There was a time when it was almost easier to put a man on the moon than to release a movie that made over $100 million at the domestic box office.
The oldest films to earn $100 million were 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and 1939’s Gone with the Wind, although that was only after countless re-releases over the decades; the first picture to actually gross $100 million on its original run was 1965’s The Sound of Music. Other films clearing that $100M bar — classics like The Graduate, The Godfather, Jaws, and Star Wars — began popping up during the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Yet even with growing inflation and the increasingly popular distribution model that encouraged the wide release of movies in thousands of theaters nationwide, $100 million hits were far from the norm.
Of course, that has long since changed. Today, 672 movies have domestically earned over $100 million — by the end of 2017, that number will be around 700. Yet scattered among all these beloved blockbusters are a number of outright turkeys; many of them sequels, star vehicles, or movies propelled by incessant hype. Here, then, are the 15 Worst Movies To Gross Over $100 Million.
15. WILD WILD WEST
Will Smith’s nickname of “Mr. July,” earned after 1996’s Independence Day and 1997’s Men in Black both opened over July 4th weekends and went on to clean up at the box office, suffered a ding when Wild Wild West premiered during the same month in 1999. While the movie eventually broke the $100 million mark, it earned rancid reviews and required international aid to make back its sizable budget.
Based on the popular TV series from 1965-1969, Wild Wild West pits government agents James West (Smith) and Artemus Gordon (Kevin Kline) against the diabolical Arliss Loveless (Kenneth Branagh), a madman hellbent on taking over the United States. His plan involves the creation of an 80-foot-tall mechanical tarantula to employ in the kidnapping of President Ulysses S. Grant (also Kline).
Somehow, it required the combined brain power of no less than six writers to come up with a script crammed with daft scenarios and cringe-inducing exchanges. Kline, generally a terrific comedian, is never really allowed to cut loose, meaning his Artemus Gordon turns out to be something of a bore. As for Smith, his performance is assured if not entirely convincing — if anything, his flashy Western wear suggests that he’s ready to bring back The Village People. Still, the actor had no problem reclaiming the “Mr. July” moniker, thanks to subsequent summertime hits like Men in Black II and Hancock.
14. THE LAST AIRBENDER
While the animated Nickelodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender has been enjoyed by audiences of all ages, that wasn’t the case with writer-director M. Night Shyamalan’s ill-fated live-action adaptation. On the contrary, 2010’s The Last Airbender failed to capture the imagination of anyone over the age of 10.
Some decent effects work is the only ingredient providing any pulse to an otherwise poorly executed story of how one young lad, Aang (Noah Ringer), turns out to be the only person in his world with the ability to control all four elements. The negative reaction to the decidedly white-washed The Last Airbender was so pronounced that plans for Shyamalan to helm a pair of sequels were eventually shelved. That’s a blessing, since this initial effort is a clunky, soporific undertaking punctuated by some truly deficient dialogue.
Then again, maybe it’s a good thing pearls of prose weren’t wasted on this lackluster cast. No one makes an impression — even Dev Patel, charismatic as the Slumdog Millionaire and Oscar-nominated for Lion, comes across as a colorless novice in his role as Prince Zuko. Like everyone else in this dud about people controlling the elements, he’s clearly out of his.
13. LITTLE FOCKERS
Rumor has it that Dustin Hoffman deemed the script for 2010’s Little Fockers so wretched that he initially refused to have anything to do with the movie. Cut to the final product, with the actor having agreed to a revised screenplay that has him uttering lines like “You kids want to pick your nose and flick the boogers? But only the dry ones.” Needless to say, that’s a long way from the likes of “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me … Aren’t you?” and “I’m walking here! I’m walking here!”
Then again, Little Fockers is pretty much the basement for most of the accomplished actors squirming up there on the screen. Even those charitable folks who didn’t think Meet the Parents‘ first sequel, Meet the Fockers, was a sign of End Times will feel the comic desperation in this outing. A handful of modest chuckles quickly get buried by painful sequences like Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) sticking a needle into father-in-law Jack Byrnes’ (Robert De Niro) erect penis or Greg’s young son projectile-vomiting onto his dad.
12. WILD HOGS
David Fincher’s provocative 2007 drama Zodiac earned rave reviews yet opened with only $13 million on its way to a paltry $33 million haul. That same weekend in March, the moronic comedy Wild Hogs debuted with $39 million on its way to a $168 million take. Those are the sad facts; do with them what you will.
Four Cincinnati bunglers (John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy), each suffering though some pathetic form of mid-life crisis, decide to embark on a road trip to the West Coast. They mount their motorcycles with the intent of rediscovering life’s little pleasures, but it’s not long before these queasy riders have to cope with menacing bikers, “bomb”-dropping birds, and a gay caricature of a highway patrolman (John C. McGinley).
11. THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR
With a new mummy movie heading to theaters this summer, it might be tempting to revisit the financially lucrative trilogy starring Brendan Fraser. Resist the urge.
The 1999 yarn The Mummy was a light and frothy Indiana Jones rip-off and 2001’s The Mummy Returns was even less memorable. The worst, however, was 2008’s The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor, in which retired adventurer Rick O’Connell (Fraser) and his wife Evelyn (Maria Bello, replacing Rachel Weisz) mope around their English estate while grown son Alex (Luke Ford) is off digging up the remains of an evil emperor (Jet Li). Plot contrivances reunite all of them — plus Evelyn’s brother Jonathan (returning “comic relief” stooge John Hannah) — in Shanghai, and from there, the gang is forced to fight the now-revived emperor.
The sloppiness of the entire enterprise is immediately evident by the fact that the 27-year-old Ford looks nowhere near young enough to be playing the son of 39-year-old Fraser and 41-year-old Bello. The absurdities match the tedium – somehow, this picture manages to make even an epic battle between armies of the undead feel deadly boring.
10. CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN
The 2003 Cheaper by the Dozen is a remake of the 1950 film of the same name (itself based on a true story), but there are several key differences — for starters, the original movie doesn’t include a sequence in which a kid slips in the puddle of puke his brother produced moments earlier. Sure, it’s a gut-buster for the under-12 set, but adults will find this unendurable film’s humor on the sophomoric side and won’t appreciate that the “heartwarming” moments are more likely to cause heartburn.
As the dad forced to babysit a houseful of kids while Mom (Bonnie Hunt) tries to make it as an author, Steve Martin is sadly trapped in the sort of mawkish project that helped chip away at his once-vibrant career. Meanwhile, Ashton Kutcher appears uncredited, playing an annoying model-actor who not only realizes that his looks are his meal ticket but also admits that he has no acting talent whatsoever. Sometimes they make it too easy.
9. 300: RISE OF AN EMPIRE
A belated sequel to the 2007 international blockbuster 300, 2014’s 300: Rise of an Empire is wholly unnecessary from a narrative angle — after all, the hunky heroes from the first film all died. Instead, this elects to follow a group of Greek warriors whose adventures are largely running concurrent to those of the 300.
This follow-up attempts to emulate its predecessor’s visual palate but only winds up as an eyesore. The gore is neither realistic nor entertainingly over-the-top; instead, it appears storyboarded to death, with much of the bloodletting presented in studied slow motion.
As the antagonistic Artemisia, a warrior woman whose viciousness knows no bounds, an intense Eva Green is the only positive in the entire film, but the particulars of her role are troubling. In flashbacks, she’s presented as a young girl who witnesses the Greeks murder her father and rape and kill her mother. Then she’s tossed into a prison, where grotesque men repeatedly rape her throughout her childhood, before she’s thrown out onto the street to die. Bruce Wayne, for one, suffered far less and became the noble Batman, so shouldn’t she really be the heroine of this film?
8. FIFTY SHADES OF GREY
By emphasizing disastrous dialogue over steamy sex, the 2015 screen adaptation of E.L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey makes even Paul Blart: Mall Cop look like cutting-edge erotica by comparison.
For those few unaware of its premise, this finds the powerful businessman Mr. Grey (Jamie Dornan) catching the eye and libido of a college student named Anastasia Steele (Dakota Johnson). She wants a romantic relationship, but he’s all about BDSM — consequently, he urges her to sign a contract that states she will become the “submissive” to his “dominant” and must obey his every whim, particularly when it comes to sexual matters. And thus the template is set for the excruciatingly repetitive chats that dominate the proceedings. “Be my sex slave.” “Why can’t we go on dates?” “I don’t operate that way.” “Well, OK.” “Be my sex slave.” “Why can’t we go on dates?” Blather, wince, repeat.
The takeaway from this distressingly banal, unimaginative and downright boring film is that these two clearly should not be together, that Mr. Grey is a manipulative sadist for settling on this naïve virgin, and that Anastasia is foolish for trying to fundamentally change a person who’s set in his ways. Further compounding the problem is the simple fact that Johnson and Dornan have absolutely no chemistry.
7. ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS
The best thing that can be said about 2007’s Alvin and the Chipmunks is that it’s not quite as ghastly as Garfield: The Movie – another ill-conceived project that placed CGI animals in the real world. Here, Jason Lee is the hapless human who serves as the sacrificial-career lamb. He stars as Dave, a failed songwriter who has trouble getting close to anyone. It takes a talking, singing trio of chipmunks — Alvin, Simon and Theodore — to not only help him produce a smash single but also teach him the importance of friendship and family.
The three rodents’ lines are spoken by Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney, but their voices are so digitally altered that they might as well have been lip-synched by Hillary, Barack, and Donald. Then again, that speaks to the whole impersonal nature of the project, which has so little regard for the brand name’s nostalgia factor (it began life as a 1958 novelty record) that it updates the concept by briefly putting the trio in rappers’ outfits in one scene and allowing Simon to eat Theodore’s turd in another.
6. PATCH ADAMS
This abysmal 1998 release finds Robin Williams delivering a cloying performance as a medical student who believes in the adage “Laughter is the best medicine.”
Patch Adams does whatever it takes to bring smiles to the faces of the ill people around him — including dancing with bedpans on his feet and swimming in a pool filled with 12,000 pounds of wet noodles. But his unorthodox behavior stirs the wrath of the university’s humorless dean (Bob Gunton), who you know is the bad guy because his face is often lit from underneath. Patch also annoys a fellow physician (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who’s actually the most sensible character in the film but is treated by the hack filmmakers as a lout simply because he won’t wear a clown nose like the insufferable Adams.
Patch Adams offensively trots out every hoary plot device, no matter how improbable, exploitative, or downright imbecilic. Incidentally, the film is based on a real individual, Hunter “Patch” Adams. Needless to say, he despises this movie.
5. TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN
The first follow-up to 2007’s Transformers, 2009’s Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen proves to be the filmic equivalent of a 150-minute waterboarding session.
As before, two warring factions of intergalactic robots — the noble Autobots and the evil Decepticons — are waging their battle on our planet, with youngsters Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox) offering their support to the good ‘bots. The slugfests between these sworn enemies are stretched to interminable lengths, and by including more fights, explosions, and military hardware, there’s less room left for the character-driven interludes that made the original film watchable.
Director Michael Bay and his scripters received ample flack for including two “black” Transformers who sport buck teeth (one gold), admit to not being able to read, and cuss a lot — next to this pair, even Jar Jar Binks comes across as stately as James Earl Jones by comparison. Bay doesn’t believe in stooping too low, so he also includes two shots of dogs fornicating, a mini-Transformer humping Mikaela’s leg, a Transformer with flatulence problems, and a close-up of John Turturro’s thong-clad buttocks.
If 2011’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon manages to rank a sliver above Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, it’s only because, unlike its immediate predecessor, it avoids showing the swinging metallic testicles of a Decepticon.
4. GROWN UPS
One of Adam Sandler‘s worst films, 2010’s Grown Ups marked the umpteenth collaboration between the comedian and director Dennis Dugan. Dugan and the ostensible writers (Sandler and Fred Wolf) serve up a mirthless affair in which the only people laughing are the ones on screen.
In fact, that’s basically the plot of the movie: five school chums reunite 30 years later to honor the passing of their former coach, and Lenny (Sandler) makes a bad joke and the others laugh. Then Eric (Kevin James) makes a bad joke and the others laugh. And so on through Kurt (Chris Rock), Marcus (David Spade), and Rob (Rob Schneider). On top of this, James falls down, Spade falls down even more, Schneider continues to look like a man in need of a restraining order, and Rock and Sandler barely phone it in.
The most talented performers in the film – Salma Hayek, Maria Bello, and Maya Rudolph – are wasted in their roles as Stepford-like wives — in arrested-development movies like these, nerdy schlubs always have hot spouses. The film also forcefully pushes the notion that old people and unattractive people are only put on this planet for the amusement of past-their-prime comedians.
3. BATMAN & ROBIN
With such titles as 1997’s Steel, 2007’s Ghost Rider, and all versions of Fantastic Four in the mix, there’s no clear consensus on which comic book adaptation deserves to be dubbed the worst superhero film of all time. But surely a case can be made for 1997’s Batman & Robin.
Forsaking the savory mix of German Expressionism and Gothic grandeur that informed Tim Burton’s Batman and Batman Returns, director Joel Schumacher opted for buffoonish villains and lame wisecracks with Batman Forever. His sins on Batman & Robin were even more pronounced, aided in no small measure by the bubblegum script from Akiva Goldman and the miscasting of virtually every major role. As Batman/Bruce Wayne, George Clooney registers zero in terms of mystery or magnetism; equally tough to take are Chris O’Donnell and Alicia Silverstone, both irksome and insipid as, respectively, Robin and Batgirl. And then there’s Arnold Schwarzenegger as Mr. Freeze, delivering an endless succession of putrid puns in his standard sledgehammer fashion. By default, Uma Thurman comes off best as Poison Ivy, although even her purring Mae West routine grows tiresome.
2. THE CAT IN THE HAT
Poring over the classic Dr. Seuss book The Cat in the Hat, you’d be hard-pressed to locate the page on which the title feline, standing next to a garden tool, yells, “You dirty hoe!” and then flicks his tongue in a lascivious manner.
Clearly, 2003’s live-action adaptation of The Cat in the Hat is a catastrophe on all levels. If nothing else, 2000’s vilified How the Grinch Stole Christmas at least benefits from a smashing comic turn by Jim Carrey. Unlike Carrey’s unapologetically edgy work, though, Mike Myers’ shtick as the Cat is all one-note self-adulation, a feeble channeling of Bert Lahr’s Cowardly Lion by way of Jerry Lewis, Paul Lynde, and Myers’ own Austin Powers. It’s a terrible performance, at once unctuous and obnoxious.
Yet Myers is hardly the only problem. Because Dr. Seuss’ delightful yet slender story, about a mischievous cat whose home invasion ensnares two kids in his property-pummeling merriment, wouldn’t stretch out to feature length, the makers of this abomination add needless subplots involving a sleazy neighbor (Alec Baldwin) and an irksome neat freak (Sean Hayes). Meanwhile, all the cute characters from the original story (the goldfish, Thing One and Thing Two) have been visualized as creepy entities. Truthfully, there isn’t much in this crass and clueless movie that doesn’t inspire feelings of revulsion.
1. VAN HELSING
Watching 2004’s Van Helsing, it’s reasonable to wonder if anybody involved with the film has ever actually held a book in their hands, let alone read one.
Here, the text of Bram Stoker and Mary Shelley is treated as nothing more than toilet paper in the outhouse of writer-director Stephen Sommers’ imagination. Van Helsing’s influences aren’t Shelley and Stoker, or even Karloff and Lugosi — instead, the film lazily draws from modern touchstones of pop culture. It’s Indiana Jones and James Bond and Star Wars and Alien and so on, all presented as an endless video game with no human dimension but plenty of shoddy CGI effects.
Among the blasphemous creatures on parade are a touchy-feely Frankenstein monster (Shuler Hensley), a Wolf Man who seemingly moves at the speed of light and yet never seems able to catch anybody, and three vampiric brides who resemble nothing so much as sorority sisters peeved that the frat house keg has been tapped dry.
As Van Helsing, Hugh Jackman has shockingly been stripped of all charisma, while Richard Roxburgh ranks among the worst Draculas ever brought to the screen. It’s clear that Roxburgh — and, by extension, Sommers — viewed this project with disdain, and his unbearable smugness and misplaced air of superiority prove to be the final nails in the coffin of this monstrosity.
Which blockbuster do you find completely irredeemable? Let us know in the comments!