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15 Biggest Box Office Disasters of the Last 20 Years


Every movie is a major investment, to some extent. Naturally, some require a heftier monetary investment than others, with the scale ranging from barebones affairs like The Blair Witch Project all the way to record-breakers like Avengers: Endgame. Either way, filmmakers throw a lot into the pot in the hopes that audiences will show up to fill seats (especially on opening weekend).


Unfortunately, often, people don’t show up and the movie exits over 2,000 theaters just as quickly as it entered them. This is especially crushing when it comes to mega-movie blockbusters with a price tag comparable to the scope of the narrative. And those are the movies that follow, those with a huge budget and a very disappointing level of audience interest. All specific financial information was provided by Box Office Mojo.


15 The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)

The Chronicles of Riddick

Release Date
June 11, 2004

Director
David Twohy

Cast
Vin Diesel, Colm Feore, Thandiwe Newton, Judi Dench, Karl Urban, Alexa Davalos

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Action

While it was an admirable attempt to establish the universe established in Pitch Black, David Twohy’s The Chronicles of Riddick bit off way more than it could chew. The narrative follows Riddick, who has been in self-imposed exile, as a team of mercenaries seeks him out in pursuit of a bounty. But, Riddick gets the upper hand and learns who it was that hired them. Turns out, it was an old friend, one of Riddick’s few, and consider his curiosity begrudgingly peaked.

Why It Failed

Much of the film’s potential success hinged on Vin Diesel’s popularity, and to be fair, it was as strong in 2004 as it is in the 2020s, if not more so. But, Pitch Black was not a high budget film, and it wasn’t even that big of a hit, so to put at least $105 million into it hoping audiences would just jump on board with a pre-established character most aren’t even familiar with was a tricky gamble, and it didn’t pay off.

Stream it on Prime Video

14 The Alamo (2004)

the alamo

the alamo

Release Date
April 7, 2004

Director
John Lee Hancock

Cast
Dennis Quaid, Billy Bob Thornton, Jason Patric, Patrick Wilson, Emilio Echevarría, Jordi Molla

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Drama

John Lee Hancock’s The Alamo was backed by Disney and fronted with big-name cast members, but it was a big swing and a miss at the box office. The watered down retelling of historical events included the required Davy Crockett (Billy Bob Thornton) and Jim Bowie (Jason Patric), but any prospective ticket buyer who took an American history class knows that there’s no way to tell the story convincingly with a PG-13 rating.

Why It Failed

With a price tag exceeding $100 million, The Alamo had a tough hill to climb, and its final domestic gross of $22 million wasn’t nearly enough to make the investment worth it. The Passion of the Christ was in its seventh weekend when The Alamo hit theaters, yet the former nabbed first place while the latter debuted in fourth, after fellow newcomer Johnson Family Vacation, which was playing in just over half as many theaters as Hancock’s big-budget war film.

The Passion was just too much of a juggernaut for The Alamo to build any buzz, retaining the focus of the individuals Hancock’s film was trying to nab. Specifically, adults, most of whom were too puzzled by The Alamo‘s PG-13 rating to see it.

Stream it on Hoopla

13 Alexander (2004)

Alexander

Alexander

Release Date
November 21, 2004

Director
Oliver Stone

Cast
Colin Farrell, Angelina Jolie, Val Kilmer, Anthony Hopkins, Jared Leto, Rosario Dawson

Rating
R

Main Genre
Action

While Alexander has supposedly caused Colin Farrell to feel shame, he shouldn’t beat himself up. He’s still one of the most talented actors of his generation. The narrative follows Farrell’s Alexander the Great as he endures a complex relationship with his mother and an insatiable hunger for power.

Why It Failed

Period pieces often have a hard time at the box office, especially when negative publicity starts brewing ahead of time. Essentially, what later happened to Exodus: Gods and Kings happened to Alexander, just without the entirely fair accusations of whitewashing.

Rent it on Prime Video and Apple TV+

12 Evan Almighty (2007)

Evan Almighty

Evan Almighty

Release Date
June 9, 2007

Director
Tom Shadyac

Cast
Steve Carell, Morgan Freeman, Lauren Graham, Johnny Simmons, Graham Phillips, Jimmy Bennett

Rating
PG

Main Genre
Comedy

Some movies become a punchline on late night talk shows before they even hit theaters. They typically involve a huge budget, a high concept, and a lot of worried investors. For instance, Titanic. Or, on the other side of the coin, Evan Almighty. The plot of the latter follows Bruce Almighty‘s Evan Baxter who, like Bruce before him, has God (Morgan Freeman) intervene in his life. But, this time, God has a specific task: build an ark.

Why It Failed

By the time Evan Almighty‘s production wrapped up, it found itself the most expensive comedy film ever produced. With a whopping $175 million budget, it needed to appear to a wide audience, yet its PG rating (Bruce Almighty was PG-13) was an attempt to do so. But it backfired, alienating fans of the original’s less kid-friendly humor and failing to appeal to the vast majority of U.S. Christian audience members who prefer their Bible movies a lot more straightforward.

Related:10 Films That Inspired Michael Scott’s Threat Level Midnight

Stream it on Max and DIRECTV

11 Babylon A.D. (2008)

Babylon A.D.

Babylon A.D.

Release Date
August 20, 2008

Director
Mathieu Kassovitz

Cast
Vin Diesel, Michelle Yeoh, Melanie Thierry, Lambert Wilson, Mark Strong, Jérôme Le Banner

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Action

Babylon A.D. stars Vin Diesel as Toorop, a veteran in a dystopian future who has since gravitated towards the higher-paying mercenary life. And, now that he’s been hired by Russian gangster Gosky to secure a young woman, Toorop has to travel from New York City to Asia and back again.

Why It Failed

With a budget and total haul both hovering around $70 million, Babylon A.D. didn’t come close to making a profit. The film hit theaters with atrocious reviews and little enthusiasm for a Vin Diesel film that wasn’t related to the Fast & Furious franchise.

Stream it on Hulu

10 Green Lantern (2011)

We travel to New Orleans and go behind the scenes of the highly anticipated adaptation of the beloved DC Comics characterIn Brightest Day ... in blackest night, no evil shall escape my sight, let those who worship evil's might, beware my power ... {0}'s light! That's the oath that will be heard around the world on June 17th, as comic book fans everywhere rejoice in the fact that one of the greatest and most beloved comic book characters of all-time is finally coming to the big screen.

Green Lantern

Release Date
June 16, 2011

Director
Martin Campbell

Cast
Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Sarsgaard, Mark Strong, Temuera Morrison, Jenna Craig

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Action

Green Lantern follows Ryan Reynolds’ Hal Jordan as he finds himself gifted with a special ring, one that can create whatever he’s imagining. And, now that a mad scientist is on the loose, it’s time for Jordan to put his usual selfish tendencies aside and become a hero.

Why It Failed

2011 was a packed year for superhero movies, with X-Men: First Class, Thor, and Captain America: The First Avenger all performing respectably. But this was not the case for Martin Campbell’s bloated Green Lantern, which had the highest budget of them all and was the only one to look painfully generic. It even alienated fans with its numerous alterations of the source material, and by the time Campbell’s movie left theaters, it had amassed only $220 million worldwide against a $200 million price tag.

Stream it on Prime Video and Max

9 Battleship (2012)

battleship

Battleship

Release Date
April 11, 2012

Director
Peter Berg

Cast
Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Skarsgard, Rihanna, Brooklyn Decker, Tadanobu Asano, Hamish Linklater

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Action

Peter Berg’s Battleship tells the story of the U.S. Navy’s battle against an invading extraterrestrial species. At the center is Lieutenant Alex Hopper, who just so happens to be in a committed relationship with his superior officer, Admiral Terrance Shane.

Why It Failed

Battleship was one of those movies that started gaining a negative reputation even before the first trailer dropped. Making a film out of such a simplistic game is an inherently silly idea. As is the inclusion of aliens. Prospective ticket buyers took notice and chose to see The Avengers a third time.

Stream it on Peacock and DIRECTV

8 47 Ronin (2013)

47 Ronin

47 Ronin

Release Date
December 6, 2013

Director
Carl Rinsch

Cast
Keanu Reeves, Hiroyuki Sanada, Kou Shibasaki, Tadanobu Asano, Min Tanaka, Jin Akanishi

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Action

One year before John Wick reignited Keanu Reeves’ bankability at the box office, he starred in this commendable big-budget misfire. 47 Ronin tells the lavish tale of a warrior with mixed blood (Keanu Reeves) who has always been an outcast in his Japanese surroundings. But, when the Lord that once rejected his offer of service now calls on him to pick up his sword, Kai doesn’t hold ill will and fights for his land.

Why It Failed

Releasing 47 Ronin during the holiday movie season was an interesting idea, but it wasn’t exactly the type of movie people would go out to see on Christmas Day. Furthermore, genre-blenders like the film often have a very hard time finding a wide audience unless they’re already connected to an IP that audiences know and trust.

Stream it on Peacock

7 Gods of Egypt (2016)

gods of egypt

Gods of Egypt

Release Date
February 25, 2016

Director
Alex Proyas

Cast
Gerard Butler, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Brenton Thwaites, Geoffrey Rush, Rufus Sewell, Abbey Lee

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Adventure

Alex Proyas has crafted some inventive films, e.g. The Crow and Dark City, but Gods of Egypt is nothing more than gloss and incomprehensible plotting. The narrative follows a god, Horus, as he and the people he lords over are threatened by one of his peers. Namely, Set, who intends to dominate Egypt with magic and bloodshed.

Why It Failed

Gods of Egypt was another film rightly accused of whitewashing. But, that wasn’t enough to sink it. Most of the credit for that needs to go to the film’s marketing materials, which made it look like an inferior version of any number of other better blockbusters.

Stream it on fuboTV and DIRECTV or with ads on Tubi TV and Pluto TV

6 King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

king arthur

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword

Release Date
May 10, 2017

Director
Guy Ritchie

Cast
Charlie Hunnam, Annabelle Wallis, Aidan Gillen, Eric Bana, Jude Law, Djimon Hounsou

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Fantasy

King Arthur: Legend of the Sword follows the titular character from his early days on the streets all the way to his securing the throne from the man responsible for his parents’ deaths: Vortigern. Now, the latter has learned of the former’s skills, and the two set off on a collision course that will end with only one of them holding what amounts to an unbeatable sword.

Why It Failed

Even with Sons of Anarchy‘s Charlie Hunnam, Jude Law, and Aidan Gillen leading the cast list, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword did not have nearly enough to stand out in 2017’s summer movie season (it was released just one week after Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2). Not to mention, period piece actioners like King Arthur don’t tend to do well unless they’re part of a pre-established IP e.g. The Lord of the Rings, so why Ritchie’s film had nearly $200 million funneled into it is a mystery.

Rent it on Prime Video and Apple TV+

Related: Charlie Hunnam Wants a Do-Over on King Arthur, Blames the Flop on Miscasting

5 Cats (2019)

cats

Cats

Director
Tom Hooper

Main Genre
Musical

Tom Hooper’s career is littered with critical favorites. And, thanks to Cats, now it makes sense to add a kitty litter joke as a footnote to a Hooper career retrospective. The narrative follows young white cat Victoria as she’s swept up in the world of the Jellicles, all in anticipation of the highly-touted Jellicle Ball. However, she also needs to be sure to avoid the devious Macavity, who intends to kidnap his competitors so he can win the Ball and be granted a better life in the Heaviside Layer.

Why It Failed

Trouble started brewing as soon as the trailer hit the internet. The appearance of the cats was highly and justifiably criticized, and then once the film actually hit theaters it was trashed by critics, with many calling it one of cinema’s worst. It’s no wonder people chose Frozen II, Jumanji: The Next Level, and Star Wars: Episode IV – The Rise of Skywalker instead.

Stream it on Max and DIRECTV

4 Gemini Man (2019)

gemini man

Gemini Man

Release Date
October 2, 2019

Director
Ang Lee

Cast
Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Will Smith, Clive Owen

Rating
PG-13

Main Genre
Action

Ang Lee’s Gemini Man stars Will Smith as assassin Henry Brogan, who has found himself next on the target chopping block. Brogan’s would-be assassin? A younger, more agile version of himself.

Why It Failed

Lee is an accomplished filmmaker, but something about Gemini Man reeked from the first trailer. The de-aging technology for Smith wasn’t as convincing as the film’s big budget would indicate, nor was there anything exciting and new about the concept or action sequences to make it worth the price of a ticket.

Stream it on TNT, TBT, and tru TV

3 Lightyear (2022)

Lightyear

Lightyear

Release Date
June 17, 2022

Director
Angus MacLane

Cast
Chris Evans, Taika Waititi, Keke Palmer

Rating
PG

Genres
Animation, Comedy, children, Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

A reboot of the Toy Story franchise, Lightyear tells the origin story of Buzz Lightyear (now voiced by Chris Evans) before he was a profitable toy. The Space Ranger has been stranded with his crew on a remote planet, and now they have to find a way to escape and beat Lightyear’s biggest adversary: Zurg.

Why It Failed

Lightyear was just one of several 2020s films that’ve been accused of being “woke.” But that wasn’t the only issue, as Toy Story 4 had just been released in 2019. And, while that film was solid, it was still a bit of overkill considering Toy Story 3 wrapped up the narrative so sublimely. So, at the end of the day, Lightyear was a case of too much in too little time.

Stream it on Disney+

2 The Flash (2023)

The Flash

The Flash

Release Date
June 16, 2023

Director
Andres Muschietti

Cast
Ezra Miller, Michael Keaton, Sasha Calle

Main Genre
Action

The Flash follows Barry Allen, AKA Flash, as he tries to alter the past. Specifically, he’s trying to save his murdered mother, but things go haywire and before long Allen finds himself in a reality that’s, well, not quite his own. For instance, there’s a Batman, but not the one Allen’s acquainted with.

Why It Failed

The film faltered for multiple reasons. Ezra Miller’s reputation had taken a nosedive prior to release, and for good reason. To watch someone with a litany of pending charges play a superhero was just too much for the audience, even if the film did manage to rope Michael Keaton back in to play Batman. And that in and of itself is part of the problem; the Flash was never a popular enough character to warrant his own film. He’s just never caught on the way the other members of the Justice League have, and the appeal of a supporting character alone is not enough to generate interest.

Stream it on Max

1 The Marvels (2023)

The Marvels

The Marvels

Release Date
November 10, 2023

Director
Nia DaCosta

Cast
Brie Larson, Zawe Ashton, Teyonah Parris, Iman Vellani, Samuel L. Jackson, Park Seo-joon

Main Genre
Adventure

Fingers have been pointed in many different directions when it comes to The Marvels‘ standing as the MCU’s first official bomb. Black Widow, Eternals, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania also performed poorly, but all three managed to escape the title The Marvels has now claimed (though Quantumania only barely did so, and was the true sign of trouble to come). The narrative follows Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers, and Monica Rambeau as they team up after finding out their powers are getting swapped with each usage. In other words, it’s a relatively low-stakes MCU film.

Why It Failed

The cold hard truth is that many fans believe the MCU reached its well-earned peak with Avengers: Endgame back in 2019. And considering that film also did away with two of the franchise’s biggest stars on a supposedly permanent basis, it’s no wonder things have felt deflated since then. With a $250 million budget and a plot that looked too on-brand, The Marvels would have faltered at the box office even if it were a top-tier MCU film.



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