With the impending release of Batman V Superman and Captain America: Civil War on the horizon, the notion that Hollywood loves tentpole franchises has never been clearer. Studios love to latch on to a successful idea and ride it to the bank, but that doesn’t always work out. The movie landscape is filled with box office bombs or disappointments that underwhelm so much, they destroy the validity and momentum of the franchise.
These movies don’t always fail at the box office, sometimes they are quite successful, but viewers and critics alike are left letdown once the credits roll and the lights fade in. Big budgets, famous lore and famous directors aren’t foolproof recipes for successes, and many great franchises had to learn the hard way by creating forgettable movies. The selection of the films on this list does not mean the films weren’t good or even enjoyed by some, but the list rather focuses on the failed expectations they fell short of either via poor box office performance, negative reviews or an unfavorable response by audiences.
These were meant to be tentpoles, but left nary a dint in our cultural memories.
Here are the 12 Biggest Movies You Can’t Even Remember Being Released.
13 The Bourne Legacy
After three non-stop roller coaster films and the build up of a movie franchise, Matt Damon decided to walk away from it all and move on to better things once director Paul Greengrass declined to return for a fourth Bourne movie. Losing the two main cogs in the Bourne franchise forced Universal into reboot, and they tapped the red-hot Jeremy Renner, coming off the success of The Hurt Locker and The Avengers, to carry the mantle, but his best attempt to carry the franchise failed miserably.
Even with Rachel Weisz, Joan Allen and Edward Norton joining the cast, the film failed to capture the same raw intensity the Matt Damon trilogy excelled in. The film fell short of franchise high The Bourne Ultimatum’s final box office tally by $166 million. After years drifting in development hell, plans for a sequel were scrapped when Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass returned to the series for Jason Bourne, which is due out in July, and Jeremy Renner's entry into the franchise has been ignored ever since.
12 Angels & Demons
Conspiracies, adventure, and Tom Hanks: three things people love seem like a recipe for movie success. Unfortunately, the formula isn’t foolproof, even if has the benefit of being a sequel to a big hit. The DaVinci Code took the world by storm after it was published in 2003, selling over 80 million copies. Naturally, Hollywood needed to make a movie and they did so with Tom Hanks as the star. After the success of the film, Hanks and company came back for round number two in Angels & Demons, a prequel book rewritten as a movie to work as a sequel. That didn’t work out well.
Angels & Demons garnered moderate reviews, although slightly better than its predecessor, but it failed to reach the same financial success. Ewan McGregor's addition to the cast was hardly noticed. The $485 million final gross fell nearly $300 million short of The DaVinci Code’s intake. But despite the diminished return, both Hanks and director Ron Howard are returning for Inferno, another sequel based on a Dan Brown novel, later this year.
11 Men in Black 3
Men in Black will always hold a special place in the hearts of millennials. Who doesn’t love a trip to the seedy underworld of aliens and an encounter with a giant cockroach? These are some of the elements that made Men in Black a massive success and a Will Smith classic. After a so-so sequel, the K and J tandem returned for a third movie in 2012’s Men in Black 3, but it too left viewers unsatisfied.
Although the film was the most successful film in the franchise, grossing $624 million, it garnered lukewarm reviews and underwhelmed with its plot. Gone was the K and J tag-team of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. Jones was replaced for the majority of the film by a forgettable Josh Brolin and lacked the chemistry between Jones and Smith. The lackluster response by audiences, particularly in the United States, sucked any momentum the series still had left. It’s no wonder there have been very few whispers about another MIB sequel.
10 The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
When the franchise first launched in the late 90s, Brendan Fraser was a known star and the fresh-faced beauty of Rachel Weisz juxtaposed well with Fraser’s clumsy heroic act. After a successful sequel with The Mummy Returns, the franchise went into hibernation for seven years until it was revived with a sequel that takes the plot out of Egypt and into China. The change didn’t bode well for the film. Fraser didn't command the cache he did when the original came out and the rest of cast didn't help either.
The change of scenery wasn’t all that changed. Fraser didn't command the cache he did when the original came out. On top of that, Rachel Weisz didn’t return to the series at all. Instead, we got the always annoying changing of actors but not characters, with Maria Bello playing a much less charismatic Evie. And, to add a new wrinkle, the mummy coming back from the dead and playing antagonist to Brendan Fraser was none other than action film maestro Jet Li.
Gone was the villainous Arnold Vosloo as Imhotep, the antagonist from the first two movies. The stakes couldn't get higher, but anticipation couldn’t get lower. The film received negative reviews, which were offset by a positive run at the box office, grossing over $400 million worldwide, but it wasn’t enough to save the franchise as it has been scrapped ever since.
9 Godzilla (1998)
After years of anticipation and hopes of a proper Hollywood adaptation of the giant Japanese dinosaur, those wishes were answered in 1998 with Roland Emmerich’s film Godzilla. Letting the visionary director from the mega-blockbuster Independence Day take the reigns seemed like a shoe-in for a record-breaking romp across New York City and the box office. Those hopes were quickly destroyed with the final product.
Godzilla looked nothing the like the black and white Japanese fire-breathing dinosaur, and instead resembled an overgrown lizard. There was no Mothra, Rodan or Mechagodzilla or real villain for that matter. Godzilla, or giant lizard, was the antagonist in a movie that was bogged down by an eternal and anti-climactic third act. Godzilla received negative reviews and left a stain on the franchise for over a decade and a half until the reboot featuring Bryan Cranston finally gave us a faithful rendition of the king of monsters in 2014.
8 Deep Impact
It seems asteroids were all the rage in 1998. Hollywood delivered not one, but two summer blockbusters with the main plot revolving around a giant asteroid threatening to destroy Earth. Spoiler alert: one film features and destruction of the Earth, and it’s this one. But that asteroid may serve as a figurative death for the film itself. Even though Deep Impact performed well at the box office, grossing nearly $350 million worldwide, it has largely been forgotten in the shadow of it’s much more memorable and famous sibling, Armageddon.
To go along with its lesser-status, Deep Impact also received poor reviews. The morbid climax also didn’t resonate with fans. Boasting a string of B-list stars, excluding Morgan Freeman, didn’t do much to distinguish the film. Not even attaching Steven Spielberg’s name to the movie could help it win in the 1998 battle of the asteroid movies.
7 Rush Hour 3
The first two Rush Hour movies opened to great success amid the impending end of buddy cop movie genre. Keeping that in mind, it seems highly questionable to wait six years to return for a sequel. By the time Rush Hour 3 opened, Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan’s star power had faded quite precipitously. Chan had not appeared in an American film in three years, while Tucker’s last film was Rush Hour 2. The end result was an underperforming and disappointing end to the series.
Rush Hour 3 only grossed $258 million off a hefty $140 million budget, missing Rush Hour 2’s mark by nearly $100 million. It received terrible reviews, currently owning an 18% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and was criticized for its lack of originality and fresh ideas that were present in its predecessors, settling for a run of the mill buddy cop film with little else to offer.
In the years leading up to the year 2012, there was constant chatter about the end of the world predicted in the Mayan calendar. Thus, Hollywood took the idea and ran with it, creating a movie about the apocalyptic prediction and titled the film 2012. Roland Emmerich returned for another epic disaster movie, directing a movie that lacked much substance and was fueled by a weak plot.
2012 went on to become a major financial success, grossing $769 million internationally, but it left audiences wanting more. The 158-minute running time was an exhausting destruction marathon, as was the convoluted plot that involved too many moving pieces and a two-dimensional protagonist in John Cusack with a script that settled for cheap emotional tricks instead of a strong plot.
5 Oz: The Great and Powerful
On the heels of the massive success of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, Disney decided to try to replicate the success by using another well-known commodity, The Wizard of Oz. Much like Alice, which served as a sequel to the animated film, Oz: The Great and Powerful was to be the prequel to The Wizard of Oz, telling the story of Oscar Diggs and just how he goes on to become the Wizard of Oz. The blatant rip-off attempt failed to reach the success of Alice.
Grossing nearly $496 million at the box office (although off a sizable $215 million budget), Oz was by no means a failure, but that figure falls more than $500 million short of Alice’s $1 billion tally. The film tried too hard to create a whimsical world and is oversaturated with CGI elements that at times feel too manufactured and digital to be vivid set pieces - similar to the criticism of the Star Wars prequels. Hopes were that a franchise may spawn from the film, but given the lukewarm reception at the box office and with the critics, it’s no wonder the development of a sequel has been on and off for three years.
4 Evan Almighty
The idea of somehow meeting God and, even better, somehow attaining his powers is always a fun to play around with when daydreaming. That idea turned into box office gold with 2003’s Bruce Almighty, starring Jim Carrey in the prime of his career. But for some reason, someone at Universal decided to make a sequel without Carrey and gave it an insanely bloated budget. That’s always a recipe for box office bomb, and Evan Almighty was one of the biggest bombs and disappointments of all time.
Made for a cool $175 million, the film grossed a meek $173 million worldwide. Not accounting for the marketing budget, that put Evan Almighty in the red very quickly. Returning director Tom Shadyac and returning god Morgan Freeman weren’t enough to turn Steve Carell into a successful schmo-turned-prophet. He just ended up being the poor man’s Jim Carrey for a role that relied too heavily on ill-timed gags that were served on a silver plate to five-year-olds for cheap laughs. Needless to say, the movie failed to appeal to fans and, considering its budget, it was always destined to fail. On top of its uninspiring pitch, the film garnered terrible reviews that only set it even more behind the eight ball.
After the failure of Evan Almighty, director Tom Shadyac left the big budget Hollywood scene, only directing one documentary in the meantime, and Steve Carell has slowly transitioned from comedic roles to more serious ones, even appearing in last year's Oscar-nominated The Big Short.
3 Wrath of the Titans
When the remake of Clash of the Titans proved to be a surprise success in 2010, a sequel was fast-tracked. Maybe too quickly, because what came of it was Wrath of the Titans. Many movies in this list were seen upon unfavorably but managed to recoup their losses with strong performances at the box office. The same in not true for Wrath, which cost $150 million but only grossed $305 million at the box office. That doesn’t even account for marketing costs. The main culprit in the uninspiring theatrical run was the putrid $83 million it grossed at the domestic box office.
Shifting from a remake to a sequel meant the gone were the relatable “release the Kraken” and Medusa throwbacks. The new story morphed into an overblown wrath upon the senses that lacked the true originality and settled for a mess of CGI instead of creating a relatable character-focused storyline. Bringing back Liam Neeson, Ralph Fiennes and featuring future Gone Girl Rosamund Pike did little help the movie. There hasn’t been any talk about a possible third entry into the franchise after the performance of Wrath of the Titans.
2 Jurassic Park 3
Every so often, a movie explodes so quickly that it develops a cult-like connection with fans. That’s what Jurassic Park did in 1993 when it went on to become the highest-grossing film of all time. But after a disappointing sequel, The Lost World, the momentum of the franchise was pointing downward. This explains why when Jurassic Park 3 was released, the franchise bottomed out and was put on ice for the next fourteen years. With Steven Spielberg passing on directing the film, Joe Johnson was left in charge of the third entry, and he didn’t leave a lasting impression. Bringing back Sam Neill to reprise his role of Dr. Alan Grant did little to placate the issues with the script and disjointed plot that failed to create the same awe and wonder that made the original such a success. They even threw in a token cameo of Laura Dern. That didn’t help much either. The idea of a 12-year old boy surviving Jurassic Park by himself for multiple days seems as implausible as the possibility of a real theme park with real dinosaurs.
Let’s not bring up the talking raptors scene that marked the single lowest point of the franchise. Made for $98 million, coupled with a $368 million worldwide gross, Jurassic Park 3 didn’t break the bank for Universal; but stacked up against Jurassic Park’s $1 billion, $357 million of which came domestically alone, it sorely disappointed. It’s hard to imagine such a popular franchise failing to barely make a whisper at the box office, but that’s what happens when a movie just isn’t good.
Hollywood’s love of big franchises will never end. You don’t have to look any farther than the sheer amount of comic book movies being made over the next couple of years. That fad has oozed into other popular properties that are being adapted into big budget spectacles that aim to excite viewers for more than one movie. Many of those films will find great success, but bad apples still occur.
This is by no means an indictment of tentpole films. In many ways, these films can be avenues for other films to get made because of their success or studio's willingness to take chances on corky ideas to find the next great success. Hollywood has a short memory and a lot of financial wiggle room that allow studios to take chances on films in search of the next billion dollar movie. And every once in awhile you get a Deadpool, but other times you end up with Jurassic Park 3.