18 Big-Budget Movies That Flopped At The Box Office And 18 Low-Budget Movies That Swept Award Season

18 Big-Budget Movies That Flopped At The Box Office And 18 Low-Budget Movies That Swept Award Season

The early 2000s was a turbulent time for the movies

Movies are an investment, and it can be hard to tell which ones will be bombs and which will head to the award shows.

The Tonight Show / giphy.com

Sure, flops can become cult classics (I will defend The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle until I have no friends left), and critically-acclaimed movies can leave the cultural zeitgeist pretty quick. For example, Crash may have won Best Picture, but is it still talked about nearly as much as Brokeback Mountain, which was also nominated that year?

Artificial intelligence is getting increasingly better at predicting box-office hits, but it’s not quite there yet. With all of its algorithms and machine learning, even the streaming giant, Netflix, backed the third biggest flop in movie history this year (The 355). But the unpredictability is part of the fun of Hollywood, and these are their biggest hits and misses of all time.

Disclaimers: Losses have been adjusted for inflation; all descriptions courtesy of IMDb


John Carter (2012)

Disney / giphy.com

“Transported to Barsoom, a Civil War vet discovers a barren planet seemingly inhabited by 12-foot tall barbarians. Finding himself prisoner of these creatures, he escapes, only to encounter Woola and a princess in desperate need of a savior.”

Cost: $263.7 million

Grossed: $284.1 million

Lost: $133–236 million


Ben-Hur (2016)

Paramount / youtube.com

“Judah Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince falsely accused of treason by his adopted brother, an officer in the Roman army, returns to his homeland after years at sea to seek revenge, but finds redemption.”

Cost: $100 million

Grossed: $94.1 million

Lost: $85–135 million


Beloved (1998)

Touchstone Pictures / youtube.com

“Based on the book by Toni Morrison, in which a slave is visited by the spirit of a mysterious young woman.”

Cost: $80 million

Grossed: $22.9 million

Lost: $114 million


Battleship (2012)

Hasbro / youtube.com

“A fleet of ships is forced to do battle with an armada of unknown origins in order to discover and thwart their destructive goals.”

Cost: $209–220 million

Grossed: $303 million

Lost: $177 million


Battlefield Earth (2000)

Warner Bros / youtube.com

“It’s the year 3000 [CE], and the Earth is lost to the alien race of Psychlos. Humanity is enslaved by these gold-thirsty tyrants, who are unaware that their ‘man-animals’ are about to ignite the rebellion of a lifetime.”

Cost: $73–103 million

Grossed: $29.7 million

Lost: $115 million


Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (2002)

Warner Bros / youtube.com

“Tasked with destroying each other, an FBI agent and a rogue DIA agent soon discover that a much bigger enemy is at work.”

Cost: $70 million

Grossed: $19.9 million

Lost: $106 million


The Astronaut’s Wife (1999)

New Line Cinema / youtube.com

“After an explosion in space and subsequent two-minute radio-out period, two astronauts return home to their wives. Slowly it’s revealed that they’re not the same as they were.”

Cost: $75 million

Grossed: $19.6 million

Lost: $106 million


Around the World in 80 Days (2004)

Buena Vista Pictures / youtube.com

“To win a bet, an eccentric British inventor, beside his Chinese valet and an aspiring French artist, embarks on a trip full of adventures and dangers around the world in exactly eighty days.”

Cost: $110 million

Grossed: $72.2 million

Lost: $106 million


Allied (2016)

Paramount / youtube.com

“In 1942, a Canadian intelligence officer in North Africa encounters a female French Resistance fighter on a deadly mission behind enemy lines. When they reunite in London, their relationship is tested by the pressures of war.”

Cost: $85 million

Grossed: $118.6 million

Lost: $85–102 million


Ali (2001)

Columbia / youtube.com

“A biography of sports legend, Muhammad Ali, focusing on his triumphs and controversies between 1964 and 1974.”

Cost: $107 million

Grossed: $87.7 million

Lost: $96 million


Alexander (2004)

Warner Bros / youtube.com

“Alexander, the King of Macedonia and one of the greatest army leaders in the history of warfare, conquers much of the known world.”

Cost: $155 million

Grossed: $167.3 million

Lost: $102 million


The Alamo (2004)

Buena Vista Pictures / youtube.com

“Based on the 1836 standoff between a group of Texan and Tejano men, led by Davy Crockett and Jim Bowie, and Mexican dictator Santa Anna’s forces at the Alamo in San Antonio Texas.”

Cost: $107 million

Grossed: $25.8 million

Lost: $135 million


The Adventures of Rocky & Bullwinkle (2000)

Universal / youtube.com

“When enemies Boris, Natasha, and Fearless Leader escape into the real world with a nefarious scheme, Rocky and Bullwinkle do the same, and team up with a young F.B.I. Agent to stop the trio.”

Cost: $76–98.6 million

Grossed: $35.1 million

Lost: $100 million


The Adventures of Pluto Nash (2002)

Warner Bros / youtube.com

“In the future, a man struggles to keep his lunar nightclub out of the hands of the Mafia.”

Cost: $100 million

Grossed: $7.1 million

Lost: $145 million


The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1988)

Columbia / youtube.com

“An account of Baron Munchausen’s supposed travels and fantastical experiences across late 18th-century Europe with his band of misfits.”

Cost: $46.6 million

Grossed: $8.1 million

Lost: $88 million


The 355 (2022)

Universal / youtube.com

“When a top-secret weapon falls into mercenary hands, a wild card CIA agent joins forces with three international agents on a lethal mission to retrieve it, while staying a step ahead of a mysterious woman who’s tracking their every move.”

Cost: $40–75 million

Grossed: $27.7 million

Lost: $93 million


47 Ronin (2013)

Universal / youtube.com

“A band of samurai set out to avenge the death and dishonor of their master at the hands of a ruthless shogun.”

Cost: $175–225 million

Grossed: $151.8 million

Lost: $112 million


The 13th Warrior (1999)

Buena Vista Pictures

“A man, having fallen in love with the wrong woman, is sent by the sultan himself on a diplomatic mission to a distant land as an ambassador. Stopping at a Viking village port to restock on supplies, he finds himself unwittingly embroiled in a quest to banish a mysterious threat in a distant Viking land.”

Cost: $100–160 million

Grossed: $61.7 million

Lost: $112–210 million

Indie Movies That Swept Awards Season


Rocky (1976)

Fotos International / Getty Images

“A small-time Philadelphia boxer gets a supremely rare chance to fight the world heavyweight champion in a bout in which he strives to go the distance for his self-respect.”

Cost: $960,000

Won: Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Film Editing, #57 on the AFI’s Top 100 Movies of All Time


One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

United Artists / giphy.com

“A criminal pleads insanity and is admitted to a mental institution, where he rebels against the oppressive nurse and rallies up the scared patients.”

Cost: $3 million

Won: One of only three movies in history to win the “Big Five” Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay), #33 on the AFI’s Top 100 Movies of All Time


The Graduate (1967)

United Artists / giphy.com

“A disillusioned college graduate finds himself torn between his older lover and her daughter.”

Cost: $3 million

Won: Academy Award for Best Director, #17 on the AFI’s Top 100 Movies of All Time


Moonlight (2016)

Araya Doheny / WireImage

“A young African-American man grapples with his identity and sexuality while experiencing the everyday struggles of childhood, adolescence, and burgeoning adulthood.”

Cost: $4 million

Won: Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor


Nomadland (2020)

Searchlight Pictures / giphy.com

“A woman in her sixties, after losing everything in the Great Recession, embarks on a journey through the American West, living as a van-dwelling modern-day nomad.”

Cost: $5 million

Won: Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actress in a Leading Role


Chariots of Fire (1981)

20th Century Fox / youtube.com

“Two British track athletes, one a determined Jewish person and the other a devout Christian, are driven to win in the 1924 Olympics as they wrestle with issues of pride and conscience.”

Cost: $5.5 million

Won: Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, Best Costume Design, and Best Score


Dirty Dancing (1987)

Vestron Pictures / giphy.com

“Spending the summer at a Catskills resort with her family, Frances “Baby” Houseman falls in love with the camp’s dance instructor, Johnny Castle.”

Cost: $6 million

Won: Academy Award for Best Original Song


Crash (2004)

Lionsgate Films / youtube.com

“Los Angeles citizens with vastly separate lives collide in interweaving stories of race, loss and redemption.”

Cost: $6.5 million

Won: Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing


Capote (2005)

Sony Pictures Classics / youtube.com

“In 1959, Truman Capote learns of the murder of a Kansas family and decides to write a book about the case. While researching for his novel, In Cold Blood, Capote forms a relationship with one of the killers, Perry Smith, who is on death row.”

Cost: $7 million

Won: Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role


Pulp Fiction (1994)

Miramax / giphy.com

“The lives of two mob hitmen, a boxer, a gangster and his wife, and a pair of diner bandits intertwine in four tales of violence and redemption.”

Cost: $8 million

Won: Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, #94 on the AFI’s Top 100 Movies of All Time


Good Will Hunting (1997)

Miramax / giphy.com

“Will Hunting, a janitor at M.I.T., has a gift for mathematics, but needs help from a psychologist to find direction in his life.”

Cost: $10 million

Won: Academy Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role and Best Original Screenplay


2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

MGM / giphy.com

“The Monoliths push humanity to reach for the stars; after their discovery in Africa generations ago, the mysterious objects lead mankind on an awesome journey to Jupiter, with the help of H.A.L. 9000: the world’s greatest supercomputer.”

Cost: $12 million

Won: Academy Award for Best Visual Effects, #15 on the AFI’s Top 100 Movies of All Time


The Imitation Game (2014)

The Weinstein Company / youtube.com

“During World War II, the English mathematical genius Alan Turing tries to crack the German Enigma code with help from fellow mathematicians while attempting to come to terms with his troubled private life.”

Cost: $14 million

Won: Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay


Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Pathé / youtube.com

“A Mumbai teenager reflects on his life after being accused of cheating on the Indian version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

Cost: $15 million

Won: Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Achievement in Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Score, Best Original Song, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing


The Hurt Locker (2008)

Summit Entertainment / youtube.com

“During the Iraq War, a sergeant recently assigned to an army bomb squad is put at odds with his squad mates due to his maverick way of handling his work.”

Cost: $15 million

Won: Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Film Editing, Best Achievement in Sound Mixing, and Best Achievement in Sound Editing


The King’s Speech (2010)

Paramount / youtube.com

“The story of King George VI, his impromptu ascension to the throne of the British Empire in 1936, and the speech therapist who helped the unsure monarch overcome his stammer.”

Cost: $15 million

Won: Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor in a Leading Role, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay


Birdman (2014)

Searchlight Pictures / giphy.com

“A washed-up superhero actor attempts to revive his fading career by writing, directing, and starring in a Broadway production.”

Cost: $18 million

Won: Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Achievement in Cinematography


Shakespeare in Love (1998)

Universal / giphy.com

“The world’s greatest ever playwright, William Shakespeare, is young, out of ideas and short of cash, but meets his ideal woman and is inspired to write one of his most famous plays.”

Cost: $25 million

Won: Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Original Screenplay, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, and Best Score

Which flops are your favorite, and which Oscar winners are overrated? Let me know in the comments!