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The Biggest Box Office Bombs Of 2021

2021 hasn't been the easiest year for cinema and movie theaters. While the extreme success of movies like "Spider-Man: No Way Home" and "No Time to Die" has made it apparent experiencing movies on the big screen will never entirely go away, the COVID-19 pandemic is making people question what kind of films can excel in this domain. As such, it's understandable that several movies this year didn't perform quite as well as they would have under normal circumstances. Titles like "Encanto" and "Jungle Cruise" may not have been as massive as the classic films that inspired them but, considering they outgrossed the majority of other theatrical releases in 2021, they were practically box office juggernauts.

However, even giving some leeway based on the pandemic, there were still several titles in 2021 that were box office duds under any circumstances. Whether they were part of franchises that had long overstayed their welcome, were mired in pre-release controversy, or just didn't have appealing marketing, the box office outcome for these movies was bleak. In a year of uncertainty for theatrical filmmaking, the box office failure of these 2021 movies is quite certain.

Snake Eyes

Nearly a decade after the last "G.I. Joe" movie graced theaters, Paramount Pictures attempted to revive the franchise with a spin-off entitled "Snake Eyes." Taking a cue from how "Transformers" gained a second life when it shifted focus to "Bumblebee," "Snake Eyes" did make sense on paper. The project also scored Henry Golding from "Crazy Rich Asians" to play the titular lead role, giving it a bit of star power.

Unfortunately, "Snake Eyes" wiped out when it hit theaters in July 2021, grossing just $36.84 million worldwide. That was roughly 10% of what "G.I.: Joe Retaliation" made worldwide in 2013 while its domestic haul was beneath the North American opening weekends of each prior "G.I. Joe" film. It turned out there wasn't much demand for more entries in this franchise after all. 

Doing an origin movie where Snake Eyes didn't look like Snake Eyes for the entire runtime deprived longtime fans of this series key element. There was also its release date, which plopped "Snake Eyes" right down in between "Black Widow" and "Jungle Cruise," among other summer blockbusters. A crowded landscape like that is never beneficial for a feature, especially one that's already vulnerable like "Snake Eyes." Even if it seemed like a good idea on paper, "Snake Eyes" ended up being a colossal dud that sent the "G.I. Joe" franchise back to dormancy.


Hugh Jackman has starred in some extremely successful movies, but he's also experienced some shocking low-grossing features. The 2008 movie "Deception" couldn't even top $5 million in its domestic run while the 2018 political drama "The Front Runner" came and went without a trace. Unfortunately, the futuristic sci-fi noir "Reminiscence" added another dud to Jackman's resume thanks to its anemic $15.5 million gross on a $68 million budget – which included an especially appalling $3.9 million domestic haul. "Reminiscence" also broke records in the worst way possible, by scoring the worst opening weekend in history for a film debuting in over 3,000 theaters.

While the pandemic was always going to limit box office grosses for a 2021 title like "Reminiscence," it's worth noting that well over 115 movies outgrossed it at the worldwide box office that year. "Reminiscence" wasn't a dud because it didn't match the financial hauls of the biggest movies of 2018, it was a dud by any measure. Jackman's erratic box office track record only told part of the story here. "Reminiscence" also got trapped by a forgettable marketing effort as well as the generally poor box office track record of neo-noirs in the 21st-century. Mixed reviews only sealed the fate of a movie all about memories that, judging by its box office receipts, most audiences forgot about seeing.

Chaos Walking

Problems with "Chaos Walking" were apparent long before its first box office receipts came in. In 2018, it was revealed the film would be undergoing extensive reshoots, which would push it off its original March 2019 date. From there, the official release date reminded nebulous, with the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on the theatrical exhibition space further hurting its ability to stamp down a specific day.

Once it finally dropped in March 2021, "Chaos Walking" was debuting in a marketplace where Los Angeles movie theaters still weren't open. Additionally, lead performers Tom Holland and Daisy Ridley had found box office glory headlining "Star Wars" and "Spider-Man" movies, respectively, but had yet to prove their names alone could draw an audience. On top of all that, the source material for "Chaos Walking" was nowhere near ubiquitous as the text that served as the foundations for fellow Lionsgate titles "Divergent" and "The Hunger Games." 

Given all of these elements, it's no surprise that the film grossed just $26.4 million on a $100 million budget. Even looking at the box office standards of titles released in the heart of the pandemic, "Chaos Walking" had underwhelming financial returns. For comparison's sake, it came in behind titles like "The Little Things," "The Unholy," and "Nomadland," many of which had simultaneous streaming releases and much smaller budgets to their name. Such a crushingly bad worldwide box office haul was a fittingly disappointing ending to a movie that had long been plagued by trouble.

Joe Bell

Right after it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2020, the future looked bright for "Joe Bell." Having been acquired by Solstice Studios for $20 million, "Joe Bell" was on track for a major theatrical release that would put it in the middle of awards season. Add in the fact that frequently reliable box office draw Mark Wahlberg was playing the title character and it seemed like "Joe Bell" could be a box office hit.

Unfortunately, "Joe Bell's" release was plagued by problems, including Solstice Studios dropping the project. Later on, Roadside Attractions picked up the film and debuted it in just over 1,000 theaters in July 2021. It opened to just $758,000 domestically and proceeded to make only $2.1 million worldwide. It was a disastrous haul and one of the worst domestic totals ever for a Wahlberg movie. Terrible reviews for "Joe Bell" did the movie in, as did the gloomy premise that didn't make it appealing to general moviegoers. It didn't help that July 2021 featured several other much better-reviewed arthouse titles like "Pig" or "Roadrunner: A Film about Anthony Bourdain." All the promise from its Toronto International Film Festival had evaporated once "Joe Bell" crumbled at the box office.

Dear Evan Hansen

One has to wonder what would have happened if "Dear Evan Hansen" had cast somebody else, anybody else, in its lead role. The controversy over Ben Platt reprising the part he originated on Broadway, stemming from both his age and his father being a producer on the feature, ended up dominating the pre-release conversation over the project. A casting choice that could've won over fans of the Broadway musical instead ensured that the general public only associated this motion picture with the issues about its leading man. Not a great way to start things out before your box office performance has even begun.

In its worldwide box office run, "Dear Evan Hansen" grossed only $18 million globally on a $28 million budget. The only saving grace here was that this feature cost less to make than many other musicals, so the financial losses for distributor Universal Pictures wouldn't be extraordinary. Still, this box office misfire reflected a total miscalculation in terms of marketing, including the decision to debut the film at the Toronto International Film Festival weeks before its release. This inspired largely negative reviews that further tainted the production's image. It didn't help that the original "Evan Hansen" Broadway musical just isn't as instantly recognizable to the public as, say, "Les Misérables." Not one thing could've helped solve all these problems, but maybe casting someone else in the lead role could've mitigated them.

The Last Duel

Most of the biggest box office duds of 2021 were poorly reviewed. A significant exception to that norm is "The Last Duel," a Ridley Scott helmed historical epic that garnered largely upbeat remarks from critics while the audiences that did turn out to see it gave it generally good marks as well. The feature even managed to get crowned one of the ten best movies of 2021 by the National Board of Review while former U.S. President Barack Obama listed "The Last Duel" as one of his favorite films of the year. There's no question that "The Last Duel" was, by and large, a well-liked motion picture.

But all that affection couldn't translate to a successful theatrical run. On a $100 million budget, "The Last Duel" could only muster $29.9 million, coming in behind even infamous Scott flops like "The Counselor." The grimness of the central story was always going to limit its mainstream appeal, but what really hurt "The Last Duel" was its October release, where opened against "Halloween Kills" and one week after "No Time to Die." Surrounded by lighter franchise fare, "The Last Duel" couldn't hope to be the first choice for moviegoers. Though it was a major loss financially, at least those behind "The Last Duel" can comfort themselves with the knowledge that it was far better received than other 2021 box office non-starters.

Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City

In retrospect, it has to be asked why Sony/Screen Gems commissioned another "Resident Evil" movie. "Resident Evil: The Final Chapter" hit a new low for this film series at the domestic box office and even its sturdy worldwide gross was largely thanks to a robust haul in China. People were tired of this franchise and tossing out a prequel, even one marketed as being more faithful to the games, wasn't enough to justify the continued existence of "Resident Evil" features. The lack of demand for "Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City" was reflected in its abysmal box office performance.

Grossing $31.3 million across the planet, "Welcome to Raccoon City" made nowhere near enough to be profitable on a $25 million budget (films usually need to earn 2.5 times their pricetag to be considered lucrative). Worse, it was a far cry from the global totals of prior "Resident Evil" movies, all of which reached $100 million in their worldwide box office runs. Not only was there just no demand for a prequel in this series, but the marketing for "Welcome to Raccoon City" did a terrible job building buzz. The first trailer got more people talking about its inexplicable 1990s needle drop rather than their favorite action beats or buzzing about Easter eggs related to the original games. While the "Resident Evil" movies have been lurching around cinema for two decades now, "Welcome to Raccoon City" seems to have ground the saga to a halt.

Spirit Untamed

DreamWorks Animation has delivered sequels to its various movies so often that the prospect of "Kung Fu Panda" or "Trolls" garnering a follow-up is no longer news. Still, "Spirit Untamed" did register as an unexpected sequel for DreamWorks Animation since its predecessor, "Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron," debuted nearly two decades earlier. Of course, "Untamed" was not a traditional follow-up to that hand-drawn DreamWorks production, but rather a feature-length prequel to the spin-off TV show "Spirit Riding Free." Who knew the "Spirit" lore was so dense?

Returning to the "Spirit" well did nobody at DreamWorks Animation any favors, though, as it grossed just $42.3 million on a $30 million budget. That makes "Spirit Untamed" the lowest-grossing title ever at the worldwide box office for DreamWorks Animation, even behind legendary duds for the studio like "Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas" and "The Road to El Dorado." It also ended up way below other animated movies released during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as "Raya and the Last Dragon" and "Paw Patrol: The Movie." There just wasn't much demand for an offshoot of "Spirit Riding Free," but maybe family moviegoers would've been more inclined to check out "Spirit Untamed" if Universal hadn't opted to release it domestically in between fellow family movies "Cruella" and "Peter Rabbit 2." With a scheduling blunder like that, it's no wonder "Spirit Untamed" became the rare DreamWorks Animation sequel to out-and-out bomb.

The Many Saints of Newark

Mob movies can be very popular. "The Sopranos" is wildly popular. The math here adds up. A feature film set in the world of this iconic HBO program should be a smash hit in the making. This is doubly true since the marketing for "The Many Saints of Newark" emphasized the presence of a young Tony Soprano played by Michael Gandolfini. This wasn't just a prequel, it was an origin story. Surely such a prospect would prove irresistible to the general public and "The Sopranos" would end up being as lucrative in theaters as they were on TV.

Instead, "The Many Saints of Newark" ended up wiping out at the box office with just a $12.7 million worldwide gross on a $50 million budget. The meager nature of that sum was reinforced by how "Newark" was released in October 2021, a month where titles like "Venom: Let There be Carnage" and "No Time to Die" were crushing it financially. If they could excel at the box office, why couldn't "Newark"? Perhaps people just wanted to watch "Sopranos" exploits exclusively in their homes, or maybe the posters and trailers didn't grab people. A simultaneous release on HBO Max — a decision that screenwriter David Chase revealed to Deadline made him "extremely angry" – also didn't help the movie's case for being a must-see big screen event for moviegoers. Whatever happened here, "The Many Saints of Newark" woke up this morning and ended up the second-lowest-grossing Warner Bros. release of 2021 at the worldwide box office.


Many of the biggest box office duds of 2021 are films that'll at least sound familiar, since they're connected to famous franchise names or star unforgettable movie stars. But you'd be forgiven if the title "Voyagers" doesn't ring any bells at all. Dropped into movie theaters unceremoniously by Lionsgate at the start of April 2021, "Voyagers" only grossed $4.1 million worldwide. Of that sum, a tiny $981,195 came from international territories, a meager haul reflecting the blink-and-you'll-miss-it theatrical run "Voyagers" received.

Even if it had received a larger push, though, it's doubtful "Voyagers" would've still made a dent in the box office landscape. For one thing, it received broadly negative reviews while its cast was largely devoid of recognizable faces save for Colin Farrell. The few pieces of marketing that did get released also didn't give off much of an impression of what the film was about, with posters and trailers suggesting it looked like a pink-hued combination of "Passengers" and "High Life." While the feature was aiming to be sexy and thrilling, the box office haul of "Voyagers" makes it apparent all this feature accomplished was leaving movie theater auditoriums largely empty.

Cry Macho

Clint Eastwood westerns have been prime worldwide box office bait dating back to the 1960s. The prospect of unleashing "Cry Macho" into theaters must've seemed like a prime opportunity to recapture some of that financial magic. Unfortunately, the resulting film was a box office disaster with just a $14.6 million haul on a $33 million budget. Among his directorial efforts, only six of Eastwood's films have fared worse at the worldwide box office and all those other features were released before 1990.

While Eastwood is an iconic figure, you can't just slap his face on a poster and expect people to show up. The disappointing box office of titles like "Trouble with the Curve" and "Blood Work" will tell you that. There has to be a meaty story or interesting co-stars for audiences to latch onto. Unfortunately, "Cry Macho" could never drum up much in the way of an exciting premise in its trailers, and the lack of other big names in the cast (especially compared to the star-studded supporting cast of something like "The Mule") further limited its appeal. Mixed reviews and the ongoing struggles to get older moviegoers, the primary target demo for a Clint Eastwood Western, to return to movie theaters further ensured that "Cry Macho" would fail to wrangle up a sizeable haul at the box office.

The Suicide Squad

While the worldwide box office has been volatile in 2021, superhero movies returned to theaters and reaped the kind of financial results that make it seem like a pandemic never happened. This is especially true of the record-shattering debut of "Spider-Man: No Way Home," which outgrossed all other 2021 releases in North America after less than a week of release. The reliable success of superhero fare in 2021 makes the sudden failure of "The Suicide Squad" all the more puzzling, as this production grossed just $167 million worldwide on a $185 million budget.

That sum includes a disastrous $55.8 million North American gross, a total that puts it closer to "Catwoman" than even "Birds of Prey" in the pantheon of DC Comics adaptations. In a year where each Marvel Cinematic Universe movie made over $380 million worldwide, why did audiences reject "The Suicide Squad?" Part of the problem is that the original "Suicide Squad" is a widely-despised feature, with its reputation only growing more toxic in the five years since its release. Plus, the darker R-rated nature of the project may have turned off moviegoers looking for something lighter to counter the state of the world. The film also had to deal with a simultaneous launch on HBO Max. Whatever caused it, "The Suicide Squad" was an exception to the strong track record superhero cinema had at the 2021 box office.