Producers might shell out big bucks for production, but that doesn't mean their movies are bound for success. From rom-coms to Disney adventures, here are films that surprisingly failed at the box office.
John Carter (2012)
Budget: $263.7 million
Grossed: $284.1 million
There are many theories as to why this Disney film flopped. Unlike other Disney original movies, this "sci-fi epic" was considered one of the "company's greatest mistakes," according to Screenrant.
We usually expect to see some familiar Disney faces, like Zac Efron or Selena Gomez. However, starring cast member John Carter seemed not familiar enough. While the film had no star power, it was also under-marketed. The sudden title switch was confusing enough, but the over-animated action, unfortunately, led the movie to fail.
Cost: $209–220 million
Grossed: $303 million
Our next flop was based on a group of ships forced to go to battle "to discover and thwart their destructive goals," as explained by IMDb. What is usually dubbed as a board game, this film sadly failed to attract young and eager viewers. Despite the A-list cast, including Rihanna and Liam Neeson, The Week added, "it just wasn't good."
Unfortunately for Taylor Kitsch, this was now the second box office flop that the actor had starred in - even Joe Flint from the Los Angeles Times mentioned that he "may want to get a new agent." At the same time, it was released simultaneously with Transformers and The Avengers, which are perhaps unbeatable.
The Astronaut's Wife (1999)
Cost: $75 million
Grossed: $19.6 million
This American science fiction thriller starred Johnny Depp. While initially embarking on an operation in orbit, aiming to repair a satellite, the main character loses his life while his wife takes her own life. The plot alone seems a little strange, and Rotten Tomatoes had more to say.
One year after its release, critics pointed out key aspects that allegedly justified its flop. Even though it was fictional, it featured several unrealistic moments. While critic Kevin Maynard called it "a real space bomb," an audience member called out its "cringy side," with few scenes deemed as "watchable."
Around the World in 80 days (2004)
Cost: $110 million
Grossed: $72.2 million
A film starring martial artist, stuntman, and filmmaker Jackie Chan, unfortunately, unveiled a "poorly done slapstick," noted Awfulmovies. Still, despite significant CGI effects and star power, if there was one review to ruin a movie's worth completely, it was perhaps from film critic Roger Ebert.
Traveling 80 countries in an under 90-minute film? At least the film complied with Jules Vern's book plot. Besides the well-composed soundtrack, Ebert gave the film one gold star. He questioned why they traveled around the world to fictional locations and slammed the humor, unable to "disguise the lack of vitality."
Cost: $107 million
Grossed: $87.7 million
Now, how can a film starring Will Smith not be successful? Cast as Muhammad Ali, Smith played the American former champion boxer and Olympic gold medalist in the biographical production. Directed by Michael Mann, creator of successes like The Intern and Miami Vice, there are valid reasons behind the failure.
According to Bombreport, Sony delayed the release date twice so it wouldn't have to compete with Ocean's Eleven and Vanilla Sky. Eventually, the film premiered on Christmas alongside Jimmy Neutron. Despite the heartfelt performances, the movie was snubbed for its long duration and shying away from key moments of Ali's story.
The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000)
Cost: $76–98.6 million
Grossed: $35.1 million
Based on the TV cartoon The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, The Los Angeles Times called it a "remake from h*ll." Though this can seem a little harsh for a PG-rated animated movie, critics had a lot to say. According to Awfulmovies, there are various "moments of unfunny and poor attempts at comedy."
Aside from the considerable CGI, the combo of live acting with animation did not complement each other well. Thinking Robert De Niro could upscale the film's quality, the "very corny and cheesy acting" let viewers down. As Rotten Tomatoes critiqued, its low box office ranking was due to the lack of humor and disappointing script.
The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)
Cost: $100 million
Grossed: $7.1 million
From Daddy Day Care to co-starring as the hilarious Donkey in Shrek, Eddie Murphy's humor sadly failed in The Adventures of Pluto Nash. According to Bombreport, Castle Rock and Universal were meant to support the production financially. But, they "wisely dropped it," and Warner Bros risked taking on these financial duties.
The film was "re-written to death." After multiple test screenings, the budget went from an initial $80 million to about $100 million for "costly reshoots." While the release date constantly shifted, the film had already received bad press. The film ended up in smaller theaters to try and break even but did not even come close.
The 13th Warrior (1999)
Cost: $100–160 million
Grossed: $61.7 million
Based on the 1976 novel Eaters of the Dead, the terrifying and costly re-shoots outweighed the cannibalism. Michael Crichton has produced Box Office record-breaking successes, including the Jurassic Park saga. Yet, his filmmaking skills crashed with The 13th Warrior starring Spanish sensation Antonio Banderas.
After an additional $25m expenditure for re-shoots, Reddit users still dubbed the film "underdeveloped, hollow and narrow in range." Amateur viewers further criticized the battle scene as disappointing due to poor editing. After reading multiple bad reviews, moviegoers decided to skip out on this one.
Cost: $75 million
Grossed: $30.7 million
It was a Jamie Lee Curtis catastrophe: sci-fi horrors are perhaps as fictional as any film can get. Still, Roger Ebert's one-star rating had an expanded view of the film's cliché scenes and plot. After their revenue was less than half of their budget, questions were raised about what went wrong. Here are some suggestions.
American filmmaker, John Bruno, displayed patterns in his production preferences. While Bruno's previous production, Deep Rising, was "one of the worst movies of 1998," Ebert showed concern for Virus as "easily worse." The monsters, storms, and "Spielbergian visible flashlight beams cutting through the gloom" weren't working.
The Fan (1996)
Cost: $55 million
Grossed: $18.6 million
We don't think Robert De Niro hit it out of the park with this one. This was not the typical baseball movie but rather a psychological sports thriller. De Niro's troubled character leads him to fascinate deeply over Giants star Bobby Rayburn, which results in a bizarre kidnapping leaving audiences puzzled by the plot.
According to The Hardball Times, the film lacked anything "new or profound about sports or obsession." Not to mention, De Niro's addition distracted viewers from the cliché storyline and production features. The themes of "overpowered, center on obsession, perfection, and the dark side of fandom" were perhaps nothing unique.
3000 Miles To Graceland (2001)
Cost: $62 million
Grossed: $18.7 million
Sadly, while older films are deemed more powerful, the 2001 re-incarnation of the Elvis era comes nowhere near the 2022 Baz Luhrmann production. Top critics rushed to Rotten Tomatoes slamming the production as almost an insult to the historical rock-pop legend.
Critics were most disheartened to watch a film full of "filler." In contrast, others demanded to ban the movie from theatres "on the grounds that anyone unwittingly seeing it is being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment." Besides an enriched cast, plenty of scenes were up for questioning, creating a controversial flop.
All The King's Men (2006)
Cost: $50 million
Grossed: $9.5 million
According to Trend-chaser, "critics called the film Oscar bait that was depressing and disappointing." We have to credit the attractive cast, starring The Holiday's dynamic duo Jude Law and Kate Winslet. Unfortunately, it seems there's no more than meets the eye when it comes to a cinematic experience.
According to AVclub, this was an "unmitigated disaster." It is not like American screenwriter and director Steven Zaillian to fail at cinematic magic. With previous successes - Schindler's List and Mission: Impossible starring Tom Cruz - the Law Winslet film awkwardly combined elements of war, romance, and "spiritual corruption."
Monster Trucks (2016)
Cost: $125 million
Grossed: $64.5 million
While initially planning for Monster Trucks to "start an entire franchise," Paramount Pictures studio lost "somewhere between $113-119.2m," says TVovermind. For Tripp - played by Lucas Till - his newly built monster truck finds a creature who has a need for speed. Immediately, questions start rolling in.
Unfortunately, the film "failed to connect with audiences." Don't get us wrong - there are hundreds of quirky movies, but only few succeed with a "strong and relatable message," as noted by critics. Though Monster Trucks is original, the script and "unnecessary violence" was unsuitable for its disorganized target audience.
Cost: $55 million
Grossed: $11 million
San Fransisco Examiner, G. Allen Johnson, called out the film single-handedly as "an absolute bore." It was another '90s airplane thriller that attempted to have people on the edge of their seats and afraid to fly for the foreseeable future. Movie mishaps can only go so far until viewers point out factual errors.
Passionate moviegoers took time to dig deep into any errors they could find. On Moviemistakes, a viewer noticed a physics error where the hole in the side of the plane did not suck the stewardess out but pushed her back. No matter how much went into the film, the hard-to-believe and cliché moments impacted the film's success.
Father's Day (1997)
Cost: $85 million
Grossed: $35.7 million
The late Robin Williams will always be adored in Hollywood. In fact, this might be the only flop he was unfortunately ever involved with. It is impossible that it lacked humor or even remotely tried to be funny. So, what happened? To put it in simple terms, it was just a bad year for Warner Bros.
In 1997, Warner Bros. produced Vegas Vacation, Cats Don't Dance, and Rosewood - all of which flopped. The studio was confident that this commercial film with two A-lister actors and a "marketing blitz" would bump up the numbers. Sadly, bad reviews resulted in the film getting "completely rejected in the international market."
Last Man Standing (1996)
Cost: $67 million
Grossed: $47.3 million
The film motto states, "there are two sides to every war." Unfortunately, Bruce Willis lost his battle for film success. Walter Hill directs the western-themed action film, and according to Hubpages, it is a remake of the 1961 Japanese film Yojimbo. Hill transposed the western theme into a film noir but unfortunately failed.
It was down to casting and characters. According to critics, working alongside Willis, John McClane lacked personality, "mumbling through the movie with a disinterested, monotone delivery and dialogue that feels recycled from a dozen forgotten screenplays." Ouch.
Lucky Numbers (2000)
Cost: $63 million
Grossed: $10.9 million
While we are all familiar with the beloved characters of Pheobe Buffay, Danny Zuko, and Jay Pritchett, the actors couldn't deliver the same performance in Lucky Numbers. Though Paramount had booked the motion picture into "2,497 theaters," the premier date was pushed back three months to October. This was indeed frustrating.
In addition to its extended-release, Trendchaser dubbed the film to obtain "unlikeable characters, a lack of energy, and too much story that the audience lost interest in." This might have been due to the overcompensated dark humor of the film, which probably didn't sit too well with the majority of audience members.
How Do You Know (2010)
Cost: $120 million
Grossed: $48.7 million
For any romantic comedy, how can it go wrong when it includes an iconic cast? When Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Jack Nicholson, and Owen Wilson are all tied together in the same production, this star power can likely attract viewers. Their large following was apparently overpowered by the poor marketing and "half-cooked" plot.
The Week considered theories as to why this film flopped. As they shaded, Witherspoon has had her legally blonde moment, unveiling "the sad truth" that her "star is fading" after a 10-year following. While the trailers did not market the film well, the script seemed "muddled," implying "A-list stars don't bring in the big bucks."
Mars Needs Moms (2011)
Cost: $150 million
Grossed: $39 million
No one was prepared for a Disney flop like this. The animated production told the tale of a nine-year-old boy who got grounded but soon realized he must save his mom from a Martian abduction. The Hollywood Reporter revealed it has the "12th worst opening of all time for a movie released in 3,000 theaters."
Considering the expensive technology, it was too late to "shelve" the film. It successfully attracted the right audience, but the numbers weren't high enough to make revenue. While viewers dubbed the movie "downright creepy," others noticed the uncomfortable plot for children.
Hard Rain (1998)
Cost: $70 million
Grossed: $19.9 million
Just when we thought we could never get tired of Morgan Freeman's voice, his co-star feature in Hard Rain contributed to perhaps the biggest flop of 1998. SFGate acknowledged the filmmakers had "illusions" about the film they were making, but it really came down to delusions...
The flood had "next to nothing to do with anything else in the picture." The height of the water was seemingly there to dramatize the exchange of hard cash. An action-packed film about a speed chase on water is somewhat confusing. Better luck next time, Mr. Freeman!
The Postman (1997)
Cost: $80 million
Grossed: $20 million
As Christmas day stands, it is meant to be one of the most joyous occasions of the year. Unfortunately, critics dubbed The Postman as the Grinch that ruined Christmas 1997. The "three-hour post-apocalyptic drama starring and directed by Kevin Costner" did not quite deliver the entertainment as expected.
Vanity Fair supremely guessed that "audiences were in no mood to watch a movie which begins with Costner reciting 'Macbeth' to his donkey before once more martyring himself for three hours." While the plot remains heartwarming, it wasn't exactly part of the Hollywood vibe. Maybe it was just way ahead of its time?
Cost: $80 million
Grossed: $43 million
Paul Walker, Gerard Butler, and Frances O'Connor all took part in this time-traveling flop: after "numerous edits to the picture," this delayed the film's release. Although 2,787 theaters were crowded with moviegoers over Thanksgiving, ready to watch the overdue production, the reviews were, well, terrible.
According to journalist site Tor, the battle to please audiences with a time-warp sadly ended at a loss. The cast might be perfect "on paper," but their performance was blasted as "wooden." While the Castlegard location failed to resemble France's "Dordogne Valley," the mixed-century dialogue entertained critics more than the film.
Cost: $80 million
Grossed: $22.9 million
It was the calm before the storm for Oprah Winfrey. Before becoming a TV talk show sensation and billionaire mogul, she was cast in Beloved as Sethe, alongside Thandiwe Newton and Danny Glover. While Winfrey has openly discussed her "public failure" on Fortune, we owe it to the cast to discuss why this was the case.
The story of a "haunted ex-slave" received "glowing reviews," noted Chicago Tribune. Still, it was a painful artsy "mixture of realism and supernatural elements." It struggled to target a specific audience. In fact, as critics put it, the film simply lucked out on word-of-mouth marketing.
Cost: $85 million
Grossed: $118.6 million
For a World War 2 romance - filled with love, marriage, and family building - critics claimed the film sent viewers into a world that completely lacked emotion. Glide Magazine reviewed the film, exposing Robert Zemeckis's mono-tone production. While Zemeckis is capable of cinematic magic, like Forrest Gump, this time was different.
Critics pointed out the "tone-deaf" dialogue and "distracting" blocking from the characters. While Pitt's acting had been branded as "computer-generated," this contributed to the absence of chemistry between love interests which seemed forced. Unusually, it was like a structured "video game."
Cost: $200 million
Grossed: $70 million
Something went wrong when Niki Caro directed the modern adaptation of the 1998 Disney classic. This was not necessarily down to the film itself, but it was not a box office success overall. Alarm bells started ringing when it had a "disappointing debut" in China, followed by another cinematic controversy in Hong Kong.
Fortune Magazine confirmed the coronavirus pandemic overrode its success. Yet, theaters in China and Hong Kong remained open and were highly relied on for the film's success. Yet, the 250,000 illegal downloads created a negative buzz, "criticizing Mulan's lack of character development, plot holes, and historical inaccuracy."
Cost: $180-190 million
Grossed: $209 million
The desirable and directorial combination of George Clooney and Brad Bird seemingly failed here. As far as the box office is concerned, the CGI and costly production could not disguise the film's overwhelming and perhaps unorganized plot. But don't take our word for it...
As critiqued by Screenrant, "a lot is going on in the film, and it's near impossible to neatly compress it into a two-minute preview." Of course, Disney has to be credited for its "ambitious and creative undertakings." Still, the overpowering sum of money thrown into the film - with an underwhelming plot - led the movie to flop.
Jungle Cruise (2021)
Cost: $200 million
Grossed: $220 million
Here is yet another production where Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson appeared in camouflaged uniform, working his way through a jungle, action-packed setting. This time, he starred alongside Emily Blunt. Johnson and Blunt are gold to our cinema screens, and most cannot fault their acting performances. So, what went wrong?
Like Disney's modern Mulan, Jungle Cruise was regretfully impacted by the pandemic. The film was available for illegal downloads as well as at-home rentals. So, it is relatively difficult to comprehend whether a movie was really a flop when we are restricted from having the whole theater experience. Right?
Cost: $100 million
Grossed: $75.5 million
Well, look at what the cats dragged in. Cats had impeccable word-of-mouth, but the production itself out-casted these expectations. The cast was unbeatable and talented, from Judi Dench to Taylor Swift, Idris Elba, Jennifer Hudson, and Rebel Wilson. Yet, they couldn't hide behind the burning fact that the plot was questionable.
"The claws were out," noted CBS News. Nothing could stop the constant roasting of "CGI-enhanced cat outfits," deemed as "creepy and disturbing" by TheMarySue. While the film holds an 18% Rotten Tomatoes rating, it unfortunately, didn't live up to the 1982-2000 Broadway show.
The Nutcracker in 3D (2010)
Cost: $90 million
Grossed: $20.5 million
Sadly, the twinkle-toe production starring Elle Fanning and Richard Phillips was a box office bomb. Senior analyst at Exhibitor Relations, Jeff Bock, exposed Hollywood for trying too hard, especially regarding "adaptations of The Nutcracker." The film apparently struggled with "resonating with audiences," as explained by TheWrap.
To the director's dismay, chief analyst at BoxOffice, Shawn Robbins, agreed and expressed the challenge of re-making the film. It has been done "over the decades," though this 3D adaptation was the most successful. Still, the Christmas holidays tested its performance, competing against other "decent box office performances."
The Alamo (2004)
Cost: $92 million
Grossed: $23.9 million
Unfortunately, our next film didn't seem to stand a fighting chance. As critics put it, the film was "doomed before release," according to True West Magazine. While it initially failed to release the previous December, the film already lucked out of a "good press reception."
While based on The Battle of the Alamo, there is only so much of American history audiences want to re-visit. Critics slammed how the movie captured "the post-September 11 surges in patriotism" and its "troubled history." Nevertheless, it is perhaps the only film to give audiences a realistic sense of the war's final assault.