9 Most Expensive Movies of the 2010s
The 2010s was a big decade for movies. From blockbusters to critically acclaimed films, moviegoers were treated with some great cinema in the past 10 years. Unsurprisingly, rising production costs have resulted in some of the most expensive movies ever made in Hollywood history. Here are the eight most expensive movies of the 2010s:
1. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) - $422 Million
Disney’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” isn’t just the most expensive movie of the 2010s but also the most expensive of all time. Its $422 million budget surpasses 1963’s “Cleopatra” which cost $339.5 million. The film is the fourth entry of the highly successful Pirates of the Caribbean franchise, and although mainstays Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley didn’t reprise their roles, the appearance of Johnny Depp alone was more than enough the lure in fans from all over the globe. Depp had been previously nominated for an Oscar for his portrayal as the charismatic Captain Jack Sparrow in the first Pirates film.
Despite the costs, On Stranger Tides still managed to recoup its massive budget raking in $1.04 billion and became one of the highest-grossing films of the decade. In a statement by Disney after the film’s theatrical run, it said that “the directors considered the company’s financial performance when deciding for the budget which eventually resulted with cost of the film being in line with the budgeted cost.”
Even with Disney’s financial resources, it still wanted to make money off of its releases and Pirates was the perfect money-making opportunity for the mouse house. Additionally, filming in the United Kingdom also gave the studio some sort of relief as they were given a $32.1 million rebate from UK tax authorities.
2. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) - $386 Million
Before Infinity War and Endgame, there was “Avengers: Age of Ultron.” The sequel to 2012’s Avengers brought in massive hype after the huge success of the first film and also saw the return of the original cast including Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and Chris Hemsworth. Joss Whedon, who had directed the first film also returned to the director’s chair. The film revolves around the superhero team trying to take down a genocidal robot named Ultron. The movie also features Elizabeth Olsen whose character “Scarlet Witch” played a big role in upcoming MCU films.
Age of Ultron holds the distinction of being the most expensive MCU film to date, even costing more than Infinity War and Endgame. The film’s massive costs were mostly down to multiple shooting locations. In the final scenes that took place in the fictional country of Sokovia, the crew had to travel to five different countries: Italy, South Africa, South Korea, United Kingdom, and Bangladesh. Aside from that, a huge percentage was also used on CGI. The movie managed to rake in $1.4 billion globally and although it’s not Endgame numbers it still managed to score massive profits.
3. Avengers: Endgame (2019) - $356 Million
The follow-up to Infinity War is the second-highest grossing movie of all time. “Avengers: Endgame” previously held the title of being the highest-grossing film after it overtook the science fiction adventure film “Avatar” (directed by James Cameron) in 2020. Avatar retook the crown as it was re-released in China in March 2021. Fans were initially teased with Infinity War culminating the story of the 21 Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) films released since 2008, but with the movie ending in a cliffhanger and it was later revealed that Endgame would be the actual movie to end Marvel’s 10-year stretch of films (also called the “Infinity Saga”).
$356 million was the total cost to make Endgame but the cost didn’t come as a surprise to anyone as it was Disney and Marvel Studios’ biggest spectacle to date. Much like the previous movie, Disney and Marvel Studios weren’t afraid to splash the cash as it spent heavily on VFX, particularly in the enormous battle sequence that occurred in the film’s climax.
Behind the scenes footage also revealed that computer effects were used to create photo-realistic costumes. By the end of its 13-week theatrical run (one of the longest by any film), Endgame would rack $2.8 billion in global box office sales. Even if Disney were to spend $1 billion for the film, it would still recoup an astounding 100% profit from its total box office revenue.
4. Avengers: Infinity War (2018) - $316 Million
Ever since 2012’s “The Avengers”, every Avenger release has always been a global event. “Avengers: Infinity War” is the third in the franchise and the sequel to 2015’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron”. Fans have been eagerly waiting for the film’s release as it culminates every Marvel Studios movie released since 2008’s “Iron Man”. It was also filmed together with “Avengers: Endgame” which was released a year later.
With the movie revolving around CGI characters including its main villain Thanos, it’s not surprising that a total of $316 million was spent to make the movie. CGI was also used to create full environments, particularly scenes set in space. All in all, the movie generated $2.04 billion in global box office numbers, becoming the fifth-highest grossing movie of all time and the second-highest grossing superhero film only after Endgame. Infinity War follows the story of the Avengers as they battle as a cosmic threat named Thanos who plans to wipe out half of the universe’s population with the help of powerful gems called infinity stones.
5. Justice League (2017) - $307 Million
The 2010s saw comic book movies being released left and right. The success of these movies also rekindled the rivalry between Marvel and DC Comics which had become two of the most recognizable names in print media. After Disney scored big with “The Avengers” in 2012, Warner Bros. (which owns DC Comics) immediately planned to make their own superhero team-up blockbuster in the form of “Justice League” and eventually released the film in 2017. Although not considered a sequel to 2013’s “Man of Steel” and 2016’s “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice”, the movie still takes place in the same universe and with the same set of characters.
The film cost a total of $307 million and is so far the most expensive live-action DC film ever made. This doesn’t even include that the additional $70 million that Warner Bros. spent in reshoots for the “Snyder Cut” version released in March 2021. Already on pace to be one of the most expensive films of all time, costs have only ballooned since Director Zack Snyder initially left the production in 2017 after the death of his daughter.
An additional $25 million was then spent on reshoots after Joss Whedon replaced Snyder to finish the film. Nonetheless, the movie went on to make $657 million in the global box office and earned even better reviews after the Snyder Cut was released in HBO Max four years later.
6. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) - $275 Million
Star Wars films have always been cinematic events, so it would only be fitting that 2018’s “Solo: A Star Wars Story” received a similar budget than the other live action films in the Star Wars universe. In fact, the movie is the most expensive Star Wars film ever made, costing $275 million based on the paperwork filed for “Stannum 50 Labs” (the codename used during the movie’s production). Solo was the second spin-off film in the Disney-Star Wars era (released after 2016’s “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”) and the first film released after “Star Wars: The Last Jedi”.
Although the spin-off prequel which revolved around Han Solo and Chewbacca’s earlier exploits was a moderate success, raking in $392 million in worldwide box office sales, the movie didn’t really fare well with casual and hardcore fans. This can be pointed to two reasons: many fans were still disappointed with the release of The Last Jedi a few months prior and the Solo’s mid-year release.
The Last Jedi, which was the sequel to 2015’s “The Force Awakens”, was the worst reviewed Star Wars film to date and may have contributed to fans skipping and/or dismising Solo entirely. Additionally, the mediocre reception was also a result of Disney releasing Solo during blockbuster off-peak season, a move that completely differed from the mouse house releasing blockbusters during the holidays.
7. John Carter (2012) - $257 Million
Although Disney has managed to find massive success in their live-action remakes in recent years, the same cannot be said for a good number of their original films, most especially “John Carter”. Released in early 2012, John Carter narrates the story of war veteran John Carter as he gets transported into Mars and faces a battle of survival in his quest to return back to Earth. The movie is based on the 1912 novel “A Princess of Mars” and stars Taylor Kitsch in the title role.
Considered as one of the most expensive movie flops ever made, the movie didn’t just fare poorly with audiences but also cost Disney $200 million. The movie reportedly went over its original budget as Director Andrew Stanton repeatedly scrapped previously filmed footage and did numerous reshoots resulting in a gross budget that exceeded $306 million. Luckily, Disney received a $43 million tax rebate from the British government. But even with the rebate, it doesn’t cover up Disney’s poor handling of the movie’s production which only grossed $284 million internationally. The movie also didn’t do any favors for Kitsch’s career as he has only managed to play supporting roles since John Carter.
8. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012) - $257 Million
After Warner Bros. Pictures decided to develop a Lord of the Rings prequel trilogy, fans were already predicting a massive budget for the films. And they weren’t wrong as the first film in the three-part series, “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey”, became one of the most expensive of the 2010s. In fact, The first Hobbit cost nearly as much as the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy combined ($281 million). By the end of the third Hobbit movie, “The Battle of the Five Armies”, Director Peter Jackson and Warner Bros. Pictures had spent a total of $561 million.
The main reason why The Hobbit became such a costly series was Jackson's decision to shoot in 3D and at 48 frames per second which he cited was more “realistic.” Additionally, reshoots also upped production costs significantly. An Unexpected Journey amassed $1.02 billion in global revenue and remains the most financially successful film of the three Hobbit films.
9. The Dark Knight Rises (2012) - $257 Million
“The Dark Knight Rises” is another film that cost $257 million to make, but unlike the previous $257 million films, the third and final installment of Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy scored big at the international box office. The film finished its theatrical run with $1.08 billion as well as generally positive feedback from fans and critics. Although the film didn’t reach the same heights as its predecessor “The Dark Knight” in terms of critical success, it still served as a satisfying conclusion to a Batman trilogy that essentially kickstarted the rise of comic book movies in the 2010s.
The movie’s production sprawled numerous locations throughout the United States and Europe including Los Angeles, New York City, Pittsburgh, London, and Glasgow. Aside from relying on VFX to film specific scenes, a good chunk of the budget also went on building practical sets. The Dark Knight Rises follows the story of 2008’s The Dark Knight as Batman (portrayed by Christian Bale) as he tries to save Gotham from The League of Shadows led by their new leader, the masked terrorist Bane (Tom Hardy).
The 2010s may be over but the cost of making Hollywood movies will only go up in the years to come. At this rate, it won’t be surprising of a $500 million movie will eventually get made in the foreseeable future.