The 2009 summer movie season ended, with a record-breaking box office. But 2009 will also go down as the year with the most movies that cost $200 million or more. We've compiled the most expensive movies of the past decade.
Here's a list of all the movies with production budgets of $170 million and over, for the past ten years. (We chose the threshold of $170 million because there were a ton of movies clustered around the $150 million-$160 million mark.) Movies that failed to make back their budget at the U.S. box office are underlined.
Harry Potter & The Half-Blood Prince: $250 million
Avatar: $237 million (according to AP)
Transformers: Revenge Of The Fallen: $225 million (according to NY Post)
Terminator Salvation: $200 million
G.I. Joe: The Rise Of COBRA: $175 million
Up: $175 million
Quantum Of Solace: $230.6 million
Prince Caspian: $225.6 million
Iron Man: 186.5 million
Indiana Jones And The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull: $185.5 million
The Dark Knight: $185.5 million
Wall-E: $180.5 million
Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End: $317.4 million
Spider-Man 3: $272.9 million
The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials: $213.4 million
Rush Hour 3: $187.4 million
Superman Returns: $295.3 million
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest: $223.1 million
X-Men: The Last Stand: $209.3 million
Poseidon: $171.3 million
King Kong: $232.5 million
Chronicles Of Narnia: The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe: $197.6 million
Sahara: $176.8 million
Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire: $150 million (2005 dollars)
Spider-Man 2: $232.2 million
Troy: $199.9 million
Van Helsing: $182.8 million
The Polar Express: $186.6 million
Alexander: $175.4 million
Terminator 3: $238.4 million
The Matrix: Reloaded: $176.7 million
Master And Commander: $175.6 million
The Matrix: Revolutions: $175.6 million
The Perfect Storm: $175.6 million
Wild Wild West: $221 million
The World Is Not Enough: $173.3 million
The 13th Warrior: $206.8 million
Notes: All figures are in 2009 dollars, adjusted for inflation. These figures are just production budgets, and are based on the most accurate figures we could find. They don't include marketing budgets. And of course, many of the films which failed to break even at the U.S. box office did make a profit when you factor in international box office.
There hasn't been a movie as expensive as Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End since 2007, so you could argue that, over all, movies are not getting more expensive. However, after a few years where there were four mega-budgeted movies per year, the last two years have each seen six movies with budgets over $170 million (in inflation-adjusted dollars.) And as we mentioned above, this year had the most movies costing $200 million or more of any year, with next year likely to see even more films over $200 million.
And the listing above doesn't reflect this fact, but we also found a steep rise in the number of movies costing around $150 million every year — this seems to be the safe point for a film that is expected to do well, but may not be a blockbuster. Films like X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Batman Begins, Star Trek and many others all have production budgets in the magic $150 million zone.
At the same time, Hollywood seems slightly better at picking winners lately. We haven't had a year where most of the hugely expensive movies failed to make back their budget at the U.S. box office since 2004, when two historical epics, The Polar Expressand Van Helsing all bombed. Or 2003, when one of two Matrix sequels underperformed, along with Terminator 3 and Master And Commander.
One thing jumps out at me: There were apparently no budget busting movies in 2000, 2001 or 2002. Apparently the first X-Men movie, which came out in 2000, had a budget of only about $75 million. And the Star Wars prequels, hideous though they were, were apparently on the cheap side, costing around $120 million each (in non-adjusted dollars.)
Why would this be? Well, look at the three big-budget movies from 1999. Notice anything the three of them have in common? Hmmm... Other mega-expensive bombs in the late 1990s include Speed 2: Cruise Control, Lethal Weapon 4 and, of course, Waterworld. The only mega-budget movies to make money in the latter half of the 1990s were Armageddon and Titanic.