2022 had some big hits at the box office, but it also had plenty of bombs, with some big movies flopping despite seeming like surefire hits.
2022 was the year of some box office highs, as films like Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water have broken multiple records. All three MCU movies released in 2022 made it into the top 10 as expected. Surefire hits like Jurassic World: Dominion, The Batman, and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 brought out audiences all over the globe. There were even some surprise hits from lower-budget films like Smile, Ticket to Paradise, and The Menu. After so much uncertainty on if movie-going would ever be the same after the COVID-19 pandemic, audiences have started to make their way back even if it is at a slightly slower rate.
Yet not everything was a hit in 2022. In fact, there were many films that seemed like they'd be destined to succeed, but still sadly disappointed at the box office. High-profile animated films, entries in established franchises, star vehicles for big actors, passion projects from acclaimed filmmakers, and movies designed to be Oscar contenders all seemed like sure bets but quickly fizzled out at the box office. These were the biggest and most unexpected box office bombs of 2022 in alphabetical order.
Sometimes the biggest bombs are the ones that are trying so hard to get Oscars, and nowhere is that case more apparent than Amsterdam. The movie featured an all-star cast that included Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Anya-Taylor Joy, Chris Rock, Rami Malek, Michael Shannon, Robert De Niro, and even Taylor Swift, who all starred in the $80 million movie.
The movie was from director David O. Russell, who had been nominated for Best Director in the past for The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and American Hustle, but who also had a notable violent temper on set and multiple sexual misconduct allegations against him. This poor investment did not pay off as Amsterdam opened to $6.5 million in its opening weekend and ended its run with $14.9 million domestic and $31.2 million worldwide estimated to have lost the studio $97 million.
2022 was an incredible year for Paramount Pictures. On top of the unprecedented hit of Top Gun: Maverick, the studio also released big earners like Scream, Jackass Forever, The Lost City, Sonic and the Hedgehog 2, and Smile. Sadly, that winning streak came to an end with their final film of the year, Babylon. From acclaimed filmmaker Damien Chazzell (La La Land) and an all-star cast that included Margot Robbie and Brad Pitt, the movie about classic Hollywood seemed like a surefire awards contender and a possible late holiday blockbuster similar to The Wolf of Wall Street.
Carrying a budget estimated between $78 to $80 million, the film was estimated to open between $12 to $15 million over the Christmas weekend but instead grossed $5.3 million. Currently, Babylon has grossed $15 million and is already out of the box office top 10 after only three weeks, and its awards season chances appear to be slim to none.
Black Adam is a movie whose box office story might be more interesting than the film itself. The long-in-development passion project of Dwayne Johnson based on the DC villain of the same name, Black Adam held the number one spot at the box office for three weeks in a row. The film grossed $162 million domestically and $393 million worldwide, which would indicate a hit for most movies. However, Black Adam carried a budget ranging between $190 to $260 million and may have lost Warner Bros. up to $100 million, which was more than the budget of the canceled Batgirl movie.
When some reported the film as a bomb, Dwayne Johnson refuted this, and it was later reported that some Warner Bros. executives suspected that Johnson and his team may have leaked financial documents to Deadline Hollywood which falsified the movie's profitability including exaggerated home entertainment profits. Shortly after the movie was released, James Gunn and Peter Safran were brought in as the new heads of DC Studios, so it appears like Black Adam was the final bad nail in the coffin for the original DCU.
Bros. was highly marketed as the first mainstream LGBTQ+ romantic comedy released by a major studio in theaters. Despite good reviews and praise from audiences that did see the movie, the film bombed in its opening weekend grossing $4.9 million and coming in fifth at the box office. It quickly fell out of the top 10 and ended its run with $14.8 million worldwide against a budget of $22 million.
Part of the failure could be down to release, as the film opened the first weekend of October against Smile which due to the Halloween season more audiences were likely in the mood for. Bros. did however slightly recover in paid video on demand and could turn a profit sometime in the future with strong enough rental sales.
There are certain franchises that are surefire hits for Hollywood and for over a decade, Harry Potter was one of them. While the Fantastic Beasts franchise never reached the heights of its predecessor, the movies still were able to draw audiences out to theeaters. Yet a combination of the poor reception to the previous film, audiences still hesitant to return to theaters due to COVID-19, and the continued controversy around author J.K. Rowling harmed Fantastic Beasts: The Secrets of Dumbledore to be the first bomb in the Wizarding World franchise.
It grossed $95 million domestically, the first time a Harry Potter-related movie couldn't break past $100 million. It did manage to gross $405 million worldwide against its $200 million budget, which would normally qualify it as a hit. Yet combined with marketing costs and the fact that it was the lowest-grossing film in the Harry Potter franchise, the film effectively killed plans for two more Fantastic Beasts movies.
Disney hurt Lightyear. After releasing the previous three Pixar films straight to streaming (Soul, Luca, Turning Red), Lightyear was supposed to be the studio's grand return to the theaters and was deemed the safe choice. However, due to a combination of a marketing campaign that confused audiences to its relationship to the Toy Story franchise, a group of bigoted parents who refused to take their kids to see a film with a same-sex relationship, and audiences growing used to seeing Pixar films on Disney+, Lightyear opened at number two in its first weekend to $50.6 million, behind Jurassic World: Dominion's second weekend.
Lightyear eventually only grossed $118.3 million domestically and $226 million worldwide, against a budget of $200 million before marketing costs. Lightyear was a high-profile bomb for Disney and Pixar, despite getting good reviews from critics and audiences. The movie was a hit when it hit Disney+ in August and reportedly was the most-watched movie on the streaming service in August 2022.
Most people who were not Sony executives and Jared Leto could tell Morbius was going to be a bomb. Unlike Venom, who was a popular Marvel character outside of Spider-Man, Morbius wasn't, so giving him his own film was always tricky. While Marvel Studios was successful in giving films to lesser-known Marvel characters, Sony Pictures is a different animal.
After multiple delays, Morbius finally hit theaters fittingly on April 1, 2022, and opened to $39 million before falling 74% in its second weekend making it the worst second weekend for a superhero movie behind 1997's Steel. Morbius grossed $73.9 million at the domestic box office and $167.5 million worldwide, and while its budget was reportedly between $75 to $83 million, that does not factor in marketing costs or the expenses of the multiple delays and reshoots.
Morbius has the distinction of being the only film on this list to bomb at the box office twice, as Sony tried to capitalize on the memes made about the movie. Unclear if they thought it was general admiration for the film or if they thought they could turn the movie into an "it's so bad it's good to go see it with your friends and make fun of it" event, they re-released the movie in 1,000 screens in the summer where it made an embarrassing $300,000 on the weekend of June 3 with Sony pulling it from theaters shortly after.
Lightyear was not the most high-profile animated science fiction box office bomb for Disney in 2022; that goes to Strange World. The latest film from Walt Disney animation, like Treasure Planet before it, bombed over the Thanksgiving weekend, grossing $11.9 million over its opening weekend and just $18.6 million over the five-day holiday weekend.
The film ended up grossing a dismal $37.9 million at the domestic box office and $72.8 million worldwide. With a budget ranging between $135 to $180 million, Strange World is projected to lose Disney up to $147 million. After a month in theaters, it was put on Disney+ on December 23, 2022, where it did perform surprisingly well on the platform.
While Three Thousand Years of Longing bombing might not be a shock to some, it was to many. After all, the film starred Idris Elba and Tilda Swinton, and was the first movie from George Miller following the highly acclaimed box office hit Mad Max: Fury Road. Being from the director of Mad Max was all over the film's marketing, and after an enthusiastic reaction from the Cannes Film Festival it appeared MGM had a hit on its hands.
The movie opened with just $2.9 million, in seventh place. By its second weekend, it fell out of the top 10. Three Thousand Years of Longing grossed $8 million domestically and $18 worldwide at a budget of $60 million, making it one of the biggest bombs of the year.
Richard Fink is a writer who graduated from Arizona State University in 2016 with a degree in Film and Media Production. He loves the finer things in life, like cold Diet Coke on a hot summer day. Richard is a fan of all things Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and Film History.