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The 10 biggest sci-fi bombs of all time, ranked

An alien points a gun in Battlefield Earth.
Warner Bros.

For as long as there have been movies, there have been flops as well. But few projects have ever lost as much money as the 10 biggest sci-fi bombs of all-time. There have been plenty of dramas and comedies that have failed at the box office, but their budgets don’t tend to get as high as that of the typical science fiction flick. Sci-fi movies are often high risk and high reward, but they can bring down a studio or two when they absolutely fail to make back their money.

Last summer, The Flash joined the ranks of the biggest bombs ever made, and the only reason it didn’t top this list is that it’s technically a superhero movie despite some sci-fi and time travel elements. For now, we wanted to focus on this specific genre rather than venture out into the superhero and fantasy movies that also managed to lose a great deal of money. You may also notice that many of the 10 biggest sci-fi bombs of all-time are difficult to find on the major streaming services, even when the films themselves aren’t as bad as their box office numbers might suggest.

10. The Astronaut’s Wife (1999)

Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron in The Astronaut's Wife.
New Line Cinema

Budget: $75 million

Worldwide gross: $19.6 million

Estimated loss: $65 million

The one thing that The Astronaut’s Wife has in its favor is that it has largely been forgotten in the 25 years since it’s release. It wasn’t an epic disaster like Battlefield Earth or Battleship, but somebody spent way too much money on this sci-fi take on Rosemary’s Baby.

Johnny Depp headlines the film as Commander Spencer Armacost, a NASA astronaut who suffers an accident during a spacewalk alongside his colleague, Captain Alex Streck (Nick Cassavetes). When Spencer and Alex return to Earth, their respective wives, Jillian Armacost (Charlize Theron) and Natalie Streck (Donna Murphy), sense the change in their husbands. Natalie commits suicide soon after, and only Jillian seems to realize that her unborn children may be alien in nature.

9. The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

Vin Diesel's Riddick holds up his glasses in The Chronicles of Riddick.
Universal Pictures

Budget: $105 to $120 million

Worldwide gross: $115.8 million

Estimated loss: $47 to $73 million

Pitch Black helped make Vin Diesel a star, thanks to his arresting turn as the killer known as Richard B. Riddick. That’s why Diesel and director David Twohy wanted to expand the standalone sci-fi movie into a franchise with The Chronicles of Riddick. The result was a film that was only “OK” at best, and one that lacked the qualities that made Pitch Black so engaging. In fact, The Chronicles of Riddick manages to end just as it’s about to get really interesting.

This film did have an uphill battle in trying to reconfigure the amoral Riddick into something resembling a hero or even an antihero. It’s also not without its intriguing aspects, including the apparently supernatural powers of the Necromonger’s Lord Marshal (Colm Feore) and the plans of his underling, Commander Vaako (Karl Urban) and his ambitious wife, Dame Vaako (Thandiwe Newton), to steal the Necromonger empire for themselves. The Lord Marshal is so laser-focused on finding and killing Riddick that he can’t see the threat within. Honestly, this isn’t even a bad film. It just wasn’t good enough to really capture the imaginations of moviegoers.

8. Battlefield Earth (2000)

Barry Pepper and John Travolta in Battlefield Earth.
Warner Bros. Pictures

Budget: $73 to $103 million

Worldwide gross: $29.7 million

Estimated loss: $73.3 million

Battlefield Earth was John Travolta’s passion project for years, which is why it’s absolutely hilarious to see him ham it up as Terl, one of the Psychlos who rule the world. This movie was a flop from the word “go,” and it’s not hard to see why. The makeup and designs for the Psychlos were absolutely ridiculous, and it’s completely impossible to take Travolta and Forest Whitaker seriously when they’re in full costume.

Then there’s the completely generic story about Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper) — and yes, Goodboy really is his middle name — the young man who dares to oppose the Psychlos after humanity has spent 1,000 years under their control. From there, it plays out like every Star Wars clone that you’ve ever seen. In retrospect, Battlefield Earth performed a great service to humanity. It saved us all from more big-budget L. Ron Hubbard adaptations. For that, we are eternally grateful.

7. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

A female hologram points to a man in "Blade Runner 2049."
Warner Bros. Pictures

Budget: $150 to $185 million

Worldwide gross: $260.5 million

Estimated loss: $80 million

Blade Runner 2049‘s presence on this list is really unfortunate because it’s the only truly great movie among these titanic flops. Director Denis Villeneuve delivered one of the most jaw-droopingly beautiful science fiction movies of the 21st century, and this is a worthy follow-up to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Despite the return of Harrison Ford and the casting of Ryan Gosling (The Fall Guy) in the leading role, Blade Runner 2049 simply failed to make a large enough impact at the box office.

Gosling portrays K, a Replicant who hunts down other Replicants. In his downtime, K maintains his own apartment, and he is seemingly in love with his A.I. personal assistant, Joi (Ana de Armas), But during the course of his job, K uncovers evidence that he may be the first child of a human and a Replicant. To get answers, K will have to find the long-missing Rick Deckard (Ford). However, Deckard is already in hiding from billionaire Niander Wallace (Jared Leto).

6. Gods of Egypt (2016)

The cast of Gods of Egypt.

Budget: $140 million

Worldwide gross: $150.7 million

Estimated loss: $76 to $90 million

Somewhere between sci-fi and fantasy exists the movie known as Gods of Egypt. The Whitest Gods You Know would probably be a more appropriate title, as director Alex Proyas took a lot of flack for using a mostly Caucasian cast to portray Egyptian deities. The late Chadwick Boseman was one of the few exceptions in his role as the Egyptian God of Wisdom, Thoth.

Gerard Butler (300) plays the evil Seth, who’s tired of sharing power with his fellow gods. After murdering his father, Osiris (Bryan Brown), and blinding his brother, Horus (Game of Thrones‘ Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), Seth takes over Egypt and enslaves mankind. A young man named Bek (Brenton Thwaites) dares to steal from Seth, only to lose the life of his lover, Zaya (Courtney Eaton), in the process. That’s why Bek joins forces with Horus in the hope of bringing down Seth and retrieving Zaya from the underworld.

5. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)

The main characters from Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.
Sony Pictures

Budget: $137.5 million

Worldwide gross: $85.1 million

Estimated loss: $94 million

Square, the company behind the hit Final Fantasy video games, wanted to make a big push into movies with the animated Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within. The company was also very high on the realistic character model that was created for the main character, Aki Ross (Ming-Na Wen), whom Square envisioned as a virtual starlet who could appear in other films as well.

Consider that a severe case of jumping the gun, due in large part to a nearly incomprehensible story involving phantom-like aliens on Earth in the far-off future. In the film, Aki is infected by a Phantom during an experiment, and it leads her to discover a way to potentially banish the spirits and reclaim the world. But to do so, Aki and her allies will have to locate eight spirits and combine their powers.

4. The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)

Eddie Murphy in The Adventures of Pluto Nash.
Warner Bros. Pictures

Budget: $100 million

Worldwide gross: $7.1 million

Estimated loss: $96 million

That $7.1 million worldwide gross is not a typo. The Adventures of Pluto Nash couldn’t even crack $10 million against a $100 million budget. That’s why it remains on this list of the biggest sci-fi bombs of all-time.

Comedy star Eddie Murphy plays the titular Pluto Nash, an ex-smuggler who went legit with his nightclub on the moon. When Pluto’s club is destroyed by space mobsters, he and his friends, Dina Lake (Rosario Dawson) and Bruno (Randy Quaid), go on the run and attempt to discover why the enigmatic crime lord Rex Crater has marked Pluto for death. As someone who remembers when The Adventures of Pluto Nash was heavily replayed on cable, I can personally attest that this movie might be a cure for insomnia.

3. Ghost in the Shell (2017)

Scarlett Johansson in Ghost in the Shell.

Budget: $110 to $180 million

Worldwide gross: $169.8 million

Estimated loss: $60 to $100 million

Much like Gods of Egypt, Ghost in the Shell faced accusations of whitewashing by casting Scarlett Johansson (Asteroid City) in the leading role as Major Mira Killian. In the wildly popular anime and manga that inspired the film, the Major is a Japanese cyborg. And technically, the same is true of Johansson’s character in this film.

Banking on Johansson’s star power and the recreation of many of the iconic moments from the anime, Paramount and DreamWorks had high hopes of launching a franchise off of this film. There’s no shortage of action here, but it also overpowers the big sci-fi ideas about consciousness and humanity merging with machines. It just didn’t work, and now you really have to search for Ghost in the Shell if you want to stream it.

2. Chaos Walking (2021)

Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley in Chaos Walking.

Budget: $100 million

Worldwide gross: $26.5 million

Estimated loss: $112 million

Unlike The Chronicles of Riddick, Chaos Walking is an absolute disaster that not even the presence of Tom Holland or Daisy Ridley could save. In this adaptation of Patrick Ness’ The Knife of Never Letting Go, Holland plays Todd Hewitt, one of the residents of an all-male colony where men and boys can literally see and hear the thoughts of others. The women of the colony were supposedly murdered years ago by aliens native to the planet.

Todd’s worldview is shattered when Viola Eade (Ridley) arrives on the planet after surviving a crash-landing in her colony ship. As the only woman in Todd’s colony, Viola’s thoughts are unreadable by anyone. And Viola’s very existence is a threat to the power of Mayor David Prentiss (Mads Mikkelsen), who would rather murder her than risk exposing what really happened to the women of the colony.

1. Battleship (2012)

The cast of Battleship.
Universal Pictures

Budget: $209 to $220 million

Worldwide gross: $303 million

Estimated loss: $150 million

Whoever had the bright idea to make Hasbro’s board game Battleship into a movie about aliens really shouldn’t be a studio executive after this fiasco. Do we really have to remind everyone that the Battleship game was about dueling naval forces and not alien invaders? This was a colossal misfire on every level, and Battleship has certainly earned its place on this list.

Taylor Kitsch headlines the film as Lieutenant Alex Hopper, a rebellious officer who is well on his way to getting dishonorably discharged from the Navy when aliens attack during a military exercise. In the aftermath of this ambush, Hopper finds himself as the ranking officer on the lone surviving ship. And it’s his job to rally the survivors — including Rihanna’s character, Gunner’s Mate Second Class Cora Raikes — into leading a successful counterattack that includes blind-firing at possible alien positions, which is one of the few times that the film actually resembles its source material.

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Blair Marnell
Blair Marnell has been an entertainment journalist for over 15 years. His bylines have appeared in Wizard Magazine, Geek…
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