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The Most Expensive Movies Ever Made And How They Did At The Box Office

The Avengers: Endgame cast
(Image credit: Disney)

Movies can be expensive. Many films, like Waterworld (which is awesome, by the way) go way over budget, as that's just the nature of the beast sometimes. Hell, this isn't even factoring in advertising and publicity once the movie is actually complete. But honestly, when it comes to the most expensive movies ever made, well, some of these price tags might actually make you squeamish.   

Now, keep in mind that companies usually don’t like to admit how much money they’re spending on their productions, so I’ll leave links below to reputable sources as to the reported budgets to all of the movies mentioned. But, the question is, were the high price tags worth the cost? Well, I’ll leave that for you to decide after looking over this list (which isn't ranked), but, I'll definitely share my opinions. 

Robert Downey Jr. Avengers: Endgame screenshot

(Image credit: Disney)

Avengers: Endgame (Budget: $365 Million) 

Formerly the highest grossing movie of all time (It had surpassed Avatar, only for Avatar to overtake it again at the box office), Avengers: Endgame was estimated to have a budget of $365 million dollars, according to IMDB, but, according to its director, Joe Russo, he said that the real cost was more like $500 (!) million dollars. He had this to say at the Sands International Film Festival of St. Andrews, via Deadline.       

I don’t know if these numbers have ever been accurately reported but in the case of Avengers: Endgame or Infinity War, each of those movies was $500 million plus. So this is an incredible amount of money that is being spent on these films.

Five-hundred million?! That’s a lot of moolah! But, the question is, was it all worth it? Well, I’m going to go with a HELL YES because, as mentioned earlier, Avengers: Endgame went toe-to-toe with Avatar as the highest grossing movie OF ALL TIME. Plus, these Marvel movies practically print money, and not only at the box office, either, as merchandise and theme park attractions, like Worlds of Marvel, extend the brand even further. So, yes, even though it cost beaucoup bucks to make, it was definitely worth the budget. Don’t you think?   

Benedict Cumberbatch, Mark Ruffalo, and Robert Downey Jr. in Infinity War

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

Avengers: Infinity War (Budget: $321 Million) 

Now, as just mentioned in the last entry, Avengers: Infinity War, according to Joe Russo, also cost somewhere around $500 million to make, even though IMDB lists it at being estimated around $321 million, and we ourselves even reported that Infinity War’s budget was in the $300 million dollar range. And, who’s to say? With tax rebates, maybe the eventual total did come to something around $321 million. Look, I’m a movie guy. Not a numbers guy.   

That said, even though Infinity War made a staggering $2 billion dollars worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo, was it still worth that hefty $500 million (Or, $321 million) dollar price tag given that it wasn’t even the final movie in the Avengers saga? Well, I’m going to say yes…with an asterisk.   

While $2 billion dollars worldwide is certainly nothing to sneeze at, just look at a considerably less pricey movie like Spider-Man: No Way Home. IMDB has that movie listed at an estimated budget of $200 million, and it still came up with Avengers: Infinity War-sized numbers. That said, Sony got most of those profits, so, who’s to say how much net profit Disney actually received from that movie (Remember, Sony got the box office receipts, while Disney got the toy sales)? Either way, high price tag or not, the money for Infinity War was certainly worth it…to a certain extent, anyway.       

Thor in Age of Ultron

(Image credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

 Avengers: Age Of Ultron (Budget: $365 Million) 

Now, Avengers: Age of Ultron has got to be the wonkiest movie when it comes to getting a read on how much this movie actually cost to make. According to IMDB, it had a budget of $250 million. But, according to other sources, like The Numbers, which tracks box office budgets, it says that the cost ballooned to upwards of $365 million. Even so, a Forbes article claims that Age of Ultron had a gargantuan budget of $495 million. A lot of this is probably because of what each major Avenger took home, namely Robert Downey Jr., who made a cool $40 million, all on his own.       

So, was Age of Ultron worth the backbreaking budget? Well, according to Box Office Mojo, it made $459 million domestically, and over a billion dollars worldwide. So, yes, over a billion bucks is pretty good, but Age of Ultron is often considered a misstep in the Marvel filmography. It received a Rotten Tomatoes score of 76% from critics, and it’s often seen as lesser than the first Avengers movie (which is better than anything Star Wars, by the way). So, it was definitely not a flop, but was it worth all that money? Well, I say yes…sort of.       

Justice League

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Justice League (Budget $300 Million) 

Disney/Marvel isn't the only superhero company mining in Tinseltown, you know, as Warner Bros./DC also dipped its cape into the water. The most expensive of the DC films, Justice League is an interesting case, since it really turned into two movies. You had Joss Whedon’s Justice League, which reportedly had a budget of $300 million, according to IMDB, with some of its costs being shelled out for reshoots. Then, you had Zack Snyder's Justice League for HBO Max, which added $70 million to the budget.  

But, was it worth it? Well, that depends. Think about this. The original "Joss-tice League," as some people call it, made $229 million domestically, and $657 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. That's…decent, but many would say that a movie with that many recognizable characters should have made more than a film like Black Panther, which made over a billion dollars worldwide at the box office, per Box Office Mojo.   

Though Zack Snyder's Justice League was a success on HBO Max, was it worth the extra $70 million on top of the already expensive cost? Well, I'd personally say no, and I'll tell you why in a second.      

Ben Affleck and Henry Cavill in Batman V Superman: Dawn Of Justice

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (Budget: $250 Million) 

Before Justice League, there was Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice, which IMDB notes came in at a budget of $250 million (Forbes rumors say the final tally was closer to $400 million). According to Box Office Mojo, it made $330 million domestically, and $873 million worldwide, which is actually MORE money than what Justice League made. Have you ever heard of diminishing returns? Well, that's exactly what happened to Justice League in the wake of Batman v. Superman.  

Now, would more people have rushed to see Justice League if Zack Snyder had finished directing it? Maybe, and our very own Sean O'Connell wrote a whole book about the Snyder Cut (opens in new tab). But, for my money, it was not worth the budget, given that it had the opposite effect of not getting people to want to see its follow-up. Oh, well.       

Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker (Budget: $275 Million) 

If I were to rank the Star Wars movies, I would put Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker at dead last. That movie is terrible! But, this list isn't about the quality of the movie. It’s more about how much it made back.    

Domestically, the third movie in the Disney trilogy made $515 million, and $1 billion dollars internationally, according to Box Office Mojo. That said, Deadline reports it cost more than The Force Awakens, and also The Last Jedi, but, it made less than both of them. So, say it with me again, children...Diminishing returns! 

That said, crossing a billion is no small feat. And, since this is another Disney property, it's very hard for it to not recoup its profits down the line with merchandise, theme park attractions, Disney+ subscriptions, etc. So, was it worth the high price tag? Well, I'd say that every Star Wars movie is worth the budget. Okay, ALMOST every Star Wars movie, which I’ll get to in a second… 

Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian in Solo: A Star Wars Story

(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Solo: A Star Wars Story (Budget: 275 Million) 

I just made a point to say that no amount of money is too much for a Star Wars movie, but Variety reported that Solo: A Star Wars Story cost at least $275 million to make, and that's way too much for this particular Star Wars movie. The high price is mostly because of its troubled production. Lord and Miller were set to direct the movie, but Ron Howard was brought in to replace them. Thus is life.    

According to Box Office Mojo, the film made $213 million domestically, and $392 million worldwide, which, to be quite frank, isn't that great given how much work and money went into it. Considering that this side-story didn't really add much to the saga, well, I'd say that Solo: A Star Wars Story was 100% not worth that price tag.  

Taylor Kitsch in John Carter

(Image credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)

John Carter (Budget: $250 Million)  

I don't know if you're noticing a trend, but a majority of the movies on this list are from Disney. Unlike with Marvel or Star Wars, which are brands that will automatically get people's butts in seats, Disney took a massive risk on revitalizing an old character called John Carter, and well, the rest is history.  

According to Box Office Mojo,  John Carter made $73 million domestically (welp!), and $282 million worldwide. Usually, I would say that there are no failures for Disney, but this, and The Lone Ranger, are kind of the outliers since they didn't make a huge financial splash, nor did they have any huge cultural impact that they could bank upon later. So John Carter was clearly NOT worth the budget, and I'm sure the studio heads at Disney would agree with me.   

Johnny Depp in At World's End

(Image credit: Walt Disney Pictures)

Pirates Of The Caribbean: At World's End (Budget: $341 Million)  

The former most expensive movie of all time, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End, was the third movie in the seafaring series starring none other than Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow. Box Office Mojo says the film made $309 million domestically, and $960 million internationally. That's a good amount of change. But, the Pirates movies have always fascinated me because I'm not really sure how much they help Disney's bottom line. 

Disney already has a Pirates of the Caribbean ride, as that's where the series came from in the first place, but how much did Disney make outside of the movie? Did they make a lot of money off of toys? Video games? T-shirts? I really don't know. As an outsider looking in, I would think that the Pirates films, even with that high box office tally, isn't worth that high amount, but, I could be wrong. Again, I'm a movie guy. Not a number cruncher.  

Johnny Depp in On Stranger Tides

(Image credit: Walt Disney Pictures)

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (Budget: $410 Million) 

Reportedly the current most expensive movie ever made (Forbes), the fourth movie in the Pirates franchise still made a lot of money.  

According to Box Office Mojo, it dug up $241 million domestically, and over a billion dollars internationally, which is more than its predecessor. But, shiver me timbers, is that enough to justify such a high price tag when they could have just easily green-lit another Marvel or Star Wars movie instead? In the end, I really can’t say.   

How many of these budget-busting blockbusters have you seen? For more news on the biggest movies around, make sure to swing by here often! 

Rich Knight
Rich Knight

Rich is a Jersey boy, through and through. He graduated from Rutgers University (Go, R.U.!), and thinks the Garden State is the best state in the country. That said, he’ll take Chicago Deep Dish pizza over a New York slice any day of the week. Don’t hate. When he’s not watching his two kids, he’s usually working on a novel, watching vintage movies, or reading some obscure book.