Making movies has never been cheap, but the cost of producing blockbuster films has skyrocketed to astronomical levels over the years.
Movies are produced on all kinds of budgets, big and small, but it's no secret that the highest-profile movies generally tend to cost the most. Lots of factors play a role, including actors' salaries, lengthy post-production schedules, and marketing; in 21st-century filmmaking, special effects are often the biggest culprit.
As of 2019, these are the 16 movies that, taking inflation into account, are the most expensive ever made.
Marvel and Disney certainly didn't skimp when it came to paying for the Avengers films, and the second entry, 2015's Age of Ultron, was the most expensive of the bunch. With the sheer star wattage on display, cast salaries made up a hefty portion of the final tally - and thanks to the efforts of the man who practically launched the MCU, those salaries came in even higher than expected.
Robert Downey Jr. reportedly earned a whopping $50 million for the first Avengers outing - drastically more than any of his assembled colleagues. However, he refused to agree to the sequel unless his co-stars saw their own compensation get a significant bump. The gambit worked, and his castmates' salaries were raised considerably for Ultron, which saw its budget allegedly balloon to $444 million (adjusted: $478.7 million) according to a report published by Film LA. This comes with a caveat though, since there are conflicting budget totals from different sources. A 2018 Forbes piece claimed that Age of Ultron cost more than $495 million, and articles published around the time of the film's 2015 release quote a $250 million reported budget.
- Actors: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson
- Released: 2015
- Directed by: Joss Whedon
The fourth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise may not be remembered for much, but it does hold the distinction of being the second-most expensive movie ever made. On Stranger Tides was made for $378.5 million in 2011, a number confirmed by Disney. After readjusting the number for inflation in 2019, that amount jumps to a whopping $430 million.
Several factors accounted for the hefty price tag, not the least of which was the incredibly high price for retaining the film's primary star, Johnny Depp. The actor's involvement in the project set the budget back $55.5 million, but that's only the beginning. The visual effects budget exploded; 10 separate effects companies were brought in to work on the film simultaneously, with total costs bursting through the roof as a result. That's in addition to the expensive 3D post-production process.
An average film has around 200 visual effects, each of which might cost between $70,000 and $100,000 to produce. On Stranger Tides, by comparison, contains 1,112 of these effects - not to mention a production staff of 895 people. It's no wonder the price rose as high as it did.
- Actors: Johnny Depp, Penélope Cruz, Keith Richards, Judi Dench, Ian McShane
- Released: 2011
- Directed by: Rob Marshall
- Photo: Buena Vista Pictures
The third entry in the popular but pricey Pirates of the Caribbean series was the highest-grossing film of 2007, but that's before expenses are factored in. The film cost an estimated $341.8 million (adjusted: $421 million) to put together, and the money went toward the usual suspects: visual effects budgets and star salaries. Combined, they made it the most expensive film ever made... at least briefly.
Disney combined the production of this movie and its predecessor, Dead Man's Chest, in an effort to save money on sets, cast and crew transportation, and location costs, among other things. The reported grand total between the two movies was $604 million, but that kind of lavish spending has proven to be par for the course for the maritime franchise.
- Actors: Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Keith Richards, Orlando Bloom, Naomie Harris
- Released: 2007
- Directed by: Gore Verbinski
The powers that be have kept quiet on the total cost to get Avengers: Endgame ready for theaters, but estimates put it at somewhere in the neighborhood of $400 million. Anyone who has seen the movie knows its scale is epic, so the dollar value itself isn't exactly surprising. In addition to paying folks like Robert Downey Jr. and the rest of a gigantic (and well-paid) cast, the film required a substantial investment in special effects - even more so than most comic book films.
The final fight sequence - which clocks in at about 45 minutes - required near-constant digital effects, so it's no wonder the movie cost an arm and several legs. And that hefty price tag comes despite Endgame's cost-saving measure of filming back-to-back with its predecessor, Avengers: Infinity War. It's hard to know the exact figures spent on the movie - but if and when Disney confirms what it spent, Endgame may jump into the lead as the most expensive movie ever produced.
- Actors: Robert Downey Jr, Josh Brolin, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Hiddleston, Chris Evans
- Released: 2019
- Directed by: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo