While any film that fails to meet box office expectations is often labeled a flop, even today’s big-budget failures can’t compare to some of the biggest financial disasters in the history of film when adjusted for inflation. Here are the eight biggest film box office disasters of all-time and how their losses measure up to modern standards of box office bombs.
8. Heaven’s Gate (1980) — $114.4 Million
It seems fitting to start off the list with the film that is often considered the biggest financial disaster of all-time, if only in reputation. Released in 1980, Heaven’s Gate was a complete disaster to everyone involved, including studio United Artists, which almost collapsed as a result, and director Michael Cimino whose career never recovered. When it comes to film history, the Heaven’s Gate disaster is often pointed to as the key event that led American filmmaking away from director-driven projects, as studios sought to assume control over projects — something that hasn’t changed since.
Just how disastrous was Heaven’s Gate? On a budget of $44 million, the film earned only $3.4 million at the box office. Adjusted for inflation, Heaven’s Gate cost approximately $124 million and earned $9.6 million at the box office, losing $114.4 million for what was essentially an art-house western. Although the film has in recent years been rediscovered as — in many ways — a case of the media driving critical perception, there’s no doubt that the impact of Heaven’s Gate is still being felt by studios and filmmakers today.