Every year there always come a few movies that don’t go up to the hype they create and become box office flops. Now, at a time when every studio produces movies that take hundreds of millions of dollars to make, it is easy to expect some big entertainment. However, some movies fail to earn the estimated budget, resulting the box office bombs.
Whether it’s a poor plot or a high production budget, it remains a great loss for the whole team. Recently, the global pandemic also contributed to the budget loss of some great films. Some movies even fail so hard that they become bankrupt. So here is the list of films that remained the biggest box office bombs and the reasons why they didn’t work out.
List of the Biggest Box Office Flops:
15. Sahara (2005)
- Cast: Penelope Cruz, Steve Zahn, Lambert Wilson, Lennie James, Matthew McConaughey.
- Director: Breck Eisner
- Estimated Production Budget: $130 million
- Box office Gross: $119.2 million worldwide
Featuring some of Hollywood’s biggest stars, like Matthew McConaughey, Penelope Cruz, and Steve Zahn, this film was one of the high-budgeted films of that time. On the opening weekend, it earned number one at the US box office. However, it failed to achieve the estimated budget for some legal issues and controversies.
Production issues, violations, and lawsuit trouble rendered Sahara to be the biggest box office failure of all time—
The production had to increase the budget, and it had many production issues. Based on Clive Cussler’s novel of the same name, Cussler ran into a long legal action lawsuit against producer Philip Anschutz alleging not consulting him for the script writing. Rumor has it that it had bribery to the Moroccan government in its budget production.
14. Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)
- Cast: Randy Quaid, Rosario Dawson, Peter Boyle, Jay Mohr, Eddie Murphy.
- Director: Ron Underwood.
- Production Budget: $100 million
- Worldwide Box Office Gross: $7.1 million
About Adventures of Pluto Nash:
Neither funny nor adventurous
This science fiction comedy film is one of the major box office bombs that critics claimed as neither funny nor adventurous. Director Ron Underwood also expressed dissatisfaction with not having the wit and fun that he wanted.
Set in the year 2087, Eddie Murphy played the character Pluto Nash, a nightclub owner who went to Moon with his mates to find the reason behind his club’s destruction. Murphy was unhappy and didn’t feel funny; besides, he rejected many scripts.
Critics complained about the style and storytelling that failed to pull off the mark. The film has so many unpleasant reviews that it got many nominations for the worst film and many more for the Golden Raspberry Awards.
13. Green Lantern (2011)
- Cast: Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Angela Bassett, Ryan Reynolds.
- Director: Martin Campbell
- Production Budget: $200 million
- Worldwide Box Office Gross: $219.9 million
About Green Lantern:
From the sources of the Hollywood Reporter, it had to make a total of $500 million worldwide to be a box office hit. Ryan Reynolds as Green Lantern failed to bring the magic, even with his hot physique and comedy. He even went on to make fun of his next superhero box office hit film Deadpool.
Deviation from the source material, poor writing, and comedy led this DC universe superhero movie to a miserable path.
The only good thing about the film is the visual effects; otherwise, the film is a failure. The film got many unfavorable critical reviews and failed to impress the audience, resulting in a big fat loss at the box office. Critics condemn this film as noisy, with poor writing, a lack of professionalism, and poor adaptation.
Alongside Reynolds, there are casts like Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, and Mark Strong, who, too, failed to bring charisma. Warner Bros. canceled the sequel due to its bad performance and unfavorable critical review. While the film was a box office failure, the audience gets to see the power couple Reynolds and Lively together sharing the screen.
12. Stealth (2005)
- Cast: Jessica Biel, Josh Lucas, Jamie Foxx, Sam Shepherd.
- Director: Rob Cohen.
- Production Budget: $135 million
- Worldwide Box Office Gross: $79.3 million
This military action movie had some well-known stars like Jessica Biel, Josh Lucas, and Jamie Foxx, yet it failed to attract audiences. The film had some high-action scenes, like numerous aircraft scenes, which might cost a lot. However, the stereotypical action and mediocre plot are one of the reasons to be the box office bomb.
Another reason might be the close competition with other films—
Stealth was in close competition with other highly anticipated films such as Wedding Crashers, Johnny Depp’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and the superhero movie Sky High at the opening weekend.
Where the movie had a budget of $135 million, it earned only $13.3 million in the opening weekend, placing it in the fourth position among the mentioned movies. The following weekend got even worse while losing many movie theatres, as well as audiences. It ended up being the biggest money loser of the year 2005.
11. The 13th Warrior (1999)
- Cast: Diane Venora, Antonio Banderas, Vladimir Kulich, Omar Sharif.
- Director: John McTiernan, Michael Kritchton.
- Production budget: $160 million
- Worldwide Gross: $61.7 million
About The 13th Warrior:
This box office bomb of 1999 is based on Michael Crichton’s novel Eaters of the Dead and loosely adapted from the stories of Beowulf. The movie underwent many re-editing phases, so they had to reschedule the release date over a year, costing them $160 million instead of $81 million.
The increased budget, thin plot and competition with the psychological thriller The Sixth Sense made the audience lose interest in this film.
Besides the budget issue, the movie had a dull plot that was not interesting to the audience and was second behind the movie The Sixth Sense. The failure of this film hit the actor Omar Sharif so hard that he decided to retire from acting in movies. However, he came back in 2003.
10. West Side Story (2021)
- Cast: Ariana Denise, Ansel Elgort, David Alvarez, Rachel Zegler.
- Director: Stephen Spielberg.
- Production Budget: $100 million
- Worldwide Gross: $76 million
About West Side Story:
The most contributing factor to some box office bombs of the year 2021 is the covid-19 pandemic. West Side Story is a musical adaptation that had a rough time at the box office. The Stephen Spielberg-directed movie earned critical acclaim and even got a place in the top 10 best pictures of 2021.
But thanks to the global pandemic, it didn’t perform very well at the box office despite having a huge cast like Ansel Elgort, Rachel Zegler, and Ariana DeBose. Experts claimed the film needed $300 million while it earned only $76 million worldwide.
Not only the pandemic, but the film also had only adult audiences, and the recent reluctance towards musicals also became the factor of this box office bomb.
The film flopped on the first weekend due to its target audience being adults, and the pandemic is the pretty obvious reason they would avoid going to theaters. The year 2021 also saw a fall in audiences of musical films. It earned seven Academy Award nominations, including the Best Picture nomination. The only bright side was that in 2022 it debuted in the streaming service Disney Plus.
9. Mars Needs Moms (2011)
- Cast: Dan Fogler, Mindy Sterling, Elisabeth Hamois, Seth Green.
- Director: Simon Wells
- Production budget: $150 million
- Worldwide Gross: $39.2 million
About Mars Needs Moms:
Mars Needs Moms was Disney’s one of biggest box office flops of 2011 and faced a big financial issue. It was very rare to see a Disney film with poor animation-style performance.
Critics and moviegoers both complained about the animation style that failed to bridge the uncanny valley threshold, and the storyline didn’t put a big impression as well–
The audience felt that the animation was too realistic and looked creepy. Other critics argued that filmmaker and producer Robert Zemeckis worked too much on his “technological wizardry” and didn’t put much effort into storytelling. Besides that, Mars Needs Moms was in close competition with Battle: Los Angeles, releasing in the same week.
8. Cats (2019)
- Cast: Idris Elba, Judi Dench, Francesca Hayward, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, Rebel Wilson, Jason Derulo, Taylor Swift.
- Director: Tom Hooper
- Production Budget: $80- 100 million
- Worldwide Box Office Gross: $75.5 million
Based on the 1981 Broadway Musical, the 2019 movie Cats mostly got negative reviews from critics and audiences. The film was one of the most popular and biggest anticipated movies of 2019, with Tom Hooper as the director and a heavyweight cast like Idris Elba, Judi Dench, Jennifer Hudson, James Corden, Taylor Swift, and many more.
Visual Effects and editing bothered viewers the most, while the plot seemed ridiculous the whole time.
The actors dressed up as a cat in elaborate cat costumes, but the makers settled with the motion capture CGI. The film mostly got reviews like “bizarre” and “ridiculous” because of its bad animation and turned out to one of the worst movies.
Initially, the film had a lot of CGI errors, and to fix it; Universal Pictures updated it “with some improved visual effects” even after it had hit the theatre. But it still failed to impress audiences, and the estimated loss stands at $75 million, and after marketing and distribution costs, it stands at $114 million.
— ComicBook.com (@ComicBook) December 27, 2019
7. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)
- Cast: Charlie Hannam, Astrid Bergès-Frisbey, Jude Law, Eric Bana, Aidan Gillen.
- Director: Guy Ritchie
- Production budget: $175 million
- Worldwide box office Gross: $148.7 million
About King Arthur: Legend of the Sword:
The classic story of King Arthur took a fresh modern turn in this film. However, Guy Ritchie’s action-packed modern King Arthur didn’t impress the audience.
The film’s failure might be over-budget, and there are so many Arthurian films from the last decade that it no longer interests people.
Finance experts shared that it is useless to make a big-budget movie with this story, and they could have made this film with less budget close to 60- 80 million. Originally the plan was to make a six-film franchise, but due to its poor box office performance, Warner Bros. canceled the sequels immediately.
6. Mulan (2020)
- Cast: Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Jason Scott Lee, Tzi Ma, Yoson An.
- Director: Niki Caro.
- Production Budget: $200 million
- Worldwide Box Office Gross: $70 million
Mulan, the live-action movie, failed to gain an impression like other live-action remakes of Disney animated movies. The film saw a very rough time in the theatres as the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world, and after several rescheduling, it finally settled for the streaming platform Disney plus.
In addition to the pandemic, the historical and cultural inaccuracies and several controversies surrounding the film made the worst impression.
Against the film’s production budget of $200 million, it only grossed $70 million at the box office due to its limited release in the theatres. According to the Chinese audiences, the film has some historical and cultural inaccuracies and its portrayal of Chinese people.
Moreover, it had to face many controversies, one surrounding the lead actress Yifei Liu. Her clear support for the police during the Hong Kong anti-police brutality protests in 2019 made the audience boycott the film with the #BoycottMulan trending on Twitter. It also got criticism for its lack of Chinese descent in the production team.
5. The Lone Ranger (2013)
- Cast: Tom Wilkinson, Barry Paper, William Fitchner, Helena Bonham Carter, Armie Hammer, Johnny Depp.
- Director: Gore Verbinski
- Production budget: $225- 250 million
- Box Office Gross: $260 million.
About The Lone Ranger:
The Lone Ranger had a $225- 250 million production budget with $150 million in marketing costs. The movie failed to break even, losing $150- 190 million. Critics denoted it would need to gross $650 million to break even.
The film had a troublesome production, leading to its cancellation, but they eventually released it.
Disney’s American Western movie starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer, and Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Caribbean director) as the director, The Lone Ranger, had faced several production issues and several release dates. Released on the same weekend as Despicable Me 2, which had a lower budget compared to The Lone Ranger, the latter movie earned one-third of that.
Due to the underwhelming performance on the first weekend, many critics declared it one of the biggest box office flops and compared it with another Disney failure of the previous year, John Carter.
4. Jungle Cruise (2021)
- Cast: Édgar Ramírez, Jack Whitehall, Jesse Plemons, Emily Blunt, Dwayne Johnson.
- Director: Jaume Collet-Serra.
- Production Budget: $200 million
- Worldwide Box Office Gross: $220 million
About Jungle Cruise:
Another movie impacted by the pandemic, Jungle Cruise, after postponing many times, finally got a release date in both movie theatres and the streaming site Disney Plus. The movie had to gross over $500 million to break even, while it only grossed $221 million worldwide.
The possibility of failure might be both theatre release and streaming platform, which lowered the aggregate streaming revenue and a loss of audience in the theatres.
Starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, this movie got mixed reviews from critics, with some criticizing it as not a good adventure flick but overall, a family-friendly picture. Some critics raised issues about the LGBTQ character by Jack Whitehall, while others felt it was unnecessary. Disney is up for a sequel, developing with Johnson and Blunt returning with their character.
3. Cutthroat Island (1995)
- Cast: Geena Davis, Matthew Modine, Patrick Malahide, Frank Langella, Mary Chaykin.
- Director: Renny Harlin
- Production budget: $92- 98 million
- Box Office Gross: $10 million
About Cutthroat Island:
Cutthroat Island, the film, has a bad reputation for being the most expensive box-office bombs of all time. It got mostly negative reviews for its bad script and unrealistic stunts. It seemed like the movie was already cursed from the very beginning.
Cutthroat Island had the most troublesome production that led to many recasts and rewriting of the scripts.
Carolco Pictures already had debt before the production and had to cancel other projects that were in development. Its failure also depended on Hollywood’s bankability with pirate-themed films until 2005 with the big hit, Pirates of the Caribbean. Moreover, the members had to face so many obstacles.
When director and producer Renny Harlin fired the chief camera operator, almost two dozen crew resigned immediately. The original cinematographer accidentally fell off into one of the water tanks from a crane. He broke his leg, and they had to replace the cinematographer.
The actors had to do their own stunts, that were possibly leading them to many cuts and injuries. Carolco Pictures had to quit after this film.
2. 47 Ronin (2013)
- Cast: Tadanobu Asano, Ko Shibasaki, Rinko Kikuchi, Hiroyuki Sanada, Keanu Reeves.
- Director: Carl Rinsch
- Production Budget: $175- 225 million
- Worldwide Box Office Gross: $151.8 million
About 47 Ronin:
47 Ronin is based on the story of Chusingura, a group of masterclass samurai of the 18th century who avenged their master’s death by killing their rival. With stars like Keanu Reeves and an original Japanese cast, 47 Ronin had very little resemblance to the original story, one of the reasons for its failure.
Deviating slightly from the original story, 47 Ronin first opened in theatres in Japan, where it had a poor impression.
Although the expectation was higher in Japan, it performed badly while standing third behind big movies like Lupin the 3rd vs. Detective Conan: The Movie and Studio Ghibli’s The Tale of Princess Kaguya.
It got negative reviews from the critics who blamed the film’s failure on the Christmas release when there were too many movies, the film’s post-production and rescheduling, and the audience’s disinterest in Reeves as an actor, especially in period movies.
Universal Studios spent at least $100 million in distributing and marketing costs, besides a production budget of $175- 225 million. The studio had a loss of $175 million that left Universal studio in huge damage in 2013.
1. John Carter (2012)
- Cast: Samantha Morton, Ciarán Hinds, Mark Strong, Lynn Collins, Taylor Kitsch.
- Director: Andrew Stanton.
- Production Budget: $306.6 million
- Worldwide Gross: $284.1 million
About John Carter:
The last movie on the list is John Carter, one of the most expensive and the biggest box office flops of all time. The movie is based on The Princess of Mars, from the Barsoom series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. With a talented cast and Andrew Stanton as the director, this science fiction movie had all the elements of being a successful movie.
The film’s failure is solely based on its marketing campaign.
Marketing team members were mostly new and inexperienced. The movie only grossed $300 million worldwide against the production budget of $250 million. It had a huge marketing budget of $350 million, which was the worst. Moreover, it had to garner $600 million worldwide to break even.
Disney had the worst time after John Carter’s failure and took a $200 million write-down on the movie. It mostly got negative reviews from the critics blaming its bad storytelling, characterization, and long length. Due to the bad performance and financial loss, Disney canceled the sequel of this movie which was in the making.