The 10 Most Notorious Box Office Bombs of All Time

5. Ishtar (1987)


This Dustin Hoffman/Warren Beatty film about two singers who dream about making it big has found an audience in recent years, but when it was initially released it was considered one of the worst films ever made. Not only did the production budget exceed its earnings (it cost $51 million to make and earned just over $14 million), it’s another case of a movie lacking the right organization.

Stories behind the spectacular misfire of Ishtar have plagued this film; it has been reported that the director at one point abandoned the set, leaving the actors to direct their own scenes. Like Gigli, this film was such a disaster its filmmaker, Elaine May, never directed another film ever again.


4. Gigli (2003)

Gigli was released in that weird early 2000s period when it seemed like the idea of the “supercouple” was all the rage. Hollywood power couples were nothing new at the time, but the media really enjoyed reporting on every facet of their lives. Creating idiotic portmanteaus for couples became a thing; Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez became “Bennifer,” and even if you weren’t remotely interested in their lives you knew every detail.

Gigli had the unluckiness of being released around this strange time, and possibly due to the exhaustive reporting of Jennifer Lopez and Ben Affleck, people were not impressed. The film received terrible reviews, and it was a financial disaster: it cost roughly $75 million to make, and it only made just over $7 million back. The film was received so poorly, it arguably also affected the release of Jersey Girl the following year.

What is particularly sad about Gigli is its talented director, Martin Brest, never made another film again. Brest is the man responsible for directing classics like Scent of a Woman, and Midnight Run, and his last movie is unfortunately Gigli.


3. John Carter (2012)


John Carter is still a fairly recent film at this point, but many of you may still remember the disappointment the film left you with. Not only did the film receive poor reviews, it was one of the most costly films to produce ever with a reported budget of $263.7 million. Many people paid to see the film, but not nearly the amount it was projected to. In 2014 it was reported that the film still had not made enough to justify the film’s massive budget.

To put things in perspective: John Carter was originally planned as a major franchise by Disney, and there were apparently sequels in the works. The film’s performance was so poor the sequels have been cancelled. In addition, the film actually led to Rich Ross leaving Disney as a result. The film isn’t very old yet, but in another few years we might be studying John Carter as we do Heaven’s Gate.


2. Glitter (2001)


When Mariah Carey embarrassed herself during her New Year’s Eve performance in 2016, cinephiles around the globe may have thought to themselves, “This is nothing.” Her 2001 film Glitter marked the ultimate low period in the singer’s life. The film itself received vicious reviews, and is now considered one of the worst films of all time. If you watch the trailer, Glitter actually uses the stereotypical narrator voice we’re all familiar with, “In a world…..” Yes, it’s that bad.

Aside from being critically panned, the film also had the terrible misfortune of being released shortly after the events of 9/11. Going to see Glitter was not a priority for the American public at the time. The combination of poor reviews, and one of the biggest disasters in American history was too much for the film.

It’s also worth noting that around the time of its release Mariah Carey also suffered a breakdown in real life, perhaps due to the response to the film, and the endless working involved in promoting a film. This movie may have been one of those unfortunate things that was really never meant to be.


1. Heaven’s Gate (1980)

Heaven’s Gate might be the most prominent example of a film that bombed on a massive scale. It’s actually known as the movie that failed so spectacularly at the box office it brought down an entire studio (United Artists). This film might be one of the few cases where a work had such a poor performance with audiences, the American film industry would actually go on to study it for years. In fact, an entire book was written about the whole mishap (Final Cut by Steven Bach).

The story is long, but to tell it briefly: in 1980 Michael Cimino was still riding high from the success of The Deer Hunter. He was essentially given free rein to make another film, this time even bigger than his previous work. Heaven’s Gate’s costly budget, combined with other unfortunate factors led to the movie’s awful reputation. In later years it would go on to be included in The Criterion Collection, and eventually gain a fanbase.

However, it is an important learning experience in cinematic history that should never be forgotten. Anyone that is interested in the art of filmmaking should study the making of Heaven’s Gate, and its epic recipe of failure.

Author Bio: Dilair Singh is a film lover from Toronto. He particularly enjoys screenwriting, and hopes to sell a screenplay someday. You can find him on Twitter: @dilairsingh.