Biggest Movie Bombs of the 70s

Hundreds of movies are released every year, among which some are remembered and praised for several years while others are forgotten sooner than ever. While some movies break records in the box office, others only manage to recover the amount invested in them. We hear all about the movies that break records and run in cinemas for longer times than expected. 

Let us talk about the movies of the 1970s that actually costed their makers more than they had expected and never really clicked with the audience:

1. Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)

USS Yorktown during the filming of Tora! Tora! Tora!, 1968.
USS Yorktown during the filming of Tora! Tora! Tora!, 1968.

The film Tora! Tora! Tora, depicting the attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese, was directed by Richard Fleischer, Toshio Masuda and Kinji Fukasaku. This movie flopped big-time in North America. However, it surprised with its performance in Japan. The film was gravely criticized for being boring and utterly disappointing in every aspect. 

2. Myra Breckinridge (1970)

Theatrical advertisement from 1970
Theatrical advertisement from 1970

This movie heavily backlashed as promoting voyeuristic tendencies and being unnecessarily vulgar. Directed by Michael Sarne, Myra Breckinridge, attempted to portray a story of a male who changed his gender and adopted the female name, Myra. Against its budget of almost $6 million, the movie only managed to recover half of it. It was a huge disappointment for the audiences. 

Although it was speculated that the movie would be popular among the young population, it was heavily criticized for being borderline X-rated due to its baseless vulgarity.  

3. The Strawberry Statement (1970)

Based on the fiction book of James Simon Kunen regarding the protests erupting in the Columbia University in 1969, The Strawberry Statement was a movie about the student revolts in the university. This movie was considered one of the biggest movie bombs as the critics termed it as hugely disappointing with no substance. 

Overall, the storyline and cinematography of the movie lacked any interesting details or twists and turns. Moreover, the contrast of a happy-go-lucky life of a student turning into a wildly angry one was most attacked. Critics termed it as the last thing people of America needed amidst all the forces tearing it down. 

Its total budget was $1.5 million only.

4. Lost Horizon (1973)

Originally filmed with a budget of $12 million, the Lost Horizon was an attempt to remake Frank Capra’s non-musical movie, Lost Horizon (1937). The remake of the 1937 movie, however, proved to be a big flop as it was termed as one of the biggest movie bombs ever. The movie lacked drama and intensity. 

People termed watching this movie as embarrassing and criticized the audacity of the filmmakers for putting up such an uneventful movie.  

5. Daisy Miller (1974)

This movie was such a big flop on the box office that the director of the film, Bogdanovich, himself openly regretted making it. This movie was based on the novel bearing the same name. The movie was mostly criticized for its starring. The actors were blamed for not performing up to the mark and rendering the film utterly dull.  

The movie’s total budget was $2.2 million. 

6. At Long Last Love (1975)

Merely making a total gross of $1.5 million against the approx. $6 million budget, this movie was a great disappointment to the audience. At Long Last Love, released in 1975, was initially meant to recreate the old times of dance musicals (with Astaire and Rogers). The movie comprised of live songs instead of pre-recorded ones in an attempt to relive and revive the feel of the 1930s. 

With upbeat songs that were devoid of any synchronization, the movie flopped badly and was regarded as one of the worst films ever made. Apart from the hard financial losses and severe badmouthing, the movie contained beautiful cinematography. Nevertheless, the movie never saw any glory.  

7. Nickelodeon (1976)

Under the direction of Bogdanovich, the director of Daisy Miller, Nickelodeon was the third consecutive flop movie of Bogdanovich. The movie could not make much profit and was severely lashed for its dull and dead storyline. The actors of this movie were also criticized for their unprofessional acting.

The total budget for this film was $8 million.

8. Sorcerer (1977)

A remake of an old French novel, the Sorcerer performed poorly on the box office mainly because of poor to no promotion at all. The movie was rumored to be way over its initial budgeting. With such rumors, the expectations of the audience were high. However, they were served with a confusing plot lacking a prologue (rumored to be deleted by the European distributor without the knowledge of the director), which disappointed the viewers. 

It was the year when Star Wars hit the cinema, and compared to that, this movie went badly down the drain and was quickly forgotten. The movie could not dream of reaching up to its budget of $22 million with a domestic gross of only $6 million.    

9. The Message (1976)

Mainly due to its plot being heavily based on portraying a respectable figure in Islamic history, The Message suffered great losses throughout its making and also after its release. The movie was based on the heroic life of Mohammed’s (the last prophet of the Muslims) uncle, named Hamza. During its making, the movie erupted several bloody riots as it was claimed to challenge and hurt the core principles of Islam – which forbid portrayal of any figure or sketch of any of the Islamic prophets or anything remotely related to them. 

The first part of the movie was shot in Mecca. However, having faced severe backlash, the initial funding of the movie was also drawn, and it had to move its shooting to another country – which made the budget fly through the roof. However, the budget was never recovered as the movie was a big flop along with being one of the most controversial movies of all times. 

10. Sextette (1978)

West gives a speech after the Cinerama Dome opening, with Paul Novak, Alice Cooper, Harry E. Weiss
West gives a speech after the Cinerama Dome opening, with Paul Novak, Alice Cooper, Harry E. Weiss

It is reported that this movie gave a hard time even before its release. No one was willing to distribute the movie which rendered the filmmakers helpless, and they eventually released it themselves. The movie only struggled to make $50,000 against its budget, which was estimated to be $4 to $8 million. 

It was an American musical comedy film based on the life story of Mae West and revolved around her deteriorating health. The movie had no interesting storyline, and it never struck a chord with the audience.  

11. The Concorde… Airport ’79 (1979)

Fourth and the last part in the series, “Airport”, this 1979 part was the least successful. The first part of the Airport series grossed over 100 million dollars. However, “The Concorde … Airport ’79” only struggled to make a mere $13 million. 

12.  The Swarm (1978)

The Swarm is a disaster-horror film directed by Irwin Allen, featuring a star-studded cast including Michael Caine, Katharine Ross, and Richard Widmark. The movie revolves around a massive swarm of killer African bees invading Texas, causing chaos and destruction. Despite its ambitious premise and ensemble cast, “The Swarm” was critically panned for its melodramatic performances, poor special effects, and lackluster script. The film struggled at the box office, earning a reputation as one of the era’s notable cinematic misfires. Its failure contributed to the decline of the disaster film genre that had been popular throughout the 1970s.

13.  Meteor (1979)

Meteor is a science fiction disaster film directed by Ronald Neame and starring Sean Connery and Natalie Wood. The plot centers on scientists and military officials scrambling to prevent a collision between Earth and a massive meteor. Despite its intriguing premise and the inclusion of Cold War elements, “Meteor” suffered from a poorly received script, underwhelming special effects, and lackluster character development. The film’s failure at the box office was seen as indicative of audience fatigue with the disaster genre by the end of the 1970s.

14.  A Bridge Too Far (1977)

A Bridge Too Far is a war epic directed by Richard Attenborough, based on the true story of Operation Market Garden during World War II. It boasts an impressive cast, including Sean Connery, Michael Caine, and Anthony Hopkins, among others. The film aimed to provide a detailed account of the ambitious but ultimately failed Allied operation. While it was praised for its historical accuracy, grand scale, and performances, “A Bridge Too Far” did not perform as well as expected at the box office. Its lengthy runtime and the grim reality of the operation’s failure may have contributed to its underwhelming commercial reception, despite its critical acclaim.

15.  Zabriskie Point (1970)

Zabriskie Point, directed by Michelangelo Antonioni, is a counterculture film set in late 1960s America. It explores themes of rebellion, societal disillusionment, and the youth counterculture of the era. Despite its visually striking cinematography and ambitious narrative, the film was a commercial flop, criticized for its perceived pretentiousness and lack of coherent plot. Over time, however, “Zabriskie Point” has been reassessed by some critics and viewers as a visually mesmerizing and thought-provoking piece that captures the zeitgeist of its era.

16.  March or Die (1977)

March or Die is a war drama directed by Dick Richards, starring Gene Hackman, Terence Hill, and Catherine Deneuve. The story focuses on a group of Foreign Legionnaires assigned to protect an archaeological dig in Morocco during the Rif War. Despite its promising cast and setting, “March or Die” failed to make a significant impact at the box office or with critics. The film was criticized for its slow pacing, underdeveloped characters, and failure to fully engage with its historical context, making it one of the lesser-known war films of the 1970s.

Final Words 

The 1970s was a crucial era for the film industry. On the one hand, the industry witnessed the legendary success of the Jaws and the Star Wars series; while on the other hand, some major movie bombs disappointed critics and audience alike. It was an era of change wherein the younger generation was struggling to become more independent and outspoken. Some of the movies clearly hit the mark and radicalized the change in American society while some failed to meet the mark.