The movie business is a lot like gambling. With the attention of audiences as divided as ever, movie studios often have no choice but to throw hundreds of millions of dollars into a movie and hope that it’s profitable.
While there are ways to reduce the risks, such as hiring an A-list star to lead or adapting an existing intellectual property, even movies that do these things can often fail spectacularly. While no one likes seeing hundreds of millions of dollars go down the drain, it’s interesting to read about what went wrong after the fact.
This is why we’re here. We’ve decided to take a look at some of the biggest movie flops in recent memory and dissect what went wrong. However, in the case of some movies, they didn’t just bomb because they were bad or released at the wrong time. They bombed for crazy, unbelievable, shocking reasons.
These films aren’t your average bad bets. These are bombs that exploded in the faces of studio executives, producers, directors, and actors, and made everyone involved look foolish for a long time afterwards. The following films aren’t just bombs, they’re infamous Hollywood cautionary tales.
Here are the 15 Movies That Bombed For Shocking Reasons.
The idea for a Ghostbusters reboot in 2016 was simple. Take a beloved comedy franchise that fans have been dying to see return, put some very funny people in charge of writing and directing it, and fill out the cast with the top people in the comedy industry. Here’s the problem: those top people were women, which apparently made a whole bunch of people on the internet upset.
While some who’ve seen the news may claim that it’s not shocking for a bunch of angry internet commenters to hate on a movie, the fact that Ghostbusters performed poorly at the box office is a shock. Sure, it wasn’t an outright disaster if you look at its box office gross, but considering the plans Sony had for the franchise it is pretty bad. The film ended up losing $70 million and Sony has since cancelled all plans for follow ups.
14 Ghost in the Shell
Hollywood and controversy go hand in hand, and as the famous saying goes, there’s no such thing as bad press. However, we’re willing to bet that whoever said that didn’t hear about the whitewashing controversy surrounding Ghost in the Shell, and they certainly didn’t stick around long enough to see that film lose $60 million at the box office earlier this year.
Perhaps if Ghost in the Shell wasn’t a famous manga series with an Asian heroine people would have loved the idea of Scarlett Johansson in a skintight suit falling from buildings in a futuristic setting. After all, Johansson is one of the most bankable female stars in the world, and a sci-fi based on a beloved comic is pretty much an excuse to print money.
Yet, the public revolted right from the moment that Johansson was cast and the uproar only got louder closer to the film’s release. Eventually the controversy kept the public out of theaters, which has made Ghost in the Shell one of the biggest flops of 2017.
13 47 Ronin
Helmed by first-time director Carl Rinsch, 47 Ronin was brought into this world as a Blacklist screenplay written by Chris Morgan of the Fast and the Furious franchise. Greenlit with tons of excitement that the film could be the next The Last Samurai, the film eventually spun out of control.
Rinsch wanted to add more Japanese aspects to the film. Worried about making an arthouse Asian film surrounding a legend that Western audiences didn’t know, the studio pushed back and tried to make the film more American.
As a result, the whitewashing controversy began when people found out Keanu Reeves was the star, and the film never recovered. By the time the film came out, audiences didn’t know what they were getting and they understandably didn’t expect a blockbuster since Reeves hadn't starred in a big budget movie for many years.
In the end, everyone involved in 47 Ronin lost-- the movie was never American or Asian enough for any audience. It lost a whopping $175 million, making it one of the biggest movie flops of all time.
12 We Are Your Friends
We Are Your Friends only had a $6 million budget, so in this sense it couldn’t have lost that much money. Having said that, the film has one of the lowest openings of all time for a release shown in over 2,000 theaters.
Some say that We Are Your Friends bombed because it simply wasn’t very good, while others say that Zac Efron wasn't a big enough star to lead his own movie. Here’s the truth: the film was a movie about the EDM community and it was not marketed to the EDM community in any way.
It was as if studio executives heard that EDM was a big up-and-coming thing and decided to try to make money off of it, except they didn’t look to make their money from the people that were into EDM.
11 Mars Needs Moms
There was a time when two-time Academy Award winner Robert Zemeckis spent all of his time producing motion-capture animated films through his ImageMovers company. Then there was a time when Zemeckis had to stop doing this and move back to films starring real people. This was when Mars Needs Moms flopped.
For those who don’t know, Mars Needs Moms was a Disney film targeted at children. Let’s be realistic, any animated kids movie that Disney makes will instantly make a billion dollars. However, this did not happen with Mars Needs Moms.
Despite generally poor marketing, the motion-capture film was deemed “weirdly creepy” by just about everyone who saw it. Filled with dead eyes, photorealistic animation grafted onto cartoony characters, and a nonsensical story, Mars Needs Moms ended up losing Disney $70 million and caused Disney to drop all future projects with ImageMovers.
It’s strange that studios still equate sword-and-sandals epics with box office riches when not one of them has succeeded since Gladiator in 2000. Sure, there’s been a handful of decent grosses since then, but a film like Ben-Hur was made to light up the box office, and this is the exact opposite of what happened.
The shocking thing about Ben-Hur’s $120 million loss isn’t so much that it was made despite the overwhelming proof that sword-and-sandal epics weren't doing well, but that it was marketed heavily to a young audience that simply didn’t care.
No person under the age of 30 knows about the original Ben-Hur movie, and as a result, the I.P. that brought the remake into existence was pretty much worthless from the start. Add in the huge budget and dismal reviews, and we’d be surprised to see another epic like this one for a long time.
9 The Lone Ranger
Johnny Depp incites controversy for lots of reasons, but in the particular case of The Lone Ranger, it was a whitewashing controversy that sunk the hopes of this family-adventure. Despite impressive set-pieces from director Gore Verbinski and a heavy marketing push, the Disney film failed spectacularly at convincing the world that Johnny Depp dressing up as a Native American wasn’t incredibly insensitive.
While boycotts certainly sunk the hopes of this film, The Lone Ranger’s failure also rippled through Disney, with changes reportedly made involving producer Jerry Bruckheimer losing his final cut on the newest Pirates of the Caribbean film. Though Johnny Depp keeps making strange movies where he wears a ton of wacky disguises, one has to think that this $190 million loss stings a bit.
When Hasbro and Universal Studios signed a deal to make a bunch of movies based on board games, the whole world laughed. However, some thought this might be smart idea, considering the success of Transformers.
First up in the deal was an adaptation of Battleship, an insane naval-war-alien-action blockbuster that wasn’t nearly as bad as it could’ve been. Yet, despite the name recognition, the ties to the massively successful Transformers, and the prime summer release date, the movie sunk on impact.
The reason? Up-and-comer Taylor Kitsch was apparently not an up-and-comer at all but instead a massive turn-off for audiences, and we have no idea why. Hot off his incredible portrayal as Tim Riggins in the amazing Friday Night Lights, Hollywood had pegged Kitsch as the next A-list star but apparently didn’t ask the movie-going public how they felt about him.
When Battleship experienced a $80 million loss, audiences responded by saying “no thanks” to Taylor Kitsch and “please stop with all the Hasbro movies.” As a result, the remaining planned board game adaptations of Clue and Candyland were scrapped.
7 John Carter
If we’ve learned anything from Battleship, it’s that Taylor Kitsch might be box office poison. The problem with the film John Carter, however, was that they didn’t learn this lesson because Battleship came out three months after John Carter. As a result, Taylor Kitsch had a very bad year and John Carter made talented Pixar director Andrew Stanton look very bad.
Perhaps it’s not fair to pin everything on Kitsch, but when two high profile movies flop miserably just three months apart you have no choice but to look at the star. Kitsch got quickly demoted to B, then C-list status immediately after his two flops.
Unfortunately, it was too little too late for John Carter, which, despite being based on a beloved sci-fi properly, lost Disney a lot of money. How much money, you ask? Enough for one of the biggest losers on this list with what some estimate as a loss of $200 million.
6 Ender's Game
Ender’s Game is a pretty good movie based on a pretty good sci-fi novel written by a pretty horrible guy. Unfortunately, those first two things weren’t enough to make the Harrison Ford and Asa Butterfield-starring film some money, because everyone was too focused on Orson Scott Card, the homophobic bigot that wrote the book back in 1985.
When word got out about Orson Scott Card’s political beliefs, boycotts for the film were called and, as a result, the studio promised that Card wouldn’t profit from the film at all. Knowing they had to save their investment, Lionsgate kept trying to address the controversy by distancing themselves from the author and hosting a benefit premiere for the film to raise money for LGBTQ causes.
Yet Orson Scott Card kept on spreading his hatred, and people that would have otherwise seen the movie stayed away thanks to all the increased attention. This is either a lesson for studios to never address controversy or to simply stop adapting the works of horrible people. Whichever works.
5 The Adventures of Pluto Nash
In 2002 Eddie Murphy was one of the top grossing movie stars on the planet. Then he tried to leave the planet by playing an astronaut in The Adventures of Pluto Nash and the whole thing didn’t go over so well-- the movie is one of the biggest box office failures of all time.
Though the film didn’t come close to losing the $200 million that John Carter did, Pluto Nash only made $7 million on a $120 million budget, which is a 95% net loss. The reason this is such a huge shock is because the marketing team should have realized that, in order for audiences to see a film, they have to know what it was about. Fifteen years later we still have no idea what Pluto Nash was about.
Apparently the marketing team thought that Eddie Murphy’s confused face on a poster was enough. It wasn’t.
After The Social Network became the movie of this generation, there was a lot of hope for Jobs to be the pseudo-sequel everyone wanted. However, reports of another team up by screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and director David Fincher came and went, as did stars Leonardo DiCaprio and Christian Bale.
The rest went sideways from there, as the infamous Sony hack revealed all the inner workings of the troubled production to the public, and by the time the film came out no one was interested in seeing what was considered a lesser product than what could have been.
Sony Pictures head-honcho Amy Pascal knew the trouble she was getting into with Jobs and reportedly acknowledged that the movie might flop, but she also knew that she’d look ridiculous if she didn’t greenlight it.
The film was directed by Danny Boyle and it turned out amazing, but by this point no one cared. Star Michael Fassbender was still not a known commodity and the film’s strange structure wasn’t an easy sell. Add to this all the trouble that the film had in pre-production and Jobs went from being a sure-thing at the Oscars to not winning a single category.
3 R.I.P.D. and Green Lantern
It’s 2017 and Ryan Reynolds is everything that everyone aspires to be. However, if we look back a few years, it wasn’t always like this for (one of) the world’s favorite Canadian Ryan(s).
It all started in 2011 when Green Lantern was everything that people hoped it wouldn’t be. Overstuffed with CGI and lacking a coherent story, the DC character fell flat on his face in his debut, and the world blamed Reynolds.
Then came R.I.P.D. in 2013, a film which shockingly costed $130 million and made back only $49 million, because, you know, the world was sick of Ryan Reynolds and his good-looking face and sarcastic, funny attitude. No one wanted to see him lead a movie, and as a result these two big-budget failures dropped his stock dramatically.
2 Edge of Tomorrow
Edge of Tomorrow is a great movie, and it's a shame that it flopped because there’s no chance at Hollywood making anything like it again. The action movie starring Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt was clever, original, and fun, but audiences didn’t turn up to see it while they had the chance. This was because Warner Bros. didn’t know how to explain the film’s title.
About as shocking of a reason for a film to perform poorly as any, so much of the film’s marketing went towards educating the public on just what the title Edge of Tomorrow meant. Call us crazy, but we think that perhaps the better move would’ve been to let the movie speak for itself, but this didn't happen. Warner Bros. was so obsessed with the title that they shot themselves in the foot repeatedly with the theatrical release.
Also known by its tagline, Live. Die. Repeat., Edge of Tomorrow is still suffering from poor marketing despite being a good movie. Apparently, the positive critical response was enough for Warner Bros. to want to give the concept another shot; a sequel entitled Live Die Repeat And Repeat is currently in the works.
1 The Interview
By now everyone knows about The Interview, and there’s a good chance that kids will be learning about its release in textbooks for years to come. An astounding feat, considering that the film is simply a Seth Rogen and James Franco comedy. However, this is what happens when your movie almost starts WWIII.
As the start to the Sony Hack and a whole bunch of other retaliatory moves meant to keep the film away from the public, The Interview was held back from theaters just days before its release when Sony caved to the demands of North Korea. This eventually led to President Obama denouncing Sony’s actions – an astounding fact considering, again, this is a dumb Seth Rogen film – and Sony had to reconsider how they’d handle the film’s release.
In the end The Interview was released in only a handful of small theaters, as large chains refused to screen the film in case of lawsuits. Sony put the movie up on online VOD platforms and eventually Netflix, but the comedy ended up flopping hard because, by this point, people realized that it just wasn’t a good enough film to warrant a near-global catastrophe.
Which of these movies were you most shocked to see flop? Are there any you think deserved better? Let us know in the comments!