The 2000s Sci-Fi Action Epic Blockbuster Flop So Bad It’s Great, Stream Right Now

By Sckylar Gibby-Brown | Published

When thinking of the worst movies ever made, chances are one of two films pops into your head: The Room or John Travolta’s horrible passion project, Battlefield Earth. The second, a 2000s sci-fi action epic blockbuster, was based on the sci-fi novel written by the founder of Scientology, L. Ron Hubbard. It’s a movie that, just like The Room, is so bad it’s good.

Battlefield Earth Should Have Been A Success

Battlefield Earth on Netflix

Unlike The Room, which was made almost single-handedly by independent Polish-American actor and filmmaker Tommy Wiseau, Battlefield Earth had no business being as bad as it is. Despite being distributed by Warner Bros., starring and produced by A-lister John Travolta, and directed by Academy Award winner Roger Christian, the film was a total flop. It made $29.7 million at the box office, countering the low budget cost of $73 million, and it was completely torn apart by critics and audiences alike. 

In The Year 3,000

Battlefield Earth takes place in the year 3,000. And, unlike the 2000s pop band, Busted, would have you think humanity doesn’t live underwater, and your great, great, great granddaughter is never mentioned. Instead, the movie follows Jonnie Goodboy Tyler (Barry Pepper) as he ventures from his cave-dwelling community in the Rocky Mountains.

An Earth Conquered By Aliens

As the plot of Battlefield Earth unfolds, Jonnie soon discovers the truth behind the “demons” ruling Earth, only to be captured by the alien Psychlos and enslaved in a base in Denver’s ruins. Meanwhile, the cunning Psychlo security chief Terl (John Travolta), stranded on Earth, plans to exploit a gold deposit to escape the planet. Jonnie, cleverly learning Psychlo language and technology, secretly prepares his fellow slaves for rebellion.

Pitched As Pulp Fiction For The Year 3000

While on the surface, Battlefield Earth doesn’t seem too much more far-fetched than your average sci-fi flick, it took Travolta almost twenty years to get a studio to agree to do the film. Scientology has always been a controversial topic in Hollywood, and while major players like Travolta and Tom Cruise are actively involved in the church, many executives prefer to stay as far away from the organization as possible. 

Travolta continuously pitched the film, using his fame from Pulp Fiction to his advantage and claiming the movie would be “like Pulp Fiction for the year 3000,” and “like Star Wars, only better.” No studios believed him. But Travolta was so interested in seeing Battlefield Earth on the big screen that when he finally found a production company willing to touch the feature, he significantly lowered his acting fee and invested $5 million of his own funds so they could stay on budget. 

Travolta’s Passion Project

Unfortunately, it was all in vain. When Travolta’s passion project hit the theaters, it became an immediate laughing stock. Despite an impressive opening weekend of $11,548,898, the film’s earnings swiftly plummeted, with a staggering 67 percent drop the following weekend. Ultimately, Battlefield Earth earned a mere $29,725,663 worldwide, failing to recoup its production and marketing costs and solidifying its place as one of the most notorious box office failures in cinema history.

Nominated For Multiple Razzies

Battlefield Earth went on to be nominated for seven Razzies at the 2000 Golden Raspberry Awards and won all of them. But despite winning numerous accolades signifying how bad this movie really is, Battlefield Earth has become a cult classic. It’s a classic you can stream for yourself for free on Tubi, or via video on demand through Amazon, AppleTV+, YouTube, and Vudu.