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The Biggest Box Office Upsets

A lot of Hollywood bombs have graced our cinemas in the last 20 years, but some of these high-profile failures were made even more embarrassing because of the movies that beat them at the box office. Here are some big movies that went head-to-head at the theaters, with the major release losing hard.

The Lone Ranger vs. Despicable Me 2

Disney and Gore Verbinski (director of Pirates of the Caribbean), teaming up again for another Johnny Depp vehicle? Sounds like a clear win. But problems with production set in almost immediately as the budget started to balloon.

When the studio balked at Verbinski's $250 million cost, the director agreed to make cuts to keep expenses down—but Lone Ranger still wasn't cheap, with an expense sheet that included building period trains from scratch. Combined with a weak script, a 149-minute running time, and a Depp version of Tonto that some found racist, the film bombed hard. It premiered the same weekend as Despicable Me 2, and despite Ranger costing almost three times as much as the animated film, DM2 beat it by more than $50 million. Disney ended up losing $150 million, and the dream of the Lone Ranger franchise was over before it really started.

John Carter vs. The Lorax

The sting of Lone Ranger's failure was extra harsh for Disney, since they'd just experienced one of the worst flops of all time with John Carter. Andrew Stanton, director of Finding Nemo and Wall-E, was thrilled to get a chance to bring his favorite sci-fi book series to life. Based on the novel Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (author of Tarzan), John Carter combined romance and deep space action; Stanton hoped it'd be his Harry Potter, and Disney was ready to make it a franchise.

With a $250 million budget on a property that most modern filmgoers aren't familiar with, it's perhaps understandable that rumors of failure started quickly. The original title, John Carter of Mars, became just John Carter after the animated Mars Needs Moms tanked at the box office. John Carter's first trailers were met with reactions running the gamut between nonplussed and unimpressed.

On opening weekend, John Carter was beaten by The Lorax. Given that Lorax only had a 53% on Rotten Tomatoes, was in its second week in theaters, and still beat Carter by $8 million, things didn't look good for Stanton's live-action debut. In the end, Disney lost $200 million.

The BFG vs. Finding Dory

Spielberg and a classic children's novel. If there's any such thing as a money-making slam dunk, that should be it, but the "Big Friendly Giant" became a "Big F'in Goose-Egg" when it utterly failed at the box office. Surprisingly, The BFG had none of the typical earmarks of a bomb. The film debuted to fairly good reviews, a 75% on Rotten Tomatoes (though only a 59% with audiences) and featured the voice of the newly Oscar-winning Mark Rylance. Spielberg's recent efforts Bridge of Spies and Lincoln were critically acclaimed, and there were no rumors of swollen budgets or problems on set.

All the same, the BFG whiffed big-time. Its main competition for the weekend was The Legend of Tarzan, which had mostly horrible reviews, and Finding Dory in its third week. But BFG came in behind them all. The film even grossed $10 million less than Purge: Election Year. It never recovered from its fourth-place start and will go down as a rare Spielberg flop.

Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift vs. Nacho Libre

Remember Nacho Libre? You know, the Jack Black film about a monastery cook who becomes a Luchador to save the day? Well, you might not have many fond memories of that comedy disappointment, but the makers of Libre will always get to brag that they beat a Fast and the Furious film.

The Fast & the Furious was a huge hit, 2 Fast 2 Furious had a hilarious title and made a modest amount, but the third installment, Tokyo Drift, nearly stalled out. Featuring none of the main characters from the first two movies and set in an entirely new location, audiences seemed to be losing interest in fast cars doing impossible things on city streets.

Tokyo Drift and Nacho Libre opened head to head and the action franchise was fully expected to beat the little comedy indie. But Nacho Libre came out on top by a $5 million margin—although they both lost to Pixar's Cars in its second week. Though it would seem the Fast and Furious franchise was over, Justin Lin and Vin Diesel brought it back to life with the fourth film, and now it's more popular than ever.

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery vs. Breakdown

Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery cemented Mike Myers' status as a comedy legend. Though he'd already had a hit with Wayne's World, Austin Powers showed the world Myers didn't need to rely on his previous success with SNL to stay relevant. That being said, Powers was far from an instant smash.

On its opening weekend, the Myers movie lost to Breakdown, a Kurt Russell film about a man whose wife is kidnapped and held for ransom after their car breaks down. It hasn't really stood the test of time, but Breakdown beat Austin Powers by about $3 million.

Though our satirical British spy went on to do fine at the box office, the film exploded on home video. Austin Powers became a cult favorite and the sequel opened at almost $55 million, quite a lot higher than the original's $9 million. That's why we all remember all remember Austin Powers so fondly, and most of us have literally no idea that Breakdown ever happened.

Scream vs. Beavis and Butt-Head Do America

Scream was a surprisingly insightful takedown of teen slasher films that went on to create its own franchise and inspire the Scary Movie line of films. Really without Scream, we might not have a famous Anna Faris—and we probably also wouldn't have had Meet the Spartans. You win some, you lose some.

But Scream didn't start huge. In fact, it debuted in fourth place over its opening weekend, beat big by MTV icons Beavis and Butt-Head. Though Beavis and Butt-Head Do America was the clear winner, grossing over $20 million, Scream also placed below the second week of Jerry Maguire and the fourth week of the live-action 101 Dalmations. Scream's $6 million opening weekend didn't scream success, but after getting very favorable reviews and generating good word of mouth, the movie ended up grossing $103 million domestically.

Inferno vs. Boo! A Madea Halloween

Tom Hanks and Ron Howard were probably not thrilled to lose out to a Madea movie. The Dan Brown duo suffered from a greatly diminished box office for their second Robert Langdon film, Angels & Demons, which grossed $133 million domestically compared to the $217 million haul enjoyed by The Da Vinci Code. Unfortunately, the third film, Inferno, did even worse.

Inferno opened in second place at $14.8 million on a weekend with no competition except the second week of Boo! A Madea Halloween. In the end, Tyler Perry in drag easily outgrossed America's dad, Tom Hanks.

Before you cry too many tears for Howard and Hanks, Inferno went on to gross $220 million, mostly from worldwide sales. In the end, Dan Brown's franchise and Madea were both able to both revel in their success.

RoboCop vs. The LEGO Movie

The original RoboCop is well-loved by action fans, so a remake with better technology, the acting talents of Michael Keaton and Gary Oldman, and the director behind groundbreaking films about the violence of the police force in Brazil sounded like a pretty good idea.

Unfortunately, the new RoboCop didn't capitalize on most of what made the original great: the biting satire, surprising humor, and real characters at the heart of the film. Director Jose Padilha said he spent "90% of the time fighting. It made me realize that making a studio movie is not the same as making a film." Critics were not in love with the new version either, giving it a 49% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Meanwhile, The LEGO Movie was killing it. A surprising critical hit, the toy movie made twice as much as RoboCop in its second week in theaters. RoboCop couldn't even squeak out a second-place debut, ending up in third behind the Kevin Hart-led '80s remake About Last Night. Still, RoboCop was a modest financial success, proving remakes and reboots are usually a solid studio investment.

A View to a Kill vs. Rambo: First Blood Part II

James Bond is a predictable box office favorite. Even when the franchise isn't at its best, loyal fans are always ready to see the latest 007 on the big screen. But even the best of Bond fans couldn't quite get behind Roger Moore's final film in the series.

During A View to a Kill, Moore described himself as "57 with creaking knees and leading ladies who could have been my granddaughters!" Not a great start. After the film opens with James Bond snowboarding down a mountain as the Beach Boy's "California Girls" plays, it's clear this won't be prime Bond.

Even with Christopher Walken as a bleached blond villain and a very unlikely love scene between Moore and Grace Jones, the movie just didn't work.

And the critics hated it—it has the lowest score of all Bond films to this day, and Roger Ebert went out of his way to tear apart the villain's basic plan as complete nonsense. All that vitriol contributed to the film debuting at number two, well below Rambo: First Blood Part II. A film that didn't even have the sense to call itself Rambo: Second Blood still beat the crud out of the famous James Bond.

The Bourne Identity vs. Scooby-Doo

The Bourne movies have made over a billion dollars (when adjusted for inflation), cemented Matt Damon as an action star, and gave Damon his second successful franchise after the Ocean's Eleven films. But an even more popular character beat Bourne in his debut: Scooby-Doo. No, not a cinema release of some of the cartoon favorites, but the live-action outing from 2002. At 30% on Rotten Tomatoes, critics were far from thrilled to see the Mystery Van in action. Richard Roeper wrote "The acting is stiff, the story lacks all trace of wit, the sets look like they were borrowed from Gilligan's Island—and the CGI Scooby might well be the worst special-effects creation of the year." Burn!

Still, Scooby beat The Bourne Identity by more than $25 million over their opening weekend. Though Scooby-Doo was in more theaters, the dog still earned $5000 more per screen. Even though Scooby-Doo fell from first place in its second and third weeks, it still beat Bourne. Luckily, Jason Bourne had his day when he finally overtook the cartoon dog in their fourth weekend in theaters (though they both placed well below Adam Sandler's Mr. Deeds).