Big Stars, Big Bombs: The 15 Biggest Bombs of the 15 Highest Grossing Actors of All Time
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Big Stars, Big Bombs: The 15 Biggest Bombs of the 15 Highest Grossing Actors of All Time

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | June 17, 2012 | Comments ()


The weekend box-office saw two major Hollywood stars -- Tom Cruise and Adam Sandler -- take a couple of major hits against their box-office prowess as holdovers Madagascar: Europe's Most Wanted ($35 million) and Prometheus ($20 million) held off two challengers, Rock of Ages ($15 million) and That's My Boy ($13 million). Both were terrible movies, although in the case of Rock of Ages, it was easily the Best Awful Movie of the Year. Some of the blame for the failure of those two movies has been attributed to their two stars, Tom Cruise and Adam Sandler, respectively. That, of course, is fair in the latter's case: That's My Boy was co-written and starred Sandler; it was an "Adam Sandler Movie." That said, much of its failure can be attributed to the fact that it was an R-Rated movie and Sandler can no longer draw R-rated moviegoers. In the case of Rock of Ages, however, Tom Cruise was the selling point, but he wasn't the film's major lead, and it wasn't a movie in Cruise's wheelhouse (he is, after all, coming off the biggest blockbuster of his career in Ghost Protocol).

So what happened? Sometimes big box-office stars simply strike out, whether it's because they stepped outside of their comfort zones, they took on a badly marketed film, or the film was just terrible to begin with. It happens. It rarely affects the long-term prospects of a box-office star unless the bombs come in strings (see Eddie Murphy). More often than not, however, they bounce back.

Don't believe me? Well, let's take a look at the 15 highest grossing actors of all time. I went through their filmographies and picked their biggest bombs. The criteria: The actor in question had to have played a lead role, the role must have taken place after the actor in question became a big star, and the movie had to have been given a wide release (i.e., indie flicks do not count).

Here's what I came up with:

1. Tom Hanks -- Bonfire of the Vanities

2. Eddie Murphy -- The Adventures of Pluto Nash

3. Harrison Ford -- Extraordinary Measures

4. Samuel Jackson -- Resurrecting the Champ

5. Tom Cruise -- Lions for Lambs

6. Robin Williams -- Death to Smoochy

7. Jonny Depp -- Nick of Time

8. Morgan Freeman -- The Big Bounce

9. Cameron Diaz -- The Box

10. Bruce Willis -- The Whole Ten Yards

11. Will Smith -- The Legend of Bagger Vance

12. Robert DeNiro -- Night and the City

13. Julia Roberts -- Mary Reilly

14. Matt Damon -- All the Pretty Horses

15. Ben Stiller -- Duplex


As you can see, in all cases except Eddie Murphy, the actor in question bounced back from their worst outings to continue being major movie stars with at least a few subsequent hits (Harrison Ford's post-Extraordinary Measures career is still questionable, the $100 million gross of Cowboys and Aliens notwithstanding). I doubt that the performances of Rock of Ages will affect Tom Cruise's ability to sell tickets to big-budget action films, nor will the performance of That's My Boy affect Sandler's ability to make $150 million on Grown Ups 2. Unfortunately.

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Morgan_LaFai

    Loved this piece but have 2 quick questions:

    (1) Does this list take into account movies that the actors were contractually obligated to do after making it big and/or were filmed before they made it big and had been shelved?

    (2) Can you do one that takes into account inflation? I would love to see the box office bombs of Humprey Bogart or Greta Garbo. I mean, all of there movies can't have been the brilliant classics we remember, right?

  • i take it this highest grossing actors list isn't based on adjusted for inflation numbers?

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I don't think Sam Jackson is a box office draw. Or Morgan Freeman for that matter. Some of these it's about the crossover - "Mary Reilly" is not the movie made for people who like Julia Roberts.

    I do think people see movies for Tom Cruise though. But actiony movies. Or rom coms, if he'd make another of those.

    I'm really surprised Rock of Ages bombed, because of the hype, and because I know people who actually talked about seeing it. But it's refreshing to me that that marketing blitz hasn't paid off. Maybe because it's not Cruise making the rounds.

  • I don't know why the metric of box office is relevant, either, but I think it's in the same world as, say, sports statistics, only even more vague.

  • ,

    Fugazi's Revenge.

  • superasente

    I'm just not sure actors and actresses are actually a drawing point for movies. Nobody wanted to see "Snow White and the Huntsman" because of Kristen Stewart, so why cast her? She certainly can't act. People went to see that movie because it looked cool. People pretty much always show up or stay home because the movie looks cool or not. Oh look, a new Mission Impossible movie with Tom Cruise. That looks cool, let's go to it. Oh look, a hair-metal rock opera with Tom Cruise. Let's stay home and rent Chronicle.

  • mslewis

    I disagree. Many young girls saw "Snow White" precisely because of Kristin Stewart. That girl is HUGE in tween-teendom and those people will pay to see those they love.

  • Jezzer

    I can't wrap my brain around Cameron Diaz being one of the highest-grossing performers in Hollywood. Julia Roberts I can see. She is highly popular in the mainstream, despite having the smile of a bear trap, but Cameron Diaz?

  • Guest

    Rock of Ages bombed? I can't be the only person who saw that coming.

  • Fredo

    I wouldn't let the failure of Rock of Ages fall on Cruise's lap. Realistically, it was a long shot at success. While the Broadway play was a nice hit, no one outside Tits'R'Us is clamoring for more music from Def Leppard and/or Poison. Like so many other adaptations, it was a novelty thing -- and the novelty's past.

    On the other hand, That's My Boy has to fall squarely on Sandler's (and Samberg's) heads. They're going by the tried-and-true Sandler Formula. So what excuse do they have?

  • zeke_the_pig

    In all fairness, I imagine that box office gross means as much to Tom Cruise as much as I care about whether or not the local squirrels have a steady supply of acorns this winter. In theory I care, but really it won't affect my life at all, and it won't make me feel any different about myself.

  • PDamian

    Won't somebody think of the squirrels?

    Besides Veruca, that is.

  • zeke_the_pig

    Those bushy-tailed rats have a hell of a PR department. They'll be fine.

  • PDamian

    Don't know if that list is in order of earnings, but if it is, I'm astonished that Will Smith isn't higher on that list, and even more surprised that Ben Stiller made the list at all. I realize that the Museum and Madagascar films were huge, and he's had some other solid hits, but somehow I never thought of him as being on a par with Julia Roberts or Matt Damon, success-wise.

  • Sean

    For DeNiro, is that the worst you can come up with? Not The Fan, Godsend,What Just Happened, Everbody's Fine, Stone, or Being Flynn?

  • I want to see the numbers before anyone reconsiders any DeNiro title. He's coasting on back-end points, so bad numbers don't even make him blink, I suspect.

  • Sean
  • Oh, my.

    Ben Stiller fucking ruins everything.

  • Sean

    But he makes DeNiro a lot of money. But other than that, he does. Just awful.

  • But Anne Meara is so genius! How did this happen?

  • Spiffy McFly

    In all fairness, Death To Smoochy is one of the greatest comedic movies in recent decades, and Robin Williams knocked "crazy" out of the park.

  • Is it really fair to ding Bruce Willis for that completely unnecessary sequel? I hang all the blame for it on Matthew Perry.

    Oh, and I am so doing a happy schadenfreude dance over the weekend's Cruise/Sandler (Samberg, really, even though Sandler was also the producer) failures. Adam Shankman deserved an extra-special kick in the balls, and the flop of Rock of Ages is just the ticket.

    I know I shall be punished for this glee, but for now...

    Can any of this bode well for the repeat of Total Recall, which has a bigger budget than both of this weekend's big losers combined?

  • Kinda surprised at 'Rock of Ages' failure, given how popular that music was in the 80s and how popular Glee is now...
    Expect a new ad featuring on the young lovers??

  • Music, yes. Musical, only on Broadway. I think the hype killed it.

  • I hate hype.

  • Arran

    Nick of Time is a slightly dodgy selection; Depp wasn't actually much of a box-office draw back then. He was still known as the guy who made quirky choices. Oh, those were the days.

  • Sean

    Exactly, Nick of Time was criticized at the time for Depp being a sell-out making such a movie. It does sort of stink, however.

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