Hollywood movie producers and actors alike are aware that the bigger the budget, the better the movie reception should be. After all, the movie business is a “business.” Therefore, directors and producers don’t want to be operating at a loss when it comes to the money being spent. For example, when director Steven Spielberg made Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of The Crystal Skull in 2008, it cost a whopping $185 million. Luckily, that movie more than doubled its budget and grossed $790.7 million at the box office. The Hollywood actors in the movie are only concerned with receiving their salary, which is also included in the budget, minus their percentage of the box office grossing. Let’s take a look at 10 of the most expensive movie budgets in history.
10 Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – $379 Million
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In total, the Pirates of The Caribbean film franchise has grossed over $4.5 billion worldwide, with most of those movies individually grossing above $500 million. Because of its immense success, it has been recognized as the 15th-highest-grossing film series of all time. And, obviously, with the success of the first film in 2003, Pirates of The Caribbean: The Curse of The Black Pearl, the movie director, Gore Verbinski, increased the budget price for the following two films, which he also directed. But it was the fourth movie installment, Pirates of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, that took the cake. Directed by Rob Marshall and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, the film’s budget was $379 million. But because fans can’t get enough of Johnny Depp’s character, Captain Jack Sparrow, it made up for the price by grossing $1.045 billion at the worldwide box office, according to Box Office Mojo.
9 Avengers: Age Of Ultron – $365 Million
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For all the superhero comic lovers the world over, the Avengers: Age of Ultron is one of the many Marvel Comics superhero films that have made waves at the box office. The film was directed by Joss Whedon, who has also been the director of many other ultra-successful Marvel Comics superhero films, such as The Avengers (2012) and Justice League (2017), starring actors such as Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and our favorite Batman star, Ben Affleck. But to make up for the $365 million budget that was spent on the 2015 superhero film, it more than doubled in profits with $1.403 million at the box office. That was a very profitable gamble for Marvel Studios.
8 Titanic – $200 Million
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Arguably one of the most epic and exhilarating historic and romantic disaster films of all time is the Titanic. It’s hard to believe that $200 million was spent on re-enacting the sinking of the “ship of dreams.” According to HIGHSNOBIETY, the cost to construct the Titanic set alone cost between $120 to $150 million. Add to that another $40 million for visual effects, and the hundreds of actors, children, and ship workers teeming up and down the ship, and it becomes clear why $200 million was the final budget. Let’s not forget the A-list actors who were on board, such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane, and Kathy Bates. While it has gone down as one of the most expensive movies for its time, it is also the most lucrative, grossing $2.202 million at the box office.
7 Spider-Man 3 – $258 Million
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Originally released in 2002, the original Spider-Man movie, starring Toby Maguire and Kirsten Dunst, started with a budget of $139 million, which is relatively “small” considering the budget prices of the following movies. Directed by Sam Raimi, the film kept most of the main actors from the first two movies, with the addition of Topher Grace as Venom and Thomas Haden Church as the Sandman. Take into account the salaries for these A-listers, the CGI costs, special effects for the web slinging sets, and the $258 million budget becomes understandable. Their efforts paid off big at the global box office with close to $900 million. However, the critical reception of Spider-Man 3 wasn’t as favorable.
6 Justice League – $300 Million
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From the man who bought you epic, action-packed films like 300, 300: Rise of an Empire, and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, director Zack Snyder is no stranger when it comes to working with high-budget films, such as Henry Cavill’s Man of Steel which cost an estimated $258 million. Albeit, Justice League is likely his most expensive venture with a budget of a whopping $300 million. Sadly, Snyder was forced to forfeit his directorial role on the movie following the death of his daughter, August Snyder. Josh Whedon then took over as he, too, has experience with superhero films. Due to the unpredicted chaos, the film received poor reviews and the box office earnings barely doubled in profit.
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5 Tangled – $260 Million
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One would find it hard to imagine that a 3D computer-animated film could be so costly, despite the fact that it was produced by Walt Disney Animation Studios. But when it came to the 2010 Walt Disney animated film, Tangled, the $260 million budget seems a bit hard to believe. Perhaps, one reason for the exorbitant budget price is the fact that the for ten years, the movie was constantly scrapped and restarted right before completion. Well, besides using the voices of Hollywood stars like Zachary Levi and the beautiful Mandy Moore, a fortune was also spent to invest in animation process allowing the CGI to portray some of the qualities of Disney’s traditionally hand-drawn characters, like Rapunzel. However, even with all that was spent on a single 3D animation movie, it still managed to gross a profit of $592.4 million at the box office.
4 Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince – $250 Million
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It comes as no surprise that one of the Harry Potter films needed a boatload of millions to be plastered on the big screen. The 2009 fantasy film, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is the sixth installment in the Harry Potter film series and, despite being the most expensive film budget of the series at $250 million, it only received an average rating. No amount of special effects for mystical magical scenes were able to get the fans to fall in love with this movie, and certainly, investing hundreds of millions wasn’t the answer either. Needless to say, by the time the sixth installment was released, main characters like Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint were major Hollywood names, and their salaries proved it. But despite the massive budget, the film stilled grossed $934.5 million at the global box office.
3 John Carter – $263.7 Million
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The science fiction action film, John Carter, is another prime example of why dumping money into a movie won’t guarantee its success. It’s the only movie on this list that flopped at the box office and went down as one of the biggest flops in Walt Disney Studios history. Released in 2012, the enigmatic film was directed by Andrew Stanton and cost $263.7 million to produce. Even the lead actor, Taylor Kitsch, was forced to act many of the scenes twice which further complicated the financial situation. Even with A-lister legends like Willem Dafoe, Dominic West, Lynn Collins, and Mark Strong, the film only generated $284.1 million at the box office, not even able to break even!
2 Avatar – $175 Million
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Now, to the most outstanding epic science fiction movie on the list – Avatar. The 2009 was directed by James Cameron, a director famous for big budget films. Naturally, with the high-definition 3D and state-of-the-art CGI effects used to create the entirely new world of Pandora, a budget of $237 million was relatively “small.” Not forgetting the trouble of having to create a new language and teach it to over 100 actors, many of whom came at a high price due to their notoriety, such as Australian actor Sam Worthington, actress Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, and Stephen Lang. But this was one budget investment that was definitely not in vain, as it saw box office returns of $2.847 million, outdoing even a classic romantic disaster drama like Titanic.
1 Waterworld – $175 Million
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It’s not everyday that an actor invests $20 million out of their own pocket into a film that didn’t even break even break even at the box office compared to its budget. Well, not every actor is as rich as Kevin Costner, who was the lead actor for the post-apocalyptic action film, Waterworld. At the time of release, the film would’ve easily been at the top of the list for the most expensive movies ever produced with a budget of $175 million. Released in 1995, the absence of drones made aerial filming difficult, and so much of the movie’s budget went into the use of seaplanes and helicopters to capture the 1000-ton, 400-foot floating set, which was meant to depict a location off the coast of Hawaii. However, the results didn’t seem worth the trouble, since the film only grossed $264.2 million at the box office.
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Sources: Empire Online, RogerEbert.com, HIGHSNOBIETY, Box Office Mojo
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