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10 Most Expensive Movies Ever Made: 9 Successes and 1 Failure

Hollywood in its current form is a screenwriter’s dream. In 2013, there’s literally nothing that a writer can dream that can’t be reproduced on screen for an international audience. That is, as long as the film has a big enough budget. Making cinemagraphic dreams come true comes at a high price, and some producers are willing to front the cost. Whether or not the money was worth it, however, is up to the audience to decide.

Check out the top 10 most expensive movies ever made and decide for yourself if you think the high price was worth it!

10. The Chronicals of Narnia: Prince Caspian – $225 million

Released in 2008, The Chronicals of Narnia is a popular children’s book series by C.S. Lewis, turned multi-million dollar film production. Given the already preposterously high cost of the production, the producer decided to cut some costs, which is why much of the movie was filmed in the UK because of the tax credits. Part of the reason for the high expenses can be attributed to the high cost of creating the fantasy world that is Narnia. It took 200 carpenters to build the sets and there were over 7,000 props involved in the film. In fact, 35 full time employees were hired to make props alone during the production.

The high production cost paid off in the end, and Prince Caspian brought in $419,665,568 at the box office.

9. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – $225 million

Dead Man’s Chest is part two of Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean series, and tied for one of the most expensive films ever produced. This film came out in 2006 and starred such Hollywood big shots as Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightley. The price of such celebrities is much of what drove up the cost for this film’s production. Johnny Depp’s payment alone was an estimated $20,000,000. The props didn’t come cheap either, the infamous ships The Black Pearl, and The Flying Dutchman were actually build in entirety for filming.

Dead Man’s chest made $1,066,179,725 at the box office.

Fun Fact: it cost Disney $8 million back in 1967 to build the Pirates of the Caribbean ride in Disneyland, which is $58 million by today’s standards after calculating for inflation.

8. Man of Steel – $225 million

Swooping in at the bottom of the Top 10 list, tied with Dead Man’s Chest and Prince Caspian is Man of Steel. Krypton is running out of natural resources and it’s Superman’s job to keep the planet’s race alive, in this 2013 superhero hit. Additionally, $150 million was spent on marketing and distributing this film. This may sound like a lot upfront, but with such an important and awaited movie the producers were bound to make most of the cost back even before the film was released. In fact, Man of Steel brought in $160 million in product placement alone from companies like Walmart, Nikon, CNN, and Budweiser… just to name a few.

Not to mention, once it hit the big screen Man of Steel grossed $662 million worldwide.

7. The Dark Knight Rises – $230 million

Superhero movies are all the rage lately, and there’s no doubt that some of the most expensive films ever produced have to do with the men who can save our planet. Joining Man of Steel on the list of most expensive films ever prodced is the 2012 release of The Dark Knight Rises. Directed by Christopher Nolan, this film does not disappoint when it comes to action and suspense. Somewhat shockingly, however, it was only the third highest grossing film of 2012, coming behind The Avengers and Skyfall. 2012 was a tough market when it came to excellent movies, and Dark Knight Rises just couldn’t keep up despite its high budget.

That’s not to say that the film didn’t bring in any money. In fact, it made a respectable $1,084,439,099 at the box office.

6. Avatar – $237 million

Avatar’s director, James Cameron, was supposed to start producing the film immediately following the release of his blockbuster hit Titanic. In fact, it was originally scheduled for release in 1999, yet it didn’t actually come out until 2009. So what was the ten year holdup? Cameron decided that technology wasn’t good enough yet to correctly produce his vision, so he  had to wait for computers to catch up.

While the biggest expenses for this film’s production came from the ground-breaking filming techniques and graphics, there were some more unusual expenses as well. For example, Cameron’s vision for his characters involved the creation of an entire new language–a task that involved contracting linguist Paul Frommer.

At the box office Avatar brought in $2,782,275,172, making all expenses, no matter how extreme, worth it in the end.

5. John Carter – $250 million

Sometimes films flop no matter how much money is put into them, as was the case with the 2012 release of Disney’s John Carter. Never heard of it? That’s not really surprising given the fact that it only ended up earning $282, 778, 100, the grand majority of which was brought in from overseas viewers.

In fact, the great expenses that were wasted on John Carter did not go unnoticed by Disney, who afterwards questioned the expenses spent on filming techniques for what should have been a much lower-budgeting movie. Additionally, it made the company question their spending habits, and budgets spent on films with lesser-known stars, because everyone knows that films featuring actors like Johnny Depp will be worth spending money on given the huge financial return.

4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – $250 million

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, released in 2009, was based off of the sixth novel by JK Rowling of the same name. This film was a huge box office success, bringing in $934,416,487. Of all of the Harry Potter films, this was Warner Brothers’ biggest expenditure.

Unsurprisingly, given the huge Harry Potter fanbase, the film was off to a great start on opening night, taking first place for the biggest single-day gross in the history of cinema. Then the film continued on to break the world record for five-day gross, bringing in $394 million after just five days of being released.

Unlike the $250 wasted on John Carter, the Half-Blood Prince was worth it for Warner Brothers.

3. Spider-man 3 – $258 million

Spiderman has been one of the most popular superheroes of the 21st century, so it’s no surprise that his role in cinematic history has landed him a top 3 position for the most expensive films ever produced, or that it brought in $890,871,626 at the box office.

Given the high-grossing boxoffice climate that existed when Spider-man was released, the film was in great company when it hit the silver screen. The summer that Spider-man 3 was released, in 2007, saw some of the highest-grossing films in the history of Hollywood. 2007 was the first summer to ever see $4 billion worth of movie releases–which in addition to Spider-man’s contribution saw films such as Shrek 3 and Superbad.

2. Tangled – $260 million

It’s not often that big bucks are spent on a princess movie, which is why it’s so surprising that Disney’s 2010 production of Tangled– based on the story of Rapunzel– drew so many dollars. Sharply contrasted with the masculine characters of most all of the other top 10 most expensive films of all time, Rupunzel told the story of a young, feisty, princess trapped in a tower with long hair, just like the Brother’s Grimm original tale.

It might seem strange that an animated movie could be so expensive to produce, and in fact it’s by far the most expensive animated film ever made, and it took six years to produce. The main reason why the production was so complicated has to do with the mixed mediums of Computer-generated imagery and traditional animation–all of which was worth it when the film brought in $591,794,936 a the box office.

1. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End – $300 million

A good number of the movies on this top ten list are a part of series, but Pirates of the Caribbean is the only production to hold two positions. At $300 for the production, it’s the most expensive film ever produced by a long-shot, and also one of the highest grossing, having more than tripled its budget at the box office with $963,420,425. In addition to great expenses being spent on the cast, scenes for this movie were filmed all over the world in places such as: Port Royal, Isla de Muerte, Tortuga, Pelegosto, Isla Cruces,and Singapore– and the cost of shipping cast and crew all around the world certainly did not come cheap.

The movie quickly became the most successful of 2007, and among the most successful films of all time, making almost a billion dollars at the box office. At World’s End was the third of four Pirates of the Caribbean films. If you’re yearning for more, however, you’re in luck because a fifth film is scheduled to be released in 2015!

Nestor Gilbert

By Nestor Gilbert

Nestor Gilbert is a senior B2B and SaaS analyst and a core contributor at FinancesOnline for over 5 years. With his experience in software development and extensive knowledge of SaaS management, he writes mostly about emerging B2B technologies and their impact on the current business landscape. However, he also provides in-depth reviews on a wide range of software solutions to help businesses find suitable options for them. Through his work, he aims to help companies develop a more tech-forward approach to their operations and overcome their SaaS-related challenges.

1 Comments »
E. Hunter Hale says:

I would think that the film "1917" cost more then any of the above.
Certainly the Russian WAR & PEACE hast to rank as one of the most expensive films ever made.

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