Thanks to the advanced visual effects, new filming techniques, high fees demanded by superstar actors, and other factors, the budget for making movies has skyrocketed in recent years. The production houses are willing to spend big bucks on some movies because they often bring in lucrative returns. Here we take a look at the top 10 most expensive movies ever made in the US and around the world.
Top 10 most expensive movies in the world
Barring a few exceptions, the big-budget films have traditionally performed well at the box office. That’s why many of the most expensive movies are also among the highest grossing films worldwide. The list below includes the cost of movies based on publicly available data because movie studios are often highly secretive about their accounting practices. We have taken into account only movies that have already been released, meaning films in production, post-production, or planning stage have been kept out.
We have ranked movies here based on the nominal cost rather than the inflation-adjusted cost. For your information, we have also put together a list of the most expensive movies adjusted for inflation near the bottom of this post. So, let’s first look at the most expensive films in the world based on their nominal cost.
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10- Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($258.6 million)
Star Wars: The Force Awakens was released in 2015. It was a huge commercial success, grossing $2.06 billion at the worldwide box office. It was also praised by critics. The movie had a production budget of $258.6 million, and producers spent another $48 million on marketing. The lead actors Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill took $40 million of the production budget.
9- Tangled ($260 million)
Tangled is a 3D animated movie about Rapunzel. It was released in 2010. Its budget wasn’t originally supposed to be that high but the budget skyrocketed to $260 million when a major portion of the movie was rewritten to get the story right. It took Disney about a decade to make Tangled, and it all paid off well. The movie earned $592 million at the worldwide box office.
8- Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($262 million)
The Last Jedi came out a couple of years after The Force Awakens. It had a budget of $262 million and went on to earn $1.3 billion at the box office. It was the highest grossing film of 2017.
7- Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice ($263 million)
Warner Bros. never publicly revealed the cost of this superhero flick, but its production budget is estimated to be $263 million. The total cost including marketing was pegged at around $400 million. Despite all the hype and marketing push, the movie was panned by critics. It has an approval rating of just 27% on Rotten Tomatoes. Anyway, it was a major box office success, raking in $874 million worldwide.
6- John Carter ($264 million)
This sci-fi action flick had a budget of $264 million excluding marketing. The director had to reshoot a large portion of the movie twice. The movie received a mixed response from critics, but it was a major failure at the box office. It could earn only $284 million at the box office. It’s one of the biggest flops in the history of Disney.
5- Solo: A Star Wars Story ($275 million)
Based on the iconic Star Wars character Han Solo, this movie was released in 2018. It was generally praised by critics for its visuals, action sequences, performances, and music scores. But it turned out to be a dud at the box office, garnering only $392 million. It needed at least $550 million just to break even. Solo was the first Star Wars film that failed at the box office.
4 (Tie) – Justice League ($300 million)
Justice League’s production budget was $300 million, with another $150 million spent on marketing and promotion. It was supposed to be DC’s answer to Marvel, but it failed to show its magic at the box office. Its budget ballooned due to extensive reshoots. Justice League was criticized for its plot, storyline, and overuse of graphics. It grossed only $657 million at the worldwide box office, though it needed at least $750 million to break even.
4 (Tie) – Pirated of the Caribbean: At World’s End ($300 million)
The third installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise had a budget of $300 million, similar to Justice League. It was released in May 2007. Despite mixed reviews from critics, it went on to earn more than $963 million at the box office. A large chunk of its production budget went towards special effects, battle sequences, and building a 40-structure set to create the look of the 18-century Singapore.
3- Avengers: Infinity War ($316 million)
This Marvel superhero film had a budget of $316 million. It was money well spent as Avengers: Infinity War went on to gross more than $2 billion at the worldwide box office. Released in April 2018, the movie received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics for its storyline, performances, action sequences, and visual effects.
2- Avengers: Age of Ultron ($365.5 million)
The Age of Ultron was shot in several countries including Korea, Bangladesh, South Africa, and Italy. That coupled with the visual effects drove up its production cost. Also, the lead actors had threatened to quit if their demands were not met. The movie went on to gross $1.4 billion at the box office.
1- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ($378.5 million)
By far the most expensive movie ever made. Released in 2011, it had a production cost of $378.5 million. Johnny Depp was reportedly paid $55 million for this film. It ended up grossing $1.04 billion at the box office, so Disney had little reason to complain about Johnny Depp’s hefty fee.
Top 10 most expensive movies after accounting for inflation
Here’s what the list would look like if you take inflation into account based on the year they were released:
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides ($422 million): The film was released in 2011 at a production cost of $378.5 million.
- Avengers: Age of Ultron ($386 million): Released in 2015, its original budget was $365 million. Adjusted for inflation, its production cost would be $386 million.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End ($362 million): It came out in 2007. Its original production cost of $300 million would stand at $362 million adjusted for inflation.
- Avengers: Infinity War ($316 million): It’s not even a year old, so its inflation-adjusted budget hasn’t changed much.
- Titanic ($312 million): Titanic was released in 1997. It had a production cost of $200 million, which would be close to $312 million adjusted for inflation.
- Spider-Man 3 ($312 million): Spider-Man 3 was released in 2007. Its original production cost was $258 million.
- Justice League ($307 million): Released in 2017, Justice League had a production budget of $300 million.
- Tangled ($299 million): Tangled had a production cost of $260 million when it arrived in 2010.
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ($292 million): This installment of the Harry Potter franchise was released in 2009 at a production cost of $250 million.
- John Carter ($288 million): The biggest flop from Disney, it was released in 2012. It’s one of the world’s most expensive movies ever made.