Hit Movies That Everybody Thinks Were FlopsS

The history of genre movies is littered with massive, lavish failures — movies that took hundreds of millions of dollars and tossed the money down a sinkhole. But some of the movies that everybody "knows" were box office disasters actually did really well, when you look at the numbers.

Here are some successful science fiction, fantasy and horror films that everybody's sure were failures.

So first of all, a word about Hollywood accounting — as you might already know, pretty much no movies ever officially make a profit. (For more on that, and other quirks of the system, click here.) But a rule of thumb seems to be that if a movie's global box office is double its production budget, then it probably made money. That's the rubric we're using here.

Also, obviously, it's a bit subjective as to which movies people believe were flops. But these are films which didn't get sequels, and which we see frequently being mentioned as embarrassing failures.

With that sorted out, here's our list of movies that did gangbusters at the box office but which frequently get described as failures. Data via Box Office Mojo and various other sources.

Robot Monster (1953)
Estimated production budget: $16,000
Total worldwide box office: $1 million.
Quotes: It's commonly reported that this film's director attempted suicide after the film failed at the box office.

Hit Movies That Everybody Thinks Were FlopsS

The Black Hole (1979)
Estimated production budget: $26 million
Total domestic box office: $35 million (worldwide box office unknown).
Quotes: It's easy to find articles listing this movie as a flop.

Hit Movies That Everybody Thinks Were FlopsS

Tron (1981)
Estimated production budget: $17 million
Total domestic box office: $33 million. (Global box office unknown.)
Quotes: "Tron: Legacy is a sequel to a film that came out nearly 30 years ago. And that movie, 1982's Tron, was a flop." — Newsday. (There are dozens of other articles that say something similar.)

Hit Movies That Everybody Thinks Were FlopsS

Hook (1991)
Estimated production budget: $70 million
Total worldwide box office: $301 million.
Quotes: "Hook [is] the rare Spielberg flop." — Time Magazine

Hit Movies That Everybody Thinks Were FlopsS

Planet of the Apes (2001)
Estimated production budget: $100 million
Total worldwide box office: $362 million.
Quotes: "Mark Wahlberg reveals why Planet of the Apes flopped" (headline from Movies.com)

Hit Movies That Everybody Thinks Were FlopsS

Vanilla Sky (2001)
Estimated production budget: $68 million
Total worldwide box office: $203 million.
Quotes: "The decade since Almost Famous hasn't been kind to [Cameron] Crowe, with only flops (Vanilla Sky, Elizabethtown) and a couple of rockumentaries to show for it." — The Tampa Bay Times

Hit Movies That Everybody Thinks Were FlopsS

Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed (2004)
Estimated production budget: $25 million
Total worldwide box office: $181 million.
Details: Apparently it was considered a big enough disaster that it banished the live-action Scooby movies to the direct-to-DVD zone. People did note that its domestic box office was down from the first movie's.

Hit Movies That Everybody Thinks Were FlopsS

King Kong (2005)
Estimated production budget: $207 million
Total worldwide box office: $550 million.
Quotes: Lots of people described this film as a box office flop, to the point where other people had to defend it.

Hit Movies That Everybody Thinks Were FlopsS

Superman Returns (2006)
Estimated production budget: $270 million
Total worldwide box office: $391 million.
Details: So as we've observed before, this movie made roughly as much money as Batman Begins. But because Bryan Singer's film was saddled with the budgets of all the failed Superman movies of the 1990s and 2000s, including Tim Burton's and McG's, it was a failure on paper.

Hit Movies That Everybody Thinks Were FlopsS

Eragon (2006)
Estimated production budget: $100 million
Total worldwide box office: $250 million.
Details: This is one of the first examples of a new phenomenon — movies that underperform domestically but make more than enough money overseas to compensate. See also Last Airbender below.

Hit Movies That Everybody Thinks Were FlopsS

Ghost Rider (2007)
Estimated production budget: $110 million
Total worldwide box office: $228 million.
Quotes: "Although Ghost Rider was notoriously known as being one of Nicolas Cage's worst flops, Columbia Pictures has decided to give the Marvel comic another chance." - The Celebrity Cafe.

Hit Movies That Everybody Thinks Were FlopsS

Jumper (2008)
Estimated production budget: $85 million
Total worldwide box office: $222 million.
References: It's pretty easy to find articles where this is referred to as a major flop, or part of a mid-career stumble for director Doug Liman.

Hit Movies That Everybody Thinks Were FlopsS

The Day The Earth Stood Still (2008)
Estimated production budget: $80 million
Total worldwide box office: $233 million.
Quotes: "Fox forced out this turd of a remake, which not only tanked at the box office, but will likely harm the original's reputation in the memories of future generations of film fans." — Screenjunkies

Hit Movies That Everybody Thinks Were FlopsS

The Last Airbender (2010)
Estimated production budget: $150 million
Total worldwide box office: $320 million.
Details: Another movie that failed in the U.S. and is regarded as a box office disappointment — but did gangbuster business overseas, pushing it back into profitable territory. To a lesser extent, this also happened with X-Men: First Class.

Hit Movies That Everybody Thinks Were FlopsS

Spy Kids: All The Time in the World (2011)
Estimated production budget: $27 million
Total worldwide box office: $74 million.
Quotes: Frequently dismissed as an underperforming sequel, although people sometimes do note that the low budget made it profitable.

Hit Movies That Everybody Thinks Were FlopsS

In Time (2011)
Estimated production budget: $40 million
Total worldwide box office: $140 million (Although to be fair, the movie didn't do great domestically.)
Quotes: "If we ignore In Time (and based on box office receipts, most of you did), Timberlake has acting chops." — Entertainment Weekly

Additional reporting by MaryKate Jasper and Gordon Jackson.