Mandatory Best of 2019: Ranking the 10 Biggest Movie Upsets of the Year
This year has been one of the most surprising of the decade in entertainment. With stiff competition at the box office and a changing distribution model with the rise of streaming, there’s only so much room for success. Although 2019 was an excellent year for movies, both financially and critically, it was also filled with tons of upsets. Whether it be movies that were disappointing on a creative level, movies that failed to bring in the crowds, or both, here are the 10 biggest movie upsets of the year.
Cover Photo: Skydance Media
Mandatory top 10 of the 2010s: The Best Biopics of the Decade
10. 'X-Men: Dark Phoenix'
Going into 2019, one thing was for sure: X-Men: Dark Phoenix was destined for failure. Although the movie was initially slated for release in 2017, Disney's purchase of Fox and multiple publicized reshoots in the time between meant that everyone pretty much assumed the worst. For the most part, they were right. While Dark Phoenix wasn’t the complete creative train wreck that we thought it was going to be, it ended up becoming the lowest-grossing entry in the franchise to date, with a $252 million worldwide gross on a $200 million budget before marketing.
Not to be confused with the Joss Whedon cult film of the same name, 2019’s Serenity is a sight to behold, albeit in the worst way possible. Nothing about Steven Knight’s film is conventional, except for the fact that it’s insanely terrible, so terrible that it has to be seen to believed. This thriller stars Matthew McConaughey as Baker Dill, a fishing boat captain who is approached by his ex-wife (Anne Hathaway) about a plot to murder her abusive new husband at sea. Despite the apparent box-office appeal of its leads, Serenity failed to attract an audience with $14.4 million in revenues on a $25 million budget, effectively ending the McConaissance.
Considering that Hellboy was initially intended to be the conclusion of Guillermo Del Toro’s would-be trilogy, the 2019 reboot of the same name is a particularly bitter pill to swallow. Despite this, the promise of seeing the franchise return to its hard-R comic book roots, along with David Harbour playing Big Red made for an exciting prospect – or so we thought. As it turns out, the production of the movie was contentious, to say the least, with the producers and director Neil Marshall reportedly having a “prolonged argument” over the design of a tree. Seriously. Too bad they didn’t put as much of a focus on the story in this dumpster fire of a movie.
7. 'The Kitchen'
While Hollywood has historically been a town run by men, the female perspective has become more prominent than ever in the 21st century. If someone told you in 2019 that a comic book movie starring Melissa McCarthy, Tiffany Haddish, and Elizabeth Moss would be one of the biggest box office bombs of the year, it would be hard to believe. Unfortunately for The Kitchen, that ended up being the case. Although a story about the wives of Irish mobsters taking over organized crime in Hell’s Kitchen after their husbands are arrested is a timely one, the movie comes off as a poorly executed plot that rides on the coattails of films like Widows. Even the impressive cast wasn’t enough to save The Kitchen from the doldrums of the box office with just under $16 million on a $38 million budget.
2019’s Shaft is a movie that no one asked for, and a sequel that we never really needed. Moreover, it’s a “franchise” that hails from a bygone era of Blaxploitation movies that is decades removed from the original Richard Roundtree incarnation of the character. While Shaft is a confusingly-titled sequel to the 2000 Samuel L. Jackson vehicle of the same name, it also changes up the formula of the franchise yet again to become an odd satirical action-comedy. However, the novelty of seeing three generations of Shaft on the screen wasn’t enough to save it. Even with a modest budget of $35 million, Shaft ended up making $21.4 million at the box office. Talk about the final nail in the coffin for a bygone franchise.
5. 'Men in Black: International'
As the first film in the franchise to not feature Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones on the marquee, Men in Black: International was a big gamble. Unfortunately, it’s the type of spinoff that completely misunderstands the franchise that it’s trying to emulate. While the film ended up being a glorified reunion between Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, it was also wrought with production issues. Apparently, tensions between Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray and the producers got so bad that the latter nearly exited the project. Thompson and Hemsworth eventually hired their own dialogue writers, and the result is a confused movie that somehow grossed nearly $254 million worldwide. Regrettably, the studio also spent an estimated $230 million to make it, meaning that Sony essentially killed off an entire franchise to make a meager $24 million. Talk about an upsetting experience.
4. 'Terminator: Dark Fate'
As the fourth attempt at trying to figure out what to do with the Terminator franchise after the brilliance of T2, Terminator: Dark Fate was a last-ditch effort to provide a worthwhile sequel. James Cameron’s return to form was glorious, and the film also heralded Linda Hamilton’s return to the franchise. With Deadpool’s Tim Miller directing, what could go wrong? A lot, apparently. According to Cameron, “The blood is still being scrubbed off of the walls” from the creative battles that he and Miller had.
The ironic thing about the eventual Dark Fate of the Terminator franchise is how it’s legitimately the best film since T2. Unfortunately, audiences had been duped twice in the past decade with substandard reboot-quels and failed to turn up for Dark Fate. With a worldwide haul of $255 million on a $196 million budget before marketing, Judgement Day is looking inevitable for the franchise itself.
3. 'The Kid Who Would Be King'
While The Kid Who Would Be King seems like the type of fantasy-adventure film that would go over like gangbusters with audiences, the exact opposite turned out to be true. Even though Joe Cornish’s highly anticipated follow-up to Attack the Block garnered positive reviews from critics, it grossed a mere $32.1 million on a $59 million budget. As the second-to-last film to be distributed by 20th Century Fox before its Disney takeover, the film is estimated to incur $50 million in losses with marketing factored in. Either way, The Kid Who Would Be King is the only movie on this list actually worth seeking out – even if the trailers would suggest otherwise.
2. 'The Goldfinch'
Although The Goldfinch was intended to be Amazon Studios and WB’s awards contender that Joker ended up being, the former is a far bigger disaster for the studio. Based on Donna Tartt’s 2013 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name, the film adaptation stars Ansel Elgort as a young man whose life is upended when his mother is killed during a terrorist attack on a museum. While reception to the novel was mixed, the film adaptation was pretty much panned by critics – and for good reason. It’s a mixed bag of a movie that presents some interesting ideas but fails to tell a cohesive story. Ultimately, The Goldfinch grossed almost $10 million on a $49 million budget, meaning that the pairing studios will absorb losses around $50 million.
1. 'Gemini Man'
As Will Smith’s big return to action blockbusters, Gemini Man had pretty big expectations. Mix in master filmmaker Ang Lee, legendary producer Jerry Bruckheimer, and a potentially game-changing new format, and you have a formula for success – or so we thought. As it turns out, it’s a recipe for disaster. Although Gemini Man grossed $173 million against a $138 million budget, the film is estimated to procure losses of up to $75 million for Paramount. That’s right; the studio smartly spent $100-plus million on promoting a movie that would have been a big box office hit in 1998.