Whether it's a multi-million-dollar deal or a shoestring budget, movies need money to be made. Here are the most expensive movies ever made.
It's astonishing how much money goes into Hollywood franchise movies. Between the actors' multi-million-dollar salaries and the salaries of thousands of crew members to post-production and marketing, the budgets for some films certainly make you realize just how little we, as an audience, are in comparison to the giants of the film industry. It's certainly predictable which franchises and movies will make it onto a list of most expensive movies ever made, but the specific figures of each movie are sure to still make you blink twice.
Of course, a movie with a high budget doesn't necessarily mean that it is certain to make a satisfactory profit in return or, for that matter, be a well-crafted and entertaining story. Disney, for example, invests millions in all of its projects, but that doesn't stop the major studio from experiencing its box office bombs every now and then. Another great example of this phenomenon is Transformers: The Last Knight which despite its budget of over $216 million, still managed to lose more than $100 million, opening at a franchise-low of $69.1 million when all was said and done. Without further ado, here is a look at the most expensive movies ever made.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi — $262M
Following the success of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the film's sequel was given another massive production and marketing budget. But The Last Jedi proved to be the more divisive film, particularly pertaining to the portrayal of Luke Skywalker. There are Star Wars fans who praise Rian Johnson's ambitious storytelling, and there are also those who continue to disagree with many of his creative decisions. Nonetheless, Star Wars: The Last Jedi grossed over $1 billion and is a financial success for Lucasfilm.
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice — $263M
More than $260 million was used to make Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and yet, it did not perform as well as Aquaman or Wonder Woman. The film earned over three times its budget during its theatrical run, per Forbes, but suffered a major drop after an incredible opening weekend. Some fans argue the movie lived up to the hype, finding joy in seeing the DC trinity united on screen (Henry Cavill, Ben Affleck, and Gal Gadot). Others however, are less enthusiastic about the film and criticize the darker tone and storytelling.
John Carter — $264M
John Carter is one of the few movies that holds two drastically contrasting titles: it's one of the most expensive movies ever made, but it's also one of the biggest box office bombs (though its lead actor Taylor Kitsch would disagree). The sci-fi epic used a budget of more than $264 million and only grossed $73 million domestically. Disney of course did not expect this movie to perform so poorly at the box office, as they had plans to make a whole John Carter franchise.
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker — $275M
The most expensive movie of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, is also the lowest-grossing of the trilogy. However, it still managed to make a net profit of $300 million and become one of the highest-grossing movies of 2019. More than $275 million was put into making and marketing the film. The Rise of Skywalker was the last movie to gross over $1 billion before the COVID-19 pandemic. But fan reception to the grand finale of the Star Wars saga continues to be mixed.
Solo: A Star Wars Story — $275M
The second live-action Star Wars anthology film, Solo: A Star Wars Story, centers on a young Han Solo that is not played by Harrison Ford. Solo is infamously known for its difficult production, with original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller being removed far in to the filmmaking process. According to Vanity Fair, the film became the first Star Wars box office bomb. It grossed $393.2 million worldwide, which in comparison, fell drastically short of The Last Jedi's $1.333 billion. Due to the failure of Solo: A Star Wars Story, Lucasfilm pivot away from anthology films and moved their focus towards series on Disney+.
Justice League — $300M
Time proves again and again that a high production budget does not necessarily equate to global success. The highly-anticipated Justice League cost over $300M to make and yet, it is a box office bomb that ended up losing Warner Bros. money. Justice League is an attempt by the studio to change course after the negative reception to the previous film; Batman v. Superman. The drastic course-correcting angered many fans, who were aware that Justice League did not represent director Zack Snyder's original vision. This led to years of demand for the fabled "Snyder Cut", which saw a release in 2021 on HBO Max and became a streaming success.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End — $300M
On the contrary, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End shows the world that investing $300 million into a film can yield great results. The third installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise became the highest grossing movie of 2007, grossing over $960 million. The entirety of the movie consists of Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) constantly fighting for his ship while embracing his destiny and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) & Will’s (Orlando Bloom) windswept romance. What is there not to love?
Avengers: Infinity War — $316M
Now, let's be honest: when has an Avenger movie not lived up to its expectations, particularly when it comes to the grossed earnings? Using a budget of $316M definitely paid off, considering how Avengers: Infinity War became the first superhero movie to gross over $2 billion worldwide. Despite many viewing superhero movies as an overrated genre and believing superhero movie fatigue will soon kick in, the numbers say otherwise. Whether one is a fan of the MCU or not, they can not deny that Avengers: Infinity War had a significant impact on the history of cinema.
Avengers: Endgame — $350M
The anticipation for Avengers: Endgame, the movie that would conclude the Infinity Saga storyline, was enormous. It's only natural that the numbers would prove that. Using a budget of $350M, the movie grossed $2.798 billion worldwide. If you think that Infinity War's achievements are impressive, Endgame surpasses them by becoming the highest-grossing movie of all time from July 2019 until March 2021. Marvel Studios continues to move full-steam ahead with their MCU projects, but only time will tell if they can execute another cinematic event like Avengers: Endgame.
Avengers: Age of Ultron — $386M
The second most expensive movie ever made is none other than Avengers: Age Of Ultron. With filming locations spanning across the globe and lots of special effects, the movie features a budget of over $386 million. But as always with the MCU franchise, it made a profit and became the fourth-highest-grossing film of 2015. The second Avengers movie sparks conversation around Tony's responsiblility (or lack of) and the new addition to the team; Wanda Maximoff.
Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides — $422M
Last but not least, the most expensive movie ever made: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides -- the only Pirates movie to surpass a $400 million budget. The reasons why the film was so expensive include the multitude of filming locations, the use of 3D cameras similar to those used on Avatar, and a total of ten companies working on the extensive visual effects. Love Pirates 4 or consider it the death of the franchise, On Stranger Tides was still the third highest-grossing film of 2011.