The 25 Most Expensive Movies of All Time Adjusted for Inflation
John Cameron’s 2009 Avatar sits at the top of the list of most expensive films ever made, but even higher on the list of highest-grossing films in history. While the film’s cultural significance is debated, there is no doubt that it was a great investment that paid off well. Of course, it’s not always a one-to-one relationship: high risk sometimes means high reward, but movie history is full of big-budget flops. While we often think that the modern blockbuster era began with Star Wars , it actually began with the big historical epics of the 1960s, when studios were desperate to make films that could compete for viewers’ attention with the free stuff they could get on TV. . Some of these films saved their studios (” Ben-Hur “) while others bankrupted them ( “The Fall of the Roman Empire” ). It’s not much different now, except that studios tend to be better at managing risk (which is why Disney prefers to make bug-free Marvel movies over anything else).
In honor of the release of the trailer for the long-awaited and very expensive Avatar sequel, let’s look back at other notoriously expensive blockbusters and see if they justify these eye-popping price tags.
A few notes on methodology: when budget estimates vary widely, it is generally considered appropriate to assume that the lower number is closer to the truth, which I have basically done. When I didn’t, I noted why – as in the case of 1963’s Cleopatra , since the studio obviously lied about how much it cost. My numbers are from Wikipedia, with lots of cross-references to make sure everything makes sense. I used the consumer price index to calculate inflation. Keep in mind that budgets are always estimates: studios don’t necessarily make these numbers public. Advertising and other related expenses can push the budget even further, but they are usually not included in a film’s budget, and determining how profitable a film is is a fool’s errand. All this to say is that the very best, most thorough analysis of a film’s cost still requires a lot of guesswork.