Much is discussed about movies that make a ton of money at the box office, and the opposite: films that have extreme budgets but don’t come even close to breaking even. But what about the films that grossed so little money, that time simply forgot them? How embarrassing it is to spend millions on a film, to result in not even making a hundred dollars. Most of the films on this list are independent films, or films made for micro-budgets and distributed through a non-studio. All of these played at one theater or more, for a few days, and only one film on the list actually made its budget back. This isn’t the definitive list of lowest grossing films–there are many more, believe it or not, that grossed next to nothing–but these are the most interesting of them all, the ones with big stars who are probably lowering their heads in shame, just by being mentioned here. Like the saying goes, you can’t win them all.
10. The Worst Movie Ever! – Total Gross: $21,010
Even though this indie made only $11 in its first weekend in one theater, it eventually grossed over $21,000—of course, it took three years to accomplish that. Filmmaker Glenn Berggoetz, wrote and directed a movie about a Santa Claus and aliens. It premiered in August 2011 at the Laemmle Sunset 5 theater in L.A., and only one person came to see it during the weekend, causing it to become the lowest opening in film history. But, the next weekend, there was a 400 percent increase to $60, and then the film was re-released in November and made a massive $1,810 in one weekend. Gaining a cult following, the film sporadically screened in theaters throughout 2012 and 2013. Because the budget was a mere $1,000, Berggoetz’s film actually made money—it just took 297 days and 42.4 weeks to do so.
9. The Ghastly Love of Johnny X – Total Gross: $2,436
Actor Creed Bratton is best known for starring as the eccentric Creed on The Office, but he also starred in this sci-fi/fantasy/musical, with a budget of $2 million. The movie only made $86 when it opened in a single theater in Kansas City, in October of 2012. The film was re-released in April 2013 and made a promising $120 more. During the entire month of May 2013, it screened at two theaters and racked in $1,700, bringing the total gross to $2,436.
8. Sweet Jane – Total Gross: $967
Despite being a critically-acclaimed film, this movie about a HIV-positive heroin addict, who befriends a teenage boy with AIDS (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) didn’t make much scratch at the box office. In its opening weekend, Sweet Jane only grossed $59. In the next few weeks, it managed to gross almost $1,000. In 2000, Gordon-Levitt was beginning to be recognized, but he was nowhere close to being as famous as he is today. The writer-director of the movie, Joe Gayton, went on to create the successful AMC show, Hell on Wheels, so at least his failure was fleeting.
7. Meeting Evil – Total Gross: $525
Samuel L. Jackson is not only a household name, but he’s starred in some pretty damn lucrative movies. So it’s surprising to find out he starred, alongside Luke Wilson, in a total flop during the spring of 2012. Jackson plays a psychopath who kidnaps Wilson, and then a bunch of violent and mysterious things happen. Unfortunately, it’s not some sort of buddy comedy. The film made $181 in its opening weekend, but somehow managed to gross another $344 during the week. Currently, the film holds a 13 percent Fresh Rating on Rotten Tomatoes, proving even big stars like Jackson could make bad career decisions.
6. The Marsh – Total Gross: $336
Within a few months period, Academy Award-winning actor, Forest Whitaker starred in both a winner and a stinker. The Marsh, a supernatural thriller about ghosts haunting a woman who’s staying at a farm, grossed a paltry $336 at the weekend box office. It opened on March 25, 2007 in the U.S. and closed three days later. Considering it had a $9 million budget, it bombed in a major way (Whitaker had just won an Oscar for The Last King of Scotland, a month prior). Even though Americans didn’t respond to the wonky thriller, foreigners certainly did, and the film ended up grossing $2,408,116 in foreign box office, bringing the grand total to $2,408,452. It should be noted the film made the most money in Russia ($268,000) and the United Arab Emirates ($72,000).
5. Trojan War – Total Gross: $309
The only studio film on the list, the Warner Bros.-released Trojan War tried to capitalize on the burgeoning career of Jennifer Love-Hewitt, but they seemingly overestimated Hewitt’s appeal. In 1997, at 18 years old, Hewitt was flying high on the success of TV show, Party of Five but apparently her rising star didn’t translate to the film world. The teen romantic comedy played for a week at one theater and grossed $217 opening weekend. It made an additional $92 during the week before it was pulled from theaters. The $15 million-budgeted picture tanked at the box office, but at least it was ubiquitous on Blockbuster Video shelves. Although, it’s unclear if anyone actually rented it.
4. Playback – Total Gross: $264
In grossing $264 at the box office, Playback holds the title for the lowest grossing film of 2012. Christian Slater stars in a horror film about a missing teen, directed by a guy who has acted in average films like Wayne’s World 2 and Death Becomes Her. Opening week- end, the movie grossed $252, but then made another $12 during its week-long run in one theater. It is estimated that 33 tickets were sold, so thank God for expensive ticket prices. With a budget of $7.5 million, Playback really took a bath. It can tack on more in foreign receipts, though: a $57,000 gross in UAE.
3. The Objective – Total Gross: $95
There aren’t many filmmakers that can say they wrote and directed one of the highest grossing films and also, the lowest grossing, but Daniel Myrick can. In 1999, he co-wrote and co-directed The Blair Witch Project, which at the time, became one of the highest grossing indies of all time. Ten years later, he directed The Objective, a movie that didn’t even gross a hundred dollars. Blair Witch alumnus, Michael C. Williams stars in a film about a group of people in Afghanistan, who somehow end up in a “Bermuda Triangle of ancient evil.” The movie screened in one U.S. theater for nine days but only pulled in $95, coming very far from earning back the $4 million budget.
2. Storage 24 – Total Gross: $72
The only thing that exempts this film from being a complete disaster, is because technically, it’s a foreign film and it made most of the money overseas. Noel Clarke (Doctor Who, Star Trek Into Darkness) and Laura Haddock (Guardians of the Galaxy) fight an alien-like creature that crash lands into a storage facility they work at. The horror/sci-fi flick played at one theater in the U.S. for one week, in January 2013 and grossed $72. In the UK, it grossed $372,153, so if you add in the grosses from three other countries, the film has a worldwide tally of $646,175.
1. Zyzzyx Road – Total Gross: $20
Okay, it initially grossed $30, but the film’s makeup artist who saw it in the theater paid her own money, and the director felt she needed to be reimbursed for her ticket, hence, the $10 subtraction. When the movie was released in 2006, Katherine Heigl had become famous from the sensational success of Grey’s Anatomy. You’d think her new star power would attract moviegoers, but this wasn’t the case. The Screen Actors Guild had a policy, where movies budgeted under $2.5 million and aren’t direct-to-DVD, must run in at least one theater for a week. Because Zyzzyx had a budget of $1.3 million, it showed at one theater in Dallas for a few days straight, and only six people, including the makeup artist, came to see it. It may not have performed well in the theater, but when it was released on DVD in 23 countries, it ended up grossing $368,000.