- Christopher Nolan’s upcoming film “Tenet” reportedly cost more than $US200 million to make.
- Though costly, it’s not one of the 30 most expensive movies ever made.
- The “Avengers” movies, new “Star Wars” trilogy, and “Justice League” are among the priciest films to produce.
- The most expensive movie made is 2011’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” which cost a reported $US376.5 million after a tax credit.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
They’re also two of the most expensive movies ever made.
Insider rounded up the production budgets of the priciest movies produced. A film’s production budget includes the cost to construct and operate sets, create and design special effects, props, and costumes. It also contains the salary of cast, technical crew, stunt doubles, producers, and more along with food, lodging, and travel.
We cross-checked Wikipedia’s extensive unofficial list of pricey movie budgets against numbers from IMDbPro, annual studies from FilmLA, and reported budgets from trade sites, including Deadline, The Hollywood Reporter, and Variety in addition to The New York Times.
Often the highest-grossing movies are the ones that cost the most money. More than half of the 30 movies on this list are from Disney. Superhero movies, the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise, and “Star Wars” films comprise some of the costliest movies to produce.
This story focuses on reported estimates for movie budgets. It does not adjust for inflation, which would not present an accurate reflection of how much a movie may actually cost now to make. We’ve also included estimated marketing budgets where available.
30. “The Avengers” (2012) — $US220 million
At the time, the film broke several box-office records, including the highest-grossing opening weekend with $US207.4 million. The film held that record until 2015’s “Jurassic World.”
[TIE] 25. “Man of Steel” (2013) — $US225 million
It wasn’t a runaway box-office performance, but it delivered an underappreciated narrative about a young alien coming to grips with new, scary powers and accepting that he no longer had to hide them out of fear.
[TIE] 25. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” (2006) — $US225 million
Worldwide gross:$US1.1 billionMarketing budget: n/a
In 2006, producer Jerry Bruckheimer told the New York Times the productions of “Dead Man’s Chest” and “At World’s End” cost $US475 million combined. The two filmed back-to-back and were released less than a year apart. Most reports peg “Dead Man’s Chest” at around $US225 million.
Jack Davenport, who played James Norrington in the film, told the Hollywood Reporter the “snack” budget alone was $US2 million for both sequels.
“I remember saying to him one day ‘What is your budget for all this?’ He looked me square in the eye and said ‘essentially unlimited,'” said Davenport. “I was like ‘What does that mean?’ He was like ‘I don’t know, $US2 million.'”
[TIE] 25. “The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian” (2008) — $US225 million
The Los Angeles Times reported that, according to Disney, the film cost “roughly” $US225 million. About $US100 million went towards the movie’s special effects.
Based on the C.S. Lewis stories, “The Chronicles of Narnia” kicked off, what should have been, a franchise. After the second film didn’t perform as well at the box office and a feud outlined by the LA Times between Disney and the film’s co-financier and coproducer Walden Media, “Narnia” sputtered out with the third film, 2010’s “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.”
[TIE] 25. “Men in Black 3” (2012) — $US225 million+
Worldwide gross:$US624 millionMarketing budget: n/a
Low estimates for the film placed the budget at north of $US215 million, but in 2o12, Deadline estimated the film’s budget to be between $US225 million and $US300 million. The New York Times reported it cost close to $US250 million to make. Much of that was because of a tumultuous shooting schedule where, according to Newsweek, the film started production without a finished script.
[TIE] 25. “The Lone Ranger” (2013) — $US225 million+
According to a 2013 Variety article, Disney reps said the film cost “around $US225 million,” but sources placed the actual budget as much more. THR reported the film, starring Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer, cost around $US250 million to produce.
[TIE] 23. “The Dark Knight Rises” (2012) — $US230 million
Worldwide gross:$US1.1 billionMarketing budget: n/a
The film’s original budget was estimated at around $US250 million, but the Los Angeles Times reported tax credits brought the budget down to $US230 million. The Warner Bros. sequel closed out the Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy.
[TIE] 23. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales” (2017) — $US230 million
The most recent “Pirates” movie cost less than the third and fourth films in the franchise, according to an estimated budget from Variety.
The film was the lowest-grossing movie domestically in the franchise. Worldwide, the film only grossed higher than the first “Pirates” movie, “The Curse of the Black Pearl.“
22. “Avatar” (2009) — $US237 million
A Fox spokesperson told The Wrap in 2009 the production budget for James Cameron’s blockbuster cost $US237 million. At the time, the film passed Cameron’s previous box-office record holder, “Titanic,” to become the highest-grossing movie worldwide.
It held that record until “Avengers: Endgame” passed it in 2019.
21. “Transformers: The Last Knight” (2017) — $US239 million
According to a 2017 film study from FilmLA Research, the sequel cost $US260 million before a $US21 million tax incentive from the state of Michigan.
Previously, the film had a reported budget of around $US217 million.
[TIE] 15. “The Fate of the Furious” (2017) — $US250 million
The film includes a scene in New York City where numerous cars crash from a parking garage onto street level. The movie really dropped cars from a six-story garage. You can see more of how the film spent its budget here.
[TIE] 15. “Spectre” (2015) — $US250 million
A lot of reported estimates for the film suggest it cost anywhere from $US245 million to $US300 million to produce. The Hollywood Reporter and a 2015 film study from FilmLA place the budget at $US250 million.
Regardless, “Spectre,” which shot in Mexico, Austria, Morocco, Italy, and the United Kingdom, is the most expensive Bond movie made.
[TIE] 15. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” (2009) — $US250 million
The sixth movie in the franchise, “The Half-Blood Prince” cost higher than any of the “Potter” films that came before or after it. Still, the larger budget didn’t help the movie earn more than the first film, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone,” which grossed over $US978 million.
[TIE] 15. “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) — $US250 million
Worldwide gross:$US1.2 billionMarketing budget: n/a
The third “Captain America” movie’s budget grew with a large ensemble cast featuring most of the Avengers and the introduction of a new Spider-Man. The film felt more like an “Avengers” movie than another “Captain America” movie.
[TIE] 15. “The Lion King” (2019) — $US250 million+
[TIE] 15. “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015) — $US250 million+
A 2018 FilmLA Research study on movies from 2015 reported the budget at $US365 million after a tax incentive of $US78.5 million. That pricetag would place it higher than “Infinity War” and “Endgame.”
Though “Age of Ultron” had less superheroes than either movie, its main villain was CG and it was filmed in more locations. “AoU” was filmed in England, Italy, South Korea, Bangladesh, South Africa, and New York City. “IW” and “Endgame” were filmed back-to-back with filming in Atlanta, England, New York, and Scotland.
A representative for Disney didn’t respond to Insider’s request for comment about the “AoU” budget.
14. “Beauty and the Beast” (2017) — ~$US255 million
13. “Spider-Man 3” (2007) — $US258 million
The official budget for the movie was reported for Variety. At the time, then-chair of marketing and distribution at Sony Pictures Jeff Blake said the studio was spending less to promote the sequel than the second film.
“Our visual effects budget was probably 30% higher and I think that’s reflected in the number of action sequences, the scale of the sequences and the complexity of course of Sandman,” producer Laura Ziskin told Rotten Tomatoes in 2007 of why the budget was higher than the first two Spidey films starring Tobey Maguire.
“Then the talent obviously made more money in each successive movie which they well deserved. So that’s where the increase in the budget came,” Ziskin added.
12. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015) — $US259 million
11. “Tangled” (2010) — $US260 million
Disney’s 2010 animated movie is the most expensive 3D animated movie ever made. Why?
The high cost for “Tangled” was due in part to the complex blend of traditional hand-drawn animation from older films (“Beauty and the Beast,” “The Lion King”) with CG to give the film the distinct feeling of one of the classics in the 21st century. And then there was Rapunzel’s hair.
During an interview with animator Glen Keane, who worked on Rapunzel, he told Daps Magic they started creating the software to animate Rapunzel’s hair in 2005. Codirector Nathan Greno told Sioux City Journal an entire team was in charge of animating the character’s hair.
“It’s about 1,000 tubes or 100,000 actual hairs,” said Greno. “The artists were able to get a general movement from those tubes.”
10. “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” (2017) — $US262 million
Forbes estimated the film’s budget at closer to $US250 million. A 2016 study from FilmLA puts the original budget of the film at $US317 million before over $US54 million in tax incentives from the UK.
9. “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice” (2016) — ~$US263 million
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the budget for “Batman v Superman” was higher than $US250 million before tax incentives. A 2016 study by FilmLA puts the budget at $US263 million after $US37 million in incentives are accounted for.
8. “John Carter” (2012) — $US263.7 million
According to Forbes in 2014, the movie cost over $US306 million to make before British tax incentives paid Disney $US42.9 million for the cost of the film. The movie, starring Taylor Kitsch, was supposed to launch a new franchise for Disney.
Instead, “John Carter” became one of the Mouse House’s biggest flops with Disney taking a $US200 million write-down for the film.
[TIE] 6. “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” (2019) — $US275 million
[TIE] 6. “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (2018) — $US275 million
After original directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired over creative differences, Ron Howard reshot a good portion of the film. According to Variety, Howard’s contributions account for about 70% of the final film.
[TIE] 4. “Justice League” (2017) — ~$US300 million
In 2017, the Wall Street Journal reported the budget for the film grew to about $US300 million. Joss Whedon had stepped in to finish the film after director Zack Snyder stepped down following the death of his daughter. The film had already been rewritten to have a lighter tone. With Synder gone, “Justice League” underwent reshoots and a mandate that the film be under two hours.
Fans will finally get to see the version of the film Snyder intended to make. His version of the film will debut on HBO Max in 2021 with a completely new villain.
[TIE] 4. “Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End” (2007) — $US300 million
Worldwide gross:$US961 millionMarketing budget: n/a
At the time, The Wall Street Journal reported “At World’s End” was one of the first $US300 million+ movies to be made.
The film debuted the summer after the previous “Pirates” film, “Dead Man’s Chest,” was the highest-grossing movie in the world with over $US1 billion at the box office. The next highest-grossing film was “The Da Vinci Code” ($US760 million worldwide). “At World’s End” also became the highest-grossing film of 2007, despite earning a bit less than “Dead Man’s Chest” in theatres.
3. “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018) — $US316 million+
Most reports put the cost of the 2018 film between $US300 and $US400 million.
In April 2018, The Wall Street Journal reported the film cost around $US300 million to make. The following month, Deadline reported the budget at an estimated $US316 million before adjusting the reported budget to $US325 million in April 2019.
Both “Infinity War” and “Endgame” filmed back-to-back with some scenes for the latter being filmed during the 2018 movie. The film not only became the highest-grossing movie of 2018, but is also the fifth highest-grossing film of all time.
2. “Avengers: Endgame” (2019) — $US350 million+
The New York Times reported the “Infinity War” sequel budget to cost “roughly” $US350 million. In April 2020, Deadline reported the budget a bit higher at $US356 million. The Marvel Cinematic Universe’s 22nd film features more than 30 major characters in the movie’s final battle.
The film surpassed “Avatar” to become the highest-grossing movie in the world.
1. “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides” (2011) — $US376.5 million
In 2014, Forbes reported British financial statements showed the film cost $US410.6 million before a tax credit worth at least $US34.1 million. According to Forbes, Johnny Depp made $US55 million for the sequel.
Depp told Vanity Fair (via THR) in 2011 he was overpaid for the “Pirates” franchise.
“If they’re going to pay me the stupid money right now, I’m going to take it,” Depp said. “I have to. I mean, it’s not for me. Do you know what I mean? At this point, it’s for my kids.
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