Luc Besson’s return to the big space opera scene with
comes at a hefty price: a reported $180 million, easily making it the most expensive French production ever. And such fiscal modesty inspires this week’s gallery of the 24 most expensive movies ever made! (Budgets and box office are adjusted for inflation, with the base numbers from Valerian and the Thousand Planets Box Office Mojo, natch.)
(2011, 32%) Pirates of the Carribbean: On Stranger Tides
Budget: $403 million
Box office: $1.149 billion
Critics Consensus: It’s shorter and leaner than the previous sequel, but this Pirates runs aground on a disjointed plot and a non-stop barrage of noisy action sequences.
(2007, 45%) Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Box office: $1.144b
POTC: AWE provides the thrilling action scenes, but mixes in too many characters with too many incomprehensible plot threads.
(1997, 88%) Titanic
Box office: $3.142b
A mostly unqualified triumph for James Cameron, who offers a dizzying blend of spectacular visuals and old-fashioned melodrama.
(2007, 63%) Spider-Man 3
Box office: $1.058b
Though there are more characters and plotlines, and the action sequences still dazzle, Spider-Man 3 nonetheless isn’t quite as refined as the first two.
(2010, 89%) Tangled
Box office: $669m
While far from Disney’s greatest film, Tangled is a visually stunning, thoroughly entertaining addition to the studio’s classic animated canon.
(2015, 75%) Avengers: Age of Ultron
Box office: $1.431b
Exuberant and eye-popping, Avengers: Age of Ultron serves as an overstuffed but mostly satisfying sequel, reuniting its predecessor’s unwieldy cast with a few new additions and a worthy foe.
(2009, 84%) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
Box office: $1.073b
Dark, thrilling, and occasionally quite funny, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince is also visually stunning and emotionally satisfying.
(2012, 51%) John Carter
Box office: $305m
While John Carter looks terrific and delivers its share of pulpy thrills, it also suffers from uneven pacing and occasionally incomprehensible plotting and characterization.
(1995, 42%) Waterworld
Box office: $423m
Though it suffered from toxic buzz at the time of its release, Waterworld is ultimately an ambitious misfire: an extravagant sci-fi flick with some decent moments and a lot of silly ones.
(2006, 54%) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Box office: $1.302b
Gone is Depp’s unpredictability and much of the humor and originality of the first movie.
(2009, 83%) Avatar
Box office: $3.204b
It might be more impressive on a technical level than as a piece of storytelling, but Avatar reaffirms James Cameron’s singular gift for imaginative, absorbing filmmaking.
(2004, 94%) Spider-Man 2
Box office: $1.014b
Boasting an entertaining villain and deeper emotional focus, this is a nimble sequel that improves upon the original.
(2005, 84%) King Kong
Box office: $689m
Featuring state-of-the-art special effects, terrific performances, and a majestic sense of spectacle, Peter Jackson’s remake of King Kong is a potent epic that’s faithful to the spirit of the 1933 original.
(2014, 59%) The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
Box office: $998m
Though somewhat overwhelmed by its own spectacle, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies ends Peter Jackson’s second Middle-earth trilogy on a reasonably satisfying note.
(2016, 27%) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Box office: $873m
Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice smothers a potentially powerful story — and some of America’s most iconic superheroes — in a grim whirlwind of effects-driven action.
(2016, 90%) Captain America: Civil War
Box office: $1.153b
Captain America: Civil War begins the next wave of Marvel movies with an action-packed superhero blockbuster boasting a decidedly non-cartoonish plot and the courage to explore thought-provoking themes.
(2008, 67%) The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian
Box office: $480m
The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian is an entertaining family adventure worthy of the standard set by its predecessor.
(2017, 66%) The Fate of the Furious
Box office: $1.238b
The Fate of the Furious opens a new chapter in the franchise, fueled by the same infectious cast chemistry and over-the-top action fans have come to expect.
(2006, 58%) X-Men: The Last Stand
Box office: $561m
X-Men: The Last Stand provides plenty of mutant action for fans of the franchise, even if it does so at the expense of its predecessors’ deeper character moments.
(2015, 64%) Spectre
Box office: $896m
Spectre nudges Daniel Craig’s rebooted Bond closer to the glorious, action-driven spectacle of earlier entries, although it’s admittedly reliant on established 007 formula.
(2015, 92%) Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Box office: $2.106b
Packed with action and populated by both familiar faces and fresh blood, The Force Awakens successfully recalls the series’ former glory while injecting it with renewed energy.
(1999, 17%) Wild Wild West
Box office: $325m
Bombastic, manic, and largely laugh-free, Wild Wild West is a bizarre misfire in which greater care was lavished upon the special effects than on the script.
(1963, 55%) Cleopatra
Box office: $460m
Cleopatra is a lush, ostentatious, endlessly eye-popping epic that sags collapses from a (and how could it not?) four-hour runtime.
(2006, 76%) Superman Returns
Box office: $477m
Bryan Singer’s reverent and visually decadent adaptation gives the Man of Steel welcome emotional complexity. The result: a satisfying stick-to-your-ribs adaptation.