20 Amazing Movies With Dissapointing Box-Office Receipts

Grab your popcorn and soda! Today we bring you a top 20 about great movies that weren’t a box-office success. In some cases, the reason for flopping can be attributed to a terrible marketing campaign that failed to convince the audience to see the film. In other cases, the reasons for not doing well had to do with external sources, such as the release of bigger mainstream movies from rival studios at the same time.

Remember to check #16, #9 and #3.

#20. Donnie Darko (2001)

This movie tells the adventures of troubled Donnie Darko as he seeks to find the meaning behind his doomsday-related visions telling him that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds. The cast includes Jake Gyllenhaal as the lead actor, as well as Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal, and Drew Barrymore, among other stars. Director Richard Kelly had already been warned that the film would be extremely hard to market because “it didn’t fit into any category.”

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What’s more, this movie came out right after 9/11 and featured a crashing plane. Hence, it’s no surprise that the public didn’t welcome it with open arms. While the cost to make this film was $4.5 million, box-office takings were only $517,375. Regardless of this, the film was a success at the Sundance Film Festival, where it received critical acclaim.

A heady blend of science fiction, spirituality, and teen angst,” film and TV critic Andrew Johnson wrote in Us Weekly.

#19. Fight Club (1999)

Fight Club is a film based on the novel with the same name by Chuck Palahniuk. IMDB users have ranked this movie as the “tenth-best movie ever made.” In addition, the film scored a “certified fresh” rating of 79 percent among critics on Rotten Tomatoes. With these remarkable reviews, it’s hard to understand what went wrong. However, in 2014, film critic Emanuel Levy stated that director David Fincher blamed the advertising department.

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Fox marketed Fight Club mostly on the World Wrestling Federation. That’s when I knew we were doomed,” the director supposedly commented.

In this case, the cost to make the film was around $63 million whereas box-office receipts amounted only to $37,030,102. Furthermore, Rosie O’Donnell hated Fight Club and revealed its twist ending on her talk show.

#18. The Iron Giant (1999)

This animated science fiction movie was Brad Bird’s directorial debut. The movie’s total cost was $70 million while its box-office revenue was only $23,159,305, which represents a little more than a third of its budget. Behind the scenes, the film director suggested that some of the causes for the feature’s failure were unusual storytelling options and a studio going bankrupt.

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Critics loved the movie and, since then, the film has gathered a cult following. Peter Bradshaw, a critic at The Guardian, referred to the movie as a “wonderfully gripping” film that was “the height of animation.” Additionally, The Iron Giant earned nominations to several awards for different categories, such as the Hugo Awards, the BAFTA Children’s Award, the New York Film Critics Circle, and the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America.

#17. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

This movie, based on the short story and booklet The Greatest Gift, has become traditional viewing during the Christmas season. Furthermore, the American Film Institute recognized this film as one of the 100 best American films ever made. However, this holiday favorite was a victim of bad timing. Its poor performance was the result of solid competition at the time of its release and it didn’t help that the movie appeared right after WWII.

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Well, certainly the movie’s dark narrative and topic didn’t help either. RKO Pictures lost $525,000 on the film, in spite of earning five Academy Award nominations. It wasn’t until 1974 that the film became popular, when National Telefilm Associates failed to renew its copyright and different TV stations began to air this movie each holiday season.

Which film do you think comes next?

#16. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

This is the sequel to the 1982 film Blade Runner. The film stars Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford, who reprises his role together with actor Edward James Olmos, and is set thirty years after the first film. This sequel, however, fell short of the $400-million mark that had been set for it because the movie is too long and too slow. It’s a real pity since the movie even earned a pair of Oscars and received acclaim from critics.

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The cost to make this film was over $150 million. Sadly, box-office takings were only $92,054,159.

The first film was very much a cult classic, which translates into a nice film. Despite this film’s excellent reviews, it could not really grow the audience beyond its core,” commented Wall Street analyst Eric Handler of MKM Partners.

#15. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

This drama is an all-time favorite for many of us and it’s no wonder why: the performances are outstanding, it has a happy ending and also a positive message. However, it was hard to persuade audiences to see it in theaters and the film made less than $1 million in its initial opening weekend. The reason? Well, Morgan Freeman attributed the failure to the film’s title but director Frank Darabont believed that moviegoers felt depressed by a prison-based story.

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TNT bought the rights to air it in 1997, which helped skyrocket the popularity of this amazing motion picture. In addition, this movie is also part of the American Film Institute’s best 100 movies of the past 100 years.

Before moving onto #14, here’s one of the many wonderful quotes in this movie:

I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more grey,” said “Red” Redding.

#14. Children of Men (2006)

The cost to make Children of Men amounts to $76 million, yet box-office takings were just $35,552,383. This is a huge underperformance for a Hollywood movie in these times. Vulture, an entertainment news website, suggested that this loss was the fault of marketing mismanagement. But perhaps the underperformance had to do with the fact that this film’s biggest star dies at the beginning. Or was this dystopian thriller film too ahead of its time?

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Some believe that Alfonso Cuarón’s movie is among the most relevant films of the 21st century. In 2017, the filmmaker was asked about the refugee crisis and how easily it can penetrate the UK to which he replied:

The thing is that it was so obvious already then [in the early ‘00s]. But it needed to be so gruesomely obvious before the media would notice. Just think about for how long it was horrible before it became horrible to the media.”

#13. Tomorrowland (2015)

Resulting in a loss of up to $140 million, Tomorrowland is the second box-office bomb for director Brad Bird, who had already made it to our list for The Iron Giant. Once more, the marketers were partly blamed for not selling the film to the audiences.

Tomorrowland is an original movie and that’s more of a challenge in this marketplace. We feel it’s incredibly important for us as a company and as an industry to keep telling original stories,” commented Dave Hollis, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures distribution chief.

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Nevertheless, the marketers weren’t the only ones responsible for the underperformance. In fact, Bird was blamed for the uneven storytelling.

People will argue about whether we told the proper story or not. People ask, ‘Why did you spend so much time in a car when you could have been in Tomorrowland?’ But the movie was always intended to be a road movie and its title seemed to suggest, to some people, that the whole movie was going to take place in Tomorrowland,” director Bird reasoned in 2015.

#12. Colossal (2016)

Colossal, a science fiction black comedy film, roughly raised one-fifth of its budget back at the box office as the cost to make it was $15 million and the box-office takings were only $3,029,287. It’s hard to tell what failed with this movie: it had an outstanding cast – Anne Hathaway is the lead actress –, but the film also stars Jason Sudeikis and Dan Stevens, and it included monsters and action scenes. What else can we ask for?

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Rotten Tomatoes users gave the film an approval rating of 80%. The site’s critical consensus reads:

Colossal’s singular strangeness can be disorienting, but viewers who hang on may find that its genre-defying execution—and Anne Hathaway’s performance—is well worth the ride.”

Can you guess the next movie?

#11. Free Fire (2016)

Free Fire is an action comedy set in 1970s Boston about a weapons deal between an IRA arms buyer and a South African gun-runner that goes outright wrong. The cast includes Cillian Murphy, Brie Larson, Michael Smiley, Armie Hammer, and Sharlto Copley. Distributor A24, who purchased the film’s distribution rights from Alchemy, gave the motion picture a fairly decent release, yet the movie didn’t catch moviegoers’ attention.

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If we consider that the movie was released at the same time as The Fate of the Furious, we can understand why it didn’t do so well in movie theaters. Free Fire had a total cost of $7 million but its box-office earnings amounted to $1,799,312.

For those who don’t mind a little blood & gore and a lot of profanity, Free Fire is a superior alternative to the big-name, bloated action films hogging the largest screens in most multiplexes,” critic James Berardinelli commented.

#10. Sorcerer (1977)

Directed by William Friedkin, who is best known for directing The French Connection and The Exorcist, this film is about four outcasts from different backgrounds who meet in a South American village, where they are assigned to transport dynamite loads across a dangerous South American jungle. The title is based on the name of one of the cargo trucks, and it is “an intentional but ill-advised reference to The Exorcist,” according to the director.

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The film failed in part due to the release of Star Wars that same year.

I wasn’t prepared for my success or failure. I felt … buffeted by fate without any control over [my]destiny. That’s one of the themes of Sorcerer. No matter how much you struggle, you get blown up,” Friedkin commented. He also wrote “an existential action film about futility, firmly rooted in reality, was no match for a galaxy far, far away.”

Read about one of our favorite movies up next!

#9. Heathers (1988)

Another cult classic movie that ended with dismal box-office earnings was Heathers, which raised $1 million in contrast with its actual cost of $3 million. Nowadays, most people love this film thanks to its ‘80s style, quick-witted dark humor and endlessly quotable dialogue. Hence, we wonder why this recipe failed to attract the audience in 1988.

Blame New World Pictures, which failed to find its audience in theaters,” The Week stated.

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In addition, at the time, the audience didn’t get the movie’s wicked humor. As time went by, Heathers found a cult audience which appreciated the film’s intelligent, pitch-black social commentary.

According to film critic Roger Ebert, “[Heathers] is a morbid comedy about peer pressure in high school, about teenage suicide and about the deadliness of cliques that not only exclude but also maim and kill.”

#8. Grindhouse (2007)

This double feature horror film was co-written, produced, and directed by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. It had a cost of $67 million but box-office takings for only $25,037,897. Tarantino assumed part of the blame when he confessed that moviegoers were simply “uninterested” in the concept.

Maybe a lot of people just didn’t want to see two movies,” the Kill Bill director added.

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While some people attributed the failure to the film’s length, stretching for more than three hours, others thought that the fiasco had to do with the movie having been released on Easter weekend. Regardless of the low sales at the box office, we have to thank the release of Grindhouse on DVD and Blu-ray, which gave the movie a second chance among viewers. As a result, it has now become a cult object among fans.

#7. Dredd (2012)

Based on the 2000 AD comic strip Judge Dredd, this science fiction movie tells the story of Judge Dredd, a law enforcer officer vested with the power of judge, jury, and executioner, trying to control a 200-story high-rise apartment block while dealing with its resident drug baroness.

Dredd represented a failure in marketing. The fundamental problem was no one knew it was being released,” Karl Urban stated.

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While the movie cost $50 million, its box-office takings amounted to $13,414,714. Nevertheless, the tide started to change when the movie was released on DVD / Blu-ray. The film sold 750,000 copies only in the first week after its release, which supports Karl Urban’s remarks about audiences being unaware of the film’s release in theaters.

The success it has achieved in all post-theatrical mediums has definitely strengthened the argument in favor of a sequel,” Urban commented in a 2016 interview.

#6. Citizen Kane (1941)

Did you know that this classic incurred a loss of at least $150,000 at the box office? Experts claim that there are two reasons for this failure. On the one hand, viewers weren’t up for its serious theme as the country was in turmoil due to WWII. On the other hand, William Randolph Hearst, one of the bases for the movie’s main character Charles Foster Kane, did everything in his power to sabotage the film.

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In fact, Hearst, who was a media mogul, forbade his newspapers and radio stations from talking about the film and banned it from the cinemas he owned. Still, the movie nabbed nine Oscar nominations and has resisted the passage of time. Nowadays, this movie is considered one of the best films ever made. Moreover, Citizen Kane was ranked number one twice in the American Film Institute’s polls of film industry artists and leaders in 1998 and 2007.

#5. Beloved (1998)

Based on Toni Morrison’s 1987 novel of the same name, the movie, set after the American Civil War, tells the story of a former slave who can’t escape the ghost of her daughter. The film stars include Oprah Winfrey, Danny Glover, and Thandie Newton. It seems that this cast wasn’t enough to lure audiences into theaters. Beloved had a total cost of $80 million yet the box-office takings only amounted to $22,852,487.

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It would appear that moviegoers weren’t interested in this type of film. What’s more, the movie premiered at the same time as the horror film Bride of Chucky. Oprah declared that the hard-hitting motion picture was too far ahead of its time. Years later, the diva reflected on the movie and stated that she was pleased with the film and that it represented the essence of the book. Good thinking, as viewers have given this movie a 78% approval on sites such as Rotten Tomatoes.

#4. Blow Out (1981)

Blow Out is a political thriller film featuring John Travolta as Jack Terry, a sound effects technician, who happens to record audio evidence of an assassination involving a presidential candidate. The motion picture received positive comments from different movie critics.

[Blow Out] is inhabited by a real cinematic intelligence. The audience isn’t condescended to…. We share the excitement of figuring out how things develop and unfold, when so often the movies only need us as passive witnesses,” reviewed Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times.

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What happened? Supposedly, the film failed at the box office as a result of terrible word of mouth about its downbeat ending. Good thing that its reputation started to improve in the following years. In fact, it has become one of the favorite movies of some directors, including Quentin Tarantino.

Up next is another favorite!

#3. The Insider (1999)

Although the movie starred Al Pacino and Russell Crowe, it wasn’t a box-office success. This movie had a $68 million cost but only raised $28,965,197 in theaters. Al Pacino thought that the audience perceived the movie wrongly, which prevented them from going into theaters.

The perception of the film… is that it’s about tobacco and it’s about TV,” Al Paccino commented.

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In spite of the poor box office reception, the movie earned several nominations and obtained ten awards. Janet Maslin, a critic for The New York Times, hailed Russell Crowe as “a subtle powerhouse in his wrenching evocation of Wigand, takes on the thick, solid look of the man he portrays“, and thought that the movie was “by far Mann’s most fully realized and enthralling work.”

#2. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)

Directed by Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping is a comedy starring Andy Samberg as singer/rapper Conner4Real, who deals with a popularity crisis when his second album bombs and the reaction from his fans, lickspittles, and competitors now that the rapper isn’t the dopest idol of all. The making of this movie cost $20 million whereas the box-office takings totaled $9,496,130.

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Even though the movie didn’t do well in theaters, it received favorable reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an average rating of 6.7/10 and the critics’ consensus reads “Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping updates the rock mockumentary for the 21st-century mainstream — and hits many of its low-hanging targets with side-splitting impact.”

(…) the word of mouth on it has been wonderful. I’ve noticed, which is the ultimate dream, that other people who work in comedy have gone out of their way to tell us that they like it,” Samberg stated.

#1. Steve Jobs (2015)

This biographical drama, starred by Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, and Seth Rogen, is based on the 2011 book of the same name by Walter Isaacson. The movie received critical acclaim and praise from Steve Wozniak and John Sculley, both close to Apple co-founder. Still, the film’s reception wasn’t good and it was pulled from 2,072 theaters two weeks after its wide release. As a result, the box-office revenue of $17,766,658 could not cover the movie’s $30 million cost.

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Director Danny Boyle was dissatisfied at the box office performance of Steve Jobs while implying that the distributors “released it too wide too soon” and that the removing of the film from theaters was an “arrogant” move.

They’re determined to position the film and keep it in theaters so that people come back to it. (…) It’s an industry born of people going to the cinema in huge numbers. We had hoped that this obsession with Steve Jobs was nationwide. But there are a lot of very good films and competition for this short, intensive period,” Boyle commented.

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