Movies that bomb at the box office — the worst of which fail even to match the cost of their production budgets — leave investors, producers, studios and distributors stuck with the loss. For many box-office flops, the reason for the failure is evident in bad acting, poor casting, weak writing or a lack of imagination. In other cases, a movie bombs because it cost too much to make or didn’t live up to the hype that surrounded its release. Some movies, however, dazzle critics, dominate festivals, draw cult followings, define their genres and, in some cases, change the course of movie history — all without ever turning a profit. PrettyFamous wanted to look at movies that earned critical adoration and accolades, but whose box-office earnings didn’t justify their budgets. Every movie on the list has stellar ratings on review-aggregate sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, yet they all suffered domestic box-office ratios of less than two. This ratio is calculated by dividing a film’s historic box-office gross by its budget.
#15. No End in Sight
Historical box office gross: $1,431,620 Budget: $2,000,000 Domestic box office ratio: 0.72 Although several excellent documentaries emerged in the years preceding the 2007 release of “No End in Sight,” most avoided politics by focusing on the personal experiences of individuals caught up in the mix. This widely acclaimed documentary, however, broke the mold by delving into acute historical analysis.
#14. Letters From Iwo Jima
Historical box office gross: $13,753,900 Budget: $19,000,000 Domestic box office ratio: 0.72 “Letters from Iwo Jima” is one half of an ambitious look at the Battle of Iwo Jima from two different perspectives. The movie’s counterpart is “Flags of Our Fathers,” another highly acclaimed movie that Clint Eastwood unveiled in 2006.
#13. Seven Samurai
Historical box office gross: $271,736 Budget: $350,000 Domestic box office ratio: 0.78 With an average rating of 9.3 out of 10, “Seven Samurai” scores a perfect 100 on Rotten Tomatoes. Critics praise the storyline as highly as they praise the stunning imagery, intense action sequences and memorable characters.
Historical box office gross: $17,096,100 Budget: $20,000,000 Domestic box office ratio: .85 Bill Murray’s extraordinary performance displays the actor’s diversity and anchors the movie. The tale about kids at a rich prep school, however, is buoyed by strong showings from the entire cast, including college friends and co-writers Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson, who directed the cult classic.
#11. The Sweet Hereafter
Historical box office gross: $4,357,100 Budget: $5,000,000 Domestic box office ratio: 0.87 Based on a novel of the same name, “The Sweet Hereafter” received critical acclaim that catapulted Canadian director Atom Egoyan into the mainstream. This touching story about family, community, death and healing won the top prize at Cannes and made strong showings at other major film festivals.
#10. Blade Runner
Historical box office gross: $27,580,111 Budget: $28,000,000 Domestic box office ratio: 0.99 In 2001, 19 years after its release in 1982, the BBC referred to “Blade Runner” as “arguably the most famous and influential science fiction film ever made.” The movie steered the science-fiction genre and influenced popular perceptions of what the future might look like.
#9. Short Term 12
Historical box office gross: $1,010,410 Budget: $1,000,000 Domestic box office ratio: 1.01 Brie Larson was widely acclaimed for her lead role in this emotional and gritty look at life in a group home. The story is revealed in pieces through flashbacks from Larson’s character, a young adult who lived in a home for troubled youth.
Historical box office gross: $1,233,550 Budget: $1,211,977 Domestic box office ratio: 1.02 A technical marvel of the silent film era, 1927’s “Metropolis” was an enormous production, with some scenes involving 37,000 extras. The pinnacle of the silent era, “Metropolis” was the most expensive movie ever made at the time.
#7. 127 Hours
Historical box office gross: $18,329,500 Budget: $18,000,000 Domestic box office ratio: 1.02 The true story of climber Aron Ralston is as inspirational as it is gut-wrenching and difficult to watch. Harrowing and intense, the movie — which delighted critics when it was released in 2010 — chronicles the trials of a man who finds himself trapped, gravely injured and alone in the rugged, unforgiving Utah wilderness.
#6. The Battle of Algiers
Historical box office gross: $815,345 Budget: $800,000 Domestic box office ratio: 1.02 A gripping examination of the brutal French response to a colonial uprising, “The Battle of Algiers” was released in 1966, but visits subject matter with contemporary significance, such as terrorism, global military conflict and the use of torture to elicit information. The black-and-white movie was so well received, in fact, that the Pentagon held a special screening of the film in 2003.
Historical box office gross: $25,556,100 Budget: $23,000,000 Domestic box office ratio: 1.11 An examination of both love and technology, “Her” received perfect scores from the Arizona Republic, the Christian Science monitor and the Philadelphia Inquirer. The movie follows a man who finds the love he craves in companionship from a computer operating system.
#4. Henry V
Historical box office gross: $10,161,100 Budget: $9,000,000 Domestic box office ratio: 1.13 When it was released in 1989, this full adaptation of Hamlet featured an all-star ensemble cast. The director, Kenneth Branagh, not only got the most out of an eclectic cast, but he played King Henry.
#3. Away From Her
Historical box office gross: $4,548,330 Budget: $4,000,000 Domestic box office ratio: 1.14 Both the New Republic and the Chicago Tribune gave this Sarah Polley masterpiece a perfect 100. Somber, sharp and brilliantly acted, the movie chronicles the evolution of the life and love for a woman ravaged by Alzheimer’s disease.
#2. The Celebration
Historical box office gross: $1,647,780 Budget: $1,300,000 Domestic box office ratio: 1.27 This inventive piece of storytelling follows a man who is forced to face unpleasant realities about his family that come up during a 60th birthday party. The movie was lauded for its bare-bones, understated approach to film.
#1. Man on Wire
Historical box office gross: $2,957,980 Budget: $1,900,000 Domestic box office ratio: 1.56 “Man on Wire” is a stunning film that soars to dizzying heights both literally and metaphorically. The documentary details the incredible true story of an eccentric French tightrope walker whose team went to extraordinary lengths to make it possible for him to tiptoe from one World Trade Center tower to another — without the benefit of a safety net.