Film making is an expensive business. Especially when it comes to making films which have a mass appeal. Some of the most expensive movies of all time can cost more to make than five-six standard budget movies combined. The most expensive movie of all time can cost even more than that. In this post, we will take a look at the most expensive movies of all time. The cost of the movies which were made long ago, has been adjusted for inflation. The movies have been listed in the ascending order of cost.
Here are the 22 most expensive movies ever made:
The Dark Knight Rises – $237 million
This movie kicks off the most expensive movies ever made list. The Dark Knight’s budget was only $185 million, but after its success, they decided to pull out all the stops for The Dark Knight Rises. The decision paid off — it made over $1 billion worldwide and became the 26th highest-grossing film of all time. The film also received eight Academy Award nominations, winning Best Sound Editing and Best Supporting Actor, which was awarded to Heath Ledger after his death.
Superman Returns – $239 million
When it comes to Superman movies, Superman Returns, starring Brandon Routh is usually overlooked. However, it had an extremely generous budget and had some stellar special effects. The performances of the actors were also great. The movie featured Brandon Routh as Superman, Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane and acting powerhouse Kevin Spacey as Lex Luthor. A sequel was planned, but director Bryan Singer opted to drop his contract in favor of other opportunities.
Cleopatra – $241 million
The amount of money spent on making Cleopatra was staggering. SO much so that 20th Century Fox almost went bankrupt in 1963. Although the $241 million price tag has been adjusted for inflation, it cost the studio a whopping $31 million back then, by far the most expensive movie ever made at the time. Despite being the highest-grossing film of 1963, it lost over $44 million. Today, it’s remembered as a classic, with remarkable performances from film legends Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
Wild Wild West – $241 million
Will Smith, Salma Hayek, Kevin Kline… what should have been a big hit is now regarded as one of the worst films of the ’90s. At the Razzie Awards, it won Worst Picture, Worst Director, Worst Screenplay… you get the idea. As Paul Clinton of CNN said, “[It’s] a cautionary tale about boys and their toys and what happens when a star, Will Smith, and a director, Barry Sonnenfeld, are given way too much money to play with.”
Spectre – $245 million
The very first James Bond movie, Dr. No had a budget of roughly $1 million in 1962, but, in 2015, the franchise spent more than it ever had before for its 24th film, Spectre. After Skyfall, it was the highest-grossing installment in the series, with a worldwide revenue of $880 million. Sam Smith’s original song, “Writing’s on the Wall,” which he says only took half an hour to write, earned him an Academy Award and a Golden Globe.
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian – $247 million
While The Chronicles of Narnia films are jam-packed with magic, they failed to capture the audience’s imaginations in the same way as the Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings franchises. Disney spent more money on Prince Caspian than any other Chronicles of Narnia film, and although it was a moderate success, the next installment, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, tanked. The proposed next instalment of the franchise, The Silver Chair has been “under development” for a decade now.
X-Men: The Last Stand – $247 million
X-Men: The Last Stand is the third and final film of the original X Men trilogy of the early 2000s. 11 different visual effects studios worked towards the visual effects of the series. As a result, it wasn’t just the most expensive film of the franchise, it was the most expensive film of that time (not adjusted for inflation). Thankfully, it also turned out to be the highest-grossing film of the franchise at $459 million worldwide. However, money aside, it wasn’t well-received. As Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said, “Director Brett Ratner, who came in last minute when X vet Bryan Singer dropped out to helm Superman Returns, throws everything at the screen in the hope that something will stick. What results feels rushed, chaotic, and stuffed with more characters than the script takes time to develop.”
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – $250 million
The entire Hobbit trilogy was an incredibly expensive affair. All three of the movies cost a combined $623 million to make. With the bulk of that being spent on the trilogy’s conclusion, The Battle of the Five Armies. Although The Battle of the Five Armies received mixed reviews, it brought in more than $956 million worldwide — roughly $100 million more than Peter Jackson’s first foray into Middle Earth, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice – $250 million
With legendary director Zack Snyder at the helm, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice was one of the most anticipated films of 2016. It made well over $800 million worldwide but that’s very less when you consider who all are in the movie. Despite featuring three of the most popular and revered comic book characters viz. Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, the film ended up being quite divisive. A lot of the fans loved the dark and bleak take on the superheroes while a lot of them felt that director Zack Snyder took away the essence of those characters by making them so gritty and dark. And then there was the whole “Martha” thing. That deserves an entire post on its own.
Captain America: Civil War – $250 million
Released in the same year as Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, this solid entry into the MCU, Captain America: Civil War regaled audiences worldwide. It grossed over $1 billion dollars worldwide and is considered the best film of the Captain America series by many. As it is with almost every Marvel movie, it delivered everything that fans wanted to see. The airport fight was straight out of the pages of a comic book and is one of the high points of superhero movies in general. AP Kryza of Williamette Week said, “Civil War is fun. It’s smart. It’s coherent. It allows its heart to beat strongly amid the chaos, with character moments and set pieces working in tandem to create perhaps Marvel’s best film so far.”
King Kong – $251 million
At 187 minutes, many audiences felt that 2005’s King Kong was simply too long to be enjoyed. Naomi Watts and Adrian Brody were great and the special effects were top-notch, but director Peter Jackson, fresh off his Lord of the Rings success, seems to have forgotten about editing. Considering that Return of the King had a run time of 201 minutes, he was probably in the mindset that longer is better.
Avatar – $261 million
The case of Avatar is slightly strange. When it was released in 2009, it was one of the most hyped movies ever made. Many people called it more than a movie, they called it an “experience”. The movie went on to become the highest grossing movie of all time and stayed at that spot until Avengers: Endgame knocked it out of that spot a decade later. What’s surprising about this mega hit, is that it has almost been forgotten by the people. There were no hordes of subreddits or cosplayers around the movie. The movie was James Cameron’s lifelong dream and he had to wait for the technology to reach a stage where it could be realized. The movie featured great CGI and solid performances from Sigourney Weaver, Zoe Saldana and Michelle Rodriguez. However, nobody seems to remember the movie anymore. It hasn’t attained any kind of cult status. It has failed at being even slightly memorable. However, because it made so much money, James Cameron has plans for three sequels.
Waterworld – $267 million
At the time of its release in 1995, Waterworld was the most expensive film ever made. It also ended up being a massive flop. Audiences and critics alike thought the acting was bad and the plot silly, but, today, it’s reached something of a cult status. Waterworld is kind of like an Ed Wood movie — so bad that it’s actually good. At Universal Studios Japan, an attraction called “Waterworld: A Live Sea War Spectacular” is still up and running to this day.
John Carter – $272 million
When it comes to striking gold on the box office, Disney has got the formula down. However, John Carter is definitely one of the few times they failed at following their own formula. The movie lost a staggering $200 million and was lambasted for its absolute lack of plot. If you haven’t seen it, you haven’t really missed out on anything. David Denby of the New Yorker called it simply, “A mess.” A very expensive movie which is very unwatchable.
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – $276 million
Some movies really do need a huge budget, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is one of them. How can a movie from this series not be on the most expensive movies of all time list? While its predecessor, the Order of the Phoenix, was met with mixed reviews, the Half-Blood Prince was well-received, even by critics who were not big fans of the Harry Potter universe. Kristian Lin said it best in her review, which reads: “Any movie that works as a spy thriller, a love story, and horror movie all at once is pretty remarkable. You might say it takes a fair amount of wizardry.”
Avengers: Age of Ultron – $279 million
As expected after the success of The Avengers, the sequel was bigger and more expensive. After all, bringing together names like Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, and Don Cheadle doesn’t come cheap, and that’s only a few of the Avengers. Luckily, the Avengers always slay at the box office, with this one bringing in well over a billion dollars. When the Avengers assemble, it rains cash.
Tangled – $282 million
Tangled isn’t just the only animated film on this list — it’s the most expensive animated film of all time. The reason? Rapunzel’s hair. It took software developers and animators six years to create programs that would allow the acres of hair to move naturally, as well as to perfect the look of the film to match older Disney classics. Their time and money was well-spent, as the film was well received by kids, critics, and adults alike.
Spider-Man 3 – $294 million
Spider-Man 3 was the most expensive and undoubtedly the worst of the trilogy. Legendary director Sam Raimi got his start with low-budget horror films like The Evil Dead — was the nearly three hundred million dollars more than he could handle? It would seem so. The movie wasn’t really well received and deemed a hotchpotch of incoherent plots. At the time of its release, it was the most expensive movie of the superhero genre. Revered film critic Roger Ebert said, “Spider-Man 3 is, in short, a mess. Too many villains, too many pale plot strands, too many romantic misunderstandings, too many conversations, too many street crowds looking high into the air and shouting ‘oooh!’ this way, then swiveling and shouting ‘aaah!’ that way.”
Titanic – $295 million
When it comes to being the ultimate cocktail of grandiose romance, drama, action, adventure and tragedy, nothing comes close to James Cameron’s 1997 epic Titanic. Along with Ben Hur and Lord of The RIngs: the Return of The King, this movie holds the record for most number of Oscars won. At the time of its release, it was the most expensive movie ever made. Even today, not many movies have been able to surpass it. It might be a bit cheesy and Jack and Rose’s love story a bit overplayed, but if ever there was a ’90s classic, this is it.
Avengers: Infinity War – $330 million
As discussed before, when the Avengers assemble, it rains cash (the movie made over $2 billion). However, to get all the Avengers on screen, studios need to shell out a lot of cash as well. The actors themselves had to work real hard to get in their onscreen, superheroic shapes. Take Elizabeth Olsen’s workout and diet plan for example. It was brutal. This was the 19th film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and had over a decade and 18 movies of build up as the Infinity Gauntlet saga came to a close (almost). Avengers: Infinity War was shot over seven months. It was shot back to back along with its sequel Avengers: Endgame. Getting all the beloved MCU actors in one place obviously cost the studio a lot of money. That combined with all the incredible visual effects and mammoth set pieces made it one of the most expensive movies ever made, and one of the best.
Avengers: Endgame – $356 million
This movie is everything Avengers: Infinity War was, only bigger. It was as mammoth an undertaking as it can be in the superhero genre. It was flawlessly executed by the directorial duo of the Russo Brothers and it is definitely the absolute peak of the superhero movie genre. The movie was the 20th entrant of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and concluded a saga that spanned more than a decade and a half and almost 50 hours of movies. It also dethroned Avatar as the highest grossing movie of all time and finished with box office earnings of 2.798 billion. If this is the end of the superhero genre as we know it, then what a way to go.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – $378.5 million
It’s still hard to believe that this movie cost more to make than Avengers: Endgame, in 2011 money! The most expensive movie of all time, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides was a very costly affair which ended up being quite bland. From special effects to acting salaries to music, the fourth installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean series pulled out all the stops, but the reaction from fans was moderate at best. Although it brought in just over a billion dollars, it seemed as if the franchise was going stale. Despite criticism, the fifth and sixth films were also made.