When watching blockbuster movies, it often seems like the amount of money used to produce them must have been endless. But exactly how much did it cost to make these cinematic masterpieces?
When you Ask Genie, you find out!
We have created a list of the top 14 most expensive movies of all time, from the greats of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to other popular franchises. These production budgets are sure to make you do a double-take.
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The Most Expensive Movies Ever Made
Even an expensive movie is not guaranteed to be a hit, as you will see in our list below.
That said, which films were the most expensive to ever be produced? Read on for the top 14 most expensive films ever made, with their production costs unadjusted for inflation.
14. John Carter (2012) - $264M
John Carter was intended to be the first in a franchise for Disney but ended up being a major flop at the box office. Based on the book Princess of Mars, audiences eagerly awaited its release.
Despite its incredible budget, the film grossed a meagre $73 million in the US.
But what was to blame?
Some blamed the marketing campaign, although many viewers also struggled to understand the storyline.
This just goes to show that even the most expensive films can be box office failures.
Luckily, Disney had a series of other films in their repertoire, including The Avengers (which was released two months after John Carter), so they could recoup some of their losses.
13. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) - $275M
Let's face it; Star Wars films will almost always do well at the box office because of the franchise's massive following.
Solo: A Star Wars Story follows the life of young Han Solo. During filming, a new director stepped in, Ron Howard. He requested several scenes be refilmed, which added to the movie's tremendous budget.
This was not ideal, seeing as Solo was intended to be one of the cheaper Star Wars films.
Despite grossing $393.2 million, meaning it covered its production expenses, this movie was still considered a flop when compared to other films in the franchise. The Last Jedi exceeded $1 billion!
Perhaps if so many scenes were not reshot, the film might have made a decent profit.
There is a silver lining, though. Because of Solo's evident failure, Lucasfilm turned away from anthology films and decided to focus on streaming series on Disney+. So in a way, we have Solo to thank for The Mandalorian, Andor and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
12. Indiana Jones And The Dial Of Destiny (2023) - $295M
The latest Indiana Jones installment is set to be released in June 2023, but already there are whispers about the massive budget of this film.
The Dial of Destiny is the final film of the Indiana Jones franchise, and evidently, no expense was spared!
But why is it so expensive?
This film was shot at many different locations across the globe, and some impressive AI was used to de-age the 80-year-old Harrison Ford for about 25 minutes of the movie. That kind of tech does not come cheap!
It might not be the most expensive movie on our list, but when you consider that Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull (2008) cost $100 million less, it is easy to get excited.
11. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) - $300M
Yes, another Star Wars movie (and not the last one on the list, either).
The Last Jedi was a massive global success, grossing more than $1 billion. It was the highest-grossing film in 2017. Quite a feat!
Although not all the fans enjoyed this movie - some criticized the creative choices - it was well received overall, and the huge investment in The Last Jedi's production certainly paid off.
10. Justice League (2017) - $300M
Warner Bros. and Disney continue to produce incredible films and always seem to be competing with one another to make the next big hit.
After Disney's success in bringing the heroes from the Marvel universe together in Avengers, Warner Bros. also wanted a slice of the superhero cake.
While The Dark Knight Rises (which cost a cool $250 million to produce) was expensive to make, Warner Bros. was looking for another box office hit, so they shelled out even more money for Justice League.
Featuring the much-loved DC characters of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Aquaman, The Flash, Lois Lane and Lex Luthor, audiences were sure Zack Snyder's film would be a hit. Unfortunately, disaster struck with the death of Snyder's daughter, and Joss Whedon took over directing.
With many reshoots and a change in the colour temperature of the film after Snyder's departure, costs skyrocketed. These costs could not be totally recovered, with the film grossing only $657 million.
Not only did Warner Bros. suffer a loss, but they also managed to anger many fans who knew the final version was not the vision of original director Zack Snyder. HBO saw an opportunity and released the much-demanded "Snyder Cut" Justice League in 2021 on HBO Max.
9. Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End (2007) - $300M
When watching the third instalment of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, it's easy to see where this massive budget went. Visual effects, gigantic sets, elaborate worldbuilding and amazing battle scenes dominate this movie - and these don't come cheap!
It is proof that not every movie that costs a lot is doomed to fail. The movie became the biggest success of 2007, earning more than $960 million worldwide. And that was achieved despite costing quite a bit more than the second installment, Dead Man's Chest ($225 million).
Sometimes sequels or "threequels" can bomb as fans grow tired of seeing the same characters on screen, but this was certainly not the case with Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End.
8. Avengers: Infinity War (2018) - $325M
The Avengers movies have always been a hit, and Avengers: Infinity War was no exception. Although this movie cost quite a lot to produce, it certainly paid off.
Infinity War has some bragging rights - it was the first film in the superhero genre to gross more than $2 billion.
Some of you may feel like superhero movies have been overdone, but with new fans constantly joining the Marvel universe, and Marvel movies continuing to perform well at the box office, we say that there are many more amazing films to come!
7. Fast X (2023) - $340M
Fast X, released in May 2023, cost quite a lot of money to produce. And with the star-studded cast, it is easy to see why.
Apart from covering the salaries of Vin Diesel, Jason Momoa and Brie Larson, the film also features a lot of intense action scenes. Combine that with the global shoot locations, and you have the perfect recipe for an incredibly expensive film.
As if all of that wasn't enough to bump up the costs, director Justin Lin stepped down shortly after filming started. As we mentioned with Solo and Justice League, when a new director steps up, a lot of the scenes end up being refilmed, which is exactly what new director Louis Letterier did.
6. Avengers: Endgame (2019) - $356M
The anticipation for Endgame was massive, so the producers knew they had to deliver—and deliver they did! In just the opening weekend, the movie grossed $357 million, which climbed to over $2 billion at the worldwide box office.
Did you notice that it literally recouped its entire production budget in a single weekend? Now that is impressive.
Endgame held on to its throne of the highest-grossing movie ever for a good two years from 2019 to 2021.
5. Avengers: Age Of Ultron (2015) - $365M (CAD496M)
Yes, another Avengers movie. But why was Age of Ultron so much more expensive than the others on our list?
Avengers: Age of Ultron had a lot of special effects, which were considered ahead of their time in 2015.
Add in the fact that Scarlett Johansson and Robert Downey Jr both demand rather hefty salaries - well, you get where we are going with this.
The movie was shot across the world: South Africa, England, Italy, New York, South Korea and Bangladesh. Lugging the entire cast, crew and equipment across the globe is also not a cheap endeavour.
Luckily it was worth it, and the movie did make a profit, grossing just over $1 billion. Still, this was quite a disappointment when you consider the first Avengers (2012) grossed $1.5 billion and only cost around $220 million to produce.
4. Pirates Of The Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) - $379M
Following on from the success of At World's End, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides held on to the most expensive film produced for a good few years (before being toppled by number 2 on our list).
This fourth installment cost even more than the ones before it, but the franchise had also turned a good profit over the years, so why not splurge a bit?
Despite the high production costs (and the casual $55 million paid to Johnny Depp), Pirates films continued to bring in the cash, with On Stranger Tides grossing an impressive $1.045 billion and contributing to the $4.5 billion of the entire franchise.
The sixth and final Pirates movie is set to be released in 2024, and we expect no expenses to be spared. However, it is rumoured that Captain Jack Sparrow will not make an appearance, so we will have to wait and see if it is going to be as successful as its predecessors.
3. Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (2019) - $416M
Disney didn't hold back with The Rise of Skywalker, especially since it was heavily marketed as the final installment of the Skywalker Saga.
But why was this movie's budget so much bigger than those that came before (apart from number 2 on our list, that is)?
Well, once writer and director Colin Trevorrow left, an entirely new team had to be hired. That, along with the huge sets required for the movie, bumped up the production costs significantly.
2. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) - $447M (CAD607M)
The Force Awakens was the start of the Star Wars sequel trilogy, and fans of the franchise were ecstatic.
The movie followed the story of many of the original characters but also introduced Rey, Finn and Poe to our screens (and hearts). With so much anticipation for the film, we are not surprised that no expense was spared in producing it.
For several years it remained the most expensive movie of all time, only to be knocked from its throne in 2023 by number 1 on our list.
The massive $447 million investment was worth it, as The Force Awakens became the highest-grossing movie of 2015, and to this day remains the highest-grossing movie at the US box office.
1. Avatar: The Way of Water (2023) - $460M (CAD625M)
Finally, we have our number one highest-budget movie.
Fans of Avatar had to wait 14 years for the release of the sequel, but it was well worth it.
James Cameron, the renowned director and a celebrity in his own right, has made three of the highest-grossing films of all time: Avatar (2009), Avatar: The Way of Water (2023) and Titanic (1997).
He is also not exactly known for holding onto his purse strings. Producing the movie Titanic actually cost more than constructing the real ship!
But, these costly movies sure are worth it. And The Way of Water was no exception. It is currently the third-highest-grossing film of all time at $2.3 billion, so we are excited to see what the third installment of Avatar (set to be released in 2024) brings.
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FAQs About the Most Expensive Movies
Which Movies Have Grossed $2 Billion (USD)?
The latest film to join the $2 billion grossing club is Avatar: The Way of Water (2023), however, several other movies have broken the $2 billion mark.
The list includes favourites Avatar (2009) - the first movie to break the $2 billion mark, Avengers: Endgame (2019), Titanic (1997), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) and Avengers: Infinity War (2019).
Which Harry Potter Film Cost The Most?
Although it doesn’t quite make this list, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) had the biggest budget, at $250 million USD. This is significantly more than the second most expensive Harry Potter movie, which is Fantastic Beasts: Secrets of Dumbledore ($200M).
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