Box Office Flops That Destroyed Careers And Cost Hollywood Millions

Starring in, directing or producing a movie must be an incredibly exciting thing for anyone to do. Imagine the pride in your work, the giddy anticipation of its release and the potential rewards. But despite the excitement, sometimes it can all end in tears. And it certainly did in the case of these box office bombs, which either ruined people’s careers or put their studios on the verge of bankruptcy.

20. Heaven’s Gate (1980)

Heaven’s Gate is one of the most notorious failures in cinema history. The long-winded western that starred Kris Kristofferson, Christopher Walken, Jeff Bridges and Isabelle Huppert was savaged by critics upon its 1980 release. It didn’t fare any better at the box office either, taking just $3.5 million from cinemagoers, after costing $44 million to make.

The abject failure of the movie would have significant consequences for both the studio and its director Michael Cimino. Indeed, United Artists had to file for bankruptcy on the back on this major flop. And Cimino quickly went from being an acclaimed Oscar winner to persona non grata in Hollywood. The expensive turkey also led to studios seizing more influence over the movie making process, ending a golden age of director-driven pictures.

19. Batman & Robin (1997)

Box office bombs don’t come much bigger than Batman & Robin. The Joel Schumacher directed movie about the caped crusader — portrayed this time by George Clooney — was his second effort in the series. But despite an eye-watering $160 million budget and a star-studded cast, it wound up being one of 1997’s biggest flops. A film so bad that it ruined careers.

Indeed, while Clooney’s career would survive and prosper, the movie had a significant impact on the fortunes of his co-stars Chris O’ Donnell and Alicia Silverstone. Yes, Robin and Batgirl largely fell out of favor in Hollywood, with Silverstone in particular not becoming the superstar that Clueless had suggested she would be. O’Donnell found work on TV but his film career stalled badly.

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18. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

There were high hopes for the sci-fi adventure Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets. Helmed by Luc Besson — who directed the acclaimed films Léon: The Professional and The Fifth Element amongst many others — it was widely expected to be one of 2017’s summer hits. But, the French director’s movie fell to earth with a bump.

Indeed, alongside the mediocre reviews in the press and questions over its casting — particularly model Cara Delevingne and singer Rihanna — the movie bombed at the box office. A $225 million global gross looks good on paper, but not when set against the extortionate cost of making the darned thing — $180 million, a record for an indie. Reportedly needing a $400 million boost from it, EuropaCorp wound up suffering a record $136 million loss.

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17. Showgirls (1995)

Showgirls followed the path of an ambitious young dancer named Nomi who travels to Las Vegas hellbent on becoming a leading showgirl. But director Paul Verhoeven’s raunchy drama was savaged by critics upon its 1995 release, who almost unanimously labelled it as “vile, contemptible, garish, and misogynistic” according to Rotten Tomatoes. It was so bad it earned an astonishing 13 Razzie nominations.

And the movie — which starred former Saved By The Bell alum Elizabeth Berkley in the lead role — didn’t fare much better at the box office either, taking a measly $37 million from a budget of $45 million. It did better on the home rental market, probably aided by its adult content. Showgirls effectively killed Berkley’s hopes of becoming a top Hollywood star though, with the actress restricted to minor film roles and TV work for her career going forward.

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16. Catwoman (2004)

The recipient of seven Razzie nominations — of which it won four including Worst Actress, Worst Director and Worst Picture — Catwoman was an embarrassing misfire for all involved. The superhero caper starred Halle Berry as the title character with Sharon Stone as the villain. It was almost unanimously castigated by critics, and suffered a substantial loss at the box office, clawing $82 million back from its $100 million budget.

When Catwoman was released back in 2004, Berry’s star was riding high. She had won the Best Actress Oscar just two years earlier for her role in Monster’s Ball. But the superhero caper badly stalled her career as a leading woman. And the flop quickly killed any hopes its French director Pitof had of a career in Hollywood.

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15. John Carter (2012)

John Carter it’s hardly a film title that excites and compels you to rush to the cinema, is it? And so it proved, as the Disney action sci-fi sank like that ship that hit the iceberg. Speaking of the Titanic, the movie almost cost as much to make as the gigantic vessel to make too — adjusting for modern currency. We’re talking an eye-watering $350 million.

But despite that huge outlay — making it one of the costliest films ever made — John Carter received what could charitably be called lukewarm reviews. And it got a fairly frosty reception from the viewing public too, judging by its box office performance. In fact, its lackluster worldwide gross of $284 million resulted in Disney losing a whopping $200 mill. The studio duly cancelled its plans for a trilogy, and lead actor Taylor Kitsch’s Hollywood career has suffered as a result of this bomb.

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14. Battlefield Earth (2000)

Ah, Battlefield Earth — probably one of the most laughable films ever made. Most definitely regarded as one of the worst, winning eight Razzies and earning a nine out of 100 rating on reviews aggregator Metacritic, which equals overwhelming dislike from critics. I mean, who could have possibly foreseen that an adaptation of Scientology leader L. Ron Hubbard’s controversial sci-fi novel would be a bad idea?

Battlefield Earth wasn’t just a flop with critics, though. It was also a box-office bomb. The movie was financed independently and with quite a bit of its star — and preeminent Scientologist — John Travolta’s own money. Altogether that equaled $73 million, of which the film clawed back less than $30 million. Travolta’s career at the top was effectively ended by the fiasco.

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13. The Love Guru (2008)

All things considered, Mike Myers had enjoyed a pretty good run with comedies. Sure there were several flops — hello The Cat in the Hat — but the likes of Wayne’s World, Shrek and the Austin Powers movies generally hit the bullseye. But that run ended abruptly with The Love Guru, an atrocious gross-out comedy about an American spiritualist and self-help maharishi brought up in India.

The movie was almost universally savaged by critics, as its 14 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes illustrates. The Love Guru performed just as badly at the box office too, taking just $40 million from a budget of over $62 million, when factoring in promotional costs. The harsh criticism and poor commercial performance seemed to affect Myers considerably, as he has largely retreated from the spotlight.

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12. Rollerball (2002)

A re-imagining of the popular 1975 sci-fi flick, the 2002 Rollerball was a monumental dud. Helmed by Die Hard and Predator director John McTiernan, it starred Chris Klein, LL Cool J and Rebecca Romijn amongst others. Critics and audiences alike hated it, and it currently carries a 3 percent and 14 percent rating respectively with them according to Rotten Tomatoes. It lost over $45 million at the box office.

Critics noted how the remake dispensed with the biting social critique of the 1975 original in favor of a brash and stupid action fest. Klein’s performance was widely criticized too, with the American Pie actor being castigated as a “bland hero.” Ouch. His Hollywood career has slowed down alarmingly since, as has that of director McTiernan. The latter has only directed the 2003 movie Basic since, but currently has a new sci-fi in pre-production.

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11. Speed Racer (2008)

Based on the popular Japanese manga comics and anime from the 1960s, Speed Racer was expected to be a considerable hit. The hyperactive action movie had a budget of $120 million, and Matrix creators the Wachowskis took over the project that had been in the offing since 1992. The movie opened in cinemas across America in May 2008, but things didn’t turn out as hoped.

No, the film would be viewed as a massive disappointment, slammed by most critics and a failure at the box office. Indeed, Speed Racer only clawed back $93 million from its $120 million budget, and earned several Razzie nominations. And it all but ended the A-List hopes of its star Emile Hirsch, who despite numerous acting credits since, has struggled to attain top billing after the flop.

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10. The Postman (1997)

Remember The Postman? No? Us neither, to be honest. But the forgettable futuristic Western movie, set in a post-apocalyptic world and directed by its star Kevin Costner, flopped badly back in 1997. Yes, perhaps fittingly for a film that was released close to Christmas of that year, it was a massive turkey.

The Postman wasn’t just written-off by the majority of critics, it would also be a write-off for Warner Brothers after it flopped at the box office. Indeed, the expensive movie only pocketed a paltry $20 million globally. And it seemed to have a significant effect on Costner’s career, with the once eminent actor effectively demoted from the A-list for good.

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9. I Know Who Killed Me (2007)

I Know Who Killed Me was supposed to be a coming-of-age hit for Hollywood’s enfant terrible, Lindsay Lohan. But instead of moving the actress seamlessly into more adult territory, the movie was a total bomb that was ridiculed by critics and audiences alike. Lohan starred as a kidnap victim and stripper in the horror/drama that made little sense.

I Know Who Killed Me was the beginning of the end for Lohan’s career at the top of Hollywood. The Razzie nominations killed any credibility she had left. In the following years, her career badly stalled. This was not helped by her notorious party lifestyle or numerous run-ins with the law, which were usually related to her addictions and substance abuse.

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8. Town & Country (2001)

A hugely misguided relationship comedy centered around a wealthy New York architect, Town & Country was a disappointment. The largely unfunny motion picture boasted a stellar cast of Hollywood veterans, from Warren Beatty and Garry Shandling to Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn. But their star power couldn’t stop it from going down like a lead zeppelin.

No, Town & Country was mauled by angry critics, who collectively wondered why anyone should care about these well-heeled folks’ trivial problems and escapades. The public seemed to feel the same, with the calamitous comedy taking a measly $10 million globally, which equaled an eye-watering loss of $80 million. Seemingly chastened by the failure, Beatty — an acclaimed actor and director —  disappeared from Hollywood altogether for 15 years.

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7. Cutthroat Island (1995)

Starring Geena Davis and directed by her then-husband Renny Harlin, the swashbuckling pirate adventure Cutthroat Island sank like a heavily cannonballed ship when it was released. Having already endured a protracted and expensive development, the film needed to be a success; the struggling studio behind it, Carolco, were literally counting on it. But the critics circled the island like hungry sharks and tore it to pieces.

When the dust settled, it was clear that Cutthroat Island wasn’t merely a flop. It was a fully-blown catastrophe. So catastrophic in fact that it holds the unwanted record of being the biggest financial bomb of all time; with just over a tenth of its $98 million budget being pulled back. Not surprisingly, it would be the last movie that Carolco released, as the studio was forced to cease its operations. Davis, too, has kept a much lower profile in Hollywood after the fiasco.

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6. How Do You Know (2010)

A film every bit as forgettable as its title, How Do You Know stank cinemas out back in 2010. The movie may have boasted the considerable star power of Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd, Owen Wilson and the legendary Jack Nicholson, but that is literally all it had going for it. Somehow the James L. Brooks-helmed romcom ended up costing $120 million to make.

Critics were unimpressed by Brooks’ screenplay, and felt that the movie more than overstayed its welcome at two hours in length. Audiences seemed to agree, and How Do You Know bombed at the box office, taking $49 million back of its inflated $120 million budget. More interestingly, the film marks the last big screen appearance of Nicholson to date. And if it is to be the final bow of the legendary actor, it’s a rather anticlimactic way to go out.

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5. The Astronaut’s Wife (1999)

You’ve probably forgot all about The Astronaut’s Wife. And truth be told, it’s best left that way. The 1999 sci-fi thriller — we use the latter word loosely — starred Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron and was a total flop that summer. If you’ve had the chance to see it, you may well know why.

In the summer that Star Wars: Episode I, The Matrix and The Sixth Sense reigned supreme,  The Astronaut’s Wife bombed at the box office, taking just $19.6 million worldwide. Critics tore into the movie too, and it holds a mere 15% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. The film’s writer and director Rand Ravich has never helmed another flick since, but has worked as an executive producer and creator.

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4. Gigli (2003)

Gigli is now practically a byword for a critical and commercial disaster. The lamentable romantic mob ‘comedy’ that starred Bennifer (aka Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez) as well as the not inconsiderable talents of Al Pacino and Christopher Walken, is widely regarded as one of the low points in Hollywood history. Really. It’s that bad.

Despite its star-studded cast and the tabloid frenzy around the real-life romance between its leads, Gigli fared as badly at the box office as it did with critics. It grossed a miserly $7.2 million, well short of its $75 million budget. Director Martin Brest has not helmed another film since, and although Lopez has continued to find acting work her time as bona fide lead was all but extinguished by the debacle.

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3. Cats (2019)

A computer-enhanced musical based on the award-winning Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Cats was a major flop when it hit multiplexes. Despite boasting a star-studded cast including Taylor Swift, Judi Dench, Idris Elba, Ian McKellen and numerous others, critics were turned off by the ugly CGI and tone of the movie. It was a box office turkey just in time for Christmas, recovering only $75 million of its reported $100 million budget.

Cats was an unmitigated disaster, but hasn’t and won’t hurt the careers of the superstars of its cast like Swift and Elba too much. Director Tom Hooper though, has not been so lucky. After the monumental flop at the box office he seems to have put in “director’s jail” — and only time will tell how long the now tainted auteur will need to get out of it.

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2. Red Planet (2000)

Red Planet told the story of Mission Commander Kate Bowman, a pilot and commander in charge of colonizing Mars as planet earth was in the process of dying. We thought we’d tell you all that as you’ve probably forgotten that this sci-fi bore ever existed. The movie — which hit cinemas in November 2000 — starred Carrie-Ann Moss, Val Kilmer and Tom Sizemore.

Red Planet failed to excite moviegoers, and from a sizable budget of $80 million it only clawed back $33.5 million. A box-office bomb, and the critics were no kinder, suggesting the film was dull and the characters bland. The critical and commercial failure also signaled the end for its South African director Anthony Hoffman, who has not helmed a major movie ever since.

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1. Howard the Duck (1986)

What more is there to say about Howard the Duck? The infamous 1986 comic book caper is widely regarded as one of the worst things ever projected up on a cinema screen. The movie — based on the Marvel Comics character — was brutalized by critics upon its release, with its failed attempts at humor and its wildly uneven tone turning them off.

Worse still, Howard the Duck failed at the box office. The movie made approximately $38 million worldwide, which just about covered its $37 million budget. But its seven Razzie nominations — and four wins — all but killed the career of its director Willard Huyck. The longtime George Lucas associate never directed a major motion picture again, but he does continue to write.

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