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The biggest box-office flop every year since the ‘70s

  • For every box-office smash, there are disappointments that cost studios millions of dollars.

  • This year is shaping up to be a rough one for Hollywood, with many films underperforming.

  • We’ve found the biggest box-office flop from every year since 1978.

“Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” made box-office history last summer, but for every hit movie there’s a flop or two waiting to happen.

And so far, 2024 is shaping up to be a worrying year for Hollywood. Some anticipated hits, such as “The Fall Guy,” failed to meet box-office expectations, while “Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga” made a dismal $32 million its opening weekend, the worst Memorial Day for the box office in nearly 30 years, The Hollywood Reporter reported.

But they’re not the first films in movie history to flop. Whether critically panned movies like “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword” or beloved cult classics like “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen,” these movies just could not find their audience … and cost their studios exorbitant amounts of money.

Keep scrolling to find out if you remember the biggest box-office flops from the past 40+ years.

1978: “Sextette”

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“Sextette” was the legendary Mae West’s last film.Crown International Pictures

“Sextette” is the movie version of Mae West’s last play, and filmmakers had a hard time finding a distributor from the get-go. Eventually, they decided to release it themselves and show it at the Cinemadome in Hollywood. According to “The Complete Films of Mae West,” the movie grossed only about $50,000 against an estimated $8 million budget.

“Sextette” has many urban legends surrounding it regarding the deteriorating health of the then 85-year-old West — namely that she was senile and had to be fed her lines through an earpiece.

1979: “The Concorde… Airport ’79”

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“Concorde” is part of the “Airport” franchise.Universal Pictures

“Concorde” is the fourth and final film in the “Airport” franchise. The first “Airport” movie made over $100 million at the box office, but it was all downhill from there. according to box-office tracking site The Numbers. Nine years later, the fourth film made just $13 million — less than half of the third installment.

1980: “Heaven’s Gate”

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Heaven’s Gate single-handedly shut down United Artists. United Artists

By the sixth day of filming the Western “Heaven’s Gate,” production was already five days behind schedule. “Heaven’s Gate” is one of the best-known flops of all time, as it lost the studio, United Artists, so much money UA had to be sold, The Telegraph reported.

The film received rave reviews, however, after being re-edited and shown at the New York Film Forum in 2013, Slate reported. Critics praised its beauty and commitment to authenticity, which is what caused the film’s budget to balloon.

1981: “Honky Tonk Freeway”

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“Honky Tonk Freeway.”Universal Pictures

Why was “Honky Tonk Freeway,” a comedy based in a small town in Florida, so expensive? According to the Orlando Sentinel, it could’ve been because of the elephants that were brought in, or because the film required painting much of the real city of Mount Dora, Florida, bright pink, or because it had hundreds of extras. Whatever the reason, it ended up being the most expensive comedy film at the time, The New York Times reported.

The film was critically panned and lost $22 million.

1982: “Inchon”

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The film is based on the invasion of the South Korean port of Inchon.MGM/UA Entertainment Company

“Inchon” was never released on home video or DVD, so it lives only in the memories of those few who saw it in theaters (or on YouTube). The film took four years and almost $50 million to make: The New York Times called it the “most expensive B-movie ever made.”

The movie had a total loss of almost $41 million at the time, according to FilmSite.

1983: “Krull”

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“Krull.”Columbia Pictures

“Krull” is a sci-fi/fantasy film about a prince and a group of outlaws setting out to rescue his bride from alien invaders. This dismal reviews at the time have been preserved on Rotten Tomatoes, however — it has been described as an unsuccessful clone of other adventure movies like “Star Wars” and “Excalibur.”

1984: “The Cotton Club”

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The movie is Nicolas Cage’s fifth film credit ever.Orion Pictures

“The Cotton Club” took five years to make and had highly publicized problems, such as budget overages, and a feud between the film’s producer Robert Evans and its director, Francis Ford Coppola.

The New York Times called the film “neither a smash nor a disaster,” but the film’s deficit begs to differ. IMDb says the film had an estimated budget of $58 million and made half that at the box office.

1985: “Revolution”

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Al Pacino.Warner Bros.

A Revolutionary War movie starring Al Pacino sounds … strange. Seeing the star of films like “Serpico” and “The Godfather” fighting for the Colonies’ freedom perhaps didn’t sit well with viewers. Deadspin even called it Pacino’s worst film ever.

The numbers speak for themselves: a $358,574 box-office gross against an estimated $28 million budget, according to IMDb.

1986: “Howard the Duck”

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“Howard the Duck” was the first Marvel movie.Universal Pictures

“Howard the Duck” is surely not what comes to mind when people today think of Marvel movies, but it was actually the first one, and it was produced by George Lucas.

As a whole, the movie, about a duck from another planet who accidentally lands on Earth to stop an alien invasion, is pretty out-there. And it tanked so spectacularly that Frank Price resigned as Universal’s president after it flopped, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Something good did come out of “Howard” though. Lucas, in debt from the movie and the creation of his Skywalker Ranch, sold the CGI branch of LucasFilm to Steve Jobs — it would eventually become Pixar.

1987: “Ishtar”

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In recent years, “Ishtar” has become more popular.Columbia Pictures

“Ishtar” was released on Blu-ray in 2013, prompting many critics to revisit the notorious flop — and many were shocked to find it’s actually not bad.

Production of the film (about two US songwriters in Morocco who find themselves in the middle of a CIA power play) was plagued with the most common problems of every box-office flop: delays, overspending, and issues among stars.

“Ishtar” went on to make only $14 million from a $51 million budget. according to The Guardian.

1988: “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen”

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A rare critically acclaimed flop.Columbia Pictures

This movie is praised for its breathtaking visual effects. In fact, it was nominated for four Oscars: art direction, costume design, visual effects, and makeup and hairstyling.

Unfortunately, the high production value caused costs to skyrocket and made it almost impossible for the film, about an 18th-century German nobleman and his fight against the Ottoman Empire, to break even.

When all was said and done, the film had a loss of $38.5 million, according to FilmSite.

1989: “Pink Cadillac”

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Bernadette Peters and Clint Eastwood in “Pink Cadillac.”Warner Bros.

The ’80s were a rough decade for Clint Eastwood, and “Pink Cadillac,” in which he plays a California bounty hunter, was a low point.

According to IMDb, the movie made only $12 million at the box office against an estimated budget of $19 million.

1990: “The Bonfire of the Vanities”

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Tom Hanks and Bruce Willis in “The Bonfire of the Vanities.”Warner Bros.

This movie, about ’80s-era Wall Street, was so controversial that a book about the behind-the-scenes drama, “The Devil’s Candy: The Anatomy of a Hollywood Fiasco,” was a huge success — more successful than the movie.

There are many reasons this adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s novel of the same name didn’t work out, but most point to it being miscast, having too many changes from the source material, and going way over budget.

The film ended up making $15.6 million against a $47 million budget.

1991: “Hudson Hawk”

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Bruce Willis in “Hudson Hawk.”TriStar Pictures

“Hudson Hawk,” an absurdist spoof of action movies — like the ones that made Bruce Willis famous — lost almost $90 million at the box office, according to The Guardian.

In its opening weekend it made just $7 million, according to Box Office Mojo, and thanks to terrible reviews it didn’t stand a chance at coming anywhere close to turning a profit.

1992: “Hero”

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Dustin Hoffman played the titular “Hero.”Columbia Pictures

Known in the UK as “Accidental Hero,” this movie is one of the more forgettable entries in Dustin Hoffman’s extensive filmography. Even though it received decent reviews, according to Rotten Tomatoes, audiences apparently just weren’t interested in seeing Hoffman save injured passengers from a plane crash.

1993: “Addams Family Values”

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Wednesday’s storyline was a fan favorite.Getty Images/Paramount

The first “Addams Family” was a huge success, so — of course — there had to be a sequel. And for the most part, “Addams Family Values” was enjoyable — it even developed into a cult classic.

But at the time, the movie made less than half of what its predecessor had. Compared with other films of the year, like “Mrs. Doubtfire,” it’d be impossible to call this movie a success.

1994: “North”

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Dan Aykroyd, Elijah Wood, and Reba McEntire were just a small part of the A-list cast in “North.”Columbia Pictures

“North” is the story of a child prodigy (Elijah Wood) in search of his ideal parents.

According to Rolling Stone, the movie’s budget was $40 million, and it took in just $7 million at the box office in the summer of 1994. Roger Ebert may have best explained why no one saw this movie when he wrote: “I hated this movie. Hated, hated, hated, hated, hated this movie. Hated it.”

1995: “Cutthroat Island”

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“Cutthroat Island” held the Guinness World Record for “History’s Biggest Box Office Bomb.”Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

“Cutthroat Island” could have been a feminist pirate story, a rarity in Hollywood, but it ended up being an expensive mess. The film actually held the Guinness World Record for “History’s Biggest Box Office Bomb” — according to “Freeze Frame,” it cost $98 million to make and opened at $2.3 million. In total, it made just over $10 million.

1996: “Mary Reilly”

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John Malkovich and Julia Roberts as Henry Jekyll and Mary Reilly, respectively.Sony Pictures Releasing

Did anyone ask for a retelling of the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde from the housekeeper’s perspective? Audiences definitely didn’t, because the movie was critically panned and lost its studio a large amount of money. IMDb estimated its budget at $47 million, and the film made just $12 million.

1997: “The Postman”

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Kevin Costner as the Postman.Warner Bros.

Before dystopian future movies were all the rage, “The Postman,” based on a short story about America fractured into multiple small groups with no central government, premiered in 1997. Its dismal reviews certainly gave no indication that movies like “The Hunger Games” could do so well years later.

The Telegraph reported that the film made just $18 million on its $80 million budget.

1998: “Beloved”

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Yes, that’s Oprah in the middle.Buena Vista Pictures

“Beloved,” based on a Toni Morrison novel about an Ohio mother haunted by her slave past (as well as a poltergeist), is a good movie — it has a 78% on Rotten Tomatoes.

But the quality of the film just didn’t translate into box-office success. According to The Economist, Disney ended up writing it off after it made just $8 million during its opening weekend and saw a 50% drop-off the next weekend.

1999: “The 13th Warrior”

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Antonio Banderas as Ahmad.Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

“The 13th Warrior” is based on a novel written by Michael Crichton (author of “Jurassic Park”) and directed by John McTiernan (director of “Die Hard” and “Predator”). By all accounts, this movie, loosely based on the tale of Beowulf, should have been a hit. But production costs ran high, and the film just couldn’t recover.

The film had a $160 million budget and made just $61 million back, NME reported.

2000: “Titan A.E.”

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This film ended Fox Animation.Twentieth Century Fox

According to IGN, just 10 days after “Titan A.E.,” a sci-fi flick based in the distant future, opened to dismal box-office numbers, Fox Animation closed its doors — even though it had a hit with “Anastasia” in 1997. Fox took a $100 million loss on the animated film, reported Digital Spy.

2001: “Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within”

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“Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within.”Columbia Pictures

Square, the company that financed “Final Fantasy,” went on to quit the movie business and shut down its animation facility in Hawaii because of the overwhelmingly terrible numbers of “Final Fantasy,” Variety reported. The film had a total loss of almost $95 million, Pajiba reported.

2002: “The Adventures of Pluto Nash”

the adventures of pluto nash rosario dawson eddie murphy 2002the adventures of pluto nash rosario dawson eddie murphy 2002

“The Adventures of Pluto Nash” kicked off a streak of disappointing Eddie Murphy movies.Warner Bros.

This movie, which is about a nightclub owner on the moon who refuses to sell his club to local mobsters, was plagued by costly re-shoots, pushed-back release dates, and terrible audience reactions at test screenings — by the time it was released, Murphy refused to do any publicity related to it, according to The Bomb Report.

2003: “Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas”

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Brad Pitt voiced legendary pirate Sinbad.DreamWorks Distribution

“Sinbad” tanked so terribly that it almost bankrupted its studio, DreamWorks, after losing $125 million, according to Fox News. As a result of this box-office disaster, DreamWorks pivoted from hand-drawn animation altogether and focused more on computer-generated films (its next two movies were “Shrek 2” and “Madagascar”).

2004: “The Alamo”

the alamo billy bob thornton patrick wilson 2004the alamo billy bob thornton patrick wilson 2004

Billy Bob Thornton and Patrick Wilson as Davy Crockett and William Travis.Buena Vista Pictures

“Remember the Alamo” is a rallying cry throughout Texas and the US as a whole, but Disney would probably like to forget about this 2004 movie about the 1836 standoff between Texan and Mexican soldiers.

According to a 2012 Time report, the movie lost over $146 million, which would be around $200 million in 2024 dollars.

2005: “Stealth”

stealth josh lucas jessica biel jamie foxxstealth josh lucas jessica biel jamie foxx

An A-list cast (Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx) couldn’t save this film.Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)

“Stealth,” which is about three pilots involved in a top-secret military program, finished fourth in its opening weekend, behind the popular films “Wedding Crashers,” “Sky High,” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” There was no way this movie was going to do well when faced with that type of competition. Plus, it has just 13% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Box Office Scoop reported a $111.7 million loss.

2006: “Poseidon”

poseidon josh lucas kurt russellposeidon josh lucas kurt russell

“Poseidon.”Warner Bros.

This disaster-at-sea epic is definitely no “Titanic.” It holds a 33% score on Rotten Tomatoes and was nominated for a Razzie Award for worst remake or ripoff. Just like the Poseidon, the film sank, losing $83 million, according to FilmSite.

2007: “Evan Almighty”

Evan Almighty 2007Evan Almighty 2007

“Evan Almighty” was not as popular as its predecessor, “Bruce Almighty.”Universal Pictures

“Bruce Almighty” made almost $500 million, so it makes sense that studios thought that a sequel starring Steve Carell and Lauren Graham would be box-office gold — turns out, those two couldn’t compete with Jim Carrey and Jennifer Aniston.

“Evan Almighty” took over the distinction of most expensive comedy from “Honky Tonk Freeway” and cost $175 million to produce — and did not come close to making a profit.

2008: “Speed Racer”

speed racer mach 5speed racer mach 5

The Mach 5 is one of the most iconic cars in pop-culture history.Warner Bros.

The 2008 remake of “Speed Racer,” a popular anime series that ran in the ’60s, was praised by outlets such as The Hollywood Reporter for its visual effects, but critics agreed the story left a lot to be desired.

Those special effects racked up the film’s budget, and the public didn’t much want to see the film, which made only $93 million against a $120 million budget, according to Inverse.

2009: “Land of the Lost”

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“Land of the Lost” is based on a ’70s TV show.Universal Studios

The then-Universal Studios president said it best at the 2011 Savannah Film Festival: “‘Land of the Lost’ was just crap. I mean, there was no excuse for it. ‘Land of the Lost’ was a huge loss. We misfired. We were wrong.”

The time-traveling would-be epic had a box-office deficit of $31.3 million.

2010: “The Nutcracker in 3D”

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The titular Nutcracker prefers to be called NC.Cinemarket

“The Nutcracker in 3D” has Nazi rats, sharks, a singing Albert Einstein, and absolutely no ballet. It’s not surprising it couldn’t find its audience. The movie only made $17 million against a $90 million budget.

2011: “Mars Needs Moms”

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Motion-capture animation pushed this movie’s budget up astronomically.Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

According to NME, “Mars Needs Moms” has the questionable distinction of having the worst box-office numbers of any Disney film ever made. The film also had the 10th-worst opening weekend of any movie since 1982 (at the time — in a post-COVID box-office, the film is now down to No. 57).

Why did it do so poorly? People thought the motion-capture style looked creepy, the title reportedly alienated boys, and the thought of seeing a mom get kidnapped was too scary for kids.

Time estimated a loss of $140 million in 2012 dollars, which would be $191 million today.

2012: “John Carter”

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“John Carter” was a starring vehicle for Taylor Kitsch.Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

The box-office misfortune of “John Carter” can perhaps be blamed on its marketing — few knew what this movie was even about (a Civil War vet who wakes up on a planet inhabited by giants).

This movie did so terribly that estimates of how much money Disney lost because of it became a heated topic of discussion. Walt Disney Studios eventually announced it was taking a $200 million second-quarter write-down because of “John Carter,” according to The Hollywood Reporter.

2013: “47 Ronin”

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Keanu Reeves as Kai in “47 Ronin.”Universal Pictures

“47 Ronin” had a lot of problems. The story the movie was based on was famous only in Japan, and the casting of Keanu Reeves instead of someone of Japanese descent to play the main character, a leaderless samurai avenging the death of his master, caused uproar.

Ultimately, it was a tremendous flop, making $151 million against a reported budget of $175 million.

2014: “Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return”

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“Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return.”Clarius Entertainment

“Legends of Oz” earned just $3.7 million in its first weekend and only $19 million worldwide — 27% of its estimated production cost of $70 million, Forbes reported.

The film was also plagued by behind-the-scenes drama as producers and fundraisers were accused of pocketing millions of dollars, The Wrap reported.

2015: “Pan”

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Hugh Jackman and Levi Miller as Blackbeard and Peter Pan.Warner Bros.

Another year, another reboot that tanked. “Pan,” a prequel to JM Barrie’s “Peter Pan,” was controversial before it even was released because of the casting of Rooney Mara (a white woman) as Tiger Lily, a Native American in the original.

Vulture reported that the film could’ve lost Warner Bros. up to $150 million.

2016: “Ben-Hur”

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Morgan Freeman and Jack Huston as Ilderim and Judah Ben-Hur.Paramount Pictures

“Ben-Hur” — the original — is one of the most iconic films of all time. So, of course, Hollywood thought a reboot would be a box-office gold. Unfortunately, the film — about a prince falsely accused of treason — was widely panned, with a 25% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and it made less than $100 million worldwide.

2017: “King Arthur: Legend of the Sword”

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Charlie Hunnam as Arthur.Warner Bros.

It turns out that audiences also didn’t want to see another reboot of the legend of King Arthur. We included it on our list of most disappointing movies of 2017, and it’s hard to disagree with the numbers. It earned just $15.4 million its opening weekend and is thought to have lost at least $150 million total, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

2018: “Mortal Engines”

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Hera Hilmar in “Mortal Engines.”Universal Pictures

The movie, based on the 2001 novel of the same name, ended up being another forgettable dystopian sci-fi flick. The premise — that after a catastrophic war, humanity turned cities into mobile “predator cities” — was just too strange for people to connect with.

The film had a disastrous opening weekend, making only $7.5 million, and dropped off another 76% the next weekend. After its release, Deadline posited that the movie stood to lose over $100 million.

2019: “Playmobil: The Movie”

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Daniel Radcliffe’s character in “Playmobil: The Movie.”STXfilms

The “Playmobil” movie broke a record upon its release — though not a positive one. It made just $670,000 across more than 2,000 screens in the US, making it the lowest box office of any newly released movie to open on that many screens. The Independent went so far as to call it the worst box-office flop of all time.

According to Box Office Mojo, the film, based on the Playmobil toys in an apparent bid to replicate the success of “The Lego Movie,” made only $1.1 million in the US and $16 million worldwide. It had a $75 million budget, according to ComicBook.com.

2020: The box office as a whole

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Robert Downey Jr in “Dolittle.”Universal

It’s impossible to say what the biggest flop of 2020 was. So many films went straight to streaming or VOD due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and those numbers aren’t readily available.

What we can do is list the movies that probably would have been hits, if not for COVID-19: “Mulan,” “Dolittle,” “Wonder Woman 1984,” “Soul,” “Onward,” “Tenet” … the list goes on.

2021: “Chaos Walking”

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Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley starred in “Chaos Walking.”Lionsgate

As Business Insider’s Travis Clark pointed out, the 2021 box office was not much better than 2020.

But the film that bombed the hardest was perhaps the dystopian thriller “Chaos Walking,” despite its major star power. It starred Tom Holland (who’s played Spider-Man — ever heard of him?) and Daisy Ridley (the most recent lead of the “Star Wars” franchise).

The film had a reported budget of $125 million, but made only $26.5 million.

Just a few months later, Holland starred in “Spider-Man: No Way Home,” which brought a struggling box office back to life — however temporarily — by making $1.9 billion. Its success seems to suggest that perhaps it’s the Marvel name, not Holland’s star power, that fills seats.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2022: “Strange World”

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“Strange World” is one of the biggest flops in Disney’s history.Walt Disney Animation

Deadline crowned “Strange World” the biggest flop of 2022. The animated action-adventure starred Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Jaboukie Young-White, Gabrielle Union, and Lucy Liu, but that star-studded cast didn’t translate to box-office gold.

The publication reported “Strange World” lost a breathtaking $197 million, after making a record-low $18 million in its five-day opening weekend (extended due to Thanksgiving).

2023: “The Marvels”

Brie Larson as Captain Marvel in "The Marvels."Brie Larson as Captain Marvel in "The Marvels."

Brie Larson as Captain Marvel in “The Marvels.”Laura Radford/Marvel Studios

Unfortunately for Disney, the studio had the biggest flop of the year for the second year in a row. “The Marvels'” box-office struggles were blasted across the internet, with many outlets proclaiming that the MCU might be dead in the water — though the quality of the film is,in Business Insider’s opinion, underrated.

According to Forbes, “The Marvels,” the sequel to $1 billion grosser “Captain Marvel,” reportedly lost $237 million, since its budget was reportedly over $450 million and the film made just $206 million.

Read the original article on Business Insider