Movies are expensive to make. From superstar casts, elaborate sets, and high-tech special effects, the costs can add up. Studios always hope they can redeem their costs with a little added profit on top, but when factoring in massive budgets, major marketing campaigns, and lower-than-expected box-office receipts, sometimes that is not the case. Here are the five most expensive movie flops in Hollywood history.
5. “Mars Needs Moms” (2011)
Estimated budget: $150 million
Estimated loss: $100 million
The success of children’s movies is especially hard to predict. “Mars Needs Moms” was produced by Disney and was based off a children’s book of the same name. While the book was very successful, even Disney’s deep wallets and a few big names couldn’t save this movie.
With a production budget of $150 million, ticket sales could barely pull in $50 million making an overall loss of around $100 million. The average IMDb rating for the movie is 5.4 out of 10. The movie itself is not terrible, but fans deemed it lacking in creativity, which is a big problem for a sci-fi children’s tale.
4. “Monster Trucks” (2017)
Estimated budget: $125 million
Estimated loss: $115 million
Here’s another children’s movie — except, instead of being based on a beloved book, this one is just based on a pun. Paramount and Nickelodeon were hoping to create an entire franchise based on literal monster-powered trucks.
Unfortunately, the studio’s dreams were not meant to be. With a production budget of $125 million, the film ended up losing $115 million, and the franchise idea was put back on the shelf.
3. “John Carter” (2012)
Estimated budget: $263 million
Estimated loss: $122 million
In 2012, Disney was looking for a successful sci-fi franchise that they could call their own. “John Carter” is the story of a Civil War captain who is transported to Mars and becomes involved in a tumultuous local civil war between the native Martians.
The film was somewhat successful in box office gross sales, but due to its high budget, it was a huge flop. Disney spent over $263 million on the Martian epic and lost $122 million in the process. It is still ranked as one of the most expensive movies ever made.
2. “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas” (2003)
Estimated budget: $60 million
Estimated loss: $125 million
Sometimes a movie becomes a flop not because of its content but, rather, what it is competing against. Pixar’s “Finding Nemo” had just been released a few months earlier, and people had lost interest in traditional animated cartoons.
“Sinbad” actually received some decent praise from critics, but in the end, the film still lost DreamWorks $125 million. The studio decided to focus on what viewers wanted and moved on to the "Shrek" sequels and the "Madagascar" franchise.
1. “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” (2017)
Estimated budget: $175 million
Estimated loss: $150 million
The big winner (or loser) of the list was created by Warner Brothers, which was looking into creating a new six-film franchise based on Arthurian Legends. Historically, stories revolving around King Arthur tend to a be a hit with audiences, even when they are in jest like in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.”
But this one just didn’t land. Critics blasted the film and Warner Brothers ended up $150 million in the hole. All plans for sequels were canceled, never to see the light of day. The movie still sits at 31% on Rotten Tomatoes.
Adjusted for inflation
As time goes on, movies get more expensive. It’s only natural that the biggest box office losers would be modern flicks. However, adjusting for inflation does not change the list very much. “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas” switches to the top spot, and “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” drops to second place. The only addition to the list is the 1995 film “Cutthroat Island,” which would come in at number three.
Before the “Pirates of the Caribbean” sailed the high seas and dominated the box office, “Cutthroat Island” had big dreams and a big budget in 1995 standards. Due to multiple rewrites, recasts, and an overall troubled production, costs went through the roof. When the film finally debuted, it lost the equivalent of $147 million when adjusted for inflation, receiving the award for the “largest box office loss” by Guinness World Records, and this led to the demise of the highly successful production company Carolco Pictures.
Ever since large budget movies hit the big screen, they have had the ability to create or destroy careers and companies. It remains a tricky business dominated by those who have the money to risk.