A big movie release usually draws a lot of hype, with fans sharing their excitement on social media and studios releasing trailer after trailer (and sometimes even a teaser for the trailer). But all that buzz can sometimes come with a price. Your expectations become so high that the actual movie ends up being a bit of a letdown.
From disappointing sequels to lackluster blockbusters, these are some of the hotly anticipated films that failed to live up to the Hollywood hype.
‘Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull’
Nearly two decades after the original “Indiana Jones” trilogy, fans were thrilled to hear that Harrison Ford was returning as his iconic character in a fourth installment, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.” Aside from marking the long-awaited return of the franchise, the 2008 movie was meant to expand Jones’ legacy by introducing his son and sidekick, Mutt Williams (played by Shia Labeouf).
But the film proved to be extremely polarizing upon its release, earning mixed reviews from both critics and moviegoers. The general consensus: While not a complete and utter flop, the movie failed to deliver the thrills fans were looking for, especially after a 20-year wait. And that scene where Indy survives a nuclear blast in a refrigerator? “Nuke the fridge” has become a phrase referring to the point at which a franchise starts to decline.
‘Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace’
“Star Wars” fans were at peak frenzy heading into the premiere of this 1999 prequel, released over 15 years after the original trilogy. Written by creator George Lucas and featuring a star-studded cast (including Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman), audiences had no reason to expect the film would be anything other than epic — and then, they watched it.
Along with the highly anticipated action they were expecting, audiences got a muddled plot, stilted dialogue and, worst of all, Jar Jar Binks. To this day, “The Phantom Menace” lives on in “Star Wars” history as perhaps the most reviled and widely mocked film of the franchise.
Prior to its release in May 1998, everyone expected “Godzilla” to be a big smash — and for good reason. The combination of a beloved monster franchise and the leadership of Roland Emmerich, who just was coming off the huge success of “Independence Day,” seemed like a surefire thing. Unfortunately, it didn’t land as expected. The movie opened to overwhelmingly negative reviews, with critics slamming both the script and the acting and fans targeting the film’s redesign of Godzilla. The movie ended up underperforming at the box office and plans for two subsequent sequels were canceled.
In the early 2000s, Bryan Singer helped launch the now-iconic “X-Men” franchise, turning the comics into a must-see film series. So when he turned down his shot at completing the “X-Men” trilogy in order to resurrect Superman on screen, it seemed like a natural pairing. But Singer’s second chance at comic book glory didn’t go quite as well.
What we ended up with was 2006’s “Superman Returns,” which — though not an outright failure — was far from a glowing success. The film got only so-so reviews, with critics just barely certifying it for Fresh status thanks to solidly average ratings (exactly what you want from a superhero movie). Its return at the worldwide box office also proved to be disappointing, leading to the cancellation of a planned sequel.
‘X-Men: The Last Stand’
Speaking of Singer, his decision to jump ship from “X-Men” affected the franchise in more ways than one. When the director left to work on “Superman Returns,” he took several “X-Men” team members, including screenwriters and actor James Marsden, with him. The absence of those key players had an obvious effect on the movie, despite the best efforts of Singer’s replacement, Brett Ratner. Most still consider “The Last Stand” to be a terrible ending to the original “X-Men” trilogy and one of the weakest entries of the entire series.
‘The Matrix Revolutions’
While 1999’s “The Matrix” revolutionized the genre of sci-fi action movies, neither of its sequels could replicate the same magic. Though the first sequel, “The Matrix Reloaded,” was lackluster, it’s the second sequel, “The Matrix Revolutions,” that really derailed the franchise. After the somewhat disappointing “Reloaded,” fans were hoping to see the series get back on track with its third and final film. Instead, they got a largely dissatisfying ending that emphasized special effects over a well-thought-out plot.
‘Quantum of Solace’
After “Casino Royale” successfully reset the Bond franchise and cemented Daniel Craig as the new 007, moviegoers were pumped to see the sequel. But “Quantum of Solace” failed to deliver the same punch as its predecessor in 2008, and both fans and critics were left somewhat let down by the film. At least some of its problems can be blamed on the Writers Guild of America strike of 2007-2008. The strike began shortly before production and reportedly left Craig and director Marc Foster scrabbling to rewrite dialogue while filming.
Given the overwhelming acclaim that the first two “Alien” films received, it was no surprise that everyone expected the same level of excellence from for the third sequel. With Sigourney Weaver returning to her iconic role, fans had nothing but high hopes for the end of the trilogy in 1992. What audiences couldn’t account for, though, was the myriad of problems that the movie ran into during development.
Unable to land on a script, the studio filtered through multiple screenwriters and directors until well into pre-production. With time running out, Fox finally brought on David Fincher to make his feature directorial debut. Unfortunately, Fincher had little to no time to prepare — and it showed. No one was happy with the end result, including Fincher himself, who later disowned the movie.
When it comes to “Cleopatra,” the question isn’t about what went wrong, but about what didn’t go wrong. The movie is legendary for its troubled production, which included a change in director, a lengthy shutdown, the departure and replacement of several cast members and a forced change in location. And let’s not forget the personal scandal surrounding stars Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, who met on the film and began a tumultuous, headline-making affair. The continued problems led to massive cost overruns, turning what was meant to be a moderately-priced production into a $31 million ordeal.
The movie became the most expensive film ever made at the time and almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox, which barely made its money back in box office revenue. To make matters worse, it earned mixed reviews, with Taylor herself later admitting she found it lacking. It was considered such a flop that it scared studios away from making big-budget period epics for a long time.
‘Wild Wild West’
“Wild Wild West” is now known as one of the most notorious flops of Will Smith’s career. But believe it or not, many thought the 1999 movie was destined to become a hit at the time. After all, Smith was just coming off two massive successes, “Independence Day” and “Men in Black.” The rest of the cast was equally notable, including Kevin Kline, Salma Hayek, Bai Ling and Kenneth Branagh. Toss in the steampunk western aesthetic, and you have cinematic gold, right? Wrong.
The movie, which cost a whopping $170 million to make, completely tanked at the box office. Negative word of mouth probably didn’t help — the movie earned universally terrible reviews and was slammed for being manic, unfunny and plotless.
‘The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey’
For years, fans were clamoring for a screen adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous novel. Well, they got their wish — although maybe not the result they were hoping for. While executive producer Peter Jackson was actively involved in the development of the film, he wasn’t hired as the director until Guillermo del Toro exited the project in 2010. He seemed like a natural fit, given his longtime commitment to the material and the previous success of his “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
But some questionable choices — including the decision to extend the franchise from a two-parter (as originally envisioned) into three – hurt the outcome, resulting in a ploddingly-paced opener with an overly heavy emphasis on CGI. Luckily, Tolkien fans are loyal, and the movie went on to earn over $1 billion at the box office, despite the mediocre reviews when it was released in 2012.
‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest’
2003’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” turned out be a refreshing surprise, providing a fun, swashbuckling adventure that made us all cheer for Johnny Depp’s rum-addled pirate, Captain Jack Sparrow. Sadly, the 2006 sequel, “Dead Man’s Chest,” couldn’t match its predecessor. Though excitement was high for its release, the follow-up lacked the humor and ingenuity of the first film, and Captain Jack just wasn’t as charming the second time around.
Nevertheless, the franchise continued, although Depp has now left the series and there was word early in 2019 that several high-profile screenwiters had also ended an attempt to create a sixth film based on the Disney World attraction.
Following the phenomenal success of “Ghostbusters,” Columbia Pictures made the same move that all major film studios would make: It pushed for a sequel. Unfortunately, the process was a struggle pretty much right from the start. Original writers Dan Aykroyd and Harold Ramis had trouble landing the right tone and penned multiple variations of the script. After a rushed production, the movie earned a negative reception in test screenings. That led to a call for rewrites, in which large parts of the film were scrapped or re-shot.
The end result was a poor follow-up widely criticized by audiences everywhere. Its commercial and critical failure also effectively ended up bringing the franchise to a screeching halt, with the experience dissuading Bill Murray from signing on to a third “Ghostbusters” film. However, a direct sequel to “Ghostbusters II” will be coming out next year; “Ghostbusters 2020” will include appearances by members of the original cast, but feature a new and younger team.
‘Alice in Wonderland’
When Tim Burton agreed to helm a reboot of “Alice in Wonderland,” it seemed like a quirky match made in heaven. His succes with films like “The Nightmare Before Christmas” promised to bring a darker yet appealing aesthetic to Lewis Carroll’s beloved and imaginative story. But even a strong cast featuring Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter and Mia Wasikowska couldn’t save this film. Though visually gratifying, the movie failed to capture the heart and joy of the classic children’s book, making Alice’s adventure feel generic and not quite as dazzling as audiences had hoped. It won numerous awards for music, visual effects, makeup, costuming and art direction, though.
‘Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice’
Any movie that pits two of the most iconic superheroes in comic book history against each other is sure to have its detractors. But 2016’s “Batman v Superman” proved to be a letdown by most people’s standards. Part of this was due to the endless buzz surrounding the release of the movie. Warner Bros. really went to town marketing this one, positioning the film as the biggest cinematic event of the season. It included the official introduction of Ben Affleck as Batman as well as scenes introducing Gal Godot as Wonder Woman.
But despite director Zack Snyder’s best efforts, the movie just wasn’t that good. Instead of a thrilling showdown between two beloved characters, the film delivered a glum, underdeveloped plot that couldn’t be buoyed by its CGI-heavy visuals. Despite the largely negative reviews, the movie did earn over $873 million worldwide.
On the heels of “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” came another highly-anticipated entry with DC Comics characters. Featuring a stacked ensemble cast (including Will Smith, Jared Leto and Margot Robbie) and a funnier, more subversive style, “Suicide Squad” looked as if it could finally deliver the movie that comic book fans had been waiting for from the DC Comics Extended Universe (DCEU). The end result did feature some bright elements — most notably, Robbie’s performance as Harley Quinn — but it proved to be a disappointment on most other fronts, thanks to the inclusion of a muddled narrative and a weak villain.
‘The Godfather Part III’
“The Godfather” and “The Godfather Part II” are widely considered cinematic masterpieces, so it’s no surprise that expectations were very high for the conclusion of Michael Corleone’s story in “Part III.” Unfortunately, many were disappointed after its 1990 release. To be fair, the movie isn’t bad, necessarily. But it doesn’t quite live up to either of its stunning predecessors.
And let’s not forget the movie’s biggest and most unforgettable flaw: the casting of director Francis Ford Coppola’s daughter, Sofia Coppola, in a lead role. The movie went on to receive several Oscar nominations, despite its mixed reception — but the young Coppola was given two 1990 Golden Raspberry Awards for Worst Supporting Actress and Worst New Star.
‘The Dark Tower’
After years of on-and-off development, Stephen King fans were thrilled to learn this adaption of the author’s famed novel series was finally coming to fruition. The excitement continued to grow after the casting of leads, Idris Elba and Matthew McConaughey. Sadly, the 2017 flick likely did little to nothing to satisfy readers’ love for the source material. The movie earned dismal reviews and largely underperformed at the box office. But there’s still hope for King loyalists: a “Dark Tower” TV series, featuring a different cast, is reportedly in the works at Amazon.
On paper, 2015’s “Jupiter Ascending” had all the elements of a compelling blockbuster. It hailed from the directors behind “The Matrix” and featured a splashy cast, including Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis and Eddie Redmayne. But the sci-fi opera failed to deliver the thrilling space adventure it promised. Though visually appealing, critics and audiences slammed the movie for its incoherent plot. It was also a box office flop, only earning a worldwide total of $183.9 million despite having a budget that reportedly ballooned to over $200 million.
The idea for an “Alien” prequel directed by Ridley Scott himself had sci-fans everywhere saying “Yes, please” — especially with a stellar cast featuring Noomi Rapace, Charlize Theron, Idris Elba and Michael Fassbender. But the 2012 movie ran into some problems during development, particularly with its script. The story by Jon Spaihts, originally focusing more on connections to the “Alien” films, was rewritten by Damon Lindelof of “Lost” — creating issues that became evident once the film hit theaters in 2012. Though Fassbender’s performance garnered some praise, the movie earned criticism for an uneven plot that featured too many unresolved elements.
‘Snakes on a Plane’
When news of this 2006 B-movie starring Samuel L. Jackson broke, the Internet responded by doing what it does best: forming a veritable hype machine with endless memes, parodies and fan forums. New Line Cinema quickly took notice of the online chatter surrounding the movie and decided to make use of it. The studio actually incorporated feedback from fans into its production, even adding several days of reshoots to alter certain scenes.
But all of the buzz failed to translate to commercial success. It seemed that while people liked talking about the movie, not many actually wanted to see it in theaters. The movie quickly became a box office dud.
After the critical and commercial success of “Spider-Man 2,” audiences were on pins and needles waiting for the release of the final film in the Sam Raimi-directed trilogy starring Tobey Maguire. But whereas the second sequel improved upon its predecessor, 2007’s “Spider-Man 3” proved to a disappointment in a number of ways. Though the movie earned a ton of money at the box office, it also garnered a widely mixed response from critics and audiences alike.
The biggest critiques were over the villainous character of Venom, who Raimi reportedly only included at the insistence of producers. Other problems with the movie include an overload of characters and subplots, leading to pacing issues. Though more sequels and spin-offs were planned, Raimi left the franchise over creative differences. Instead, Sony rebooted the franchise with “The Amazing Spider-Man” in 2012, starring Andrew Garfield in the lead role.
This 2009 release made for a buzzy project, coupling Michael Mann — a director known for his stylized crime dramas — with A-list actors Johnny Depp and Christian Bale. But the final cut fell kind of flat. While Depp and Bale earned praise for their charismatic performances, the movie itself was just OK. Critics described it as “competent” but lacking in really compelling drama.
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Donna Tartt’s 2013 novel “The Goldfinch” earned worldwide acclaim and a slew of accolades, including the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. Warner Bros. picked up the film rights to the novel in 2014, but it took several more years to put a director and a cast in place. In 2018, the studio finally confirmed the movie’s star-studded ensemble, including Ansel Elgort, Nicole Kidman, Sarah Paulson and Luke Wilson.
But all that work apparently didn’t add up to much. When “The Goldfinch” adaptation finally premiered in 2019, it was a bona fide flop. In addition to earning terrible reviews, it also tanked at the box office, reportedly costing the studio as much as $50 million.