What makes a film a box office bomb? Not so long ago, it was pretty much all about who sold the most tickets in American theaters. But that’s not so much the case anymore. Overseas theatrical runs are adding so much to the coffers, and Hollywood is increasingly looking to China when investing and making creative decisions for big-budget movies. That makes choosing “bombs” a job that’s bigger than merely counting domestic ticket sales.
Expectations and perception are playing larger roles which become so influential, even bonafide money-making franchise films may see sequel plans undone. The underperforming Justice league, for example, is single-handedly turning DCEU plans on its head. On the flip side, the upcoming Pacific Rim: Uprising is coming, despite the first Pacific Rim losing almost $90 million domestically. Worldwide, this “flop” made $400 million and got a sequel. All of this goes to say: deciding what’s a bomb and what’s not has become more nuanced. But we took a crack at it!
Here are the 20 Biggest Box Office Bombs Of 2017.
20 Ghost in the Shell
Ghost in the Shell, a Scarlett Johansson vehicle based on one of the most beloved manga/anime franchises of all time, blew it big time in ticket sales. Despite boasting millions of fans in Japan, and millions more beyond – fans who have been waiting decades for a big-budget, live action version of Ghost in the Shell – the film didn’t even crack $200 million worldwide.
That’s after spending $110 million on production. And it’s fair to guess that the marketing costs piled on top of the release made this futuristic cyber-dud a huge money-loser. Was it a bad movie? Was it the whitewashing”casting decisions which pushed Caucasians over Asian actors to star in the film? Maybe the enhanced Mira Killian could figure that one out, but we can’t. This one ranked 57 for 2017 Box Office takes. Yikes!
19 Blade Runner 2049
The original Blade Runner has become such a legendary cult hit, it’s easy to forget that the Harrison Ford movie actually died at the theaters back in 1982, barely breaking even when taking international sales into account. So why should anyone expect history wouldn’t repeat itself?
Despite starring Ryan Gosling and coming in with great anticipation, the $150 million budget Blade Runner: 2049 only made $91 million here in the US. Its global totals hit almost $260 million – but come on! Ford was back in the mix, the production spared no expense on the visuals, and yet, they could not Replicant – um, we mean “replicate” – the expectations the studios had for the long-awaited sequel. As the franchise’s killer androids might say: “Wake up – time to die!” At the box office, that is.
18 Alien: Covenant
Just when you think nothing in the universe can truly stop the hive-minded Xenomorph threat, here comes Alien: Covenant to prove that all it takes is audience indifference. This sequel to the similarly floppy Prometheus was supposed to revitalize interest in the Alien franchise, but alas, it found no love on the theatrical circuit.
Falling over $20 million short of its $97 million budget at the domestic box office, and barely hitting 2.5 times those costs with worldwide ticket sales, Covenant is definitely not what “the company” wanted from its biological secret weapon. It’s been such a fiasco that reboot considerations are underway, possibly erasing all sequels except for Aliens. Now, if they could just get James Cameron back on the case, we might be interested in coming back for more.
17 Power Rangers
Power Rangers is the exact type of franchise studios salivate over. Why? Because the film is supposed to be just the start of it. Movies like this are all about fueling major toy sales. Just look at these characters: super-colorful superheroes with extraterrestrial origins, metal monsters, and wicked evil supervillains. It’s all tailor-made for toys, video games, Halloween costumes – except when the movie bombs this badly.
Coming off a $100 million production budget, Power Rangers only pulled a not-so-poewerful $142 million globally. It was a stunning blow for such a widely-popular legacy property, not only losing money, but losing credibility as franchise. The Power Rangers producers are probably wishing they could morph into better filmmakers right about now.
16 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales
Okay, before we get started, let’s talk about what Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales had going for it. Solid Disney franchise. Johnny Depp. Javier Bardem. Skeleton ghost sharks. This thing should have blown the competition out of the water. Instead, it sunk to Davy Jones’ locker at the domestic box office.
Made for a whopping $230 million, the movie barely broke $172 million in America, but worldwide, it sailed into great profitability, netting an impressive $795 million. So, was it a flop? Not in terms of return on investment. But if you can’t get domestic audiences to show up for pirates, top actors, and expensive special effects, you might think want to think twice before setting course for this franchise in the future.
15 The Dark Tower
When you combine one of the most popular Stephen King properties ever with some of the best actors working in movies today, it’s a total slam dunk, right? Not so for The Dark Tower, it would seem.
This adaptation of the modern master of literally horror’s interdimensional gunslinger tale didn’t make its $50 million production tab back domestically, and only scored $112 worldwide. Not even Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey could lure audiences, and mind you – this film was teed up to launch a franchise.
If only Roland Deschain could've done a trick-shot that would have hit the box office mark. Maybe the Tower should just destroy the universe after all. Or maybe we could wait to see if the upcoming TV series will be any better.
14 Transformers: The Last Knight
Those who may not fully understand geek culture that much might sometimes ask – how come the community disses Michael Bay so much? Our answer: just watch Transformers: The Last Knight and then get back to us. And a lot of other movies, too. It’s been fun to bust on the flamboyant director, but with this film, Bay's metallic franchise seems to have lost its shine.
Making $130 million domestically on a $217 million budget, there’s no way to disguise this failure, the way robots might do pretending they are cars, for example. On the other hand, it did make $600 million internationally. So we may be hit by Decepticons once again in the cinematic future. And more Mark Wahlberg, too.
13 Kong: Skull Island
In the original classic, King Kong was said not to have been felled by fighter planes. Instead, we were told, “It was beauty who killed the beast.” Has that changed with Kong: Skull Island? Can we now say that it was the terrible box office returns that killed our favorite hairy monster? Time will tell, and franchise expansions are already underway for the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong.
If not dead, domestic ticket sales have definitely taken a lot of fight out of the big ape. The movie failed to reach its reported $185 million production costs by almost $20 million. Yes, it did better globally, hitting $566.5 million, which will likely keep it going. Still, there’s no reason for the studio to go around beating its chest with such a lackluster performance in the jungles of American box office returns.
12 Justice League
Do we even really need to talk about the floppiness of this much-maligned superhero super-team launch pad of a movie? Justice League was the big bet for DC’s Extended Universe. After lackluster trials in the form of Man of Steel and Batman v Superman, and a blessing in the form of Wonder Woman, the big plans for Marvel’s cinematic metahuman rivals bet the whole farm on how this film would be received.
The verdict? Just $219 million at the domestic box office. And that’s coming off a terribly bloated budget reported to have reached $300 million, ballooning to that level in part due to the premature departure of director Zack Snyder and loads of reshoots by Joss Whedon. Again, the worldwide take spared the film from being a total loss – ending up with $626 million, but the disappointing returns have already caused ripples. Warner Bros. has shaken up its executive suite and the larger plans for DC films are on pause as the team regroups.
11 The Mummy
Remember when Tom Cruise was a never-fail box office draw? We sort of do, but with The Mummy, those memories are fading fast. The failure of Universal’s reboot of the undead Egyptian monster didn’t just shoot down the Top Gun star’s rep, it also derailed the much-hyped “Dark Universe” connected-franchise designs the studio had to bring back the classic horror properties which made their mark in the '30s, '40s, and '50’s. And those plans were huge: Johnny Depp as The Invisible Man, Javier Bardem as Frankenstein, and possibly Gal Gadot as The Bride of Frankenstein.
The domestic take missed production costs by $45 million. While the $409 million worldwide take helped make up for that $125 million budget, let’s just say The Mummy is threatening to unravel some Dark Universe hopes.
10 The Great Wall
What’s that? You never heard of The Great Wall? Probably just some weird foreign indie that the critics liked, but wasn’t meant for mainstream audiences? Well, how about a $150 million monster movie spectacle starring Matt Damon? Still never heard of it? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
This ambitious film was tailor-made for Chinese audiences, being the first English-language film from renowned director Zhang Yimou, director of the highly-praised Hero - starring Jet Li. But this movie was no hero at the box office. Pulling in a measly $45 million in the US, and barely doubling its production budget worldwide, this dud did indeed face a great wall – at least when it came to moviegoers. It’s a pity because Yimou’s career has borne many great lower-budget films. It may simply be that for filmmakers like him, bigger is not better.
9 XXX: The Return of Xander Cage
From the Chronicles of Riddick franchise to the blockbuster Fast and Furious series, the bald & buff Vin Diesel has come a long way from voicing the geek-favorite animated film The Iron Giant - he's a veritable moviemkaing force who has a hand in the production aspect of most movies he makes. But when it comes to XXX: The Return of Xander Cage, we need to ask: is this trip really necessary?
For this third installment in the "XXX" series, US audiences didn’t think so, at least. Losing $40 million on its $85 million budget domestically, it did far better overseas, netting almost $350 million. We’re still calling it a bomb, though, and if anyone wants to disagree, we will have but one response – “I am Groot!”
8 Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets
For hardcore comic book fans, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets was one of the greatest disappointments of all time. Based on the beloved series created by the legendary French master illustrator Moebius, and helmed by geek favorite Luc Besson, expectations for this sci-fi romp were literally out of this world. But this space dud fell into a box office black hole of dismal proportions.
Never mind the lousy $40.5 million earnings in America – this $177 million fiasco hit just $225 million worldwide. That meager $48 million dollar “profit” was almost certainly gobbled up by advertising and marketing costs. Beyond the obvious financial disappointment, fans still don't have a great live-action Moebius spectacle, and future hopes for more may be crushed as well. C’est la vie.
7 King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
For those who are seriously into the age-old tales of a certain boy, who became king by pulling a certain sabre from a mossy rock, the irony could not be greater. After all, the whole Camelot story is about the renewing of a land that has become barren. You know, kind of like the 2017 box office. But King Arthur: Legend of the Sword only brought more desperation to this year's decimated box office.
The film cost $175 million to make – god knows how much to market – and its worldwide earnings didn’t even hit $150 million. Surely, the studio version of Excalibur was used to make some executive heads roll for producing this bomb. What those folks over there could really use is a financial Merlin to help conjure up more robust ticket sales next time.
Ah, the '80s nostalgia market. It’ll bring just about any mediocre property back from the dead in hopes of bringing weary Gen Xers and irony-loving Millennials into theaters to buy some popcorn and tickets. But really – CHIPs? Who in the world green lit that idea?
This silly highway motorcycle cop show was pulled over at the box office for driving way too slow. Granted, the project started with a modest budget of $25 million, but it only did $6.5 million domestically. Coming in at $27 million worldwide, it sure feels like a crime was committed against cinema.
We would love to believe that this sort of thing would put a damper on revamping all those thin TV shows for the big screen. But alas, as the very next entry proves, we’re not out of the woods yet…
Did we already mention the ills of pointless '80s nostalgia? Then forgive us if it feels too soon to lament ludicrous late '80/'90s/early '00s TV nostalgia, but here we are. Let’s face it – the original Baywatch television series was all about two things: Anderson and Hasselhoff. Half-naked eye candy pounding the hot sand on a glamorous Los Angeles beach astoundingly sustained one version of another of this television property for over a decade. But even the presence of Dwayne Johnson couldn’t float this dead fish of a film.
Baywatch cost $69 million to make, only reached $58 million in the US, and an anemic $177 million at the global box office. We have a sinking feeling that any sequel plans for this one have already vanished under the waves.
4 Daddy’s Home 2
Will Ferrell, Mark Wahlberg, and the big comeback roll for Mel Gibson, all wound up in this sequel to the very successful Daddy's Home. Total win, foolproof, guaranteed score at the box office, right? Turns out that the audience did not enthusiastically return home for this one. T
echnically, the film made its money back. Costing $69 million to make (largely on those A-list salaries, we would guess), Daddy’s Home 2 brought in $96.5 million domestically and $157 million in global totals. But studios don’t invest in that kind of major star power expecting to barely double their principal. Top talent like Ferrell and Wahlberg are recruited for major returns and legendary figures like Mel Gibson are supposed to – wait. Mel Gibson? Really? Family friendly comedies are maybe not the place for someone caught on tape saying the bigoted things Gibson has.
3 Smurfs: The Lost Village
Those lovable comic book, animation, and video game cuties who have won the hearts of generations of children and geeks alike failed to find their happy blue place in the 2017 moviegoing landscape with Smurfs: The Lost Village. Weirdly, The Lost Village is a reboot of the successful Smurfs franchise that produced two successful movies from 2011-2013.
It’s hard to imagine that these globally beloved little people from an enchanted forest could fall so far from their former place where they once rivaled franchises like Peanuts. Alas, this $60 million movie fell behind domestically, landing at $45 million. Worldwide, the story isn’t so sad – the film made it $197 million -considering what a huge international property The Smurfs has been, this is a Gargamel-level fail.
2 Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul
Let’s face it, Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul actually had a lot to live up to. The fantastically successful franchise born of the book series of the same name has spawned four films. The first three all did very well at the box office, but it turns out fourth time is not the charm.
Budgeted at $22 million, The Long Haul only hit $21 million in US ticket sales. Worldwide, it didn’t even crack double the cost: those tallies came in at $40 million. It’s tempting to stretch the metaphor of wimpiness when discussing this film’s failure, but it just isn't right to kick a kid when he’s down. That said, it may be fair to declare this particular franchise over and done with. Anyway, they got three out of four wins in the series - not too shabby for a wimpy kid, if you ask us.
1 The House
Here’s a trivia question to try on a friend: what does Daddy’s Home 2 and The House have in common? Both are bonafide 2017 bombs starring Will Ferrell, who maybe should not be seen as an audience draw anymore. Not even the glorious Amy Poehler sharing top billing in this top-level comedy could save the day.
While its $40 million budget is relatively low by current Hollywood standards, The House didn’t even reach the $26 million mark domestically. Globally, the numbers didn’t add up either: it only hit $34.5 million. That’s not just a bomb; that’s a low-risk, high-stakes failure that was engineered to be impossible to fail. In many ways, it’s a poster child for this year in the movie biz. Studios may need to rethink what works, what doesn’t, and just maybe give new ideas and new artists a chance to bring filmgoers back to the theaters.
Did you enjoy any of these box office bombs? Let us know in the comments!