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Top 10 Adapted Films That Flopped Badly

by Oliver Taylor
fact checked by Jamie Frater

An adapted film is one from the story line of a successful novel, comic, play, TV show, or even another movie. However, as we will soon find out, the success of the source material does not necessarily equate to the success of the adapted film. Also, the initial flop of an adaptation does not mean it cannot become a success in the future. Some adapted movies were also commercial successes but still flopped in the sense that they were heavily criticized and hated by their fans. If nothing else, most of them never get a sequel.

Featured image credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

10 Catwoman

Catwoman (2004) Official Trailer – Halle Berry, Sharon Stone Movie HD

Catwoman is a catlike female burglar who alternates between being heroic and villainous in DC Comics. She appeared in the 1992 film Batman Returns but got her own movie in 2004. It was a total flop and has been said to be the “worst superhero film ever made.”

Everything is wrong with the film. First, series of rewrites by 28 different scriptwriters left the movie’s Catwoman bearing no resemblance to the comics’ Catwoman. In fact, they are two different people. In the comics, Catwoman is a burglar named Selina Kyle, but in the film, she is a graphic designer called Patience Phillip.

Phillip was killed after discovering that the company she worked for was trying to release a dangerous and addictive antiaging cream. She is brought back to life by the breath of a cat belonging to an Egyptian goddess, making her an incarnation of many of the Catwomen the goddess had created. Lest we forget, the breath also caused Phillip to behave like a cat. So, our hero is left eating cat food and fleeing from the rain.

The movie raked in less than its $100 million budget in the box office.[1] Worse, it won the awards for Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay at The Golden Raspberry Awards, a parody award given to the worst of the worst films. Halle Berry herself won an award for the Worst Actress. While receiving the award, she delivered a speech thanking Warner Bros. for casting her in “this piece-of-sh—, God-awful film.”

9 Battlefield Earth

Battlefield Earth (2000) Official Trailer #1 – John Travolta Movie HD

Battlefield Earth is a futuristic film taking place in the year 3000, when an alien race has conquered Earth and forces humans to mine gold for them. It is based on the similarly named novel written by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology. The movie became the butt of all jokes after its release. Famous film critic Roger Ebert compared it to “taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time.”

Two problems plagued the movie before and during production. First was the fact that it was written by the founder of Scientology. The other was its $100 million budget, which was deemed too expensive by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros., which all refused to fund the film. Franchise Pictures and Intertainment AG finally agreed to jointly produce it for $55 million with the agreement that Intertainment would provide 47 percent of that amount. Franchise Pictures later fraudulently increased the cost of production to $80 million.

Even at that, the movie wasn’t provided with enough funds. Cinematographer Giles Nuttgens said the film had the smallest lighting budget he had ever seen. John Travolta even added $5 million of his personal money into the production. Yet, it remained a disaster, a great disaster that bankrupted Trendmaster, a company that made several toys for the film and expected to rake in over $50 million.

J.D. Shapiro, who wrote the script, later apologized to everyone who watched the movie, saying it was the “suckiest” of all “sucky” films.[2] Apparently, he got involved in the film while visiting the Los Angeles branch of the Church of Scientology in search of women to sleep with. While he claimed that his script was very different from the final movie, he agreed he never got laid.

8 Myra Breckinridge

MYRA BRECKINRIDGE (1970) Theatrical Trailer – Mae West, John Huston, Raquel Welch

Myra Breckinridge is a 1970 movie based on an eponymous novel written by Gore Vidal. It is about a transgender woman who wants to become a famous actress. It was a total flop and likened to a “sexual freak show” rather than an actual film. How else do we explain the movie depicting a rape scene in which the transgender actress rapes a male colleague? Yet, this was just one of the several adult scenes that earned it an X rating, which is usually reserved for pornographic films.

Worse, it contained footage from several earlier movies, which led to the casts of these films threatening legal charges. It was no surprise that the movie, which was supposed to be funny and sexy, flopped after its release. The flop was so bad that it almost ruined 20th Century Fox and the careers of the actors involved.[3]

7 The Wizard Of Oz

The Wizard of Oz – Trailer

The Wizard of Oz is based on L. Frank Baum’s novel titled The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The film remains a classic today, but the same cannot be said of it when it was first released in 1939, the same year the Great Depression ended and World War II started. It was a flop, only managing to rake in $200,000 more than its $2.8 million budget.

The Wizard of Oz was plagued with series of problems before and during production. Five directors sat over it, although only the fourth, Victor Fleming, was credited. However, it was the third, George Cukor, who set its direction. More than 12 scriptwriters were involved with its scripts until it almost became different from the novel. At one point, magic was removed from the film, and the Tin Man, the Lion, and the Scarecrow were turned into normal humans donned in costumes. Later on, the script was edited so that Dorothy’s adventure was revealed to be a dream.

Then there were accidents. Buddy Ebsen, who originally starred as the Tin Man, was almost killed when the aluminum in his costume entered his lungs. Margaret Hamilton, who starred as the Wicked Witch, suffered two fire accidents, and her stunt double, Betty Danko, suffered one. Even the dog, Toto, was not spared. Its jaw was broken when a cast member stepped on it. The film only became a commercial success 20 years later, when CBS aired it in 1959.[4]

6 Superman IV: The Quest For Peace

Superman IV: The Quest for Peace – Trailer

The Superman films and cartoon series are based on DC Comics Superman. The comic got its first movie adaptation in 1978, its second in 1980, and its third in 1983. All three, especially the first two, are generally agreed to be good films. However, the fourth, Superman IV: The Quest for Peace, is widely regarded as terrible. Not only has it been listed as the worst of all Superman films, but it has been called the “worst sequel ever made.” The Washington Post described it as being “more sluggish than a funeral barge.”

The movie’s poor ratings aren’t surprising. It had a very small budget of $17 million. For comparison, the first film had a budget of $55 million. The wide disparity in the budget is due to the fact that Alexander and Ilya Salkind, who made the first three movies, had sold the rights to Cannon Films, which was famous for making cheap flicks. Superman IV was shot in the United Kingdom, even though the scenes were supposed to depict New York. The directors handled this by installing red-painted fire hydrants and hot dog sellers in every scene they could and had a woman carrying a bag that says “I Love NY.”

The story line itself was too unrealistic, even for people who believe a man can fly. It revolves around Nuclear Man, a Superman clone created by Lex Luthor. Superman and Nuclear Man slug it out on Earth, where Nuclear Man destroys landmarks, including the Great Wall of China, which Superman quickly repairs. Both take their fight to the Moon. From there, Nuclear Man flies back to Earth to kidnap Lacy, the new head of the Daily Planet, and takes her into space.

Lacy doesn’t freeze to death or even shiver, even though she has no superhuman powers and is wearing a normal office suit with a knee-reaching skirt. She also somehow manages to breathe without breathing equipment and doesn’t burn up during reentry when Superman rescues her and flies her back to Earth.[5]

5 Batman & Robin

Batman & Robin (1997) Official Trailer #1 – George Clooney Movie HD

The 1997 Batman film Batman & Robin is the fourth in its series. It stars Batman, Robin, and Batgirl trying to defend the word against the trio of Mr. Freeze, Poison Ivy, and Bane. The movie is so hated that it almost killed the Batman franchise and inspired a reboot.[6] The primary reason for this is the fact that it features unrealistic depictions of the heroes, villains, and Gotham City. For instance, Batman revealed he owns a Batman-themed credit card while gambling to win a night with sexy villain Ivy.

Another reason was the nipples on Batman’s and Robin’s costumes. Apparently, no one could understand why both had protruding rubber nipples on their suits, which has been rated as being too sexy for Batman standards. Director Joel Schumacher was heavily criticized for this. While he and several cast members have apologized for their roles in the film, Schumacher believes his gravestone epitaph will contain references to him being the man who put nipples on Batman’s costume.

4 Raise The Titanic

RAISE THE TITANIC! (Theatrical Trailer)

Raise the Titanic is a 1980 film about a fictional attempt to raise the Titanic from the bottom of the ocean. It is based on a novel with the same name written by Clive Cussler. The film’s budget was $30 million, and it made only $7 million. Lord Grade, who headed ITC Entertainment, which produced the film, later stated, “It would have been cheaper to lower the Atlantic.” We agree with him.

Cussler almost cried after watching Steven Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark a year later because it was exactly what he wanted his novel adaptation to look like. He swore to never allow any film adaptation of his novels unless he was allowed to participate in choosing its cast and script.[7]

3 Howard The Duck

Howard the Duck Official Trailer #2 – Tim Robbins Movie (1986) HD

Howard the Duck is about a humanlike alien duck called Howard, who is famous for his rude and sexist ways. It is based on a Marvel Comics series of the same name. It was the first Marvel comic to be made into a film, and it was a total flop.

Production for Howard the Duck was rushed to meet with its 1986 summer deadline, and the result was a disappointment that was too different from the comic. First, Howard’s human girlfriend, Beverly, who was a nude model in the comic, had been turned into a rock musician. Then, Howard’s lips rarely moved when he talked. The few times they did, they didn’t sync with the dialogue. This was because character was a puppet controlled by a puppeteer. Worse, the voicing was only done after the film had been completed.

The film only managed to rake in $16 million of its $37 million budget. It threw its director, George Lucas, who also created Indiana Jones and Star Wars, into debt and left him with no option other than to sell some of his assets. One of these assets was a new computer animation studio, which he sold to Steve Jobs. Jobs renamed this new acquisition Pixar.[8]

2 The Garbage Pail Kids Movie

The Garbage Pail Kids Movie Official Trailer #1 – Phil Fondacaro Movie (1987) HD

The Garbage Pail Kids Movie is based on the characters from a set of trading cards and stickers initially released in 1985. The trading card characters looked similar to the Cabbage Patch Kids dolls, which were the Tickle Me Elmo of the 1980s. Garbage Pail Kids cards and stickers were popular among young boys, who preferred them to the girly Cabbage Patch Kids dolls.

However, adults hated the cards and stickers. Parents found them disgusting, and teachers banned them from classrooms. The attempts to ban the cards made them more popular and even inspired the makers to create a film based on them. The movie featured the characters as strange-looking doll-like children. It was a commercial flop that only managed to make $1.5 million of its $30 million budget. Even a 13-episode series that was to be aired on CBS was removed from the schedule and only released on DVD in 2006.[9]

1 The Last Airbender

THE LAST AIRBENDER (2010) | Movie Trailers | #movies #movietrailers

The Last Airbender is a live-action film adaptation of Nickelodeon’s animated series, Avatar: The Last Airbender. The movie was a flop thanks to its terrible cast and script. The original animated series features a lot of action scenes, which probably explains why the film’s lead wasn’t an actor but a martial artist chosen for his prowess in the martial arts. The dialogue itself was terrible. The movie was too different and devoid of the humor and action found in the original animated series. And then there were the serious accusations of racism.

M. Night Shyamalan, the Indian-American director, chose an all-white cast for the film’s heroes, even though the animated series featured them as Asian and Inuit. Worse, he used Indian actors for the Fire Nation, the major villains in the film.[10] People called for a boycott of the adaptation while it was still in production, and some even formed a movement called Racebending, with the primary aim of boycotting the movie. Shyamalan himself did not help matters. He defended himself at every opportunity and made controversial statements like stating that he can’t be a racist since he’s not white. He also added that the film was made for nine-year-olds and not adults.

Oliver Taylor is a freelance writer and bathroom musician. You can reach him at [email protected].


For more terrible movies, check out Top 10 Films So Bad They Are Hilarious and 10 Best of the Worst Films.

fact checked by Jamie Frater