Some movies are made on a shoestring budget and end up becoming huge successes. That’s reason bang for your buck. On the other hand, some movies have massive budgets. You can usually see that on the screen, but not always. Having a huge budget isn’t a terrible thing. Many movies that spent a ton of cash still end up turning a big-time profit. However, the stakes are definitely higher. Here are the 30 most-expensive movies ever made, adjusted for inflation.
You would think there might be franchise fatigue by the fifth entry in Michael Bay’s “Transformers” series. They was definitely budget bloat, as this is the most-expensive film in the franchise, costing $239 million. Despite being the fifth movie in a not-exactly-beloved series, “The Last Knight” still made plenty of money worldwide.
No, not the original animated film from 1994. We’re talking about the 2019 remake with a lot of uncanny valley potential. It also had bigger names in the cast, including Beyonce. That probably went a long way to putting together its $250 budget. Of course, Disney is still making remakes of its old animated films, so they are plenty happy with the results so far.
“The Dark Knight” was huge. It won Heath Ledger an Oscar. It largely is responsible for expanding the Best Picture nominations at the Academy Awards. It also probably helped “The Dark Knight Rises” garner a $230 million budget. Well, that and the fact it was the third and final film in a massive trilogy. Some complain about “The Dark Knight Rises,” and not just Bane’s incomprehensibility, but overall it’s a successful film, and it made plenty of cash.
It’s way easier to get Batman movies going than Superman movies, for whatever reason. Think of how many successful Batman films there have been. Now think of how many successful Superman films there have been. After years without a Superman movie, we got “Superman Returns,” with Brandon Routh as the alien from Krypton. The movie cost $204 million, a ton for the time. It was not critically or commercially acclaimed, there were no sequels, and Routh’s potential for stardom came crashing down.
For years, “Cleopatra” was the pinnacle of excessive budgets. It’s the only movie on this list that came out before 1995. It cost $31.1 million at the time, but that’s $260 million in modern times. While he making of “Cleopatra” was a fascination for many at the time, the film did make back its budget – it’s the highest-grossing movie of 1963 – and it was nominated for nine Academy Awards. None of that works with the narrative, though.
It seemed like Will Smith could do no wrong. “Independence Day” and “Men in Black” were incredibly successful. “Wild Wild West” could have been the next massive blockbuster from the Fresh Prince. Smith’s reputation probably helped with the $170 million budget. Then, “Wild Wild West” was a total flop. Technically, making $222.1 million in the box office meant it made its budget back, but nobody was happy with that…or the five Razzie wins.
Disney has a ton of money on hand, which is why they can dip into the vault for some remakes. “Beauty and the Beast” is live action and stars Emma Watson, aka Hermoine Granger. It cost more than “The Lion King” remake, specifically it cost $255 million, but somehow this is the 10th highest-grossing movie of all time. It made over a billion bucks worldwide. No wonder they keep making remakes.
It seems like “X-Men” series always peter out. Just look at “Dark Phoenix.” Speaking of which, Phoenix is also a character in “The Last Stand,” the third film in the original X-Men movie series. “The Last Stand” cost $210 million back in 2006, and while this is the highest-grossing film of the original trilogy, critics kind of found it wanting, and we don’t disagree.
We’ll be honest, we forgot that “Prince Caspian” even existed. We remembered “The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe,” the first film in this trilogy, but the trilogy quickly dissipated from our memory. The budget of “Prince Caspian” did not dissipate, though, as the film cost $225 million. Apparently they were happy enough with the results to finish out the trilogy, but with a movie that cost considerably less money.
Until the Marvel Cinematic Universe came around, to many “Spider-Man 2” was considered the pinnacle of superhero movie making. It still has quite a lot of respect, even though “Spider-Man 3” was kind of a bummer. Too much dancing Peter Parker. Spidey’s battle with Doctor Octopus cost $200 million, but it was a smash success.
Peter Jackson’s priciest movie isn’t a “Lord of the Rings” or a “Hobbit” flick. No, it’s his remake of “King Kong.” Maybe it’s that extended (some say overlong) run time. While this “King Kong” hasn’t been nearly as iconic as the original, the $207 million turned out an output of $562.3 million. It was definitely a box-office success, even if the movie has been forgotten (and now has been overtaken by a new King Kong reboot).
The last two films we listed were tied for 20th when adjusted for inflation, so we have entered the top 20. And we enter with the most-divisive of the “Star Wars” films. Personally, we’re big fans of Rian Johnson’s film. It cost $262 million, but it made over a billion dollars and is the ninth-highest-grossing movie ever, no matters what the naysayers think.
Next on the list is “The Last Jedi’s” sequel, and the final film in the new series. “The Rise of Skywalker” is considered a box office disappointment, which speaks to how prolific this franchise is. The movie cost $275 million and made over one billion just like its two predecessors. However, it did make less money than the previous two films in the trilogy, which was probably a bit of a disappointment.
No, you are not mistaken. The three films that comprise the new “Star Wars” trilogy are back-to-back-to-back on this list. “The Force Awakens” was the first new “Star Wars” film in over a decade, and it came on the heels of a trilogy people generally did not like. They spent $259 million on this new film and cast quite a few folks who were not big stars. The gamble – and “Star Wars” nostalgia – paid off. “The Force Awakens” is the third-highest-grossing movie ever. The Force was clearly with them, it would seem.
Wow, four “Star Wars” movies in a row! Of course, on the other hand, “Solo” is maybe the biggest flop in the history of the franchise, commercially if not critically. The attempt to give Han Solo a, well, solo movie had multiple directors and a lot of issues, not to mention a $275 million budget. “Solo” was so lackluster it put the kibosh on more “Star Wars” standalone films.
Batman fought Superman! That has to be interesting…right? OK, maybe not. Maybe Zack Snyder couldn’t get out of his own way. Ben Affleck was brought in as Batman, perhaps contributing to a $263 million budget. It did bring in plenty of cash – over $870 million worldwide, which is good because there were a lot of sequels planned.
People dismiss James Cameron at this own risk. His films are often viewed skeptically until they hit theaters. There were those who didn’t believe in “Avatar.” It seemed weird and cost $237 million, making it one of the highest-budgeted movies at the time. Somehow (hint: the brief return of the 3-D movie fad) “Avatar” became incredibly successful, even taking over the title of the highest-grossing movie ever (not adjusted for inflation).
We don’t want to spoil anything, but you are going to find out the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise has really splashed a ton of cash. That can’t be all Johnny Depp’s salary, either. “Dead Man’s Chest” is the second film in the franchise. It cost $225 million, but it also kept the series going.
“Waterworld” has a reputation as a total fiasco, and the budget is a big reason why. The Kevin Costner film cost $172, which at the time made it the most-expensive movie ever, even adjusting for inflation. Yes, it outdid “Cleopatra.” However, like “Cleopatra” it did actually end up making money, if just barely. Unlike “Cleopatra,” the dystopian sci-fi film did not get much Oscar love at all. Hey, it was still better than “The Postman,” a true flop.
This one stings for everybody involved. How did “John Carter” become so expensive? It’s star was Taylor Kitsch, who was not exactly an A-lister at the time. Also, why did they change the title from “John Carter of Mars” to something so generic? They spent $263.7 million on making the film, and it ended up making $284.1 in the box office. When you factor in stuff like marketing, it almost assuredly didn’t break even. A trilogy had been planned, but they never made a movie past “John Carter” in the series.
We begin the top 10 with the only Harry Potter movie to make the top 30. Why did this one end up so expensive? It was the sixth in the series, so that’s part of it we’re sure, but it wasn’t the final film. Of course, the series made so much money they got their financing back many times over. “The Half-Blood Prince” cost $250 million, even though no other Harry Potter film came close.
This is a strange one, because “Tangled” is a straight-up animated movie. Those usually don’t cost a huge amount of money, which is why we don’t really see them on this list. Then, there’s “Tangled,” which cost $260 million. A lot of money was poured into getting the animation right, as Disney had been struggling and the filmmakers wanted something that looked richer and more realistic. All the effort paid off. The Rapunzel riff made nearly $600 million, revitalized Disney animation, and led to “Frozen” in many ways.
The plight of “Justice League” is well known. It includes an unshaveable mustache. There was also the fact that Joss Whedon had to take over for Snyder, who had to leave the film due to personal tragedy. All that Snyder Cut talk is going to raise the money spent on “Justice League” in some ways, but the actual film that was released is the first on this list to cost $300 million. Unfortunately, in the minds of many it still can’t hold a candle to the MCU.
We talked about “Spider-Man 2” and how well-received it was, and how it compares favorably to the largely disliked “Spider-Man 3.” That doesn’t stop the third and final film in the Tobey Maguire series from getting a huge budget. The first two films were huge successes, and we guess they had to spend big on…Thomas Haden Church and Topher Grace? “Spider-Man 3” cost $258 million and the dip in quality and reception in part ended the series right here.
Plenty of jokes were made. “Titanic” was the first movie to cost $200 million. The budget skyrocketed. People were saying that the film was as much of a disaster as the actually sinking of the Titanic was. Then, James Cameron shut everybody up. “Titanic” was, for over a decade, the highest-grossing movie ever. It won 11 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. Celine Dion’s “My Heart Will Go On” because an inescapable hit. Yes, Cameron and company spent a crazy amount of money. The gamble was worth it.
You are about to find out just how much Marvel and Disney have spent on the “Avengers” movies. Opening the top five is the penultimate of those films, “Infinity War.” You can see where the cash went. The cast is huge and full of stars. They got everybody together for this one. There are epic fight scenes, and all those realistic computer graphics don’t come cheap. “Infinity War” paved the way for the culmination of Marvel’s story by spending $316 million. Since the film made over $2 billion worldwide, everybody walked away just fine.
One year after spending $316 million on “Infinity War,” the story of the Avengers wrapped up with “Endgame,” a movie that cost $356 million. That’s a lot of extra cash. Not that it mattered, of course. People were so enthused to see where the story of the Avengers versus Thanos ended that the movie made nearly $2.8 billion. It’s now the highest-grossing movie ever.
There was a huge jump in money spent from the second “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie to the third one. This film cost a whopping $300 million, which is $370 million adjusting for inflation. There must be people who love this film series, even if it doesn’t get as much attention as, say, the Marvel movies or Batman movies. “At World’s End,” a movie we don’t know anything about other than it exists, made nearly a billion dollars. Maybe these movies are loved overseas?
That’s right, this is the most-expensive Marvel movie. You don’t even need to adjust for inflation to make that true. “Age of Ultron” cost $365 million to make. We aren’t sure why the most-expensive Marvel film is the second Avengers movie. It was kind of received in lukewarm fashion as well, and it’s arguably the least-liked of the four “Avengers” movies.
The priciest movie, adjusted for inflation or otherwise, is a “Pirates of the Caribbean” film. “On Stranger Tides,” the fourth movie in the series, cost $378.5 million to make. That’s $430 million adjusted for inflation. No other movie cost over $400 million using current rates. This is notably the film where Will and Elizabeth (Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley) don’t appear. Instead, Penelope Cruz is Depp’s costar. Also, Keith Richards makes an appearance. Maybe that is where all the budget went? Regardless, the movie did make over $1 billion worldwide, so the money spent was made back and then some. They even made a fifth movie in the series. That one didn’t crack the top 30. It ranks a mere 37th. They really pinched pennies for that one.