Movie magic is an incredible phenomenon. When a film can successfully distract you for a couple of hours, and take you into a new and imagined reality, the result can be mind-boggling. Unfortunately, this movie magic that all filmmakers strive for is all too rare. Most of the time, movies fail to deliver and the studios that produced them are left with a dud of a film that not everyone wants to see. When this happens, the studio risks losing more money than they originally invested to make the film. This is called a box office bomb and while there have been many box office bombs in the past, there are a few that stand out as being utter disasters for everyone involved. These are the films that lost studios millions of dollars. Some of these films suffered from bad direction, unfortunate casting, or maybe even an ill-conceived idea from the start. Whatever their problems, it’s clear that these films were not the financial successes that their studios were hoping for. So for your enjoyment, below is a list of ten of the biggest box office bombs in movie history.
10. Heaven’s Gate (1980)
Heaven’s Gate is an American epic Western Film. It tells the story of a dispute between land barons and European immigrants in the 1980’s. The movie had its fair share of problems, even before its release. There were constant setbacks in the film’s production because of budget issues and negative press surrounding the film. In fact, the director of the film, Michael Cimino, pushed the film four times over its original budget. In the end, the film opened to less than stellar reviews and a measly profit of $3 million domestically. The outcome of this financial loss was devastating. Its studio, United Artists, nearly collapsed and Cimino’s reputation was effectively destroyed. Today the film has received more positive reviews. Some critics have even described it as being a “modern day masterpiece.” But even if the movie was just ahead of its time, it’s still considered to be one of the biggest box office bombs in history.
9. The Lone Ranger (2013)
The Lone Ranger is a 2013 American action Western film, that was produced by Walt Disney Pictures. Like other films on this list, The Lone Ranger had its problems from the start. Its first problem being that the movie is based on a Radio series, and the second being that The Lone Ranger hadn’t been featured in a film for more than 32 years. Besides this general lack of interest from potential audiences, there were also budgetary concerns. The film was even cancelled at one point, due to its over inflated budget. Eventually the film did make it to theaters but this didn’t make things any better. The movie received mixed to negative reviews and it under-performed during its opening weekend. All in all, the movie lost Walt Disney Studios more than $150 million.
8. Sahara (2005)
Sahara is an interesting movie when it comes to box office bombs because it did reasonably well in theaters. It opened at the number one spot in the U.S and ended up making a respectable $122 million at the box office. And although the film received mixed to negative reviews, audiences seemed to enjoy it. Unfortunately, this was nowhere near enough money to cover the film’s high budget and distribution expenses. In fact, the film only ended up making back half of what the studio had shelled out to get it into theaters, causing the film to lose an estimated $120 million. Sahara ended up becoming a prime example of how a bloated budget can cause a movie to fail, even before it has reached theaters.
7. Town & Country (2001)
Town & Country is a 2001 film that tells the story of a New York architect who is at a crossroads in her life. The films budget was a whopping $105 million, a steep price for a romantic comedy. When the film premiered in theaters, three years after filming began, it received mostly negative reviews, with critics calling it “boorish” and “obtuse.” Apparently audiences agreed with the harsh criticism of this film, as it only managed to make $10 million at the box office. After the film’s poor performance, many of the key actors in it weren’t seen in a major motion picture for some time. In fact, Town & Country was one of the final films that Charlton Heston appeared in.
6. The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)
The Adventures of Pluto Nash is a 2002 science fiction comedy starring Eddie Murphy. The script for this film was written in the 1980’s, but it wasn’t put into production until April 2000. After that, it sat on the shelf for two years before finally being released in 2002. Unfortunately the film was not worth the wait. The film was panned by critics and only managed to score 5% on Rotten Tomatoes. It was even nominated for five Golden Raspberry Awards, including worst picture, worst actor, worst director, worst screenplay and worst screen couple. In addition, the film was a financial disaster. The studio shelled out $120 million to get it into theaters and it only ended up making back about $7 million.
5. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within is a computer animated science-fiction film, based on the Final Fantasy role-playing games. The film was the first of its kind. It used some of the most advanced processing capabilities in order to make a photo-realistic computer-animated movie. Because of this, the film greatly exceeded its original budget, making it the most expensive video game inspired film ever made. When the film was released it received mixed reviews, but it was praised for the realism of the computer-animated characters. However this didn’t help the film in the box office. Square Pictures, the production company, only managed to make back $85 million of the $137 million that the company had spent making the film. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, is even blamed for the downfall of Square Pictures.
4. Mars Needs Moms (2011)
Mars Needs Moms is an animated science fiction comedy that is based on the book of the same name, by Berkeley Breathed. The film tells the story of a young boy who learns the importance of family when his mother is abducted by Martians. The film received mostly negative reviews, with most critics questioning the decision to use motion capture animation. Audiences weren’t too thrilled with the film either. The movie only made $1,725,000 on its first day, making it the worst box office performance for a Disney movie ever. In the end, the movie only managed to make back $39 million of its $150 million budget.
3. Cutthroat Island (1995)
Cutthroat Island is a romantic comedy action adventure film starring Geena Davis and Matthew Modine. The film was a huge box office bomb and was once listed as the biggest box office flop of all time in the Guinness Book of World Records. The movie suffered from many problems, even before its release. The script went through multiple rewrites, some without the director’s consent, and many recasts, all of which added unnecessary financial strain to the company producing the film. The film opened to mixed to negative reviews and was only able to earn a measly $10 million. The total cost of producing Cutthroat Island came out to about $98 million, making this movie a financial disaster. The movie has even been blamed for the demise of Carolco Pictures, the company that produced it.
2. 47 Ronin (2013)
47 Ronin is a Japanese-American fantasy action film that portrays the account of a group of master-less samurais who are on a mission to avenge the death of their lord. The film was first released in Japan, where it failed to impress. Audiences found the Hollywood adaptation of a traditional Japanese story “distasteful.” The move didn’t do much better in the states. It only managed to earn $20.6 million in its first five days at the box office. In the end, the film earned $150 million, which was only half of what the production company had spent to make the movie, making this movie an epic financial disaster.
1. The 13th Warrior (1999)
The 13th Warrior is a historical action film that is based on the novel, Eaters of the Dead by Michael Crichton. The film’s production and marketing cost rounded out to about $160 million, making this a particularly expensive film. Couple that with the fact that the film only managed to make $61 million, and it’s easy to see why this film was such a failure. The film suffered from an inflated budget, which was made worse by re-edits and re-shoots. In addition, the film received less than stellar reviews from critics. Roger Ebert only gave the film one and a half out of four stars and said the film, “lumbers from one expensive set-piece to the next without taking the time to tell a story that might make us care.” The studio that produced The 13th Warrior ended up losing nearly $100 million.