No matter how much you love a movie, sometimes it just absolutely tanks at the box office. A notable director, stellar cast, airtight storyline and extensive budget unfortunately won’t give a movie the golden cinema ticket to success.
With so many factors contributing to the success of a film, it’s no surprise that Hollywood releases some real howlers each year. Here we’ll take a look at the biggest box office flops of all time and discover what made them fail so miserably.
What Makes A Movie A Box Office Success?
Before we get down to the nitty-gritty, here are the most common factors that determine a movie’s success at the box office:
- Popularity of cast
- Acting ability
- Special effects
- Marketing and PR
- Word of mouth
- Previous movies (franchise)
- Release date
- Other films being released at the same time
- Other major events taking place at the same time
Screenwriter William Goldman once wrote: “Nobody knows anything… Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work. Every time out it’s a guess and, if you’re lucky, an educated one.”
How Do You Know? (12)
Director: James L. Brooks
Release Date: 2010
Where do I start? How Do You Know? was described by critics as disappointing, separated from real life and purged of charisma. Yikes! The comic timing of As Good As It Gets failed to make an appearance and instead it was reminiscent of James L. Brooks’ other costly dud, Spanglish. This all resulted in a whopping -$71,331,093 loss at the box office.
The Alamo (12)
Director: John Lee Hancock
Release Date: 2004
The four biggest-grossing movies released at the same time as The Alamo were Kill Bill 2, The Punisher, Hellboy and Walking Tall. Even if the movie had been up to scratch, it never stood a chance against those contenders. The homage to Americana got its fair share of tumbleweeds at the movie theatre. The critics didn’t warm to the storyline and with a wealth of much bigger productions to see, audiences went elsewhere. In the end, The Alamo made a -$81,180,039 loss.
Cutthroat Island (PG)
Director: Renny Harlin
Release Date: 1995
The 1995 swashbuckling adventure was the most expensive movie ever made at the time, so you can imagine the reaction when it failed miserably. In an era of action movies, it failed to stand out and paid the ultimate price. Cutthroat Island was so bad that it was responsible for ending the careers of its stars, Geena Davis and Matthew Modine. It made an incredible loss of -$87,982,678.
The Adventures of Pluto Nash (PG)
Director: Ron Underwood
Release Date: 2002
Eddie Murphy failed to impress in the space-age action comedy The Adventures of Pluto Nash. Despite its impressive cast, director Ron Underwood struggled to create the laugh-out-loud moments that people were expecting. When you consider that the movie made a loss of -$92,896,027, it isn’t hard to figure out why Underwood moved over to directing for TV later on.
The 13th Warrior (15)
Director: John McTierman and Michael Crichton
Release Date: 1999
Known as the best movie you never saw, The 13th Warrior crashed out at the box office big-style. At the time, it didn’t make an impact on its audience, but over the years people have come round to it. So why the massive box office flop? Well, the plot is underdeveloped, hollow and narrow in range and the final battle scene is a massive disappointment. To make matters worse, extensive reshoots were needed during production so the scenes are a bit disjointed. Back in 1999, The 13th Warrior made an astronomical -$98,301,101 loss, making it one the biggest box office flops of all time.
You can find more box office failures in The Biggest Movie Flops and Triumphs of All Time, an interactive piece that shows which movies made it big and those that tanked.