Movie stars have always been the bread and butter of the film industry. It’s why, under the studio system employed during Hollywood’s Golden Age, famous actors were kept under contract. It’s why certain performers can command enormous salaries for each picture in which they appear. Even today, when movies without major stars are just as likely to conquer the box office (Get Out) or the Oscars (Moonlight), studios still seek out the star factor.
And if one star can conceivably make a movie a hit, then how about multiple stars crammed onto the screen? That’s always been the logic behind movies featuring all-star casts, and it’s been a winning formula for decades. The 1932 drama Grand Hotel, with its star-packed roster led by Greta Garbo and Joan Crawford, not only emerged a box office hit but also nabbed the Best Picture Oscar — ditto 1956’s Around the World in 80 Days. All-star casts were routinely assembled for war movies during the 1960s (e.g. The Great Escape, The Longest Day) and the disaster flicks of the 1970s (Earthquake, The Towering Inferno).
Of course, all-star casts don’t always guarantee financial riches. Some films are so bad that even seeing a lineup of familiar faces couldn’t lure paying audiences. Some quality productions packed with name actors also fall flat, often due to the subject matter or even the studio’s own erratic release patterns.
With that in mind, here are 16 Movies With All-Star Casts That Flopped.
16. MOVIE 43
The maxim about strength in numbers certainly applies to 2013’s Movie 43, since it took the combined efforts of 12 directors (including Guardians of the Galaxy’s James Gunn), 18 writers, and 22 above-the-title stars to come up with a film as monumentally awful as this one. Yet even a potent cast was no match for the toxic word of mouth that immediately hit the streets, as the film grossed less than $10 million.
Trapped amidst its collection of scatological skits, it’s not surprising to find turkey pros Gerard Butler and Johnny Knoxville. And younger stars like Emma Stone and Chloë Grace Moretz can be forgiven for taking part in whatever projects were thrown their way. But the presence of Hugh Jackman (as a bachelor with testicles hanging from his neck), Kate Winslet, Naomi Watts, Richard Gere, and Terrence Howard boggles the mind.
The only one who comes off looking like a winner is George Clooney — when asked by the producers if he would appear in this train wreck, he flatly stated, “No f—ing way.”
15. THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU
Armed with an all-star cast, Wes Anderson’s 2001 effort The Royal Tenenbaums more than doubled its $21 million budget at the box office, leading Disney to pony up $50 million for the writer-director’s next at-bat. But despite a similarly impressive assemblage of actors, 2004’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou only made back half its budget.
Another heady rush of whimsy from the singular Anderson, this one stars Bill Murray as the title character, a Jacques Cousteau-style oceanographer who sets off to track down the Jaguar Shark that devoured his partner. The stellar cast also includes Owen Wilson, Cate Blanchett, Anjelica Huston, Jeff Goldblum, and Michael Gambon (Dumbledore to all you Harry Potter fans), although it’s Willem Dafoe who arguably earns the most laughs as Zissou’s overly protective German engineer.