|Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs|
It is likely that by this point you are aware that director Danny Boyle's Steve Jobs bombed at the box office. It is even possible that people are already calling an end times scenario for the prestige picture that features some of the best acting and writing of the year (I think so, anyways). However, if you're wanting to go that route, I want to warn you that this isn't the first film, nor is it likely the last, to be a great film that bombs. In fact, there's been several films that have "bombed" through out The Academy Awards history. The following is a look at 10 different films that made it to Best Picture despite not turning a profit. A lot of them are likely to be more surprising than you'd think.
The Wizard of Oz (1939)
Budget: $2.7 million
Profit: $3 million
In 1939, director Victor Fleming was responsible for one of the most successful films in history with Gone With the Wind. He was also responsible for an even more beloved and iconic fantasy film called The Wizard of Oz. Where the latter is still the highest grossing film of all time (adjusted for inflation), the latter is a surprising misfire for initial finances. While the film would become iconic, its initial release failed to turn over a profit (the rule of thumb is that a film is successful if it makes back twice its budget). While it doesn't seem as bad of a financial failure as other entries on here, it's still considered an under-performer that, surprisingly, didn't take the world by storm upon initial release.
Citizen Kane (1941)
Depending on who you ask, Citizen Kane is the best film of all time. If nothing else, it has earned the moniker for being the top tier of any given genre. However, Orson Welles likely got in the way of his own work when the film controversially took on William Randolph Hearst and caused politics to make his film banned in many circles. While the profits aren't known (they were not recorded at the time), the film is considered to be a bomb. While the film has withstood the test of time, it was the unfortunate start to Welles picking fights with higher powers and not making financially successful films. In a sense, it's both a tragedy and very obvious why Citizen Kane failed at the box office. Thankfully, it has persevered elsewhere.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
Budget: $3.2 million
Profit: $3.3 million
There hasn't been an underdog film as popular as It's a Wonderful Life. For starters, it seems contradictory that its bleak story of a suicidal James Stewart is somehow the heartwarming Christmas tradition thanks to public broadcast playing it after it went into the public domain. It wasn't well received at the time of its release and, even with director Frank Capra being considered great, failed to really capture anyone's attention. It's one of those stories that's almost as sweet as George Bailey's own narrative of sacrifice, getting the last laugh on those that thought that this film wouldn't amount to much.
The Alamo (1960)
Budget: $12 million
Profit: $7.2 million
It's a film that I already discussed on Failed Oscar Campaigns for its bad practices of trying to get co-star Chill Wills an Oscar nomination. However, the film that John Wayne directed was also full of other problematic features, including its box office. While Wayne would remain an icon of the western and action-adventure genre, the appeal of his as a director would never catch on, as most people found the film long and dull. For what it's worth, it does have a great theme song, but the rest is mired in the fact that it was one of the first big films of its era to bomb at the box office.
|Left to right: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton|
Budget: $31 million
Profit: $57.8 million
In the echelon of movie history, there's few films as synonymous with box office bombs as Cleopatra. The Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton epic was considered a disaster thanks to on set tantrums and a record breaking costume changes by Taylor. It's a lavish production that has gotten a bad rap thanks to this. While it's not the worst bomb in box office history, it's among the most notorious for its destruction of studios and proving that the Golden Age of Hollywood was declining. In my defense, it's an underrated, if flawed, film worthy of recognition. It just came up a little short where it needed some extra power.
Dr. Doolittle (1967)
Budget: $17 million
Profit: $9 million
Poor Rex Harrison. Following the notorious Cleopatra, he lead this musical that was an ode to a man who talk to the animals. The film was notorious for having a problematic production history with its numerous animal extras. It was also a film that has gone on to be so sneered by audiences that it's considered one of the worst Best Picture nominees in history. It's even been ridiculed on a recent episode of The Simpsons in which an assembly of children complain about how long and boring it is. For everything that may have been impressive about the film, there's no denying that it was always going to be an uphill struggle, especially with animal actors who didn't always cooperate.
Hello Dolly (1969)
Budget: $25 million
Profit: $26 million
Audiences nowadays are likely to remember this late-60's musical as the only film that WALL-E's lovable robot ever watched. Losing its backers $10 million, the film wasn't a big success. While Barbara Streisand's career would persevere, the traditional, big and lush musical would slowly fade into obscurity, rarely being revitalized by directors with confidence. Even if they do, there's no denying that nothing will be as good as golden age musicals, of which Hello Dolly was among the last of, saying farewell to one of film's most iconic periods in history.
The Right Stuff (1983)
Budget: $27 million
Profit: $21 million
Before Gravity in 2013, it seemed like films about outer space were never going to have a comeback. While there's been a few that have captured the enthusiasm of travelling into outer space, there's no denying that it's even harder to find one that was nominated for Best Picture. Based on Tom Wolfe's bestseller, it's a story of astronauts in training and the morale that the country had behind them. By 1983, it looked like things weren't the same way for citizens who failed to make this a runaway hit. But don't worry. NASA is fine. They just discovered water on Mars and have gotten a boost in interest, thanks to The Martian.
|Left to right: Morgan Freeman and Tim Robbins|
The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
Budget: $25 million
Profit: $28 million
Nowadays, it seems sacrilegious to say anything bad about The Shawshank Redemption. It's been the #1 movie on IMDb's Top 250 for the past few years, and for good reason. It's among the best prison dramas out there released in what many consider to be one of the strongest Best Picture years in history with Pulp Fiction and Forrest Gump also being nominated (the latter won). It wasn't the only "bomb" from the group (Quiz Show did a little worse), but it's one of those films that, in hindsight, should have done better, if just because of how iconic and powerful its story has become to audiences of many generations.
Budget: Between $150 and $170 million
Profit: $189 million
If nothing else, Hugo proves that a box office bomb isn't necessarily a bad or obvious thing. This 3D love letter to film did amazingly well at the box office and tied with The Artist for most Oscar wins of that year. Even then, it's an example of how a film can gross close to $200 million and still fail to turn a profit. Thankfully, it's actually a really fun movie that introduces young audiences to film history and will hopefully garner a following as time goes on. If nothing else, it's an interesting film in that it's probably the most earnest Martin Scorsese film we're likely to ever get. If nothing else, it's hilarious that he went from the kid friendly film to The Wolf of Wall Street two years later.