The Biggest Box Office Bombs

What makes a movie a box office "bomb "? Just losing money doesn't make it qualify. It's the amount of loss from the production costs to ticket receipts that makes the difference.

For example, 2006’s Zyzzyx Road took in a shocking thirty (30) dollars at the box office, but since it cost only $1 million to make, it didn't lose enough money to make the list. And the 2000 John Travolta vehicle Battlefield Earth made back less than half of its $73 million budget, but losing a mere $43 million makes it only a modest disaster.

However, there are plenty of films that did lose staggering amounts to qualify as a box office bomb. When adjusted for inflation many of the biggest losses exceed $100 million according to BoxOfficeMojo.com .





15. Gigli (2003)

Net losses, inflation adjusted: $77,961,644
Total cost: $74,000,000
Worldwide theater gross: $7,266,209
Net losses (actual): $66,733,791

Gigli was a 2003 mobster comedy starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, collectively known as “Bennifer.” The duo dominated tabloid headlines and entertainment gossip shows, so putting them in a movie was a no-brainer.

Unfortunately, every critic on earth hated the movie, and people refused to see it. It earned $4 million in its opening weekend, then experienced a second-weekend drop of over 80%. Gigli was withdrawn from theaters after only three weeks, one of the shortest theatrical runs on record for a major Hollywood movie.




14. Soldier (1998)

Net losses, inflation adjusted: $78,912,404
Total cost: $75,000,000
Worldwide theater gross: $15,000,000
Net losses (actual): $60,000,000

Soldier was a futuristic action movie starring Kurt Russell. The script was written by Blade Runner co-writer David Peoples and was based on an episode of “The Outer Limits” written by author Harlan Ellison, so its credibility as a science fiction vehicle was airtight.

However, that wasn’t enough to get people to the theaters, and the $75 million film tanked at the box office, taking in only $15 million worldwide.




13. Red Planet (2000)

Net losses, inflation adjusted: $82,406,208
Total cost: $100,000,000
Worldwide theater gross: $33,463,969
Net losses (actual): $66,536,031

Red Planet was a science fiction film released in November 2000 starring Carrie-Anne Moss and Val Kilmer. The movie took place on Mars in the late 21st century and much was made of the fact that it was filmed in the Technicolor format, the first film to do so in years.

None of it clicked with critics or audiences though, and the movie opened in a disastrous fifth place, beaten out by Charlie’s Angels and even the Adam Sandler vehicle Little Nicky.




12. The Postman (1997)

Net losses, inflation adjusted: $83,346,947
Total cost: $80,000,000
Worldwide theater gross: $17,626,234
Net losses (actual): $62,373,766

In the early 1990s, Kevin Costner was as A-list an entertainer as it gets. After winning Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director with Dances With Wolves, he went on to star in such hits as Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, JFK and The Bodyguard. Then came 1995’s Waterworld, a commercial and critical disaster that almost destroyed his career.

To get back on track, he decided to repeat the Dances With Wolves formula and directed The Postman, another three-hour epic starring himself as the titular letter carrier. The post-apocalyptic movie (which inexplicably had a cameo by Tom Petty as himself) was eaten alive by critics and took in less than $18 million, barely even a quarter of its $80 million budget.





11. Treasure Planet (2002)

Net losses, inflation adjusted: $83,833,389
Total cost: $180,000,000
Worldwide theater gross: $109,578,115
Net losses (actual): $70,421,885

2002’s Treasure Planet was an ambitious film. Released by Walt Disney Pictures, it was a science fiction version of Treasure Island, and was the first movie to be released simultaneously in both IMAX and regular formats. Treasure Planet was also the first film to combine two-dimensional hand-rendered animation with 3D digital animation.

Despite the impressive visuals and generally good reviews, the movie-going public responded with a collective “Who cares?” and the $180 million movie earned only $38 million at the US box office.




10. Inchon (1982)

Net losses, inflation adjusted: $89,870,942
Total cost: $46,000,000
Worldwide theater gross: $5,200,986
Net losses (actual): $40,799,014

Inchon was 1982 Korean War epic that was secretly financed by Sun Myung Moon, leader of the controversial Unification Church and starred Sir Laurence Olivier as General Douglas MacArthur. Once this source of funding was revealed, the problems piled up quickly.

The US Department of Defense, who had allowed 1500 real soldiers to be used as extras in the film, demanded that they be removed from the credits. Protesters picketed the world premiere, which caused congressman Dan Glickman to leave the screening for fear of being associated with Moon’s church.

The movie was horribly reviewed, with some publications calling it one of the worst films of all time. This all added up to a $2 million box office take against the film’s $46 million budget.





9. Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)

Net losses, inflation adjusted: $99,798,592
Total cost: $167,000,000
Worldwide theater gross: $85,131,830
Net losses (actual): $81,868,170

Remember the 2001 animated science fiction movie Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within ? No one really does. The film depicted the desperate struggle of a band of humans in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by a tyrannical an alien race.

The film used highly sophisticated animation, and upon its release it was praised for its stunning visuals. However, it had gone so far over budget in the four years that it took to make it that its $85 million box office take was good for only about half of the film’s $167 million budget. Square Pictures, the studio that had made the movie, went out of business the following year.



8. Heaven’s Gate (1980)

Net losses, inflation adjusted: $104,542,449
Total cost: $44,000,000
Worldwide theater gross: $3,484,331
Net losses (actual): $40,515,669

Michael Cimino, the Oscar-winning director of The Deer Hunter, followed up his highly regarded movie with an epic western called Heaven’s Gate. To achieve cinematic perfection, Cimino demanded up to fifty takes of individual scenes and would delay filming until a cloud that he liked rolled into the frame. Production fell behind schedule immediately, and the movie exceeded its budget by 400%.

The movie was mercilessly thrashed by critics such as the New York Times’ Vincent Canby, who compared it to "a forced four-hour walking tour of one's own living room." It earned less than $3 million of its $44 million budget, and the studio, United Artists, folded soon after. Cimino, once a promising director with a great career ahead of him, has barely worked since 1980.




7. Speed Racer (2008)

Net losses, inflation adjusted: $106,054,234
Total cost: $200,000,000
Worldwide theater gross: $93,945,766
Net losses (actual): $106,054,234

After the Matrix trilogy and V for Vendetta, Larry and Andy Wachowski decided to adapt the Japanese cartoon Speed Racer to the big screen. The movie had $80 million worth of marketing behind it from such partners as LEGO, Mattel and McDonald’s, among others.

However, the movie received reviews that were indifferent at best, and The New Yorker’s Anthony Lane said that it was "of no conceivable interest to anyone over the age of ten." The movie opened at number three its first weekend, a huge disappointment given its enormous budget, and quietly faded from there.




6. Town & Country (2001)

Net losses, inflation adjusted: $115,352,672
Total cost: $105,000,000
Worldwide theater gross: $10,372,291
Net losses (actual): $94,627,709

Town & Country was a 2001 ensemble comedy starring Warren Beatty, Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Garry Shandling. Ensemble comedies are relatively inexpensive to make, as there’s no CGI or full-scale replicas of the Titanic to pay for.

But Beatty demanded a huge number of takes for each scene, and the script was still being re-written as the movie was shooting, pushing the production behind schedule. Shandling and Keaton both had to leave the shoot before it was finished in order to do other films, and it would be a year before the cast reunited to finish it.

Three years after filming began the movie was released, receiving severe thrashings from critics and audiences alike. Ultimately it lost close to $100 million, making it one of the most unsuccessful movies of all time.




5. The 13th Warrior (1999)

Net losses, inflation adjusted: $125,887,312
Total cost: $160,000,000
Worldwide theater gross: $61,698,899
Net losses (actual): $98,301,101

The 13th Warrior was a movie about Vikings, Arabs and the pre-human bear people who eat them. Originally based on a Michael Crichton novel with the sure-to-please title Eaters of the Dead, the movie did badly with test audiences, prompting Crichton to take over for original director John McTiernan and re-shoot several scenes.

The entire enterprise delayed the movie for a year and exploded the budget to $160 million, almost twice its original size. The movie performed modestly at the box office, but nowhere near what it needed in order to make its money back.

Legendary actor Omar Sharif, who appeared in the film in a small role, was so enraged by the experience that he didn’t act again until 2003.




4. Sahara (2005)

Net losses, inflation adjusted: $133,141,605
Total cost: $241,000,000
Worldwide theater gross: $119,269,486
Net losses (actual): $121,730,514

Sometimes, a movie doesn’t have to be a flop to be a bomb. Take Sahara, the globe-hopping 2005 adventure vehicle starring Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz. It opened at number one, made $18 million its first weekend and earned a respectable $119 million at the box office, statistics that would make almost any filmmaker happy.

But in the case of Sahara, it represented box office disaster, since its budget of $241 million was more than twice what the movie took in. Originally intended as the first in a franchise, its failure at the box office made that impossible, a remarkable fate for a number one film that sold over $100 million in tickets.




3. The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)

Net losses, inflation adjusted: $134,396,524
Total cost: $120,000,000
Worldwide theater gross: $7,103,973
Net losses (actual): $112,896,027

The Adventures of Pluto Nash was a 2002 science fiction comedy starring Eddie Murphy that’s become legendary in the annals of box office bombs. The movie’s first script was written in the 1980s and was rewritten multiple times before it was finally turned into a movie.

The finished product was so badly made that it was shelved for two years before the studio released it, to almost universal critical disgust. When all the wailing and gnashing of teeth was over, it had earned $7.1 million against its $120 million cost, more than earning its reputation as one of the worst box office bombs in all filmdom.




2. The Alamo (2004)

Net losses, inflation adjusted: $134,784,016
Total cost: $145,000,000
Worldwide theater gross: $25,819,961
Net losses (actual): $119,180,039

There have been several popular movie depictions over the years of the 1836 battle at the Alamo, including John Wayne's 1960 version But the 2004 film of the same title starring Dennis Quaid and Billy Bob Thornton faced massive indifference on the part of audiences, many of whom were still going back to see The Passion of the Christ for the second or third time.

When all was said and done, The Alamo ended its theatrical run with earnings just shy of $26 million, and with a budget of $145 million, that meant that the movie had lost $120 million.




1. Cutthroat Island (1995)

Net losses, inflation adjusted: $146,947,958
Total cost: $115,000,000
Worldwide theater gross: $10,017,322
Net losses (actual): $104,982,678

1995’s Cutthroat Island is the biggest financial disaster in all of movie history, a fact confirmed by the Guinness Book of World Records. That its star and its director still have careers is nothing short of remarkable.

Starring Geena Davis and directed by her husband, Renny Harlin, the feminist pirate movie was poorly reviewed, with multiple critics suggesting that those involved in making it should walk the plank. When all was said and done, the movie lost over $100 million, an unprecedented amount that bankrupted the studio that made it, Carolco Pictures.

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