It’s a frustrating experience for both movie fans and studios when critical acclaim doesn’t match a film’s box office performance, especially when higher benchmarks continue to be set from the latest blockbusters. High expectations and intense marketing can help turn a movie into a hit.
However, they can also be that film’s undoing when it only performs decently at the box office. A movie’s success is sometimes easy to predict, but it’s much more fascinating when films that are set to dominate the box office barely make an impact and quietly disappear.
10 Blade Runner 2049 Couldn’t Replicate The Original’s Success
Visionary genre master Denis Villeneuve’s Blade Runner 2049 faithfully expands upon the 1982 original. Yet, it’s also able to establish its own voice. Blade Runner 2049’s estimated budget was as high as $185 million, and the movie went on to accumulate a worldwide gross of nearly $260 million.
However, it was reported that the movie would need to reach a worldwide total of $400 million to simply break even and that the film’s performance led to an $80 million loss for the studio. A runtime of nearly three hours was cited as a major factor in the sequel’s inability to connect with mainstream audiences, despite early critical praise.
9 Audiences Weren’t Ready For Speed Racer’s Cartoon Come To Life
The Wachowskis remain some of the most creative names in the film industry, and their live-action adaptation of 1960s anime staple Speed Racer is an underrated visual masterpiece. Speed Racer truly captures the essence of anime, which admittedly is not for everyone. The film’s worldwide gross fell close to $30 million short of its $120 million budget.
Speed Racer failed at the box office, but it still turned into a decent overall performer for Warner Bros. due to the wide range of licensed merchandise. Speed Racer has only become more of a cult classic over time and a modern re-release would easily outperform its original.
8 The Insider Is A No-Frills Adult Drama That Went Over Audiences’ Heads
Michael Mann is an acclaimed director who has faced serious struggles at the box office in recent years, but even some of the filmmaker’s most celebrated movies are considered failures when viewed purely in terms of box office results. The Insider is based on the 60 Minutes whistleblower exposé on the tobacco industry.
Despite starring Al Pacino and Russell Crowe, who give career-best performances in the picture, and seven Academy Award nominations, including for Best Picture, The Insider barely surpassed a worldwide gross of $60 million against a budget that was estimated to be between $68 and 90 million.
7 Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World Works Better A Decade Later
It’s always disappointing when passionate projects from ambitious directors can’t connect on a universal level or the marketing department fails to understand what makes the movie special. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World is Edgar Wright’s bombastic adaptation of Bryan Lee O’Malley’s graphic novel series about music, video games, and a cabal of seven evil exes that stand in the way of young love.
Edgar Wright assembles the perfect cast, headlined by Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, but the nerd-friendly film failed to make back its budget. Appreciation for the movie has only grown since its release.
6 Office Space Is An Iconic Comedy That Was Hurt By Innovation
Mike Judge is a brilliant comedic mind who’s found colossal success on television with Beavis and Butt-Head, King of the Hill, and Silicon Valley, but his cinematic endeavors have consistently flopped. Office Space is a subversive takedown of office corporate culture that’s emblematic of the 1990s.
Office Space is considered a classic, but 20th Century Fox’s confusion over how to market the movie resulted in a net loss and a worldwide box office that barely matches the film’s minuscule $10 million budget. Office Space’s performance is disheartening, but Judge’s Idiocracy brought in less than $500,000 due to its complete mismanagement.
5 Steve Jobs Is An Artistic Biopic That Failed To Find Its Place
2015’s sophisticated Steve Jobs biopic features a script by Aaron Sorkin that’s directed by Danny Boyle, with a cast that’s headlined by Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, and Seth Rogen. The film adopts a unique approach that zooms in on three distinct moments during Jobs‘ innovative life.
While not a flashy or conventionally expensive movie, Steve Jobs‚ $30 million budget would need to gross $120 worldwide in order to break even. The film brought in just shy of $35 million worldwide, making it a major loss, despite it receiving heavy accolades at both the Golden Globes and Academy Awards.
4 Modern Classic The Shawshank Redemption Couldn’t Find Its Crowd
There have been popular Stephen King film and television adaptations for decades, but Frank Darabont’s The Shawshank Redemption is often heralded as the gold standard of King’s dramatic adaptations.
The Shawshank Redemption struck a chord with critics and the Academy, but the movie opened eighth at the box office and was pulled early from 3/4 of theaters once it underperformed at the box office. By the end of the film’s run, it was only able to reach an international gross of $12 million against a $10 million budget. The “boring” film was viewed as a major failure.
3 Audiences Were Cold To Children Of Men’s Gritty Dystopia
Alfonso Cuarón has an eclectic filmography that features mainstream family-friendly franchise blockbusters like Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as well as artistic Academy Award-nominated tone poems like Roma.
2006’s Children of Men is a staggering futuristic dystopia that stars Clive Owen and Michael Caine in a fractured world where the hope for humanity’s survival rests on the last pregnant woman on the planet. The ambitious film is beautiful, but it brought in just over $70 million worldwide, falling short of its $76 million budget. The movie’s initial limited release didn’t do its box office any favors.
2 Slither’s B-Movie Horror-Humor Hybrid Left Audiences Confounded
James Gunn has grown into one of film’s biggest directors, overseeing pivotal properties for both Marvel and DC’s cinematic universes. Gunn’s feature film debut, 2006’s Slither, is the perfect distillation of the director’s varied sensibilities, but it was a polarizing project at the time.
The studio grew nervous over the film’s weird horror-comedy blend, which has not become Gunn’s trademark in many respects. Slither was a serious loss that brought in a worldwide gross of $13 million, a total that wouldn’t even cover half of the movie’s $30 million budget after its marketing budget was thrown in.
1 Man On The Moon Can’t Match The Legend Of Its Subject
Biopics can be a tough sell, even with A-list talent involved. Milos Forman’s Man on the Moon casts Jim Carrey as the enigmatic comedian, Andy Kaufman. The biopic does a successful job of illuminating Kaufman’s complexity. However, it proved to be a story that mainstream audiences weren’t terribly interested in.
With a worldwide gross of $47 million, Man on the Moon fell quite short of its estimated budget of $52-82 million. Carrey’s performance in Man on the Moon is still singled out as some of the most nuanced work from his career, but the film’s lackluster performance ended the actor’s box office domination.
NEXT: 8 Iconic Directors Whose Films Are Rarely Big Box Office Hits