The 2010s have been a phenomenal decade for superhero films. Thanks largely to the immense popularity of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, superhero movies are the dominant force at the box office, and in culture at large, as the record-shattering success of Avengers: Endgame has proven. However, for every number of films that succeed, several more do not, and when those films falter, they fall hard and end up being some of the biggest financial boondoggles in movie history.
In order to flop at the box office, a film needs to lose its producers and studio money. For a film to be profitable, it usually needs to earn twice its production budget, though due to unreported costs in some over-budgeted tentpole films, some need to gross 2.5 times its reported production budget. For example, Jordan Peele's Us, which grossed $254.7 million, is far more profitable to its studio than Batman v. Superman, which grossed $872.7 million because Us's production budget was around $20 million and BvS had a reported budget in the $250-300 million range.
With that in mind, CBR is taking a look back at some of the biggest superhero flops of the decade.
Max Steel made such a small impression on the box office that it easily remains one of the most forgotten superhero films of all time. Most people probably didn't even realize it existed, and the film barely grossed half its budget.
However, what keeps Max Steel from becoming one of the biggest flops in history is its budget. In total, the film only cost $10 million to make. It grossed $6.3 million. This means that, while Max Steel barely grossed over half its production budget back, it only needed to gross about $20 million to break even.
Another obscure film, Guardians actually managed to make a profit, but its poor returns resulted in the literal bankruptcy of is production studio, Enjoy Movies, as well as the possible death of the Russian superhero genre.
Guardians cost $5.4 million to produce and grossed $15.1 million. Theoretically, Guardians should have turned its production company a profit. However, investors of the film sued Enjoy Movies when they never saw a return on their investments, and the film's disappointing box office returns effectively killed it.
Not all box office flops are bad films. Dredd is a perfect example of this. This cinematic revival of the classic Judge Dredd character was critically acclaimed and has since become a beloved cult classic. It also only found its audience after it finished its theatrical run.
Dredd was produced for between $30 million and $45 million, but only grossed back $41.5 million. The film barely made back its production budget, let alone turned a profit. The film, however, did far better on home media and streaming, where it did eventually turn a profit. Still, in regards to the box office, Dredd bombed.
As one of the more recent additions to the collection of this decade's box office bombs, Hellboy failed to bring the Right Hand of Doom back to his former glory. Then again, much like Dredd, this film was a R-Rated revival of a fairly obscure character. However, Dredd's predecessor, Judge Dredd, is a campy so-bad-it's-good cult film. People actually not only liked the first two Guillermo del Toro Hellboy films, but were overtly upset that the story set up in those first two films would never be finished. People vowed to boycott Hellboy before critics could publish their negative reviews.
Combined with the negative reviews from critics, the film was damned on arrival. Hellboy cost $50 million to produce, but earned only $40.8 million.
As tough as it might be for DC fans to admit, Justice League failed to a mind-boggling extent. While some DC fans will argue that the film failed because the studio interfered with Zack Snyder's vision, audiences didn't seem to know know or care about the extensive Joss Whedon reshoots. In fact, the big issue is that, after Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice failed to leave a positive impression, audiences just didn't care about Justice League.
Justice League cost $300 million to produce. It grossed $657 million. Due to an over-inflated marketing budget, however, it's believed that Justice League lost Warner Bros. between $50 million and $100 million.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows
Following the success of its predecessor, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows hit theaters two years after its previous film. However, while the film did decently with critics, it failed to recoup its budget, despite the presence of Stephen Amell as Casey Jones.
The film had a production budget of $135 million, but only grossed $245.6 million. Its believed that the film lost $75 million.
Green Lantern was such a disappointment that it killed Warner Bros.' initial attempts at an extended DC Universe. Warner Bros. didn't even acknowledge the Lanterns again until Justice League -- which also flopped. Despite the presence of Ryan Reynolds, the movie became one of the most infamous flops in recent memory as both a critical and commercial failure.
Green Lantern cost WB $200 million to produce, but only grossed $219.9 million. Due to Warner Bros. cutting the costs on advertising, the film only lost the studio between $75 million and $90 million, but its legacy kept Green Lantern from becoming DC's next iconic hero.
Despite a decades-long TV presence and generations of fans, Power Rangers failed to find its audience upon its initial release. The movie opened up the week after the live-action Beauty and the Beast, which essentially drew in the Ranger's target demographic. While the film received a ton of press for presenting some of the first cinematic LGBTQA and autistic superheroes on screen, Power Rangers just couldn't cut it in the theaters.
The film had a $100 million production budget, but only grossed $142.3 million. Many in the production crew blamed the PG-13 rating more than an unreceptive audience, and the film was more successful on home media.
Fantastic Four (2015)
Fantastic Four remains to this day among the most infamous failures of any modern superhero film. It isn't the biggest bomb of the decade, but it is arguably the worst film on this entire list. The story behind Fantastic Four is infamous, with director Josh Trank's bizarre on-set behavior, the studio's creative meddling and extensive cuts to the production killing any potential this film had.
Fantastic Four cost between $120 million and $155 million to produce. It grossed $168 million at the box office. It lost the studio between $80 million and $100 million when all was said and done.
R.I.P.D. is often forgotten -- and for good reason. Ryan Reynolds's second appearance on this list, R.I.P.D. is basically Men in Black with ghosts. Audiences realized they would find more satisfaction rewatching the '90s blockbuster or its sequels than ever bothering to watch R.I.P.D. in theaters, because it performed that badly at the box office.
R.I.P.D. had a budget of $130 million and $154 million, but it grossed $78.3 million. To put this in perspective, it had the same budget as Fantastic Four, but grossed half of its total.
While it still might be on a handful of screens, it's fair to label Dark Phoenix, the final film in Fox's X-Men franchise, a colossal failure.
It is hard to pinpoint the exact reason why Dark Phoenix failed, though many have tried. The film's similarities to X-Men: The Last Stand, the lukewarm response to X-Men: Apocalypse and the absence of Hugh Jackman's Wolverine were all cited as potential reasons for its failure.
The film's production budget is estimated to be $200 million. It has so far grossed $252.3 million. This means that Dark Phoenix lost Fox between $100 million and $120 million, making it the biggest box office bomb of 2019 (thus far).
The Lone Ranger
While the status of pulp heroes like the Lone Ranger as superheroes is arguable, they still essential function as modern superheroes do. With that in mind, it's worth considering Disney's most recent, somewhat misguided attempt to adapt The Lone Ranger for modern audiences.
On paper, it makes sense why Disney would want to pour all this money into The Lone Ranger. It's an adaptation of a popular pulp hero and another period piece collaboration between director Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp, who were the keys to the successful Pirates of the Caribbean franchise. By 2013, however, Depp had lost a lot of clout with audiences, who had long grown weary of Depp playing wacky characters. To make matters worse, however, the film drew a great deal of criticism from audiences irate that Depp's "wacky character" was caricature of a Native American, which was called white-washing by some corners.
The Lone Ranger's production budget cost Disney between $225 million and $250 million. It grossed $260 million worldwide and lost somewhere between $124 million and $190 million, depending on how over-inflated the marketing budget became.
John Carter, in many ways, is one of the oldest superheroes around, being a pulp character originally created by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the same man who created Tarzan. Carter is a former Confederate soldier who uncovers a means to transport his spirit and body to the dying planet of Mars, where, due to the planet's decreased gravity, he can jump faster and fight harder than any of the natives of Mars. The series requires him to battle monsters, unravel political intrigue, and kick green aliens in the face.
Disney's John Carter, tragically, never found its audience, despite receiving some solid reviews. However, the production cost for this film was immense. The film brought in $284.1 million against a $263.7 million production budget. However, the marketing for this film ballooned to truly epic proportions. Some estimates claim the film only lost $126 million for Disney, while others estimate the total is closer to $200 million in losses. After inflation is taken into account, John Carter stands one of the biggest cinematic bombs in history.