There are several movies that flop each year. Expectations are high and the films don’t live up to them, it’s common. Unfortunately, accurate numbers are never really available because Hollywood’s accountants are great at hiding money and studios rarely divulge how much of a bath they took with certain films, lest it sully their reputation. That being said, we have rough estimates and even those aren’t pretty. Some flops have massive budgets with lesser-known stars like John Carter and just fail miserably. More often than not, films that have an A-lister in the cast will be able to recoup any losses, even if the movie is terrible. Big names bring in big bucks. That’s why when Will Smith makes a horrible movie, like After Earth, it doesn’t lose boatloads of money. But that’s not always the case and that’s why we’re here today.
Some movies aim for the stars. They bring in a big cast, set up a huge budget and then proceed to film a pile of garbage. These are the flops that we’re most interested in. The box-office bombs that were so bad that even A-list actors couldn’t save them. Some of these films were so disastrous they put the entire studio that funded them in danger. It’s tough to wipe your hands of losses in excess of $100 million, even for the billionaires in the Hollywood studios. So we’ve gathered up some of the biggest flops with the biggest casts to see which is the worst of them all. Let’s count them down. We’ll start with the lowest losses and work our way up to the biggest losers. Some of the numbers are only ranges, so we’ve split the difference. Here are the 15 worst A-lister movie fails ever.
15. Gigli – $93 Million
When you’re talking straight dollars and cents, Gigli, that crap stain of a movie starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, actually didn’t lose as much money as the others on the list have, but when you look at it by ratio of dollars spent to dollars lost, it deserves to be here. The film had a $75 million budget, plus about $25 million on marketing trying to sell the great chemistry between these two goofball stars. Guess how much money they made back? Seven. $7 million dollars. Talk about betting on the wrong horses. You don’t have to be a doctor to know that, when you make back less than 10% of your budget, you’re doing something wrong.
14. Hart’s War – $100 Million
You bring in Bruce Willis and Colin Farrell and you expect that fans will come to see your movie, but they don’t, at least for Hart’s War they don’t. What went wrong? Well, for one, the film opens up too many subplots that it fails to close off. This leaves the film feeling unfinished and that’s a terrible feeling for the audience to leave a theater with. The initial numbers show that Hart’s War had a budget of $70 million and only made $33 million back, but that doesn’t seem to be the whole story. First, it seems that their budget is understated, not even considering that it doesn’t include marketing costs, something that is almost never included in stated budget. If we adjust for inflation for the 15 years that have passed since the film’s release, we can estimate that it lost approximately $100 million. Ow.
13. How Do You Know – $100 Million
Starring a cast which includes Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson and Jack Nicholson, How Do You Know is a comedy flop that most people will blame squarely on the script. Not only does the script seem to stifle the talents of the amazing leads but it also creates an awfully slow and boring storyline. With an insane budget of $120 million, which is nuts considering the content and the genre, How Do You Know made less than $50 million back. Once you work in marketing costs and some small inflation, this bust lost about $100 million as well.
12. Jupiter Ascending – Over $100 Million
Since pulling real numbers out of Hollywood is next to impossible, we may never know exactly how much money big films like Jupiter Ascending lost. This is one of those films that really hides the true financial story. Made with a budget of $176 million, the film looks like it made some money because it brought back $184 million at the box-office, but that’s not correct. Jupiter Ascending spent about $120 million in marketing as well, so that means that it lost over $100 million after all was said and done. That’s quite a different song when it’s sung that way. They tried to sell the sexiness of alien Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum, but it simply wasn’t enough for filmgoers. This movie might have made a good TV show or a 12-hour long movie, but it was far too convoluted for a single theater sitting.
11. Windtalkers – Over $100 Million
Nicolas Cage is a weird dude, but the guy brings in movie fans and movie fans bring in money. His movies almost always do well, even if the critics don’t always love them. Windtalkers, for one, wasn’t good. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t good, by any stretch. There was some criticism about the way the Navajo people were featured in the film, only as side characters when the film was technically about them. The budget was about $115 million not including an extensive marketing campaign, and it only brought in about $78 million in revenues. After everything was said and done, it would end up losing over $100 million and really shook the Nick as a bankable actor cage. Heh. Now we’re not saying that he’s not bankable anymore. He’s just not as much of a sure thing as people once thought.
10. Battlefield Earth – Over $100 Million
Battlefield Earth is known for all of the wrong reasons. It is easily the worst big budget movie ever made. It is responsible for one of the downfalls of John Travolta’s career, and it is one of the biggest financial flops of all time. You don’t want any of those three things attached to your film, let alone all three. The budget for this film is a little questionable. It stated that it had a budget of about $100, but the studio was sued for overstating its budget, so it might be closer to about $70 million. Then it came out and only made about $30 in box-office sales, which means it lost anywhere from $40 to $70 million, not including marketing costs. Most available numbers put the film’s total losses at just over $100 million. Travolta also put a lot of his own money into this pet project, which is really too bad.
9. Evan Almighty – Over $100 Million
At the time of its release, Evan Almighty was one of the most expensive comedies ever made. There were some high expectations put on the film, hoping it could build on the success of Bruce Almighty, but it didn’t end well for the people involved. Though the film almost covered its massive budget of $175 million, that doesn’t include the crazy marketing efforts. It was largely because of this dramatic marketing campaign, one in which the director, Tom Shadyac, openly criticized, that Evan Almighty lost so much money. At the time, it was said to have been short about $90 million from breaking even, which works out to be over $100 million by today’s standards.
8. R.I.P.D – $110 Million
On an announced budget of $130 million, R.I.P.D. thought it had the perfect formula for success. Play to the comic book obsessions of contemporary movie fans. Check. Cast two marketable leads in Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges. Check. Blend two successful movie franchises in Men in Black and Ghostbusters together into one. Check. It all looked so positive, but then they went ahead and wrote an awful script. Just stupid. This movie was stupid. The fact that it actually made almost $80 million at the box-office shows that our collective intelligence is diminishing. You might think, hey, 60 million dollars isn’t that bad of a loss. Nope, they lost about $110 million. How about now?
7. The Postman – $100 Million – $120 Million
Kevin Costner went through a down period in the mid-to-late 90s and that really dimmed his star, but, at the time of The Postman, there was no one bigger than the K-Man. No one calls him that. Of all his weird films, The Postman is by far the weirdest and the worst. It’s overly sentimental, boring and poorly acted for the most part. If you polled movie fans, The Postman would get a large number of votes for “the worst movie of all time.” Not only that, it also did awful at the box-office. On a budget of about $80 million, not including marketing, The Postman would only make back $17 million. That means it lost anywhere from about $100 to $120 million, not small potatoes for any studio to have to eat.
6. Sahara – $120 Million
Sahara is one of the model examples in Hollywood of a big budget movie that almost guarantees it won’t make any money because its budget is just too large. The movie started out with a budget of $130 million and then added in marketing and distribution costs of over $80 million. Truth be told, Sahara actually did decent at the box-office, earning about $120 million, not bad considering how this is a pretty terrible flick. There’s been some discussion about the losses and some people involved with the studio have clarified that they lost just over $100 million, but with some adjustments for inflation, you’re looking at losses close to $120 million today. No amount of Matthew McConaughey could have saved this one from losing money.
5. The Lone Ranger – $115 Million – $160 Million
When you spend $225 million on production and then $150 on marketing, you’re really hoping that you have a colossal hit on your hands. It’s not a terrible idea to cast Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp as your stars since they both have some major marketing value, but the film looked dumb from jump street. It still made buckets of money, about $260 million in total, but do the math. They spent $375 to make and market the movie. Even with those big box-office numbers, they still lost $115 million. In fact, some numbers from Disney reported that they would be writing off about $160 million in losses because of the film, so there’s some strange math going on there behind closed doors.
4. The 13th Warrior – $100 Million – $180 Million
When you make a movie so bad that it makes great actors quit acting, you’ve got to stop, look at yourself in the mirror and revaluate your life choices. That’s what happened with The 13th Warrior, the 1999 box-office flop that made Omar Sharif quit acting. Sharif would say, “after my small role in The 13th Warrior, I said to myself, ‘Let us stop this nonsense, these meal tickets that we do because it pays well.’ I thought, ‘Unless I find a stupendous film that I love and that makes me want to leave home to do, I will stop.’ Bad pictures are very humiliating; I was really sick. It is terrifying to have to do the dialogue from bad scripts, to face a director who does not know what he is doing, in a film so bad that it is not even worth exploring.” The film originally was meant to have a budget of about $85 million, but it went well over that, finishing with numbers as high as $130 million, not including distribution and marketing. At the end of the film’s run, The 13th Warrior would only bring in about $60 million. Everything in, it lost anywhere from $100 million to $180 million.
3. 47 Ronin – $100 Million – $150 Million
Keanu Reeves might not have the most respected acting abilities in the industry, but he is an A-lister for sure. When he was brought on to star in 47 Ronin, expectations were high, if only because the budget for the film was $175 million before marketing costs. Once people started watching the film, the reviews weren’t good, but it wasn’t Reeves’ fault. By most accounts, he was actually pretty good. The movie, however, was not, leading one critic to suggest it was “possibly the second-worst thing to happen to Japan so far this century.” The bad reviews didn’t help convince people to see the film, so they stayed home, leaving 47 Ronin to accumulate only about $150 million in box-office sales. After you account for everything, this film may have lost as much as $150 million, which means it needed to double its final sales numbers just to break even.
2. The Adventures of Pluto Nash – $130 Million
Eddie Murphy will always be known as one of the greatest stand-up comedians who also happened to make some really good movies and some really brutal movies. It’s a strange title, we know. In the land of Eddie Murphy brutal movies, The Adventures of Pluto Nash is the king, and it’s a tyrant. It’s shockingly bad and fans recognized it instantly. There were some decent hopes for film considering they spent $100 million in production costs to make it. Then you have an unknown dollar figure for marketing, but none of that really even matters. This film lost big time money. It made less than $10 million in box-office sales. That’s less than 20 3D movie tickets by our math. After you account for some minimal inflation and estimated marketing costs, The Adventures of Pluto Nash probably lost close to $130 million. No wonder Murphy started getting fewer starring roles.
1. Cutthroat Island – $140 Million
Geena Davis, Matthew Modine and Frank Langella, in a pirate comedy film, what ever could go wrong? Well, apparently everything. After you adjust for inflation, the 1995 Cutthroat Island is the biggest flop in film history, losing almost $140 million. With a budget between $100 and $115 million, the filmmakers of Cutthroat Island were probably just hoping to recover their costs after the shoot had so many issues. People were dropping out of the film, stars were threatening to quit, others were getting fired for threatening to expose themselves to Geena Davis (that truly happened), things were not going well. Sadly, no amount of hopes, prayers or Facebook likes could save this film. It would only bring in about $10 million in theaters. It proved to be a sinking ship that could not be rescued. Many also blame the film for damaging the career of Davis, an actress who was once very highly thought of in Hollywood. So it’s a star-killer too. Bless your heart Cutthroat Island. You never even stood a chance.