The top 10 most expensive movie flops of all time

Disney has just announced that its latest flick could be the worst movie bomb of all-time. What other phenomenally faulted films have flopped to the tune of $100m losses - or more?

Uh oh. Walt Disney’s latest movie, John Carter, might just become the all-time most expensive box office flop. Disney has announced it expects to lose $200m (£126m) on the film, which stars Taylor Kitsch as a military captain transported to, um, Mars, as it happens.

It’s a painful failure for Disney, which spent an estimated $250m to make John Carter and $100m on marketing. If the losses do stack up as high as Disney fears, John Carter might just hit the number one spot… for most expensive move flop of all time.

So what are the other screen screw-ups that left execs screaming? Which film flops fudged it worse than every other movie in Hollywood’s history? We hereby reveal the worst movie losses of all time.

Source for figures:

1.       Cutthroat Island (1995) – inflation–adjusted net loss: $147.2m

Total cost: $115m
$18.5m revenue 
Net loss (no inflation adjustment): $96.5m

Ay ay me hearties. This pirate action film set in the 17th century Jamaica - starring Geena Davis, no less - failed to parrot the success of piratey predecessors. Would-be fans were not wooed despite a staggeringly original plotline charting a group of scallywags searching out their fortune via, you guessed it, an old treasure map.

The snider of film fanatics say the movie was the end of Davis’ career as a bankable star. And it was the last film produced by Carolco Pictures, which was forced to walk the plank of bankruptcy soon after Cutthroat was made. It took eight years and Johnny Depp to get pirates back on our screens after this mega-flop.

Cutthroat Island poster

2.       The Alamo (2004) – inflation–adjusted net loss: $146.6m

Total cost: $145m
$25.8m revenue
Net loss (no inflation adjustment): $119.2m

There’s something about films set in the past in our top 10. The Alamo is set in 1836 Mexico, charting the Battle of the Alamo during the Texas Revolution. You’re riveted already, aren’t you. The movie was a remake of a 1960 film, but updated itself by representing both Texan and Mexican sides of the argument. Which sounds slightly more interesting, although evidently it was not. The war film, director by John Lee Hancock, is apparently the most historically accurate about the battle – though if you visit its Wikipedia entry you’ll find some truly, truly fascinating facts about inaccuracy of sword length and such like.

The Alamo film poster

3.       The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002) – inflation–adjusted net loss: $145.9m

Total cost: $120m 
$ 7.1m revenue
Net loss (no inflation adjustment): $113m

Oh Eddie Murphy. Where did it all go wrong? Probably when you took up the role of Pluto Nash, a club owner on a planet far, far away known as Little America. This sci-fi comedy almost sounds good on paper - as well as cloning, cabaret, car theft and computers, you get John Cleese and Alec Baldwin. But that lethal combination of bad acting, bad script, bad humour and bad special effects ensured success was well and truly impossible.

Pluto Nash

4.       Sahara (2005) – inflation–adjusted net loss: $144.9m

Total cost: $241m 
$119.3m revenue
Net loss (no inflation adjustment): $121.7m

Sahar actually did pretty well at the box office. Better than well, in fact – it opened at number one in the US box office and grossed $18m in its first weekend. Matthew McConaughey and Penelope Cruz ensured a sizzled double act in the lead. And that comedy action flick was based on a best-selling book by Clive Cussler. So what happened? Well, there were a few pennies overspent – it allegedly hit $160m in production costs and a further $81m to distribute. Ouch.

Sahara film


5.       Mars Needs Moms (2011) – inflation – adjusted net loss: $140.5m

Total cost: $175m
$39m revenue
Net loss at time of release: $136m

Oh dear. Here’s Disney again, which released this animation just last year. Seth Green voices Milo, a nine-year-old boy who realises all too late that’s it’s not nice to be mean to your mummy (that’s Joan Cusack), as she gets abducted by Martians. The film was accused of a lack of heart and looking a bit too weird, even though the acting was deemed okay.  The motion capture technology used to make it was panned, leading to Disney scrapping its plans to make Yellow Submarine with the same tech. According to IMBD, its opening weekend was the 12th worst ever for a film playing in more than 3,000 cinemas, grossing just $6.9m.

Mars Needs Moms poster

6.       The 13th Warrior (1999) – inflation–adjusted net loss: $137.1m

Total cost: $160m
$61.7m revenue
Net loss (no inflation adjustment): $$98.3m

It’s the past again – this time, Antonio Banderas star as a banished emissary trotting around in the year AD 922.

The 13th Warrior poster

7.       Town & Country (2001) – inflation–adjusted net loss: $124.2m

Total cost: $105m
$10.4m revenue
Net loss (no inflation adjustment): $94.6m

Even the trinity of Warren Beatty, Goldie Hawn and Diane Keaton weren’t enough to save this film about a New York architect tootling through middle age with his wife and best friends.

town&Country poster

8.       Speed Racer (2008) – inflation–adjusted net loss: $114.5m

Total cost: $200m 
$94m revenue
Net loss (no inflation adjustment): $106m

The usually brilliant Wachowski brothers (they of Matrix fame) couldn’t make this one work, despite having Susan Sarandon and Emile Hirsch playing lead roles. The film about a young driver hoping to be a racing champ, based on a cartoon, simply cost far more than it made.

9.       Heaven’s Gate (1980) – inflation–adjusted net loss: $114.3m

Total cost: $44m
$3.5m revenue
Net loss (no inflation adjustment): $40.5m

It’s a dismal “anti-Western” set in 1890 Wymoing. Would you go and watch it?

Heaven's Gate poster

10.   Stealth (2005) – inflation-adjusted net loss: $111.7m

Total cost: $170.8m
$77m revenue
Net loss (no inflation adjustment): $94m

Look out for Jamie Foxx in this crash-landing about three pilots trying to contain an artificial intelligence programme that could start the next world war.

Source for figures:

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