Movies are big business – one of the biggest – and the amount that they’re grossing on average is generally going up by the year, even adjusted for inflation. At this time, the highest-grossing movie of all time is 2009’s science fiction epic Avatar, which has pulled in $2.788 billion worldwide. But is it a good movie?
As a general rule, the cream tends to rise to the top and the majority of those movies that are in and around the top 100 of all time when it comes to box office gross – those that earn in excess of $500 million – are good films for one reason or another, whether they’re brilliantly written, visually stunning or just downright entertaining.
The following movies are considered to be awful, although they have performed remarkably at the box office.
10. Cars 2 ($559.9 million)
Cars 2 was the 2011 sequel to the popular 2006 Disney Pixar movie Cars. The movie, about a bunch of anthropomorphised vehicles, out-grossed its predecessor by almost $100 million. Yet, it simply wasn’t as good. Actually, Cars 2 received a worse reception than any other Pixar movie, period. It’s the only Pixar production to have garnered a “rotten” certification on the tomatometer, rated at 39%.
9. The Smurfs ($563.7 million)
With a stellar cast and voice cast that included the likes of Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Katy Perry and Alan Cumming, 2011’s Smurfs movie had all the ingredients to be at least moderately entertaining. But it wasn’t. The adventures of the little blue guys as they faced off against the evil Gargamel grossed a whopping $563.7 million, having cost $110 million to make.
8. Fifty Shades of Grey ($568.9 million)
Fifty Shades of Grey was a phenomenal success as a series of books, despite questionable literary. A film adaptation was inevitable, and perhaps it’s unsurprising that it met the same fate as the books: Terribly written, poorly received by critics, but wildly financially successful. In spite of all that, from a budget of just $40 million it has grossed a huge $568.9 million to date.
7. The Hangover Part III ($722 million)
2009’s The Hangover was undoubtedly a very funny film. It spawned two sequels (in 2011 and 2013, respectively) and the box office takings gradually increased with each movie. Yet, the comedy offerings got progressively worse. The third and final instalment saw the trio of Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakis) return to the original location of Las Vegas – but the concept was just too silly. It cost $103 million to make, and pulled in a massive $722 million. Somehow.
6. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 ($829.6 million)
The Twilight movies were a cultural phenomenon and a moneymaking powerhouse. They were also, by all accounts, pretty terrible – and that’s reflected in their collective critical reception. The five movies have, however, grossed a worldwide box office total of $3.345 billion and the best-performing of them all was the final instalment – 2012’s The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 – which grossed an astronomical $829.6 million, having cost $120 million to make.
5. Spider-Man 3 ($890.8 million)
Spider-Man’s cinematic adventures have been mixed in terms of their quality and success. The fact that the character has now been recruited into Marvel Studios’ Marvel Cinematic Universe is testament to that fact. With five movies to date (Sam Raimi’s trilogy between 2002 and 2007 and the two ill-fated Amazing Spider-Man movies in 2012 and 2014), the worst received of them all was the third instalment by Raimi. Spider-Man 3 took in a huge $890.9 million, having cost $258 million to make.
4. Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace ($1.027 billion)
Overall, the Star Wars prequel trilogy probably wasn’t as bad as a lot of people tend to make out – in fact Attack of the Clones (2002) and Revenge of the Sith (2005) got relatively decent reviews – but the Phantom Menace (1999) was pretty damn terrible. That being said, it’s the highest-grossing Star Wars movie to date (not for long, however, with The Force Awakens on the way), having pulled in a massive $1.027 billion at the box office.
3. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ($1.046 billion)
Pirates of the Caribbean is an incredibly popular movie franchise loosely based on the rides of the same name at various Disney theme parks. In total, the four movies to date (there’s another coming in 2017) have grossed a gigantic $3.7 billion worldwide. On Stranger Tides sees Jack Sparrow competing against Blackbeard in a quest and it is the worst movie in the franchise by far. It cost $378.5 million to make and it cashed in $1.046 billion.
2. Transformers: Age of Extinction ($1.091 billion)
The truth is, the live action Transformers movie franchise has been a phenomenal success – even though Michael Bay has really made a bit of a mess of it. Age of Extinction – the one with the Dinobots – is by far the worst movie in the quadrilogy with a pitiful aggregate approval rating of 18%. Yet it still managed to gross a huge $1.091 billion in 2014, having cost $210 million to make.
1. Iron Man 3 ($1.215 billion)
Marvel Studios can do very little wrong when it comes to their Marvel Cinematic Universe, with the first ten films in the franchise having amassed a total worldwide gross of $7.16 billion. No recent Marvel movie has received a lower approval rating than 65% for 2013’s Thor: The Dark World. The highest-rated being the first in the franchise – Iron Man – received a full 93% approval from critics. The weakest of the Iron Man movies, 2013’s Iron Man 3 wasn’t, panned by critics; but comic book fans hated it, as it strayed unjustifiably far from the source material when it came to the main villain, the Mandarin.