A lot of movies build hype prior to their release and fall short, but if anything, 1963’s Cleopatra did just the opposite, racking up about as many obstacles during production as you could imagine. At the time, it was the most expensive film ever made. According to The Guardian, even on a list adjusted for inflation, it’s still the only pre-1998 film included in the 50 most expensive ever made. The scope of its budget meant that it was almost destined to be a flop.
On top of that, both cast and crew were replaced multiple times throughout production, and the shooting location also went through a tedious and expensive change. Plus, Cleopatra star Elizabeth Taylor almost died of pneumonia and then was sued for “depreciating the commercial value” of the film due to the infamous affair between the married Taylor and her married co-star, Richard Burton, during production.
All this considered, the film did incredibly well, if not as well as it was intended to. Cleopatra is a unique inclusion in this list because it won four Academy Awards. Eventually, it would become the highest-grossing picture of its release year. How is that underdelivering? Well, the film cost what today would amount to over $300 million, and it clocks in at over four hours long. For that amount of time and money, we’d expect something revolutionary — not something that initially lost money, nearly bankrupted its studio, and only started really making it when Fox sold the TV rights.