One thing that’s certain, it had a raging budget of $150 million. Mars Needs Moms would have to tear it up at the box office to break even. That didn’t happen. The movie brought in $39 million at the box office. Estimated loss, adjusted for inflation: $109 - $157 million, like red ink bleeding to Mars and back. Up next. I hope you like monster trucks...
Monster Trucks (2016) Estimated loss: $109 - $123.1 million
Nickelodeon and Paramount pulled together some big names for this irreverent, high concept action kids flick. Starring Lucas Till as Tripp Coley, the high school boy who confronts a monster (an actual monster) in his truck, as well as Terravex Oil, the big, bad fracking company. Rob Lowe and Danny Glover also animate the comedy adventure. Creech, the monster, turns out to be an adorable beast (no voice actor necessary) and a very useful ally against the formidable fracking giant.
Fun trivia: The ‘monster inside of the truck’ concept came from an actual 4-year-old. Adam Goodman, former president of Paramount, had been wanting to bring the idea to the big screen ever since his toddler son imaginatively introduced it to him. Goodman could not let go of the concept, hoping a toy-merchandising monster on par with Cars or Transformers would materialize. Audiences didn’t hate it, critics were mixed, but it had a budget of $125 million and a box office of $64.5 million. Estimated loss, adjusted for inflation: $111 - $126 million Viacom, Paramount’s parent Co., will never get back. Next up, blame Guy Ritchie’s jaded fan base.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) Estimated loss: $115 - $153.2 million
This film is loosely based, very loosely based, on the the enduring British legend. Guy Ritchie’s (Sherlock) signature cinematics and stylistic personality remake the Legend of the Sword beautifully and imaginatively. But it bombed. There will be no sequels, it hath been decided. Critics were mixed to negative. Ritchie’s projects are highly scrutinized due to his phenomenal success. At Rotten Tomatoes they complain that the remake “wipes out much of what made it a classic story in the first place.” Lots of critics agreed. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword starts out with the orphaned infant-king being raised in a brothel, and there’s a lot of CGI magic that wasn’t in the original mythology. But ‘different’ is also potentially interesting.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword was supposed to be a mega-hit for the Warner Bros. empire. It was supposed to fit in with the Marvel Avenger family. Tie-ins to the studio’s lucrative hero merchandising division were already being planned. Not this time. It floundered at the box office up against Guardians of the Galaxy 2, pulling in a weak $39 million. The film was too costly to make. With a $175 million budget and a box office that was far less at $148.7 million, Warner Bros. and pals lost $115 - $153 million dollars on the promising project. Next: Shhhhh. It takes place on Mars.
John Carter (2012) Estimated loss: $122 -$200 million
This one wins for “highest budget ever.” It also takes the crown for “champion of financial loss,” according to the folks over at Bomb Report. Adjusted for inflation, John Carter lost up to $214 million. Why was it so expensive? The live-action film featured no notable stars, but it had director Andrew Staton (Pixar), and it was based on an obscure sci-fi novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs called, A Princess of Mars. It’s the first book in the series that takes place in Barsoom, not Mars. (Don’t call it Mars. Disney reportedly wanted to distance itself from its other flop Mars Needs Moms and shortened the original title from “John Carter of Mars” to just John Carter). Stanton, its eminent director, it seems, is the main culprit for the “highest budget ever” accolade because of his film-scrapping, reshoots, and edits.
The Hollywood Reporter called it “a rather charming pastiche,” but reviews were definitely mixed. John Carter needed more than stellar reviews to save it. Unfortunately, the box office run ended at just over $73 million. Overseas it didn’t suck. Their box office pulled in $211 million. Gross ticket sales were a tad higher at $284.1 million, but that didn’t erase the loss which was reported to be $130 - $214 million. Next: the end of the line for DreamWorks.
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003) Estimated loss: $125 million
This movie did so badly DreamWorks threw in the towel. It would become the legendary studio’s last hand-drawn animated film and it will live in infamy as one of the biggest losers ever. A chart-topper. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas was one expensive flop! Typical Disney-style animation brings to life a clever action-adventure plot which was met with mixed reviews, weighted mildly on the positive end. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is right in the middle at Rotten Tomatoes with a 48%. The story is based around a band of rascally adventurers headed by Sinbad (Brad Pitt) who is set on pirating “The Book of Peace.” The only problem is, “The Book of Peace” has held peace and harmony together in the mythical world of Twelve Cities for centuries. His plan is thwarted by Goddess Eris (Michelle Pfeiffer) and it plays out how you would expect from there. Bottom line: this kids flick bombed. Even with such Hollywood greats voicing the lead characters.
The final nail in the coffin for this epic money-loser? It opened against Finding Nemo. It also fell behind against Terminator 3 and Legally Blonde 2. Opening weekend It placed an embarrassing 6th, and its domestic gross came in just over a humiliating $26 million. Worldwide ticket sales grossed $80.8 million. DreamWorks spent $60 million on the budget and suffered the monumental loss of $125 - $167 million. They had a great run.
Robin Hood (2018) Estimated loss: $100 million
When the movie trailer of this film was released, as action-packed and modern as it appeared, many questioned if this tale really had be retold, again. Those involved in its creation insisted that the 2018 version of Robin Hood, took a more sophisticated and darker angle then the classic narrative. Well, the public sure didn't find anything spectacular about the reboot. Although it was released at the end of 2018, it still managed to secure a top spot as one of the biggest flops of the year.
Not even a huge name like the Academy Award winning actor, Jamie Foxx, was able to save this film. Robin Hood was nominated for three(!) Golden Raspberry Awards, including "awards" for Worst Remake and Work Picture. Movie critics even went as far a calling it a "wasting of the cast". Ouch. Hopefully we don't see anymore modern twists to Robin Hood this year, next year, or better yet, the next decade.
The Wizard of Oz (1939) Estimated loss: $1.1 million
This one may the most surprising movies featured on this list, as its now arguably one of the greatest films in cinema history. But when The Wizard of Oz made its debut, it was far from the box office hit you'd expect it to be. Naturally, this was quite disappointing to MGM, as it was their most expensive production at the time. It wasn't until the movie's re-release in 1949, 10 years after its initial release, that this musical fantasy film was widely received, and earned MGM an additional $1.5 million (which is around $16 million today). Later, in 1956, it aired on television and became an won over new viewers, becoming an instant sensation, thus, becoming a classic movie, as we know it today.
Its use of vivid Technicolor, grandiose costumes and everlasting songs, granted The Wizard of Oz legendary status, inspiring a number other masterpieces such as the musical, Wicked. The movie's iconic songs and motifs have been referenced in pop-culture decades after its release, and will continue to in decades ahead. This just comes to show you that the box office doesn't always get it right, and sometimes, its all about having the right timing.
Ghostbusters: Answer the Call (2016) Estimated loss: $75 million
The original Ghostbusters, which was released in 1984, was No. 1 at the box office for 7 weeks straight! Not only did it launch a hit song, a sequel, and inspired an iconic cartoon, it was even granted its own holiday. The 2016 reboot had some extremely large shoes to fill, and evidently, it could not. Due to its huge marketing budget, the studio estimated that the movie would need to gross, at least, $300 million to break even on their investment. In the end; however, Sony suffered a grim $75 million loss.
The cast of popular comedians and accomplished actors, including Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, and Chris Hemsworth weren't able to retrieve even half of the impact that the classic movie left on viewers. The modern redo generally received lukewarm reviews, one Rolling Stone's critic said "No big whup and no big fat flop either, the female reboot of Ghostbusters settles for being a fine, fun time at the movies." Another hot-take on the move's less-than-ideal reception, was the fact that it was dismissed by many male viewers even before its release. Being that demographic of the original Ghostbusters fan base was "white and male", the new installment wasn't exactly appealing to them, as many of them rejected the new majorly female cast. There were comments stating that there was a "political agenda behind the film", and that it was "pushing feminism and diversity down their throats". Probably not the backlash the producers were expecting, and apparently there wasn't a strong enough female following to fill up the theaters.
The 13th Warrior (1999) Estimated loss: $129 million
They say that the book is always better than the movie, well, that surely was the case with this film. The 13th Warrior, a film inspired by the best-selling novel, "Eaters of the Dead", ultimately became recognized as one of the biggest movie flops in the history of the industry. While The 13th Warrior received mixed reviews by critics, it performed quite poorly at the box office, earning an estimated $61.7 million. With an extravagant budget of $160 million, it lost as much as $190 million, when adjusted for inflation. Simple math shows that that wasn't nearly enough to cover its exaggerated production costs, so they could completely disregard making profit.
Perhaps its creators should have seen the omens, as the film's production was anything but smooth sailing - the title changes, re-edits and re-cuts were't enough to make this movie as successful as they envisioned. The movie's failure was so disheartening to one of its actors, Omar Sharif, that it caused him to go on a 3-year-long career hiatus.
Zoolander 2 (2016) Estimated loss: $20 million
While the original Zoolander does have somewhat of a cult following, it grossed a mere $60 million on a $30 million budget. Needless to say, it wasn't exactly a "smash-hit". Furthermore, there was a 15-year gap between their release dates. Historically speaking, that's usually not promising unless the film falls somewhere on the popularity scale between Star Wars and Harry Potter. All that being said, for some odd reason, this didn't prevent its producers from making a sequel to the film.
It's cult following wasn't enough to make it a box office success. In line with what most movie critics predicted, it was a F-L-O-P, flop. On popular movie rating site such as IMDb is scored a weak 4.7/10. Paramount surly regrets backtracking from their original verdict of rejecting the project. Hopefully, they've learned from their error, and do us all a favor, and let the Zoolander franchise R.I.P. once and for all.
Ali (2001) Estimated loss: $63 million
Ali is a biopic that depicts the life of Cassius Clay, most famously known as Muhammad Ali, one of the biggest names in boxing. Its release was highly anticipated, as some of the most talented producers, director and actors in the industry were on its roster. Not to mention that there was nothing boring about Ali's life. He was one of the most controversial, yet admired athletes the world had ever witnessed, and along with his classic Hero's Journey, the movie was nothing short of promising. So who was the blame for it's inadequate box office gross? Well, fingers were definitely pointed at Michael Mann, the film's director, who said that he couldn't manage to make the film on its original $107 million production budget, which was already considered to be an expensive film. By the end of its production its costs rose up to $118 million.
Unlike most of the movies on this list, Ali isn't a bad movie by any means, on the contrary. Will Smith, who played Ali, was nominated for several awards for his outstanding performance, including an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for Best Actor. Supporting actors, like Jamies Foxx and Jon Voight, were also acclaimed for their exceptional execution. Nonetheless, it didn't manage to compensate for its insane production budget.
Beloved (1998) Estimated loss: $68.5 million
On Paper, this movie, based on Toni Morrison's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel; looked more promising than a Martha Stewart recipe. Some of the biggest names in Hollywood were on its headlines. Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) was the director, and the cast comprised of some of the most celebrated actors at that time - Danny Glover, Thandie Newton, Kimberly Elise, Beah Richards, and the icing on the cake was the Queen of all Media herself, Oprah Winfrey. The story was about a former-slave who was haunted by the ghost of her daughter ,whom she murdered, in an attempt to "rescue" her from a slave owner.
Oprah Winfrey once recalled getting the disappointing phone call of the movie’s underwhelming opening day, “[T]hey said, ‘It’s over. You got beat by Chucky.’ And I said, ‘Who’s Chucky? What do you mean it’s over? It’s just Saturday morning!’". When they said Chucky, they were referring to the famous horror movie starring the notorious red-headed doll, of course. That was surly a blow to the cast's ego for their twisted, yet, inspiring piece of art, lose to a movie about a killer-doll at the box office. The acting was phenomenal, and was acknowledged, as the leads received high praise for their performances. But most viewers apparently, found the story to be a bit punishing. Maybe the timing wasn't right for such a film to be accepted. Stateside audiences, especially, don't like to be reminded about the country's dark past, so stories about slavery are usually a touchy topic, and it is hard to predict how they'll be received.
Cowboys & Aliens (2011) Estimated loss: $63 - $75 million
They say that you shouldn't judge a book by it's cover; however, if one were to judge this movie by its title, they'd be spot on. Cowboys & Aliens was a project that went through several adaptations throughout its 14(!) years of development, but ultimately, it turned out to be a waste of money and creative efforts. On the day the movie premiered it came second place to The Smurfs. This was considered a surprise because with headliners like Harrison Ford and Daniel Craig, Cowboys & Aliens was expected to be the big winner that weekend. The president of Universal Pictures, Ron Meyer, said “Certainly you couldn’t have more talented people involved in Cowboys and Aliens, but it took, you know, ten smart and talented people to come up with a mediocre movie. It just happens.” Evidently, neither James Bond nor Indiana Jones could rescue the film.
In 2014, the Los Angeles Times listed Cowboys & Aliens among "The Most Expensive Box Office Flops Of All Time". If you ask us, if producers would have put out a poll inquiring the public's opinion about a film with such at title and premise, it would have surely saved them a lot of trouble, heartache, and 14 years where they could have been creating something much more productive.
Ben-Hur (2016) Estimated loss: $75 - 121.7 million
Forbes refereed to this film as "the summer's most predictable miss/catastrophe". Apparently, there weren't high hope for this movie from the get-go, so its performance wasn't exactly surprising. The 2016 remake of Ben-Hur received generally negative reviews from all major movie critics. In Fact, the only "accolades" it received included a Yoga Award, and a EDA Special Mention Award for "Sequel or Remake That Shouldn't Have Been Made" and "Worst Remake", respectively.
The film failed to attract the religious audience, the young audience, or any audience for that matter. It was listed by many publications as one of biggest box office bombs of summer 2016, and one of the biggest flops of that year. The 1959’s Ben-Hur was an Oscar-winning smash, and remains beloved 'til this day, especially because the modern redo was so poorly executed.
Alexander (2004) Estimated loss: $ 71 million
Gladiator and Braveheart being some of the only exceptions to the rule, medieval action films rarely do well at the box office. These statistics; however, still don't seem to stop Hollywood producers from risking millions of dollars hoping to be the next anomaly, and Alexander was not one of them. History fans and movie critics found too many faults to appreciate it. It was a 3-hour film made of flashes of half-baked ideas sewn together, riding on the hope that viewers would be thrilled to see a bleached blond Colin Farrell, who depicted Alexander The Great, and Angelina Jolie, who played his mother, together on the big-screen. If anything, the general public found this to be one of the most ridiculous things about the film, besides the historical inaccuracies. Farrel was mocked for his golden locks, while Jolie fans couldn't ignore the fact that she was cast as the mother of someone only on year younger than her. Nothing about the movie was convincing or informative.
If matters weren't confusing enough, Colon Farrell's Irish accent, along with the several other dialects of his cast mates left viewers wondering what era was being depicted. Alexander received 6 Raspberry Award nominations including Worst Actors- for Colin and Jolie, Worst Director, and Wort Picture.
Death Wish (2018) Estimated Gross: $4 million
This reboot of the original 1974 Death Wish joins the list of failed remakes. What worked during the Nixon/law-and-order era, doesn't appeal to the general audience today, and thankfully so! Not the first film was a masterpiece either. If most people ,would revisit it today, they'd most likely be applaud by the outright racism and the laughable machismo promoted in the film. The movie grossed $34 million on a $30 million budget, so while that's not as big of a lose compared to other box office bombs featured on this list, anyone familiar with the movie industry knows that a $4 million dollar gain is basically a fail, and thus Death Wish was granted the title of one of the biggest flops of 2018 by all major publications.
Another problem was the film timing- released less than 3 weeks post the Parkland mass shooting, and just days after the Las Vegas shooting -it couldn't have possibly been worse. Especially for a picture one critic described as "a torture-porn film". Second Amendment opposers were in no rush to see the film, and its supporters needed a break from gun-driven violence, even if it was fictional. The American public was traumatized by firearm by then, and a film about how the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun was anything but comforting. One critic said "Death Wish is little more than a rote retelling that lacks the grit and conviction of the original—and also suffers from spectacularly bad timing."
Heaven’s Gate (1980) Estimated loss: $40.5 million
This western, loosely based on the Johnson County War, was such a disaster that it changed the movie-making industry forever, and Michael Cimino's directing career would never completely recover. When adjusted for inflation, the film lost approximately $123 million at the box office. Cimino had such an expensive and ambitious vision, that he pushed productions costs to nearly four-times over its initial budget. Heaven’s Gate heavy financial loss literally drove United Artists, a major American studio at the time, to bankruptcy. When it comes to cinema history, the Heaven’s Gate "disaster" often represents the key event that eventually led American film-making away from director-driven projects, putting an end to their free-wheeling excesses. Studios began to take more control over films, as they still do today.
Beside the negative criticize, the film ran into other major setback, including allegations of animal abuse on set. It's fair to note that after decades since its release, re-assessments of the film have become more positive, and re-edits of the movie have even been celebrated. The film was even refereed to as "one of the greatest injustices of cinematic history". Was the movie really that bad, you welcome to watch it for yourself, and tell us what you think.
The Happytime Murders (2018) Estimated loss: $12.5 million
As you've probably already noticed, 2018 wasn't exactly a year of superb cinematography, and The Happytime Murders didn't particularity help enrich the art that season. Initially pitched as"Who Framed Roger Rabbit but with puppets instead of cartoons", The Happytime Murders sounded like it had solid potential. After all, Roger Rabbit was a blockbuster hit. Unfortunately, when it debuted, stateside viewers were not impressed, and its acceptance overseas was just as calamitous.
The film was a bit controversial from it's beginning. When the first trailer was released critics believed the film's vulgar humor to be unnecessary, and at times, forced. The production was even involved in a law-suite. Sesame Workshop, the company are behind the famous "Sesame Street", sued them for potentially harming their ever-so-innocent and child-friendly brand. The film received a "generous" 6 Golden Raspberry Awards nominations, including Worst Picture and Worst Actress for McCarthy. So much for the wishful "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" success. Watching Muppets behave very R-rated like was quite impressive from a technical standpoint, but apparently the movie as a whole, was not.
The Fall of the Roman Empire (1964) Estimated loss: $14 million
Another film that proves that the financial flops don't always depict the quality of the art is classic film- The Fall of the Roman Empire. Featuring epic performances of Hollywood legends such as Christopher Plummer, Alec Guinness, and the crowds-favorite, Sophia Loren, today the film is considered to be one of the best “sword-and-sandal” movies of all times. It also broke records, with a 92,000 m2 replica of the Roman Forum, it was the largest outdoor film set in the history of the film industry.
Despite all the accolades for the films script, direction, and acting, its box office performance fell disappointingly short, and wasn't nearly enough to cover the costs of its extravagant state-of-the arts production, not to mention the additional marketing costs. When adjusted for inflation, the film lost a brutal $126 million. As the case with Ali, and The Wizard of Oz, even with the biggest names in the game, and the most renowned directors and producers, huge production costs can absolutely put a damper on a movie's box office success.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) Estimated loss: $100 million
This space Western film is based on one of Star Wars favorite characters, Han Solo. As it's associated with one of the most successful movie franchises in cinema history, expectations were high; however, the production didn't exactly deliver, thus it gets a "honorable mention" in our list.
Reviews about this Star Wars spin-off were tepid, like one critic described "A flawed yet fun and fast-paced space adventure, Solo: A Star Wars Story should satisfy newcomers to the saga as well as longtime fans who check their expectations at the theater door." Not exactly the ratings expected from George Lucas's beloved chronicle. But, as they say, "You win some, you lose some." Analysts of publications such as The Atlantic, and Entertainment Weekly credited the movie's deficient box office performance to inadequate marketing and to what was coined- "Star Wars fatigue". Solo came out just five months after The Last Jedi, becoming the forth film of the series released in less than 30 months. Perhaps viewers just needed a break from the Star Wars saga.
Green Lantern (2011) Estimated loss: $98 million
Before he solidified his character as the bad-boy Marvel superhero, Deadpool, in both installments of the successful franchise, Ryan Reynolds had-a-go at portraying the DC Comics superhero, Green Lantern. He starred along with some other big A-list actors such as Angela Bassett, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, and his wife (whom he met on-set), Blake Lively. Released in the summer of 2011, Green Lantern received generally negative reviews. Fans weren't disappointed with Reynolds, or the cast member's acting per se, the majority of the movie's criticism was for its inconsistent tone, portrayal of villains, and its mediocre use of CGI. It's execution was just poor. The project's production budget was a generous $230 million, but after it's under-performance at the box office, it grossed only $219 million world-wide. Accounting for the production costs, which included costly 3D conversion, and marketing expenses, it costed Warner Bros. a painful $98 million. Consequently, any plans for a sequel were cancelled.
Reynolds, who is a fan of the original comic, also expressed his dissatisfaction with the film. "It also fell victim to the process in Hollywood which is like poster first, release date second, script last." he once stated. But, hey, he did end up with a pretty sweet deal- he met his then, future-wife, Blake Lively on-set, and today they are married and share 2 beautiful daughters. It was worth prancing around in a tight green suite for a few months.
Battleship (2012) Estimated loss: $220.4 million
Universal couldn't have possibly thought this one through, as they agreed to produce a movie based on the childhood-favorite Hasbro board game of the same name- Battleship. Though some would argue that Transformers started as children's pass-time a had done transformed (pun intended) it to a highly successful movie franchise. They often forget that Transformers had also had a popular cartoon to back it, and the movie had the star power to push it forward. The songstress Rihanna, who made her acting debut in the film, was the most familiar face featured, but she alone wasn't enough to attract moviegoers.
As if Battleship hadn't received enough negative criticism, the film about an alien invasion that was halted by the U.S. Navy, was called one of the worst Naval war films ever. Fans and Men in Uniform alike, felt as though the film made a mockery of how the military really functions. Ultimately, the film was a bit too "dumbed down" to appeal to the adult audience it desperately needed to help fill theater seats. Perhaps this will make screenplay producers hesitate when the next screenplay-writer comes to them with a "brilliant" idea of a movie based on Monopoly.
Conan the Barbarian (2011) Estimated loss: $60 - 66 million
As if 2011 hadn't had enough superhero movies or remakes, Conan the Barbarian- a remake of the 1982 cult film of a fictional hero, was released in mid-August that year, combing both concepts movie goers, had grown sick of by then. Another problem was that while Jason Momoa, who played the lead, had the physique, to match that of Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was the star of the original cult-favorite, it was as if he was walking with muddy boots on holy grounds. Schwarzenegger, along with the thick Austrian he still had back then, had become synonymous with the role, and Momoa's portrayal of Conan was nothing less than blasphemous to the fans of the 1982 classic. But those unfamiliar with the original gave the reboot "generally unfavorable" reviews.
Thanks to the Russians, who are usually big fans of sword and sandal films, they the were able to scrap up nearly $10 million, which was their highest overseas gross. As for everyone else, this movie passed them by, and producers said bye-bye to over $60 million.
Annihilation (2018) Estimated loss: $12 million
With affordable movie streaming services, that allow you to watch anything from the comfort of your own home, today it often takes an extremely hyped, and exciting film to get people to leave their houses to see it. Annihilation was just not one of them. Consequently, it joined A Wrinkle in Time, Solo, and Robin Hood, as one of the biggest box-office bombs of 2018. It was quite a pity because Annihilation was by non means a bad film. It had a fine cast, a thought-provoking premise and received positive reviews. The 44th himself, former president, Barack Obama, listed Annihilation as one of his favorite films of that year. But it also never had a chance. Moviegoers had much rather spend their free time and hard-earned money on a theatrical experience like Black Panther, or to unwind with a fun movie like Game Night, that were both out at the same time.
Starring Natalie Portman, this sci-fi horror film, based on a novel by the same name, follows the story of a group of female military scientists who enter "The Shimmer"- a mystifying quarantined zone of mutating animals and landscapes. Reportedly, Paramount deemed the film "too intellectual" for mainstream crowds after its first test-screening, thus they made an international distribution deal with Netflix. As predicted, after it flop at the box office stateside, the movie never even came out in theaters overseas, where Annihilation was left for a Netflix and Chill kinda night.
Gigli (2003) Estimated loss: $72 million
We couldn't possibly make a list of the biggest box office bomb with out mentioning good ol' Gigli. Not even J-Lo's star-power could get people rushing to theaters or gain the mercy movie critics. Since its release, Gigli, has topped the lists of worst films of ALL times, and there are no excuses here. Its simply a bad movie. Its production cost was $75.6 million but it grossed a subpar $7.3 million. Criticism of the movie was brutal, to say the least. One critic described it as "Bizarre and clumsily plotted, Gigli is a mess. As for its stars, Affleck and Lopez lack chemistry." The movie's title even became synonymous with failure - comedian Conan O'Brien once said "The Mets are doing so badly that they will be renamed 'The New York Gigli."
Soon after the movie's release, its lead actors, Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, who had been involved romantically in real-life, called it quits. Perhaps they figured that it was best they no longer be involved with one another, professionally or privately, for both of their career's sake.