Action Movie Box Office Bombs That Are Actually Worth Watching

Action Movie Box Office Bombs That Are Actually Worth Watching

Action Movie Box Office Bombs That Are Actually Worth Watching


Movies can do all kinds of things to entertain us. Some make us laugh out loud, others draw us into an intriguing mystery, and a few can even get us thinking about high-end concepts or themes. However, most people go to the cinema to get away from the troubles of the real world and just enjoy themselves for a brief time. In that regard, there's no better option than the action film. The genre's exciting thrills and dramatic stunt sequences make it the perfect choice for those who just want to get their pulses racing.

Of course, not every action film is an unqualified success. Only a select few can turn out to be huge blockbusters, while many others end up being box office duds that end up losing money when they can't make back their production budgets and marketing costs. Yet even huge movie bombs are not necessarily bad films. Sometimes a film that's initially misunderstood can slowly establish itself and demonstrate its quality over time, while in other circumstances, a packed release schedule might mean a great film gets lost in the shuffle. Whatever the case, all of these action films were flops by the time their theatrical runs came to an end, but are definitely worth watching today.


Planet Terror

Action Movie Box Office Bombs That Are Actually Worth Watching


Director and producer Robert Rodriguez isn't exactly known for creating bad films or spectacular flops. In fact, his worldwide gross as a director stands at over $1.5 billion, and he has created classics such as "Sin City" and "Spy Kids" during his career. But "Planet Terror" stands out as a failure — at least at the box office anyway. The action focuses on Cherry Darling, a go-go dancer played by Rose McGowan, as victims of a biochemical attack suddenly start behaving like zombies.

The movie was released as a double feature with Quentin Tarantino's "Death Proof," under the collective name "Grindhouse." The unusual release may well have contributed to "Grindhouse" not finding an audience in theaters, as there was nothing wrong with the quality of either film. Complete with outlandish trailers for fictitious films — four of which have since been made into features themselves — "Grindhouse" was a critical success and, in subsequent standalone releases, "Planet Terror" fared well in reviews. There's little doubt of the movie's legacy and impact, and it is a good example of an exploitation film done well with the right amount of comedy, gore, and action.


Fight Club

Action Movie Box Office Bombs That Are Actually Worth Watching


Despite the fact that "Fight Club" is a hugely influential film that has become part of popular culture since its initial theatrical release in 1999, it wasn't a hit at the box office. It has grown to become more than a cult classic since and has a legion of dedicated fans around the world. Critics praised the thrilling action sequences in the David Fincher film, in addition to the mind-bending story and impeccable performances of the main stars, including both Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. All of this has helped the film achieve lasting fame in the years following its theatrical debut.

So, why did "Fight Club" bomb when it arrived in cinemas? At least some of the cast and crew put the blame squarely on the shoulders of 20th Century Fox, with the likes of Fincher and Norton arguing that executives didn't fully understand the film and didn't market it effectively as a result. Unlike some other flops, "Fight Club" wasn't a total disaster at the box office as it still managed to gross just over $100 million, but this was nowhere near enough to make back its $63 million budget when you take into account that theater owners take roughly half the box office earnings. 


The Last Duel

Action Movie Box Office Bombs That Are Actually Worth Watching


To many people, Ridley Scott is the director behind hit films like "Gladiator," "The Martian," and "Alien." So it might come as a surprise that his 2021 historical epic "The Last Duel" was anything but a hit. What makes it all the more surprising is that the movie has a stellar cast headed up by Matt Damon, Adam Driver, Jodie Comer, and Ben Affleck. Set in medieval France, "The Last Duel" features a distinctive structure, with the story told in three separate chapters that tell the same story from the perspective of three different characters.

Against a budget of more than $100 million, Scott's film managed to claw back just over $30 million, a huge disappointment for everyone involved. Why it bombed so hard is a mystery, although the controversial story — which focuses on the vicious sexual assault of a noblewoman — and unconventional narrative structure might have put some people off. None of that should be an excuse for missing out on a fantastic film, though, and "The Last Duel" is worth watching simply for its takedown of the notion of chivalry as well as the visceral and bloody climactic fight.

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Deepwater Horizon

Action Movie Box Office Bombs That Are Actually Worth Watching


Based on the real-life Deepwater Horizon explosion, which saw the deaths of several workers and released over 100 million gallons of oil into the ocean, this 2016 film from Peter Berg tells the story of those trapped on the drilling rig when disaster strikes. Mark Wahlberg takes on the role of chief electronics technician Mike Williams, who must work with the surviving crew as they attempt to escape from the burning rig and remain safe from the constant danger that surrounds them.

"Deepwater Horizon" made over $120 million at the box office, yet even this was not enough to earn back the massive $100 million budget. Some experts noted that the movie flopped largely because it was so expensive to make, with analyst Jeff Bock telling The Hollywood Reporter, "This should have been a $60 million film. The budget was out of control."

With solid reviews from viewers and a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes of 82%, almost everyone who has seen "Deepwater Horizon" has something good to say about it. If you like disaster films and want a non-stop action movie that is less than two hours long, you could do a lot worse.



Action Movie Box Office Bombs That Are Actually Worth Watching


If you don't want to think too much and just want some over-the-top action from your moviegoing experience, then a Michael Bay release is always a good choice. The director, known for high-octane films ranging from "The Rock" to the "Transformers" series, is now ranked among the most successful directors in history when you look at box office receipts. That doesn't mean every one of his projects is a commercial hit, though, and "Ambulance" is a good example of that.

The 2022 action thriller stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II as a desperate man who agrees to help his criminal adopted brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) rob a bank to help pay for his wife's medical bills. As they make their escape from the bank, the brothers hijack an ambulance that contains an injured police officer and an EMT, embarking on a high-speed chase through the streets of Los Angeles.

An unmitigated disaster in terms of its commercial performance, "Ambulance" may have suffered because of competition from other movies released around the same time, including "Sonic the Hedgehog 2" and "Everything Everywhere All at Once," as well as a flood of similarly styled action movies available to stream at home on Netflix. But if you are a fan of car chases and want Michael Bay at his no-holds-barred best, then "Ambulance" is certainly worth checking out.


Terminator: Dark Fate

Action Movie Box Office Bombs That Are Actually Worth Watching


The "Terminator" franchise has certainly had its ups and downs over the years. From the highs of "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" to the lows of "Terminator: Genisys," fans of the series have had a somewhat rocky road over the last four decades. In many ways, the 2019 film "Terminator: Dark Fate" got the franchise back on the right track and was well-received by viewers and critics — largely because it acts as a direct sequel to the second film and ignores much of what has happened in subsequent installments.

Both Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger returned for the film, with "Deadpool" director Tim Miller helming the project. Despite a strong start, it stumbled during its theatrical run and ended up with a box office gross of only $250 million, a poor return on its estimated budget of $185 million. There's a good chance that the failure of "Terminator: Dark Fate" was the result of the audience being tired of the series following its disappointing predecessors. While the franchise may well have lost any trust it once had, this is a film that is very reminiscent of the original two entries and should appeal to those who loved them.



Action Movie Box Office Bombs That Are Actually Worth Watching


The popular "2000 AD" magazine character Judge Dredd has been adapted for the screen twice. Fans first got to see Mega-City One's famous law enforcement officer in a 1995 big screen adventure, with Sylvester Stallone taking on the title role. Unfortunately, this adaptation ignored huge swaths of the source material and left a bitter taste in the mouths of long-time fans.

That's where 2012's "Dredd" comes in. A far more faithful imagining of the Judge Dredd character, the movie thrusts Karl Urban into the action as the comic book hero as he teams up with psychic sidekick Cassandra (Olivia Thirlby) in a head-on collision with crime lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). For fans of the source material, "Dredd" feels like much more of a love letter to the series — Urban even keeps his helmet on through the entire runtime like his comic counterpart.

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Despite being relatively inexpensive to make, by superhero movie standards anyway, "Dredd" still couldn't break even, with earnings of just over $40 million. That's in spite of the warm reception it received from critics and audience members, who were impressed by the stylish special effects and intense action pieces. The R rating likely contributed to the commercial failing of "Dredd" by severely limiting its potential audience, but that hasn't stopped its quality shining through in the long term and firmly cementing the film's position as a cult classic.


Free Fire

Action Movie Box Office Bombs That Are Actually Worth Watching


It might seem unkind to call "Free Fire" a box office bomb considering it had a tiny budget of just $7 million. Yet, even against that small target, Ben Wheatley's 2016 comedy action film couldn't reach a break-even point. There are some mitigating circumstances, though, with "Free Fire" being distributed by StudioCanal and financed by the British Film Institute and Film4 Productions. That meant there was little to no marketing outside of a collection of quirky posters that were put out before the film's release.

Centering on an illegal arms sale that goes terribly wrong, "Free Fire" features the talents of everyone from Brie Larson and Cillian Murphy to Sharlto Copley and Armie Hammer. A throwback to the golden age of action films that had 90-minute runtimes and a lighting-fast pace, "Free Fire" drew praise from critics for the way it managed to elegantly keep things tense while also providing plenty of laughs along the way, sort of like a version of "Reservoir Dogs" that has been injected with extra physical comedy.


The Nice Guys

Action Movie Box Office Bombs That Are Actually Worth Watching


"Lethal Weapon" writer and "Iron Man 3" director Shane Black co-wrote (with Anthony Bagarozzi) and directed "The Nice Guys" in 2016. The film sees Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling as an underworld enforcer and private investigator who work together when they both become embroiled in the case of a missing woman who had disappeared under mysterious circumstances. It had a mixed commercial reception, grossing a little over $60 million, a figure that made it a flop when pitted against the film's $50 million budget.

The lack of box office success was strange, as the critical consensus was overwhelmingly positive, with particular praise for the chemistry between Crowe and Gosling as well as the clever dialogue. It is exactly the sort of lower-budget film that would generally become something of a sleeper hit. Unfortunately, it was hampered by its own release schedule, hitting cinemas at the same time that "Captain America: Civil War" was dominating multiplexes. Crowe himself even acknowledged that "The Nice Guys" struggled to compete with the big blockbusters in the run-up to summer.


Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

Action Movie Box Office Bombs That Are Actually Worth Watching


Considering the huge success of the "Scott Pilgrim" graphic novel series, it would seem almost impossible that a film based on the books would fail at the box office. What made the whole thing even more remarkable was the sheer talent of the people involved in the movie, including director Edgar Wright and the likes of Michael Cera, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Brie Larson, and Chris Evans in leading roles.

The film, which follows the titular character (Cera) as he fights the seven evil exes of his new girlfriend Ramona Flowers (Winstead), proved to be a flop when it hit cinema screens in 2010. It grossed just under $50 million and failed to even make back its budget. Yet it found plenty of fans among critics and gradually established itself as a cult classic through home video and on-demand releases. The original theatrical run of "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World" also received dozens of award nominations, a testament to the film's quality. The movie eventually found a dedicated audience and the long-term success of the franchise recently continued with the praiseworthy animated spin-off "Scott Pilgrim Takes Off" on Netflix, featuring the original cast returning to voice their characters.


The Northman

Action Movie Box Office Bombs That Are Actually Worth Watching


Alexander Skarsgård led a cast that included Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, and Anya Taylor-Joy in this historical action film that first hit theater screens in 2022. Directed by Robert Eggers of "The Witch" fame, "The Northman" tells the tale of a young Viking prince (Skarsgård) whose life is turned upside down on the eve of his transition into adulthood. His uncle (Claes Bang) kills his father (Hawke) and kidnaps his mother (Kidman), leaving Skarsgård's Amleth to a life in exile before he returns to exact his revenge years later.

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The $69 million that "The Northman" took in at the box office wasn't enough to make back its budget, but a disappointing commercial performance shouldn't take away from what was a critical success. Viewers who have seen the film have also been fairly kind, while our own review of "The Northman" noted the spectacular action sequences and impressive cinematic style — even if the film lacked some substance. 


Last Action Hero

Action Movie Box Office Bombs That Are Actually Worth Watching


"Last Action Hero" is a satirical action film that follows young fan Danny Madigan (Austin O'Brien) as he is magically transported into the fictional world of his hero Jack Slater (Arnold Schwarzenegger). The pair quickly bond and must travel back to the real world together to stop the evil Benedict (Charles Dance) from causing havoc. It has since developed a cult following and found a sizable audience on streaming services, with Dance suggesting that its release alongside "Jurassic Park" had a part to play in the movie bombing.

There's no denying that the 1993 movie failed to make much of an impact when it was released, both commercially and critically. While it didn't find an audience during its theatrical run, reappraisals of the John McTiernan movie have been far more positive in recent years. It is now widely considered to be among Schwarzenegger's very best films, skillfully combining action with comedy in a way similar to some other highlights from the actor's career, including both "Kindergarten Cop" and "Twins."

Schwarzenegger took the poor performance of "Last Action Hero" to heart, suggesting he had high hopes for the film. "I cannot tell you how upset I was," he said in Netflix's "Arnold" documentary (via Business Insider). "It hurts you. It hurts your feelings. It's embarrassing … I didn't want to see anyone for a week."


The Suicide Squad

Action Movie Box Office Bombs That Are Actually Worth Watching


It is no secret that the now defunct DC Extended Universe struggled to establish itself in the same way as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Many DCEU releases performed poorly at the box office or faced criticism from fans and reviewers alike. That doesn't mean there weren't a few exceptions to this rule, such as the 2016 movie "Suicide Squad," which managed to bring in around $750 million. The success of this film — even though critics and viewers blasted it — all but guaranteed a sequel, although fans might not have been expecting what they eventually got.

James Gunn's "The Suicide Squad" is essentially a standalone sequel that has almost no connection to the first film outside of the fact that it shares a few characters, such as Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn. The basic premise is the same as well, with the U.S. government recruiting a group of supervillains to carry out a dangerous mission.

But in an almost complete reversal of the first film, "The Suicide Squad" was a box office failure while also an undeniable critical hit. New members of the cast like David Dastmalchian, John Cena, and Idris Elba were far more compelling in this adaptation alongside veterans Robbie and Joel Kinnaman, while the overall narrative was more focused. However, the confusion over exactly what "The Suicide Squad" was, combined with the fact that it came out during the COVID-19 pandemic and was also available on HBO Max, all likely dented its commercial appeal.



Action Movie Box Office Bombs That Are Actually Worth Watching


Few franchises have had such a convoluted history as "Highlander." The series began back in 1986 and continued to appear on screens in various forms over the next three decades. "Highlander" eventually spawned numerous television series and movies, with many of them directly contradicting each other or ignoring events in prior releases. That can make approaching the fictional universe for the first time daunting and may give the impression that this is a franchise you should avoid — especially given how badly the original flopped by grossing just over half its $19 million budget.

While you may be able to skip the subsequent entries in the wider "Highlander" series, the first film deserves to be watched at least once. Set at multiple times throughout history, the story follows the immortal Connor MacLeod (Christopher Lambert) and his mentor Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez (Sean Connery) as they battle The Kurgan (Clancy Brown) in an eternal battle that has lasted through the ages.

During the late 1980s, the movie started to make an impression in home media sales and slowly garnered cult status in the intervening years. That was due to the dramatic soundtrack provided by British rock band Queen, the performance of Christopher Lambert as MacLeod, and a visual style that remains unmatched by similar action-adventure releases.


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