A talented filmmaker can bring practically any scenario to life on screen—provided they have a big enough budget. James Cameron is keeping pretty tight-lipped about exactly how much his long-gestating Avatar sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, cost, but estimates put it somewhere between $250 and $400 million. When GQ asked the Oscar-winning filmmaker how expensive the movie was, he simply answered: "Very f***ing [expensive]."
The most expensive movies of all time cost more to produce than most films can ever hope to earn at the box office. Sometimes, those investments pay off. Other times, they lead to disappointment for the filmmakers and the studio (and, quite possibly, to more than one person losing their job.) Even when adjusted for inflation, most of the titles on this list of 30 of the most expensive movies ever made were released in the last two decades.
At the top of the roundup is Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Adjusted for inflation, the fourth Pirates film cost $456 million to make—a number that hasn't been surpassed since its release in 2011. The movie didn't out-earn any of the films in the original trilogy, but it did make its money back with an international box office gross exceeding $1 billion.
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The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise also claims the third most expensive movie ever made, with 2007's At World's End costing $392 million adjusted. The remaining slots in the top five are occupied by Marvel's Avengers movies, with Age of Ultron (2015) taking the second spot with $417 million, Endgame (2019) filling the fourth spot, and Infinity War (2018) coming in fifth. The only movies on this list made before 2000 were James Cameron's Titanic (1997) and the original Avatar (1999), Waterworld (1995), and Wild Wild West (1999) .
You can read the full list of 30 of the most expensive movies ever made below, with their (adjusted for inflation) budgets. To see which big-budget films had the most abysmal box office runs, check out the list of the biggest flops ever here.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) // $456 million
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) // $417 million
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) // $392 million
- Avengers: Endgame (2019) // $377 million
- Avengers: Infinity War (2018) // $351 million
- Avatar: The Way of the Water (2022) // $350 million
- Titanic (1997) // $338 million
- Spider-Man 3 (2007) // $337 million
- Justice League (2017) // $332 million
- Tangled (2010) // $323 million
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) // $316 million
- John Carter (2012) // $311 million
- Waterworld (1995) // $306 million
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) // $302 million
- Avatar (1999) // $299 million
- (TIE) Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016) // $297 million
- (TIE) Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) // $297 million
- Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) // $296 million
- Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) // $291 million
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) // $290 million
- (TIE) King Kong (2005) // $287 million
- (TIE) Spider-Man 2 (2004) // $287 million
- Furious 7 (2015) // $286 million
- The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008) // $283 million
- (TIE) X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) // $282 million
- (TIE) Beauty and the Beast (2007) // $282 million
- Spectre (2015) // $280 million
- Wild Wild West (1999) // $277 million
- (TIE) The Fate of the Furious (2017) // $276 million
- (TIE) The Lion King (2019) // $276 million
A version of this story ran in 2021; it has been updated for 2022.