Top 16 Absurdly Expensive Movies

1. Cleopatra (1963)

Reported Budget: $31 million ($248 million adjusted for inflation)
One of the most notorious productions in Hollywood history, this epic endured director changes, reshoots, and star illnesses. Adjusted for inflation, it is still one of the most expensive movies ever made. Imagine spending the equivalent of almost $300 million on a four-hour historical romance.


2. Heaven’s Gate (1980)

Reported Budget: $44 million ($130 million adjusted for inflation)
Apparently no one could say no to Michael Cimino after The Deer Hunter became a critical and commercial smash. The budget for his follow-up, an ambitious Western starring Kris Kristofferson and Isabelle Huppert, kept ballooning higher and higher, until the film essentially destroyed its studio, United Artists. The costs were high, but the movie isn’t nearly as bad as you’ve heard.


3. The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000)

Reported Budget: $76 million ($110 million adjusted for inflation)
With respect to Rocky and Bullwinkle fans, the series was largely forgotten by the time Universal shelled over $110 million (at least in 2017 dollars) for an ambitious meta blend of live-action and animation featuring Robert De Niro, Jason Alexander, and Rene Russo schticking it up as flesh-and-blood versions of the old cartoon characters. It wasn’t surprising when the film tank; the surprising part was that the thing got made in the first place.


4. The Nutcracker: The Untold Story (2009)

Reported Budget: $90 million
If you were going to spend $90 million on an adaptation of The Nutcracker would you remove the thing that everyone associates with The Nutcracker (i.e. ballet)? Probably not, but that’s exactly what director Andrei Konchalovsky did in this truly bizarre film, which replaced the beloved dance sequences with a plot involving rat people who dress like Nazis. No, seriously.


5. Cutthroat Island (1995)

Reported Budget: $98 million ($157 million adjusted for inflation)
This massive mess helped sink Carolco Pictures, which was already teetering on the verge of collapse as this pirate adventure went into production. The film tanked at the box office, and “won” a Guinness world record for the biggest bomb in history. A few years later, though, the rabid success of Pirates of the Caribbean made this movie look like less of a crazy risk.


6. The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)

Reported Budget: $100 million
$100 million for a weird Eddie Murphy space comedy? It happened. Fun fact: No one on Earth has ever sat through this movie in its entirety without passing out.


7. Battlefield Earth (2000)

Reported Budget: $103 million ($146 million adjusted for inflation)
Let’s concede that this film has nothing to do with Scientology, the religion founded by Battlefield Earth author L. Ron Hubbard. (Everyone involved always claimed it did not.) Putting that aside, giving the equivalent of $150 million to John Travolta to make a movie where he looked like THAT was just unbelievable.


8. Mars Needs Moms (2011)

Reported Budget: $150 million
Did it, though? Did Mars really need moms? Viewers didn’t think so; this very expensive animated feature about mothers being abducted by Martians has the unfortunate distinction of being one of the biggest flops in the history of Disney.


9. Pan (2015)

Reported Budget: $150 million
Have you ever wondered how Peter Pan became Peter Pan? No, me neither. Also, this was not Hugh Jackman’s best onscreen look.


10. Waterworld (1995)

Reported Budget: $172 million ($276 million adjusted for inflation)
Movies set primarily on water are notoriously expensive and prone to out-of-control budgets. The ultimate example might be Waterworld, which was the most expensive movie ever made to date in 1995, and featured Kevin Costner on a oceanic quest in a post-apocalyptic future. The movie did reasonably well in theaters, but given its cost, it was almost impossible for it to become profitable. Universal may have slightly overestimated America’s interest in soggy Kevin Costner.


11. Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Reported Budget: $176 million
The Wachowskis had a track record turning unknown sci-fi properties into mega-hits. But they already had made a pair of expensive duds (Speed Racer and Cloud Atlas) by the time Jupiter Ascending hit theaters. Warner Bros. actually gave the siblings almost $200 million for this movie about space werewolves and rollerblade jet shoes and cleaning toilets.


12. Tomorrowland (2015)

Reported Budget: $180 million
This is one of those movies that makes absolutely no sense on paper. Almost $200 million on a preachy treatise on how pop sci-fi has grown too dark and bleak? The message was well-intentioned, and made with absolute sincerity by director Brad Bird. Maybe that was the problem.


13. Titanic (1997)

Reported Budget: $200 million
Young people who only know Titanic as an iconic ’90s romance might be shocked to learn the movie was ridiculed throughout its production, which was delayed as the budget balloon to a then-record $200 million. There was no way this disaster movie with a predictable ending, with two relatively unknown leads, could earn back its money, right? Wrong.


14. The Lone Ranger (2013)

Reported Budget: $225 million
$225 million. For Johnny Depp with a dead bird on his head. (HOT TAKE: It was worth it. This movie is kind of awesome. Don’t @ us.)


15. Avatar (2009)

Reported Budget: $237 million
Sometimes absurdly expensive boondoggles pan out. (It helps when they’re directed by James Cameron.) Avatar became the biggest movie in history, replacing Cameron’s own Titanic. Now four more Avatars are headed our way.


16. John Carter (2012)

Reported Budget: $260 million
The Edgar Rice Burroughs pulp novel that became the basis of the costly bomb inspired decades of pop culture, including the original Star Wars. But Disney was so concerned about the film’s box-office prospects that they lopped “Of Mars” off the end of the title in an attempt to ensure women would buy tickets. It didn’t work, but we’ll always have Taylor Kitsch in those space pants.





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