You’ve probably never seen these movies. That’s why they’re on this list.
The 13th Warrior
In the ‘90s, several adaptations of works by Michael Crichton were among the most successful projects in Hollywood. The 1993 big-screen version of his novel Jurassic Park was the top movie of the year, and successful movies of Rising Sun, Disclosure, and Congo followed. The TV smash ER was based on a screenplay that Crichton, a former doctor, wrote in the ’70s. So, it looked like Disney would have a hit on their hands with the 1999 film The 13th Warrior, based on Crichton’s Eaters of the Dead, a medieval adventure tale based on the ancient legend of Beowulf. A massive war epic, it cost more than $160 to make, and it earned back $61 million. Total loss: about $90 million.
This mystical martial arts movie starring Keanu Reeves (along with a cast of Japanese actors little known in the U.S.) cost a whopping $175 million to make. At first. After cost overruns ($175 million worth!), Universal Pictures fired director Carl Rinsch and ordered reshoots that cost another $50 million. When released in 2013, it made just $38 million in the U.S. It didn’t help that this epic fantasy adventure was released the same weekend as another, better known epic fantasy: the second part of The Hobbit.
Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean series is now one of the most lucrative franchises of all time. But when the first installment was released in 2003, movie industry honchos weren’t too convinced it would be a success. There hadn’t been a popular pirate movie in years, and the last major pirate movie had actually destroyed its studio. In 1995, the swashbuckling high seas adventure Cutthroat Island starring Matthew Modine and Geena Davis hit theaters. Carolco Pictures spent $98 million to produce the movie and another $17 to market it. It made a shockingly low $10 million at the box office. The losses were too much for Carolco to handle, and the company went out of business due to the failure of Cutthroat Island.