If there’s one thing we know by now, it’s that movies are fickle things. If they aren't marketed or promoted in the right way, then they can become huge financial sinkholes. If the director insists on using unknown actors or actresses, then the movie may go unseen. Sometimes, all it takes to make money from a movie is an A-list celeb. For example, Liam Neeson in Taken and its sequels - the story line isn't wonderful, but it zips along with Neeson as its spearhead.
But some movies are just plain awful. Whether it be the script, the premise, or the performances, they are just missable. A studio will pile money into a movie if they feel that there is a potential market for it, or if it already has a significant following. For example, the most recent Marvel offering of Deadpool. Unfortunately, some movies are just destined to fail. Below is a list of some of the biggest box office flops of all time.
15 47 Ronin (Released 2013) – Budget $225 million – Grossed $151 million
Keanu Reeves has a knack for showing up in crazy movies (The Matrix was nuts right?!) and 47 Ronin is no different. It tells the story of Kai, a half-Japanese, half-English warrior who falls for a samurai’s daughter, whose father hates him because of his mixed heritage and his low birth status. There may have been a few factors that caused this movie to "bomb". One is Reeves’ acting (in)ability; let’s face it, it is questionable. I like him and a lot of his movies, but sometimes it just doesn't work. Neo – yes, Kai – no.
The artistry in the film is undeniable, the visual effects and the graphics were fantastic but the storyline and script were not. Potential viewers must have felt the same as they just refused to come out and see this film. Also, how does Rick Genest still manage to get acting work? I mean, he has a skull tattooed on his face!
14 Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return (Released 2013) – Budget $70 million – Grossed $18.7 million
Ever since the second Wizard of Oz movie was released in 1939, there has been a clamour for more from the world of Oz. It captures the imagination and the characters are wonderfully rich; it is perfect for adults and children alike. Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return is aimed primarily at the children’s market with cute animated characters but, for some reason, it did not stick.
Maybe children were more focussed on going to see Frozen. The animation in the movie was poor and, despite the fact that screen veterans such as Dan Akroyd, Frasier (Kelsey Grammer), and tween talent Lea Michele, of Glee fame, voiced characters in the movie, it just could not bring in any money. The movie follows Dorothy as she is taken to Oz via a tornado and must save her friends from the evil Jester - talk about prophetic fallacy. Maybe the next movie on the list wasn't released in 2013…
13 The Lone Ranger (Released 2013) – Budget $375 million – Grossed $260.5 million
It’s the 2013 curse! The Lone Ranger is a man who made his name on the small screen, and along with his sidekick Tonto, captured viewers in their millions. There was already a huge fan base for the movie and it was no surprise that it would be made. However, this movie seemed destined to fail from the start, it was made despite huge concerns over its budget and was even cancelled in the middle of filming. There were also other, more tragic setbacks, with a safety expert dying on set. This accident, coupled with reports of wildfires and illness, meant that the filing was a nightmare for Gore Verbinski and Jerry Bruckheimer.
With effervescent odd-ball Johnny Depp leading the cast, it is a surprise that his star quality could not bring in more cinema-goers. Despite all of the problems, the film was nominated for two Academy Awards, for "Best Makeup and Hairstyling", and "Best Visual Effects".
12 Conan the Barbarian (Released 2011) – Budget $90 million – Grossed $49 million
Conan is a pulp-fiction character that catapulted Arnold Schwarzenegger to stardom and one that allows its actor to show off his biceps and pecs. Enter Jason Mamoa aka Khal Drogo aka Aquaman. Mamoa is a man of epic proportions, muscle-bound and with a face to make "fair ladies" weak at the knees, he only has one drawback, he can’t really act (not that I’d say it to his face of course).
The script is full of clichés but still, the action was pretty good all-round and allowed Mamoa to show off his better side – that which kicks ass. Rachel Nichols will have brought the sci-fi fans in their droves following her role in Continuum but it still wasn’t enough to really get the theatres filled. The film is still worth a watch, it doesn’t require you to think, or worry about the characters, just enjoy the frequent, and bloody action scenes.
11 R.I.P.D: Rest In Peace Department (Released 2013) – Budget $130 million – Grossed $78 million
This movie had all of the ingredients to be a mammoth money-maker for Universal Pictures. A-list cast… check. Existing following… check. Decent budget… check. But still it didn't manage to achieve any success at the box office. It stars Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds and Kevin Bacon (there have got to be at least 1 million degrees of K-Bakes now) and is an adaptation of a popular comic book of the same name.
The movie was criticized for being too formulaic and for ripping off other movies. Still though, I’d watch anything with Jeff Bridges in it (I have watched Stick It for Pete’s sake), especially when he is in his American Civil War Veteran mode. The storyline of a cop dying and then policing in the afterlife is a little grim; when I die, I definitely do not want to still be working, otherwise, what’s the point?! Despite its plethora of talent, R.I.P.D. just couldn't do the business, the ironic thing is, no-one can bring this back from the dead.
10 Speed Racer (Released 2008) – Budget $120 million – Grossed $94 million
Speed Racer is an adaptation of the anime and manga series of the same name and was very popular in Japan. Sometimes the live-action remakes of popular Japanese material just don’t entice the Western market (I still shudder when I think of Justin Chatwin as Goku) and it looks like that was the case with Speed Racer. The film was action-packed but empty of character realization or development and this ensured that it lost $26 million following its release.
Also, Emile Hirsch pre-Killer Joe and Into The Wild didn’t exactly inspire potential movie-goers. Although, having the Wachowski brothers at the helm would have helped a lot and it’s fair to say that Speed Racer promised a lot more than was finally delivered. Maybe if they’d added in some Neo-like limbo skills and some crazy twins with white dreadlocks it might have done a little better. Hell, I’d have taken a bald kid with a bent spoon who spouts prophecy and quirky monologues.
9 The Invasion (Released 2007) – Budget $65 million – Grossed $40 million
This reboot of the novel The Body Snatchers (1955) promised so much! Daniel Craig was fresh from his first punt as Bond, James Bond, and Nicole Kidman is a force in Hollywood. This should have been a dream pairing, but for some reason, it simply wasn’t. I will admit that I liked this film and, being a fan of Craig’s, thought that he did really well. To be fair to the film, this was the FOURTH remake and trying to engage people again would have been a mountainous feat.
It seems that big-screen interest in The Body Snatchers has slowly fizzled out, and the movie-goers showed their lack of interest with a meagre showing at the box office. The tension in the film could have been realised a little better and Kidman should have been allowed to show off more of her skills, and hell, stick some actual action in there! If only one of them had a licence to kill…
8 Sahara (Released 2005) – Budget $130 million – Grossed $119 million.
Sahara tells the story of Dirk Pitt (Matthew McConaughey) a deep-sea treasure hunter who, along with his trusty sidekick (Steve Zahn) uncovers a dastardly plot with a beautiful woman (Penelope Cruz) in the middle of it and the archetypal damsel in distress. The film is set in Africa and looks gorgeous, Steve Zahn shows he has no football/soccer skills and Penelope Cruz looks lovely right until the very end.
The action in the film is really good and Dirk can do just about anything, he’s a treasure hunting-action man with wicked gun skills. Oh, there’s also sporadic cut-scenes of William H. Macy to attract the ladies. Again, I actually like this movie and McConaughey is great throughout - his teaming with Zahn is well worth a watch and works quite well. Why this didn't appeal to movie-goers though, I don’t know. I mean, McConaughey had his shirt off for a good 90% of the film, surely that’s got to count for something?!
7 Lucky You (Released 2007) – Budget $55 million – Grossed $8.3 million
You haven’t heard of this film? Well no surprise there, it lost a total of around $46 million meaning that even the most enthusiastic of movie-goers have probably forgotten it. I figured pairing Eric Bana with Drew Barrymore would be a sure-fire way of drawing the crowds in, they’re both popular stars with massive fan bases. Unfortunately though, if a movie isn't good, then, it just isn’t good.
Part of its failure may be that it opened the same weekend as Spider-Man 3 (that one with Tobey Maguire walking/dancing/strutting down the street, cringe) and was fully out-muscled. Another reason for its failure may be that there was no chemistry and Eric Bana looks old enough to be Barrymore’s father. I'm not against a perceivable age gap but others just may be. Bana would rise again, as would Barrymore, but the movie is forever destined to gather dust in second-hand DVD shops and garage sales.
6 Rollerball (Released 2002) – Budget $70 million – Gross $26 million
"Oz" from American Pie, LL Cool J on roller blades and enough gore to bathe in = flop. The premise is super basic; boy meets rollerball derby, people die, he needs to get out, and so on and so forth. The amount of unnecessary gore harks back to the '80s where there were millions of deaths in every film (I may be slightly exaggerating) and brains were blown out with not so much as a thought.
The difference with Rollerball is that it just wasn’t fun. Schwarzenegger and Stallone had their one liners to pull them through films with similar amounts of killing and Rollerball would have benefited from some charm and, dare I say it, some actual acting. Or even a believable lead character who has a personality and can forge relationships and on-screen chemistry with the other actors. Chris Klein is a handsome fellow and looks OK on-screen, I just think he’d be better suited form chick-flick, rom-coms or buddy movies.
5 Blackhat (Released 2015) – Budget $70 million – Grossed $19.7 million
Blackhat is a strange film, as it bombed at the box office and sunk around $50 million, but some critics loved it. Chris Hemsworth plays the lead role and following his exerts in Asgard, has found that he can write computer code. Er, well, not exactly, but that’d be a strangely cool movie.
Blackhat deals with the threat of terrorism through technology and how hackers can disrupt modern society. This particular incident is at a nuclear power plant where the hacker has caused it to explode in the middle of Hong Kong; not cool, man. The film is a warning to the realism of tech-terrorism and does a good job of bringing this to the fore, it just might be a bit too real for some. Despite the obvious draw of Hemsworth, whose star is on the rise, it may be that the film was a little too slow and a little too niche for potential movie-goers, ergo, they didn't bother shelling out for a ticket.
4 Pan (Released 2015) – Budget $150 million – Grossed $129 million
Peter Pan, the boy who never grows old, and the bringer of death - well, sort of. There have been a number of Peter Pan spin-offs over the years, with mixed success. This latest offering was star-studded, with names such as Hugh Jackman, Rooney Mara and Amanda Seyfried involved. It would seem a no-brainer, but, again, it just didn’t work.
This was an alternative telling of the Peter Pan story, he’s an orphan growing up in World War II London. He tries to steal food from the orphanage and the person in charge (Kathy Burke, who is brilliant) catches him and calls her otherworldly friend, Blackbeard. He is captured by Blackbeard and taken away to Neverland on a flying pirate ship. Here he forms a friendship with Hook, becomes the flying boy, and returns to rescue the orphans in London – the Lost Boys. For some reason Pan just didn’t take off (see what I did there?) and sustained losses of around $20 million.
3 How Do You Know (Released 2010) – Budget $100 million – Grossed $48.7 million
Reese Witherspoon + Paul Rudd + Owen Wilson + Jack Nicholson = Success, right?! Wrong. This movie didn't even make up half of its costs and lost around $51 million in the process. How Do You Know tells the story of an ageing female baseball star who is in love (sort of) with a baseball player in the MLB, but then actually falls in love with a guy whose father has left him bankrupt and facing jail. Fair enough, it’s a strange kind of storyline and relies on those involved to actually give it some appeal. And, in my opinion, they do.
Wilson is charmingly stupid, Rudd is delightfully morose and Witherspoon is... I kinda wanna say "ditzy" but I’ll go with... flighty. She can’t really make her mind up but she is still likeable. Nicholson is superb and plays the passive aggressive father pretending-to-but-not-actually doing the right thing for his son. I quite liked this movie. The problem is I may be the only one who does.
2 Mars Needs Moms (Released 2011) Budget $150 million – Grossed $39 million
Ouch! This movie absolutely bombed. It is the worst critically performing Disney-branded film, like, ever. There was a feeling that basing a film around a mother that has been taken from her child was a little too macabre. I mean, don’t get me wrong, in the right niche, that plot would go down a treat, but for a children’s film? No, just no.
It was directed by Simon Wells who has also worked on the Shrek films and Madagascar, so he knows what he is doing. Robert Zemeckis got on board to produce the film and, following his successes with other animated films Beowulf (2007) and A Christmas Carol (2009), it was surprising to see that the animation in Mars Needs Moms was so poorly rated. The plot coupled with the animation (and the heaps of negative reviews on social media) meant that this movie was never going to reach its (limited) potential.
1 Gigli (Released 2003) Budget $75.6 million – Grossed $7.3 million
Holy sh… WOW this movie dropped like a stone. Gigli makes the number one spot for a number of reasons. The main reason is that I don’t even know how to say it! Jiggly? Geegglee? Put a terrible French accent on and say zhee-lee? Not a clue. Also, Jennifer Lopez. Now don’t get me wrong, she’s talented at what she does (making money), but the girl can’t act. Sing, yes. Act, no. I'm also pretty tuned off by a real-life couple portraying a couple on the screen, it’s a bit too "in your face" for me.
The plot involves a low-level mobster (Ben Affleck) who kidnaps a prosecutor’s mentally disabled brother in order to get the charges against him dropped. In the meantime, he falls for a lesbian independent contractor. Ultimately, everyone agreed and the turnout was less than impressive, it lost around $68 million, sheesh. It also saw Ben Affleck take a drop in status. It’s a good thing he is actually a good actor/director. I feel he’s made up for Gigli somewhat with Argo.