An overpaid actor, a provocative title, a massive marketing budget and one very special ingredient: a mediocre film. That's all that's needed, it seems, to create a box office smash hit.
2014 gave us more than a few memorable titles and box office explosions, and we're promised more before the year’s out (you're going down Smaug). But remembering the stinkers is the least we can do to rub Hollywood’s nose in its bunk. With boundless free content on the web, film standards should be going up considerably; people won't flock in droves to see the latest piecemeal throwaway made in a CG lab. Today, audiences hold out for the unique and exceptional releases before parting with their dollars for tickets and over-priced popcorn.
Among all the competition this year, the following 18 just didn't make the cut. They had the big budgets, they had the big names, but they just didn't have the welly to make it big at the box office. In all fairness, we didn’t see most of these and neither did you, but here at TheRichest we preach box office wisdom: millions of dollars lost can't be wrong. And by that standard, according to budget and gross figures from boxofficemojo.com, these were the biggest flops of 2014.
18 Winter’s Tale
Aside from Russell Crowe, Colin Farrell and a hilariously kitsch tagline — This is not a true story. It’s a love story.— this supernatural romance basically didn't exist outside of your impromptu Valentine’s Day plans. With more style than substance and characters as flat as tap water, Winter’s Tale hung on the marquee for 7 weeks to gross a meager $42 million worldwide on a wildly optimistic budget of $60 million.
Great concept, lofty execution. While it should’ve made us think about divinity and all that, it more just made us want to find the nearest Starbucks and finally buy one of those five-dollar brownies. Still, it’s hard to not be interested in just who or what Johnny Depp will become for his next role. Unfortunately, Transcendence marks strike two for the actor — $103 million worldwide on a $100 million dollar budget — after 2013’s Lone Ranger bombed at least as badly.
16 The Expendables 3
American moviegoers this year just weren't feeling a third round of ass kicking from Hollywood’s oldest leading muscle men. Despite featuring a star- and accent-studded cast of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham and Antonio Banderas, The Expendables 3 embodied its title a little too literally. It grossed a ton worldwide, but only $39 million domestically of its $90 million budget. This underwhelming result is likely in part due to the fact that the movie was leaked online before it's cinematic release.
15 A Million Ways to Die in the West
This year we saw the Family Guy guy take center stage between Liam Neeson and Charlize Theron. 2012’s Ted was respectable enough, if relying a little too heavily on the inherent comedy of Mark Wahlberg getting baked with a foul-mouthed teddy bear, but Seth MacFarlane’s sophomore effort suffered from porous hilarity and general lack of cohesion. It may have grossed double its $40 million budget worldwide, but only $43 million came from the U.S.
14 Sin City: A Dame to Kill For
A Dame to Kill For felt a little too much like reheating last night’s dinner. Where Sin City struck a balance between narrative and Objectively Cool style, this one gave us an exhausting neo-noir pastiche with too much dejected dialogue. Still, the whole absurdly derivative vibe may have been reason enough to see it. It failed to make the splash of its predecessor, bringing less than $40 million worldwide on a sizable $65 million budget.
Short of the hit-and-miss attempts at edgy realism, Sabotage had the depth of a puddle of sweat from its thoroughly macho protagonists. In all fairness, Arnie did decide to try acting again here, and if the film weren't so stuffy and overwrought that might’ve been reason enough to see him battle some cartel. This movie's $35 million budget took home less than $18 million worldwide.
12 Tyler Perry’s The Single Mom’s Club
A title and tagline is about the sum effort put into the latest fast-food melodrama from Tyler Perry’s cinematic assembly line. The Single Mom’s Club could not have been more insignificant, no less to Perry himself whose films have grossed nearly $750 million.
A vaguely sexist film that spends an hour and a half patting itself on the back for dealing with the “if only people knew what single moms go through” trope without caring to search for answers, this movie grossed under $16 million worldwide.
11 The Legend of Hercules
For some reason Hollywood gave us two Hercules films this year; this is the one without Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson. Should The Legend of Hercules have been a good movie? Perhaps the question is: Should filmmakers rely on $70 million in battle sequences to make a movie worth seeing? Evidently not.
With only $18 million in domestic ticket sales and an aggregate rating of 3% on Rotten Tomatoes, this one stank with gusto.
10 I, Frankenstein
You don't have to see I, Frankenstein to know some things about it with absolute certainty: You can’t tell it apart from at least a dozen other movies about hunting demons, vampires, gargoyles and other assorted succubae, and the only way to enjoy it might be with a pint of raw ether. Thanks to the foreign market it managed to barely scrape by its $65 million budget, to say nothing of marketing costs. It grossed a measly $19 million at home.
9 Sex Tape
Short of watching Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel knock boots fumblingly, Sex Tape simply lacked comedy. Neither terribly sexy nor funny, it failed to make back its $40 million budget domestically, though brought in $126 million worldwide. Not that the movie needed the money from box office sales, with all the shameless Apple product placements at the forefront of almost every scene.
8 Draft Day
When you’re making a movie about American football you best hope it properly transcends the sport, since only 2% of your profits will come from foreign theaters and there aren't enough die-hard pigskin (or Kevin Costner) fans to sustain a decent domestic turnout. So it goes — some respectable drama kept it going, but lacking that spark for a touchdown, Draft Day grossed less than $30 million total on a $25 million budget.
7 3 Days to Kill
But what does Kevin Costner care if Draft Day didn’t make the cut? He also starred in this gripping action-thriller about being a dad and a spy, a premise that spoke to every cool father in America. Though occasionally humorous and sporting Costner’s acceptable performance as Neeson-lite, an underdeveloped plot and tired premise doomed 3 Days to Kill to the trash pile of forgettable Hollywood B-sides. It grossed only $30 million domestically off a $28 million budget.
6 Edge of Tomorrow
If it weren't for foreign sales, the “Tom Cruise jumping out of a helicopter” profit-generating theory may have been thoroughly debunked this year. We aren’t even sure if Cruise ever does jump out of any futuristic flying devices in Edge of Tomorrow, but it’s safe to say he blows something up. Despite great reviews, this one failed to contend the box office hype of Cruise's former action epics. It grossed $100 million domestic on a budget of $178 million.
5 Dolphin Tale 2
Anyone over 12 who isn’t a Smurf or living vicariously through their childrens’ capacity for joy couldn’t find this movie anything more than painfully endearing. We doubt many parents regretted taking their kids to see Dolphin Tale 2; everyone else who saw it for inexplicable reasons was served a thoroughly mushy stew of heart-warming clichés. It made $42 million domestic on a $36 million budget.
Assuming you know the volcano erupts and people die, there’s little to take from this latest chapter in instantly forgettable catastrophe movies. Paul W. S. Anderson’s Pompeii, foregoing historical substance and with special effects turned to 11, is a tacky hybrid of Hollywood blockbuster genres aspiring to no more than a guilty pleasure. Who woulda thunk a shell of sweaty gladiator battles, pandemonium sequences and cookie-cut romance would gross just $23 million domestic on a budget of $100 million?
3 Million Dollar Arm
While there was nothing particularly wrong with it, watching True Events unfold with feel-good Disney ordination just felt redundant. Million Dollar Arm leaves no room for surprises or originality but plenty for quaint laughs and slushy drama, as Jon Hamm travels to India to find Major League Baseball’s next Slumdog millionaire. It brought $36.5 million worldwide on a $25 million budget.
2 Deliver Us From Evil
Relying on a “true story” disclaimer with jolts, squeals, demonic womenfolk and all, Deliver Us From Evil was a derivative’s derivative in the horror genre. We looked on anticipating that something would make us jump, and then it did, and then we sighed. With cheap thrills short on originality, it barely grossed its $30 million budget.
1 Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return
The biggest bomb of the year goes to this animated Dorothy of Oz spin-off, proving once again that tried-and-true doesn't always pay off (even in 3D). Fully lambasted by critics for unmemorable music numbers, gaudy and cheap-looking CG animation and a tedious storyline, it failed to do justice to cinema's most enchanting neverland and grossed just $26 million worldwide on a $70 million budget.