It’s A Gamble: 10 Of The Biggest Box Office Bombs

%name Its A Gamble: 10 Of The Biggest Box Office Bombs

Sometimes, it pays off to take a gamble. Every so often a film will hit theatres and surprise everyone by proving to be a box office smash. But then there’s those films that just bomb, and bomb hard. Films that have the biggest budgets in the world and the biggest stars on the planet but for some reason or another, just fail to connect with audiences.

With Pacific Rim storming into the box office this past week, and The Lone Ranger slowly drowning after only a couple short weeks in release, we thought it would be a good time to look back on some of the biggest box office bombs of all time.

Now, these are not the biggest and we know that there are certainly films out there that have done a lot worse than what we’ve put on this list. This is simply just ten, out of many, films that took quite a dive at the box office.

So, without further ado, we present to you ten films that despite all the money and backing in the world, lost their studios a ton of money.

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1) John Carter

john carter still05 970x645 541x360 Its A Gamble: 10 Of The Biggest Box Office Bombs

Production Budget: $250 million

Worldwide Box Office Total: $282,778,100

By now, everyone knows the saga of Disney’s John Carter. Regarded as one of the biggest box office failures ever, the film itself wasn’t necessarily terrible, but it was marketed poorly and had a rather excessive budget. It was a gamble to begin with too, bringing a character who debuted in 1912 to the big screen almost a century later.

Analysts have pointed out that once you add in the marketing budget and everything else associated with releasing the film, for John Carter to have broken even, it would have needed to hit $600 million at the worldwide box office. To make profit, it would have needed to pull in a number even higher than that. Obviously, the odds were not in its favor.

As I said above, I don’t think that John Carter was really that terrible. It wasn’t a good film but it wasn’t as bad as many made it out to be. It hads its moments and I still wouldn’t be totally opposed to seeing a sequel. Not that we’ll ever get one, but I wouldn’t be against it if it ever did happen.

Unfortunately, this is one franchise that I think is dead, for now at least. Disney lost way too much money on it and I can’t see them going back to the character anytime soon.

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2) Speed Racer

speedracer2.jpg.CROP .article568 large Its A Gamble: 10 Of The Biggest Box Office Bombs

Production Budget: $120 million

Worldwide Box Office Total: $93,945,766

Hot off the success of The Matrix trilogy, Warner Bros. commissioned the Wachowski siblings to direct Speed Racer. The film had actually been in production since 1992 but it wasn’t until 2008 that it finally hit the big screen.

The $120 million was already a lot to begin with, and once you throw in marketing costs of close to $80 million, the amount of money spent on this one certainly made it a gamble. I mean, the Wachowskis were a hot commodity in Hollywood at the time but they lost a bit of their goodwill with the subpar Matrix sequels. Also, the film was an adaptation of a 1960s Japanese anime show. Still, the studio obviously thought that having the Wachowskis at the helm would be enough.

Unfortunately, they were wrong and Speed Racer ended up sinking the siblings’ careers, for a while at least. Critics slammed the film and the box office wasn’t too kind to it either. Admittedly, the visuals were pretty spectacular but for many, the film just missed the mark on far too many occasions and was geared too heavily towards children, leaving nothing of substance for those over the age of 10.

It solidified the soiled reputation of the Wachowskis and it wouldn’t be until 2012 that the siblings would redeem themselves with the fantastic Cloud Atlas.

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3) The Lone Ranger

The Lone Ranger1 541x360 Its A Gamble: 10 Of The Biggest Box Office Bombs

Production Budget: $250 million

Worldwide Box Office Total: N/A

It may be unfair to include The Lone Ranger on this list. The film is still in theatres and thus, cannot be deemed a bomb just yet. So far though, things aren’t looking too pretty for Disney’s latest epic.

Boasting a hugely expensive budget, the film is a gamble for two reasons. One, it stars Armie Hammer. Though the actor isn’t exactly an unknown, I wouldn’t say that he’s a bankable leading man just yet and asking audiences to buy into him as the titular hero may be asking a bit much. Secondly, the film has a Western setting, which we all know is a hard sell.

Currently, at the time of writing this article, the film is sitting at $122 million worldwide. That’s not necessarily a terrible number but you can bet that Disney wanted to see more than that by this point.

Additionally, reviews are pretty bad as well. Most people are criticizing the performances and the over-complicated story. The film just doesn’t seem to be catching on with audiences and unless things really pick up, this may prove to be another huge bomb for the mouse house. In fact, analysts predict that The Lone Ranger is on pace to lose $150 million, which makes sense given that the marketing alone is rumoured to have cost $175 million and the film likely won’t do more than $275 million worldwide.

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4) Mars Needs Moms

Mars Needs Moms Trailer Its A Gamble: 10 Of The Biggest Box Office Bombs

Production Budget: $150 million

Worldwide Box Office Total: $38,992,758

If Hollywood’s recent track record is anything to go by, it seems as though the planet Mars – while symbolising relentless war and chaos in Roman mythology – also signals box office misfortunes in the realm of cinema. Though John Carter fell flat in 2012, Walt Disney also distributed another space-related mishap in Mars Needs Moms a year earlier.

Other than having a ridiculously lazy title, the film was released during a somewhat unfortunate period. Having been filmed and produced in 3D, Mars Needs Moms was a hasty and misplaced jump on a three-dimensional bandwagon that had already grown old and rickety in a post-Clash of The Titans landscape.

Directed by Simon Wells and produced by the team behind The Polar Express, this is an animation film that, quite frankly, isn’t animated very well. The character models resemble dead-eyed mannequins and the narrative through line – of a child who only realises the importance of his mother after she is kidnapped by Martians – is poorly executed. Mars Needs Moms doesn’t hold a candle to movies from the Pixar canon and the impressive use of digital technology isn’t enough to compensate for the film’s lack of heart.

At present, Wells’ movie stands as one of the biggest box office flops in film history – unadjusted for inflation, mind you – and while it doesn’t quite deserve to be lambasted in such a way, Mars Needs Moms is still a prime example where style and technological wizardry was favoured over substance.

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5) Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within

final fantasy the spirits within original1 Its A Gamble: 10 Of The Biggest Box Office Bombs

Production Budget: $137 million

Worldwide Box Office Total: $85,131,830

What succeeds in one medium may flail helplessly in another. Essentially, that was the story for Columbia Pictures’ brave, and ultimately futile adaption of the Final Fantasy series in 2001. Entitled Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within, the film represented the first time that the popular video game franchise had transcended onto the grand silver screen, although in hindsight, some fans wish it had remained in the realm of pixelated chocobos.

You see, the problem with the movie was that it failed to appeal to any demographic in particular. Instead it was too concerned with boasting its use of photorealistic technology which, for the uninitiated, resulted in the motion picture resembling a video game in terms of visual aesthetic, and therefore passed the mainstream audience by.

What’s more, even though the film was directed by Hironobu Sakaguchi – the mind behind the Final Fantasy series – Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within lacked the fundamental components that make the source material so engaging – even a quasi-Yuna protagonist from Final Fantasy X failed to salvage the production.

A bland narrative with paper thin characters encapsulated Sakaguchi’s directorial debut, and while the film was nominated for its soundtrack and groundbreaking character animation models, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within ultimately and ironically, given the plot, lacked a soul. And when a feature film’s poor reception forces its studio – Square Studios – to shut up shop, you know you’ve got a resounding dud on your hands.

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6) Wild Wild West

24980917 Its A Gamble: 10 Of The Biggest Box Office Bombs

Production Budget: $170 million

Worldwide Box Office Total: $222,105,681

The history books will always read that Will Smith turned down the opportunity to play Neo in The Matrix in favour of a lead role in Barry Sonnenfield’s bombastic western, Wild Wild West. Clocking in at $170 million, it was the most expensive film that Warner Bros. had produced for that time, and one that has been candidly derided by the star of the original television series. In fact, Robert Conrad was there to accept the trio of Razzie awards for Wild Wild West as a blasé and damning expression to Sonnenfield’s expensive rendition.

It was a film that effectively derailed Will Smith’s reign as the king of the summer blockbuster too, following his streak from Men In Black and Independence Day. And once Wild Wild West opened for the movie-going audience, it was evident that the script had been passed around four screenwriters and eight producers like an unbearable lump of hot coal. The fracture lines in the end product were there for all to see: actors giving half-hearted performances, a plot that feels forced and, above all, an emphasis on CGI effects rather than story.

A cacophony of sci-fi, western, comedy and action, Wild Wild West was a jack of all trades, but ultimately a master of none.

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7) Gigli

gigli Its A Gamble: 10 Of The Biggest Box Office Bombs

Production Budget: $75.6 million

Worldwide Box Office Total: $7,266,209

You know the expression, “You’ll never work in this town again?” Meet Martin Brest. He was never especially prolific, but he did make Beverly Hills Cop, and secured Al Pacino an Oscar with Scent of a Woman. Sure, he tripped up a little with Meet Joe Black, an overblown, overly dramatic, and overly wrought take on the classic Death Takes a Holiday, but that’s why pencils have erasers. And there was no bigger eraser than Gigli because nothing in Brest’s filmography can surpass it for name cache, and Brest hasn’t made another film since its release.

But the career of Martin Brest isn’t the only thing that Gigli destroyed in its path. There was once this thing called “Bennifer,” the seemingly impossible collision of high-wattage stars Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. Which came first, their contribution to Gigli or their Hollywood romance is a chicken-and-egg question lost in time to the fact that once, it did exist, and for a while it was a bigger gossip black hole than the Kardashian baby and the Jodi Arias trial combined. Backlash was inevitable, but it could have been mitigated if only the movie itself had been able to hold any sort of structural integrity.

A consistent string of re-shoots and re-edits were being demanded by the studio, while director Brest and the producers were engaged in this tug of war to decide the fate of the film regarding what tinkering was required and when it would be ready for release. The still burgeoning internet film culture smelled blood in the water and never missed an opportunity to call Gigli dead on arrival even before the movie was scheduled to arrive. When it did open in August 2003, critics awarded the film with a 7 per cent collective “fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a presumptive spot on the “Worst Films of the Year” list, and about $7 million in receipts from the worldwide box office.

Affleck has since recovered to become the toast of Tinsletown with a successful directing career, and J Lo. marches on as a multi-hyphenate, but poor Martin Brest has apparently lost all will to direct. Although, who would front the director of Gigli any kind of budget for a movie now?

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8) Cutthroat Island

Cutthroat 2 lg. V219329202  0 Its A Gamble: 10 Of The Biggest Box Office Bombs

Production Budget: $98 million

Worldwide Box Office Total: $10,017,322

It takes a special kind of disaster mentality to craft a movie that doesn’t just sink individual careers, but sinks a studio as well. But really, Carolco’s meteoric rise and enormous fall could be an article in and of itself, the point here is that the studio, in a last gasp effort to turn their financial troubles around, bet huge on the box office clout of pirate movies, Renny Harlin and the dynamic duo of Geena Davis and Matthew Modine.

The signs were there that this was not going to end well for all involved. Michael Douglas was originally cast as the male lead of Cutthroat, but the actor had only limited time to commit and when Davis, then married to Harlin, was made the ostensive star of the film, Douglas backed out. With Harlin’s attention focused on re-casting, set construction and art direction work on the film continued without much of the director’s input, resulting, ultimately, in a lot of that period production design being redone on the fly, and quite expensively, as production got underway. Meanwhile, a veritable who’s who of leading men – Tom Cruise, Keanu Reeves, Charlie Sheen, and Michael Keaton – turned down the role of slave-turned-love interest William Shaw. Eventually, Modine, then best known for his role as Joker in Full Metal Jacket, was cast based in no small part on his pre-existing fencing skills.

The end result? In two words: not good. Cutthroat Island premiered in 13th place at the Christmas box office and ultimately took in just over $10 million in total. Harlin has since pointed out that Carolco was in dire straits before Cutthroat was released, which is true, but neither his career, nor that of future ex-wife Davis, would ever really recover:

Davis retreated to TV where she hasn’t had much better success, Harlin’s last studio effort was the WWE-produced 12 Rounds starring wrestler John Cena, and Modine enjoyed a brief brush with relevance playing a Gotham City cop in last summer’s The Dark Knight Rises. Pirate movies would enjoy a brief resurgence with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, but the curse seems mostly to belong to Cutthroat Island.

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9) The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle

175214.1020.A Its A Gamble: 10 Of The Biggest Box Office Bombs

Production Budget: $76 million

Worldwide Box Office Total: $35,143,820

Third time’s the charm, right? That must have been the thought when The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle came out in the summer of 2000, being the third movie based on a Jay Ward cartoon to come out in four years. Although George of the Jungle was a modest hit, Dudley Do-Right had a kind of “blink and you’ll miss it” status at the local multiplex. In Rocky and Bullwinkle’s favour was more name cache and the improbable, yet curious, involvement of acting titan Robert De Niro, but the end result, despite a mixed critical reaction, was more Dudley than George.

The conceit was perhaps a little too meta for its own good, and this was before “meta” was even a thing, which probably lead to more viewer confusion. The premise was that eternal bad guys Boris and Natasha (Jason Alexander and Rene Russo) as well as their boss, Fearless Leader (De Niro) leave their 2D animated world and enter ours in order to use cable television to brainwash the American public. The government and very special FBI agent Karen Sympathy (Piper Perabo) then recruit Rocket “Rocky” J. Squirrel and Bullwinkle J. Moose to stop the bad guys, also bringing them to the real world along with the old series’ unseen narrator who remains unseen. A series of mad cap misadventures follow in what comes across as a loosely connected series of Rocky & Bullwinkle vignettes, like a bunch of the old cartoons were repurposed and tied together with the brainwashing plot.

Still, the script was probably not the weak link, and indeed on the surface showed some degree of inventiveness and ingenuity. Kenneth Lonergan gets sole screenplay credit, but 2000 treated him better for his award-nominated drama You Can Count On Me, which he also directed. But Broadway director Des McAnuff definitely seemed in over his head, and the live-action characters played by Alexander, Russo, and De Niro looked silly when realized in real life. For De Niro, who also served as the film’s producer, it was the initial sign of a nearly decade long tale spiral that saw the actor squander his talent more often than realize it (and the ridiculous self-parody of his famous Taxi Driver “Are you talking to me?” scene didn’t help either). The public though was just as unconvinced, and the movie made back less than half its budget with a worldwide box office haul of $35 million. There have been no movies made based on Jay Ward cartoons since.

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10) Catwoman

Halle Berry Catwoman 3 11 Its A Gamble: 10 Of The Biggest Box Office Bombs

Production Budget: $100 million 

Worldwide Box Office Total: $82,102,379

It’s hard to say what went wrong with Catwoman. I mean, there’s no doubt that it’s an utterly terrible film, but it’s still surprising that it turned out so poorly. The character herself is widely recognized with a large fanbase and Halle Berry was hotter than ever when the film was made. So how did this film manage to bomb so hard?

Personally, I think Berry was alright in the role and wouldn’t place much of the blame on her. Instead, I’d say that the filmmakers are to blame. Catwoman is a sloppy and messy piece of work, one that was clearly made with little care or appreciation for its titular character. It comes off as a direct-to-video release and is almost laughable at points. How the studio ever greenlit this project, and got Berry to star, is beyond me.

All that being said, I’m still holding out for another solo effort featuring the character. Anne Hathaway did a pretty good job at portraying Catwoman in The Dark Knight Rises and I wouldn’t mind seeing the actress reprise her role in another film. Maybe even have Christopher Nolan direct?

So there you have it, our list of some of the biggest box office bombs, ever. Did we miss any films that should have been on the list? Let us know in the comments below.

Please note that this article has been a collaboration between Matt Joseph, Adam Donaldson and Michael Briers.

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  • John Taylor

    Quite a list. Disagree with the Lone Ranger movie being on the list. Should be 10 movies that are no longer being run in theatres. Strangely enough, this list is about 50/50 on films I liked and films I disliked. Of the ones I did not like, I’d say Speed Racer was the worst of all the films. HUGE disappointment.

    • Jake

      You know he isn’t talking about the quality of the films, he is talking about the ratio in the amount of money spend vs. what was made back. Box office bomb doesn’t mean the film was bad because there have been plenty of movies that didn’t make money that are great movies, box office bomb is only referring to revenue. The Lone Ranger failed to make its money back or at least what the companies wanted so its considered a bomb so it should be on the list.

      • lewis j

        there have also been movies that made a lot of money but totally sucked. AVATAR. that movie just shows how people can be convinced that a movie is good just because all the critics say it is. i really think someone was paid off to hype this movie up. because it just an unoriginal storyline with over-the-top cgi graphics. sure its a good story but its been done before. i knew exactly what was going to happen before i even watched the movie.

  • Dean White

    I have seen most of them on purpose I enjoy bad movies but on a low budget level money can not buy box office happiness

  • Haku

    I don’t know about Hathaway’s Catwoman being in a other film. I never thought she made a good Catwoman and when I saw her in the film I only ever saw her as a good thief, but never as a good Catwoman. I wouldnt be interested in seeing her reprise the same Catwoman as in TDKR, because the Catwoman in TDKR just wasnt Catwoman. As to me she wasnt.

    • Jake

      Its because she was Selina Kyle and not represented as Catwoman because in some of the comics she is just a thief, a highly skilled flexible thief. I really liked both Michelle and Annes renditions because unlike Michelles over the top “I’m a cat” Catwoman, Anne has a much more realistic and subtle tone to her portrayal. I do however LOVE Michelle because of the way she took the role so literal and displayed an amount of emotional distraught throughout the film along with such a dynamic blend of emotions that just unraveled beautifully in the ending scene where she is being shot over and over and she just conveys so much emotion in this scene that its almost impossible not to feel something amazing watching her.

      1. The Dark Knight
      2.Batman Begins
      3. TDKR and Batman Returns are a tie although I love everything about Christopher Nolan’s Batman universe, Batman Return was still the best we had until Nolan took on the project.

  • Morpheus

    John Carter was actually a good movie

  • agb1953 .

    Anybody who found it necessary to spend $250M to make a western, The Lone Ranger, needs to be driven out of Hollywood with torches and pitchforks.

  • K-Dawg

    What about Waterworld?

  • Iam_Sparticus

    Where’s the most iconic of money losers, Heavens Gate?

  • Luis A Bernal

    The Postman was an even bigger bomb for Kevin Costner. He went from Hollywood gold to high risk investment. Besides a supporting role in Man Of Steel, can anyone list a blockbuster this past 15 years? He is the king of A list actors that consistently fail to deliver.

  • Ryan Kadlec

    Ishtar was one of the biggest flops in hollywood history. Heaven’s Gate was the first before Ishtar. Stealth crashed badly.

  • Arjan Crielaard

    The Alamo (not bad)
    The 13th Warrior (not bad)
    Green Lantern (not bad)
    Windtalkers (not bad)
    Cowboys & Aliens (not bad)
    A Sound of Thunder (very bad)

    Hugo (very good)

    • doc

      All of those movies except for Hugo are terrible.

      • Benjamin Landgren

        agreed.

    • Mercurio Osterman

      A shame about Hugo, given how wonderful it was. I liked Green Lantern, though it was ill regarded, but the rest of those are indeed pretty bad, with Sound of Thunder being excrutiating, having the worst cgi I’ve seen in a big theatrical release.

  • DrNope

    The Adventures of Pluto Nash?

  • go with the guesto

    This should be #1. Actually, John Carter was one of the 1st SyFy stories but caught a bad director. Still a good story!

    • Jake

      Uhm no you are completely incorrect, Andrew Stanton is a fantastic director with films like Wall-E which was highly regarded by critics and audiences, then Finding Memo which as well was a very good movie, and the A Bugs Life which lead Pixar into being the ONLY company that has had every movie on its roster be top grossing and critically acclaimed films, true fact. The reason John Carter didn’t do well was because the poor marketing and people just didn’t know how to take the film, it just wasnt accepted well by the core audiences and that’s usually what big budget films need first is that core audience and it just didn’t hit that point but it was not at all the fault of the brilliant director Andrew Stanton.

  • Preposterous Pants Bulge

    Waterworld, Pluto Nash, The Postman, the list could go on and on.

  • Nostra

    Another one worth mentioning is Delgo (which wasn’t very good)

  • Guest

    I think John Carter was a great movie. There was nothing wrong with the movie. Just bad Publicity, no one really went to see the movie when it debut.

    • Andrewmag166

      Well let’s be honest about it, there were no blacks in the movie so it’s going to get bad reviews and write ups by the powers that be. It was above average movie for sure.

      • WoWed

        that had nothing to do with it. the majority of the movie going public has no idea who or what John Carter is.

  • samheia

    What doesnt show is the Dvd sales as well remember that movies like Waterworld have been said to be the biggest bomb of all times .
    but that still made Kevin Costner a lot of money on just DVD sales

  • Wallace Morrison

    Berry was hot as Catwoman. it was Stone, the writers and directors, etc. who killed it. Berry was sexy and delicious, exactly what Catwoman should be. I could see her do it again.

    • WoWed

      it’s hard to say she was sexy when was she was CG most of the time. I guess a computer animated Hally Berry could be sexy, but it’s just not my thing.

      • Wallace Morrison

        Computers make everything better, jk. lol.

  • chiliboots

    ‘John Carter’ was, actually, not half bad. It was nice to see “Caesar” and “Marc Antony” work together, again. Lynn whats-her-name was good as the Princess,
    and many other characterizations were quite well done, even the CGI’d ones. It was kind of an interesting story line, as well.

    • Jake

      Agree I just wished it wouldn’t have bombed because they spent a lot of money on that movie and I mean a lot of money lol but idk I quote enjoyed the film and you might be excited to find out the Jim Morris the producer has announced the John Carter The Gods of Mars is in development.

  • Jake

    Just to let everyone know John Carter The Gods of Mars is in development, confirmed by producer Jim Morris and I’m excited as the first was actually a brilliant film that didn’t hit with consumers and that it, people just didn’t go and see the movie.

  • Slartibartfast

    Where is Waterworld?

  • Marc Harford

    How can you do this list without a mention to Battlefield Earth or Showgirls.

  • lewis j

    its one of the worst titles ever. why would i go see a movie about some random guy. there is no intrigue for me. i saw the previews and never one thought “hey, i wonder how whats his name is gonna get outta this.” who care about john carter? this movie was marketed extensively but ever so poorly. it’s as if they thought the whole world already knew who john carter was. but no one did, so the movie bombed.

  • lewis j

    depp needs to stop playing this character. it isn’t funny anymore.

  • Richard Hollingsworth

    I enjoyed John Carter, not wowed, but I really enjoyed Cutthroat Island, one o may movies that were not properly advertised before release.

  • terry2u

    Heaven’s Gate from United Artists is highly regarded as the BIGGEST box office bomb EVER. It lost so much money that it killed the United Artists Studio. Check out the writeup on Wikipedia to read it’s insipid story.

  • Tossaway

    Halle Berry was gracious enough to show up in person to collect her Razzie for Catwoman. That’s talent AND grace.

  • Witness

    Guess I’m in the big minority here, but I actually loved Speed Racer and though that it was very true to the original, had a lot of good action, good multiple plot lines that kept you guess, great special effects, good fighting sequences, the same kind of humor that was in the show that I watched growing up and more. Most all of my friends that saw it and knew the original cartoon agreed as well. Some say the movie had too much plot, but I found it enjoyable that it kept us guessing right till the end. It also had a good bond between Speed and his father, as well as Speed and his younger brother, they all pulled together to build the Mach 6 I believe and it had a great climactic ending. About half the audience applauded at the end of the movie in the theater that I went to and a few people were crying, so I certainly wasn’t alone in my enjoyment of it.

  • Sam D. Maloney

    I just LOVE the Cutthroat Island poster: the cheesy way they tried to paint pecs on Modine is just so wrong on so many levels– anatomy lessons, anyone?– that I laugh every time I see it. Just look at it! JUST LOOK!!!

  • mph23

    I actually like FF:The Spirits Within.

    • WoWed

      it wasn’t bad, but it really shouldn’t have had Final Fantasy slapped on the front of it. It could have held it’s own as a movie, but that FF tag actually hurt it.

  • Andrew

    Thanks to disc sales and broadcast rights, John Carter is now making nothing but profit. It may not have done well at the box office, but the film is not a failure any more. It was killed by Disney so the Star Wars purchase could go through. It’s a great film!

  • mlauzon

    I am surprised you didn’t include “Playback” (2012), I don’t know what it’s budget was, but it only made $264 during its run…!