Hollywood is always worried about that bottom line – they want to earn big bucks at the box office.
And while there have been plenty of box office successes that were made on a shoestring budget, the movie industry seems to have faith in spending. Studios are banking on winning big by spending big. This is especially true with movies made in the past two decades.
When you think about the most expensive movies ever made, which do you think tops the list? Is it Avatar? Where do you think Marvel’s Avengers franchise sits? And we all know that we’ll find Captain Jack Sparrow on this list somewhere…
20. King Kong (2005)
Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit don’t hold the title as Peter Jackson’s priciest project. Instead, it was his 2005 remake of the legendary1933 King Kong. When the film was produced, it cost $207 million. When adjusted for inflation, we’re looking at $274 million.
At least this iteration of the epic monster film brought in $562.3 million at the box office. The film also won Academy Awards for Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Visual Effects.
19. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
Is The Last Jedi one of the most divisive of any Star Wars films? Maybe so. That didn’t stop movie audiences from hitting the theaters, though. The epic space drama grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide, making it the highest-grossing film of the year and the ninth highest-grossing film of all time during its run.
That’s pretty good, considering it cost $277 million to make when adjusted for inflation.
18. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
When it comes to expensive productions, Lucasfilm isn’t shy about breaking the bank. The Last Jedi’s sequel topped its predecessor, with an estimated cost of $275 million – or $278 million when adjusted for inflation.
Although the film received mixed reviews (and Star Wars fans are still criticizing it), it grossed over a billion worldwide, making it the seventh highest-grossing film of 2019. Even so, it’s the lowest-grossing installment of the sequel trilogy.
17. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
Oh, look: another Star Wars sequel trilogy installment! Disney-owned Lucasfilm clearly spared no expense here. The Force Awakens hit theaters in 2015, after costing $259 million to produce. When adjusted for inflation, you’re looking at $283 million.
Was it too similar to A New Hope? Maybe. But audiences showed up to a tune of $2.069 billion worldwide, making that high cost worth it. This epic space opera film broke various box office records and became the highest-grossing film in the United States and Canada.
16. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
Although Solo: A Star Wars Story isn’t part of the sequel trilogy, Lucasfilm still shelled out big bucks to produce it. When adjusted for inflation, Solo cost $283 million to produce, making it tied with The Force Awakens.
When the movie was released in 2018, it received generally positive reviews. However, it still managed to become the first Star Wars box office bomb. It only grossed $393.2 million worldwide. That big production budget just wasn’t worth it.
15. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
This Zack Snyder-directed superhero flick featured some big names in the cast: Ben Affleck, Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Jesse Eisenberg, Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, Jeremy Irons, Holly Hunter, and Gal Gadot. Perhaps that’s where a big chunk of the budget went because this film had a $263 million production budget. That looks more like $284 million when adjusted for inflation.
It didn’t pay off, either. Dawn of Justice was deemed a box office disappointment and received some unfavorable reviews from critics.
14. Avatar (2009)
2009’s Avatar is regularly cited as one of the most expensive films made, mostly due to a groundbreaking array of new visual effects developed just for James Cameron’s film. At the time, the epic science fiction film had a $237 million production budget. When we adjust for inflation, we’re looking at $286 million.
It paid off, though. Avatar sits as the second highest-grossing movie of all time.
13. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
After the success of Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Disney brought Jack Sparrow back for a second installment. Filled with action sequences and special effects, it earned a spot on our list of expensive films by costing $225 million to make.
When adjusted for inflation, the production budget looks more like $289 million. Audiences ate it up, too, because it became the fastest film to gross over $1 billion worldwide.
12. Waterworld (1995)
Many films on this list were made in the 2000s and later. Cutting-edge technologies and special effects, not to mention A-list actor salaries, can really add up. However, 1995’s Waterworld managed to find itself a spot as the 12th most expensive film of all time.
With a $172 million production budget, it comes in at $292 million when adjusted for inflation. Although it was one of the highest-grossing movies of 1995, that giant budget made it impossible for the film to recoup costs at the box office.
11. John Carter (2012)
It seems like Disney keeps showing up on our list of expensive films! This time, it’s the 2012 science fiction action film John Carter. This was actually Disney’s second attempt to create a film adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ novels, but perhaps they are kicking themselves for going through with it.
The film had a $263.7 million production budget ($297 million today) but only brought in $200 million worldwide. As expected, the planned sequel was ditched.
10. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince rounds out the top 10 of our most expensive films. It also earned a spot as the most expensive film in the Harry Potter series. At the time, the film had a production budget of $250 million, which would be an estimated $302 million today when adjusted for inflation.
Luckily for Warner Bros. Pictures, it was a commercial success and broke box office records.
9. Tangled (2010)
Disney pulled out all the stops for their 50th animated feature film, which tells the story of Rapunzel. Tangled actually spent six years in production, racking up an estimated $260 million production budget. That looks more like $309 million today, thanks to inflation.
That big production budget earns Tangled a spot on our list of most expensive movies. It also makes Mandy Moore’s princess story the most expensive animated film ever made.
8. Justice League (2017)
2017 saw Justice League hit theaters despite the lackluster performance of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. DC followed up with an even bigger budget, too. This one had a production budget of $300 million, which sits at $317 million when adjusted for inflation.
Part of the problem had to do with director musical chairs, eventually leading to fans demanding that DC “release the Snyder cut.” It was unfortunately a box office bomb that lost Warner Bros. Pictures an estimated $60 million.
7. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
The final installment in Sam Raimi’s Tobey Maguire-led Spider-Man trilogy didn’t come cheap. A massive amount of visual effects and too many villains probably helped drive up the budget, which was around $258 million at the time. When we adjust that for inflation, it would have cost $322 million to make today.
It was the most expensive film ever made at the time of its release. While it wasn’t exactly a flop, the more recent trilogy of films starring Tom Holland as the web-slinging hero has left Maguire’s in the dust.
6. Titanic (1997)
Titanic is the only other film on our list besides Waterworld that was made prior to 2000. When it came out in 1997, it had a production budget of $200 million. When adjusted for inflation, we’re actually looking at at least $322 million to make this movie.
Although not historically accurate, audiences ate it up – and with an initial worldwide gross of over $1.84 billion, this movie was actually the first to reach the billion-dollar mark. Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox “never let go,” either. Subsequent re-releases pushed the film’s worldwide total to $2.195 billion. I guess that giant budget paid off!
5. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
With superhero movies raking in the big bucks at the box office, it doesn’t really surprise me that our #5 most expensive movie is Avengers: Infinity War. After all, a studio is much more likely to spend big bucks if they know they’ll make it back at the box office!
This film, which cost $325 million to produce, comes in slightly higher at $335 million when adjusted for inflation. Plenty of that budget can be attributed to an A-list-filled ensemble cast, plus top-notch visual effects.
4. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
With Avengers: Infinity War sitting at #5, it’s expected that we’d see the follow-up, Avengers: Endgame on this list, too. The 2019 superhero blockbuster had a $356 million production budget, which would cost even more – $360 million – if it was made today.
It was worth the price tag for Marvel, who raked in $2.798 billion worldwide and broke numerous box office records.
3. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007)
We already saw another Pirates of the Caribbean installment on this list, but At World’s End was even more expensive to produce. It had an estimated $300 million production budget then and would cost around $374 million today with adjustments for inflation.
At the time of production, At World’s End was the most expensive film ever made, and today it’s still sitting pretty at #3.
2. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
It’s hard to say why Age of Ultron is the most expensive Marvel movie. Sure, it features the same ensemble cast full of A-listers and special effects, but you’d think that the more ambitious Infinity War and Endgame would have been more expensive. Maybe all those visual effects got cheaper by the time Marvel made more movies?
It cost $365 million to produce, which would be $399 million if it were made today. With all that money, it still wound up as the lowest-grossing Avengers film.
1. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
The most expensive movie in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise is also the priciest movie ever made. Released in 2011, this swashbuckling adventure had a $378.5 million production budget. After adjusting for inflation, it would cost an estimated $435 million to make it today.
That leaves Captain Jack Sparrow sitting pretty at #1 on our list! Was it worthwhile? Fans still love this series, and the movie brought in just over a billion dollars.