The Most Notable Examples
Top 100 (Domestic) | Top 100 (Inflation-Adjusted) | Top 100 (Worldwide) | Film Franchises - Box-Office | Summer Blockbusters
Top Films (By Decade and Year) | Highest-Grossing Films By Genre Type | Greatest Box-Office Bombs, Disasters, and Flops
Box-Office Bombs, Disasters and Film Flops: Films have
the potential to skyrocket the profits of a studio, or to send it into
ruins and bankruptcy.
Films that cost more to make than they acquire in revenue (both domestic and worldwide) are considered box-office catastrophes or bombs. Studios split grosses with theater owners, so even if a movie makes as much as its production budget, it's still losing, and that's before even considering marketing costs. A film often must make almost double its budget to become profitable. Most big box-office bombs are summer blockbusters which are enormously expensive and face stiff competition.
There are many reasons for a film to "bomb" at the box-office - the major causes are lack of studio promotion, heavy competition from other movies released at the same time, exorbitant productions costs difficult to recoup and other production problems, negative word of mouth (especially in the era of the Internet and social media) or critical reviews, or other external factors such as bad timing or economic problems in society at large.
Movie audiences often love to relish the fact that some films, such as Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001), Cutthroat Island (1995) or Heaven's Gate (1980) turn out to be monumental flops (which bankrupted their studios), and are fascinated by the details of why certain directors/actors and their films fail. Sometimes an actor's or director's career suffers, sometimes not. Most A-list directors and actors have suffered through at least one major flop, including George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, Ang Lee and Brian DePalma, to name just a few.
Some films are unjustly labeled flops, such as Cleopatra (1963) and Waterworld (1995), although both are included in this listing. In recent years, some of these low-income producing films have become profitable (after initial box-office failures) with strong international grosses, and further profits from the sales of movies to TV syndication and to home video/DVD releases (or re-releases). A prominent example of a film which did very poorly in the US, (i.e., The Golden Compass (2007)) with only $70 million (domestic revenue), easily recouped its production budget costs of $180 million with $302 million (foreign revenue) - for a total of $372 million (worldwide).
This kind of comeback has been particularly true for films in the cult films genre, such as Spielberg's 1941 (1979), or action films with a big name star, such as Last Action Hero (1993), Batman & Robin (1997) or Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997), or larger epics such as Alexander (2004) or Poseidon (2006).
This selection of box-office financial bombs is often significantly different from another category of films, known as "turkeys" -- or in other words, films which have been rated as the worst ever made. These clunkers have often received official Golden Raspberry Awards (or "Razzies") which were first awarded in 1981 (for films made in 1980), although some "turkeys" are included in this list (such as Showgirls (1995) and Basic Instinct 2 (2006)). The Razzie Awards were loosely based on the 1980 book The Golden Turkey Awards written by film critic Michael Medved and his brother Harry Medved. Many of the 'turkeys' were also described in Harry Medved's earlier 1978 book The Fifty Worst Films of All-Time. In 1984, the Medveds also wrote The Hollywood Hall of Shame: The Most Expensive Flops in Movie History -- detailing the biggest financial film disasters in Hollywood history up to that time.
(chronological, by film title)
Intro | Silents-1949 | 1950 -1966 | 1967-1969 | 1970-1974 | 1975-1977 | 1978-1979
1980 | 1981 | 1982 | 1983-1984 | 1985-1986 | 1987-1989
1990-1991 | 1992-1994 | 1995 - 1 | 1995 - 2 | 1996-1997 | 1998 | 1999
2000 | 2001 - 1 | 2001 - 2 | 2002 - 1 | 2002 - 2 | 2002 - 3 | 2003 | 2004 | 2005 | 2006 | 2007-Present
(estimated, current as of 2012)
The Figures for Total Net Loss are Inflation-Adjusted for the year 2012, With a Cut off Mark of $80 million.
The following list (most films are written up in detail in the pages that follow) comprises the flops that lost the most revenue*:
Calculation: *Total Net Loss (inflation-adjusted for 2012) = Total Cost (the film's production (budget) + marketing expenses) minus Total Worldwide Theatrical Gross Revenue
- The Top 100 Box Office HitsTake a look at the biggest movies in terms of domestic/worldwide gross.
- Box Office Hits by DecadeLearn which movies made the most money in the '20s, '30s, '40s and so on.
- How Do Old Hits Rank TodayRank this list of the top ten (inflation-adjusted) box office hits.
- Box Office BenchmarksRead an overview of the top-earning films in movie history
- Summer BlockbustersShare your opinion on which of the season's moneymakers rates the highest
- Major FranchisesSee which movies and their spin-offs rank the highest
- Box Office Bomb HistoryLearn about D.W. Griffith's Intolerance (and the lesser-known Zyzzyx Road)
- Big Budget Flops ListVote on which movie really is the worst of all time
- Big Screen Flops QuizTest your knowledge on the poorest performing movies in history