John Travolta‘s career has arguably never recovered from the dismal failure of Battlefield Earth, which stopped his second comeback in its tracks when it flopped at the box office and gained an instant reputation as both a massively misguided vanity project and one of the worst movies ever made.
After a lean period in the late 1980s and early 90s, Travolta came roaring back to the top of the Hollywood A-list when he nabbed an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction, following it up with a string of critical and/or commercial hits including Get Shorty, Michael, Phenomenon, Broken Arrow, Face/Off, The General’s Daughter and The Thin Red Line.
Battlefield Earth, meanwhile, is based on the book by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, and the author sent Travolta a copy as early as 1982 in the hopes that he’d use his star power to turn it into a blockbuster feature film, which he did eventually. The leading man and producer described it as “like Star Wars, but better,” which was a wild overstatement if ever there was one.
In fact, John Travolta was so confident in the project that he initially asked Tarantino to direct, but he ended up with The Phantom Menace‘s second unit staffer Roger Christian instead. Not only was Battlefield Earth savaged by critics, going on to receive the unwanted distinction of scooping a record nine Razzie Awards, but it flopped hard after earning about $29 million from theaters, and production company Franchise Pictures were sued for fraud by various investors for erroneously inflating the budget by up to $30 million, resulting in them going bankrupt.
For those feeling curious or brave enough, though, Battlefield Earth is now available to stream on Netflix, and it’ll be very interesting to see if the infamous dud can put a dent in the most-watched list.