Big Budget Movies That Didn't Break Even

John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) | © Disney Enterprises, Inc.
John Carter (Taylor Kitsch), Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) | © Disney Enterprises, Inc.
Photo of Cassam Looch
Social Editor9 February 2018

As box-office returns are slowly starting to mean less and less with the advancement of streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime, the one constant in determining a movie’s success is the initial production costs versus the profit it yields. Filmmakers and stars will obviously be hoping for a smash hit, but what about the projects that don’t even break even?

Here’s the list of the costliest films that didn’t even manage to return a single dollar, ranked by their overall budget costs*.

John Carter (2012)

Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) | © Disney

This Disney movie is easily the most expensive film ever made that failed to turn a profit. It’s actually not a bad movie, although it does feel a little aimless at times. You can tell the money was spent on sets and locations, which all look as otherworldly as they need to, but perhaps there was a little skimping on the cast. Taylor Kitsch isn’t exactly the most bankable leading man in the world…

Production budget: $263,700,000

The Lone Ranger (2013)

Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer | © Disney

Unlike our entry above, Johnny Depp was one of the biggest stars on the planet when this remake of a beloved classic hit the screens. Depp’s bizarre obsession with playing Tonto, the Native American companion of The Lone Ranger, however, proved to be the movie’s undoing. The decision to cast Depp in this role didn’t go down too well with viewers, and co-star Armie Hammer had yet to win over critics, as The Lone Ranger came long before the release of Oscar favourite Call Me By Your Name (2017).

Production budget: $225,000,000

Battleship (2012)

© Universal Pictures

It’s our old friend Taylor Kitsch again, and this time joining him on a sinking ship of a movie is global superstar Rihanna. Having two films in the top three on this list must be pretty painful, but not as painful as the experience of those unfortunate souls who had to sit through this turgid board-game adaptation.

Production budget: $209,000,000

Green Lantern (2011)

Green Lantern | © Warner Bros.

He would go on to play a successful superhero with Deadpool (2016), albeit on the second attempt, but as the Green Lantern Ryan Reynolds couldn’t catch a break. A stinker from the DC back catalogue of characters, Reynolds even poked fun at how bad this movie was in his later outing in spandex.

Production budget: $200,000,000

The Mummy (2017)

The Mummy | © Universal Pictures

Tom Cruise’s biggest flop of recent times is a worry. Not only does it potentially signal a waning in the popularity of the 55-year-old star, but it also casts serious doubt on the likelihood of any more films being created for the proposed ‘Dark Universe’ (the monster franchise Universal are hoping to build).

Production budget: $195,000,000

Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

© Warner Bros.

Beset by production issues and delayed by several years from its original release slot, this Bryan Singer film was set to be the next Lord of The Rings… but missed the Hobbit-mania by almost a decade.

Production budget: $185,000,000

Tomorrowland (2015)

© Disney

Disney should probably accept that Pirates of the Caribbean was a flukey one-off franchise hit. Their subsequent attempts to turn their theme-park attractions into movie dollars have failed miserably, but none more spectacularly than Tomorrowland. It’s a big mess of a movie that not even George Clooney can save.

Production budget: $180,000,000

47 Ronin (2014)

© Universal Pictures

You might not have heard of the film even if you have heard of the origin story. The roaming Ronin are as helpless as the film’s stars and crew. No one knows what is going on and the final result is an overblown disaster.

Production budget: $175,000,000

Evan Almighty (2007)

© Universal Pictures

The sequel to Jim Carrey’s comedy hit Bruce Almighty was only lacking one thing: Jim Carrey. That’s right, some thought they could make a follow-up to Bruce Almighty without the mighty Bruce himself. Where the budget went, we have no idea, but this was a flop of biblical proportions.

Production budget: $175,000,000

The Good Dinosaur (2012)

The Good Dinosaur | © Disney/Pixar

More proof, if it were needed, that Disney doesn’t always get it right. What might come as a surprise, however, is the fact that this is also a Pixar movie and one of the biggest letdowns from the studio so far. The plot is far too simplistic and it feels aimed at the youngest audience members. The universal appeal of other Pixar classics is lacking here.

Production budget: $175,000,000

Jupiter Ascending (2015)

© Warner Bros.

Yep, that is Oscar winner Eddie Redmayne sitting centre screen in this sci-fi action movie from The Wachowskis. The nonsensical script somehow managed to attract Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum as well… luckily it wasn’t bad enough to sink the Theory of Everything star’s chances of nabbing the golden statuette.

Production budget: $175,000,000

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) | © Warner Bros.

We’ve marvelled at this film for quite some time now. Just how did it get made? Who thought it was a good idea? Why on earth would you imagine David Beckham can act?!? So many questions…

Production budget: $175,000,000

Alice Through the Looking Glass (2016)

Alice (Mia Wasikowska) returns to the whimsical world of Underland and travels back in time to save the Mad Hatter (Johnny Depp) | © Disney

The downward trajectory of Johnny Depp, as briefly mentioned above, really picked up steam with this sequel to the box-office goliath that was Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010). Depp was now just a little bit too convincing as the creepy and absent-minded Mad Hatter to make for comfortable viewing. There are times when this just feels sad.

Production budget: $170,000,000

Cowboys & Aliens (2011)

Cowboys & Aliens | © Paramount Pictures

On paper, the teaming up of James Bond and Indiana Jones sounds like a winning formula. In reality, though, the typecast Daniel Craig and the grumpy Harrison Ford make for an instantly unwelcoming pair. We can imagine the need to recreate authentic period sets and then blow them up with advanced alien technology probably saw most of the budget frittered away.

Production budget: $163,000,000

Poseidon (2006)

Poseidon | © Warner Bros.

If you ask most directors about the most problematic type of shoots, they will forgo the stock answer of “never work with animals or children” and tell you that water is the ultimate pain in any filmmakers life. Although James Cameron was able to somehow make it work to great effect for Titanic (1997) and Kevin Costner just about survived Waterworld (1995), those involved in the remake of this disaster-movie classic were not so lucky.

Production budget: $160,000,000

Sahara (2005)

Sahara | © Paramount Pictures

There was a time when Matthew McConaughey was seen as something of a joke. His laid-back Southern charm was being layered on a bit too thick onscreen and audiences weren’t really buying into him as a leading man. A great example of this problem is this expensive adventure movie, which looks to be an updated version of Indiana Jones but instead feels like a dull video game. McConaughey, and the rest of the cast, would go on to do much better.

Production budget: $160,000,000

Alexander (2004)

© Warner Bros.

How do you make a film about one of the most successful military campaigners of all time? Well, in the case of this Oliver Stone wannabe epic, badly. Everything feels off about this movie, from the decision to put Colin Farrell in a blonde wig (or very bad hair-dye, you decide) to the use of Angelina Jolie in an underwritten role when she was at her best.

Production budget: $155,000,000

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

DSC00760.ARW | © Sony Pictures

Perhaps we’re being slightly premature with this one, it’s still on release in a few countries and might pick up some traction after the Oscars, but as it stands the superb remake to Ridley Scott’s original isn’t connecting with the wider public. Those hankering for more nostalgic thrills should head down to London for the upcoming Blade Runner-inspired Secret Cinema event.

Production budget: $150,000,000

The Great Wall (2016)

© Universal Pictures

We’ve heard about the impending dominance of Chinese cinema for a while now. On the surface of it, the financial failure of this movie might put a dent on that impression, but when you dig a little deeper you realise there are serious problems at the very core of the story. Putting Matt Damon into the lead role as a man fending off an invading force raised questions about the ‘white saviour’ archetype.

Production budget: $150,000,000

Hugo (2011)

The Invention Of Hugo Cabret | © Paramount Pictures

An Oscar-nominated flop, now there’s a thing. A Martin Scorsese flop no less! To be fair, this is actually one of the better films on this list, but don’t expect any accountants to be singing its praises…

Production budget: $150,000,000

Mars Needs Moms (2011)

Mars Needs Moms | ©ImageMovers Digital LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Now here’s a really bad film from a studio who should know better. Worse still, this is an animation by Disney, and it somehow manages to feel like it wouldn’t be good enough to get a C- at an art college. The graphics are atrocious, sparse and lacking any life or detail. Avoid.

Production budget: $150,000,000

Pan (2015)

© Warner Bros.

Hugh Jackman clearly had a lot of fun with this re-imagining of the Peter Pan mythos, which is nice. Unfortunately there is virtually nothing else in there for regular cinemagoers to enjoy.

Production budget: $150,000,000

The Wolfman (2010)

The Wolfman | © Universal Pictures

You do wonder why people still think ‘The Dark Universe’ by Universal is worth pursuing. As if the failure of The Mummy wasn’t enough, we also have this forgettable opening salvo that was so dreary it somehow manages to feel more boring than the more recent film in the series.

Production budget: $150,000,000

So there you have it, the most expensive films ever made that failed to return any profit. There is, of course, another list to be made about the films that actually lost the most money, but that’s for another time…
*According to data collected from a variety of sources.