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10 Real-Life Costs Of Action Movies

Robert Grimminck


Action movies are known for their over-the-top destruction, high-tech gadgetry, amazing vehicles, and some really expensive set pieces. Of course, these movies are all fictional, and they sometimes utilize fictional technology. But if they did happen in real life, what would the financial costs be? This question has driven some people to examine a few famous action films, and they’ve even calculated the estimated costs of different aspects of the films.

It is also important to note that some of the entries may contain mild spoilers.

10 Saving Matt Damon

Matt Damon

Photo credit: Nicolas Genin

What is it with Matt Damon and needing to be rescued? It seems in a lot of his movies that he’s either stranded or needs to escape a catastrophe. The fact that he needs to be saved so much inspired one Quora user to look up how much money would have been spent on rescuing Matt Damon’s many characters.

In Courage Under Fire, he needed a Gulf War I helicopter rescue ($300,000), and in Saving Private Ryan, he required a World War II search party ($100,000). Damon needed a Middle East private security return flight in Syriana ($500,000), a US army transport from Baghdad in The Green Zone ($500,000), and there’s also the space station security deployment and damages in Elysium ($100 million). And let’s not forget his three biggest expenses to date. There was the Mars mission in The Martian ($200 billion), the Earth evacuation spaceship in Titan AE ($200 billion), and that interstellar spacecraft in Interstellar ($500 billion).

That brings the grand total to $900 billion. Luckily, this is all fictional, but is Matt Damon really worth $900 billion? Just for some context, all of Damon’s movies combined have brought in $2.9 billion at the box office.


9 Spectre
2015

At some point in your life, you’ve probably thought about how great it would be to be a spy like James Bond. He has cool clothes, awesome gadgets, and slick cars. Tech Insider decided to take a look at how much it would cost to be James Bond in Spectre, and let’s just say if you’re a taxpayer in the UK, you better hope that there really isn’t a spy in MI6 like Bond.

First, let’s take a look at what Bond wears. In the film, he has two pair of sunglasses that are $895 combined. Bond also seems to have an affinity for Tom Ford clothing. The white tuxedo jacket he wears is $4,390, while his black bomber coat is $2,222. Besides Tom Ford clothing, he wears an N. Peal mock turtleneck that costs $305. Yes. You read that right. There is a mock turtleneck that costs over $300. For footwear, his shoes are from Crockett & Jones Norwich, and they are $597. And really, how often do you see Bond’s feet?

As for his gadgets, he uses a Sony RX100 IV Camera, valued at $948. His cell phone is a Sony Xperia Z5, and that costs $927. His watch, an Omega Seamaster 300 that only tells time, runs about $7,500. His handgun is a $719 Heckler & Koch VP9. And of course, Bond wouldn’t be Bond without a little bit of alcohol. The vodka used in his famous martinis is made using limited edition Belvedere Vodka, and that costs $41. And if he is drinking wine, it needs to be chilled, so he uses a Bollinger Crystal Cooler set worth $6,895. Bond’s most expensive item is the Aston Martin DB10, a car specifically made for him, and it is expected to go for $1.5 million at auction.

Throw in an additional Craig Blouson jacket ($1,390) and a snazzy pair of Tom Ford stirrup pants ($1,531) and this brings Bond’s total for Spectre to $1,528,360. While this may not seem like much for James Bond, it’s important to remember that this does not include any other cars, gadgets, or clothes he had accumulated in his 23 other movies.

8 The Harry Potter Series
2001-2011

Hogwarts

Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures via Wikia

Putting a Muggle price on something in the wizarding world of Harry Potter sounds like an impossible task. After all, having even one magical item or magical building would be priceless. That didn’t stop David Cross from trying to do the impossible (no, not that David Cross). Writing for the real estate website Movoto, Cross decided to figure out the theoretical real estate value for the wizarding school of Hogwarts. To calculate the cost, he used three determining factors for trying to establish a price: location, comparison to other similar real estate, and square footage.

In the books and the movies, it never says where Hogwarts is located, but there are clues throughout the series that indicate the school is situated in the United Kingdom. The Hogwarts Express leaves from London at 11:00 AM, travels 105 kilometers (65 mi) per hour, and arrives at Hogwarts at sunset. That means, logistically, the only place it could go is Scotland. With that in mind, the landscape and environment depicted in the books and movies resemble the area known as Galloway Hills. Looking at large and expensive houses in the area, Cross determined that the average price per square foot would be $493.

Next, Cross had to figure out how big Hogwarts is. Using scale models, he figured out that Hogwarts sits on a property that is approximately 28 acres. As for the building itself, he calculated the square footage based on the amount of students that attend the school every year, which is 280 pupils. If there are 20 students per class, and each student needs 5.6 square meters (50 ft2) to learn, then each classroom would be 93 square meters (1,000 ft2).

That means the school, which is seven stories with towers and an underground area, would have a total space of 38,000 square meters (414,000 ft2). However, this does not seem to include specialty rooms like the teachers’ offices, living quarters, a Quidditch pitch, or the Great Hall. But just for the land, main building, and towers, the real estate of Hogwarts is valued at around $204 million. But that is definitely worth the investment if it comes with the Room of Requirement.

8 Godzilla
1998

Disaster pornographer Roland Emmerich’s version of Godzilla is famous for being very underwhelming. But while there are problems with every aspect of the film, no one can deny that a lot of stuff was destroyed. YouTubers CinemaSins and VSauce3 actually tabulated the cost of destruction by Godzilla, plus damage incurred by people trying to stop the giant lizard. Some of the more expensive items that were destroyed include the MetLife Building ($565 million), the Chrysler Building ($190 million), the USS Anchorage ($1.1 billion), the Brooklyn Bridge ($250 million), and Madison Square Garden ($555 million). That’s not mentioning all the subway damage ($85 million).

The grand total of all the destruction depicted onscreen is $3.3 billion, and if that is adjusted for inflation, it would be over $4.9 billion. Of course, if you’ve seen the 2014 reboot of Godzilla, you’ll know that the cost of the damage in the 1998 version is a pittance compared to the newer film.

6 The Iron Man Trilogy
2008–2013

Iron Man

Photo credit: Marvel via Variety

When it comes down to it, Tony Stark’s two real superpowers are his mind and his money. After all, if he was smart but didn’t have the money, his suits probably wouldn’t be nearly as effective. The problem Stark may face at some point is that being Iron Man is very expensive.

MoneySupermarket.com, a price comparison website, decided to calculate the amount of cash Stark would have spent by the end of Iron Man’s last standalone movie, Iron Man 3. One major cost is the 42 different suits of armor he constructed. Mark 1–7, which were featured in the first two movies, cost $1.5 billion combined. The suits he built by the end of Iron Man 3 are Mark 8–42, and they are worth about $7 billion.

Another important tool that Stark utilizes is Jarvis, the artificial intelligence system he developed. To create a similar system, it would cost $10 million. Besides Iron Man expenses, Stark lives in a swank Cliffside Malibu home valued at $25 million. Then you add in all his cars—worth around $1.7 million—and by the end of the trilogy, Stark spent over $10,086,485,000. Perhaps Stark should consider renting his Mark suits to kids’ birthday parties to start recouping those costs.

5 Jurassic Park
1993

Who wouldn’t want to visit a real-life Jurassic Park? Granted, the park is a death trap, but still, there would be real, live dinosaurs there! The question then is how much would it cost to construct and maintain Jurassic Park? Fandango Movieclips took a look at the 1993 classic to figure out that very question, and as you probably guessed, it’s a lot of money.

Jurassic Park is actually made up of two islands that are off the coast of Costa Rica. One island was used to house the park, and the other one was used to raise the dinosaurs. For the land alone, the cost is $10 billion. Then to staff the park with genetic engineers, lawyers, animal caretakers, paleontologists, and computer engineers, it will cost about $7.9 million.

For the price of cloning the dinosaurs, they compared it to the cost that a company called Bio Arts charges to clone dogs. That was $150,000. In the park, there are 50 different types of dinosaurs. So if you clone one of each, and throw in additional charges like surrogates, stem cell research, and gene modification, it brings the cost of cloning dinosaurs to $8.5 million (a bargain if you really think about it). But in order to get the DNA, you need to mine for mosquitoes in amber . . . which would cost $9 million.

For construction of the park, Fandango compared it to other world-class theme parks. The average cost of building one of those is about $1.5 billion. Then there are ongoing operational costs of running a theme park. For example, Disney spends $11.7 billion every year on park expenses. But Jurassic Park has a very unique add-on, which are live dinosaurs that need to be taken care of. For that estimated cost, Fandango thought that it would be comparable to the world’s largest zoo, the San Diego Zoo. They have 660 species and over 3,700 animals, and their expenses for the year are about $207 million.

If you combine all of the expenses, it means that to open Jurassic Park it would cost $23.4 billion, and then there would be an annual cost of $11.9 billion to run and maintain the park.

4 The Avengers
2012

Avengers

Photo credit: Marvel via Wikia

At the conclusion of Joss Whedon’s The Avengers, Loki successfully uses the Tesseract to open up a wormhole above Stark Tower in Manhattan. This leads to the Avengers assembling to fend off the Chitauri invasion. As you might assume, the end battle is quite destructive, and it leaves a lot of Manhattan in ruins.

Curious at how much damage was actually caused by the battle, The Hollywood Reporter asked one of the leading disaster-cost prediction and assessment firms, Kinetic Analysis Corp. (KAC), to estimate the cost of the damage. According to KAC, the physical damage would cost $60–70 billion, and economic repercussions and cleanup costs would be $90 billion. When accounting for the loss of human life, the grand total of the destruction would be about $160 billion. Just for some perspective, the September 11 attacks cost $83 billion, while Hurricane Katrina cost $90 billion. If you combine those two disasters, then it is only $13 billion more than the fictional attack on New York.

3 Star Trek
2009

enterprise

Photo credit: Paramount Pictures via De FilmBlog

How much would it cost to build your own USS Enterprise? Well, in order to do that, you would need to decide which Enterprise to calculate. So Eric Limer at Gizmodo decided to see how much it would cost to build the one in the Star Trek reboot directed by J.J. Abrams.

According to sources, the size of the spaceship is 725 meters (2,379 ft) long, 191 meters (625 ft) in height, and the saucer diameter is 305 meters (1,000 ft). That means for raw material, like steel, you’re going to shell out $12.4 billion. Then those raw materials need to be assembled.

But in order to construct something like the USS Enterprise, it would need to be built in parts and assembled in space, and that is where the real expense comes in. For example, let’s look at SpaceX’s real-life spaceship, the Falcon Heavy. This craft can ship one pound of stuff into space for $1,000. The raw material needed for the USS Enterprise would be 228,000 tons. That means it would cost $456 billion to just get the material into orbit for construction, and that doesn’t even include labor.

Of course, the USS Enterprise just wouldn’t be the same without its high-tech perks. For replicators, 3-D printers could be used, specifically MakerBot’s Replicator 2. These cost $2,000 each. But more than one would be needed for a ship that size. Limer suggests the ship would have 50, and around 10 of them would be large printers for manufacturing needs. Of course, it would need material to print. So if you factor in the cost of the printers, the printing materials, and shipping charges, the replicators would cost over $300,000. As for a holodeck, if you were to make one using curved televisions, high-powered computers, and motion-tracking cameras, it would run $6.5 million for one, counting shipping.

Once you have a giant spaceship pimped out with replicators and a holodeck, you’re going to need some weapons to protect yourself. In the series, they use photon torpedoes, but those don’t exist in real life so it’s hard to calculate their cost. But for argument’s sake, Limer suggests using advanced UGM-133 Trident II missiles that are capable of carrying nuclear warheads. One missile costs $30.9 million to make, and it weighs approximately 59,000 kilograms (129,000 lb). It is unclear how many torpedoes are on board, but in the original series, the USS Enterprise houses 38. So Limer uses the same amount just to make it easier. This means the torpedoes would cost approximately $6 billion to manufacture and ship.

Besides the torpedoes, the Enterprise also has six phaser beams, and the Navy has developed a laser gun that would be a suitable replacement. The estimated cost of six weapons shipped into space is a mere $171.6 million. Finally, personnel and supplies would cost around around $4.3 billion.

For all of that—which doesn’t even include the warp drives, the transporter, or electronics—the total is $478,947,711,160. That’s more than the GDP of Norway.

2 Man Of Steel
2013

Photo credit: Warner Bros. Pictures via Collider

In Man of Steel, after General Zod’s attempts at terraforming the Earth fail because of Superman, Zod vows to kill every last human. From there, the most destructive battle in superhero movie history (so far) unfolds. According to Watson Technical Consulting, a firm that estimates possible damage caused by disasters, the fight between Superman and Zod would cause $750 billion in physical damage. Even worse, it would have killed 129,000 people, with 250,000 missing (presumably dead) and another million injured.

Altogether, the damage, cleanup, loss of life, and injuries stemming from the fight would cost $2 trillion. In terms of destruction, it would be like detonating a 20-kiloton atom bomb. That’s about the size of the “Fat Man” bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan, on August 9, 1945. The difference would be that the battle between Superman and Zod wouldn’t leave any radiation behind.

1 Star Wars
1977

Death Star

Photo credit: Lucasfilm via Starwars.com

One of the most impressive spacecraft to ever appear in any film is the Death Star from Star Wars. If someone were to build one, how much would it set them back? Economic students at Lehigh University decided to answer that question to see if even building the exterior was possible. The first Death Star is described as 140 kilometers (460,000 ft) in diameter, and the students believe it’s made out of steel. Using a modern warship as a frame of reference, they believe that the Death Star would need about 1.08 quadrillion tons of steel. While there is enough iron in the Earth to build two million Death Stars, the problem is at the current rate of steel production, it would take over 830,000 years to convert enough iron to steel.

Finally, the cost of all that steel would be $852 quadrillion, which is 13,000 times the GDP of Earth in 2013. And that is just the exterior! That doesn’t include anything inside the Death Star, like engines, life systems, electronics, or anything else. So if you want your own Death Star, you might want start pinching those pennies and stockpiling steel.

Robert Grimminck is a Canadian freelance writer. You can friend him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter or Pinterest, or visit his website.