The 50 biggest movie flops that deserved better

Ali (2001)

The Movie: Will Smith dons the gloves and hops in the ring to play the heavyweight champ. Michael Mann's behind the camera, telling Muhammad Ali's story from 1964 to 1974.

The Flop: Not a huge belly-flop, but a notable one nonetheless. Ali was made for $102m but only managed to claw back $87.7m - that's worldwide. A sign that Smith's star power was waning…

Why It Deserved Better: It's one of Mann's finest accomplishments - Ali is the film that saw him graduate from making pretty action movies to something with real heart and warmth. Also, the fights are awesome.

Ender's Game (2013)

The movie: Space cadet Ender Wiggin trains to fight the alien Formics and faces some tough moral choices.

The Flop: The film performed poorly in the US, dragging in a total of $125,537,191 worldwide against its $110 million production budget. There's little doubt that Ender's author Orson Scott Card's outspoken views impacted negatively on the film, with a well-publicised boycott stirring up arguably more interest than the film itself.

Why It Deserved Better: Despite Card's political leanings (which the filmmakers were quick to distance themselves from), Ender's Game is an an exciting and subversive adventure yarn. It also takes some surprisingly dark turns for what is, nominally, a kid's flick.

It's A Wonderful Life (1946)

The Movie: Jimmy Stewart discovers life would be hell if he wasn't around. Contemplating suicide, he's visited by an angel called Clarence (Henry Travers) who helps him gain a little perspective.

The Flop: Hard to believe it now, but this revered festive classic was once a huge box office failure.

It may have grabbed a fistful of Oscar nominations, but at the time it was an unmitigated financial disaster, failing to earn back the $3.7m it cost to make it.

Why It Deserved Better: It's one of the finest films ever made. That financial failure was a good thing in the long run, too - networks were able to buy the film cheaply to show on TV, which turned it into a perennial Christmas favourite…

The Rocketeer (1991)

The Movie: Based on the comic-book character created by Dan Stevens. Young pilot Cliff (Billy Campbell) discovers a jetpack and decides to turn himself into a superhero.

The Flop: The Disney label put audiences off Joe Johnston's film - movie-lovers assumed it was for kids.

In the US it made just $46m, while it took two weeks for the film to nab just £1m in the UK. Sequels: cancelled.

Why It Deserved Better: It's a great comic-book adap that had the misfortune of being released at a time when comic-book adaps just weren't cool.

Highlander (1986)

The Movie : Time-leaping fantasy in which Connor (Christopher Lambert) discovers he's an immortal warrior who must fight in modern-day New York in order to claim 'The Prize'.

The Flop: Highlander bombed in the US, making just $5m, but found an eager audience in Europe - its worldwide box office totalled $12.8m.

Why It Deserved Better: The script's sharp as any sword and Russell Mulcahy brings vibrancy to what could have been a cliché-littered tale. Also: Sean Connery!

The Iron Giant (1999)

The Movie: Based on Ted Hughes' same-named novel about a boy who discovers an iron giant that has fallen from space.

The Flop: Despite earning favourable reviews, Iron Giant failed to find its audience, taking $31m worldwide on a budget of $50-70m.

Brad Bird blamed bad marketing: "Warner Bros… simply didn't realise what they had on their hands."

Why It Deserved Better: It's one of the best animations of the past 20 years - warm, funny and ultimately heartbreaking.

Gattaca (1997)

The Movie: In a future gone wild, genetic discrimination runs rampant, with society divided into those who are 'valid' and 'invalid'. Vincent (Ethan Hawke) is an 'invalid' who steals a 'valid' man's identity…

The Flop: Director Andrew Niccol made Gattaca for just $36m, but he failed to turn a profit on the film, which took only $12m at the box office.

Why It Deserved Better: Science fiction is rarely as smart as this. Niccol's premise is thought-provoking as hell and Hawke makes for a brilliant conflicted hero.

Citizen Kane (1941)

The Movie: Orson Welles' magnum opus, charting the life of Charles Foster Kane (Welles), a successful American newspaper tycoon whose dying word is, for some reason, "Rosebud".

The Flop: A storm of controversy surrounded the film's release thanks to Welles basing Kane on newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, which may have contributed to the film's financial failure.

Why It Deserved Better : Though it disappeared after its theatrical run, Kane was revived in America in 1956, and rightly so - there's a reason it's been branded the best film ever made…

Labyrinth (1986)

The Movie: David Bowie wears a pair of skin-tight leggings while tormenting a young Jennifer Connelly in Jim Henson's muppet movie.

Connelly plays Sarah, who attempts to get through the Goblin King's (Bowie) labyrinth in 13 hours to rescue her baby step-brother.

The Flop: In the US, audiences failed to catch the magic dancing bug, meaning Labyrinth only earned $12m on a budget of $25m.

The film's financial failure hit Henson hard and he never directed another feature film.

Why It Deserved Better: The songs. The puppets. Bowie's hair. Sure, Sarah's a whiny brat, but the colourful cast of muppets balance her out. Labyrinth is still massively loveable.

Peeping Tom (1960)

The Movie: Controversial British thriller from director Michael Powell. Carl Boehm stars as Mark Lewis, who likes filming women with his camera - before killing them…

The Flop: The controversy surrounding the film's tricky subject matter signalled the big screen death of Powell's film - though it was made for just £135,000, critics mauled it and it died an inglorious death in cinemas.

In the same year, the thematically-similar Psycho became a box office hit…

Why It Deserved Better: Now, audiences appreciate the film as an accomplished thriller that has been lauded for its complex look into a warped mind.

The Total Film team are made up of the finest minds in all of film journalism. They are: Editor Jane Crowther, Deputy Editor Matt Maytum, Reviews Ed Matthew Leyland, News Editor Jordan Farley, and Online Editor Emily Murray. Expect exclusive news, reviews, features, and more from the team behind the smarter movie magazine.