15 High Budget Movies That Flopped Big Time

15 High Budget Movies That Flopped Big Time
Image credit: Paramount, Legion-Media. globallookpress

Before The Flash and The Dial of Destiny, the biggest box office bombs of 2023 so far, there were numerous others. Funnily enough, there's a lot of Disney movies on this list.

1. Dolittle (2020)

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A movie that should've done more. This Robert Downey Jr. vehicle was a fantastical adventure of a doctor who can converse with animals, based on the classic children's books. But even Iron Man couldn't save this cinematic ship from sinking. With an eye-watering budget of $175 million, it barely clawed back $250 million worldwide.

Not exactly the numbers you want when you've got a superstar lead and a menagerie of talking CGI critters. A lamentable 15% rating on Rotten Tomatoes summed up the critical response to this underwhelming endeavor.

2. Mortal Engines (2018)

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A dystopian, steampunk-themed film where cities are monstrous vehicles in a post-apocalyptic world should have been a thrilling ride, right? Sadly, despite being written and produced by the creative team behind Lord of the Rings, Mortal Engines coughed and spluttered to a standstill. With a budget of $100 million, it generated a disappointing $85 million worldwide.

The audience was expected to dive headfirst into this futuristic world, where the character Hester Shaw was set on avenging her mother's death. But a convoluted plotline and less-than-engaging characters left the film stuttering, reflected in a discouraging 26% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

3. The Nutcracker and the Four Realms (2018)

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Disney's attempt to put a fresh spin on a beloved Christmas tale ended up being about as popular as a lump of coal in a stocking. With a whopping $120 million budget, the film pirouetted to a worldwide gross of $174 million, nowhere near the expected financial jingle bells. Despite a glittering cast and a story that danced between the realms of Flowers, Snowflakes, Sweets, and the ominous Fourth Realm, audiences didn't quite twirl to Disney's tune. The film garnered a less-than-festive 32% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

4. The Goldfinch (2019)

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The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel turned out to be a major box office 'bombfinch' when it hit the silver screen. Carrying a hefty price tag of $45 million, the movie managed a meager $9 million worldwide, making it one of the most catastrophic box office disappointments in recent memory. The coming-of-age drama that oscillated between the life of young Theo Decker before and after a devastating terrorist attack was a literary triumph but fell flat as a film.

5. Mars Needs Moms (2011)

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Animated movies can typically bank on drawing in audiences of all ages. Unfortunately, this interplanetary fiasco discovered the hard way that not all cartoons are destined for stardom. With a budget of around $150 million, the movie only managed to scrape together a pitiful $39 million worldwide. Ouch!

A tale about a young boy's adventure to rescue his mother from Martians, it sounds like a touching story. Instead, it proved to be a financial nightmare for Disney. Its Rotten Tomatoes rating, a dismal 37%, mirrors its lukewarm reception.

6. The Lone Ranger (2013)

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A modern retelling of the classic Western television series, starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer, this film got off its horse with a staggering $225 million budget and only recouped $260 million worldwide. The story followed a lawman turned vigilante and his quirky native sidekick, Tonto, taking on outlaws in the old west. Despite the star power, the film holds a less than stellar 31% Rotten Tomatoes rating. Turns out, not every old TV show needs a silver screen adaptation – a lesson Hollywood has yet to learn.

7. John Carter (2012)

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The box office is a harsh and unforgiving mistress, and no film knows this better than Disney's ambitious John Carter. Based on a century-old novel series by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the sci-fi epic plunged headfirst into a $263 million budget only to belly flop with a global box office return of $284 million. Barely breaking even is not what dreams are made of in Tinseltown. The interplanetary odyssey of a Civil War vet sent to Mars was as wacky as it sounds, maybe even more so.

Despite the lavish special effects and epic scope, it garnered a middling 52% on Rotten Tomatoes. An expensive lesson that great expectations and grand visuals don't always equate to box office gold – a lesson that, as we all know, Disney failed to actually learn.

8. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

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A fresh spin on an old tale isn't always what the doctor ordered. This Guy Ritchie directed reimagining of the Arthurian legend swung its Excalibur with a hefty $175 million budget, only to return a measly $148 million worldwide. The grim tale of young Arthur, who grows up oblivious of his royal lineage, pulls the Excalibur from the stone, and his path to the throne is replete with gritty Ritchie-style action sequences. But with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 31%, it seems the critics were less than enchanted.

9. Dark Phoenix (2019)

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Proof that not all superhero movies are a one-way ticket to big bucks, this X-Men installment went down like a lead balloon. Despite the fanfare of a $200 million budget, it scraped together just $252 million worldwide, making it the lowest-grossing film in the X-Men series. The plot followed Jean Grey as she evolved into the iconic Dark Phoenix, but unfortunately, audiences were less than enthralled. A mere 22% on Rotten Tomatoes suggested that this Phoenix couldn't quite rise from the ashes.

10. Gemini Man (2019)

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Will Smith playing an aging assassin facing off against a younger clone of himself sounds like a recipe for success. Alas, Gemini Man proved to be anything but. Plowing through a budget of $138 million, the film grossed a disappointing $173 million worldwide. With the sci-fi thriller directed by Ang Lee and starring one of Hollywood's most bankable actors, one would think this was a surefire hit. However, a less-than-stellar script and underwhelming plot twists led to a painful 26% Rotten Tomatoes rating.

11. Pan (2015)

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Journeying back to Neverland proved to be a journey too far for this ambitious prequel to J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. Sporting a budget of $150 million, the film took a nose-dive with a worldwide gross of just $128 million. The story of an orphan whisked away to magical Neverland and his transformation into the hero Peter Pan was seemingly an easy sell, but alas, the audiences thought otherwise. Rotten Tomatoes gave it a less than flattering 26% score.

12. Monster Trucks (2016)

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Here's a film that puts the 'monster' in 'monstrous flop'. This action-comedy hybrid, conceived by a studio executive's four-year-old son, revolved around a high schooler who discovers a creature who likes to hide in his truck. With a budget of $125 million, it only managed to drum up a global gross of $65 million. The fact that the film received a rating of 32% on Rotten Tomatoes should give you an idea of how well this story about literal monster trucks went down with critics.

13. The 13th Warrior (1999)

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An oldie but a goldie, or should we say, an oldie but a moldy, in the pantheon of high-budget flops. This historical fiction film about an Arab ambassador who joins a band of Vikings had a budget of a whopping $160 million but grossed a sorrowful $61 million worldwide.

An epic storyline that promised battles, cultural clashes, and a fearsome enemy, but the only thing it seemed to slay was its own budget. Despite the intriguing premise and a decent 33% on Rotten Tomatoes, the 13th Warrior didn't manage to conquer the box office as intended.

14. Cats (2019)

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This adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's popular musical became famous, but for all the wrong reasons. With a $95 million budget, the cinematic feline frenzy only managed to scrape together $75 million worldwide. This star-studded monstrosity, featuring Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, and Taylor Swift as human-cat hybrids, certainly was... different. The Rotten Tomatoes score of 19% encapsulated the public's 'purr'-found confusion and horror at the CGI fur bodies.

15. Justice League (2017)

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Perhaps one of the most high-profile flops in recent memory, the superhero spectacle burned through an estimated $300 million budget for a return of $657 million. Although it technically made back its budget, considering the typical rule of thumb that a movie needs to earn double its budget to break even (after marketing and distribution costs), Justice League fell short of expectations. The epic team-up of DC's greatest heroes – Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg – was meant to be a surefire hit, but a tumultuous production and lackluster reception resulted in a poor 39% on Rotten Tomatoes.