War and Peace (1967): Screw Hollywood: If rumors are to be believed (and they’re possibly not), the most expensive film in history hails from Russia. Mosfilm Studios decided their nation’s finest novel deserved its finest production. No expense was spared: shot over seven years, spread over seven hours and four parts, shot on 70mm, employing a cast of 120,000 and with set design on loan from museums. The final cost, depending on who you ask, falls somewhere between $29 and $100 million. That’s not adjusted for inflation: This movie, today, if we go by its highest claim, would have cost $700 million. And somehow, it’s nearly impossible to see today.
Asterix at the Olympic Games (2008): In the ’80s and ’90s, Eurotrash auteur Luc Besson tried to beat Hollywood at its own game, unleashing slick, expensive imitations like La Femme Nikita and The Fifth Element. At least he was able to sell them back to us: Few Yanks know Asterix and Obelisk, France’s beloved comics, and so there’s little reason to pester us with their inevitable, over-produced, Gerard Depardieu-starring and reportedly demonic live-action adaptations, the third—and not final—of which cost $93 million.
Agora (2009): A $55 million, Spanish-backed historical epic about an atheist scientist. Who was also a woman. Next, you’ll say there’s a $45 million epic about a Muslim. (There is: Black Gold, starring Antonio Banderas.)
Endhiran (2010): Indian cinema may be Hollywood’s closest rival, but at least they’re thrifty: the 2009 underwater-treasure thriller Blue is Bollywood’s priciest, at a whopping $23.9 million. That’s not the country’s costliest: This Tamil sci-fi actioner, one of whose ridiculously OTT set pieces became a stateside YouTube phenom last year, cost an unheard-of $37.5 million. Yes, Americans, that’s it.
Flowers of War (2011): So desperate was China for the world to see their $95 million contribution to the pile of Nanking Massacre films—the best of which is the more sober The City of Life and Death—they shoehorned in Christian Bale. It didn’t work: even with Batman, the film grossed only $302,103 domestically.
My Way (2011): Continuing the trend of expensive anti-Japanese epics, this South Korean war weepie is the nation’s priciest, at a relative steal of $25 million.
Six Long-Running Film Franchises