Skip to main content

Digital Trends may earn a commission when you buy through links on our site. Why trust us?

The biggest movie flops ever will make you wonder what studios were thinking

biggest movie flops The Lone Ranger
It seems like every six months, a new superhero is unleashed onto the big screen at your local multiplex. Superhero flicks are expensive to say the least, but studios are comfortable with the investment because comic book adaptations are typically surefire bets (sorry, Green Lantern). But every now and again, a studio pours a ridiculous sum of money into a film it thinks will resonate with the audience, only to see it flounder and go on to become one of the biggest movie flops of all time.

Between the five biggest box office bombs, studios have lost nearly a billion dollars. Admittedly, that’s a rough estimate — after all, studios typically don’t share too much budget info. If you carefully sift through the financial records available online, however, it’s easy to figure out which films tanked at the box office. There are a lot of common threads between these films, including production delays, re-shoots, and on-set arguments. Need some examples? Check out the five films featured below.

Note: All numbers referencing a film’s budget and financial loss have accounted for inflation. These numbers would be different if we were to account for a film’s marketing cost, though studios typically don’t release that kind of information.

The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)

At first, Warner Bros. had a lot of faith behind a space-centric comedy starring Eddie Murphy — the studio even gave the film a $135 million budget. That faith dissipated quickly though, after dailies and a rough cut of the film was shown to an unimpressed studio. Warner Bros. shelved the film for two years, and by the time Pluto Nash came out, the special effects already looked dated. The reviews were terrible, and in the end, the studio took a $126 million loss on the flick.

The Lone Ranger (2013)

When Johnny Depp dresses up in a costume and Disney’s behind it, that typically means your film’s destined for box office success. Destiny, however, has a funny way of shaking things up. The studio eventually got cold feet with The Lone Ranger and halted production on the film after its budget inflated to more than $250 million dollars. These numbers are more notable when you take into consideration that even a big-budget superhero film like The Avengers didn’t cost that much. Eventually, the studio was talked out of exiting the project, resulting in what many consider to be an absolute trainwreck.

Too bad Disney didn’t listen to its instincts. A few months after the film’s release, the studio threw in the towel and announced an expected $160-$190 million loss.

Cutthroat Island (1995)

Cutthroat Island had elaborate sword fights, gorgeous sets, and exhilarating stunts, but what’s even more thrilling about the film is the behind-the-scenes drama.

After Michael Douglas dropped out as the male lead, director Renny Harlin spent months trying to find anyone he could to replace him, including Tom Cruise, Charlie Sheen, and Keanu Reeves. After Harlin settled for Matthew Modine as the new lead, he went back to supervising the construction of the sets, but he hated what was built, so he spent millions more tearing down those sets.

Following a few other on-set disasters, the film’s budget quickly grew to a cool $157 million. MGM distributed Cutthroat, but the studio was in the middle of a buyout, so it couldn’t put money into marketing the film. The film was eventually pulled from theaters after a mere two weeks, leading to $141 million in lost revenue.

The 13th Warrior (1999)

If you’re seeing a film adapted from a Michael Crichton novel under the direction of the guy who helmed Die Hard, you’d probably expect an intelligent, action-filled flick. That’s what distributor Touchstone Pictures was expecting, at least. And as we know, you don’t always get what you sign up for.

After filming wrapped, the studio wasn’t too happy with director John McTiernan’s cut of the film, so it promoted Crichton and allowed him to take a few creative liberties with the project. After massive edits, a new ending, a new title (it was originally called, Eaters of the Dead), and a couple more months worth of filming under Crichton’s lead, The 13th Warrior was finally released with a budget to the tune of $234 million. By the time it landed in theaters, everyone involved with the film had already moved on, and there was little to no promotion for it. Ultimately, the studio suffered $145 million in losses.

John Carter (2012)

When the most intriguing thing about your movie is its production budget, you know you’re probably in trouble. That’s what happened with John Cartera film that cost Disney $350 million, with hopes to become the studio’s next tentpole franchise.

What’s fascinating about John Carter’s misfire is that there are no stories of heated arguments between directors and producers, or delay in filming due to a lack of faith in the project. Everyone involved with John Carter expected it to be a huge success until a few financial analysts and press screeners started to suggest otherwise. By the time the film was released, Disney saw the writing on the wall and braced for impact. When all was said and done, the studio suffered $200 million in losses.

Editors' Recommendations

CJ Garcia
Former Digital Trends Contributor
CJ loves reporting on the newest tech innovations and products, even though he still refuses to replace his iPhone 5. When…
The best sci-fi movies on Hulu right now
Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

Although Hulu has an excellent library of sci-fi movies, only a single new title was added to that category in May: The Chronicles of Riddick. Considering that Hulu also had to say goodbye to Pacific Rim, Blade Runner 2049, and the 2021 remake of Dune, then it's pretty far from a win for sci-fi fans.

In these quiet months, the best thing to do is dive into the older movies until something fresh comes along. That's why we're also throwing a spotlight on the original Planet of the Apes, Predator, as well as a more contemporary film in the genre, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. You can find the rest of our selections in the best sci-fi movies on Hulu below.

Read more
How to watch the 2024 WWE King and Queen of the Ring live stream
WWE logo for King and Queen of the Ring.

For the first time in three years, WWE's King of the Ring tournament returns under a new name, King and Queen of the Ring. It's the 23rd King of the Ring tournament for male superstars and the second Queen of the Ring tournament for female superstars. The last winners of the King and Queen of the Ring tournaments were Xavier Woods and Zelina Vega.

What is King and Queen of the Ring? It's a single-elimination tournament where WWE superstars on Raw and SmackDown compete to see which wrestler will be the last person standing. This year, 16 men and 16 women entered the tournament. After a few weeks of competition, it comes down to the finals. Gunther takes on Randy Orton on the men's side, while Lyra Valkyria faces Nia Jax in the women's bracket. The winners will be crowned King and Queen of the Ring, and receive a world title shot at SummerSlam in August.

Read more
Like Furiosa? Then watch these 3 Chris Hemsworth action movies on Netflix now
A bearded man looks ahead in Furiosa.

If Furiosa made you realize that Chris Hemsworth has been underrated as a movie star, you aren't alone. George Miller's directorial vision gives Hemsworth the chance to truly unleash everything that he's capable of, and the results are one of the best performances of Hemsworth's career to date.

After watching Furiosa, you might be looking for some other great Hemsworth movies to keep you entertained. We've assembled some of the best Chris Hemsworth movies that you should watch, and we've avoided his excellent run in the MCU entirely (though Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War would make for good choices there). Instead, we've selected a few less well-known titles.
Blackhat (2015)

Read more