15 Movies With Most Troubled Productions

POSTED BY Tayyab Khalil, UPDATED ON February 14th, 2024
Movies with Most Troubled Productions

The only thing better than choreographed action is the real thing. Shooting a film is not at all an easy task but some productions become such a nightmare that real action takes place behind the scenes. Take a peek at the 15 movies with the most troubled productions:


15. The Shining (1980)

The Shining (1980)

Director Stanley Kubrick was notoriously difficult to work with due to the extreme stress of perfection. That did manage to make The Shining a magnificent film but it came at the price of mentally frustrating leading actors Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall.

The director kept taking excessive retakes on several scenes that exhausted its actors. The iconic “Here’s Johnny” scene that lasted mere seconds took three days to shoot and the short scene in which Shelley swings her bat reportedly took 127 takes.

Moreover, Kubrick was particularly too harsh on Shelley to break her spirits so she could add a sense of realism to her scenes. His plan worked but behind the scenes, she became ill and even had hair loss due to the abundant amount of stress.


14. American Graffiti (1973)

American Graffiti (1973)

Image Source: IMDb

Right after the first day of the shooting in San Rafael, California, the city council revoked the production’s filming permits as local merchants complained that the shooting was responsible for their business losses.

Despite relocating to another city, the dilemmas kept on rolling as actor Harrison Ford was arrested for a bar fight, a member of the crew was arrested as well for growing marijuana, director George Lucas’ motel room mysteriously caught fire, and two cameramen almost died while shooting the final car racing scene.


13. Blade Runner (1982)

Blade Runner (1982)

While it currently holds the status of being one of the finest sci-fi movies of all time, it is often overlooked how much of a distressing experience was its production. Blade Runner was partially based on the novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and the script went through countless rewrites. Director Ridley Scott was not accustomed to shooting in the United States and he revealed in an interview that he preferred working in the United Kingdom.

Upon his return, the entire crew welcomed him by wearing shirts that had the words:

“Yes gov’nor my ass”

written on them. The environment would steadily become extremely hostile as Scott would repeatedly clash with the entire crew including leading star Harrison Ford.


12. The Bourne Identity (2002)

The Bourne Identity (2002)

Image Source: IMDb

Director Doug Liman and Universal Pictures constantly argued over the pacing of The Bourne Identity. The two were severely at odds against one another which caused the script to have numerous rewrites and the release date suffered a delay of nine months.

Even though The Bourne Identity was a tremendous success and made Matt Damon an action star, the relationship between Liman and Universal Pictures was so soured that the former was not asked to return for any of the sequels.


11. The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

The Island of Dr. Moreau (1996)

The production of The Island of Dr. Moreau was such a catastrophic experience that it has its documentary to narrate the events. Leading actors Marlon Brando and Val Kilmer kept fighting against each other and director John Frankenheimer.

Brando refused to memorize his lines and demanded that his dialogues should be delivered to him via an earpiece. Among his bizarre demands was that his scenes should be accompanied by a dwarf who dressed like him.

The presence of the unnecessary character was never explained. Brando and Kilmer tried multiple times to sabotage the project and when the movie finally concluded its shooting, Frankenheimer vowed never to work with Kilmer again.


10. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

The production crew of Mad Max: Fury Road was overjoyed at the Academy Awards ceremony as the movie won six of its ten nominations, but that was hardly the feeling during its shooting phase which was conducted in the soaring heat of the Namibian desert.

The initial stages were extremely confusing due to the production crew being forced to work while relying on vague storyboards since the script had not even been completed yet. The editing phase was not a walk in the park as well since there were 400 hours of footage.


9. Jaws (1975)

Jaws (1975)

It was Steven Spielberg’s second movie with a major budget and his lack of experience as a filmmaker certainly came with a handful of hurdles. The production and budget of Jaws kept going way past schedule due to several technical dilemmas.

The mechanical shark kept malfunctioning and Spielberg was forced to rewrite several scenes to show the shark as little as possible. Additionally, the boat used in the final scene ruptured, and the actors on board almost died when it sank.


8. Heaven’s Gate (1980)

Heaven’s Gate (1980)

It is bad enough that a movie’s budget keeps skyrocketing but it is even worse when it reaches so high that the studio almost becomes bankrupt. When Michael Cimino was hired by United Artists to direct Heaven’s Gate, his methods to capture the intricacies of the plot increased the approved budget from $11 million to $44 million.

Multiple takes and reconstructing million-dollar sets did not help either as the director ended up shooting 220 hours of footage which cost the studio around $220,000 per day. Following the editing phase, the final cut of the movie was 5 hours and 25 minutes long but the studio axed it down to 2 hours and 48 minutes.

The result was such a humungous mess, Heaven’s Gate was critically panned and merely earned $3.5 million.


7. Waterworld (1995)

Waterworld (1995)

Image Courtesy: Cinema Paradiso

The post-apocalyptic movie starring Kevin Costner was shot almost entirely on water and its production was nearly an impossible task. The expensive set was destroyed by a hurricane and the leading actor almost died as he was tied to a mast at the time.

Due to Costner constantly butting heads with director Kevin Reynolds, the latter angrily left the project. Costner was forced to finish the movie all by himself later on but that hardly eased the production.

At the end of the day, the movie’s budget had increased to $175 million from $100 million; making it the most expensive movie made at the time only to receive horrendous reviews.


6. Alien 3 (1992)

Alien 3 (1992)

Director David Fincher is one of the most renowned filmmakers in Hollywood today but his first movie was far from being impressive. He was hired to direct Alien 3 after the dismissal of Vincent Ward and amid ongoing script rewrites.

By the time Fincher stepped in, $7 million had already been spent on building the sets for the movie. Due to the studio having no faith in the rookie director, it refused to allow him creative freedom and kept pressuring him to meet the release date.

Even after the movie’s production, problems continued to swarm as the studio demanded the addition of more scenes and Fincher had to recommence shooting. He infuriatingly disowned the movie when the studio kept overruling his decisions in the editing phase.


5. The Wizard of Oz (1939)

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Not one but five directors were involved in the troubled shooting of The Wizard of Oz. The production was chaotic as twenty writers worked on the script and the dog that played Toto kept ruining takes.

The actors’ time on the set was muddled as well. For instance, Margaret Hamilton was mildly burned during the Munchkinland scene and Buddy Ebsen had to be recast since he was allergic to his Tin Man costume.


4. The Crow (1994)

The Crow (1994)

Disasters beleaguered the 1994 supernatural superhero movie since the day it began. On the very first day of shooting, a carpenter burned his face, arms, and chest when power lines struck the crane he was working on. On the very same evening, movie equipment caught fire.

The following days were not smooth sailing either as a sculptor drove his car through the studio’s plaster shop, a drive-by shooting occurred near the set and a thunderous storm destroyed the sets but none of the incidents were more horrific than leading star Brandon Lee dying after accidentally shot by a gun that had a real bullet.


3. Cleopatra (1963)

Cleopatra (1963)

Even before shooting began, $4 million had already been spent on the movie’s sets and other accessories. Directors and crew members were constantly changed due to the hectic production of the movie.

Humungous money was spent on taking down sets and reconstructing them in Rome when the production was forced to move out of London, the original location of the shooting. Leading star Elizabeth Taylor felt ill during production and it did not ease the situation.

If adjusted for inflation, Cleopatra easily becomes one of the most expensive movies ever made and a lot of money was spent on the actors’ salaries as the movie starred many of the biggest icons of Hollywood’s golden age. Despite Cleopatra becoming a massive hit, it struggled to earn its money back at the box office.


2. Titanic (1997)

Titanic (1997)

With all honesty, the troubled production of James Cameron’s masterpiece Titanic deserves an entire article of its own. Its budget kept increasing to the point of being the first movie in cinematic history to have a budget of $200 million.

The movie was shot in a 17-meter deep water tank and since most of the crew had to work in water, numerous people caught a cold and had kidney infections. To make matters worse, director Cameron was notoriously merciless to his crew.

The scenes of the ship breaking down were particularly difficult to shoot and at one instant, actress Kate Winslet chipped her elbow and thought that she would drown in the water tank. To make matters worse, one angry crew worker put the drug PCP in the soup that Cameron and the rest of the crew would drink. The unfortunate incident sent more than 50 people to the hospital.


1. Apocalypse Now (1979)

Apocalypse Now (1979)

As infamously stated by director Francis Ford Coppola, Apocalypse Now was not about Vietnam; it was Vietnam! While the movie is critically considered one of the greatest war movies ever made, it arguably had the most troubled production in Hollywood.

The sixteen arduous months of the shooting had several unexpected catastrophic events such as typhoons destroying million-dollar sets, leading star Martin Sheen having a heart attack due to grueling shooting, and constant script rewrites due to actor Marlon Brando being physically and mentally unprepared for his role. The production became such a nightmare that even director Coppola threatened to commit suicide three times.

Did we miss any flick that should have been featured in our list of movies with the most troubled productions? Let us know in the comments below!

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