In a perfect world, the overall quality of a movie would be directly proportionate to its box office haul. Unfortunately, as can typically be gathered from most weekly box office reports, it’s all too clear that a movie doesn’t need to be any good in order to make money. With the increasing importance of foreign markets, it no longer seems to matter if a blockbuster movie receives positive reviews or not; as long as foreign audiences find it appealing, it will still make money even if domestic audiences are less than enthused. While it’s still arguably better for everyone involved if the movies making the most money are actually good (audiences still deserve to be compensated for their money with quality entertainment), these 15 movies all managed to make obscene amounts of money despite being cinematic atrocities.
15. Wild Hogs (2007)
Budget: $60 million (estimated)
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $253.6 million
Apparently, audiences really go in for movies about groups of middle aged men riding motorcycles. This family comedy starring Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, and William H. Macy managed to reach the #1 spot in its opening weekend despite negative reviews and went onto gross over $100 million at the domestic box office, finally settling at $168.2 million. With that kind of cash haul, the biggest surprise may be that Wild Hogs 2 was never put into production.
14. Grown Ups (2010)
Budget: $80 million
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $271.4 million
Adam Sandler has been reaping the benefits of a lucrative Netflix deal in recent years but it’s actually been some time since he was a big draw at the box office. Sandler’s big budget video game movie Pixels failed to recoup its $88 million budget domestically in 2015, although it did fare better internationally. Whatever Sandler’s current box office woes however, they don’t change the enormous success his Grown Ups films have had at the box office, with the first film managing to double its budget with its domestic take alone. Having his film panned by critics did little to dissuade Sandler from making a sequel in 2013 or celebrating his “accomplishment” by purchasing a Maserati for each of his co-star buddies.
13. A Good Day To Die Hard (2013)
Budget: $92 million
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $304.6 million
The film that killed what little dignity the Die Hard franchise had left, A Good Day To Die Hard was rewarded for its terrible use of the Die Hard brand by earning back its budget three times over, thanks in large part to overwhelming success in foreign markets. While fans of the early films are still in disbelief over how poorly the fifth Die Hard film turned out, a sixth is already being proposed by 20th Century Fox in light of A Good Day To Die Hard‘s success.
12. The Last Airbender (2010)
Budget: $150 million
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $319.7 million
For a time, it looked as if M. Night Shyamalan would never recover from his poorly received 2010 adaptation of the supremely popular The Last Airbender animated series. While Shyamalan seems to have gotten his filmmaking career back on track thanks in large part to the excellent 2017 thriller Split, The Last Airbender fans still only have his crummy movie when it comes to live action adaptations of their beloved franchise.
Still, for as bad as The Last Airbender is, its box office success ($319 million grossed worldwide) makes sense, considering it was a small miracle the movie was even made to begin with. Despite its commercial success, no sequel or reboot has ever materialized, though Shyamalan is apparently still interested in doing one. We’re all for second chances but considering how poorly the last movie turned out, it would probably be best to entrust any potential Last Airbender sequel or reboot with a different filmmaker.
11. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
Budget: $125 million
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $485 million
In his seemingly never-ending quest to ruin every beloved toy line from the 80s and 90s with terrible film franchises, Michael Bay produced last year’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie and the results were disastrous in pretty much every way…except when it comes to the box office receipts. Despite being one of the worst-reviewed films of 2014, TMNT managed to make almost half a billion dollars at the worldwide box office. To be fair, the Ninja Turtles have always been a popular franchise and there was never much doubt that Michael Bay’s film was going to make a hefty sum. Still, Ninja Turtles fans and audiences in general deserved much more than the incoherent, CGI mess that they got.
10. The Smurfs (2011)
Budget: $110 million
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $563.7 million
Proving that just because something can be accomplished using CGI, it doesn’t mean it should be, The Smurfs turned the fictional family of blue, mushroom house-occupying people into a computer animated nightmare. Inspired by other monstrosities such as the live-action Garfield and Alvin and the Chipmunks movies, The Smurfs was labeled a dud by critics, but was a hit with families. The film managed to shatter Sony’s own box office estimates, debuting at number 1 in its opening weekend and eventually raking in well over half a billion dollars worldwide. Thankfully, the franchise has proven to be one of diminishing returns, as the 2013 sequel performed significantly worse, earning over $200 million less than its predecessor and the third movie, Smurfs: The Lost Village, did even worse. Still, it’s terrifying to think that we live in a world where three awful Smurfs movies made more than a billion dollars cumulatively.
9. The Hangover II (2011)
Budget: $80 million
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $586.7 million
Considering the enormous surprise success of the original Hangover, it was practically a guarantee that the sequel would make a killing at the box office no matter what. The problem is, rather than make a worthy follow-up to a legitimately good, original comedy film, the creative team took the easy route and made The Hangover: Part II an inferior retread of the first. Admittedly, it’s difficult to have a sequel to anything actually be better than the first, especially when it comes to comedies, but The Hangover: Part II missed the mark by such a wide margin, you really can’t help but look at its enormous box office return of almost $600 million and feel that audiences were cheated out of their money by an inferior product.
8. Suicide Squad (2016)
Budget: $175 million
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $746.8 billion
Suicide Squad should have had a relatively straightforward story: a ragtag team of villains is quickly assembled to fight a significant threat that can’t be handled by the many superheroes flying around in the DC universe. And while David Ayer’s film technically delivers on that premise, Suicide Squad is totally bogged down with extraneous tangents and a muddled plot that ends up making no sense if you think about it hard for more than five seconds. Much of this can likely be attributed to studio interference, as the film was infamously reworked only months before release to add in more comedic elements, as if this would suddenly make it a good movie.
In a sense, the plan worked as audiences turned up to make it the most successful August release of all time, having been sold on the film’s exciting trailers (WB actually brought in the team that worked on the first trailer to try and make the actual movie more like how it was being advertised). Despite being one of the worst movies of 2016, Suicide Squad finished its successful theatrical run with a worldwide haul of $746.8 million, prompting WB to almost immediately greenlight a sequel.
7. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Budget: $250 million
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $873.6 million
The perfect example of a film with a massive critical and commercial divide is Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Released in March 2016, Zack Snyder’s sequel to Man of Steel was highly anticipated given that it involved Batman and Superman punching each other in live action. The film was slammed by critics for its overly grim tone, uneven story and unintentional moments of comedy (who can forget the “Martha” scene?) but that didn’t stop DC fans from turning up in droves to see the movie. The movie ended up grossing over $870 million worldwide, prompting many to declare it a “review-proof” movie.
Still, Warner Bros. really didn’t enjoy the fact that its big superhero tent pole release wasn’t a universal crowdpleaser like Marvel’s Avengers films and changed things up quite a bit with Batman v Superman’s sequel, Justice League, by making it a more fun, humorous viewing experience overall. Ironically, Justice League failed to match the box office numbers of its predecessor, suggesting that either audiences were put off by the film’s changes or were so burnt by Batman v Superman that they decided to skip Justice League entirely.
6. Alice In Wonderland (2010)
Budget: $200 million
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $1.025 billion
While it’s no longer part of the top 20 highest-grossing films of all time, the live-action Alice in Wonderland movie directed by Tim Burton and starring Johnny Depp is still a mediocre film that made way too much money. As interesting as the visual style of the film is, Alice in Wonderland represents yet another one of Burton and Depp’s middling collaborations that fails to do much more than squander the once promising talents of those involved. It was so successful that it remains the highest-grossing film of Burton’s career (but definitely not his best). Much to everyone’s surprise the sequel, Alice Through the Looking Glass, was a comparative flop, earning less than a third of the first film’s revenue.
5. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
Budget: $115 million
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $1.027 billion
Although the Star Wars prequels are infamous for being almost universally despised, it’s easy to forget that we pretty much all paid actual money for the experience of seeing one of the most beloved film franchises ever made ruined before our eyes back in 1999 — to the tune of over one billion dollars worldwide, in fact. Of course, the success of The Phantom Menace makes sense, as even though it was critically-reviled, audiences had to wait 16 years for a new Star Wars movie, so they were going to go see it no matter how bad the reviews were. Fortunately for the franchise and its new owners, Disney, Star Wars is a box office behemoth once again, with 2015’s The Force Awakens blowing away The Phantom Menace to become the highest-grossing Star Wars movie yet and currently ranks as the third highest-grossing movie of all time.
4. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Budget: $250 million
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $1.045 billion
Based off of a Disney World attraction and featuring a career-defining performance from Johnny Depp as the flamboyant pirate Captain Jack Sparrow, The Curse of the Black Pearl — the first Pirates of the Caribbean film — was a surprise hit with critics and audiences alike when it was released in 2003. Since that time however, Disney has squandered its cash cow and turned it into a tired franchise for Depp to continue doing his song and dance long past its sell-by date. On Stranger Tides, the fourth entry in the franchise, is perhaps the best proof of this, as the film tried to kickstart a new story after the original trilogy, but merely felt like one long, boring sequence of Caribbean-themed setpieces. While Depp and co. wore out their welcome long ago with critics, On Stranger Tides still managed to make over $1 billion worldwide, proving that general audiences have yet to grow tired of this creaky ship. In an effort to keep the treasure flowing in, Disney released a sequel, Dead Men Tell No Tales, in 2017 but it came in well under expectations, suggesting that the franchise may have no more wind left in its sails.
3. Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
Budget: $210 million
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $1.104 billion
At this point, the Transformers franchise has come to represent the enormous disconnect that often exists between critics and general audiences. Despite the continued thrashings dished out upon each louder and dumber Transformers release, viewers still turn out in droves to witness extended car and cell phone commercials disguised as good vs. evil stories that pit groups of violent, maniacal robots at each other’s throats for almost three hours at a time. 2014’s Age of Extinction, was arguably the worst of the bunch so far, yet managed to take in a staggering $1.1 billion, over $850 million of which was from international audiences. If the success of Transformers: Age of Extinction is proof of anything, it’s that explosive films signifying nothing are a dish that know no cultural boundary.
2. Minions (2015)
Budget: $74 million
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $1.159 billion
Minions, a spinoff of the highly successful Despicable Me franchise, has the interesting distinction of being more financially successful than any of the three Despicable Me movies but a worse movie on pretty much all fronts. Of course, the worldwide success of Minions make sense, as the titular yellow creatures are leaps and bounds the most popular Despicable Me characters and their cute aesthetic and slapstick comedic value are popular with all ages (but especially children). However, the reason the Minions work so well in the Despicable Me movies is because they’re used just enough to not prove irritating or overshadow the touching parenting story between Gru (Steve Carrell) and his adopted daughters.
By contrast, Minions is too much of a good thing, as it’s difficult to structure a decent narrative around a group of shrill-voiced creatures who converse in their own gibberish language. Fortunately for Universal and Dreamworks, preschoolers care very little for things like “plot” or “characters,” which explains why Minions was able to make an insane $1.15 billion worldwide and currently stands as the 13th highest-grossing movie of all time.
1. Jurassic World (2015)
Budget: $150 million
Worldwide Box Office Gross: $1.67 billion
Jurassic World is nowhere near as bad as some of the crimes against cinema on this list but considering it’s arguably the worst installment in its respective franchise, does it really deserve to be the fourth highest-grossing movie of all time? It’s frankly absurd just how much money Jurassic World was able to make, as the Jurassic franchise has always been financially successful but only Steven Spielberg’s original Jurassic Park ever crossed the $1 billion mark at the global box office. So how to explain why a mediocre summer blockbuster was able to earn over $500 million more than the next best entry in the franchise?
Well, Jurassic World had a ton going for it: a bankable star in Chris Pratt, increased revenue from 3D and IMAX showings, a perception that the film was suitable for all ages (though that poor babysitter may have something to say on that point) and a lack of great dinosaur movies in general. Mix that altogether and Jurassic World’s enormous box office numbers start to make a bit more sense … even if it’s still all a bit mind-boggling.
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