Projects That Made the Most of Their Monstrous Production Budget

March 24, 2017

The amount of new movies hitting the market continues to grow every day, and each new film uses more exotic filming locations, special effects and well-known actors and actresses. Blockbuster movies make use of their big production budgets in hopes of creating successful and unforgettable entertainment. While many aspiring filmmakers yearn for larger budgets, wisely allocating and managing a large film budget is an artform in and of itself. Below, we have compiled a list of movies from the last two decades with monstrous production budgets that were, arguably, used to great effect.

“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”

Andrew Garfield took to the building tops of New York City in 2014 once again as Peter Parker in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2.” A reported $500 million was spent to reboot the classic superhero series, which only featured two movies. The sequel to “The Amazing Spider-Man” was shot exclusively on 35mm film and entirely in New York.

The production budget for “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” was an estimated $255 million and performed well in the box office. However, Sony Pictures decided to cancel the series and has partnered with Marvel Studios to include Spider-Man in upcoming films. Tom Holland portrayed Spider-Man in the newest Captain America movie.


James Cameron’s “Avatar,” which hit the big screens in 2009, was at the forefront of film technology and motion capture animation. It took Cameron’s team over a year to develop new technology and software for the film’s motion capture. He also employed over 900 people at Weta Digital to work on digital after effects.

Reports speculated that the budget for “Avatar” had cost $280 to $500 million due to all of the visuals. However, Fox officially released production cost and the movie’s budget was only $237 million. Cameron’s “Avatar” was the first film to make more than $200 billion worldwide and remains one of the highest grossing films.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron”

Joss Whedon’s “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” is the follow-up movie to his first successful “Avengers” movie. The second blockbuster featured big-name actors and actresses including Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, and Chris Evans. The film was shot in multiple locations such as England, Bangladesh, Italy, New York City, and South Korea. In addition to a large cast and multiple filming locations, post-production special effects made the move’ budget quite high. The tax rebate from the United Kingdom confirmed the cost of the film was $330.6 million.

“Avengers: Age of Ultron” made $1.403 billion worldwide in the box office, making the movie the sixth highest-grossing movie of all time. The sequel though, did not out-perform “Avengers” in the box office. There is a rumor that the third film in the series, “Avengers: Infinity Wars, Part 1,” and the fourth, “Avengers: Infinity Wars, Part 2” will be even more expensive.

“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”

Harry Potter has been a cultural phenomenon that has dominated the last two decades. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” the sixth installment of the series, had the largest production budget out of all the movies, which was an estimated $250 million.

The seventh and eighth installment of the movie series, “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” had a budget similar to “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince,” but because the movie was filmed simultaneously, production costs were cut in half. “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” brought in $934.4 billion worldwide.   

The Hobbit: “An Unexpected Journey,” “Desolation of Smaug,” and “The Battle of Five Armies”

The three-part installment of “The Hobbit” had a whopping production budget of $745 million. It is hard to determine the budget for each individual film due to the fact that the three films were created simultaneously. Even if the films’ budget could be divided, the films would still be one of the most expensive – both films were filmed in 3D and in 45 frames per second.

The budget for the original “Lord of the Rings” trilogy was $281 million and made $2.917 billion worldwide. The monstrous budget for “The Hobbit” trilogy paid off because the trilogy made $2.932 billion worldwide.

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest,” “At World’s End,” and “On Stranger Tides”

“Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest” and “At World’s End” were filmed simultaneously, so it’s hard to determine the exact cost for each film. However, the cost for Disney to film both movies in tandem was an estimated $500 million. A-list actors such as Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightly coupled with exotic filming locations and special effects led to the increase in productions costs.    

The fourth movie of the installment, “On Stranger Tides,” is the first movie in the series to cost more than $400 million. The production team used 1,200 generated sequences, similar to the 3D technology that was used in “Avatar,” for special effects. It was confirmed that the total for the production’s budget was $410.6 million.    

“Spider-Man 3”

“Spider-Man 3,” not to be confused with “The Amazing Spider-Man,” featured Tobey Maguire as the web-slinging hero of New York City. In the third installment of the series, Spider-Man faces three villains: Sandman, Venom, and Harry Osborne, also known as New Goblin. The movie was filmed in Los Angeles, Cleveland, and New York City. Multiple filming locations could have attributed to a higher budget.  

Sony Productions confirmed that the movie’s production budget was $258 million, and the movie grossed $890.9, leading “Spider-Man 3” to be the most successful movie out of the three-movie installment from a financial standpoint. But Sony Pictures and the movie’s director, Sam Raimi, had a falling out and Sony cut ties. The falling out with Raimi led Sony to reboot the series five years later using Andrew Garfield as the leading man.


Who doesn’t love a good animated film? Disney’s 2010 musical comedy featured the first princess to be rendered in 3D, not 2D (Rapunzel). It is estimated that the movie production budget was around $260 million, making “Tangled” one of the most expensive animated films to date.

Two reasons as to why the budget was so high: 1) the movie was in production for six years, and 2) the production team developed a state-of-the-art program to code how Rapunzel’s hair should move and behave in water.

The animated film made $591.8 million worldwide; it was also nominated for two Golden Globes, an Oscar and won a Grammy for “I See the Light.”

What are your favorite monster-budget blockbuster films? Let us know in the comments below! And apply to NYFA’s producing programs to learn more about how to maximize a production budget.