2005 saw the release of this big time summer blockbuster, starring Jamie Foxx, Jessica Biel and Josh Lucas. Filmed by Rob Cohen of Fast and the Furious and xXx fame. Surely it would just be another action heavy, slightly mindless summer flick that would make everyone a bunch of money and slip out of our minds within weeks? Well, one of those things happened.
The film cost just over $135 million to make (not including the advertising budget, which for films like this, with such a wide release, is typically large) but only made a little over $13 million in its opening domestic weekend. Box office numbers sharply dropped after that, leaving it with a total box office intake for the US and Canada of $44.8 million. This movie lost the studio almost $100 million dollars. And for perspective, if you think that’s a lot of money, this is the FIRST entry on our list…
When is a film that picks up $120 million at the box office, considered a total flop? When the film cost $240 million dollars to make. That’s when.
This summery adventure film starring Matthew McConaughey, Penelope Cruz and Steve Zahn was based on a novel by Clive Cussler, and featured in an exposé by the Los Angeles Times about how Hollywood films could cost so much and make so little back. Some truly excellent examples coming out of that piece were hundreds of thousands in bribes to the Moroccan government and a plane crash scene that cost $2 million dollars, and ended up on the cutting room floor.
This film is an oddity in the list as it was neither a complete critical failure, nor did it make a small amount of money. If only it hadn’t cost twice as much as it made…
The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)
Eddie Murphy used to be a huge star. In the 80s and early 90s, he was easily one of the most popular comedic actors working in Hollywood and very bankable. However this film will go down as being among the top movie flops of all time and rightly earns its place on this list.
With a script having originated in the 1980s, floating around Hollywood for years and then, even after having been completed, sitting on a shelf for two years before being released, you can get an idea of just how little faith was held in this project. After pouring a huge portion of the budget into visual effects and then having the film sit for two years, by the time it as released, any impact the visuals may have had, looked dated and stale, negating their worth.
The film cost over $120 million dollars to produce and advertise, adjusted for today, that’s over $150 million. The movie’s total domestic box office came in at a measly $5.5 million adjusted dollars. It was also panned by practically everyone who saw it (of the few that did), receiving a 6% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.
Heaven’s Gate (1980)
A money losing film list would scarcely be complete without this classic entry. On the back of the wild success and Oscar glory of The Deer Hunter in 1978, director Michael Cimino took on this ambitious project, an epic Western set in the late 19th Century.
Director Cimino and the studio, United Artists, publicly clashed numerous times over the production of the film, with the budget ballooning and delays increasing, the studio feared they would not meet their deadline. Stories of Cimino requiring up to 50 takes of some scenes and making seemingly outrageous demands surrounded the production; one anecdote has Cimino, after having an entire street built exactly has he had specified, demanding it be torn down, as it didn’t “look right”, and instead of having one half torn down and the street widened (his main issue) six feet on one side, he demanded it all be destroyed and rebuilt 3 feet wider on both sides.
The initial budget for the film was $11.4 million, which by end of shooting had become $44 million. To put this in perspective, the total budget if filmed today, would have been $152.7 million dollars.
Its total domestic box office was only $3.4 million, adjusted; this would have been $11.8 million. Heaven’s Gate lost the studio over $140 million and caused not only United Artists to have to sell itself to MGM, effectively ending its life as a studio, but also meant Westerns, which had been popular since the 1960s, ceased to be made in any large capacity until Dances With Wolves and Unforgiven (1990 & 1992).
Cutthroat Island (1995)
Everyone loves pirate themed movies right? They’re super bankable and make hundreds of millions of dollars worldwide yes? Well, after Pirates of the Caribbean you might be led to believe that, but prior to those successes, there’s a little pirate film that may have been ahead of its time…
Cutthroat Island went through pre-production issues, with its production company Carolco Pictures (producers of Terminator 2: Judgement Day, the original Total Recall and the first 3 Rambo films) in financial woes already and the original male lead, Michael Douglas, pulling out after it was clear he wouldn’t get as much screen time as Geena Davis.
Production woes aside, this film cost $115 million dollars to make in 1995, equating to about $172 million dollars today. The thing that gets the movie on this list, in a starring position to boot, is that it barely made $18 million at the box office, something in the order of $26 million today. Leaving aside costs of distribution and advertising (not calculated into the budget listed here), this film holds the Guinness World Record as the biggest movie flop of all time, putting the nail in the coffin of the production company Carolco Pictures, destroying the reputation of Davis as a potential bankable star and ruining pirate movies for years like Heaven’s Gate ruined Westerns. An epic failure all ‘round.
Featured image: MovieGoods.com