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7 recently acclaimed films that were box office bombs

The film industry has gone through quite a rough patch lately, with many hyped movies flopping in theaters due to the worldwide pandemic or just a general lack of interest.

Despite not being box office hits, there have been plenty of films that deserved a far greater audience when they were still in theaters. These seven films are arguably the best ones to come out in recent years that bombed the hardest in theaters.

The Last Duel (2021)

Adam Driver and Matt Damon in "The Last Duel."
20th Century Studios

Based on a true story, The Last Duel follows a knight who battles his friend after his noble wife accuses the latter of sexually assaulting her. While it premiered to rave reviews, it only made about $30 million in theaters, less than a third of its overall budget.

Director Ridley Scott may have blamed the film’s failure on disinterested millennials, but The Last Duel was forced to compete with Dune, Halloween Kills, and the James Bond movie No Time to Die, three films that were each part of more recognizable brands. Also, audiences made it clear that they would rather not watch a film that dealt with such a heavy issue to try to escape the anxieties of the pandemic.

West Side Story (2021)

Men and women dance on a street in "West Side Story."
20th Century Studios

Musicals don’t attract audiences as much as they used to. Steven Spielberg directed this adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s beloved Broadway show, in which a Puerto Rican girl and a white boy fall in love in the midst of a teenage gang war. But even with such a legendary auteur at the helm and many people calling the film superior to the 1961 version, this award-winning picture still didn’t appeal to many audiences.

A lot of people were flocking to Spider-Man: No Way Home when it premiered, and older audiences more likely to see it were trying to avoid the Omicron variant of COVID. As a result, West Side Story made only $76 million, which isn’t too bad for a musical if it didn’t cost $100 million to make.

The Suicide Squad (2021)

The cast of "The Suicide Squad" standing on a forest.
Warner Bros. / Warner Bros. Pictures

Acting as a sort-of reboot to 2016’s Suicide Squad, this film follows the titular team (which now has several newcomers) as they are sent to eliminate all traces of the alien experiments conducted in Corto Maltese.

But even with widespread acclaim and director James Gunn heavily marketed as the brains behind this sequel, that wasn’t enough to make a profit. Theaters were still struggling to bring back audiences after the pandemic, and with the film also premiering on HBO Max, it only made about $168 million against its $185 million budget.

Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (2023)

Simon, Edgin, Doric, and Holga stand in the Underdark together in "Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves."
Aidan Monaghan/Paramount Pictures / Paramount Pictures

Dungeons & Dragons finally got the film treatment it deserved with this surprisingly enjoyable blockbuster. This movie follows a thief and his barbarian comrade as they escape prison and recruit a team of warriors to steal a magical artifact from a corrupt lord.

Honor Among Thieves wowed audiences with its funny, thrilling, and poignant tale set in a sprawling world rich with lore from the source material. The franchise may have a bright future, but it comes at a rocky start as this film made $208 million, just $50 million more than its production costs.

Soul (2020)

Promo image of the Soul's main cast.

In this modern Pixar masterpiece, a jazz musician finds himself in a coma with his soul sent to the afterlife, thrusting him into a cosmic journey through the astral plane to return to his body. Though it was set for a theatrical release in June 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic made Disney push its premiere to December.

The studio also made it a streaming exclusive while releasing it in cinemas in countries without Disney+. The film made an impressive $121 million and won numerous awards, including the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Unfortunately, it couldn’t make back its $150 million budget.

Turning Red (2022)

Mei walks down the street in a scene from "Turning Red."

This recent animated gem follows a young Chinese-Canadian girl who gains her ancestral ability to turn into a red panda whenever she feels intense emotions. Turning Red was a fresh addition to Pixar’s filmography, and it had been nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Academy Awards.

But much like Soul, this film’s release was affected by the pandemic, with it being aired only on Disney+ with theatrical releases in countries without the streaming service. Unfortunately, Turning Red grossed a mere $20 million against its budget of $175 million, failing to appeal to a wide enough audience.

The Fabelmans (2022)

A child looks at a film in his hands in "The Fabelmans."
Universal Pictures

Another recent masterpiece by Spielberg, this semiautobiographical movie follows a young boy who aspires to be a filmmaker as he uses his passion to cope with his parents’ divorce.

The Fabelmans was nominated for several awards, including seven Oscars, and many people have praised it as one of Spielberg’s most heartful films to date. Despite this, it’s clear that this prestige film was made to produce art instead of profit, which is why this $40 million picture made about $45 million in box office sales.

Anthony Orlando
Anthony Orlando is a writer/director from Oradell, NJ. He spent four years at Lafayette College, graduating CUM LAUDE with a…
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