Big Budget: The Most Expensive Movies Ever Made

It should go without saying that the film industry seems to more concerned with financial gain and less about storytelling these days (they are a business after all), but with attention spans at an all-time low, keeping people entertained with flashy special effects and non-stop action appears to be the key to a successful blockbuster. Now, we’re not saying we agree or disagree with this, but when you consider that The Fate of the Furious (the ninth iteration) made roughly $1.24 billion at the box office in 2017, it’s hard to argue with this logic.

In the past, we covered the 15 most expensive music videos ever made, so we thought it only fitting (given how much Goliath loves movies) to take a closer look at the most expensive movies ever made. We took into account that not all studios are fully transparent in regards to film budgets (especially if said film is a flop) and adjusting for inflation using the United States Consumer Price Index, here are the 15 most expensive films ever made.

15. King Kong (2005)

Budget: $259 Million

Released in winter of 2005, Peter Jackson’s remake of the 30s classic King Kong featured some outstanding performances and state-of-the-art special effects but for whatever reason, failed to generate the buzz Universal Pictures was hoping for. To make matters worse, Jackson was initially given a $150 million budget, but due to unseen circumstances, the film ended up costing $100 million more than expected.

On the bright side, King Kong won three Academy Awards (Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects) and pulled-in an additional $100 million in sales following its home release. While that doesn’t make up for the film pocketing substantially less than expected ($550 million), critics applauded Jackson for bringing the spirit of the original back to life.

14. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

Budget: $259 Million

Directed by Sam Raimi, 2004’s Spider-Man 2 is set two years after the events of its predecessor and focuses heavily on Peter Parker’s (Tobey Mcguire) struggle to find a balance between his personal life and being Spider-Man.

Believe it or not, Spider-Man 2 is the still the highest rated Spider-Man film on Rotten Tomatoes, receiving a 93%. The film made over $780 million at the box office, becoming the third highest-grossing movie of 2004, behind Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban ($796 million) and Shrek 2 ($919 million).

13. Avatar (2009)

Budget: $270 Million

Written and directed by James Cameron, Avatar was released in the winter of 2009 and quickly praised for its revolutionary visual effects. The film broke numerous records during it’s run, becoming the highest grossing film of all-time, pulling-in a mind-blowing $2.78 billion worldwide. To no one’s surprise, James Cameron was inked to write, direct and produce four more Avatar sequels, the first set to release sometime in 2020 … maybe?

Despite all the awards and success, film critics still took issue with Cameron’s narrative, claiming the dialogue was dull and that the story felt overdone. While that might be true, it doesn’t change that fact that Cameron is one of the highest grossing filmmakers of all-time.

12. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

Budget: $273 Million

In the summer of 2006 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest, the sequel to Curse of the Black Pearl, was released and featured the return of Johnny Deep, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightly. Although the film was highly praised and a financial success, critics felt the film relied heavily on thrills and special effects to distract from a storyline that was virtually non-existent.

After the success of the first film, returning director Gore Verbinski was given $90 million more to work with – and it paid off! Before being dethroned by The Avengers in 2012, Dead Man’s Chest spent six years as Disney’s highest grossing film, winning one Academy Award (Best Visual Effects) and earning more than $1 billion worldwide.

11. Waterworld (1995)

Budget: $276 Million

Crashing into theatres in 1995, Kevin Reynolds’ Waterworld, the post-apocalyptic action/sci-fi movie starring Kevin Costner and Dennis Hopper, felt like watching Mad Max on water – only far less entertaining. At the time of its release, Costner was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars, and while Waterworld‘s failure didn’t squash his career, his days of starring in big-blockbusters were pretty much over.

Despite being considered both a critical and commercial flop, Waterworld actually managed to recoup its losses after years of successful aftermarket sales. This could have a lot to do with Reynolds’ director’s cut, which extends the film by roughly an hour, providing enough character and world-building scenes to make someone see the film in a new light.

10. John Carter (2012)

Budget: $281 Million

Based on a series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs, 2012’s John Carter is an action-adventure film starring Taylor Kitsch and directed by Andrew Stanton. The story follows a Civil War vet who has been miraculously transported to Barsoom and captured by 12-foot aliens known as the Tharks. Fortunately, as a result of Barsoom’s low gravity and his high bone density, Carter basically becomes a superhero, allowing him to fight back.

Unfortunately for Disney, despite giving Stanton an enormous budget, John Carter only managed to gross $284 million worldwide, making it by far the most disappointing film on this list from a box office perspective. In fact, the film cost Disney so much money, they terminated any and all plans to franchise the series in the future.

9. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Budget: $285 Million

Released in 2009, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth installment in the Harry Potter series and sequel to Order of the Phoenix. In his sixth year at Hogwarts, Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) falls for his best friend’s sister, discovers a mysterious book marked “the property of the Half-Blood Prince”, and with the help of Dumbledore, learns more about Lord Voldemort’s dark past.

Pulling in $934 million at the box office, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was a huge success, becoming the second highest grossing movie of 2009 and fifth highest in franchise history.

 8. Tangled (2010)

Budget: $260 Million

Released by Walt Disney Pictures in 2010, the animated-musical Tangled features the voices of Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi and tells the tale of a princess with magical hair who leaves her home, against her mother’s wishes, to explore the open world with the help of a runaway thief.

With a budget of $260 million, Tangled, which spent six years in production, is the most expensive animated film ever made. On the bright side, the film managed to earn $591.8 million at the box office and an impressive 89% on Rotten Tomatoes. Tangled was applauded for taking an old-fashion Brother Grimm tale and transforming it into something fresh and visually stunning.

 7. Justice League (2017)

Budget: $300 Million

Justice League is the fifth installment in the DC Extended Universe and a direct sequel to 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The film featured the return of Ben Affleck, Gal Gadot, and Henry Cavill, and added newcomers Ezra Miller and Jason Mamoa to the mix. Despite the big names, Zack Snyder’s Justice League was heavily criticized for its confusing plot, terrible writing and embarrassing CGI, particularity when it came to Steppenwolf (Ciaran Hinds) and his army of Parademons (not to mentions Henry Cavill’s now-infamous mustache removal).

Under the shadow of Marvel’s success, Justice League’s failure only further supports what comic fans have come to realize for years: that outside of Wonder Woman, DC hasn’t produced a knockout movie since Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy and the situation only appears to be getting worse.

6. Spider-Man 3 (2007)

Budget: $304 Million

Released in 2007, Spider-Man 3 is the final installment in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy – and it’s by far his worst. Starring Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, and James Franco, Spider-Man 3 was heavily criticized for its wonky plot, stuffing in too many villains and above all else, casting Eric from That 70’s Show as Venom. Honestly… what were they thinking?

Earning over $890 million worldwide, Spider-Man 3 is actually the most successful of the Raimi’s trilogy, which is odd considering the film is widely considered to be his worst. It’s little surprise that Sony decided to reboot the franchise with a whole new cast and director only five short years later.

5. Titanic (1997)

Budget: $305 Million

Based on the fictitious and tragic account of the RMS Titanic, James Cameron’ epic three-hour romance, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, and Billy Zane, won a remarkable 11 Academy Awards, matching a record previously set by Ben-Hur back in 1959. Cameron’s ability to balance the heartwarming love story of Jack (DiCaprio) and Rose (Winslett), on the back of such a devastating historical event, was truly remarkable.

Titanic became the first movie in history to gross more than billion dollars at the box office and only the second to reach the two billion worldwide, surpassed by the 2010 release of Avatar – another Cameron film.

4. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Budget: $316 Million

The sequel to Age of Ultron (2015), the Russo Brother’s epic Avengers: Infinity War is a film ten years in the making and the nineteenth for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After teasing viewers for years, the supervillain Thanos (Josh Brolin) finally arrives, making his presence felt immediately. Earth’s mightiest heroes must sacrifice everything to prevent Thanos from retrieving the remaining Infinity Stones and wiping out half the universe.

So far, the film has grossed roughly $2 billion worldwide, making it the fourth highest grossing film of all-time, and the fastest to reach $1 billion worldwide, doing so in a mind-blowing 11 days and erasing the record previously held by Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It also set records for the highest-grossing opening weekend, both domestically and worldwide.

3. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)

Budget: $354 million

Released in 2007, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End was criticized for being overly long and hard to follow, but with the star power of Johnny Deep, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley, and Geoffrey Rush at the helm, the third installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean series went on to gross a staggering $963 million at the box office.

The film starts off right where it’s predecessor left off, with Jack Sparrow (Deep) trapped in Davy Jones’ locker. Luckily for him, Captain Barbossa (Rush), Will Turner (Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Knightley) have banded together to set him free, while at the same time, preventing the East India Trading Company from abolishing piracy for good.

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 2. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)

Budget: $377 Million

Written and directed by Joss Whedon, Avengers: Age of Ultron is the eleventh film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and sequel to The Avengers. After Tony Stark and Bruce Banner accidentally unleash Ultron (James Spader), the Avengers are called upon once again, this time to prevent Ultron from destroying the planet.

Even though Age of Ultron earned less with a significantly bigger budget, it still managed to gross a remarkable $1.4 billion worldwide, making it one of the ten highest grossing films ever made.

1.Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

Budget: $412 million

Directed by Rob Marshall and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides is the fourth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean film series and considered a standalone sequel to At Worlds End. The story is essentially about the quest to find the ‘fountain of youth’ but focuses heavy on the confusing relationship between Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) and Angelica (Penelope Cruz), a former love interest, con-artist, and daughter of the legendary pirate, Blackbeard (Ian McShane).

Despite raking in more than a billion dollars worldwide, the film was heavily criticized for being too long, bloated and boring. Scoring an embarrassing 54% on Rotten Tomatoes, On Stranger Tides has the lowest audience score of all the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
Riley Jones (@moviemanjones)

Riley Jones (@moviemanjones)

Riley is the Managing Editor of Goliath. When he's not at the movie theatre or binging some new tv series, he likes to spend his time shooting hoops and play MTG. He doesn't like 'Breaking Bad,' loves 'The Simpsons,' hates mayonnaise, and has been repping the Toronto Raptors since '95. Follow him on IG and Twitter @moviemanjones.