We all know that those big blockbuster movies are expensive, but just how expensive are they? From having to pay not only those A-list Hollywood actors but the writers, designers, camera crew, editors… the amount can hypothetically be endless. Given, a lot of it depends on who will be starring in the films and where you’ll be cutting corners in order to ensure that you’re pretty well within the budget (which barely happens anyway), but the cost will be higher than even a few years worth of paychecks for most of us. In the end, though, all you can hope for is that it shall be more awesome than ever before which will then lead to lots of buzz and making your money back with some pocket change to spare.
But, how worth it is it? Usually quite so because, let’s face it, who doesn’t enjoy watching a bunch of pretty, talented people on a huge screen bringing to life an awesome story with enough explosions to literally blow your mind. On the other hand though, in order to fulfill the rising expectations of an audience who has gotten used to this sort of ordeal, the budgets have been ever-expanding. So, has your curiosity been sparked yet? By reading on, you’ll be able to satisfy that nagging question that seems to always be present: so, just how much did that cost?
20. Spectre – $250 million
While the figure mentioned may be a little low considering the final numbers, the cost is based on the making of the movie alone, thus excluding costs like marketing and promotion. If you take that into consideration, according to Variety magazine the film’s total would have come up to over $600 million! It is to be expected that a James Bond film would be a costly one, especially since the actor playing the title role is usually pretty famous and you have to remember that the special effects and CGI are not cheap, but $600 million is absolute madness! It also probably didn’t help that concessions had to be made with the government of Mexico which could have raised the price tag as a result but, either way, the amount of money spent on Spectre was absolutely spectacular.
19. Superman Returns – $246.4 million (cost takes inflation into account)
Sure, Superman Returns may not have boded well for a lot of superhero fans but the amount of money spent on the film is undeniable. While it was in production, it was rumored that it Bryan Singer might have gone $50 million over budget in order to make the movie as cool as possible! Given, it was pitched as Superman meets The Matrix which sounded good in theory, but not so much on paper. Those working on this money pit may have wanted to take a step back and focus on what truly makes Superman great before throwing a lot of money into the unnecessary.
18. X-Men: The Last Stand – $247.6 million (cost takes inflation into account)
While X-Men: The Last Stand may not be the biggest comic book movie on this list, it sure was expensive to make regardless. Firstly, those who were cast were all big, A-list actors like Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry and they don’t come cheap in the slightest regard. When you then pair that with sequences that could cost upward of $10 million per, which was actually money down the drain since they ended up on the chopping block, and all of that CGI and makeup it’s actually kind of shocking that the budget wasn’t more substantial.
17. Spider-Man 2 – $250 million (cost takes inflation into account)
Between having to pay for the story rights to the Spider-Man franchise to the actors and even the green screen sequences, which probably ended up costing a fair amount to put together from start to finish, Spider-Man 2‘s place on this list is well-deserved. Given, it may not be on everyone’s must-watch list or even a great superhero movie for that matter, but when you start giving credit where credit it due there is some merit to it. For example, the simple ability to put together a Doctor Octopus is enough to pass on a nod of approval and acknowledge the hard work and dedication that the whole team, especially those working in post-production had.
16. King Kong – $250.3 million (cost takes inflation into account)
While the revisited rendition of King Kong that was brought to us just over a decade ago may have gone over $30 million over the initial budget, one thing’s for sure, it was a pretty sweet blockbuster movie. Following a story which, when you boil it down, revolves around a huge, love-struck ape and actress may sound a little wacky but the sheer artistic mastery brings a level of fictitious-believability that Peter Jackson is more than happy to take full credit for, he had full creative control over the making of this film, after all. This three-hour epic included an incredible amount of detail, which goes as far as to make the computer-generated title character convey human emotions! All in all, while it may have been a high price tag the expenditure was definitely worth it, for Jackson is in a class all his own.
15. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian – $253.9 million (cost takes inflation into account)
The second installment to The Chronicles of Narnia series was meant to take a step away from the Christianity embedded in its entirety, thus focusing more on the action-packed blockbuster that would attract teenage boys. But in order to do this, the budget of this film was a lot higher than the rest. From the excessive amount of CGI used to complete the wondrous world that is Narnia and its creatures to bringing about the sense of other-worldliness, the price to pay is not a small one and can easily be estimated at around half of the budget. In addition, they had to film in four different countries in over one-hundred 40 days, which meant that they had to add on travel, food and accommodations for all those who had to be on set. While the meals may not have been elaborate ones, these expenses and more take Narnia to the next level.
14. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines – $257.6 million (cost takes inflation into account)
While Terminator 3 may have technically been an independent movie due to the fact that the film’s producers, Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna, had to literally buy the sequel rights from the original makers of the franchise since they had gone bankrupt, their perspective budget was thrown out the window once Arnold Schwarzenegger was on board. So, how did this happen? Simply put: his contract. From literally demanding close to $30 million to even participate on the project to making sure that everything that he deemed necessary was available to him any time of the day, what was supposed to be a relatively small budget film was now one of the most expensive movies in film history!
13. The Dark Knight Rises – $259 million
The final installment to the Dark Knight saga in the overall Batman plot was one of the most expensive ones to make. This fact has a number of determining factors which include filming on location, incorporating A-list Hollywood star Anne Hathaway, the epic costumes and, most importantly, the use of IMAX cameras. A lot of the filming took place in real areas which meant that the producers had to pay the city to use the area, security to guard the location and so forth but it definitely added a sense of authenticity to the final product. In addition, the cost of IMAX grade camera rental can go upwards of thousands of dollars, if not more, per week! All this to say that once all of the pieces are placed together, maybe the hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the film makes a little more sense.
12. Tangled – $260 million
Considering that this Disney/Pixar hybrid took over 10 years to make, it’s safe to say that it was thankfully a success and, on top of that, can stand on its own in the grander scheme of things. A majority of the budget can be attributed to two things: the writers who were scrapping the script until the story felt just right despite having it close to completion and its animation. We all know that animation is an expensive process but the utilization of a new take on this classic art form was a pricey one. By combining old-school hand drawings with computerized technology via a drawing tablet and stylus, the amount of detail that was captured was absolutely incredible! In addition, hair is probably one of the most difficult things to draw and the simple fact that its whole plot is kind of centered around it means that those animators were paid a pretty penny.
11. John Carter – $263.7 million (after tax rebates)
John Carter was definitely not on the tops of the lists dedicated to keeping track of the amount of money that movies make once they hit cinemas. If anything, it was on the very bottom of it. Sure, the film may not have done so badly if it weren’t to be for the immense budget dedicated to a production that featured no globally recognizable actors but, sadly, that was not the case. The film ended up costing over $300 million to make due to the re-shoots that the director and writer, Andrew Stanton, wanted to do… which was a lot, to say the very least. Also, there seems to be blame placed on the higher ups who didn’t say no to him nearly often enough as well as the change of the system which happened mid-way though. Whether it was truly that or the dependence on the CGI to create this world and those living in it may never be known to those on the outside but, either way, it was not a good call.
10. Waterworld – $271 million (cost takes inflation into account)
Waterworld is one of those films that people either love or hate. Either way, given the technology in 1995, you can’t help but commend the grandeur of it. However, this being said, the budget turned from $3 million when the rights were bought to over $100 million by the end… and that’s not even counting today’s inflation! A fair amount of factors came into play and most of them were to no fault of anyone involved. So, what happened? Water. From filming in a Hawaiian temple dedicated to life’s essential life source to having to stop filming every time there were clouds in the sky to strong winds due to the fragile nature of water, the unexpected was basically their everyday. Speaking of unexpected, the set itself seemed to have one disaster after another and, at one point, a $10 million dollar set literally sunk which then required a costly salvation to take place! Aside from all that, filming required multiple takes of the same scene since the cameras were floating and, well, water moves.
9. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $279.9 million (after tax rebates)
Films based on Marvel comics seemed to have a go big or go home attitude from the very beginning and, evidently, Avengers: Age of Ultron is no different in this regard. Having about 3,000 shots that had to be completed using the magical application of video effects which no doubt included the fireballs that the Scarlet Witch throws during the fight scenes and the final version of Hulk, this particular film is almost dependent on the superpowers that post-production has. Besides, the all-star cast which includes household names like Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr. meant that they had to spend at least $50 million for casting alone. If that wasn’t enough, the bigger sets and dedication to make it the biggest Marvel film to date means that money is not really the first thing on anyone’s mind.
8. Spider-Man 3 – $283 million
While Spider-Man 3 may seem a lot like its predecessors in several regards, the sheer complexity of the special effects is where the additional budget went to. Having to spend about 30% more to develop not only an expansive array of action sequences but Sandman in all of his developmental stages meant that the producers were raising the bar in order to ensure that the audiences would be pleased. Having to not only study the characteristics of sand but figure out how all the grains can then form into the shape of a man took over three years and this factor shaped the rest of the script in more ways than one because, in the end, he was such a vital part of the plot that all of that had to get figured out before the rest of the story could be written.
7. Titanic – $294.4 million (cost takes inflation into account)
Titanic is one of those films where James Cameron was not afraid to push the boundaries of genre conventionality and, in turn, created a romantic nautical epic that had one of the most expensive sets ever! By flying his cast and crew to Rosario Beach in the south of Mexico just to blow it up in order to create a huge movie studio to building a replica of the massive ocean-liner, the work behind it was endless. On top of that, the application of ginormous tanks of water to create a realistic feel for the water means that two tanks had to be built: one to hold 350,000 gallons of water to be used for the scenes where the frozen bodies are seen floating, and another that held 120 tonnes of water for John Jacob Astor IV’s final scene. But, thanks to the hard work of over eighty crew, one thousand extras, his stars and all of the time and effort that he put in Titanic will remain in the movie canon for ages to come.
6. Cleopatra – $320 million (cost takes inflation into account)
To say that the filming of the 1964 film Cleopatra was easy would be a big joke to anyone who possesses any knowledge about all of the hardships that took place. From having two separate directors and casts due to conflicting points of view to having to shoot this film over a time span of two and a half years, the troubles were endless. When you pair that with the million dollar contract that Elizabeth Taylor signed, which was never seen in the industry until that point in time, to having to close down the shoot multiple times, money was being spent left and right. There was also employee corruption going on where people were adding their own personal expenses to Cleopatra‘s budget breakdown and so much more!
5. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – $378.5 million (after tax rebates)
The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has always been a big one and that’s thanks to its elaborate sets and special effects, noteworthy cast and unique story line that can draw in anyone from nine to 65 since it’s so complex in a Hollywood blockbuster sort of way. This being said, a lot of the $410 million budget went to having to pay for the cast and crew that was working on the film. You can’t help but think that if Johnny Depp was allegedly receiving $55 million for reprising his role as Captain Jack Sparrow, just how much were the others getting? Additionally, there were 895 staff on the production crew and that ended up costing the producers a total of $17.8 million! However, the good news was that not only was it great for the economic system in the UK, because they were using a lot of locally found talents but the movie then qualified for a substantial tax credit which meant more money in Disney’s pockets!
4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – $500 million
This Harry Potter sequel is as good the first time around as it is the 15th time around. It truly demonstrates the evolution of the entire cast from pre-teens to young adults in the process. However, given the experience that they had in the beginning versus when this film was being shot, the actors are fully entitled to renegotiating their contracts and, in turn, demand more money for their participation and probably get it since their faces were now directly connected to the story. Also, you have to take the amount of special effects into account because, let’s face it, a lot of what you see is just that. From the crazy spells that the characters cast to the moving staircases, post-production plays a vital role and basically makes the film work.
3. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End – $500 million (cumulatively)
All of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies were pretty costly but the producers did save a little bit of money by filming the second and third installments, Dead Man’s Chest and At World’s End respectively, back-to back. While the exact amount can only be left to sheer speculation, there is always a price drop when buying in bulk and this situation is no different. Besides, it wouldn’t make any sense to do it any other way since both films were going to be filmed on the virtually untouched island of Dominica anyway. Having built the cannibal-ridden island on the beautiful foundation that is the Caribbean made sense at the time and left a beautiful impression in the minds of the audience. Also, the heavy use of animation regarding Davy Jones and his crew meant that a lot of their scenes had to incorporate motion sensors so that the animators could then design the intricate details of their characters correctly. Because of this, and so many other things, the $500 million was absolutely necessary to produce the films.
2. The Amazing Spider-Man 2 – $500 million
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 set itself apart from the rest of the movies in a lot of ways, but one in particular was the inclusion of an excessive amount of animation. By using 3-D animators, the most vital scenes including Spider-Man’s standoff with Electro (Jamie Foxx), were all done with technology. (All of it.) With the amount of detail that was captured, however, a big expenditure is to be expected. Also, the simple fact that big name celebrities like Foxx and Emma Stone were included in the cast list means that a fair amount of money went to them. Given, no actual figures regarding the budget breakdown have been released but animation never comes cheap, especially to the extent that it was used here, and actors always find a way to make a pretty penny off any project that they’re in. This was no exception.
1. The Hobbit trilogy – $745 million
Sure, $745 million may sounds like a huge chunk of money, especially for sheer entertainment value, but when you take into consideration that it was for three movies it’s really not that bad. By taking advantage of not only the beautiful, natural landscape of New Zealand which can simply be described as timeless as well as the tax incentives of the area, Peter Jackson made a great call. However, where money was saved in some aspects a lot more was put out in others. Mainly, shooting in 48 frames per second and making it 3D compatible was a huge expenditure. There was also a big chunk spent on the application of special and visual effects, complex action sequences and elaborate costumes for a huge cast, especially when you think about the amount of extras that they had to use. When you know that they ended up spending over $400 million on production value and the rest for various other expenses including paying the necessary actors, some who even appeared in Lord of the Rings, this seemingly huge number doesn’t seem so big after all.
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