Box office flops come in all shapes and sizes: comedies, dramas, sci-fis and more can all be afflicted by low worldwide gross sales. The films that are generally affected do have one thing in common, though: large budgets. Big-budget films are a risk for studios, with millions of dollars thrown into a product that might not end up resonating with audiences. Some fail due to stereotypical plots; others due to bad critic reviews; others due to stiff competition from films that appeal more to moviegoers. Whatever the reason for failure, the fact of the matter is that a big box office bomb can result in a tens of millions of dollars hit against a studio which can set back their yearly earnings, and sometimes result in bankruptcy.
Movies fail all the time, but some of them fail big. Here are the 15 Biggest Box Office Flops Of All Time.
Sci-fi films from the Wachowski siblings have a history of doing well, with The Matrix series and V for Vendetta both achieving critical and commercial success. However, 2015's Jupiter Ascending did not follow the same path. The film, which starred Mila Kunis, Channing Tatum, Sean Bean, and Eddie Redmayne, followed an interplanetary warrior and a cleaning woman who finds out that she is galactic royalty. The film received general negative reviews, with the only part earning praise being the most expensive: the visual effects. The film crafted entire worlds, requiring expensive sets, costumes, make-up, and prosthetics. Because of the film's expensive requirements and huge star power, it racked up a budget of $176 million, meaning that it needed to make a lot in order to be a box office success. Unfortunately, with lukewarm reviews and high competition from The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water and American Sniper, the film was not able to recoup its large budget. Jupiter Ascending made slightly over $47 million domestic with an additional $136.6 million in foreign countries for a total of almost $184 million, not nearly enough to make up the film's budget and marketing. It is estimated that the film lost Warner Bros. over $80 million.
Evan Almighty, the Steve Carrell-starring follow up to Jim Carrey's Bruce Almighty, was the most expensive comedy of all time at the time of its production (it would later be surpassed by other high-budget films like Men in Black III). The reasoning is the film's plot: the story follows Carrell's Evan Baxter as a surrogate for the biblical Noah trying to prevent a flood in his city, but, eventually, the very expensive CGI flood, complete with very expensive CGI animals, does happen. The film wound up with a $175 million budget (over original projections of $140 million), hitting more than $200 million after marketing. The film's money was ill-spent, as it received generally negative reviews from critics and even earned a Razzie Award nomination for Worst Prequel or Sequel (although it lost out on the honor to Cuba Gooding Jr.'s Daddy Day Camp). The film ended up earning $173 million worldwide and is estimated to have lost studios over $88 million.
Green Lantern is one of the most notorious super movie flops around. The film, which starred Ryan Reynolds as the titular hero and also featured Blake Lively, Angela Bassett, Mark Strong and Peter Sarsgaard, was one of the first superhero projects that future Arrow-verse creator Greg Berlanti worked on, and, needless to say, there were still some kinks to be worked out. Star Reynolds even went on to make fun of the film in his future, much better received superhero film Deadpool. Green Lantern was filmed on a $200 million budget, not including marketing costs, with The Hollywood Reporter estimating that, in order for the film to be a success for the studio, it would need to gross over $500 million. It didn't come anywhere close, earning a worldwide total of $219.8 million. But hey, at least this film gave us Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively's marriage.
Peter Pan has been imagined into many different films, it makes sense that audiences might get a little bit oversaturated with the boyish character. That seems to have been the case with the overdone Hugh Jackman starring epic Pan, released in 2015. The Peter Pan/Captain Hook origin story also starred Levi Miller as Peter, Garrett Hedlund as Captain Hook, Rooney Mara and Amanda Seyfried, but, unfortunately, an all-star talented cast was unable to save the film from becoming a flop. Overdone visual effects and its fantasy setting led to high CGI costs, giving the film an overall budget of $150 million. In addition, the film was marketed heavily, with the studio hoping to sell it as a must-see family epic. Unfortunately, the $100 to $125 million in estimated marketing costs did not pay off, and the film was not able to become a hit domestically or internationally in much-needed markets like China, resulting in a multi-million dollar loss for the studio.
The 2004 version of The Alamo had it rough, opening against eventual Academy Award nominee and huge box office hit The Passion of the Christ. Against the flashy and controversial religious film, which would gross $612 million, the historic war film was unable to draw in audiences. Those who did come to see the movie, which stars Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thornton, and Jason Patric, criticized it for being too slow and boring in a point for historical accuracy, preventing the film from getting the necessary word of mouth to be a widespread box office success. The film, which was made on a $107 million budget before any of the marketing, grossed only $30 million in the U.S. and $26 million in the rest of the world, losing the studio over $94 million. Luckily, both the actors in front of the camera and the talent behind it (John Lee Hancock, Ron Howard) would recover from the box office flop and go on to create some great things.
Eddie Murphy has had a very successful career: he has an Oscar nomination, a Golden Globe win and dozens of other awards nominations, and in 2015, he was named the sixth-highest grossing actor in the United States. However, while Murphy is clearly a successful man, no one can argue that The Adventures of Pluto Nash was a successful film. The film, which also starred Randy Quaid, Rosario Dawson, John Cleese and Luis Guzman, starred Murphy as Pluto Nash as a lunar nightclub owner who goes on a mission for revenge after his club is blown up by a man looking to take over the Moon. The film, billed as an action comedy, was criticized for not having enough action or comedy, and the bad critical reviews and lack of press screenings meant that it couldn't get the buzz it needed to be successful. The film made only $2.1 million during its 2002 opening weekend, a paltry sum compared to its $100 million budget and $20 million marketing costs. It didn't recover from the tiny opening, earning a worldwide total of only $7 million.
2005 action movie Stealth was the perfect storm of medium names (Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, Joe Morton), a stereotypical and mediocre plot (three military pilots try to prevent the next world war as part of a top-secret military program) and highly expensive scenes (numerous scenes were filmed on an actual aircraft carrier, which must have cost the studio a pretty penny). The film also went up against stiff competition; opening weekend, it came in fourth place behind comedy classic Wedding Crashers, popular Johnny Depp-starring remake Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and family hit Sky High. The film, which was made on a budget of $135 million before marketing costs, made only $13 million during its first weekend in theaters and only got worse from there, falling to $5.9 million in its second weekend and down to just over $2 million for its third. Although it made a foreign gross of $44.8 million, combined with its $32 million U.S. gross, it wasn't enough to make up for its large budget.
Sahara is unusual for box office bomb. The film, which starred Matthew McConaughey, Steve Zahn and Penelope Cruz, followed a group of adventurers searching through the west African deserts for a lost Civil War battleship. The film had average reviews, with most critics deeming that it was nothing special but it was good popcorn viewing; the star power, flashy plot and lack of strong competition (the film premiered around the same time as Sin City, Fever Pitch, Guess Who and Robots) allowed the film to rule the box office its first weekend, bringing $18 million. It continued to do well, earning a respectable $110 million in worldwide gross. However, the film ended up becoming a huge box office flop due to its incredibly large budget. It cost over $130 million to produce, plus $81 million for distribution and marketing. While a large part of the money went to the cast and the special effects costs, a lawsuit against the film later revealed financial documents that showed that a large sum went to bribes for the Moroccan government to let the studio film in the country.
Jack the Giant Slayer was a similar case to Sahara, in which, despite average reviews and a number one finish opening weekend, the film became a major flop. Jack the Giant Slayer, from X-Men franchise director Bryan Singer, followed Nicholas Hoult's Jack as he, you know, slayed giants. It also starred Eleanor Tomlinson, Stanley Tucci, Ian McShane, Bill Nighy and Ewan McGregor. The film received mixed reviews, with some praising its vision and others saying that it was too much of a split between a family film and Singer's darker style. It premiered number one at the box office, beating out 21 and Over, The Last Exorcism Part II, Identity Thief and Snitch, but happened to come out at a particularly dry time for the film business. That weekend in 2013, Jack's gross of $7.7 million on opening night was worse than even box office failure John Carter a year earlier (more on that later). The film went on to gross $197.6 million worldwide, but, on a $185 million budget plus marketing and distribution expenses, it was over a $125 million loss for the studio.
R.I.P.D. opened against incredibly stiff box office competition in the 2013 summer, which was saturated with huge films. The film, which stars Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges and Mary Louise Parker as agents of the "Rest in Peace Department," in charge of hunting down ghosts, premiered the same weekend as surprise horror hit The Conjuring, which made $41.9 million in its opening on an only $20 million budget. Also in theaters that weekend were animated hit Despicable Me 2, Adam Sandler film Grown Ups 2, which, despite awful reviews, still grossed $247 million, Turbo, Red 2 and Pacific Rim, all of which topped R.I.P.D., causing the film to debut in an awful seventh place. The incredibly soft opening, bringing in only $12.7 million, combined with the film's terrible reviews, led it to a worldwide gross of only $78 million, nothing compared to its $130 million budget plus marketing and distribution costs.
The biggest shock about The Lone Ranger's box office failure is that it only placed fifth on the worst flops of all time list. The film was widely anticipated to fail, and fail hard, along the same lines as similar high-budget, high-concept westerns like Wild Wild West and Cowboys & Aliens. The film, which starred Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer and came from Pirates of the Caribbean director Gore Verinski, had its release date pushed back multiple times due to concerns over its high budget, coming in at a whopping $375 million in production and marketing costs. The budget meant that the film would need to make $650 million worldwide in order to be considered profitable for the studio, according to a report from The New York Times; it barely even made a third of that. The film wound up with a disappointing $260.5 million worldwide, which cost the studio more than $150 million. Luckily, Disney has enough hits that they were able to recover just fine from the huge loss.
Like The Lone Ranger, John Carter was set up to be a box office failure before it was even released. The film was monumentally expensive to produce, with an over $350 million budget plus an estimated $100 million in marketing. The high price tag of the film meant that, in order to be profitable for the studio, it would have had to set box office records and make over $600 million. The film did accomplish one of those: it set box office records for biggest opening weekend in Russia and surrounding countries, and had the second biggest opening weekend for a Disney film in China. However, while international ticket sales saved the Taylor Kitsch starring film from being a bigger disaster than it was, they weren't enough to save Disney from losing over $150 million on the film. In total, the film had a worldwide gross of $284 million, giving the studio a major hit which sent ripples through their upper level management and led to the resignation of Rich Ross, head of Walt Disney Studios.
Compared to other films on this list, The 13th Warrior had a pretty small budget, hitting only $160 million for production and marketing costs. For the time (the film was made in 1999), this high budget was similar to the $300 million plus budgets studios are frequently giving away to action and superhero films; it was seen in the industry as a bloated sign of the film's repeated reshoots and failures. The movie, which is based on a Michael Crichton novel and is a loose retelling of Beowulf, stars Antonio Banderas, Diane Venora and Omar Sharif and follows Banderas' character goes on a quest to rid a Viking land of a scary and unknown threat. It received lukewarm reviews and even convinced Lawrence of Arabia's Sharif to consider retiring from acting. The discussion around the film, as well as stiff competition from horror classic The Sixth Sense, which still topped the weekend in its fourth week in theaters, meant that the film didn't make a huge impact at the box office, making only $61.6 million worldwide.
Raise your hand if you've ever heard of Mars Needs Moms. No one? Makes sense. The 2011 animated sci-fi comedy was so quiet in theaters that most people, even film buffs, wouldn't be able to say that the movie even existed, let alone tell you anything about it. The film, made using 3D motion capture computer-animation, stars Seth Green, Dan Fogler, Elisabeth Harnois, Mindy Sterling and Joan Cusack. Although it was produced by Back to the Future's Robert Zemeckis, the film didn't get his magical touch, and the formulaic plot and creepy graphics made it an easily forgettable flick. The film's production budget of $150 million before marketing and distribution costs meant that it would have had to make a large sum in order to be able to be profitable, but it flopped immediately, getting only $6.8 million during its first weekend in theaters. The film ended with nearly $39 million, which was not what mega-successful animation studio Disney was looking for.
Keanu Reeves is an action star who somehow managed to rebound from starring in 80's classic comedy Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure to actually go on to become a serious actor. Reeves has the talent and star power that draws audiences in, but, unfortunately, even he wasn't able to bring audiences out to see action movie 47 Ronin. The film was made on a high budget, with $175 million allotted for production costs plus an additional $50 million for marketing and distribution. Like many films with budgets that high, the film's release was delayed repeatedly before it finally showed up in theaters for Christmas of 2013. It faced very stiff competition, finishing sixth in its opening weekend after The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, The Wolf of Wall Street, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and American Hustle. It ended up making only $38.6 million at the domestic box office. The film was also a failure in Japan, where people were upset that the plot didn't closely resemble the epic it was based on. Although it ended up making $113 million foreign, it only brought the film to $151.7 million overall, which was not enough to make up for its high budget and made it a huge loss for the studio.