There’s nothing better than slouching into your couch with a bucket of popcorn and a good movie, right? These stories of magical worlds, inspiring people, and adventurous journeys allow us to relax after a stressful day, and while thousands of movies are released every single year…there are certain movies that stick out more than most. These are the movies that have become cult classics, and the movies that everyone knows.
Yep, even people who haven’t watched these iconic movies have heard of them before – but that doesn’t mean that they’ve always been a hit. In fact, some of the legendary movies we all know and love today were a complete flop when you take into account the production costs and the box office sales. And you won’t believe how much money they lost because of it.
Fight Club (1999) – Total Loss $28 Million
We all know that the first rule of Fight Club is that you don’t talk about Fight Club – but we have to talk about the fact that it was a box office flop. While this 1999 release is now considered one of the best movies out there thanks to its all-star cast, epic storyline, and metaphorical meanings, there was a time when Fox was seriously in the red.
It cost the production company an incredible $65 million to make and market this movie, but during its initial run in theaters it only came out with $37 million to its name. It’s been noted that many thought Fight Club was too violent during its first stint at the box office, but as it has been re-released over the years, fans seem to have become more accustomed to this type of movie.
Hocus Pocus (1993) – $16.5 Million
When the leaves start to turn orange and you start to smell the scent of pumpkin spice in the air, you can bet your bottom dollar that someone, somewhere, is watching Hocus Pocus. This classic movie has become synonymous with fall and the spooky season, and it’s considered to be one of Disney’s most popular movies of all time.
But Hocus Pocus has only really become famous in the last decade or so. When the $28 million movie was first released back in 1993, it was not only released many months before Halloween (supposedly to beat the spooky movie rush), but it also received rather negative reviews. And while it did grab $39.5 million at the box office, Disney has noted that they lost around $16.5 million due to the extra marketing costs incurred.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) – Total Loss $1.3 Million
The Rocky Horror Picture Show has us all wanting to do the time warp again. And this fan-favorite has since spawned a live-action musical adaptation, themed parties and events, and a cult following that takes their love of the movie to the next level. But what might surprise you is the fact that The Rocky Horror Picture Show was such a box office flop that it was actually pulled from theaters before its official run was over.
Although the movie cost $1.4 million to make, the studio wasn’t convinced that the movie would take off. So, to begin with, they only released the kitschy musical in eight cities – and when they only drew in ticket sales of $22,000, they decided to ditch a worldwide release altogether. But when the movie was given a new lease of life in the New York party scene a few years later, people began to see it for the genius movie it is.
Blade Runner (1982) – Total Loss $500,000
You probably don’t need us to tell you that Blade Runner is one of the most iconic movies of all time. Released in 1982, this movie starred Hollywood heartthrob Harrison Ford, was directed by legendary director Ridley Scott and was based on the story by renowned author Philip K. Dick. Everything about this movie was destined to be great…but unfortunately, the figures just didn’t add up.
This cult classic was made with a $28 million budget, and it made a disappointing $6 million on its opening weekend – no thanks to competition from the likes of E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan that were released a week earlier. And by the end of its box office run, it had only clawed back $27.5 million of that budget. That means a $500,000 shortfall. Ouch.
Heathers (1988) – Total Loss $1.9 Million
Before Mean Girls hit the big screen, Winona Ryder and Shannen Doherty were ruling the corridors of Westerburg High in the late ’80s movie, Heathers. This movie has since been transformed into a smash-hit musical on Broadway and the West End and even spawned its own TV show – but it was a box office flop when it was first released.
This movie was a relatively cheap creation with a budget of just $3 million, which makes it even more confusing that it only made $1.1 million at the box office. It’s not known exactly why it didn’t do so well in theaters, but as soon as it was released on home video the popularity began to soar. And the rest, as they say, is history!
The Big Lebowski (1998) – Total Loss $10 Million
The Coen Brothers are a dynamic movie-making duo that have provided the world with countless classics – including The Big Lebowski. This 1998 movie is actually considered to be one of their best based on the fact that it’s built up a cult following over the years. But this following is more of a recent resurgence rather than popularity that’s been with it since its release.
On its opening weekend, The Big Lebowski pulled in just $5 million at the box office- a cool $10 million less than its production budget of $15 million. But that wasn’t because people didn’t think it was a good film. Just one week before this movie was released, Titanic had made its way to theaters. And when it came down to a decision between watching Titanic and The Big Lebowski, it wasn’t hard to choose.
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971) – Total Loss $2 Million
From the chocolate river to the never-ending gobstoppers, the original Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory had our sweet tooths craving all the candy in the world. And this movie, starring the likes of Gene Wilder and Peter Ostrum, has since become a classic film we can all watch time and time again. So you can imagine our surprise when we learned that it lost $2 million at the box office.
While re-runs and modern showings of this movie have helped to shorten that gap, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory‘s first go at the box office did not end well. That’s because it cost the studio $3 million to make, but only made $1 million when it was first released. We still don’t know why, but this movie just took a little while to really get off the ground.
The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988) – Total Loss $38.5 Million
Adventure/fantasy movies always have mixed reviews upon their release. There are some people who love them, and then there are others who aren’t sure. But one thing we do know is that The Adventures of Baron Munchausen has since become a movie that many people hold dear to them. If only it was a success at the time of its release.
Although this movie was nominated for an incredible four Oscar awards after its 1988 debut, the box office didn’t take too kindly to the Baron and his wartime exploits against the Ottoman Empire. It cost the studio $46 million to bring this story to the big screen, but they only managed to take $8 million back. We bet a $38 million loss was a tough burden to bear.
Dune (1984) – Total Loss $10 Million
David Lynch may be the man who brought us the iconic Twin Peaks television series, but that doesn’t mean that all of his creations have been a success financially. However, despite its monetary losses, Dune has been a success in terms of its popularity. Over the years, a growing fan base has fallen even more in love with this sci-fi story that takes place on a deserted planet.
While the exact figures are not known, the ball-park budget for this movie stood between $40–42 million. But something about this film just didn’t resonate with theatergoers. It made around $30.9 to $37.9 million at the box office, which means that it could have lost around $10 million. We bet that was a tough pill for Lynch to swallow.
Ali (2001) – Total Loss $21.3 Million
Will Smith is notorious for putting his name to Hollywood blockbusters, and considering his role in 2001’s Ali earned him an Oscar nomination, you might be surprised to find this movie on this list. But the biopic that follows the life and times of the legendary Muhammad Ali just didn’t seem to make its mark in the ring during the early ’00s.
It’s since seen a resurgence in its popularity, but the damage has already been done. After making this movie with a $109 million budget, the $87.7 million earned at the box office just wasn’t a winner. No production company wants to be left with a $21.3 million tab to pick up at the end of its box office run. So that must have hurt.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) – Total Loss $15 Million
The story of Jesse James and Robert Ford is one that many high school students learn in the US, and Hollywood decided to bring this story to life in 2007 with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. While this movie certainly wins the award for the most lengthy film title of all time, this revisionist Western movie certainly didn’t win at the box office.
History buffs across the world have since fallen back in love with this movie and finally given it the attention they think it deserves. But at the time, Brad Pitt and Casey Affleck couldn’t even draw in an audience. From a $30 million budget, the box office only brought in $15 million in ticket sales – making it a serious box office flop.
The Astronaut’s Wife (1999) – Total Loss $55.4 Million
Starring Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron, The Astronaut’s Wife had everything Hollywood needed to become a blockbuster hit. It had an all-star cast, a sci-fi vibe, and a thriller edge. But this movie ended up bombing at the box office with some of the worst reviews we’ve ever seen – and a huge debt to prove it.
One Entertainment Weekly critic wrote that “The movie is far from incompetent; it simply has too few surprises to justify its indulgent atmosphere of malignant revelation.” And we bet the studio regretted spending $75 million on the budget for this film when they only got $19.6 million at the box office.
Hugo (2011) – Total Loss $100 Million
Hugo was the brainchild of the one and only Martin Scorsese – and we all know that many of his movies have gone on to be smashing successes at the box office. But his release in 2011 wasn’t quite on the same playing field, as this 3D adventure drama just didn’t hit the right chords with audiences at home. In fact, it’s believed that the movie lost around $100 million in net profit.
While the film has received some positive reviews, it was released at the same time as Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 1 and The Muppets – which meant it had some great competition to deal with. The producer, Graham King, also noted that the 3D aspect meant they went way over their time frame and budget. He confessed that “once the schedule started getting out of whack, things just spiraled and spiraled and that’s when the avalanche began.”
Donnie Darko (2001) – Total Loss $4.8 Million
There’s a high chance that you have seen Donnie Darko at least once. And while we learned that the world wasn’t going to end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes, and 12 seconds – Jake Gyllenhaal and his friend certainly convinced us otherwise for a short while. This sci-fi/fantasy movie is now considered a classic film that every movie buff should be familiar with, but it flopped at the box office. Just like Frank’s ears.
This iconic movie cost around $6 million to make, but it only hopped away with $1.2 million at the box office. And there’s a very valid reason for that. This movie made its way to theaters in September 2001 and featured a scene that involved a plane crash. During this time, the world was grieving over the 9/11 attacks, and nobody wanted to watch a movie that reminded them more of that.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – Total Loss $525,000
It may be a wonderful life, but this movie is also the most wonderful Christmas film of all time. Families clamber around an open fire and their television each year to watch this classic festive film, and It’s a Wonderful Life even received five Oscar nominations in the year of its release. But despite its current popularity and the attention it garnered back in 1946, it still lost $525,000 at the box office.
Yet, what’s so amazing about this movie is the fact that its box office struggle is what caused it to become such a modern-day success. When the National Telefilm Associates decided not to renew its copyright on the film after its failed box office run, TV stations could air it as many times as they wanted without paying a fortune. And as VHS tapes became more and more popular, the film’s public availability made it a popular choice for distributors.
Cloud Atlas (2012) – Total Loss $16 Million
We’ve come to learn that casting Hollywood A-listers doesn’t always guarantee a movie’s success – and this was the case for 2012’s Cloud Atlas. Although this movie stars the likes of Tom Hanks and Halle Berry, the film flopped at the box office. But in recent years, a cult following has formed for all who seem to love the multiple time eras, plots, and bizarre characters in this movie.
Ultimately, though, the film lost money. It cost around $146.7 million to make and only garnered an estimated $130 million at the box office. This may have had something to do with the mixed bag of reviews that came from critics before its public release. Because audiences didn’t quite know what to make of this film, they didn’t buy their tickets, and Box Office Mojo has noted that its debut was “dreadful.”
Mulholland Drive (2001) – Total Loss $7.8 Million
Mulholland Drive is another David Lynch creation to add to this list. This neo-noir mystery movie showcases a darker side to Hollywood and the actors and actresses who live there, and while many movie buffs have since noted that this is one of Lynch’s most iconic movies to date…it totally flopped when it was first released.
Sure, today people see this movie as a metaphor for the price of fame, but back in 2001 it just wasn’t the kind of movie people wanted to see on their day off. The movie cost around $15 million to make, but its domestic gross only came in at $7.2 million. Meaning, this was another hefty loss for the one and only Lynch.
Warrior (2011) – Total Loss $1.7 Million
Tom Hardy has put his name to countless iconic movie roles over the years, but you probably don’t need us to tell you that Warrior is perhaps one of his most famous. This film sees him head into the ring as the ultimate fighter, and it received incredible reviews from critics and fans alike. So why is it considered such a box office flop?
The truth is…nobody quite knows. However, it’s been suggested that due to the film’s release matching up with the release of other successful movies like The Help and Contagion, it just couldn’t keep up. In the end, the studio was left with a hole of $1.7 million after their $25 million production only yielded $23.3 million at the box office.
Stardust (2007) – Total Loss $10 Million+
With an all-star cast that included Claire Danes, Robert De Niro, and Michelle Pfieffer, many expected 2007’s Stardust to be a smash hit. This fantasy adventure movie seemed to tick all of the right boxes, and its $70 million budget created a magical movie for adults and children alike. So it’s no wonder it did especially well across the US…but just not good enough.
Although Stardust earned $137 million at the box office, the budget for this movie did not include the marketing costs – the total cost of which still remains guarded to this day. The film got everyone talking back then due to its strange and bizarre marketing methods, and it’s been suggested that they put the movie around $10 million in the red.
Matilda (1996) – Total Loss $2.5 Million
Matilda inspired us all to make pancakes and read books, and it’s since become a movie that parents across the world want to impart on their children. Yes, that’s because this wholesome film has become just another part of growing up – and most people have watched it at least once.
But what if we told you that Matilda initially bombed at the box office? This movie was made with a budget of $36 million, and many hoped that it would make back that money and then some. Sadly, that didn’t happen and this movie only walked away with $33.5 million in box office ticket sales. Thankfully, it’s now more famous than ever before.
Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (2010) – Total Loss $12 Million
Today, Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World is considered to be one of the most quotable movies of all time, and it’s built up an incredible fan base over the years. But it seems as though this fame has come a little too late for the movie, as it was considered a box office flop as soon as its run in theaters came to an end.
The budget for this action romance movie was $60 million, but it only made $48 million at the box office. It’s been noted that this shortfall is due to the fact that this kind of movie has a niche audience. It wasn’t technically made for the mainstream, but rather a devoted selection of people who love these kinds of indie creations. So they probably don’t care too much about the $12 million loss.
Almost Famous (2000) – Total Loss $12.6 Million
The lives of groupies and rock and roll fans have long been a source of intrigue, and Almost Famous gave us the chance to follow the life of a music journalist during the late ’60s and early ’70s. The end result was a movie that has since immortalized the groupie movement – and one that immortalized Kate Hudson’s ability to play any character that comes her way.
But while you may love this movie that has since become a cult classic, it flopped dramatically at the box office. With a budget of $60 million, Almost Famous only managed to claw back just under $47.4 million. And this left the coming-of-age drama with a $12.6 million hole in its pocket.
Catwoman (2004) – Total Loss $17.9 Million
Movies within the DC Comics genre have always done fairly well at the box office thanks to the impressive fan following it has accumulated over the years, but Catwoman is an anomaly. This movie purred into theaters across the globe back in 2004 – a year before Christopher Nolan blew us all away with his blockbuster hit of Batman Begins – but it didn’t do too well.
Although Halle Berry was at the helm of this $100 million movie, many thought it was notoriously bad and the negative reviews didn’t urge people to movie theaters. At the end of its box office run, Catwoman had grossed $82.1 million – a crushing $17.9 million shy of breaking even.
The Wizard of Oz (1939) – Total Loss $1.15 Million
The Wizard of Oz taught us to follow the yellow brick road and that there’s no place like home, and those are just two of the many reasons why this movie has gone on to become one of the most legendary movies of all time. The old school musical starred Judy Garland in all of her glory, and while many love the storyline, many are also fascinated by the incredible production value of a film created way back in 1939.
This iconic movie cost $2.8 million to make, but the costs of marketing meant that the originally high box office sales overshadowed the extra costs they shelled out. This left them with a total loss of $1.15 million at the time – but subsequent re-releases of this movie mean that they have clawed this back. In fact, at the time of writing these re-releases have resulted in a box office gross of almost $30 million!
Ben-Hur (2016) – Total Loss $3.3 Million
Over the years, Hollywood has really tried to make Ben-Hur happen. The first movie, released in 1959, proved to be so famous – largely thanks to the iconic chariot race – that they’ve tried to repeat the same success with an all-star cast. And that’s why Morgan Freeman, Rodrigo Santoro, and Jack Huston were brought in for the 2016 reimagining of the movie.
But as much as the movie tried to make its mark with its huge $95 million budget, it just didn’t cut the mustard. It seems as though movie fans struggle to get onboard with Biblical epics, and ultimately had a loss of $3.3 million after grossing $91.7 million worldwide. The movie did have big box office sales, but just not enough to break even.
The Stepford Wives (2004) – Total Loss $3.8 Million
The 1957 horror movie The Stepford Wives proved to be so successful that a new comedic take was ordered back in the early ’00s. The result was a 2004 release that featured the likes of Nicole Kidman, Bette Midler, Christopher Walken, and many other big-name Hollywood hotshots. But the film cost $100 million to make, which was a lot of money to earn back.
Unfortunately, an incredibly rough production process and a slew of bad reviews from critics meant that it just couldn’t claw back enough money to make it a success. The worldwide gross came to $96.2 million, meaning they were dealt with a loss of $3.8 million. But there are still fans today who stand by this movie and the legacy it has created for itself.
Raging Bull (1980) – Total Loss $13 Million
While Martin Scorsese’s biographical sports drama, Raging Bull, is now considered to be one of his finest directorial creations, there was once a time when this movie actually put the renowned filmmaker’s career in jeopardy. That’s because the movie was met with terrible reviews from critics and audiences alike who all despised the film’s violent themes.
In fact, the movie lost around $13 million overall. While it took $23 million at the box office and overtook its budget of $18 million, the release was met with seriously high theatrical rentals which ultimately put them in the red. However, the resurgence of this movie in recent years has not only helped this debt but also its popularity.
Once Upon a Time in America (1984) – Total Loss $24.5 Million
Today, Once Upon a Time in America is considered to be one of the greatest gangster movies of all time. The all-star cast of Robert De Niro, James Woods, and Joe Pesci has made this crime drama iconic – and it even received a 20-minute standing ovation when it first debuted at the 1984 Cannes Film Festival! But despite this, it still flopped at the box office.
This movie cost $30 million to bring to theaters, and due to the incredible reaction from the premiere, the head honchos behind this film expected it to be a smash hit. However, it only made $5.3 million at the box office, which left them in the red by around $24.5 million. We bet this hurt even more due to the fact that it was so unexpected.
Peter Pan (2003) – Total Loss $8 Million
We do believe in fairies… we do, we do! But we can’t believe that the iconic movie Peter Pan made such a hefty loss at the box office. This 2003 movie starred a whole cast of adorable kids who played the likes of Peter, Wendy, and even Tinkerbell. And while many parents get their young kids to watch this movie today, it didn’t do so well when it was released.
Peter Pan had a budget of $130 million to make and market the movie, and while it made a cool $122 million at the box office during its release, it still didn’t make the cut. The end result meant that they were in the red by $8 million – which is a lot of money where Hollywood is concerned. It’s still one of our favorites, though.