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The 13 Least Profitable Movies Ever Made

Updated February 5, 2020 228.0k views13 items

Some movies fizzle, and then some just plain tank. The films here represent the A-bombs of the A-list: gargantuan-budget pictures that nobody seemed to want to sit through. While not all of these movies are necessarily bad, all of them turned into huge losses for their respective studios. Even the most marketable actors and elaborate sets could not drag in audiences to fill the theater seats.

There are also plenty of rumors in the world of cinematic failures; some fabled studio-bankrupting flicks actually turned profits. Waterworld, for example, did not make the roster below since it actually raked in around $264 million in global box office sales, far more than the $175 million that went into production. However, the epic went way over budget, earned less-than-glowing reviews and fared rather poorly in the American market (the bulk of revenue came from overseas), badly tarnishing actor/producer Kevin Costner's reputation. While Waterworld managed to escape this list, Costner's name still appears for other work.

What are the least successful movies? There are some realy clunkers on this list, and they are considered failures since they didn't make any money and were pretty to boot.

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  • The Postman
    Video: YouTube

    Budget: $80 million
    Box Office: $17.6 million

    After the fiasco that was Waterworld, actor/director Kevin Costner decided to resurrect his floundering career with…another post-apocalyptic epic starring himself. The Postman (2007) tells the tale of an actor struggling to survive in what's left of America after a devastating nuclear war. Upon discovering a stash of undelivered mail in an abandoned post office, he sets out on a mission to provide other survivors with old letters from their loved ones, bringing new hope for civilization itself.

    Critics didn't buy the story, and movie-goers didn't buy tickets. Instead of salvaging the wreckage from Waterworld's wake, The Postman only delivered another colossal failure for Costner, grossing far less than it's much-mocked predecessor.

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  • Cutthroat Island
    Video: YouTube

    Budget: $98 million
    Box Office: $18.5 million

    This 1995 action film from Renny Harlin stars Geena Davis as a lady pirate on a quest to save her father. The film was such a massive flop, it was a major factor in bringing down an entire production company. Carolco never released another movie after Cutthroat Island, and declared bankruptcy shortly after its debut. Did it also contribute to the divorce of star Geena Davis and director Renny Harlin a scant 3 years later? Who knows?

    The net loss translates to $146,947,958 with today's inflation.

    Davis did manage to redeem herself with the release of The Long Kiss Goodnight the following year. While not a smash hit, the film pulled in a respectable box office haul of over $89 million and received favorable reviews.
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  • Heaven's Gate
    Video: YouTube

    Budget: $44 million
    Box Office: $3.5 million

    This big-budget Western about the Johnson County War seemed to have all of the elements necessary for success. Director Michael Cimino had just won an Academy Award for The Deer Hunter, and the follow-up starring Christopher Walken and Kris Kristofferson was slated to be his next smash hit. However, the production fell far behind schedule and wound up costing more than quadruple the estimated price tag.

    Once the film was finally completed, critics drove audiences away with brutal pans. Vincent Canby of The New York Times likened the disaster to "a forced four-hour walking tour of one's own living room."

    The total box office loss for Heaven's Gate equals over $104 million in today's market.

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  • Ishtar
    Video: YouTube

    Budget: $55 million
    Box Office: $14.4 million

    There was no shortage of talent in this notorious bomb from 1980. Superstars Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty played two lofty-minded (but rather unskilled) singer/songwriters looking for gigs in Morocco who inadvertently become involved in Cold War strife.

    The production was plagued by an ever-increasing budget paired with personality conflicts between Beatty and director Elaine May, among others. A switch in management during post-production caused further issues.

    Upon release, lackluster performances and negative reviews helped contribute to the low box-office appeal of Ishtar. In the end, the movie lost what would amount to more than $80 million with adjustments for inflation.

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