When it comes to big-budget Hollywood movies, some of the most expensive movie sets ever built are the ones that end up gracing the silver screen. From ancient civilizations to futuristic worlds, the cost of bringing these movie sets to life can be staggering, with the cost of set designers, the production designer, and the cost of film sets. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at the 10 most expensive sets and costly movies to make in film history. Check out this list of the 10 most expensive movie sets ever built and the most costly films to make.
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The 10 Most Expensive Movie Sets Ever Built
1) Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) – $350 million
One of the most expensive movie sets ever built is for the 20th century Fox sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water, written by director James Cameron. This sci-fi film has a budget of $350 million, making it the most expensive movie ever made.
The filming for the movie took place in various locations, including New Zealand, California, and Manhattan Beach. The movie features a star-studded cast, including Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, and Kate Winslet.
Avatar: The Way of Water is set in the mystical world of Pandora, where humans and the indigenous species called Na’vi are at odds with each other. The movie is expected to feature groundbreaking special effects, taking the audience on a visually stunning journey.
Despite the high budget, the producers are confident that the movie will be a commercial success, as the first Avatar movie was the highest grossing film making over $2.8 billion worldwide. The movie is set to release on December 16, 2022, and fans are eagerly waiting for its release.
2) Avengers: Infinity War (2008) – $325 million
Avengers: Infinity War is one of the most expensive movie sets ever made, with a budget of $325 million. The film was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo and produced by Marvel Studios. It features an ensemble cast of superheroes including Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and the Guardians of the Galaxy, who team up to stop the villain Thanos from acquiring the Infinity Stones and wiping out half the universe.
The movie was filmed at Pinewood Atlanta Studios in Georgia, as well as various locations around Scotland and England. The massive budget was primarily spent on special effects, as the film features a plethora of CGI-heavy action sequences and larger-than-life battles.
Despite the high cost, Avengers: Infinity War went on to gross over $2 billion at the worldwide box office, making it one of the most successful movies of all time. The success of the film also paved the way for its sequel, Avengers: Endgame, which surpassed even its predecessor to become the highest-grossing movie ever made.
Other costly films in the franchise is Avengers: Age of Ultron which is estimated to be around $365 million.
3) Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) – $300 million
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End is one of the most expensive movies ever made, with a whopping budget of $300 million. The third installment in the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise was directed by Gore Verbinski and starred a star-studded cast including Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, and Orlando Bloom.
The movie was shot in several locations including Palos Verdes, California, Dominica, and Hawaii. The intricate set designs and special effects used in the film are what pushed the budget up to such a high number.
The movie follows Captain Jack Sparrow, Will Turner, and Elizabeth Swann as they team up to rescue Captain Barbossa from the underworld, fight against the East India Trading Company, and prevent Davy Jones from enslaving all the souls at sea.
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End was a box office success, grossing over $960 million worldwide. Despite its massive budget, the film’s impressive visuals and gripping storyline made it a fan-favorite and a beloved addition to the franchise.
Other notable and costly film of the franchise is Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides which was the fourth film and included the movie set, was around $378.5 million. This was due to the elaborate and intricate designs of the sets, including the Mermaid Pools and the Fountain of Youth. Additionally, the production involved the use of expensive special effects and CGI, which added to the overall cost. Despite the high cost, the movie set of Pirates of the Caribbean was a critical and commercial success, grossing over $1 billion worldwide.
4) Justice League (2017) – $300 million
The Justice League movie was one of the most anticipated films of 2017, with an incredible budget of $300 million. The movie was directed by Zack Snyder, who is best known for his work on the superhero genre, having previously directed Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
The cast of the Justice League film included some of the biggest names in Hollywood, such as Ben Affleck as Batman, Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman, and Henry Cavill as Superman. Other notable cast members include Jason Momoa as Aquaman, Ezra Miller as The Flash, and Ray Fisher as Cyborg.
To create the epic battle scenes, the production team traveled all around the world to various locations. Some of the key filming locations for the movie included England, Iceland, and Scotland. The stunning landscapes provided the perfect backdrop for the intense action scenes that featured throughout the movie.
Despite the high production costs, the movie was a commercial success, grossing over $657 million worldwide. The Justice League film continues to be a popular choice among superhero fans, with its impressive cast and spectacular visuals making it an unforgettable experience.
5) SOLO: A Star Wars Story (2018) – $275 million
One of the most highly-anticipated Star Wars movies to date, SOLO: A Star Wars Story had a lot riding on its shoulders – including a massive budget of $275 million. Despite being one of the most expensive movie sets ever built, the film was a commercial disappointment for Disney, only bringing in $392 million at the box office worldwide.
One of the reasons for the high cost of production was the film’s location. While the original Star Wars movies were filmed in England, SOLO was filmed at Pinewood Studios in London, as well as in Spain and the Italian Dolomites. This decision was made to give the movie a more global feel and allow for a wider range of settings and backdrops.
The film boasted an impressive cast, including Alden Ehrenreich as the titular character, Han Solo, alongside Emilia Clarke, Donald Glover, Woody Harrelson, and Thandie Newton. It was directed by Ron Howard, with a screenplay by Jonathan Kasdan and Lawrence Kasdan. Despite the high-caliber talent involved in the production, SOLO was still unable to live up to its hype and financial expectations.
Despite its financial disappointment, SOLO: A Star Wars Story is still considered a worthwhile addition to the Star Wars canon. Its huge budget allowed for stunning visuals and incredible special effects, and its talented cast and crew undoubtedly put in the hard work to make it a success – even if it didn’t turn out as well as Disney had hoped.
6) Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019) – $275 million
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the final installment in the latest Star Wars trilogy, was one of the most expensive movie productions of all time. The film cost a staggering $275 million to make, including its extensive use of special effects and grandiose sets.
The movie was mainly shot at Pinewood Studios in London, England, with some additional filming taking place in Jordan and Wadi Rum. It was directed by J.J. Abrams, who also co-wrote the screenplay alongside Chris Terrio.
The film starred Daisy Ridley as Rey, Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, John Boyega as Finn, and Oscar Isaac as Poe Dameron. Other notable cast members include Mark Hamill, who reprised his role as Luke Skywalker, and the late Carrie Fisher, whose role as Leia Organa was created using unused footage from previous Star Wars films.
Despite its astronomical production costs, The Rise of Skywalker went on to become a commercial success, grossing over $1 billion at the worldwide box office. Its massive budget certainly shows on screen, with epic battles, impressive visual effects, and breathtaking locations making it a must-watch for Star Wars fans and moviegoers alike.
7) John Carter (2012) – $250 million
John Carter, based on the classic novel A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, was an ambitious sci-fi movie that unfortunately didn’t perform as well at the box office as it was hoped. One of the reasons for its hefty price tag was the cost of its massive movie set, which totaled around $250 million.
The movie was set on the planet of Barsoom, also known as Mars, and required elaborate sets and special effects to create an otherworldly landscape. It was filmed in various locations around the world, including Utah, California, and England.
John Carter was directed by Andrew Stanton, who was a Pixar veteran and had previously directed films such as Finding Nemo and WALL-E. Stanton also co-wrote the screenplay with Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon.
The cast of John Carter included Taylor Kitsch as the titular character, Lynn Collins as Dejah Thoris, Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas, and Samantha Morton as Sola. While the movie wasn’t a box office hit, it did receive praise for its impressive visual effects and adventurous spirit.
Overall, the expensive movie set was a significant investment for John Carter, but it was necessary to create the immersive world of Barsoom. Despite the film’s mixed reception, it remains an interesting example of big-budget science fiction.
8) The Lord Of The Rings (2001) – $93 million
One of the most beloved and successful film franchises of all time, The Lord Of The Rings trilogy cost a whopping $281 million to produce, with the first installment costing $93 million alone. A significant portion of that budget was allocated to building the film’s stunning sets.
The movie’s creators chose New Zealand as the location for the set. The natural beauty and diverse landscapes provided the perfect backdrop for the fantastical world of Middle-earth. In addition, the government of New Zealand provided significant financial incentives to keep the production costs down.
The films were directed by Peter Jackson, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens. Jackson was a huge fan of the original novels and made sure to include every detail possible in the films. His vision and dedication paid off, as the trilogy was both critically acclaimed and financially successful.
The cast of The Lord Of The Rings included some of the most talented actors of their time, such as Elijah Wood, Viggo Mortensen, Ian McKellen, and Orlando Bloom. Their performances brought to life the complex and beloved characters from J.R.R. Tolkien’s books.
The Lord Of The Rings trilogy is an undeniable cinematic masterpiece that brought Middle-earth to life on the big screen. Its breathtaking sets and incredible performances from the cast helped it become one of the highest-grossing film franchises of all time. Despite its high budget, it continues to be a beloved classic today.
9) Waterworld (1995) – $25 million
While Waterworld may not have been a massive financial success upon its release, it’s still remembered today for its innovative post-apocalyptic setting. With a budget of $175 million, Waterworld was the most expensive film ever made at the time. A significant chunk of that budget went toward constructing an impressive movie set, including floating structures and elaborate props that could withstand the rigors of being submerged in water.
Most of Waterworld was filmed on location off the coast of Hawaii, with a set that covered an area of roughly three football fields. Despite the challenges of filming on open water, the filmmakers were able to create a fully immersive world, complete with a giant tanker and a society of aquatic survivors.
The film was produced by Universal Pictures, with Kevin Reynolds directing and Peter Rader and David Twohy writing the script. The lead role of “The Mariner” was played by Kevin Costner, who was fresh off the success of Dances with Wolves. Other notable cast members included Jeanne Tripplehorn, Dennis Hopper, and Tina Majorino.
While the movie set for Waterworld was certainly expensive, it’s clear that the investment paid off in terms of the film’s lasting impact. Despite initial box office struggles, the film has become a cult classic and an inspiration for filmmakers who are looking to create new worlds on the big screen.
10) Ben-Hur (1959) – $15 million
When it comes to iconic movie epics, few can rival Ben Hur. Released in 1959, this historical drama follows the story of a Jewish prince who is betrayed and enslaved by his Roman friend. The film boasts an impressive cast including Charlton Heston in the title role, Jack Hawkins, and Stephen Boyd. But what really set Ben-Hur apart was its grandiose movie set.
With a production cost of $15 million, Ben-Hur was the most expensive movie sets of its time. A significant chunk of this budget went into creating the movie set, which was constructed on the Cinecittà studios lot in Rome. The set took over nine months to build and was one of the largest ever created. Covering 148 acres, it featured a fully-functioning coliseum and a life-sized replica of the ancient city of Jerusalem.
While the movie set was based in Rome, the filmmakers also utilized location shoots in Spain and Israel. The iconic chariot race scene, for example, was shot in Spain’s Tabernas Desert. Despite these additional expenses, the film was a huge commercial and critical success. It went on to win eleven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor for Charlton Heston.
The studio that released Ben-Hur was MGM, which at the time was one of the most powerful movie studios in Hollywood. The film was directed by William Wyler, who was also responsible for other acclaimed films like The Best Years of Our Lives and Funny Girl. The screenplay was written by Karl Tunberg, who adapted the story from the novel Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ by Lew Wallace.
In addition to Heston, Hawkins, and Boyd, Ben-Hur featured a star-studded cast of talented actors. This included Hugh Griffith, Martha Scott, Cathy O’Donnell, and Sam Jaffe. All of these factors combined to create one of the most memorable movies of all time.
Today, the legacy of Ben-Hur lives on. Its grandiose movie set and epic scenes continue to inspire filmmakers around the world. Despite its age, the movie remains a testament to the power of filmmaking and the enduring appeal of epic storytelling.