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Rotten Movies That Still Made Over One Billion At The Box Office

Over the years, there have been countless instances of box office hits also becoming beloved by film critics. Just look at "Gone with the Wind," the biggest movie of all time at the North American box office when adjusted for inflation (via People), which also won the best picture Oscar and scored critical acclaim. Even turning to the present, box office juggernauts like "Avatar" or "Avengers: Endgame" have managed to impress critics and amass oodles of money. When it comes to these titles, there's no need to choose between critical praise and financial security — you can have both. However, that doesn't mean every movie that makes it big at the box office has become a critical darling. 

Looking over the list of highest-grossing movies at the worldwide box office provided by The Numbers, one finds many instances of titles that cracked the $1 billion threshold globally while getting enough negative marks from critics to score a Rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The disconnect between the critical reception of these projects and their eventual financial glory is fascinating, particularly when getting into the box office records and achievements scored by these divisive projects. 

While a bad critical reception can sink the box office chances of some movies, these $1 billion grossers at the worldwide box office prove that you don't need rave reviews to become a gargantuan hit. Here are the films that have earned over $1 billion at the box office despite a negative critical reception.

Alice in Wonderland

Tim Burton's films made after 2000 do not have the best track record when it comes to reviews. Some of his worst-reviewed projects, like "Dark Shadows" and "Planet of the Apes," emerged in this part of his career. "Alice in Wonderland" was no exception to this frustrating trend with its deluge of mixed reviews. Critics were largely unimpressed with this gloomy interpretation of Wonderland (here referred to as Underland) as well as the heavy reliance on CGI effects and an overbearing lead performance by Johnny Depp. However, even with the dismissive critical response to "Alice in Wonderland," audiences still showed up in droves to see what director Tim Burton had conjured up in reimagining the classic Lewis Carroll children's book.

The massively lucrative nature of this iteration of "Alice in Wonderland" was made readily apparent by the end of the film's first weekend in North America when the movie shattered the record for biggest box office for a film opening in March. Its worldwide box office run cracked $1.025 billion, rendering it a massive success and the biggest movie ever directed by Burton. The enduring allure of Wonderland to moviegoers was as apparent as ever with this new hit movie, even if critics were thoroughly unimpressed with all that this fantasy feature had to offer.

The Phantom Menace

After decades of online discourse, it feels foolish to once again reiterate the mixed critical reception that greeted "The Phantom Menace" when it debuted. While not as overwhelmingly negative as many fan responses were, critics were still largely disappointed with this kick-off to the prequel trilogy. There was a consensus that, even with then cutting-edge special effects, "The Phantom Menace" lacked the humanity of its predecessors. However, as the first "Star Wars" movie in nearly two decades, "The Phantom Menace" was never going to be anything less than a gargantuan smash hit in its box office run.

In its initial theatrical release, "The Phantom Menace" had no problem scoring $925 million worldwide, a haul it accumulated after smashing countless box office records in territories like North America. All the buzz of the long-awaited "Star Wars" movie was enough to make any negative reviews an afterthought. The allure of seeing this project on a massive screen was so great that the box office saga of "The Phantom Menace" didn't end with its initial theatrical run. 

In fact, 13 years after it first graced movie theaters, "The Phantom Menace" returned to the big screen through a digital 3D re-release. Through this, "The Phantom Menace" finally cleared $1 billion globally and amassed a $1.027 billion lifetime gross. Arguments over the prequel trilogy will rage on forever, but it's objectively true that "The Phantom Menace" was a massive box office hit despite less than stellar reviews.

Despicable Me 3

With its third installment, "Despicable Me 3" reaffirmed the continued financial viability of the "Despicable Me" saga with a massive $1.032 billion worldwide haul. The third consecutive movie set in this universe to exceed $950 million globally, "Despicable Me 3" was also only the second Illumination title in history to crack the $1 billion worldwide mark. It was also the fourth-biggest movie of 2017 at the global box office, exceeding a trio of Marvel Cinematic Universe installments and "Wonder Woman" for that ranking. There were no complaints to be had with "Despicable Me 3" financially.

Critically, though, the title was having a much more difficult go of things. The mixed reception to this threequel indicated that the franchise's approach to comedy had become much more erratically successful than the days of the first "Despicable Me." Critics like Andy Webster of The New York Times noted that "Despicable Me 3" suffered the frustrating problem of being a sequel full of energy but little wit, resulting in a feature-length exercise in hollow noise. For most critics, "Despicable Me 3" was a sign of a franchise in a creative rut. However, in terms of its box office numbers, "Despicable Me 3" was downright heroic in its financial feats.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

By 2011, the shine was already well off the critical reception of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise when "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" arrived. While previous entries had received mixed reviews at worst, "On Stranger Tides" was greeted with universally negative reception. Johnny Depp's schtick as Jack Sparrow had truly run its course, while the dim cinematography stemming from the use of digital 3D projection also garnered widespread derision. What had seemed so fresh in 2003 with "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" was now despised by critics across the globe.

That didn't stop moviegoers from getting swept up in the movie's current, though, as "On Stranger Tides" managed to pull in a remarkable $1.045 billion worldwide. Roughly 80% of that haul came from international territories, which made up $804 million of the title's global haul. This meant that "On Stranger Tides" had the second-biggest overseas gross for any movie in 2011, only behind the final "Harry Potter" title. 

As a cherry on top, "On Stranger Tides" managed to exceed the $960.9 million worldwide haul of its predecessor, "Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End." In terms of critical reception, "On Stranger Tides" indicated that the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies were a sinking ship. When it came to box office grosses, though, "On Stranger Tides" showed that the franchise was in the middle of some smooth sailing.

Aladdin

For critics, the 2019 remake of "Aladdin" was nothing special. While some gave it passable marks, most critics noted that Guy Ritchie's "Aladdin" update would please Disney stockholders but not family moviegoers looking for something special. Such responses didn't deter moviegoers from giving this live-action take on the story of "Aladdin" a shot, though. In fact, "Aladdin" became a box office phenomenon with a whopping $1.046 billion worldwide sum. That put this project noticeably ahead of the worldwide grosses of other live-action Disney remakes, like "Cinderella" and "The Jungle Book."

This haul included a sizeable $355.6 million in North America and another $691.1 million from international territories. Collecting all that loot ensured that "Aladdin" would become the biggest movie to feature Will Smith by a considerable margin (via CinemaBlend). Furthermore, at the time of its release, it was the second-biggest live-action musical in history at the North American box office. 

Scott Mendelson of Forbes attributes the impressive box office run and smattering of impressive records that "Aladdin" broke to positive word-of-mouth from audiences. This sharply contrasted with the largely mixed and negative reviews from critics. "Aladdin" was far from princely in terms of its critical reception, but it was unquestionably a king when it came to its massive box office haul.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

Box office expectations were quite different for blockbusters when "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" cracked $1 billion worldwide in 2006. There's no better way to exemplify this than by recalling how "Dead Man's Chest" was only the third movie in history to exceed $1 billion globally at the time of its release. Following in the footsteps of "Titanic" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," "Dead Man's Chest" was in a rarified class. While nine separate movies would shatter the $1 billion globally barrier in 2019 alone, this box office achievement was far more special when "Dead Man's Chest" was amassing gobs of treasure at movie theaters.

Grossing $1.066 billion worldwide, "Dead Man's Chest" was an incredibly lucrative venture and one that signaled how Disney's future as a studio was in PG-13 action blockbusters with global appeal. While this "Pirates of the Caribbean" installment was a wild hit theatrically, it was much less successful critically. Garnering mixed marks from critics, "Dead Man's Chest" was widely criticized for a bloated runtime and a cliffhanger ending that left the whole enterprise feeling half-formed. Disney would certainly have loved better reviews for this feature, but it's quite likely the studio didn't care given the record-shattering success of "Dead Man's Chest."

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

With "Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker," the sequel trilogy of "Star Wars" movies came to a mixed end in terms of critical reception. Faring far worse than its direct predecessors did in terms of reviews, "The Rise of Skywalker" was widely seen as a step down in quality from most other "Star Wars" titles. Chief among the most prominent critiques of this feature were its strange storytelling choices and the short thrift previously prominent actors like John Boyega and Kelly Marie Tran received in this closing chapter.

"The Rise of Skywalker," though, still managed to crack $1 billion worldwide despite those mixed reviews with a massive $1.072 billion global haul. If there was a critique to be had here, though, it was that "The Rise of Skywalker" made less worldwide than "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" and "Star Wars: The Last Jedi." It also only narrowly exceeded the global gross of "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story," a spin-off from the main "Star Wars" titles. 

Still, "The Rise of Skywalker" outgrossed most other 2019 titles at the global box office while ensuring that all three entries in the sequel trilogy cracked $1 billion worldwide. In terms of its critical reception, though, there was no getting around that "The Rise of Skywalker" was a sizeable disappointment.

Transformers: Age of Extinction

The massive worldwide box office run of "Transformers: Age of Extinction" largely owes its enormity to Chinese moviegoers. Within its first 12 days of release in this territory, "Age of Extinction" cracked $225.1 million, enough to surpass the haul that "Avatar" pulled in to become the biggest movie ever at the Chinese box office at the time. It would eventually make just over $300 million in this country, noticeably more than the $245.4 million North American haul of "Age of Extinction." That was also enough to ensure that "Age of Extinction" made roughly 27% of its worldwide gross from this one territory.

Box office glory for "Age of Extinction" was not just limited to the Chinese market, however, as the feature still amassed a gargantuan $1.104 billion worldwide. That was enough to make it the biggest movie of 2014 globally by a wide margin. It also put the feature only slightly behind the $1.123 billion global gross of "Transformers: Dark of the Moon," the biggest title in the "Transformers" saga financially. 

While the box office figures for "Age of Extinction" were great, the reviews were dreadful, with this title scoring the worst reviews for a "Transformers" up to that point. This go-around, the criticism for a "Transformers" movie included observations published in Variety on how much "Age of Extinction" cozied up to the Chinese military. Bad reviews, though, couldn't keep "Age of Extinction" from being another mega global hit for the "Transformers" saga.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

The first two "Transformers" movies were both big hits at the worldwide box office, but neither had climbed past $840 million globally. The lack of precedent in this franchise for $1 billion hauls meant that nobody could've predicted that "Transformers: Dark of the Moon" would've exceeded that benchmark at the worldwide box office — but that's just what this project managed to do with a $1.123 billion haul. Among the countless milestones of this feat, "Dark of the Moon" marked the first feature entirely released by Paramount Pictures to crack more than $1 billion worldwide. The company's closest prior exposure to such box office feats was with distributing the worldwide hit "Titanic" exclusively in North America in 1997.

Much of this massive sum came from international markets, where "Dark of the Moon" scored incredible grosses (via Box Office Mojo). The best reflection of this title's popularity in these markers was how the $771 million overseas sum of "Dark of the Moon" alone was larger than the entire worldwide haul of the original "Transformers" from four years earlier. 

Of course, while "Dark of the Moon" made way more than its predecessors worldwide, its reviews were just as bad as other installments in the franchise helmed by Michael Bay. While critics still weren't in love with the conflict between the Autobots and Decepticons, the gargantuan box office run of "Dark of the Moon" indicated audiences around the world were more in love than ever with these robots.

Minions

As the ubiquity of Minion memes can attest, the identical henchmen to Gru are extremely popular. It's no wonder, then, that this collection of sentient corn-pops was able to secure their own solo movie in the form of 2015's "Minions." Chronicling the exploits of the titular creatures largely in the 1960s as they search for a new evil master to serve, "Minions" was greeted with a shrug by most critics. Few outright despised this title, but there were equally few that found these organisms capable of sustaining a fully successful feature-length movie. Sometimes, supporting characters are supporting characters for a reason.

However, mixed notices from critics couldn't keep "Minions" from being a massive blockbuster worldwide. In its global box office run, "Minions" snatched $1.159 billion from moviegoers. That was a noticeable improvement on the $975 million worldwide gross of "Despicable Me 2," but this was an astonishing total for so many reasons beyond just that feat. It was especially notable for being the first non-Disney animated movie to crack the $1 billion mark globally

Even counting titles released by the Mouse House, though, "Minions" was still the second-biggest animated movie worldwide at the time of its release, only behind "Frozen." In terms of box office prowess, the Minions had proven themselves natural-born movie stars capable of overcoming noticeably mixed critical notices.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom

While "Jurassic World Dominion" is now the worst-reviewed entry in the "Jurassic World" saga, the downward critical trajectory of this franchise was kicked off with the 2018 installment "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom." Critics just weren't a fan of this entry and were especially disappointed by its lack of engaging suspenseful sequences and the tonally erratic nature of the production. Those complaints weren't enough to keep "Fallen Kingdom" from being as mighty as a T-Rex at the global box office, where this project grossed a staggering $1.308 billion.

On a $170 million budget, "Fallen Kingdom" was a wildly profitable venture that became the biggest non-Marvel movie of 2018 at the global box office. Even more impressively, though, "Fallen Kingdom" ended up the third-biggest Universal Pictures title ever in North America. With this feat, three of the four highest-grossing titles from the studio in this territory all belong to the "Jurassic Park" saga. 

Part of the financial strength of this title came from how audiences apparently enjoyed this feature significantly more than critics — if the A- CinemaScore that "Fallen Kingdom" received is anything to go by (via The New York Times). While the critical reception of "Fallen Kingdom" was a far cry from the glowing reviews of "Jurassic Park" decades earlier, its mighty box office haul made it clear that this franchise was far from extinct.

The Lion King

Realism can be a beautiful thing in cinematic narratives, but there's a time and place for it. Certain movies benefit more from getting rooted in discernible reality than others. Critics were generally in agreement that the 2019 "Lion King" remake that reiterated the story of Simba was one narrative that did not need to be slathered in realism. There was also criticism over how little this title offered narratively in terms of anything new compared to its predecessor. The mixed response to this feature did praise the groundbreaking visual effects techniques but also generally critiqued how these techniques were applied to a story that was defined by being over-the-top.

While the reviews weren't great for "The Lion King," its box office haul was downright extraordinary. This was apparent from the start of its box office run, which kicked off with the biggest July opening weekend ever in North America. Once the dust settled, "The Lion King" cracked $1.6 billion at the global box office, including a domestic total that exceeded $540 million. 

Even on a gargantuan $260 million budget, "The Lion King" was ridiculously profitable and eventually became the eighth-biggest movie in history at the worldwide box office, not to mention the highest-grossing feature fully realized in animation. "The Lion King's" ultra-realistic CGI may not have been the best fit for its story, but it was a solid way to get moviegoers to come out in droves and see it.