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11 of the biggest movie bombs in the history of cinema

By / 04.05.12

Disney


People love movies. Perhaps the only thing people love more than movies is making fun of them when they bomb out in spectacular fashion. I wish I could say we were above such things, but, well… here we are reveling in the biggest movie bombs of all time. The truth is that movies bomb for many different reasons. Sometimes, their budget is just so bloated that it’s impossible to make the money back. Sometimes, the movie is just so hilariously awful that even if it makes a dollar or two, no one will ever admit to having spent that dollar or two. Sometimes it ruins whole careers and sometimes, as is the case with the movie ranked first on this list, it even kills people. Yes, kills people.

11 ‘John Carter’

Disney


This poor movie never even had a chance. Disney basically took it out behind the barn and shot it dead before it even got a chance to live. Out of all the reviews on-line, this is the best one I could find, from the twitter account of American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis: “John Carter doesn’t really start until Taylor Kitsch is shaved and put into a loincloth. This is about forty minutes in. Then you can leave.” Well, okay then. According to Disney, they plan on losing $200 million because of this fiasco. As punishment, the dude (or lady dude, we’re not sexist around here) that green-lit this piece of shit will be shaved and put into a loincloth and then hung from Space Mountain for a week where he will be pelted with garbage by angry children and Taylor Kitsch’s agent. At least that’s what I heard, and my sources are impeccable. After all, I’m a professional.

10 ‘The Alamo’

Touchstone Pictures


Riding the patriotic post 9/11 fervor, The Alamo should have probably been a hit with the Toby Keith crowd, but it had the misfortune of opening up against The Passion of the Christ and not even Texas war heroes stand a chance against bleedin’ Jesus when Ma and Pa Kettle leave the Kansas homestead to check out their yearly moving picture. (Stereotyping is fun!) The movie was a big budget disaster, costing almost $150 million to make and grossing only $25 million worldwide. I mean, for perspective’s sake, even the last Martin Lawrence Big Momma movie made almost $40,000,000. You could almost literally shit in a bag, have Tyler Perry film it and it would make more money than The Alamo did. You know, for a movie that features a bunch of Mexicans getting shot up, you’d figure this would have played much, much bigger with the Tea Party crowd. Then again (spoiler alert!) the Mexicans did win the battle so maybe that explains it. Also, the movie features Billy Bob Thornton playing Davy Crockett. You’re right, that probably explains it even better.

9 ‘Showgirls’

MGM


To be honest, I think enough people have forced themselves to watch Showgirls that it’s probably become mildly profitable for the studio, but is a movie still a bomb if it makes money just because people want to see why it was such a bomb? That’s some heavy shit right there, a question better left to philosophers such as Aristotle, Socrates or that stoner who lives in the alley behind 7-11 and always wants to talk about how the stars in the sky are actually all little people. The simple fact is that this movie was so horrible that it forever ruined the career of star Elizabeth Berkeley and made dudes say “Nah, no thanks” when someone tried to drag them to a movie about a bunch of naked women. Now that’s when you know a movie is a bomb.

8 ‘Battlefield Earth’

Morgan Creek


You could probably write a whole book about why this movie was such a colossal bomb. It ruined careers, it made people whisper the name of Ed Wood, and it was one of the first tremors in the force that warned people that maybe, just maybe, to paraphrase the great Bill S. Preston, Esq. (Or maybe it was Ted Theodore Logan? I don’t know. If you need to rewatch Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure just so you can yell at me in the comments, I understand.) strange things were afoot at the Scientology Center. In the end, two scenes stand out for me: the one in which Barry Pepper leads a band of human savages, damn near reduced to wild apes, to a hidden cache of fighter jets, jets which not only miraculously still work, but which these neo-cavemen are capable of flying like experts; and any scene involving John Travolta dressed like, well, just look at the picture. If a bomb had a face, that would be it.

7 ‘Gigli’

Revolution


Oh good lord, Gigli. A list like this couldn’t even exist without including Gigli, a movie so bad that it essentially shot dead in their tracks the careers of both Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez. Sure, Affleck managed to recover, but he had to reinvent himself as a director before he could prove that he wasn’t radioactive as a leading man. Meanwhile, Jennifer Lopez now argues with Steven Tyler for a living. If that wasn’t enough, the movie was so horrible that it helped to demolish Affleck and Lopez’s obnoxious and infamous “Bennifer” relationship and a thousand other would be relationships after guys unwittingly brought their first dates to see this abomination. So, theoretically, you can only conclude that Gigli was directly responsible for not only all those failed potential relationships but also the loss of any and all children that would have resulted from those relationships. Therefore, it’s only logical to conclude that Gigli is one of the biggest mass murderers of children in history. It’s worse than Kony.

6 ‘The Adventures of Pluto Nash’

Castlerock


To be honest, I could have gone with just about any Eddie Murphy movie made over the past twenty years or so. In the end, though, the lucky winner of the Eddie Murphy crap-platter has to be The Adventures of Pluto Nash, a movie so horrible, so unnecessary and just so damn pointless, that work on the movie actually begun in the mid-‘80s and wasn’t finished until the year 2000, which is just mind boggling. My mind, it is boggled. And if that wasn’t enough, the movie, which cost $100 million to make was then shelved for another two years because it was too horrible to even see the light of day. I mean, Hollywood releases shit like Baby Geniuses all the time and yet, it was deemed that The Adventures of Pluto Nash was too awful to even meet those lofty standards. Think about THAT. When the movie finally was released, it made all of $7 million. The good news is that the movie was such a debacle that it scared Eddie Murphy straight and he’s never made a bad movie since. Unless, of course, you count I Spy, Daddy Day Care, The Haunted Mansion, Norbit, Meet Dave, Imagine That or A Thousand Words. Jesus Christ, Eddie.

5 ‘Cutthroat Island’

Carolco Pictures


Before Johnny Depp was making a bajillion dollars (a rough estimate provided by Guyism accountants) playing trashed pirate Jack Sparrow (his character was supposed to be perpetually shitfaced, or at least really, really stoned, right?), there was another movie about pirates, a swashbuckling big budget surefire hit starring… wait, Matthew Modine and Geena Davis? I’m just imagining that pitch meeting: “So, we only need $115 million dollars to make the movie. Wait, wait, before you say no, we’ve got Matthew Modine on-board. He’s worth $200 million just by himself!” Well, sign me up! Of course, the movie made somewhere in the neighborhood of negative infinity dollars and was so disastrous that it actually caused the studio that made it, Carolco Pictures, to declare bankruptcy and go out of business. I mean, that’s what you get when you write a $115 million check for Matthew Modine to dress like a pirate, but still, that’s pretty harsh. But being so bad that your studio goes out of business? Yeah, that’s worth a spot on this list.

4 ‘Waterworld’

Davis Entertainment


Prior to Waterworld, Kevin Costner was quite possibly the biggest movie star in the world. Before you do a spit-take and ruin your monitor, just remember that he was coming off the smash hits Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and Dances With Wolves, for which he won an Academy Award. Naturally, this meant that he was given pretty much full control over his future projects, including the ill-fated Waterworld. Then the set sank – yes, the set actually sank over and over again – costs skyrocketed, the movie was a huge flop and Kevin Costner was forever doomed to be known as the Kevin Costner you think about on those rare occasions when you do think about him, like, say, whenever you take a particularly odious bowl movement. Of course, since everyone in Hollywood is either a dullard or coked out of their minds they let him do it again, and he came up with The Postman, which probably should have been on this list too. Now, Kevin Costner would be lucky if someone trusted him with ten bucks to go on a coffee and donut run, and he has Waterworld to thank for it.

3 ‘Ishtar’

Columbia


Ishtar wasn’t so much awful as it was just a historically horrible flop. Starring major stars Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman, everyone just assumed it would be a hit. Instead, it lost copious amounts of money, led to the studio being sold to Sony, a rift in the relationship between once close friends Beatty and director Elaine May and a reputation as the go-to movie whenever anyone discusses movie bombs. Its sheer reputation alone gets it this high on the list. It is a legend but for all the wrong reasons, the sort of movie people write books about as a way to explain the dysfunction and greed run-amok in Hollywood. Ishtar is a cliché now. The actual details almost don’t even matter. It has passed from real-world failure into bomb legend.

2 ‘Heaven’s Gate’

Partisan Productions


Heaven’s Gate was director Michael Cimino’s follow-up to his classic 1978 Vietnam flick The Deer Hunter, and to say that it was a bomb would be like calling a nuclear blast a firecracker. Heaven’s Gate was such a debacle that it effectively destroyed Cimino’s career (and remember, before it was made he was mentioned in the same breath as Scorsese, Coppola, et al) completely ruined the Western genre for over a decade, and contributed heavily to the collapse of its studio, United Artists. Furthermore (yeah, there’s more) Cimino’s style and reputation as an auteur became so heavily associated with the film’s flameout that it effectively signaled the end for an entire era of filmmaking – with its failure, that 70s golden era of film-making, featuring gritty, artistic and daring movies by legend after legend, was basically destroyed, and the idea of film as an art form was pretty much buried for another decade and a half. Now that’s a bomb.

1 ‘The Conqueror’

RKO Radio Pictures


The Conqueror, produced in 1956 by Howard Hughes, stars John Wayne as Genghis Khan. I shouldn’t even have to write anything more than that. But, believe me, there’s more. Oh yes, there’s much more. Aside from its absurd premise and ridiculous casting, the movie tanked so egregiously that it destroyed its studio, RKO, which for years had been one of the powerhouse studios in Hollywood. But what really puts The Conqueror over the top is that it was filmed in the Utah desert, only 137 miles downwind of where the U.S. government did above ground nuclear weapons testing in 1953. Oops! Sure enough, 91 out of the 220 people who worked on the film – everyone from stage hands to the film’s stars – developed cancer, almost definitely thanks to the exposure from the nuclear fallout. The most famous, of course, was John Wayne himself, who died of cancer in 1979. So, not only did this movie kill its own studio, it killed John Wayne. How could anything else be number one on this list?


TAGSAdventures of Pluto NashArbitrary RankingsBattlefield Earthbiggest movie bombsBiggest movie bombs everbiggest movie bombs in historyBiggest movie bombs of all timeCutthroat IslandfeaturedGigliHeaven’s GateIshtarJohn CarterListsShowgirlsThe AlamoThe ConquerorWaterworldworst moviesworst movies everworst movies of all time
Neil Bulson
About Neil Bulson... Neil Bulson is a freelance writer who lives along the shores of Lake Michigan in a majestic castle where he spends his days beating his serfs and his nights writing and drinking firewater. His life goals include seducing Angela Lansbury, hunting and killing Bigfoot and being named King of Canada. So far, he has accomplished one of the three.

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