5 Phenomenally Bad Movies That Were Major Box Office Successes 


Watching a movie’s success can be astounding. Watching a film ride an unstoppable wave of popularity to the point of making just below or above $1 billion is incredible. It’s even more astounding when the movie is bad! Today’s Phenomenal 5 looks at bad movies that raked in insane amounts of money despite their quality. To narrow it down I kept my choices within the top 60 grossers of all time and surprisingly there were plenty to choose from. So considering that I wouldn’t call this the definitive list, but in my mind these five top movie grossers are simply and plainly bad.

#5 – “The Da Vinci Code”

Da vinci

In 2006 “The Da Vinci Code” was a hot topic. I had absolutely no interest in Dan Brown’s best-selling novel so obviously the movie adaptation wasn’t high on my list either. The controversies and the film’s popularity eventually lead me to check it out. That was a mistake. Ron Howard’s long, absurd, bore of a movie plods along trying hard to be a provocative thriller. It fails. But despite that “The Da Vinci Code” made $758 million at the box office. Don’t ask me. I can’t figure it out either.

#4 – “Spider-Man 3”


Its hard to believe that a movie which made $890 million at the box office would push a studio to pull the plug and completely reboot the series. That doesn’t happen often, but it reveals just how bad the film is. “Spider-Man 3” is a prime example of a movie trying to do too much. Too many side stories, too many villains, too many half-baked relationships, and too many flimsy characters. Apparently people loved it enough to see it again and tell their friends. I thought it was a complete mess.

#3 – “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen”


Take a quick look through the top grossing movies and you will see all four Transformers films. That blows my mind. The first installment was pretty decent but after that it was all downhill. I didn’t want to make this all about Transformers so I just chose the second film “Revenge of the Fallen”. Talk about a loud, dopey, bloated up movie. Sure Michael Bay’s movies look great but this thing doesn’t know when to end. It goes on and on and on. Apparently some people didn’t mind sitting through the brain-frying cerebral bombardment. It made $836 million worldwide.

#2 – “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull”


This one is personal. What should have been a monumental moment for Indy fans turned into one of the most frustrating and rage-inducing movie experiences. The thought of Indiana Jones returning to the big screen was a big deal to me. How could it be bad? Ford, Allen, Lucas, and Spielberg were all on board. Not only was it bad, it was offensively stupid. Yet despite its crappiness the film would go on to rake in $786 million. I’m sure much of that is due to the name in the title, but screw-ups like this don’t deserve that kind of attention. Rant complete…

#1 – “Avatar”

Let me honest, not everything about “Avatar” is bad. No one can argue that the special effects and the cutting edge use of 3-D were groundbreaking and something to behold. But everything good I could say is restricted to the technical side because Avatar’s characters and overall story was absolutely horrible. James Cameron’s career project swipes story points from so many other films. This is literally “Dances with Wolves” in another galaxy. Completely predictable, awkward acting (Stephen Lang gives one of the worst performances in history), and insanely lame and heavy-handed political messaging. Yet despite its glaring story problems “Avatar” stands as the highest grossing film of all time – $2.8 billion. For that tragic reason it is my #1.

There they are in all of their dubious glory. Agree or disagree? Please let me know in the comments section below.

84 thoughts on “5 Phenomenally Bad Movies That Were Major Box Office Successes 

  1. I regret paying money to see that last Indy movie and I was angry about Spider-Man 3 for how bloated it was…. that was until I saw The Amazing Spider-Man 2 on TV. The Da Vinci Code… yeah it sucked as did its sequel. Oh, and anything Michael Bay has done since Armageddon is pretty much filmmaking at its worst. The man is evil.

  2. I feel guilty right now as I paid to see three of these (#1, 3, and 4). I walked out of the theater extremely disappointed all three times. I was especially pissed with the 2nd Transformers flick because I actually liked the first. I agree 100% with everything you said about it. Without looking at the list, I’m not sure these qualify, but there are some others that made tons that I thought were terrible:

    Jurassic World
    Godzilla (2014)
    Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
    Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones
    The entire Twilight franchise

  3. Some films should be left well alone! The Indiana Jones trilogy is amazing! The 4th instalment ridiculous! The film making world is about money, so they repeat one box office hit over and over until you are sick of it. Jurassic world will be the start of a new bunch of films, when the original can’t be beaten. It’s a shame!

  4. I found Avatar too long and a bit boring despite all the effects and technology used to bring Cameron’s vision to life. The 4th Indiana Jones movie was a disappointment. Spider-Man 3 was horrible but I won’t trade the Maguire ones for Garfield’s short-lived stint as the character.

    Great list!

    • Appreciate it. Avatar knocked it out of the park on the technical side. But storywise, my gosh! I remember it being nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. As we watched the Awards I told my wife “If that thing wins Best Picture I’ll never watch the Oscars again. Thankfully…

  5. I actually like Avatar. For me the characters were strong enough to ignore the predictable plot. Not my favorite but I dont hate it. Rest I agree with.

    I would definitely put Attack of the Clones on this list and this year Minions I didnt think was very good and it made over a billion.

    • A lot of people certainly went for Avatar. Just look at that box office total. I wasn’t a jog fan of ‘Minions’ either. I remember absolutely loving its beginning bit is fades from there.

  6. Great list!

    I think The DaVinci code turned into such a terrible movie because the book is the most boring, senseless, stupid book you could ever hope to read.

    I know people who went to watch Avatar three times in cinema. I mean WHY???

    • Ugh… three times for Avatar is unthinkable to me. And the DaVinci Code craze of the time was unreal. And for a movie like it to make that much money.

  7. Excellent list Keith, and I couldn’t agree more. I was so glad I had not shelled out money for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. When it came I refused to watch it, but got a box set a while ago with the Indiana Jones movie and it was in there and I was was also like “how bad could it be?”. Ouch. It was super offensive.

    As for The Da Vinci Code? I never finished it, and I have tried a few times. Not really like the book, which was flawed but relatively entertaining. I never made it through even the first Transformers (though I tried multiple times) and gave up. That just isn’t for me.

    As for Avatar? I am so glad to see that I am not alone. UGH. I fell asleep a few times in CINEMA watching that, and I found it bland, boring, Pocahontas with blue people. Meh.

    • The ONLY thing that kept me awake during Avatar were the great visuals. Otherwise that thing sucks. “Super offensive” is a great way to describe Indy 4. Its so bad. I don’t even consider it when talking about the Indy movies. Oh, and if you had trouble getting through the first Transformers movie I would love to see you try the second one. It will have you pulling out your hair!!!

  8. It goes to show you that reviews don’t count for much and people will go and see stuff whatever critics say! The Crystal Skull is one of the biggest disappointments I’ve ever seen, although from your list I haven’t seen three (Spider-Man 3, Da Vinci and the Transformers one). I may watch the Spider Man film and catch up with the Garfield ones at some stage too, before the fourth and fifth reboots take place! Can I mention Batman and Robin and Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland…which incredibly made a billion dollars!

    • Huge disappointment indeed. No idea how they could have screwed up an Indy movie so bad. Batman and Robin would absolutely be on this list if it were among the Top grossers. That thing is offensively awful. ‘Alice’ is a really good one. Amazing that it went on to earn that much money! How???

      • Ah I didn’t realise Batman and Robin didn’t make enough. I have no idea about Alice, although I’m afraid I was one of the many who paid to see it! I guess it surfed in on the 3D wave right a few months after Avatar. Burton’s films often seem to do better than you’d expect…I just watched Big Fish the other day and found out that was a big success at the box office too.

      • It’s really hard to believe Alice brought in over $1 billion. I too went and saw it. You make an interesting observation about Burton. I would have never guessed Big Fish was a big hit.

  9. Totally don’t agree on The Da Vinci Code but the rest here are junk. $2.8 billion is a huge chunk of change. That’s ridiculous.

      • Truthfully I never have finished watching it. I tune out when they take down the huge tree-forest-jungle-fortress thing. It’s so politically heavy-handed it becomes cartoonish. This was a James Cameron movie? Ha!

      • The political messaging is sooo freaking heavy-handed. I mean I don’t mind a movie having a message. I just don’t want to be bludgeoned to death by it. Cameron’s messages about big corporations, the military, and of course environmentalism isn’t delivered with the slightest bit of skill or subtlety. And some of it is so obvious its laughable.

  10. I read the Da Vinci Code and that was more than enough ha. Indian a Jones 4 is the only one of those films I’ve seen and I’d argue it would be tough for the other 4 to be worse than that haha.

  11. I was thinking “Rocky Horror Picture Show” might be on here…although granted, most box office success was from midnight showings. Admission –> I still sneak a peek at RHPS every now and then, if only for the soundtrack.

    • RHPS didn’t make the list. Its funny, I have never watched the entire film. I understand and respect its cult status, but I just never have connected with it.

  12. Nice list Keith. I think the concept of The DaVinci Code is compelling but Dan Brown is such a terrible writer he can’t get his story off the ground (Inferno is even worse). The movie adaptation was pretty horrible and boring. As for Avatar, I thought it was a bloated mess and basically Dances with Smurfs in space.

    • YES!!!! Think about it, you can hold it up to Dances with Wolves and the main story points are nearly identical. Technically it was a marvel. But in terms of telling a story – horrible. And what on earth was Stephen Lang doing???

    • Indy 4 took stupidity to a new level and DaVinci Code was a grinding bore of a movie. For me Spider-Man 3 was a case of simply cramming in too much. I felt characters were shortchanged as was the overall story.

  13. This list is spot on, although I’d have to disagree with Avatar. I don’t think you can discount the feeling of wonder it inspires watching it for the first time in 3D before the 3D craze. I think what angers people is how successful it was when its story is not very original, but I feel technically that’s not a good reason when it accomplishes so much else 😛

    • Fair point. As I mentioned it is a technical wonder. I did think seeing it in 3D on the big screen was visually impressive. But the story is just so bad, so heavy-handed, and completely unoriginal. And so much so that I simply can’t finish the movie when I try and watch it at home without the huge screen and 3D.

      Obviously a lot of people really like it though. It just gnaws at me though. 🙂

  14. Awesome post Keith and clearly it resonates w/ readers as we all hate it when bad movies made SO much money. I actually enjoyed Avatar, yes it’s not a ripoff of Pocahontas but I love the visuals and so it’s a guilty pleasure of sort. But I hated the Transformers flicks, I’ve only seen two and that’s way too many as they’re just so awful!!! Never seen Da Vinci Code and probably never will.

    • Hey Ruth! DaVinci Code us such a bore and I don’t get the excitement that was generated for it. Obviously the basis of its story was not for me but even in terms of storytelling it is bad. Transformers… Blah!

  15. Great list Keith.

    I loved TDC book, but hated the movie both times I saw it.

    Indy 4 got me so excited to see him back in action, but it was such a disappointment.

    SM3 was actually a movie with a lot of great ideas, but they had too many of them all at once so it feels overcrowded and they aren’t able to devote enough time to each part because of it.

    Transformers 2 was the weakest of the weak field of movies in the franchise.

    I have to disagree with u a bit on Avatar tho. Yes, its mostly just a visual wonder, but I liked the characters and story despite the very political message. I’m very curious to see what Cameron has in store for us in the sequels.

    • The only good thing I can say about the story is that it is an interesting premise. The problem is it isn’t original at all. Nearly every main point was ripped from other movies namely Dances with Wolves. It follows that blueprint so closely that everything was predictable. Not a single surprise.

      And I don’t mind political messages. Just don’t bludgeon me with it. The hyper-environmentalism, the anti-corporation, the shots at the military – all of it is so heavy-handed. In the end I just couldn’t shake those things.

    • I’m with you. I enjoyed the 3D experience with Avatar. It was done really well. But the movie is pretty hard for me to sit through especially without the 3D support to hold it up. Spidey 3 had good intentions, but a lot of bad movies have good intentions. 🙂

  16. You’re stirring up some bad cinematic experiences, Keith..Haha! Indy and Spiderman 3 specifically. I know Transformers would be bad, so I avoided it. Haha! You know, I thought Avatar was visually nice but other than that, I remember anything of that one. Guess its not as memorable as it was supposed to be?

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