Hit Movies That Were Expected to Bomb at the Box Office

Hit Movies Expected to Flop

Cheapism / 20th Century Fox / Universal Pictures . Lions Gate Films / Walt Disney Pictures

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Friends enjoying a comedy movie at the cinema

Predictably Unpredictable

Flops are always a disaster for any studio, but every now and then, the stars tend to align. How did "Beverly Hills Chihuahua" land two sequels? Can horror movies become major franchises? Were people actually going to see a Jeremy Renner-led reboot? Here are some major movies that should have bombed, but instead struck box office gold. 

Related: The 50 Worst Movies of All Time, According to Critics

back to the future
Universal Pictures

'Back to the Future' (1985)

Robert Zemeckis wasn't the Oscar-winning director of "Flight" and "Cast Away" yet. He wasn't even the director of "Contact" or "Forrest Gump", but he had just come off a highly unfunny Kurt Russell comedy called "Used Cars." To make a special effects-driven, high-concept comedy wasn't exactly most studios' wildest dream, but Universal rolled the dice, even dealing with lead actor replacement — we all know Eric Stoltz almost played Marty, right?

Budget: $19 million

Box Office: $388.8 million

napoleon dynamite
Twentieth Century Fox

'Napoleon Dynamite' (2004)

People love this movie. I couldn't tell you why. It cost $400,000 which seems about 100,000 times more expensive than you'd expect for a movie that looks like it was shot on a DV camcorder. And after every high school kid who yearned for awkward comedy caught wind of it, it exploded and turned that 400,000 bucks into a cool $46 million.

Budget: $400,000

Box Office: $46.1 million

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saw (2004)
Lions Gate Films

'Saw' (2004)

The reason every horror movie is designed to create a new franchise these days? It's probably "Saw,"  which was revolutionary for the genre in about 100 different ways, and probably had a hand in the escape room boom. That Cary Elwes never let me down.

Budget: $1.2 million

Box Office: $103.9 million 

Related: This Was the Scariest Movie the Year You Were Born

beverly hills chihuahua
Walt Disney Studios

'Beverly Hills Chihuahua' (2008)

This box office information is potentially the best piece of movie trivia I have ever heard. The family comedy starring George Lopez as the voice of a chihuahua slaughtered at the box office, pulling in almost $150 million over a $20 million budget. 

Budget: $20 million

Box Office: $149.3 million

over the hedge
DreamWorks Animation SKG

'Over the Hedge' (2006)

You remember this movie? Of course you don't. Doesn't matter, it still made over 300 milly.

Budget: $80 million

Box Office: $340 million

dodgeball poster
Twentieth Century Fox

'Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story' (2004)

Before Rawson Marshall Thurber — the name of a real human being — made action movies like "Skyscraper" and "Red Notice," he made "Dodgeball." Even for a Ben Stiller-led comedy, $140 million in profit isn't bad. I myself saw this movie four times in theaters, which is a personal record. Sounds like absolute lunacy when you say it out loud now.

Budget: $20 million

Box Office: $168.4 million 

jaws poster
Universal Pictures

'Jaws' (1975)

We all know the tale, right? Over budget, delayed, on-set changes to the shark, and no proven success model of the summer blockbuster, but "Jaws" didn't make it to the National Film Registry for nothing. It was the first bona fide blockbuster and changed the game for Hollywood genre movies. It also provided the best possible quote to describe Mark Zuckerberg.

Budget: $9 million

Box Office: $476.5 million

pirates of the caribbean poster
Walt Disney Studios

'Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl' (2003)

Unless you were also 14 years old in 2003, there's no way to describe the energy that surrounded the first "Pirates" joint during its theatrical run. Most of us saw it at least once in theaters, and despite the fact that Johnny Depp was better known for his wackier, Tim Burton-related stuff than he was for his being-the-world's-biggest-freakazoid stuff, the movie was a sensation. It brought back the pirate genre, and is certainly still in the conversation among the greatest adventure films ever made.

Budget: $140 million

Box Office: $654.3 million

titanic poster
Paramount Studios

'Titanic' (1997)

The circus surrounding "the most expensive movie ever made" was rough, and it seemed like nothing could live up to the build-up. Apparently it did, because it obliterated every box office record in history. It also seemed to set a precedent for James Cameron thinking it was acceptable to exclusively make three-hour movies.

Budget: $200 million

Box Office: $2.202 billion

the bourne legacy poster
Universal Pictures

'The Bourne Legacy' (2012)

Renner! Renner, baby. People love Renner. Heck, I'll come out and say that too love that dude. There's no way anybody expected this movie to be any good, what with America's favorite punching bag as the lead, but it weirdly was. Despite his significant win at the box office, we never heard from Jeremy Bourne again.

Budget: $125 million

Box Office: $276.1 million

crouching tiger, hidden dragon poster
Sony Pictures Classics

'Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon' (2000)

A foreign film? About martial arts? With fantasy elements? The 10 Oscar nominations speak for themselves. The hype was real. 

Budget: US$17 million

Box Office: US$213.5 million

star wars poster

'Star Wars' (1977)

It's a pretty famous story by now, but George Lucas' cinematic icon ran far over budget, underwent tons of rewrites, and focused on a genre so niche that even the cast and crew were nervous nobody would see it. They were wrong, obviously. Nobody will ever rock a striped sweater like 1977 George Lucas.

Budget: $11 million

Box Office: $775.8 million

the blair witch project poster
Haxan Films

'The Blair Witch Project' (1999)

With an original budget of around $60,000 (with more money spent in post), "The Blair Witch Project" was not only a sensation of indie filmmaking, but it had most people calling it the "scariest movie ever made." It completely launched the found footage genre, and to to this day, most movies under that banner aren't nearly as good.

Budget: $200,000 - $500,000

Box Office: $145 million