As of this writing, 30 movies have joined the “billion-dollar club” by grossing ten figures at the box office worldwide. Adjusting for inflation, that number grows to 38– though, for purposes of this list, only the films that have grossed over a billion actual dollars were considered.
Despicable Me 3 is currently within striking distance of the achievement, and will reach that goal if it can earn a little over $50 million more before it ends its worldwide theatrical run. And while it’s unlikely that Wonder Woman will get the additional $200 million it needs to hit 1 billion, it is still in active release in many markets and only just came out in Japan on August 25th, so it’s not completely out of the question.
That said, profitability and quality aren’t always one and the same. Excellent movies often flop at the box office, and subjectively terrible movies can rake in the dough. Sometimes it’s a matter of critics just being too hard on loud, fun Hollywood blockbusters, and other times it’s lackluster movies that had impressive enough hype to pack in audiences early and cash out quickly before the negative word of mouth could catch up.
At any rate, there have been times when movies that have earned a third comma in their financial tallies just didn’t have the critical praise to match their impressive receipts.
Here are The 15 Worst Billion-Dollar Movies (According To Rotten Tomatoes).
Avatar certainly isn’t a bad movie, and an 83% Rotten Tomatoes score is nothing to be ashamed of. But it’s also in the company of films like The Dark Knight, Toy Story 3, and Return of the King, considered among the best movies ever made– so it is definitely fair to call Avatar among the “worst” of the billion-dollar bunch.
There is also the matter of James Cameron’s visually spectacular film gaining a fair amount of backlash in the months following its record-breaking box office run, with people beginning to see how relatively unremarkable the core of the movie actually is once you get past how beautiful it looks. Avatar is also a frequent inclusion on lists of movies that perhaps didn’t deserve their best-picture nominations– though at least it didn’t win.
Still, Avatar‘s incredible $2.8 billion theatrical run is impressive no matter how you feel about the movie itself, and it’s a record that will likely stand for a long time. Unless Avatar 2, 3, 4, or 5 surpasses it.
14. Furious 7
The first Fast and Furious to cross the billion-dollar threshold also happens to be the series’ best-reviewed installment at 80%, but being the best F&F doesn’t necessarily put you among the best of all films.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly why Furious 7 more than doubled the already impressive worldwide tally of the previous film, Fast and Furious 6, but it being the farewell to Paul Walker’s character following the actor’s death during filming likely had a lot to do with the high turnout.
That said, many critics complained about the movie’s bloated running time– 2+ hours is a long time to spend watching buff dudes punch each other and drive cars off things- and overstuffed cast that includes 20+ relatively major characters to keep tabs on. The absurd plot also relies on such contrived devices as bringing back characters that were presumed dead.
13. Iron Man 3
With the original Iron Man kicking off the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe, it seemed fitting that Robert Downey Jr. in his robotic suit would get the privilege of being the introduction to the so-called second phase of the MCU. Unfortunately, Iron Man 3 succumbed to the curse that has befallen so many movie franchises: things fall apart in the third installment.
To be fair, Iron Man 3 is no Spider-Man 3 or X-Men: The Last Stand, but it is one of the weakest entries in the entire MCU thus far. While Captain America: Civil War ended up being basically an Avengers installment, Iron Man 3 at least kept the focus on its titular character and those closest to him. That still doesn’t keep the movie from giving in to a few too many lazy tropes, like introducing a kid sidekick and having forced relationship drama with no real stakes and too easy of a resolution.
Compared to its MCU successor Thor: The Dark World (66%), Iron Man 3‘s 79% doesn’t seem all that bad– but it’s still a disappointing entry in what was initially the anchoring franchise of the entire MCU.
12. Avengers: Age of Ultron
There’s no doubt about it: Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe was wildly inconsistent in quality. Disappointing Iron Man and Thor sequels were followed by the stellar second Captain America movie and the unexpectedly awesome Guardians of the Galaxy. It’s only fitting, then, that Phase Two’s core Avengers installment be just as inconsistent.
The first Avengers movie defied all expectations and managed to pull together a team of big-name superheroes, played by equally big-name actors, into a movie that was as crowd-pleasing as it was critically acclaimed. It was definitely a tough act to follow, and while writer/director Joss Whedon did his best, Age of Ultron ultimately couldn’t quite recapture the magic of the original. All the pieces are there, and it’s a fun ride while it lasts, but none of it feels all that memorable and it was mostly forgotten by the time moviegoers got home from the theater.
It wasn’t until Captain America: Civil War that the superhero team got a movie that actually took them in an interesting new direction and wasn’t just a glorified victory lap. Ultron‘s 75% RT score next to Civil War‘s 90% speaks for itself.
11. Jurassic World
As beloved a franchise as Jurassic Park is, most of that goodwill is from the excellent 1993 original. People love the first movie so much that the series has been able to release one disappointing sequel after another in the hopes of it containing just a nibble of the wonder that the original had.
Fortunately, the JP brand holders didn’t give up after Jurassic Park III became the lowest-grossing entry in the series– which is pretty bad, since even terrible part threes in trilogies often still end up being the most profitable of the bunch. They just decided to wait 14 years to really build up nostalgia for the series before bringing it back with Jurassic World.
A reboot in spirit that is technically a sequel, Jurassic World definitely made its namesake proud with a $1.6 billion box office tally. After the previous two Jurassic movies failed to clear a 51% on Rotten Tomatoes, World‘s 72% was definitely a step in the right direction. Still, critics felt the movie lacked the scare factor of the original, complained about the tacked-on romance subplot, and said it felt sillier and less realistic than the original.
10. Beauty and the Beast
Disney is really doubling down on the live-action remakes of its animated classics– and with two of them breaking the billion-dollar barrier at the box office, it’s not hard to see why. The better of the two– we’ll be getting to the other later– is Beauty and the Beast, a live-action remake of the first animated movie in history to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
Only a company with the confidence of Disney would try to do a live-action remake of one of the best-loved animated movies of all time, but even the Mouse House doesn’t quite pull it off. Disney knew better than to tinker too much with the original’s formula, which ironically is where the new one falters. If you’re going to remake a movie, there needs to be a compelling reason to do so, and you need to have a different angle you’re coming at it from.
Beauty and the Beast 2017 is essentially a carbon copy of Beauty and the Beast 1991, and what little it does differently isn’t nearly enough to justify its existence creatively. With animation being timeless, there’s no reason not to just rewatch the excellent original over this 70%-scoring redux.
9. The Fate of the Furious
Sure, the latest Fast and Furious movie became the second installment in franchise history to break a billion dollars– but it also had the worst critical reception in the series since 2009’s Fast Five. At only 66%, The Fate of the Furious saw a significant dip in quality from Furious 7, and even great cast additions like Charlize Theron weren’t enough to make up for the absence of longtime series star Paul Walker.
The general critical consensus is that Fate lacks a consistent tone and struggles to define itself after the loss of the actor who had always been the franchise’s heart and soul. After Furious 7 did such a great job of actually being genuinely emotional, to follow that up with a movie that is little more than a mishmash of random action setpieces with wise-cracking dude-bros feels like several steps backward for a series that was beginning to rise above being yet another loud, forgettable Hollywood action franchise.
8. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Once upon a time, when a novel was adapted into a movie, the entire thing had to fit into a single film. Sometimes this meant that a lot of content had to be cut, but it never even crossed anyone’s mind to try and stretch a single book across multiple movies– that is, until Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows got split up into a “Part 1” and a “Part 2.”
After that, all bets were off, especially since that strategy had the side effect of doubling the profits. That is why Peter Jackson was allowed to turn the novel The Hobbit into an entire trilogy of films.
The problem is that The Hobbit isn’t even a particularly long book. Stretching it out to multiple nearly three-hour films meant a lot padding, especially in the first installment. The Unexpected Journey doesn’t even see Bilbo Baggins leave his village for nearly 45 excruciating minutes– and even then, things don’t really pick up all that much. Compared to how acclaimed the Lord of the Rings movies are, a 64% RT score a major disappointment for a Middle-Earth movie.
While Disney/Pixar and Dreamworks were once the main studios battling for animated movie supremacy, Illumination Entertainment has made a sizable dent in that market in recent years with hits like Sing, The Secret Life of Pets, and its breakout hit, Despicable Me.
In fact, the Despicable Me trilogy has grossed a staggering $2.5 billion, and as previously mentioned, part three is in striking distance of hitting 1 billion on its own.
However, it is the spin-off movie focused on the gibberish-talking yellow creatures that were just the sidekicks in the Despicable Me films that has really raked in the cash. The standalone Minions movie brought in over $1.5 billion all by itself, not bad for a movie starring characters that only speak a handful of recognizable words– and the most noteworthy of which is “banana.”
Unsurprisingly, the much more slapsticky, younger-children-focused movie isn’t nearly as good as the Despicable Me movies– which, it should also be noted, have been getting progressively worse anyway– and only earned a 56% on Rotten Tomatoes. And, as any parent who has had to sit through the braindead movie multiple times can attest to, that score is probably generous.
6. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace
Now that Star Wars movies are good again, we can finally stop picking on the prequel trilogy, right? Well, not today.
While it may be true that no movie could’ve possibly been good enough to satisfy Star Wars fans who’d grown up with the originals and had waited 16 years for a new entry, The Phantom Menace was still a misguided effort full of weak writing, weak performances, and surprisingly weak CGI. George Lucas just seemed to make all the wrong choices with the movie, spending way too much time on pod racing and barely any time on much-hyped new villain Darth Maul, who is dead by the end of the movie!
All that said, the hype train that led up to Phantom Menace‘s release was one of the grandest and most aggressive in movie history, and combined with the years of anticipation, there was no way the movie wasn’t going to be a massive hit. And so it easily cruised past a billion dollars in grosses despite its 55% Rotten Tomatoes score.
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
When the first Pirates of the Caribbean film was announced, it seemed like a joke: “Wait, you mean it’s based on that ride?!” But it ended up being a surprisingly fun movie that saw Johnny Depp take on his now iconic role of Captain Jack Sparrow. Unfortunately, it ended up creating a few monsters– it made Johnny Depp forget that he used to pick riskier, more complex roles and completely give into easy, forgettable paydays; and it made Disney think we needed four sequels.
While the first Pirates movie was a smash hit, few expected just how huge its first sequel would be, eventually sailing past the billion dollar mark back when that milestone was fairly rare and wasn’t hit by one or two movies each year. However, the quality had come way down already, dropping down to a Rotten Tomatoes score of 54% from the original’s 79%.
Well, nobody quits on a billion-dollar franchise, and Disney cranked out three more sequels– with progressively worse scores. But did any hit 1 billion again? Stick with this list and you may find out…
4. Alice in Wonderland
After the incredible success of Pirates of the Caribbean, Disney had found a new golden boy in Johnny Depp. The problem was, the movies that Depp was making with Disney weren’t actually very good. So when it was announced that longtime Depp collaborator Tim Burton was going to be directing a live-action version of Alice in Wonderland, the world hoped that we’d see a return to the magic of the duo’s glory days.
What we got was the 51%-scoring Alice in Wonderland; a visually-interesting but ultimately uninspired take on the classic tale that lacked the magic of the original story, the classic Disney animated version, or Depp’s better work.
Among the worst offenses was Depp’s take on the Mad Hatter, which– not unlike his version of Willy Wonka in Burton’s version of that tale– tried to walk the line between whimsical and downright creepy and far too often fell firmly into the latter camp.
The movie made over a billion dollars though, so Disney made a sequel— which was about a third as good and made about a third of the money. Its only redeeming quality is that it made the first one seem that much better by comparison.
3. Transformers: Dark of the Moon
The monstrous success of the Transformers series has been strange, to say the least. Hardly anyone is willing to proudly vouch for the movies, critics hate them, and even former star Shia LeBeouf couldn’t stop ragging on them. And yet, the franchise has grossed nearly $4.5 billion and is currently the 11th highest-grossing movie series of all time – and did so across only six installments. By comparison, it has more than half of James Bond‘s tally, which took 26 movies to get there.
From a critical standpoint, the only Transformers movie that even got close to being fresh via Rotten Tomatoes was the first one, with 57%. Dark of the Moon is the next-highest rated installment, but it only has a pitiful 35%. It’s hard to even pinpoint the exact reasons why the movie is so bad other than to say that it’s a Michael Bay film, so it’s full of explosions, scantily-clad women, people screaming and pumping their fists, and actors giving wooden performances of stilted dialogue while the camera pans and zooms around them in absurd ways.
2. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Disney should’ve just quit while they were ahead when the third Pirates movie failed to match the box office receipts of Dead Man’s Chest. But the company obviously knows what it’s doing, because against all common sense, enough people went to see the fourth installment, On Stranger Tides, that it became the second movie in the franchise to surpass $1 billion in box office tallies.
To be fair, Penelope Cruz is a nice replacement for Keira Knightley and brings a lot of charm and sass to the role of Jack Sparrow’s partner-in-crime. But that’s about all Tides really has going for it. Depp’s portrayal of Sparrow had already overstayed its welcome by then, Geoffrey Rush’s Barbossa– arguably the best character in the whole franchise– isn’t given enough to do, and the whole movie just feels like one expensive setpiece after another with very little heart behind any of it.
At 32%, it had the worst Rotten Tomatoes score of any of the Pirates movies at that point, but it somehow still made a boatload of money. Disney really should have quit at that point, but it didn’t– and the next installment just barely made its money back.
1. Transformers: Age of Extinction
After Shia LeBeouf spent most of his Transformers career badmouthing the films, he was finally let go after the third movie and replaced with Mark Wahlberg starting with Age of Extinction. Wahlberg is a good fit for this kind of movie, and has been one of Hollywood’s more dependable action stars over the years.
But you can only do so much with the source material you’re given, and in this case, the material is the second-worst Transformers movie and the absolute worst billion-dollar movie by a large margin. At a paltry 15% on Rotten Tomatoes, it’s obvious that all quality control had gone out the window because the studio knew it would make a ton of money either way.
To its credit, the movie at least changed up the formula a bit. Mark Wahlberg’s protagonist is older than Sam Witwicky, and it’s his daughter who is the female foil. The always-great Stanley Tucci plays the second-most important character in the film rather than an empty-headed hottie, and Kelsey Grammar also joins the fray.
But it’s all still the same old Michael Bay shlock, with the novelty of seeing the Transformers in a live-action movie long since worn thin.
Which billion-dollar movie do you think is the worst? Sound off in the comments!
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