We all love a good movie. Quality of the movie is what guarantees its success. Only if that were true. It’s 2019, and currencies have inflated to an extreme level, and show no signs of stopping. Almost everything today, from sports to politics relies heavy on financial returns/backing. The same can be said for cinema. Today, what production companies look for primarily is financial returns. Which is why, for certain projects, they heap bucketfuls of cash into the film, expecting a huge profit. Every year, there seems to be a new most expensive movie ever made, what with inflation and heavy reliance on special effects. Let’s take a look at the top 10 most expensive Hollywood movies ever made, as of June 28, 2019.
10. Titanic (1997)
Cost of production: $200 million USD
Director: James Cameron
The cost to produce the set of the Titanic alone took $120 to $150 million (in 1997 dollars). There were sets that required one shot to perfect, as the production costs to rebuild those sets after water overflowed in those rooms were just too high. One little mistake would’ve cost them dearly. Add to that the special effects of the entire damn ship, from bow to stern, and the costs just keep going up.
It all worked out in the end, as Titanic became the highest grossing movie of all time for a good decade. Until another James Cameron film toppled it. It was all worth it. The production costs were evident in the movie.
9. King Kong (2005)
Cost of production: $207 million USD
Director: Peter Jackson
It wasn’t the first time Peter Jackson was working with hundreds and millions of dollars worth of stuff, being the director of the LOTR trilogy after all. Most of the budget was spent on recreating ol’ Kong himself, with costs increasing by a third of what Universal Studios anticipated.
It was a risky film, considering its length. In the end, King Kong ended up making $550 million. Sure, the movie itself wasn’t exactly a masterpiece, but hey, it made the big bucks, so who’s complaining?
Cost of production: $237 million USD
Director: James Cameron
3D was booming. Movie studios decided to dip their toe in that pond. James Cameron, however, took a nose-first dive in as he went all out to create his passion project. Avatar took cinema to the next level. It also took movie production costs to the next level. But can you blame them? To create top notch visual effects, combined with the costumes and setting which included more than a 100 actors. And they spoke a new language which had to be taught to them.
Today, Avatar is the highest grossing film of all time, so things were a-okay on that front.
7. Spectre (2015)
Cost of production: $245 million USD
Director: Sam Mendes
This big budget Hollywood movie was the most expensive James Bond film ever. It wasn’t as good as the previous movies featuring our martini-drinking secret agent, but it needed to come up big in the box-office to justify that colossal budget. For a spy franchise which had tried almost every scenario in the book, this one required more elaborate set pieces, which in turn increased the bill.
6. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015); The Dark Knight Rises (2012); Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009); The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies (2014); Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Cost of production: $250 million
Director: Joss Whedon, Christopher Nolan, David Yates, Peter Jackson, Zach Snyder
Yeah. All five of these big budget Hollywood movies share the 6th position. Joss Whedon needed more CGI to compensate for poor writing. Harry Potter decided to take its fantasy adventure up a notch with plenty of magic-related effects which not-so-magically increased the production costs for Warner Bros.
The highly anticipated Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was hyped up so much, that the disappointment turned to rage after the dissatisfying reactions to the movie (to be honest, I love BvS). Didn’t do so well in the box office though. The Dark Knight Rises was a fitting end to Nolan‘s stellar take on the Caped Crusader. But Batman went out taking a huge chunk of production costs with him. I mean, that battle in Gotham did require a lot of money, right? Not to mention the fancy gadgets.
5. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
Cost of production: $258 million USD
Director: Sam Raimi
Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy is one of the main reasons for the ever-growing popularity of superhero-related films today. Spider-Man 2 was an absolute peach, and Sony decided to up the costs to make an even better sequel. With all the money spent for the making of this movie, the critical reception it received was, well, not good. Still made some money, but not enough.
4. Tangled (2010)
Cost of production: $260 million USD
Director: Nathan Greno, Byron Howard
The main problem for Tangled was the script. You just had to have the right story for this one. Add to that the hyper-realistic animation they put in for the movie (which looked brilliant, I must say). I mean, imagine how much time it must have taken just to animate the long blonde hair of Rapunzel.
The movie was an entertaining one, and it bagged a profit. All’s well that ends well, I guess.
3. John Carter (2012)
Cost of production: $263 million USD
Director: Andrew Stanton
Man, this was just ridiculous. Not just the movie. What it took to make this movie as well. This was probably one of Disney’s biggest mistakes. And they haven’t made many mistakes lately. They incurred almost $200 million USD loss due to the negative reviews garnered and the lack of popularity. For the time, effort and money it took to make this movie, it did NOT get the returns it was hoping for.
2. Waterworld (1995)
Cost of production: $271 million USD
Director: Kevin Reynolds
The ice caps have melted, dry land is submerged under sea, and Kevin Costner lives on a small little island. I know what you’re thinking. Either you’ve never heard of this movie or you never expected this film to be on this list EVER. It’s baffling when you think about the fact that Costner himself took $20 million of his own money to fund the project.
The production costs were crazy. The movie gathered only $88 million in the box office, making it one of the biggest flops of all time. Geez.
1. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Cost of production: $397 million USD
Director: Rob Marshall
This is about $120 million more than number 2 on this list. It was a HUGE risk spending that amount of money on a dying franchise. Johnny Depp himself was paid $55,000,000 for the movie. Surprisingly, despite the average quality of the PoTC sequels, the series has been a money-making machine. It’s baffling.
Where to Watch: Netflix
I'm an engineering graduate trying to make the most out of what life throws at me. Currently working as a Brand Strategist at Mitsogo Inc, Chennai. Outside work, you can find me on a football pitch, a basketball court, or in front of a tea stall - still trying to make the most out of what I get.