Box Office Blunders: 24 Big Budget Movies That Failed to Turn a Profit

Some movies garner immense hype, yet fail to convert that excitement into significant box-office earnings for various reasons. A movie’s box-office revenue stands apart from its actual profit due to the sharing of percentages with theaters and distributors. Typically, a film needs to rake in at least double its production budget to break even and surpass that mark to be deemed profitable.

Hence, while a movie failing to surpass its budget at the box office is nearly always a flop, surprisingly, a film surpassing its budget might still incur losses. Here’s a compilation of highly anticipated films that, despite the buzz, failed to make a profit.

1. John Carter (2012)

John Carter (2012)
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

John Carter is a sci-fi adventure based on a novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs. This movie had a massive budget of $250 million. However, it only made $284 million worldwide, barely matching the cost of production alone. The movie suffered from a confusing title and a lackluster marketing campaign. It was also criticized for its bland story and characters.  

2. The Lone Ranger (2013)

The Lone Ranger (2013)
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

The Lone Ranger cost $225 million to make but only earned $260 million upon its release. It is a Western adventure based on a radio and TV series, but it was slammed for its bloated length, tone-deaf portrayal of Native Americans, and lack of chemistry between Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer. I honestly didn’t think it was that bad, but the people have spoken!

3. The Flash (2023)

The Flash (2023)
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

The Flash was a costly flop for DC Studios. It had a high budget of $220 million but only made $268 million worldwide, losing money for the studio. The movie faced several delays and controversies, such as a writer’s strike, a controversial star, and mixed reviews. It also failed to impress fans and critics with its time-travel plot.

4. The 13th Warrior (1999)

The 13th Warrior (1999)
Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

The 13th Warrior was based on a sci-fi novel and starred Antonio Banderas as an Arab diplomat who joins a group of Viking warriors to fight a supernatural enemy. The movie had a budget of $160 million, but it endured production problems, reshoots, and poor marketing. It only earned $61 million worldwide, making it a huge flop.

5. Waterworld (1995)

Kevin Costner in Waterworld (1995)
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Waterworld is a post-apocalyptic adventure set in a world where the polar ice caps have melted and the sea level has risen. The budget of $172 million was the highest at the time, but the film suffered from (ironically) natural disasters, script changes, and director conflicts. It only generated $264 million worldwide, which was insufficient to cover its production and marketing costs. 

6. R.I.P.D (2013)

R.I.P.D Jeff Bridges
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

R.I.P.D is a supernatural comedy about two deceased cops who work for the Rest in Peace Department, a secret agency that hunts down rogue souls disguised as humans. Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges played the mismatched partners who were trying to stop a plot to destroy the world. The movie’s budget was $130 million, but it got negative reviews from critics and audiences. It only earned $78 million globally, making it a flop on the big screen.

7. Mortal Engines (2018)

Mortal Engines (2018)
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

This movie was a fantasy adaptation of a book series by Philip Reeve. It depicted a future where cities are mobile and compete for resources by devouring each other. A young woman and a rebel pilot try to stop a powerful city from destroying the world. The budget was $100 million, but there was competition from other blockbuster films, and it failed to attract fans of the books. It only earned $83 million worldwide, resulting in enormous financial losses.

8. A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

A Wrinkle in Time (2018)
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

A Wrinkle in Time follows a young girl who travels across the universe with three celestial beings to find her missing father. Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling played the beings. It had a $103 million bill, making it the first live-action film with such a high budget. However, the movie garnered varying reviews and failed to connect with audiences. It only earned $133 million, barely breaking even.

9. Tomorrowland (2015)

Tomorrowland George Clooney Britt Robertson
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Tomorrowland is a sci-fi adventure starring George Clooney. It was inspired by the Disney theme park land of the same name and its optimistic vision of the future. The budget was $190 million, but there were production problems, poor marketing, and mixed reviews. It only earned $209 million internationally, which was a huge disappointment for Disney.

10. The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

The Chronicles of Riddick is the sequel to Pitch Black (2000) and stars Vin Diesel as the anti-hero Riddick. It was set in a universe where a fanatical army called the Necromongers threatened to wipe out all life. Despite the $105 million budget and all the special effects, the feedback was negative. It only earned $115 million worldwide, resulting in large profit losses.

11. Mulan (2020)

Mulan (2020)
Image Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

This live-action remake of Disney’s 1998 animated film was based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan. It starred Yifei Liu as Mulan, a young woman who disguised herself as a man to join the army in place of her father. The movie had a budget of $200 million, but after several controversies, such as changes to the source material, filming in Xinjiang, and criticism for its cultural and historical inaccuracies, it barely survived.

The movie was also affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and had a limited theatrical release. It only earned $69.9 million at the box office.

12. Catwoman (2004)

Catwoman (2004)
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

Catwoman is loosely based on the DC Comics character of the same name. It starred Halle Berry as Patience Phillips, a shy woman who gained cat-like abilities and became a vigilante. The movie’s budget was $100 million, but critics and fans panned it for its terrible script, direction, acting, and effects. It brought in $82.1 million globally, making it one of the worst superhero movies ever made.

13. 47 Ronin (2013)

47 Ronin
Image Credit: Frank Connor/Universal Pictures.

Unfortunately, 47 Ronin used $175 million for production, but only made $151 million globally. It was a fantasy adaptation of a Japanese legend, but it was criticized for its poor script, direction, and casting of Keanu Reeves as the lead. I can’t agree with the last point, I love Keanu!

14. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)
Image Credit: DreamWorks Pictures.

Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas is an animated film produced by DreamWorks Animation and based on the legend of Sinbad the Sailor. The film had a budget of $60 million and made only $80.8 million in total, making it a box-office bomb and causing DreamWorks to suffer a $125 million loss. It was also the last DreamWorks Animation film to use traditional animation, as the studio switched to computer animation afterward.

15. Son of the Mask (2005)

Image Credit: New Line Cinema.

Son of the Mask is the sequel to The Mask (1994). The film starred Jamie Kennedy and featured a baby with the powers of the mask. The film was nominated for eight Golden Raspberry Awards and had a $84–100 million budget. However, it only grossed $59.9 million, so it was one of the most expensive box office flops. 

16. The Alamo (2004)

The Alamo (2004)
Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

This historical drama film depicted the 1836 Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution. The film was directed by John Lee Hancock and starred Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thornton, Jason Patric, and Patrick Wilson. The film got mixed responses and was denounced by audiences. The budget was $107 million and made only $25.8 million.

17. The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)

The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

The Adventures of Pluto Nash stars Eddie Murphy as a lunar nightclub owner who gets into trouble with the mafia. It was universally rejected by critics and audiences and is considered one of Murphy’s worst films. The budget was $100 million and it grossed $7.1 million worldwide. Ouch!

18. Battleship (2012)

Battleship (2012)
Image Credit: Universal Pictures.

Battleship is a military science fiction action film based on the board game of the same name. It focuses on a group of naval officers who have to fight against an alien invasion in the Pacific Ocean. The feedback was mostly negative, with viewers criticizing the acting, story, and dialogue. The budget was $209–$220 million, and it generated $303 million around the world. However, with other costs factored in, both Universal and Hasbro lost around $150 million.

19. The Widowmaker (2002)

Image Credit: Paramount Pictures

The Widowmaker is a historical thriller film based on the true story of a Soviet nuclear submarine that suffered a reactor malfunction in 1961. The film stars Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson as the captain and executive officer of the submarine, respectively. The film had a production budget of $100 million and produced $65 million across the board. It got mixed assessments from critics, who praised the cast’s performances but bashed the historical inaccuracies and lack of suspense. 

20. Around The World in 80 Days (2004)

Around the World in 80 Days (2004)
Image Credit: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

The film stars Jackie Chan, Steve Coogan, and Cécile de France as three travelers who attempt to circumnavigate the globe in 80 days using various modes of transportation. The film spent $110 million but made $72 million globally. It got mostly negative reviews from viewers, who had problems with the script, direction, and humor. 

21. How Do You Know (2010)

Image Credit: Sony Pictures Releasing.

How Do You Know is a romantic comedy film written and directed by James L. Brooks. The film stars Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson, and Jack Nicholson as four people who are involved in a love triangle. The production budget was $120 million but only made $49 million in total, which was an awful loss. The film faced harsh criticism regarding the plot, characters, and dialogue.

22. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

Jude Law King Arthur: Legend of the Sword
Image Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures.

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword is inspired by the Arthurian legends. The film stars Charlie Hunnam as Arthur, a young man who discovers his royal heritage after pulling the sword Excalibur from a stone. The budget was $175 million but only earned $149 million in all. Movie critics had a problem with the story, tone, and editing.

23. The Promise (2016)

Oscar Isaac, The Promise (2016)
Image Credit: Open Road Films.

This historical drama film takes place during the final years of the Ottoman Empire and the Armenian Genocide. The film focuses on three people who are caught in a love triangle amid the atrocities. The movie budget of $90 million wasn’t covered by the $12 million it grossed worldwide. The reviews praised the performances and the historical subject matter but slammed the romance and the script. 

24. The Road to El Dorado (2000)

The Road to El Dorado (2000)
Image Credit: DreamWorks Pictures.

The Road to El Dorado follows two con artists who find a map of the mythical city of gold, El Dorado and are mistaken for gods by its inhabitants. Its budget was $95 million, but it only brought in $76 million worldwide, making it a flop. While many praised the animation and the music, they hated the story and the humor.