Summertime brings heat, vacations, and a load of blockbuster movies. All are vying for a piece of the popcorn pie, the last chunk of change in our pockets, and Hollywood immortality. But there’s a dark side to the dream: box office flops, those movies that for any number of reasons can’t win the popularity contest.
Now we don’t put a lot of stock in box office metrics or Hollywood business at all. We’re too busy looking backwards and don’t like to judge on quantity — and sometimes not even on quality. Nonetheless, films cost money to make and a lot of them lose a shipload in the process. With that in mind, here are eight of our favorite summer blockbuster movie flops. Some of them are quite good, and all are 100% Obsolete.
1. Ishtar (1987)
$51m budget / $4,331,817 opening
One of the most maligned financial flops of the ‘80s, this THREE AMIGOS-alike was saddled with problems in front of and behind the camera. Bad press was probably its ultimate downfall, but despite a definite unevenness, it’s funny. Easy to forget it’s an Elaine May joint.
2. Waterworld (1995)
$175m budget / $21,171,780 opening
Hands down, the ISHTAR of the ’90s. But how can you go wrong with MAD MAX on the high seas and Dennis Hopper at peak crazed villain? Cast a brick wall like Costner. That’s how.
3. Hudson Hawk (1991)
$70m budget / $7,082,820 opening
Although the victim of bad marketing — selling a dark heist spoof as an action movie is a stupid idea, DIE HARD 2 be damned — this movie is also just bad. But like silly bad, cartoony bad, so bad it’s good, great even. Kind of like Bruce Willis’ entire career. From the guys who brought you HEATHERS.
4. Labyrinth (1986)
$25m budget / $3,549,243 opening
Wait, what? There is no possible way the combination of David Bowie and Jim Henson could fail. We might as well be living in a dream world lorded over by a fascist goblin king. This is why we don’t care about box office data.
5. Big Trouble in Little China (1986)
$25m budget / $2,723,211 opening
No one should be surprised that a martial arts fantasy about a truck driver could fail financially. And probably no one is surprised that a martial arts fantasy about a truck driver directed by John Carpenter and starring Kurt Russell is an amazing, stone cold classic. A definitive Obsolete Movie.
6. The Monster Squad (1987)
$12m budget / $1,920,678 opening
File under Screw Box Office Numbers. This is an Obsolete favorite from the great ‘80s genre of kid fantasy adventures, like GOONIES and EXPLORERS but about monster movies. Plus Shane Black wrote it around the time he wrote LETHAL WEAPON. We’re never too old for this shit.
7. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (1992)
$10m budget / $1,813,559 opening
At the time of its release, everyone was expecting BLUE VELVET David Lynch, somehow forgetting that he used to be ERASERHEAD David Lynch and not knowing that he would soon become LOST HIGHWAY David Lynch. Unreal expectations seem to fuel box office flops. On the bright side: Bowie again.
8. Krull (1983)
$47m budget / $5,469,415 opening
They just don’t make movies like this anymore, and we don’t mean the analog visual effects. But they used to make A LOT of them. KRULL orbits the same galaxy as DUNE, the CONAN franchise, and so many others that took a gamble setting epic targets on the STAR WARS market. This one happened to fail commercially, but it’s a lot of fun, offering action and spectacle with a healthy topping of cheese plus early appearances by Liam Neeson and Robbie Coltrane. A financial flop, but it's got the Glaive! Maybe the best sci-fi/fantasy movie about disc golf ever?