When it comes to making successful movies, there’s more to it than just good scripts, hot actors and huge budgets. Yes, in some cases, money can’t buy success, no matter what the cost. And these 20 movies all paid the price by becoming the biggest cinema flops of all time…
When most people see the title Ben-Hur, chances are they think of the groundbreaking 1959 Charlton Heston flick. You’d be forgiven, then, if you weren’t aware of the 2016 remake. Yes, this attempt to update the Academy Award-winning religious drama for a newer audience failed spectacularly considering its hefty production budget. So much so, in fact, that even Morgan Freeman couldn’t prevent it from tanking.
Criticisms of the picture ranged from over-digitized special effects to contradictory storylines. And, unfortunately for all involved in its creation, the critical response was further reflected at the box-office. It’s been reported that the movie lost somewhere around $125 million and was deemed by many to be the biggest flop of 2016.
19. The Alamo
The Battle of the Alamo, fought during the Civil War, was a defining moment in modern American history. It’s reputation was then further cemented in the 1960 movie The Alamo which saw John Wayne in the lead role. That version proved to be memorable a cinema outing. The 2004 remake, however, was deemed by many to be anything but.
Despite boasting a healthy $100 million production budget, The Alamo only netted somewhere in the region of $25 million. The poor performance at the box office was compounded by some scathing criticisms of the film itself. And it holds a measly 29 percent review average on Rotten Tomatoes to this day.
Just because a book is widely heralded doesn’t necessarily mean the movie adaptation will follow suit. For every Harry Potter out there, there’s also a Sahara – a successful looking prospect on paper but a failed attempt in reality. So much so, in fact, the movie’s estimated loss is somewhere in the hundred-million dollar range.
Released in 2005, this action-adventure romp featuring then-upcoming star Matthew McConaughey didn’t do much to trigger the imaginations of children or adults. Indeed, audiences stayed away from it in their droves. The numerous legal wrangling following the poor box-office then rounded off what turned out to be a doomed venture.
17. Monster Trucks
Monster Trucks seemed like a promising joint project on the surface, but the 2016 movie ended up becoming one of the biggest box-office bombs of the decade. The live-action/animation hybrid even boasted performances by big screen mainstays such as Amy Ryan, Danny Glover, Rob Lowe and more. Cinemagoers, however, weren’t interested.
Despite a production budget of $125 million, Monster Trucks was met with a tepid response by moviegoers. So much so, in fact, that it almost matched its budget in terms of revenue loss. Evidently, the tale of a runaway monster in a truck didn’t entice audiences all that much.
16. Hart’s War
You would think that a historical thriller featuring Bruce Willis and Colin Farrell would generate huge interest. After all, it was released at a time when Farrell was beginning to break into Hollywood, and Willis was going through somewhat of a career renaissance. In reality, however, that didn’t prove to be the case.
Entitled Hart’s War, this 2002 take on a prison camp during the Second World War only managed to net $32 million at the box office. That stands as a major loss considering its production budget was almost double that amount. From a critical standpoint, though, opinions were quite varied. Unfortunately, there’s no debate over the disappointing numbers it garnered at theaters.
15. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
As one of the most successful gaming franchises in history, Final Fantasy has developed a worldwide following due to its unique gameplay and mature storyline developments. Surely then, the idea of branching this beloved series off into the world of cinema would be a good one? Well, not exactly.
Released in 2001, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was quite the technological marvel for its time. However, it still failed to capture cinema audiences. Whether this was due to its storyline shortcomings or moviegoers’ disinterest in a video game spin-off, the results were the same – a very poor financial performance.
14. The Adventures of Pluto Nash
Around the early to mid-naughties, popular actor and comedian Eddie Murphy hit a bit of a rough patch due to appearances in forgettable flicks like Norbit and Showtime. Arguably, though, the worst offender of all of these projects was The Adventures of Pluto Nash. Reports state that this one lost somewhere in the ballpark of $100 million.
The sci-fi adventure movie failed to deliver upon its release in 2002. It was, however, nominated for several awards, but sadly, not for the right reasons. Yes, it was shortlisted in five categories at the annual Raspberry Awards – a ceremony solely dedicated to highlighting the worst in cinema. And to top it all off, the rating for the flop still sits at a pitiful four percent on Rotten Tomatoes.
13. Titan A.E.
Released in June 2000, Titan A.E. was designed to be a big summer blockbuster thanks to its glossy C.G.I. effects and impressive ensemble cast. Quite honestly, it had to be, due to its whopping production budget. An estimated loss of $100 million, then, definitely wasn’t in the script, but that’s exactly what happened.
The hi-tech animation differs from most box-office bombs by actually being an enjoyable and worthwhile adventure. Its dazzling visuals and commendable plot, however, failed to draw large swathes of cinemagoers. Indeed, its commercial performance was so poor that even a video game adaptation was shelved because of it.
12. Cutthroat Island
Normally, holding a World Record would be something to be applauded. However, the people behind 1995’s action-adventure Cutthroat Island would probably rather nobody knew about theirs. That’s because their creation held the unenviable plaudit of being History’s Biggest Box Office Bomb for quite some time.
In hindsight, it seems like the writing was already on the wall for Cutthroat Island. And that’s due to several huge problems that came up during production, ranging from financial difficulties to marketing issues. All in all, a figure in the range of almost $150 million has been touted as the total loss for this sunken pirate flick.
11. Mortal Engines
As one of the more recent entries on this list, the 2018 adventure movie Mortal Engines certainly didn’t lack ambition. With an outrageous production budget and solid acting talent, the story of two renegades attempting to bring down a secret cabal looked like it could be Hollywood’s next big blockbuster. Sadly, things went down rather differently.
The movie marked the directorial debut of Christian Rivers – something which the inexperienced man behind the camera may now regret. That’s because the doomed project lost the studio a staggering $175 million. Even praise from the author of the novel on which the movie was based from couldn’t bring this one back from the depths of Hollywood’s scrapheap.
10. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
British director Guy Ritchie is best known for cult favorites such as Snatch and Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. However, you’d be forgiven for missing his 2017 fantasy project King Arthur: Legend of the Sword. This one, in fact, went over the head of most people.
With a budget in excess of $175 million, the undeniably ambitious motion picture was always going to face an uphill battle when it came to recouping costs at the box-office. Even David Beckham’s big-screen debut couldn’t save the critically-mauled flick. Inevitably, a loss of around $150 million meant that the five planned sequels were halted indefinitely.
Peter Pan is, to this day, one of the most captivating and fantastical children’s stories ever created. Indeed, its endurance can’t be understated, as evidenced by the various different takes on it in several entertainment mediums. And in 2015, that medium was film. That year, a glossy re-imagining of the character’s origin, Pan, was released. The movie promised to be a worthwhile creation, but unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out that way.
Eclectic filmmaker Joe Wright was successful with the likes of Atonement and Hanna. Pan didn’t follow suit, however. It was deemed by most critics to be stale from a storytelling viewpoint and too reliant on special effects. Add to this a general lack of star power, as well as some tonal issues and you’ve got the makings of a $100 million box-office flop.
The Brad Bird-helmed 2015 sci-fi adventure Tomorrowland certainly had an interesting premise as far as big blockbusters go. And with superstar George Clooney leading the charge in the main role, what could go wrong? Well, presumably everything, as the Disney production allegedly lost the studio up to $140 million when all was said and done.
Focusing on an alternate dimension, Tomorrowland struggled to transfer what was on paper onto the big screen. To compound the clear struggles in the film-making department, there was also a very costly marketing campaign for the movie. And despite the expense, it seemingly did nothing to protect this movie from bombing at the box-office.
7. Mars Needs Moms
Animation movies can be a risky proposition for studios. Big budgets are typically required to bring them to life, which, unsurprisingly, can lead to big losses at the box-office. Throw in the high caliber acting talent that typically gets involved, and you’ve got the potential of the whole project getting out of hand if audiences don’t lap it up.
With that in mind, meet Mars Needs Moms. This animation failed to deliver on all fronts. Even if you put aside the disturbing premise of a child losing his mother due to an abduction, the film’s poorly timed release and wonky special effects sparked very little interest in the end. Mars might may well need moms, but evidently, audiences didn’t need this doomed project.
6. 47 Ronin
Actor Keanu Reeves has enjoyed much success throughout his career, with starring roles in the likes of The Matrix, The Devil’s Advocate, John Wick, and many other popular motion pictures. Sadly, 2013’s 47 Ronin won’t be taking up room on his top movies list anytime soon.
On a grand budget of $175 million, this stylish 2013 flick about the shadowy 1700s samurai group 47 Ronin failed to make back that huge cost, ultimately losing the studio somewhere in the region of $150 million. Given that, it’s unlikely that Universal will be rushing to follow it up with a sequel anytime soon.
5. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas
Believe it or not, there was once a time when animation giant DreamWorks was in real danger of falling apart at the seams. While it has since returned to the top of its field, 2003 marked a worrying time for the studio. And no film highlighted this more than the failed Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas.
Featuring the likes of Brad Pitt, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Catherine Zeta-Jones, the movie regrettably didn’t feature top notch visuals or a spellbinding plot. All of this culminated in a tragic release which saw DreamWorks lose a staggering $170 million at the box-office. The studio would rise like a phoenix once again, but this costly misstep certainly didn’t help its cause.
4. A Wrinkle in Time
This 2018 sci-fi adventure movie appeared to have all the makings of a very marketable kid’s movie thanks to its strong cast and imaginative plot devices. Somehow, though, A Wrinkle in Time turned out to be the exact opposite. Indeed, it was met with a rather subdued opening weekend at the box-office.
That weekend was no anomaly, either, as the movie continued to perform badly throughout its run. Ultimately it lost the studio an outrageous $130 million when the dust had finally settled. Incredibly, even media titan Oprah Winfrey’s role in the film couldn’t elicit interest on a mass level.
3. The 13th Warrior
On paper, 1999’s big-budget The 13th Warrior should have been box-office gold. Shot by acclaimed action director John McTiernan, and featuring Antonio Banderas in the lead role, surely huge profits awaited it. The finished product, however, didn’t quite hit the mark with cinemagoers. In fact, it wasn’t anywhere near capturing audiences in the way that McTiernan’s classic Die Hard did.
Besides Banderas, though, the film lacked any real star power. And even those on board weren’t able to haul this Viking tale out of the cold depths of obscurity. The levee broke when the film failed to make profit on its $160 million budget. Even worse, it lost the studio somewhere between $100 million and a stonking $200 million.
2. The Lone Ranger
Typically, Johnny Deep automatically equates to box-office success. That didn’t prove to be the case when he took on the role of Tonto in The Lone Ranger, however. Aesthetically pleasing to the eye, earning two Oscar nominations for its visual prowess along the way, critics ultimately panned the movie for its lack of depth and substance.
Clearly, cinemagoers agreed, as they decided to stay away from it in their droves. With an incredible budget of around $250 million, The Lone Ranger ended up losing anywhere between $100,000,000 and $200,000,000 depending on who you ask. And that’s not even taking into account the exorbitant marketing costs.
1. John Carter
When you’re talking about big Hollywood blockbusters flopping at the box-office, two words tend to come to mind: John Carter. That title is surely still haunting those involved in its creation as the movie is widely considered the biggest box-office bomb ever produced. And it’s probably no surprise in hindsight given its ginormous budget totaling over $260 million.
With figures like that, not making a loss was always going to be a struggle. However, breaking even was the least of Disney’s worries. The release of the futuristic action spectacle eventually resulted in a massive loss ranging anywhere from $120 million to $200 million. The numbers don’t lie, and with losses like those, it’s hard to argue against John Carter being the biggest box-office bomb of all time.