Lights, Camera, Faceplant! The Biggest Hollywood Flops of All Time

Earlier this month, Sony Pictures Entertainment lost a huge gamble with their summer release After Earth, a film with a $135 million budget (including marketing) which has yet to see $100 million in box office returns. The film is a latest in a string of box office biggest hollywood flops from both star Will Smith (whose Men in Black 3 released earlier in 2013 failed to bring in the domestic ticket sales of both of the movie’s predecessors–even though it did well internationally) and director M. Night Shyamalan, who now has four bonafide flops in a row under his belt ( Lady in the Water, The Happening, Devil, and The Last Airbender, the last of which sounded as if it may have been a big budget film about a legendary fartiste).

In light of recent flops, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas decried Hollywood’s formula of betting large and, often, losing  large on big-budget flops which cost the studios tens of millions of dollars in lost revenue. According to the two directors (who often spearhead overly budgeted summer fodder) a trip for two to the movies might just run you into the neighborhood of $50 to $75 and still not guarantee much entertainment.

Well, they should know. After all, Spielberg and Lucas are just two of the directors/producers behind some of the biggest hollywood flops and most disappointing box office flops of all time. Anyone is capable of putting their money, time and effort into a film that is for one reason or another just not accepted by the general public. However, there are some films that were such box office disasters that the wake of their monumental failure is still felt today, even as Hollywood continues to churn out a seemingly endless series of money pits.

Biggest Hollywood Flops

Fuck you. “Indiana Jones 4″ made a gajillion dollars. 

Here is a list of some of the most infamous box office failures in Hollywood history.

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Ishtar (1987)

Biggest Hollywood Flops

Image courtesy of Columbia Pictures

Despite the provocative picture, this is NOT camel porn.

Before his Academy Award winning performance in the critically acclaimed box office smash “Rain Man” Dustin Hoffman signed on to film this stinker of a buddy film with Warren Beatty about a pair of touring night club singers who find themselves in a dreadful fish-out-of-water scenario.

The film was an attempt at a modern day Hope & Crosby flick, not unlike the much more successful (and funnier) Chevy Chase/Dan Aykroyd vehicle “Spies Like Us” was in 1985. It wasn’t, and it opened to dismal reviews and even more dismal ticket sales, eventually costing Columbia Pictures over $80 million in a losses. In all fairness to Hoffman, he agreed to do Ishtar before “Rain Man.” Otherwise, the legendary actor might have passed on this embarrassment of a movie.

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John Carter (2012)

Biggest Hollywood Flops

Image courtesy of Disney

Sorry John. All of the riches in our Martian kingdom couldn’t finance this celluloid butt nugget.

Walt Disney Pictures must have had high hopes in this film about an ancient warrior sent to fight aliens on the planet Mars, initially sinking $250 million into the film. The result? A dismal series of reviews followed by a $200 million loss for the company. Initially, poor marketing was blamed for the colossal failure of the film, but honestly, how does one market a film with such a ridiculous premise?

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The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)

Biggest Hollywood Flops

Image courtesy of Warner Bros

“Beverly Hills Cop 4: Axel Foley on Uranus” or “48 Hours to Uranus.”

How does former box office king Eddie Murphy come off a career reviving role in the animated hit Shrek? Easy. He stars in one of the biggest box office failures of all time. No one is sure what Murphy, who was the star of some of the most successful comedies of all time, was thinking when he signed on for this bomb which cost the studio an estimated $113 million in revenue loss, but one can only imagine that Murphy stopped looking at the script a long time ago and focuses more on this initial signing fee.

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Cutthroat Island (1995)

Biggest Hollywood Flops

Image courtesy of Carolco Pictures

Which ship will sink faster: the enemy’s or the movie studio that funded this film?

Hollywood was abuzz with rumors surrounding this 1995 flop when it was reported that star Geena Davis was leaving her husband Jeff Goldblum for the film’s director, Renny Harlin. Who got the last laugh? Well, Cutthroat Island lost the now defunct production company Carolco Pictures a projected $100 million, and the film was listed in the “Guinness Book of World Records” as the biggest box office failure of all time. Goldblum however went on to star in three of the biggest box office successes ever, Jurassic ParkThe Lost World and Independence Day.

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Hudson Hawk (1991)

Biggest Hollywood Flops

Image courtesy of TriStar Pictures

You must be mistaken. Bruce Willis movies don’t fail. No, I have never heard of “North” either. 

John Travolta wasn’t the only actor to experience a comeback thanks to Quentin Tarrantino’s decision to cast him in Pulp Fiction. It’s nearly impossible to believe that at one time, box office bigwig Bruce Willis had nearly destroyed his lucrative career with a string of flops, namely Death Becomes HerBonfire of the VanitiesSunset and this 1991 bomb about an expert art thief sent to retrieve some of Leonardo di Vinci’s most secret works from a group of villains. The plot was paper thin, the jokes painfully unfunny, the acting stale and the chemistry between Willis and co-star Andie McDowell is non-existent in this film that lost the studio $47 million in revenue.

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A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)

Biggest Hollywood Flops

Image courtesy of Warner Bros

You’re kidding, right? Robots don’t grow pubes! 

Originally conceived to be directed by the late Stanley Kubrick, Kubrick asked Steven Spielberg to take over should he be unable to complete this film about a young android child trying to find his way as a misfit in a world of real children.  If that sounds insufferably bad, it’s probably because it is.  Even Jude Law couldn’t save this bore of a film, which only grossed $78 million in both domestic and foreign returns.  Given the multi-million dollar budget which was only blown even more out of proportion after Spielberg took the helm, those were pretty meager returns.

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Battlefield Earth (2000)

Biggest Hollywood Flops

Image courtesy of Warner Bros

I tried to tell you not to sleep with Marcellus Wallace’s wife. 

Speaking of Travolta, even Pulp Fiction couldn’t save him from this disaster, based on the novel by Scientology creator L. Ron Hubbard. The L.A. Times called the film a “quite miserable experience” while the New York Times described it as “the worst film of the new century.” The movie lost an estimated $90 million in revenue.

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Gigli (2003)

Biggest Hollywood Flops

Image courtesy of Sony

Argo fuck yourself.

Revolution Studios probably thought they had a surefire hit on their hands.  After all, you had director Martin Brest (Beverly Hills CopMidnight Run) and stars Ben Affleck, Jennifer Lopez, Christopher Walken and Al Pacino.  What could possibly go wrong with this lovable romp about a hitman with a heart of gold and a tough-talking lesbian who sleeps with men?  Well, some of the nicer things said by critics is that the movie was “a complete waste of celluloid,” “a misguided mess” and an “ill-conceived mess.”  While Affleck, fresh off his Best Picture Oscar for last years’ Argo may have shed the Gigli curse, J-Lo has yet to secure another box office success a decade later.  Few films are considered to be so bad they’re nearly legendary in how horrible they are.  Gigli  is certainly one of those films.

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Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)

Image courtesy of New Line Cinema

Image courtesy of New Line Cinema

This is just what the studio execs look like when they haven’t eaten lunch. 

Director Bryan Singer (Superman Returns) somehow believed this big budget, CGI heavy action adventure send-up of “Jack in the Beanstalk” was money in the bank.  It’s safe to say that not only did Singer get duped into a bag of magic beans, but no towering stalk grew.  Rather, a meager weed sprouted and raked in just over 50% of the $295 million budget.  Fi Fi Fo Fum.  I smell the blood of a few fired studio execs.

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Howard the Duck (1986)

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

This was a great idea, Mr. Lucas. American audiences just weren’t ready for your “vision.” 

This George Lucas produced comedy/sci-fi was sure to be a bonafide hit in the summer of 1986, if not for the dismal reviews and the fact that it lost nearly all of its steam to the overwhelming success of that summer’s top grossing film, Top Gun. After the multi-million dollar budgeted film failed to see a fraction of that in box office returns, Universal Studios president Frank Price was forced to resign.

And speaking of big-name blockbuster moguls…

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1941 (1978)

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

Image courtesy of Universal Pictures

I need blunts of cocaine or I quit!

Both Columbia Pictures and Universal Pictures teamed up to produce the first big budget comedy from director Steven Spielberg, fresh off the phenomenal success of Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind. What was intended to be a modern day It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World would team up newer comedy stars like Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi and John Candy with old school comedians and actors, bringing box office draws in for two generations. The screenplay by Robert Zemekis and Bob Gale, who would later team up for the blockbuster hit Back to the Future was silly enough too – focusing on the hysteria that took over California in the wake of the invasion of Pearl Harbor. But after an over 180 minute running time and too much scattershot explosions and destruction, the studio chopped Spielberg’s film by an hour, leaving not much besides the antics of Belushi to laugh about. It was received poorly by audiences and critics and haunted Spielberg’s career for years to come.

Author: Joel Colquitt

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  • http://www.youtube.com/creamofilms Kevin Taylor

    One of the first things you say is that Men in Black 3 failed in theatres…it made almost $700,000,000. MIB2 Made about $450,000,000, and even MIB1 only made under $600,000,000.

    So it made more than the other two movies…and theyre making a sequel now. I don’t believe your accusation that it failed is correct.

    • http://Bramfield Mark

      Men In Black 3 made $179,020,854 in the USA. The budget was $225,000,000 .

      Men In Black 2 made $33,652,780.79 while the budget was $140,000,000.

      Men in Black 1 made $250,147,615, the budget was $90,000,000.

      So it made more than the second movie, but compared to the amount their budget was, it was considered a flop. None of the sequels broke even so they were both flops. Those numbers were reported by the production companies on imdb. Not sure where you got your numbers from.

      If a movie doesn’t break even, it’s a failure.

  • Justin

    John Carter may not have done well domestically at $70 million dollars but internationally it was a hit at $200 million dollars. Not to mention many reviews were quite favorable and the movie is as much swashbuckling fun as Pirates of the Caribbean and better than 3 of 4 of those films.