Movies are an expensive business. To create a spectacle that truly gets people out of their homes and into theaters, you need talent – and talent costs a lot of money.
We’re not just talking about big name actors – we’re talking about elaborate sets and costumes, complex special effects and complicated camerawork. All of this requires countless hours of work by dozens – sometimes hundreds – of professionals, and sometimes, despite the best efforts of these talented individuals, movies fail to come together. It can be because of time constraints, bad direction or even bad marketing, but sometimes, movies that have had millions of dollars sunk into them simply fail to take off – and can take entire film studios down with them.
Let’s take a look at some of the most expensive financial failures in film history: how many of them have you seen?
Have you heard of Titan A.E? No? Well, that’s probably one of the reasons this film cost 20th Century Fox $100 million.
The science fiction animated film, released in 2000, had an all-star cast which included the likes of Matt Damon and Drew Barrymore, two star-directors who’ve animated classics like The Land Before Time, Anastasia and All Dogs Go to Heaven and a cutting edge, ground-breaking animation department.
Still, despite its stunning visuals and solid story, the movie just failed to capture audiences, and, even after grossing around $30 million at the box office, ended up costing the studio around $100 million.
The Adventures of Pluto Nash
The Adventures of Pluto Nash is a light-hearted science fiction comedy that features the talent of Eddie Murphy, who plays a man named Pluto Nash who lives on the moon in the distant future. After crooks steal his night club from him, Nash heads out on a wacky adventure to win his club back from them.
The movie, released in 2002, had all the elements needed for becoming a smash hit: special effects, a rousing story, and, of course, Eddie Murphy.
But while Warner Bros. thought they had a hit on their hands – and invested $100 million in it, accordingly – they were soon hit with the reality that their movie made just $7 million in theaters – costing the studio $96 million, after marketing was taken into account.
Jack the Giant Slayer
In 2013, New Line Cinema released Jack the Giant Slayer – an exciting family adventure based on the timeless fairytale of Jack and the Beanstalk.
Starring Nicholas Hoult, who would later become famous for his portrayal of War Boy Nux in Mad Max: Fury Road and Beast in the X-Men films, Jack the Giant Slayer was expected to be a blockbuster success. Unfortunately, that was not the case in any way, shape or form. The film flopped, and cost New Line around $125 million.
47 Ronin was a bit of a gamble from the get-go.
Its director, Carl Rinsch, was young and fairly inexperienced, so when when Universal Pictures decided to give him a high budget feature film to direct, starring none other than Keanu Reeves, they put a lot of faith in him.
Unfortunately, the movie wasn’t successful at the box office, and was widely panned by critics, and ended up costing the studio $98 million. Ouch.
2016’s The BFG should have been a success. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
Based on one of the most popular and beloved children’s novels of all time, featuring spectacular special effects, and directed by none other than Steven Spielberg, it had everything going for it. The studios were sure they had a summer blockbuster on their hands.
The film wasn’t considered bad by critics, but it faced harsh competition from other movies released around the same time. It failed to fill theaters, and ended up costing the studios over $100 million.
How Do You Know
When Sony Pictures managed to secure Reese Witherspoon, Jack Nicholson and Paul Rudd for their 2010 romantic comedy, How Do You Know, they thought they had a sure thing on their hands.
Sure, they had to shell out $100 million for production costs, but with a cast like that, you can’t go wrong. Right?
Unfortunately, even the A-list cast couldn’t help the film get off the ground and find its audience. And while it did make around $50 million at the box office, after advertising and promotional costs, the studio ended up taking a $85-$118 million hit.
The Lone Ranger
It seems the production of The Lone Ranger was doomed to fail from the very beginning. Plagued by ever rising production costs, on-set injuries by multiple stunt people and cast members and difficult weather, shooting the film was deemed so difficult that Walt Disney Pictures considered cancelling it halfway through.
They ultimately decided to give it a shot, but even with Johnny Depp at the helm, the movie failed to find its audience, and ended up costing the studio $100 million.
Back in 1999, the Wachowski siblings directed one of the most successful, iconic and influential films of all time: The Matrix.
Sixteen years later, however, when they took on the direction of 2015’s Jupiter Ascending, they weren’t able to find the same levels of success.
Despite an all star cast which included Hollywood giants like Channing Tatum and Mila Kunis, stunning visuals and staggeringly impressive CGI, the science fiction epic simply couldn’t catch the attention of audiences – and burnt a $110 million hole in Village Roadshow Pictures’ pocket.
Monster Trucks has a pretty fun premise. What if monster trucks actually had, well, monsters living inside them? It’s a neat idea, and when production started in 2014, Paramount Pictures thought they might just have the next big franchise on their hands. They hired heartthrob Lucas Till to play the leading role, and an extensive special effect crew to bring the truck monsters to life.
But when the film was finally released in 2016, both audiences and critics disliked it, and the film ended up costing Paramount $120 million in losses.
In 2010, roughly 40 miles off the Louisiana coast, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig hit a pocket of methane gas as it was drilling the world’s deepest underwater oil well. The resulting explosion created one of history’s worst environmental disasters, popularly named “the BP Oil Spill.”
But while the ensuing ecological ramifications that raged in the Gulf of Mexico as a result spelled disaster, six years later, when Hollywood decided to make a movie about the event, they thought they’d have a hit on their hands.
Unfortunately, the resulting film, titled Deepwater Horizon and starring Mark Whalberg, was a disaster as well – albeit, on a smaller scale.
Still, $60 million in losses are a pretty big hit to take.
Basic Instinct 2
1992’s Basic Instinct was one of the most discussed and iconic films of its time. Starring Sharon Stone at the height of her career, the film’s risqué subject matter and strong writing pulled audiences in by the millions.
So when C2 Pictures decided to make a sequel in 2005, it seemed like the odds were stacked in their favor.
Unfortunately, the film tanked, and cost its makers $32 million – although, it did manage to make them back after it was released on home media.
Delgo, a 2008 CGI romantic comedy fantasy adventure, features the talents of Freddie Prinze Jr., Jennifer Love Hewitt, Anne Bancroft, Chris Kattan, Louis Gossett Jr., Val Kilmer and Malcolm McDowell.
It also has the distinguished honor of being the lowest grossing computer animated feature film in history.
Despite winning the “Best Feature” award at the Anima Mundi animated film festival, the film was widely panned by critics, and ended up losing over $46 million against its $40 million production budget, after it earned less than $1 million in theaters.
Films set in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe often feel like they can’t fail. With X-Men, Spiderman, The Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy all breaking records and setting trends, it’s easy to forget that some films in the franchise didn’t do so well.
2015’s Fantastic Four was one of them.
Despite the popularity of the long running Fantastic Four comics, Fox studios, who produced the 2015 reboot, weren’t %100 behind the film, and weren’t able to secure the A-list actors who drive the rest of Fox’s Marvel films’ popularity. As a result, buzz around the film was low, and audiences simply failed to show up – resulting in a $80-$100 million loss.
Ryan Reynolds is a really successful actor today – and much of his success is due to his portrayal of a superhero on the big screen: the fourth wall-breaking Deadpool.
But before Reynolds joined the Marvel Universe as the fast talking “Merc with a Mouth,” he tried his hand in portraying DC Comics’ iconic Green Lantern in 2011, alongside Blake Lively, whom he would marry a year later. Green Lantern is a decidedly bad film, with horrible graphics and a ludicrous story, and Reynolds has washed his hands of the film several times – including a few times while in character as Deadpool.
The film was a major financial bust, costing the studios something to the tune of a whopping $100 million – but it did pay itself back in the form of Deadpool jokes and one of Hollywood’s greatest couples.
On paper, R.I.P.D. sounds like a pretty great movie: Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges team up to work as part of a supernatural crime fighting duo in a comedic, action packed buddy cop adventure. What’s not to like?
Unfortunately, as it turns out – there’s quite a lot not to like.
The film, despite its strong premise, was disliked across the board by both audiences and critics, and lost something between $100-$120 million – a sum which helped it join the dubious ranks of some of the least financially successful films in history.
Gods of Egypt
2016’s Gods of Egypt was a very ambitious undertaking. An epic fantasy adventure set in ancient Egypt and drawing from its mythology’s rich pantheon of gods and monsters, the film attempted to create a visual style that had never before been seen in Hollywood productions. In short, Gods of Egyptwanted to be the next 300 – and even cast Gerard Butler as a result.
But as soon as the film’s first trailer hit the internet, people were skeptical. The film looked like a computer game, and the all-white cast playing ancient Egyptians felt discordant.
When the film finally hit theaters, viewers’ fears were confirmed – and the movie went on to lose around $90 million.
Cowboys vs. Aliens
Cowboys vs. Aliens had a pretty good chance of succeeding. Starring Daniel Craig, Olivia Wilde and Harrison Ford, and directed by Iron Man director Jon Favreau, the film had a fresh premise, an all star cast and a solid director all working in tandem to create what should have been a fun summer blockbuster.
And when the movie first hit theaters, critics were actually very positive about it!
But something about the film just didn’t work for audiences. Maybe it was the juvenile-sounding name, or bad publicity work, but people just didn’t show up to watch the sci-fi western, and the expensive production ended up losing a whopping $75 million.
Ben-Hur, remade (2016)
Back in 1959, William Wyler’s Charlton Heston-led Ben-Hur was more than just an epic film. It was one of the most successful films of all times, and went on to win eleven Academy Awards.
So remaking it in 2016 was a bit of a questionable undertaking from the get go. How do you compete with Charlton Heston and William Wyler, especially when you’ve cast a relative unknown – Jack Huston – in the lead role?
The answer is – you can’t.
It didn’t help that the film’s publicity was quite limited and that its release took many film goers by surprise – and so, the film lost something between $76-$120 million.
2017’s Justice League may not have exactly lost money, but the amount of money it did make absolutely did not justify the time, effort and money that went into it, considering it was one of the highest budget films in history.
With a budget of over $300 million, it managed to make barely $657 million in the box office, only returning the money invested in it once. That’s not to say that a $300 million profit is meaningless – but other, far less expensive films, including the recently released Aquaman, have gone on to make much more, with much smaller budgets.
Tomorrowland is another great idea that simply wasn’t executed well. For it, George Clooney teamed up with Disney to create a movie about a magical, secret land full of inventors and mad science that inspired the World Fair and, ultimately, Disneyland itself.
Based on the popular Disneyland attraction – like Pirates of the Caribbean – the movie should have been a hit – but the concept was a bit too complex to convey in trailers, and movie goers and fans just didn’t show up. Tomorrowland lost between $80-$155 million as a result, and Disney took a major financial hit.
Peter Pan is one of the most popular IPs (“Intellectual Property”) ever. It’s spawned countless movie adaptations, cartoons, comics, books and games over the years, and people can’t seem to get enough of it.
Which would explain why Warner Bros. felt comfortable giving their Peter Pan sequel, simply titled Pan, a budget that amounted to something like $200-$275 million. Sure, that meant the film would need to make at least $400 million for them to see a profit – but we’re talking Peter Pan, here! Of course it’ll make a profit. Right?
Sadly – wrong. The movie made $150 million in the box office, which wasn’t nearly enough to cover the film’s expenses, and was declared a major flop.
Sahara was based on an internationally best-selling book by the same name, written by award winning and New York Times best-selling author, Clive Cussler.
Featuring the talents of Penelope Cruz and Matthew McConaughey, and distributed by Paramount, the film was produced with a budget of $160 million, and promoted with live tours, multiple trailers and TV spots – all of which cost several millions more.
Despite the A-list cast and heavy promotion, the film only made about $119 million, and ultimately cost the production something between $78-$105 million.
Many may not know this, but Edgar Rice Burroughs, the author who invented the character of Tarazan, was also the author of a popular fantasy/science fiction book series, called Barsoom. In it, he told the tale of John Carter, an American Civil War Confederate Army captain who somehow finds himself on Mars – and in the middle of a war between the various sentient races that inhabit the red planet.
In 2012, Disney decided they would turn the popular – and very visually ambitious – books into a film franchise. Burroughs epic vision of Mars required a staggering budget: around $300 million.
The film’s production was plagued by fights with the studio, and while the film did go on to make around $280 million at the box office, it ultimately cost Disney $200 million, which ensured we won’t see any sequels to the first film any time soon.
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
King Arthur: Legend of the Sword still sounds like a pretty cool movie, even now. Directed by Guy Ritchie and starring Sons of Anarchy’s Charlie Hunnam in the lead role, the film was made with a $175 million budget.
Unfortunately, the film was released alongside Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and the Marvel space epic proved to be too much competition, even with the further $100 million Arthur spent on marketing.
Arthur made less than $150 million, costing the studios $150 million in losses.