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10 Box Office Flops That Were Hits on Netflix

10 Box Office Flops That Were Hits on Netflix

It used to be that determining a flop in the movie business was easily defined. In the Golden Age of Hollywood, if a film didn’t make its budget back (and then some), it was considered a failure. With the advent of the home video market in the 1980s, some movies got a chance at a second life on VHS, but even then, those films were, at best, considered to be cult favorites. Thanks to Netflix, the streaming model has come in and upended everything we thought we knew about what qualified as a successful movie.




Gone are the days of DVDs and Blu-rays. Now that streaming is king, if a movie bombs during its initial release at the box office, there’s always a chance it might find an audience when released for free on Netflix. Many critically lampooned theatrical failures have done precisely that. None of these films have changed anything about themselves transitioning from the big screen to the small, yet they still turned into massive hits when given a second look.

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10 Madame Web Didn’t See Its Success on Netflix Coming


Budget:

$100 million

Worldwide Box Office:

$100.3 million

Released on Netflix (U.S.):

May 2024

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Madame Web’s Netflix Success Sends a Clear Message About the Future of Superhero Movies

Though it failed at the box office, Madame Web’s streaming success and other superhero movies show a different path forward for niche characters.

Upon its release in 2024, Madame Web became one of recent memory’s most infamous (and openly mocked) films. Based upon a series of minor characters from the Spider-Man comics, the film was little more than a cash-in attempt by Sony to expand their Spider-Man universe. Unfortunately for Sony, “cash-in” was not in the cards for this film, which stars Dakota Johnson as Cassandra Webb, a paramedic who begins experiencing visions of the future that lead her to team up with three teenage girls to take on the film’s big-bad, Ezekiel Sims.


Widely blasted by critics, Madame Web only managed to make a little over $100 million at the box office on a budget around the same mark and, more importantly, a reported marketing cost of around $60 million. Lucky for Sony, Madame Web debuted on Netflix a few short months after flopping in theaters, and it debuted in second place with 10.8 million views accrued during its first week. It’s probably not enough to save the future of this franchise, but it is proof that any movie with enough notoriety might have a second chance at success when audiences don’t have to pay for it individually.

Madame Web Updated Film Poster

Madame Web

Director
S.J. Clarkson

Release Date
February 14, 2024

Cast
Sydney Sweeney , Isabela Merced , Dakota Johnson , Emma Roberts

Writers
Kerem Sanga , Matt Sazama , Burk Sharpless

Main Genre
Superhero


9 Assassin’s Creed Took Seven Years to Find an Audience

Aguilar de Nerha swings his spear in Assassin's Creed

Budget:

$125 million

Worldwide Box Office:

$245 million

Released on Netflix (U.S.):

Spring 2023

From one critical and financial failure of a high-profile adaptation to another, in 2016, director Justin Kurzel teamed up with Michael Fassbender to turn the hit video game series Assassin’s Creed into a feature film. At first, everything seemed to be going right for the film. Reports from the production were positive, and the studio was so happy that they greenlit the development of a sequel while the original movie was still being made. Unfortunately, like many other films on this list, Assassin’s Creed was dead on arrival when it hit theaters and ended up losing 20th Century Fox around $100 million.


Made as it was during the early stages of streaming services, it took Assassin’s Creed a few years to land on Netflix. Seven, to be exact. When it did arrive, it did so by leaping immediately into Netflix’s Top 10 in several international territories. Not that this success has breathed any new life into the film franchise. It’s still as dormant as ever. That being said, Netflix liked what it saw enough to double down on the franchise and has since greenlit a television series for the franchise.

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8 Blended Took a Long Time to Find the Right Mix on Netflix

The main cast of Blended looking up at the sky


Budget:

$45 million

Worldwide Box Office:

$128 million

Released on Netflix (U.S.):

May 2024

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There was a time when the comedic pairing of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore was box-office gold. Their first two films, The Wedding Singer and 50 First Dates, brought in over $123 million and $198 million at the global box office, respectively. Undoubtedly, everyone behind their third team-up, Blended, expected equal returns, but that’s not what happened. The film fell hard on its face and only wound up making about $6 million more at the American box office than its $46 million budget. That’s a flop, no matter how you cut it, but especially for stars as big as Sandler and Barrymore.


Looking for reasons why Blended flopped, Warner-Bros. President of domestic distribution Dan Fellman blamed the poor returns on the film’s Memorial Day weekend release date, saying that the holiday weekend was blessed with such fine weather that it dissuaded families from visiting theaters. Ten years later, Blended finally found its audience when it debuted on Netflix. In May 2024, the film became one of the Top five most-watched movies on the platform in the United States.

7 65 Didn’t Take Millions of Years to Find Success on Netflix

Ariana Greenblatt and Adam Driver in 65


Budget:

$45 million

Worldwide Box Office:

$60.7 million

Released on Netflix (U.S.):

July 2023

Adam Driver has been no stranger to box-office success throughout his career. His Star Wars sequel trilogy alone has brought in over $4 billion worldwide. Unfortunately, he’s also tasted the sting of failure thanks to the science fiction action thriller 65. Driver stars as a space explorer who crashlands on Earth 65 million years ago and must find a way to survive the extreme elements and dinosaurs. In other words, this film should have paved the way for Adam Driver to have a franchise all his own but only wound up making about $10 million more at the box office than its reported $45 million budget.


Quickly becoming the model for films that fail to meet expectations at the box office, 65 was released on Netflix just four short months after its failed theatrical bid. Once on the platform, 65’s sci-fi-heavy premise was strong enough to shoot it to the number two spot on Netflix’s most-watched charts. A few days later, it leaped over its competition (The Out-Laws, for those wondering) and snagged the number one spot.

6 The Snowman Nearly Melted Away Before Netflix

Michael Fassbender stares pensively in image from The Snowman


Budget:

$35 million

Worldwide Box Office:

$43.1 million

Released on Netflix (U.S.):

April 2023

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If any actor has benefited from seeing their films find a second life on streaming services, it’s Michael Fassbender, who not only saw Assassin’s Creed find its footing on Netflix but also a flopped police thriller in The Snowman. Starring as detective Harry Hole (no, really), Fassbender hoped that this story, based on a best-selling novel and produced by Ridley Scott, would be a massive hit. It was not. This film’s critical reception was so downright cold (sorry) that it currently holds a 7% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. No wonder it only made around $7 million at the domestic box office.


Six years after its release in theaters, The Snowman found an audience on Netflix in April 2023, when it climbed to the number one spot on the platform’s most-watched list. Why it did so remains a complete mystery. Honestly, this film is so critically lambasted that there’s a good chance audiences flocked to it to see if it was as bad as everyone said it was. Despite the talent in front of and behind the camera, yes, The Snowman is really bad, and now, a vast majority of the world knows it too.

5 The Little Things Was More Appreciated on Netflix

Budget:

$30 million

Worldwide Box Office:

$31 million

Released on Netflix (U.S.):

April 2024


Having debuted on streaming services and at theatres simultaneously, The Little Things is the one film on this list that was unquestionably derailed by the COVID pandemic. As such, it came just $300,000 shy of recouping its $30 million budget at the box office, which is shocking for a movie with a cast as talented as this one. The Little Things stars Denzel Washington as a California sheriff who teams up with a police detective, played by Rami Malek, to investigate an enigmatic man, portrayed by Jared Leto, who might moonlight as a serial killer.

The cast and premise of The Little Things probably would have served as catnip for global audiences had the film been released under normal circumstances. Instead, this film, which had already spent years in development hell, took another three years to truly find success when it blew up on Netflix in April 2024, being seen by over 1.7 million American households after being added to the streaming service’s library.


the-little-things-movie-poster.jpg

4 Dumb Money Almost Didn’t Turn a Profit Until Netflix

Ken Griffin (Nick Offerman) and Gabe Plotkin (Seth Rogen) wear tennis attire in Dumb Money

Budget:

$30 million

Worldwide Box Office:

$20.7 million

Released on Netflix (U.S.):

January 2024

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It’s hard to say that a movie documenting the rise and fall of the American stock market should be an inherent success. They’re generally pretty tough sells outside of films like The Big Short. Still, Dumb Money, which detailed the infamous GameStop short squeeze during the pandemic, should have had just enough cultural cache to become a box-office hit. Unfortunately, it did not. Honestly, it’s a shame because the movie, starring the likes of Paul Dano, Shailene Woodley, and Seth Rogen, is quite entertaining.

After only earning around $20 million in theaters, Dumb Money went nearly as viral as the short squeeze it was based on when it hit Netflix in January 2024. There, it quickly climbed to the top 10, sitting pretty in the number eight spot with an estimated 3.5 million views.


Dumb Money

Dumb Money

Director
Craig Gillespie

Release Date
October 6, 2023

Cast
America Ferrera , Shailene Woodley , Seth Rogen , Dane DeHaan

Runtime
104 minutes

Main Genre
Comedy

3 Crimson Peak Reached its Apex on Netflix

Mia Wasikowska as Edith Cushing in the film Crimson Peak exploring a manor and holding a candelabra

Budget:

$55 million

Worldwide Box Office:

$74.7 million

Released on Netflix (U.S.):

Spring 2021

Acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro has had numerous hits over the years, including winning the most significant award, Best Picture, for his 2017 film The Shape of Water. Honestly, that win couldn’t have come at a better time because just two years earlier, his gothic horror romanceCrimson Peak barely managed to make a return on its budget during its initial run in theaters. Not even a glowing review from the master of horror, Stephen King, motivated moviegoers to venture to their local theater to catch it.


Crimson Peak stars Mia Wasikowska as an author who is carving out a life for herself in a haunted mansion alongside her husband and sister-in-law (played by Tom Hiddleston and Jessica Chastain, respectively). Del Toro said everything would have turned out okay if he had made the film for slightly less money. As it was, Crimson Peak had to wait until the spring of 2021, when it landed on Netflix, to finally find the recognition it deserved, claiming one of the top spots on the streamer’s most-watched list. Tom Hiddleston, who turned into a Marvel mainstay during that intervening period, probably had a not-insignificant effect on Crimson Peaks’ rediscovery.


2 The Nice Guys Made Amends on Netflix

Ryan Gosling, Russell Crowe, and Angourie Rice stand outside on the street, smiling.

Budget:

$50 million

Worldwide Box Office:

$62.8 million

Released on Netflix (U.S.):

July 2023

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Few films of recent memory were as good as 2016’s The Nice Guys and still didn’t find an audience. The reasons why are confounding. After all, the pieces were there for a significant hit. Not only did the film star Russell Crowe and Ryan Gosling teaming up to track down a missing girl, but Shane Black, responsible for hits like the Lethal Weapon franchise and Iron Man 3, directed this comedy action film with charm and enthusiasm.

Shot on a budget of $50 million, The Nice Guys only collected $62 million in box office receipts, getting absolutely throttled by, of all films, Angry Birds. No wonder Ryan Gosling doesn’t think a sequel to The Nice Guys will happen, no matter how often audience members who’ve seen the film demand it. Instead, The Nice Guys will have to make peace with taking just one day to break into Netflix’s most-watched movie list upon being uploaded to the streaming service nearly a decade later.

The Nice Guys

The Nice Guys

Director
Shane Black

Release Date
May 20, 2016

Writers
Shane Black , Anthony Bagarozzi

Runtime
116 minutes


1 Annihilation Wasted No Time Subsuming Netflix

Budget:

$55 million

Worldwide Box Office:

$43.1 million

Released on Netflix (U.S.):

July 2023

With an all-star cast featuring Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, and Tessa Thompson venturing forth into a fantastical alien landscape located in the heart of America, Alex Garland’s Annihilation should have been one of the biggest hits of the year when it dropped in the spring of 2018. Somewhere along the way, the film missed its footing and stumbled across the finish line, collecting only $43 million against a reported budget of $55 million.


According to reports, everything for Annihilation was going great until a series of underwhelming test screenings gave Paramount cold feet and upended how it was released. Worried that Garland’s unique vision might not appeal to the broadest possible theatergoing audience, Paramount struck a deal with Netflix to stream Annihilation in international markets just 17 days after it was released in theaters. In doing so, Netflix agreed to cover much of the film’s budget. While Annihilation might have failed to succeed in theaters, the exact opposite was true on Netflix. Not only did the international audience love it, but when the film was finally released on the streaming platform in America in July 2023, it landed in the top 10 most-watched list like an invasive alien species.


Annihilation poster

Annihilation

Director
Alex Garland

Release Date
February 23, 2018

Runtime
115 minutes