Hollywood is home to one of the biggest film industries on earth. Some of the movies born there are captivating, emotionally-charged masterpieces which cause you to reflect on your own life and propel their respective cast members into stardom.
Then, there are the box office flops — those movies which have been almost completely propagated by collective delusion on the part of everyone involved. These movies are now cemented in history, warning future generations of film-makers not to make the same errors.
Here are 10 of the most significant box office flops of all time.
Catwoman spent several years in “development hell” (i.e. the film was being planned but nothing was materializing) due to logistical problems; in fact, the list of possible actresses to play the lead role includes Ashley Judd, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Nicole Kidman.
Alas, it was Halle Berry who was fortunate enough to land the part, and the movie is almost unanimously now considered to be among the worst cinema productions of all time. In fact, it ploughed an estimated $52 million in losses.
So, who was to blame for this travesty? We’re going to point the finger at everyone involved, but think that that movie’s director, Pitof, deserves explicit mention. His idea for the film was for it “to not be too influenced by the comic book”. I think we can all agree that he succeeded in ensuring that.
2 Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
While The Spirits Within is definitely among the better flicks in this list, it cannot be denied that the film was not a commercial success. After all, it did lose ninety-four million dollars.
The movie, like many other later Final Fantasy screen outings, did not take place in the setting of any games of the series. Instead, it was a science fiction film which also featured photorealistic CGI graphics (in fact, this was the first full-length film with such visuals).
This movie actually had some really amazing prospects; the production company actually planned to have the computer-generated lead actress included in other movies. Alas, the film flopped, studios were shut down, and the rest is history.
3 Cutthroat Island
Cutthroat Island was, for a while, considered to be the largest box office bomb of all time. The film was produced by a number of companies based in the United States and Europe, and suffered multiple rewrites and recasts.
In the end, it lost a cool eighty-nine million. While several aspects of the film were praised – including the production values and fighting sequences – the fact that the script had been endlessly reworked, dozens of cast members had quit in protest during one particular incident, and one intended lead was fired for getting into a scuffle in a bar before threatening to expose himself, all transpired into one particularly chaotic and forgettable cinema outing.
On the upside, the score for the film – composed by John Debney – was very well received by reviewers. So, you know. There’s that.
4 Battlefield Earth
Based on the novel by critically-acclaimed cult leader L. Ron Hubbard, Battlefield Earth stars John Travolta (who also invested millions of his own dollars into this flop).
No single aspect of Battlefield Earth can be singled out as the cause of its box office failure – in fact, it’s more accurate to just blame everything: the story which made no sense, the art direction, Travolta’s acting, bizarre camera angles, and dialogue which just tries far too hard.
The film is estimated to have only taken in just over $1,100 per screen and lost $73 million in total. That’s a lot of simoleons!
5 xXx: State of the Union
Any time that Vin Diesel leaves a production before they start filming – and his part is then recast to Ice Cube – you should start hearing alarm bells ringing.
Much like the previous entry on this list, xXx’s poor box office performance can be attributed to a fairly broad range of factors. Ice Cube failed to make much of an impression as an action movie star, and the ill-thought-out script and overabundance of CGI action sequences left little to be admired.
Rotten Tomatoes currently gives the film 16%, and it lost $78 million in total. Regardless, Cube continues to land suitable roles in more successful films, so at least no one got hurt.
6 Heaven’s Gate
While Heaven’s Gate ticks many boxes in the “how to ensure your film is not a commercial success” criteria set, perhaps the most notable is the fact that the production team blew up a horse with dynamite and then included footage of it happening in the final cut of the film. Likewise, you shouldn’t have cockfights or decapitated chickens on set. People don’t really go for that sort of thing.
Nevertheless, the pre-release accusations of almost unbelievable animal cruelty, alongside the director’s allegedly difficult working methods, and bizarre and unpredictable incidents taking place on set (including a group of musicians who were supposed to only be on set for three weeks and ended up staying for six months), all helped to earn the film a fairly infamous reputation.
That said, even though Heaven’s Gate did sink around $40 million, it is now considered among some crowds to be a cult film, simultaneously appearing on compilations of the best and worst movies of all time.
7 The Postman
The Postman is billed as both a post-apocalyptic and neo-Western adventure film, and stars Kevin Costner who – apparently – traverses a barren landscape with his pack mule. Despite this, the film was not commercially successful.
Managing to sink a total of $70 million, the flick follows Costner (playing an unnamed character) who attempts to restore the United States to its former glory following an event which ends conventional society. What this event was is never actually explained, but we’d gather that it had something to do with the mules.
So, what was the big problem? Well, the film just wasn’t very good. The script, in particular, was seen as too pretentious. The Postman scored 9% on Rotten Tomatoes, and picked up several Golden Raspberry awards (which, if you don’t know, are generally awarded to particularly bad films).
Before he was involved in producing the acclaimed masterpiece which was 1997’s The Postman, Kevin Costner’s career took an unexpected slump in another post-apocalyptic outing. This time, it was Waterworld.
Here are the cliffnotes for Waterworld: it’s set about half a century in the future, and the earth is now almost completely covered in water. Costner, playing a character by the alias of “The Mariner”, is travelling around selling dirt.
Yup, dirt. The film initially bombed but, interestingly, managed to make the money back due to home video and post-cinema sales. I guess all that criticism was just water off a duck’s back. Right?
Set in the American Revolutionary War, Revolution is the tale of a young Al Pacino who plays the role of a New York fur trapper called Tom Dobb. What’s particularly interesting about Revolution is that the lukewarm reception to the film was so bad, Pacino took a four-year hiatus from acting.
Also starring Annie Lennox of Eurythmics fame, the film cost $28 million to produce, and took in less than $400,000. Adjusting for inflation, that means that it incurred a loss of more than $61 million.
Currently sitting with a 10% approval score at Rotten Tomatoes, it was also nominated for several Golden Raspberry awards.. and even managed to lose most of them. However, film critic Philip French has claimed that the film suffered as a result of negative publicity prior to release, and that it’s actually a masterpiece. Take that as you will.
10 Rush Hour 3
Rush Hour 3 never needed to be made. Let’s be clear about that. Deep, involved sagas like Star Wars and the Matrix warrant multiple films; but Rush Hour 3 was just an attempted cash grab.
Accordingly, the film was mainly panned by critics due to the fact that it didn’t do anything new with the series. Neither Jackie Chan not Chris Tucker had been in a major film (in America, at least) for a few years leading up to it, and the apparently racist undertones and lack of substantial plot writing both stung it in the end.
Ultimately, the film underperformed – to the region of about $60 million. Time will tell whether or not the fourth entry in the series can surpass the same level of success.
Do you think they deserved to flop at the box office? Let us know in the comments.