Movie Talk

10 Most Disastrous Summer Movie Flops

Movie Talk

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'Battlefield Earth,' 'Catwoman' and 'Hudson Hawk'

'Battlefield Earth,' 'Catwoman' and 'Hudson Hawk' (Photo: Everett Collection)

The summer movie season can be like Hollywood's version of hitting the tables in Vegas. The studios put down big bets with the hopes of an even bigger payout. But everyone rolls snake eyes now and again.

Still, there's a difference between a movie that underperforms at the box office and one that downright collapses. Sometimes a film can be so disastrous that its very title becomes synonymous with the word "flop" ("Ishtar," for one). Here are 10 high-profile, big-budget summer movies that bombed and bombed hard.

Catwoman
Release date: July 23, 2004
Estimated budget: $100 million
U.S. gross: $40.2 million

It would've been swell if Tim Burton and Michelle Pfeiffer had made this movie, like they had talked about doing sometime shortly after the release of "Batman Returns" (1992). Instead, we got this monstrosity starring Halle Berry in laughable barely-there leather get-ups that proved Hollywood still didn't quite "get" comic books ... and that nobody can stumble quite as far and hard as a recent Oscar winner.

Battlefield Earth
Release date: May 12, 2000
Estimated budget: $44 million
U.S. gross: $21 million

John Travolta initially approached Quentin Tarantino to direct the big-screen adaptation of the notorious sci-fi novel by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. We're sure Tarantino turned down the offer from his "Pulp Fiction" star within about .032 seconds of receiving it. A big, bloated, embarrassing mess, "Battlefield Earth" is now one of the industry's go-to metaphors when you want to describe a project no one should touch with a ten-foot pole. It even looked like a bigger disaster at the time because the production company, Franchise Pictures, claimed it cost $75 million, but when they were sued for fraud it was revealed they had inflated the budget by over $30 million.

Hudson Hawk
Release date: May 24, 1991
Estimated budget: $65 million
U.S. gross: $17.2 million

A personal pet project of producer/star Bruce Willis was this awkward, painfully unfunny caper comedy about a professional thief who's forced to pull off a series of daring art heists by various shadowy entities, most notably the cuckoo-bird husband and wife team of Darwin and Minerva Mayflower (Richard E. Grant and Sandra Bernhard), heads of the "psychotic American corporation," Mayflower Industries. With a budget of $65 million in 1991 dollars (adjusted for inflation that's about $108 million today), "Hudson Hawk" failed to connect audiences with Willis' ego as it barely made $17 million at the box office.

Gigli
Release date: August 1, 2003
Estimated budget: $75 million
U.S. gross: $6 million

Back in 2003, almost everyone -- especially the media -- loved to hate Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, aka the celebrity super-couple collectively known as "Benifer." And their big-screen team-up, the crime "comedy" called "Gigli," made everyone love to hate them even more. A film that would've been a disaster no matter who starred in it, "Gigli" couldn't even be rescued by amusing supporting turns by Al Pacino and Christopher Walken, barely earning $7 million worldwide against its $75 million budget. It's kind of hard to believe that Ben Affleck is now an A-list, Oscar-winning director when you consider the bad spot he was in just ten years ago.

Speed Racer
Release date: May 9, 2008
Estimated budget: $120 million
U.S. gross: $44 million

The Wachowskis followed up their wildly successful and influential "The Matrix" trilogy with a live-action adaptation of Tatsuo Yoshida's fondly remembered animated series, which turned an amusing cartoon trifle into a wildly over-designed, headache-inducing, candy-colored train wreck that went on for an astonishing 135 minutes with nary one real thrill or relatable character. The clunky anti-big-corporation plot seems downright hypocritical when you consider the $120 million that Warner Bros. shelled out for this misguided monster.

Around the World in 80 Days
Release date: June 16, 2004
Estimated budget: $110 million
U.S. gross: $24 million

Maybe doing a new adaptation of Jules Verne's beloved fantasy novel with the brilliant but unfamiliar to American audiences Steve Coogan as Phileas Fogg (here re-imagined as an eccentric inventor) and Jackie Chan (?) as Passepartout wasn't such a good idea, eh? While the $110 million film eventually turned a profit on DVD, it only earned $30 million during its theatrical run ... not a very impressive turn-out for what made for Arnold Schwarzenegger's final movie gig before beginning his term as the Governor of California.

Stealth
Release date: July 29, 2005
Estimated budget: $135 million
U.S. gross: $32 million

If Sony was going to shell out $135 million for an action movie about an A.I.-controlled military aircraft that would've been considered goofy even back in the '80s, they might've thought to shell out a little more to hire some actual movie stars to help them sell their big expensive bit of summer-movie silliness. As such, Josh Lucas, Jessica Biel, Jamie Foxx (fresh off his Oscar win for "Ray") didn't exactly conjure an audience for this loud, ridiculous crash-and-burn.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
Release date: July 13, 2001
Estimated budget: $137 million
U.S. gross: $32.1 million

Maybe one day movies based on video games will have the same quality and box office potential as movies based on comic books. For now, though, we get things like "Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within," which managed to be even more incoherent than any of the many installments in the mega-popular game series. The film inevitably hasn't aged very well, either -- what passed for cutting-edge computer animation back in 2001 can barely qualify as PlayStation 3-level today.

The 13th Warrior
Release date: August 27, 1999
Estimated budget: $160 million
U.S. gross: $32.7 million

With "Die Hard" and "The Hunt For Red October" director John McTiernan calling the shots, you'd think this adaptation of "Jurassic Park" author Michael Crichton's novel "Eaters of the Dead" would be destined for cinematic greatness (even with Spaniard Antonio Banderas cast as an Arab poet). But this troubled production -- which Crichton himself ended up taking over as director after poor test screenings -- earned only $61 million globally against its massive $160 million budget.

The Adventures of Pluto Nash
Release date: August 16, 2002
Estimated budget: $100 million
U.S. gross: $4.4 million

Perhaps the most travesty-est of all the Eddie Murphy travesties (and there are several), "The Adventures of Pluto Nash," which chronicled the exploits of a former smuggler turned nightclub owner on a lunar moon colony, wrapped production in September 2000 but sat on the shelf for two years; when it was finally released, it scored a mere $7 million worldwide against its $100-million-plus budget. You would think Murphy would have learned to not mix comedy with sci-fi, but just six years later he tanked again as an alien spaceship in "Meet Dave" (it made $12 million on a budget of $60 million).

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