5 Massive Blockbuster Movies That Were Box Office Flops

The biggest box office flops include Battleship and John Carter.

By Phillip Moyer | Updated

Johnny Depp

When studios make big-budget films, they expect to get a return on their investment that they can use to impress their investors and keep their stock price high. But not every film is good enough, or marketable enough, to justify dropping hundreds of millions of dollars on its creation. When those films come out, they become something every studio dreads: box office flops.

There has been a long history of box office flops plaguing Hollywood throughout the years, and this list will show you some of the worst ones in recent memory.

5. King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017)

A lot of the box office flops on this list are films that people have at least heard of, even if nobody went to see them. However, even fans of director Guy Ritchie might not realize that he directed the epic fantasy film King Arthur: Legend of the Sword back in 2017.

He did, though, and despite what was apparently an extremely well-funded marketing campaign, nobody went to see it. The $175 million movie had an estimated $100 million marketing budget, which made some Hollywood insiders say that the film’s status as a box office flop was almost inevitable. They were right, seeing made just $146 million at the box office, with only $39.2 million of that being made in the United States and Canada. 

4. Mars Needs Moms (2011)

Speaking of box office flops that people saw coming from a mile away, Disney inexplicably decided that what 2011 audiences wanted most was a film about aliens abducting a kid’s mom because Martian society is really bad at childcare. For less-inexplicable reasons, nobody went to watch the movie.

It wasn’t just the dead-on-arrival story that turned off audiences either — the motion capture animation is reminiscent of the 2004 Tom Hanks film The Polar Express, since both films come from director Robert Zemeckis, but without the crutch this time of a much-beloved children’s book to draw audiences in. The movie didn’t even earn back a third of its $150 million production budget, making only $39 million at the box office, making it one of the worst box office flops of all time. 

3. Battleship (2012)

hot wheels

It’s not exactly clear why Universal decided it was a good idea to create a big-budget sci-fi blockbuster movie based on a fairly bare-bones board game, but they did. Nobody can say the studio didn’t go all-in on trying to translate the fairly mundane gameplay into a high-stakes battle for the fate of humanity. They can say a lot of other things, though, considering how it was a box office flop and a critical dud that nobody else has adapted a board game into a movie since (unless you count the fictional magic board game Jumanji, which you shouldn’t).

As tends to be the case for box office flops, you need to look beyond the production budget of Battleship to understand how it was a flop. Although it made 312 million against a $209 million budget, Universal ultimately ended up losing $150 million on the film. 

2. The Lone Ranger (2013)

Johnny Depp

Johnny Depp was a huge box office draw in 2013, so it made sense for Disney to use his appeal to resurrect a long-dormant iconic western character with The Lone Ranger. What didn’t make sense was not to cast him as the Lone Ranger himself, but rather as the ranger’s Native American ally Tonto based on nothing more than a half-remembered rumor about the ancestry of Johnny Depp’s great-grandmother.

What made things even worse was Depp’s choice to portray Tonto as something of a discount Jack Sparrow, which… didn’t work as well as they thought it would. The film, which had a $225 million production budget, only brought in $260 million in box office receipts — a complete flop that lost Disney about $150 million after all other expenses were accounted for. 

1. John Carter (2012)

The 2012 Disney film John Carter was based on the 1912 space adventure novel A Princess of Mars by Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs. The story is a time capsule of early 20th-century sci-fi pulp novels that feature swashbuckling adventure and assumes aliens are everywhere, every planet has a breathable atmosphere, and humans are totally the best creatures in the universe because why wouldn’t they be? 

Not that you’d know that from the title, which plasters the main character’s name front and center and assumes that everyone would remember a 100-year-old pulp novel so well that they’d flock to theaters. It didn’t work, and the $250 million sci-fi epic only brought in $284 worldwide. After marketing and other non-production expenses, Disney lost an estimated $200 million on the film.