Why do some movies fail and others make millions? The reasons vary from film to film, but one thing is certain. It doesn’t matter if a movie has an enormous budget, expert marketing and the hottest actors in Hollywood. The audience decides if a movie is worth the price of admission.
When a movie flops at the box office, it creates a financial ripple effect that is felt from the distributor to the producer. Hollywood has produced more duds than hits over the years. Let’s take a look at the biggest box office bombs in the history of the business.
The Wolfman (2010) – Estimated Loss: $76,000,000–$80,000,000
The audiences in 2010 had werewolf fever. Unfortunately, this more traditional story of an American man getting attacked by a werewolf and transforming into one didn’t win over audiences like the Twilight series.
The movie had a stellar cast of A-listers, including Benicio del Toro, Emily Blunt and Anthony Hopkins, but even they couldn’t save it from box office blunder. It didn’t make back the $150 million budget and was greeted with mixed reviews. On the bright side, it eventually turned into a cult classic, making it a little more successful than most of the other movies on our list.
Windtalkers (2002) – Estimated Loss: $76,000,000–$81,000,000
Every year, studios release a movie hoping to win big at the Oscars. Windtalkers tells the story of two U.S. Marines sent to protect Navajo Marines who used their unwritten native language to communicate safely on military radios. It’s based on an incredible true story, and it should have qualified as an American movie classic.
The movie received negative criticism for its clichéd war scenes and its lack of focus on the Native American actors in comparison to the screen time given to star Nicolas Cage. In the end, this film didn’t get the accolades the creators expected.
Tomorrowland (2015) – Estimated Loss: $76,000,000–$150,000,000
This ambitious sci-fi flick stars George Clooney as a former boy-wonder who has always had a passion for science and invention. As an adult, he teams up with a like-minded, curious young girl, played by Britt Robertson. They work together to explore the mysteries of time and space. Eventually, the team ends up somewhere they thought only existed in their minds.
It sounds intriguing, but audiences and critics weren’t interested, and it didn’t meet box office expectations. In fact, it only received a 50% approval score on Rotten Tomatoes, not because it was boring, but because it had too much going on.
Power Rangers (2017) – Estimated Loss: $76,000,000
The latest installment in the popular Power Rangers franchise was supposed to be one of the biggest movies of 2017. It was a revival of every ’90’s kid’s favorite show, and it featured autistic and LGBTQ actors, a first for a superhero movie.
Sadly, the movie’s progressive casting and special effects didn’t turn this movie into the blockbuster the creators anticipated. Critics cited tonal inconsistencies, and audiences apparently just weren’t interested in a modernized adaptation of the story. In the end, Power Rangers ended up being one of the biggest flops of the entire year.
How Do You Know (2010) – Estimated Loss: $76,000,000–$105,000,000
Everyone loves a good old-fashioned rom-com, right? That was the thought behind How Do You Know? The movie stars America’s sweetheart Reese Witherspoon, who plays a woman who just got cut from the U.S.A. women’s softball team.
As if that’s not enough, she gets caught in a love triangle with her current pro ball boyfriend (Owen Wilson) and a corporate do-gooder played by the affable Paul Rudd. The connection between her career and love troubles is weak, and many critics said the movie lacked a functional plot. In the end, no one wanted to see this confusing, go-nowhere movie.
Sahara (2005) – Estimated Loss: $78,000,000–$100,000,000
Movie adaptations of books often turn into instant classics or become some of the biggest bombs in the film industry — Sahara fits into the latter category. The movie didn’t do a great job of telling the story in Clive Cussler’s bestselling novel, and movie-goers didn’t like it.
This comedy-action movie didn’t do well with viewers, who found the chemistry between Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz to be non-existent. The overall script lacked originality, and the movie didn’t fare well with critics either. Even though it was visually appealing, the beauty of the Sahara desert couldn’t rescue this failure of a movie.
Gods of Egypt (2016) – Estimated Loss: $79,000,000–$90,000,000
When will Hollywood realize they can’t produce Egyptian-themed movies with primarily white casts anymore? You would think they would know by now that audiences don’t like it, and Gods of Egypt was no exception. If anything, this movie taught everyone a long overdue lesson on the importance of accurate representation.
The movie received tons of backlash over the casting — enough for Lionsgate and director Alex Proyas to issue an apology for the casting gaffe. That wasn’t the only problem critics found with the movie, however. They also ripped it to shreds for its lackluster acting, boring script and overuse of special effects.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (2015) – Estimated Loss: $80,000,000
Directed by fan favorite Guy Ritchie, this movie was based on the popular 1960’s TV show. The rights to the show were purchased all the way back in 1994, but numerous rewrites delayed the film’s production, and it wasn’t released until 2015.
All that time spent trying to get the script just right didn’t pay off, unfortunately. Based on the movie’s weak box office performance, it may have even done more harm than good. Even with actors who were at the top of their game, like Henry Cavill, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. received mixed reviews from critics and failed to attract an audience.
Fantastic Four (2015) – Estimated Loss: $80,000,000–$100,000,000
In the last 20 years, the world has enjoyed a flood of superhero movies, and the genre has turned into a highly profitable Hollywood commodity. Even remakes of memorable favorites have fared well — until the Fantastic Four. The latest adaptation of Marvel’s first family did not win over fans.
This reimagined version of the famous comic actually angered many longtime fans because of its wildly different storyline. Other than the acting, which received mixed reviews, critics and viewers weren’t impressed and called the movie cheesy, uninteresting and predictable. To add insult to injury, the movie only has a meager 9% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Ouch!
Blade Runner 2049 (2017) – Estimated Loss: $80,000,000
In some cases, even movies with good reviews can flop. This follow-up to the original ’80’s Blade Runner is a good example of that. Blade Runner 2049 had a stellar cast, including Harrison Ford and Ryan Gosling, impressive art direction and Oscar-winning photography. It was well-received by critics and fans and achieved an 87% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
None of these things seemed to help the movie’s performance at the box office. It underperformed and ended up costing the studio millions of dollars. Many people speculate that the lengthy run-time of 163 minutes was probably more time than most people wanted to spend in a theater.
Supernova (2000) – Estimated Loss: $83,000,000
Is there a term for a film that underperforms so spectacularly that “flop” doesn’t even do it justice? If so, then Supernova definitely falls into that category. The movie had a $90 million production budget but only grossed $14.8 million, making it one of the biggest losses in Hollywood history.
This movie not only failed to fill movie seats, but it also got scathing reviews. To date, it only has a score of 19% on Rotten Tomatoes. Sci-fi fans everywhere consider it to be a joke because of its lack of excitement, confusing storyline and mediocre special effects.
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017) – Estimated Loss: $84,000,000
Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets seemed to have a lot going for it prior to its debut. The movie had an A-list cast with British stars Clive Owen and Cara Delevingne, great marketing and a high production budget, but all of these things ended up working against it.
The cost of advertising and production actually cost so much that it didn’t turn much of a profit, even with decent attendance numbers. Even though it wasn’t the worst movie ever made, the reviews were mixed, which didn’t help its cause. The movie only has a 43% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Town & Country (2001) – Estimated Loss: $85,000,000
Town & Country has earned a reputation as one of the worst movies ever made. The Hollywood Reporter even went so far as to list it as the fifth-biggest flop of the 2000s. The movie had a star-studded ensemble cast that included Warren Beatty, Diane Keaton, Gary Shandling and Goldie Hawn, but that wasn’t enough to win over audiences.
Critics and movie-goers alike found the plot to be confusing, the characters unlikeable and the editing to be confusingly bad. In the end, it only grossed $10.4 million and has a measly 13% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, making it a low point in the careers of everyone involved.
Treasure Planet (2002) – Estimated Loss: $85,000,000
This animated take on the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novel Treasure Island proves that sometimes it’s best to leave a time-honored story alone. Even though it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, it wasn’t well-received by most critics, and audiences didn’t give it the time of day, either.
Everyone agreed that the animation was stunning and visually impressive, but the story was considered weak. One tough critic, A.O. Scott, even called it a “brainless, mechanical picture.” On the other hand, for those who did see it, the movie currently has a 69% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Seventh Son (2014) – Estimated Loss: $85,000,000
Critics didn’t seem to care for this fantasy film that was based on the famous novel The Spook’s Apprentice. Many blamed the lack of imagination and an overload of special effects for making it one of the most boring flops of 2014. It’s one you might not even remember hearing about, as it almost seemed to disappear overnight.
The only saving grace of the film was its stars, including Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore, but even they couldn’t do much to help. The movie ended up losing tens of millions of dollars and has since been forgotten along with the rest of Hollywood’s bombs.
Pan (2015) – Estimated Loss: $86,000,000–$150,000,000
Peter Pan is one of the most famous, beloved children’s stories in the world, but that didn’t make people want to see the 2015 live action film Pan. The latest in nearly a dozen film adaptations of the classic story, the film was criticized for its reliance on CGI and its unimaginative storytelling.
Besides the weak script and the overuse of special effects, an exuberant amount of money was spent on marketing for the film. In addition to the already huge budget of $150 million, $100-$125 million was spent on advertising alone, putting the movie in a financial hole.
A Wrinkle in Time (2018) – Estimated Loss: $86,000,000–$186,000,000
When it comes to movie making, ambition is a good thing, but sometimes movies are too ambitious for their own good. A Wrinkle in Time is a perfect example of that. The long-awaited movie adaptation of the famous book failed to win audiences over and added to the already long list of failed books-turned-movies.
Critics felt it was a visual masterpiece but also thought creators bit off more than they could chew. Even strong performances from famous faces like Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine as well as newcomer Storm Reid couldn’t create the same captivating magic the book had.
Jack the Giant Slayer (2013) – Estimated Loss: $86,000,000–$106,000,000
This fantastical, modern take on a childhood classic isn’t the biggest flop on the list, but it didn’t turn out to be a moneymaker for the studio. This CGI-heavy movie directed by Bryan Singer got a mixed bag when it came to its reception, with audiences and critics disagreeing on its merits.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the film scored a measly 53% with a lot of viewers calling it boring, unnecessary and predictable. Some critics, however, felt the movie was action-packed and entertaining. Hollywood Reporter critic Todd McCarthy even said the movie was better than The Hobbit.
Jupiter Ascending (2015) – Estimated Loss: $87,000,000–$120,000,000
Unfortunately, the only thing people seemed to like about Jupiter Ascending was the beautiful special effects, and that wasn’t enough to save it from losing big time at the box office. At the time, people were already inundated with space movies, and this movie didn’t have a strong enough story to compete.
The Wachowski-directed space fantasy only grossed $47 million in the U.S. and got negative reviews from critics. Despite fairly original and novel world-building, some professionals reviewing the film said the script was “incoherent.” Audiences didn’t seem impressed either, and the movie currently has a 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Rise of the Guardians (2012) – Estimated Loss: $93,000,000
This one is another disappointing example of a movie adaptation gone wrong. Rise of the Guardians, released in 2012, is an animated adaptation of the popular children’s book The Guardians of Childhood. Sadly, having a well-told story already laid out doesn’t guarantee movie success.
Rise of the Guardians failed to do the original story justice and ended up wasting a ton of money on marketing. This combination didn’t pay off in the long-run, and the studio lost around $93 million. At least kids seemed to like it, and many reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes gave it a positive review for this reason.
Evan Almighty (2007) – Estimated Loss: $88,000,000
This follow-up to Bruce Almighty didn’t exactly match its predecessor’s success — nowhere near it, actually. The movie is often regarded as one of the worst sequels of all time. Critics complained that, unlike the first movie, Evan Almighty was a movie that had too many special effects and offered too few laughs.
Fans of the original were put off by the almost preachy tone of the sequel, and it only received a 23% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Jim Carrey has a reputation for bailing on sequels to his movies. In this case, it looks like he made a wise choice.
Cutthroat Island (1995) – Estimated Loss: $89,000,000
Cutthroat Island didn’t win big at the box office, but it did win the Guinness World Record title for World’s Largest Box Office Flop. Fortunately, Guinness did away with that record, but it doesn’t change the fact that this was one of the biggest bombs in Hollywood. It stood unchallenged for years as the biggest black mark on the box office.
The countless problems on set and with production were the main causes for this movie’s failure. In fact, the movie did so poorly that pirate movies were essentially forbidden in Hollywood for years until the success of Pirates of the Caribbean changed all that.
R.I.P.D. (2013) – Estimated Loss: $91,000,000–$115,000,000
Who would have thought you could go wrong with an action-comedy starring everyone’s favorite heartthrob Ryan Reynolds and the iconic Jeff Bridges? Well, apparently, R.I.P.D. is proof you can. Despite the box office appeal of Reynolds, this movie couldn’t manage to fill theaters.
It’s based on the popular comic book but simply doesn’t compare to the actual comic, and fans were left disappointed. The concept didn’t seem to resonate with audiences, who found the movie to be goofy and downright awful. That would explain the 13% Rotten Tomatoes approval rating.
The Promise (2016) – Estimated Loss: $94,000,000–$102,000,000
The Promise tells the story of a love triangle between a brilliant medical student, a beautiful young woman and her current beau, all set in the historic days of the Ottoman Empire. The creators might have been hoping for an Oscar nomination or even a win, but it didn’t happen with this anticlimactic film.
The story wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t impressive, which may be the reason behind the movie’s dismal performance with audiences and critics. Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac are known for their incredible acting skills, but even their talent couldn’t get people to watch this movie.
The Alamo (2004) – Estimated Loss: $94,000,000
In Hollywood, remakes can be pretty risky when producers are up against the success and expectations established by the original. The 2004 version of The Alamo is one example of a failed remake. This movie had a lot of things working against its potential for success.
For one, it was filmed on one of the largest sets in North America, which added to its already staggering budget. The previews weren’t well received, which delayed the release. Once it was released, it had to compete with The Passion of the Christ. Basically, this movie didn’t stand a chance.
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001) – Estimated Loss: $94,000,000
The popular Final Fantasy series has proven to be one of the most successful, longest-running video game franchises in history, but all that market goodwill didn’t prove helpful when Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within was released in theaters. The movie was ambitious and visually impressive, but that was about it.
The studio hoped the mind-blowing animation and big-name actors like Alec Baldwin providing voice talent would be enough to make more than the $137 million budget, but they didn’t. The detailed graphics had never been seen before, but audiences and critics still found the characters to be stiff and unrealistic.
The Lone Ranger (2013) – Estimated Loss: $95,000,000–$190,000,000
After the international success of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, Disney thought they could use Johnny Depp’s star power to bring in some more big bucks. Unfortunately, they chose the wrong project because The Lone Ranger was a huge flop.
The movie’s massive production and marketing budgets failed to draw audiences in to watch the movie. Despite nearly single-handedly reviving the swashbuckling genre, Depp failed to do the same with the epic western. It probably didn’t help that many people who watched it were more than a little irked to see a white guy playing a Native American character, but the weak story gets most of the blame.
The Mummy (2017) – Estimated Loss: $95,000,000
After the massive success of the Brendan Fraser trilogy, producers likely saw more box office gold to be mined from the Mummy franchise. But did this series really need another reboot? After watching this 2017 version, the answer is “no.” Even Tom Cruise couldn’t save this disaster of a movie, and it ended up getting pulled from 800 theaters after three weeks.
What was the cause of the laughable turnout? Deadline Hollywood blamed it on “blockbuster fatigue,” saying that audiences were burned out on action-packed movies with tons of CGI. It was intended to launch a Dark Universe franchise for Universal, but those plans were scrapped.
The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002) – Estimated Loss: $96,000,000
Building on an already legendary career in standup comedy, Eddie Murphy became one of the biggest comedic movie stars in the ’80s and ’90s. All of that came to a screeching halt with the release of 2002’s forgettable The Adventures of Pluto Nash.
Murphy played an interstellar nightclub owner who is trying to keep his business out of the hands of space-age gangsters. As much as people love space movies, audiences and critics weren’t feeling this ridiculous plot, and it showed in the dismal box office performance. The movie only brought in a puny $7 million, a tiny fraction of its $100 million budget.
Mars Needs Moms (2011) – Estimated Loss: $100,000,000–$144,000,000
Mars Needs Moms might be one of Disney’s biggest blunders. It had a classic problem with overspending, which explains the $150 million dollar budget. In addition to the enormous production budget, the studio spent $25 million on advertising. This made it nearly impossible for Pixar to turn a profit, which they didn’t.
Expenses weren’t the only problem, however. No one seemed to like the movie, mostly due to its creepy hyper-realistic animation. It got terrible reviews and currently has a 37% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. If you missed this one when it came out, the only value is for a cringe-watch.