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1990s Box Office Bombs That Need A Remake

Sure, most every Hollywood director who's stepped behind a camera would love to have Steven Spielberg's golden touch and bestow a massively popular and profitable film like "Jurassic Park" upon the masses. And one suspects most directors wouldn't have a problem with racking up a cool $150 million box office take in a mere 12 days, as did "Independence Day" in 1996. But world-class directing, A-list Hollywood actors, ambitious scripts, and innovative special effects do not always guarantee a summer blockbuster. In fact, all the seemingly right cinematic ingredients can sometimes result in a legendary holiday or summer stinker, think Kevin Costner tripping over his own ego with "The Postman" or Geena Davis' $100 million bomb "Cutthroat Island."

But just because insanely expensive films crater at the box office doesn't mean they're necessarily bad or unwatchable. They might have just misread the zeitgeist and been made before the public was ready. Perhaps the stars had a little too much cash to play around with and found themselves in too deep with a bloated vanity project (looking at you, Bruce Willis). The '90s certainly had its share of major filmic flops but maybe audiences just weren't ready for a lethal girl boss like "Tank Girl" or the dancing newsboys of "Newsies." Some of these box office bombs were just ahead of their time, so let's take a look at a few that might deserve a remake by Hollywood for contemporary audiences.

Last Action Hero

Conceptually, 1993's "Last Action Hero" seemed to have it all. With megastar Arnold Schwarzenegger spoofing his own muscle-bound screen persona as fictional Jack Slater, a script co-written by "Lethal Weapon" scribe Shane Black, and "Die Hard" helmer John McTiernan in the director's chair, "Last Action Hero" was poised to successfully lampoon the genre from the inside out. Unfortunately, the film was an explosive box office misfire. Schwarzenegger tells Insider that Clintonian-era culture shifts created prejudice against "Last Action Hero" before it opened, but it's more likely that audiences were merely confused about the movie. According to We Minored in Film's oral history of the movie, Schwarzenegger and McTiernan wanted more time to fix the film after poor test screenings, but they were refused.

As Jack Slater says, "Big mistake." "Last Action Hero" was crushed at the box office by "Jurassic Park," which, at the time, had the biggest opening weekend on record (via the Los Angeles Times). The movie wasn't an all-out flop, but with Box Office Mojo reporting the film's estimated budget at $85 million and it taking in only $50 million domestically, "Last Action Hero" was deemed a box office zero.

Despite its mediocre theatrical run, "Last Action Hero" is a fun, escapist flick just begging for a remake. Surely the dream of being sucked into a cinematic fantasy still might resonate. If a "Last Action Hero" remake happens, hopefully it has better timing with its release.

Hudson Hawk

As far as Hollywood vanity projects go, "Hudson Hawk" is arguably one of the most baffling yet wildly misunderstood of the bunch. According to The New York Times, Bruce Willis co-wrote a song about the film's titular character before becoming famous. After the success of "Die Hard" and "Die Hard 2," Willis' passion project about a blackmailed cat burglar with a penchant for unironic fedoras got the green light. Part zany slapstick comedy, part James Bond-esque European caper, "Hudson Hawk" pits Willis' Hawk against corporate ne'er-do-wells Darwin (Richard E. Grant) and Minerva (Sandra Bernhard) Mayflower, who, with help from candy bar-codenamed CIA agents, vie for world domination by recreating Leonardo Da Vinci's alchemy machine. Along with his partner-in-crime, Tommy Five-Tone (Danny Aiello), Hawk charmingly thwarts bad guys with a swing in his step, a song in his heart, and a taste for cappuccinos.

Perhaps too clever for its own good, "Hudson Hawk" swung into theaters in 1991 with a resounding thud. Held up as an example of bloated Hollywood excess, "Hawk" grossed a mere $17 million at the box office (via Box Office Mojo). Although initially failing to steal audiences' money, "Hudson Hawk" and its title character are primed for another go-round. Hawk's rakish charm could suit any number of charismatic actors looking for a cheeky leading role. Plus, its global setting means the remake could take place in any number of wanderlust-inducing locales. Certainly, Hollywood is ready to "give a good cahoot" about a new "Hudson Hawk."

Tank Girl

Director Rachel Talalay readily admitted to Los Angeles Magazine that she made her 1995 movie "Tank Girl" because "I wanted to make a film that was a plus or a minus, you either get it or you don't." Indeed, her adaptation of the British comic book series co-created by a pre-Gorillaz Jamie Hewitt struck a nerve with audiences. Sadly, this movie about a fierce, tank-driving, humanoid kangaroo-loving woman traversing the post-apocalyptic Australian desert didn't connect with its intended audience upon its initial release. "Tank Girl," well, tanked at the box office, with Box Office Mojo reporting the movie only grossed $4 million globally against a $25 million budget. Talalay says the failure of "Tank Girl" ruined her Hollywood career and "it put me into movie jail. It was a disaster. I couldn't talk about it for 10 years" (per Entertainment Weekly).

"Tank Girl" might not have been loved in the '90s, but over the years it's gained a cult following. The film's avant-garde comic book visuals, riot-grrrl-filled soundtrack, and radical punk rock performance in the title role by Lori Petty are now appreciated as a singular cinematic vision. Luckily, there's plenty of "Tank Girl" source material to mine for fresh, raucous adventures. Luckily, a remake of "Tank Girl" might actually be in the cards at some point. "Tank Girl" co-creator Alan Martin tweeted in 2019 that Margot Robbie reportedly optioned the rights to the character.


"Newsies" kicked and stretched its way into theaters in 1992 as The Walt Disney Studios' effort to usher in a new era of movie musicals. Loosely based on the Newsboys Strike of 1899, Insider details that "Newsies" was hotshot studio executive Jeffrey Katzenberg's passion project. The directorial debut of "Dirty Dancing" choreographer Kenny Ortega with music by Disney Renaissance maestro Alan Menken, "Newsies" had what it takes to "seize the day". However, "Newsies" made headlines not for reviving a long-out-of-fashion movie genre, but instead for bombing at the box office. According to Box Office Mojo, the film grossed a measly $2.8 million.

The movie was an immediate dud when it hit theaters, but "Newsies" found success on Broadway. The stage adaptation was a hit, and ironically, The New York Times reported in 2012 that the "Newsies" musical was the fastest Disney Broadway production to turn a profit. Audiences might not have been ready for Christian Bale bursting into song, but clearly, folks love the story. The movie musical resurgence Katzenberg so desired in the early '90s finally happened about a decade later, with films like the Academy Award-winning "Chicago" and Ortega's Disney Channel movie "High School Musical" capturing the pop culture zeitgeist. Mixing the best of the movie with that of the Broadway show would make "Newsies" prime remake material.

Cool World

1992's "Cool World" is a bizarre mash-up of live-action and animation that's definitely not for kids. Helmed by legendary animator Ralph Bakshi, who found fame with counterculture hits like "Fritz the Cat," "Cool World" dares to make cartoons sexy. The movie's animated leading lady Holli Would (Kim Basinger) makes Jessica Rabbit look modest. "Cool World" follows former convict and underground comic artist Jack Deebs (Gabriel Byrne), whose visions of Cool World and Holli turn into a dangerous reality. Holli desires to be human and cross over into the real world, but Cool World human detective Frank Harris (Brad Pitt) tasks himself with keeping the "doodle" and human dimensions separated.

Critics deemed "Cool World" a hot mess, with Roger Ebert exclaiming, "There is nothing wrong with this concept. There is everything wrong with the execution." Audiences didn't warm up to "Cool World" either, with Box Office Mojo detailing the movie grossed $14 million on what The New York Times reported was a $28 million budget. As Ebert pointed out, the idea of "Cool World" works, it was just poorly done. The movie states the Cool World existed long before Jack Deebs envisioned it, leaving plenty of opportunity for a remake to delve deep into this twisted animated universe.

The Astronaut's Wife

The 1999 sci-fi thriller "The Astronaut's Wife" starring Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron never took off with audiences. Reviewed as "'Rosemary's Baby' gets an extraterrestrial twist" by Variety, "The Astronaut's Wife" follows NASA astronaut Spencer Armacost (Depp) after a mysterious space walk incident changes him. His wife Jillian (Theron) tries to discover what happened, all while pregnant with twins. She soon learns that Spencer, and her unborn babies, are not what they seem. What is certain is that "The Astronaut's Wife" was a stratospheric box office bomb, earning $19 million worldwide and costing $75 million to produce (via Box Office Mojo).

As The New York Times noted in its review of the film, it was not screened in advance for critics, a surefire way to keep a lid on a stinker movie. However, it's not that "The Astronaut's Wife" is horrible, it's simply mediocre, with the Los Angeles Times lamenting, "[The film] is not nearly as special as you suspect New Line was hoping it would be, but by no means is it as terrible as you expect most films opening sans previews to be." Give "The Astronaut's Wife" to the right creative team and they could produce a taut, stylish thriller from the source material. Add in beautiful stars like peak-era Depp and Theron, and "The Astronaut's Wife" might be more exciting than its predecessor.

Cutthroat Island

A Hollywood box office bomb that sent its production company to Davy Jones' locker, "Cutthroat Island" is a pretty good flick that got a bad rap. In 1995, years before audiences embraced Captain Jack Sparrow in the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, Geena Davis starred as swashbuckler Morgan Adams, who hits the high seas in search of treasure. Davis' then-husband Renny Harlin directed this film, which was lambasted by The Independent as being "the biggest movie disaster of all time." Financially troubled production company Carolco Pictures gambled their survival on the box office success of "Cutthroat," but instead of unlocking treasures that would save the production company, the box office gave no quarter. The movie was pulled from theaters after only two weeks and The New York Times reports Carolco Pictures filed to liquidate its assets in 1996. The movie cost almost $100 million to make and grossed $10 million (via Box Office Mojo). 

Sure, "Cutthroat Island" has become Hollywood shorthand for utter failure and disaster, but it's actually a decent film. Filled with epic explosions and exciting fight sequences, "Cutthroat Island" packs plenty of thrills, and Davis' turn as a fierce, kick-butt female pirate was ahead of its time. After all, the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise's $4 billion-box-office haul proved swashbuckling pirates can be big business (via CNBC). It's time to give Morgan Adams another chance at adventure.

The Avengers

TV-to-film adaptations were a big craze in '90s Hollywood. Nostalgia for beloved small-screen classics like "The Addams Family," and "The Fugitive" struck box office gold. But for every success, there was a bomb like "The Avengers," a film so off the mark it alienated even the show's most ardent and groovy fans. An iconic slice of swinging '60s British television, "The Avengers" TV show starred Patrick Macnee as bowler hat and brolly-loving special agent John Steed who, alongside his leather catsuit-clad partners like Dr. Cathy Gale (Honor Blackman) and Emma Peel (Diana Rigg), takes on baddies with style and panache. Naturally, "The Avengers" would seem ready-made for a '90s big-screen upgrade, but the finished product failed to impress. Box Office Mojo numbers show the film grossed a dismal $23 million at the global box office.

"The Avengers" can't decide what it wants to be. Is it a slick, modern action flick? A campy homage to its source material? Or just an excuse for villainous Sean Connery to wear a bear suit? The New York Times panned stars Ralph Fiennes and Uma Thurman's lack of chemistry in the film, particularly devastating considering much of the original show's charm relies on it. In the right hands, a remake of "The Avengers" could be a sparklingly fun action romp. Audiences still love a good British spy film as proven by the popularity of the "Kingsman" film series, which has grossed nearly $1 billion at the global box office (via The Numbers).

The 13th Warrior

The 1999 big-budget Viking epic "The 13th Warrior" should have been a '90s box office triumph. Based on the Michael Crichton 1976 novel "Eaters of the Dead," "The 13th Warrior" stars Antonio Banderas as Ahmad Ibn Fahdlan, an exiled poet who must join forces with Norsemen to battle an evil cannibalistic clan. Ahmad is much more skillful with a pen than a sword, but he earns the respect of Norse leader Buliwyf (Vladimir Kulich) and his intelligence quickly becomes a key component in vanquishing the enemy. "The 13th Warrior" has sweepingly epic battles, gorgeous cinematography, and a charismatic leading man, but all these great elements couldn't save the movie from defeat at theaters.

Box Office Mojo reports "The 13th Warrior" had a $160 million budget, but as Roger Ebert noted in his review of the film, it "shows every sign of a production run amok." The film eked out $61 million at the global box office, not nearly enough to recoup its cost. Not helping matters was the fact that "The 13th Warrior" was released the same weekend as "The Sixth Sense," which went on to become the second-highest-grossing horror film of all time (via Forbes). A remake of "The 13th Warrior" would benefit from modern audiences' embrace of historic Nordic tales like "Vikings" and "The Last Kingdom." If the right folks rein in the production and tighten the story, another go at "The 13th Warrior" has the makings of a hit.

Mystery Men

Audiences apparently weren't ready for a surrealistic superhero spoof when "Mystery Men" dropped in 1999. Based on the comic book characters created by Bob Burden, "Mystery Men" is a quirky, irreverent take on the genre. In the film, the Mystery Men are a group of low-rent superheroes who band together with their less-than-impressive powers, like throwing cutlery and farting, to take on criminal genius Cassanova Frankenstein (Geoffrey Rush). With a cast filled with iconic Gen-X comedic heroes like Ben Stiller and Janeane Garofalo, "Mystery Men" seemed like a generational retort to the earnestness exhibited by mainstream heroes like Superman. While the Mystery Men save Champion City in the movie, they couldn't protect the film from its financial demise. "Mystery Men" flopped hard, grossing $33 million at the global box office (per Box Office Mojo).

Since the release of "Mystery Men," the superhero genre has come to dominate Hollywood. Moviegoers who may have never picked up a comic book have become well-acquainted with the genre's tropes, and movies. Movies like "Deadpool" have proven audiences also appreciate a good comedic superhero riff. Unappreciated in the '90s, the forgotten Ben Stiller superhero movie later found an audience on Netflix and it's not hard to assume a remake would find a solid contemporary audience for its bizarre, off-kilter heroes.

The Postman

"The Postman" director, producer, and star Kevin Costner transformed the post-apocalyptic survivalist fable into an ego-servicing nightmare and one of the biggest box office bombs of the decade. Costner's Oscar-winning directorial debut "Dances With Wolves" catapulted him into the Hollywood stratosphere. His reputation even survived the much-derided "Waterworld," which according to Forbes, managed to make a profit at the global box office. But "The Postman" tanked, with Box Office Mojo indicating it grossed a paltry $17 million when it was delivered to theaters in 1997. And to think, Costner passed up starring as a butt-kicking president in "Air Force One" to star in this dud (via Los Angeles Times).

Derided by The New York Times as "a bald-faced exercise in cinematic self-deification" on the part of Costner, "The Postman" could never escape the weight of its star's narcissism. However, remove Coster from the equation, and this movie about hope amidst chaos has a chance at being a decent film. Audiences have embraced any number of post-apocalyptic Hollywood projects since "The Postman." Whether it's the bombastic action of "The Hunger Games" film series or the more contemplative HBO limited series "Station Eleven," survival narratives strike a cord. A remake of "The Postman" could do the same.

The Rocketeer

Disney's "The Rocketeer" blasted its way onto the big screen in 1991 with franchise ambitions and merchandising dreams. Inspired by the 1930s, early aviation, and film-serial character Commando Cody, "The Rocketeer" was a breakout hit on the independent comic book scene (via The New York Times). As Rocketeer creator Dave Stevens recalled to TwoMorrows, Disney took on his project mostly for merchandising sale potential. The more adult themes of "The Rocketeer" were cast away in favor of making it a family-friendly live-action hit. Unfortunately, although "The Rocketeer" was filled with plenty of action, thrills, and romance, it didn't quite reach the Mouse House's kiddie aspirations. Audiences pondered, "The Rock-a-who?" at the box office upon its release.

Not a total flop, "The Rocketeer" grossed $46 million globally, but it wasn't enough to move enough toys for Disney's liking, and according to Den of Geek, plans for a sequel were scrapped. Dismissed in the '90s, "The Rocketeer" eventually found its audience, with outlets like Nerdist outright celebrating this overlooked gem. An all-out remake of the film would be great fun, and it looks like Disney is ready to mine the "Rocketeer" universe for new, exciting adventures. Deadline reports that Disney+ is developing "The Return of the Rocketeer" produced by and possibly starring David Oyelowo.


Kurt Russell strutted his stuff as anti-hero Snake Plissken in director John Carpenter's "Escape From New York" in the early '80s, but it wasn't until the '90s that he truly became an in-demand Hollywood action star. After the worldwide success of 1994's "Stargate," Russell's close-cropped hairdo and muscular physique primed him to star in the sci-fi drama "Solider." Considered to be in the same cinematic universe as "Blade Runner," the movie had potential, but couldn't muscle an audience into seeing it. The Numbers indicates "Soldier" grossed only $14 million against a $75 million production budget.

"Solider" was not what director Paul W.S. Anderson envisioned. In an interview with Grantland, Anderson says he wanted the movie to be more of a Western. He also notes Russell's commitment to naturally crafted muscular bulk held back production. Hollywood would be smart to remake "Soldier." A story about a super soldier finding his humanity by taking on his former superiors could easily translate to modern audiences. And there seemingly would be no production to hold up as these days, there are any number of ripped Tinseltown stars at the ready.

The Frighteners

Before Peter Jackson ruled over Middle Earth with his epic film series "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit," he was scaring audiences with "The Frighteners." More akin to his early comedy horror movies "Bad Taste" and "Meet The Feebles," "The Frighteners" gave Jackson a chance to flex his filmmaking prowess with a Hollywood-sized budget. Reteaming actor Michael J. Fox and powerhouse producer Robert Zemeckis, who together struck box office gold with the "Back to the Future" trilogy, "The Frighteners" was poised to be Jackson's mainstream breakthrough. However, the movie couldn't scare up an audience when it was dumped by Universal Pictures in the middle of 1996's summer blockbuster season. Not even the film's groundbreaking special effects, cooked up by Jackson's Weta FX, could defeat the intergalactic box office dominance of "Independence Day." Box Office Mojo ranks "The Frighteners" summer theatrical take at a terrifying 30th place.

The story, which centers on Fox's ghost-friendly con man Frank Bannister's confrontation with the spirit of a mass killer, definitely deserves another look by Hollywood. In the decades since the movie's release, special effects have grown leaps and bounds, thanks in large part to the team who made the spectacular visuals of "The Frighteners." The movie's mix of intense frights and silly delights could be a box-office smash with charismatic casting and attention to detail. Now that Jackson himself is a storied Hollywood filmmaker, perhaps he can take on the executive producer role and usher in a new generation of creatives with a remake.