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Top 20 Movies So Bad They Were Pulled From Theatres

VOICE OVER: Callum Janes
Cinematic dumpster fires are unfortunately a common thing. For this list, we're looking at films that bombed so badly and suffered such negative word of mouth that studios either pulled them early, or a significant portion of theaters stopped showing them. Our countdown includes "Alone in the Dark", "From Justin to Kelly", "Mortdecai" and much more!
Transcript
Welcome to WatchMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Movies So Bad They Were Pulled From Theaters. For this list, we’re looking at films that bombed so badly and suffered such negative word of mouth that studios either pulled them early, or a significant portion of theaters stopped showing them. Which of these films were you able to see before they pulled the plug? Let us know in the comments below!


#20:“Honky Tonk Freeway” (1981)
With a title like that… the writing was on the wall for this one long before the name was on the marquee. Then again, a film that was allegedly financed as part of a tax evasion scheme isn’t likely to be overly concerned with integrity, is it? At the time of its release, Variety described the flop of a film as “devoid of any basic humorous appeal,” which for an ensemble comedy film, is… not great. Against a then-massive budget for a comedy film of $24 million it made a paltry $2 million and change, leading to it being pulled from theaters after a single week. Yikes.

#19: “Paranoia” (2013)
Roll call! Harrison Ford, Gary Oldman, Liam Hemsworth, and Amber Heard. You’d think this film had something, but theaters and audiences felt differently. This not-so-thrilling thriller about corporate espionage was critically derided as painfully unoriginal and just plain boring. By week three, it had dropped from 2,459 theaters to just 392. For hit-or-miss director Robert Luketic, who has given us such gems as “Legally Blonde”, and misfires like “Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!” this fell squarely within the latter category. It did so poorly that American distributor Relativity Media reportedly fired its head of marketing one week after the film’s release.

#18: “Alone in the Dark” (2005)
Few names send a shudder down a critic’s spine quite like “Uwe Boll” and it’s not because he’s an effective horror director. No, Uwe Boll is a filmmaker whose work is so despised that a petition for him to retire reached over 350,000 signatures. “Alone in the Dark” was his second loosely-based video game adaptation to infuriate fans, following “House of the Dead”. While the latter managed to make back its budget, this critically reviled film, considered among the worst ever made, only made $10 million against a $20 million budget, and was pulled from theaters after 3 weeks.

#17: “From Justin To Kelly” (2003)
The first season of American Idol may have been a game changing moment in pop culture history, but that doesn’t mean that it’s final two had the chops to carry a film to box office success. Justin and Kelly may have gone to Hollywood, but should they have? Considered one of the worst movies of all time, their film earned just $4.9 million dollars against a budget of $12 million. Given the massive success of American Idol, making so little was a truly remarkable feat. After debuting in 1,969 cinemas, by week three it had suffered an impressive 96.2% drop to just 108 theaters.

#16: “Live By Night” (2016)
The one-two punch of Ben Affleck starring in a Ben Affleck directed movie has given us the critical darlings and box office successes “The Town” and “Argo”. “Live By Night” was based on a novel by Dennis Lehane, the same writer whose work served as the basis for Ben’s 2007 critical hit “Gone Baby Gone.” So all things considered, in theory, it had the makings of a hit film. In practice however, it proved to be one of the biggest box office flops of Ben’s career as an actor or director and the single worst third week theater drop in cinematic history, with 2,659 theaters pulling out.

#15: “Morbius” (2022)
If you saw the hashtag #MorbiusSweep back when this film came out in April of 2022, some people might have you convinced it was the most financially and critically successful movie of all time. That, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth. “Morbius” actually did well at the box office on its first day, but quickly plummeted, resulting in the worst earnings of any tentpole superhero movie. It quickly took on a life of its own online, however, inspiring a bunch of hilarious memes. This, is when Sony decided it was ‘Morbin’ time to put the movie back into theaters, where they’d cash in on all the laughs right? Wrong, the movie only did 85k on its day of re-release, and was then pulled permanently.

#14: “Glitter” (2001)
Unless it's starring Eminem, very few people want to see a musical artist play a character that’s pretty much just themselves in a blatant vanity project. Mariah Carey has tried to blame the film’s failure on the fact it was released on 9/11, even though it was actually released on the much less traumatic 9/21. But, the fact that critics and fans alike loathed the film seems a far more likely explanation. By week two, many of the 1,202 theaters had pulled out. After just 27 days in theaters, it closed having earned back only around a quarter of its $22 million budget. All that glitters clearly ain’t box office gold.

#13: “Postal” (2007)
Uwe Boll strikes again! We've discussed the petition, but were you aware of the whole boxing thing? Uwe Boll got so sick of the critics tearing apart his films that he challenged them to an actual fistfight, and a few accepted. Uwe Boll actually boxed five of his biggest critics! Though he won all five matches, this 2007 action comedy - another video game inspired flick - saw Boll get KO’d at the box office. Though a 1,500 screen release had been arranged, distributors pulled out before it even hit theaters, and in the end, it was shown in a measly 21 locations.

#12:“It’s Pat” (1994)
SNL has transitioned a number of its sketches to the big screen over the years, with varying results. They rarely receive positive reviews, but often perform reasonably well at the box office and develop cult-like followings of fans. No other film in the history of Saturday Night Live however, has failed quite as spectacularly as this 1994 train-wreck. There was so little faith in Pat’s performance at the box office that it only opened in 33 theaters, and even then… It was pulled after opening weekend having scraped together a miniscule $60,822.

#11: “Mortdecai” (2015)
Remember when Johnny Depp’s name alone was more than enough to guarantee a movie’s financial security? Oh, how the mighty have fallen. It was clear that Depp’s star power had dwindled when he appeared in this flop from director David Koepp. The R-rated crime caper comedy received scathing reviews, and made less than $5 million on its opening weekend - despite also starring Gwyneth Paltrow, Ewan McGregor and Jeff Goodblum. In its third weekend, Lionsgate pulled it from almost 2,400 theaters. As such, the film remains one of the most embarrassing blemishes on Depp’s career.

#10: “Swept Away” (2002)
Madonna is an incredible star, but she hasn’t really made the best choices throughout her film career. Not only is this remake of a 1974 Italian film a poor use of the Queen of Pop, it’s also a poor use of her then-husband, director Guy Ritchie. His venture into rom-com territory proved fruitless, as critics declared the film a disaster, resulting in a 5% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Initially released to only 196 screens for two weeks and leaving cinemas in only 59, the film barely made less than $600,000 domestically during its run.

#9: “Seeking Justice” (2011)
Nicolas Cage seems to take any role that comes his way. With a couple exceptions, most of them have been unremarkable, but none more than this 2011 action thriller. It received the typical critical reception you’d expect from a run-of-the-mill Cage-fronted action movie, meaning a 27% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. As bad as its critical failure was, its commercial failure was even worse. Over the course of three weeks, it dropped from just over 200 theaters to 8 theaters, making less than $500,000 in the US. Unfortunately, Cage didn’t learn from this experience, as he found himself facing a similar situation the next year with the film “Stolen.”

#8: “Max Steel” (2016)
No big stars. Based off a series of toys. A 0% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s like this movie was tailor-made for this list. Based on the Mattel toys and animated series of the same name, Open Road Films was probably expecting a franchise starter with this high-tech superhero, but had their hopes dashed when the film was met with a critical beat down, making only $2.2 million on its first weekend, far below even the lowest expectations. After being in release for three weeks, the movie was pulled from its theaters, solidifying its position as one of the biggest bombs of 2016.

#7: “Mr. Magoo” (1997)
Most of the movies on this list are here just because they were critical and commercial bombs. While this live-action adaptation of the beloved cartoon was definitely both those things, it got pulled because of outcry from a very specific group. Despite the disclaimer at the end that stated Leslie Nielsen’s bumbling portrayal of the nearsighted title character was not meant to be an accurate depiction, Disney was forced to pull the film from theaters after two weeks due to protests and outcries from blind and nearsighted groups. The British Federation of the Blind even petitioned to ban the film’s UK release, as it would “bring ridicule upon blind and partially sighted people.”

#6: “Delgo” (2008)
Starring Freddie Prinze, Jr. and Anne Bancroft in her last role, this computer-animated feature cost $40 million to make. “Delgo” received a critical beating for mostly being a poor retread of better fantasy films, and was released during a holiday season that had many superior cinematic offerings for families. Because of this, “Delgo” set a record nobody wants to earn: It had the worst opening for a film playing in over 2,000 theaters at the time, and is the lowest grossing computer-animated film of all time, making less than $1 million, and was quickly forgotten about, leaving theaters after a mere week.

#5: “Jem and the Holograms” (2015)
This film was based on the animated series about Jem and her band the Holograms, but failed to capture the spirit of its source material. Because of this and poor reviews, the musical adventure earned the distinction of having the worst wide box office opening of 2015, and the fourth worst ever for a film playing in over 2,000 theaters. Then in an unprecedented move, Universal pulled the film from its still wide release two weeks after it opened, something that had never been done for a film released on this level. It ended with $2.3 million, and the broken hearts of many children of the ‘80s.

#4: “The Garbage Pail Kids Movie” (1987)
To some audiences, this film falls into the ‘so bad it’s good’ category. Not the New York Times though, who called it “too repulsive for children or adults of any age”. Nobody was going to see this movie when it was released, resulting in an opening weekend where it made only $661,000. Most likely sensing that having this cinematic abomination in theaters for a prolonged amount of time would only cause pain to moviegoers, the studio pulled it from cinemas, but the damage was done. In its short run, the movie made $1.6 million, and subjected an entire generation of families to an hour and a half of unfunny gross out humor.

#3: “Gigli” (2003)
The early 2000s romance between Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez was buzzy enough to keep the tabloid industry afloat for a few years, but could their love affair successfully translate to the silver screen? The short answer is, “no.” The long answer is, “this $75 million rom-com tanked harder than any other movie in 2003.” In its second weekend, “Gigli” dropped by nearly 82%, and by the third, only 73 theaters in the US were showing it, an unprecedented flop for such a big budget film. In addition to being withdrawn from US cinemas, it was dropped by nearly every theater in the UK after its critical destruction.

#2: “Blackhat” (2015)
This film not only had the star power of Chris Hemsworth and Viola Davis, but the legendary Michael Mann also directed it. However, it was saddled with a January release date alongside the wide release of the juggernaut that was “American Sniper.” Plus, the reviews were mostly mixed. Because of this, the $70 million film earned a mere $4.4 million on its opening weekend, one of the worst debuts ever for a wide release. After only two weeks, Universal pulled the film from all but 236 theaters, down from its widest release of over 2,500. To add insult to injury, it was also scrapped for theatrical release in Belgium and Hemsworth’s native Australia.

#1: “United Passions” (2014)
Who could’ve predicted that a film about FIFA executives wouldn’t attract an audience? Everyone apart from FIFA executives apparently. The movie, which focuses on the founding of FIFA, was largely funded by FIFA, and saw its US release overlap with the massive 2015 FIFA corruption scandal. Yep, you couldn’t write a more ironic real world premise if you tried. An abysmal theatrical run saw the film make a laughable $918 in the United States and somewhere between $100,000 and $200,000 internationally against a reported estimated budget of $29 million. Unsurprisingly, it was pulled from most markets in a matter of days.
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