If it’s one thing that’s a deal-breaker for a movie-lover besides a suspenseful plot is top-of-the-notch graphics and epic scenes. But rarely does anyone appreciates the choreography that goes into making a movie much less the amount of money required to get the perfect take of a scene. And this has little to do with how much the A-list actors are getting paid, but it’s more to do with the background settings that give a realistic tinge to the film, mesmerizing the viewers with its awesomeness. Consider what it would’ve cost to make movies like Lethal Weapon with Mel Gibson, or the epic historical action film 300, starring Gerard Butler. Here’s a better understanding of the 10 most expensive movie scenes of all time.
10 Ben-Hur – Chariot Scene
Originally cast in 1969 with Steven Boyd and Hugh Griffith as the main characters, Ben-Hur did much more than just deliver a classic part-adaptation from Lew Wallace’s novel, Ben-Hurr: Tale of Christ. Grossing a whopping $146.9 million at the box office, it has also gone down as one of the most expensive productions ever made. The film is set in A.D. 26 around the birth of Christ but the movie focuses on the life of a wealthy Jewish prince named Judah Ben-Hur (Charlton Heston) and his rivalry with a former friend-turned-Roman soldier, Messala (Stephen Boyd). The movie’s most expensive scene came as a 9-minute horse and chariot race which was in construction for 5 years prior to filming, costing roughly $4 million, which, if it were converted today would be $34 million. The film was also re-adapted in 2016 and starred Morgan Freeman, Toby Kebbell, and Jack Huston.
9 007 Spectre – Rome Car Chase
Besides the sexy spy girls (who James always scores with), the high-tech ammunition, and nefarious world-class criminals, what’s the other thing that makes a 007 film special? If you guessed cars, then you’re on point! The last seven installments have all featured an Aston Martin DB5, a masterpiece of a vehicle that costs anywhere from $579,000 to $900,000. For Daniel Craig’s Spectre in 2015, it’s stated that of the $300 million budget Hollywood producers had to play with, at least $32 million of it was spent destroying cars, specifically for the Rome car chase scene in the movie which totaled at least seven Aston Martin DB10s. A single Aston Martin DB10 starts at around the same price as a DB5, around $500,000. For what it’s worth, the movie was a box office success at $880 million.
8 Speed 2: Cruise Control – Cruise Ship Crash
Hollywood actors are sometimes so enthralled in their characters that they even take on some of their characteristics, and some are changed forever after certain roles. The same effect is purposed to happen when you look at a movie’s ultra-realistic scenes – you’re supposed to believe that it actually happened because it looked so real! The original Speed of 1994 with LAPD officer Jack Traven (Keanu Reeves) was an instant hit, although he never reprised his role. So when it came to the 1995 action thriller, Speed 2: Cruise Control starring Sandra Bullock and Jason Patric, Hollywood went all out with a scene of a cruise ship crashing into the docking port of St. Martin. The five-minute scene required the building of a replica of the 300-tonne ship, which cost $25 million. But William Dafoe’s leech-loving character should’ve been enough to capture the audience.
7 Transformers: The Last Knight – Junkyard Scene
Clearly, this Transformers movie franchise has a flair for extravagance with its scenes. After all, the entire movie is centered around high-performance vehicles that transform into huge, towering robots – doesn’t get any more extravagant than that! 2017’s Transformers: The Last Knight wasn’t an exception when it came to the amount of coin that was spent on the execution of certain scenes. Without even factoring in the paycheck of Mark Wahlberg or Anthony Hopkins, the junkyard scene alone cost $15 million worth of investment to create the vision of the film director, Michael Bay. When they located an area north of the Deer Point Airport in Arizona, it reportedly took 10 days and 3,000 hotel nights to bring this particular vision to life!
6 Saving Private Ryan – D-Day Scene
Of all the movie genres requiring expensive productions, war films would have to take the cake. The amount of death, explosions, make-shift ammunition, and military vehicles needed to replicate a certain era in history is noticeably a daunting task. So in 1998 with the release of Saving Private Ryan, starring Tom Hanks and Matt Damon, remaking the World War 2 Normandy Invasion would prove to be a costly venture. The actual war of 1944 claimed the lives of 135,000 Americans and 320,000 Germans, which gives you an idea of the amount of carnage that occurred. According to Star Biz, the D-day scene cost a whopping $12 million for 25 minutes, which is the entire net worth of some people! Nevertheless, it was ranked as one of the “greatest battles” in cinema, and the movie itself grossed $482 million. Kudos to you, Steven Spielberg.
5 Superman Returns: Krypton Scene
Although it didn’t rake in as much as was expected at the box office (around the $390 million mark) the 2006 superhero film, Superman Returns took viewers into the life of one of DC Comic’s most beloved heroes. Superman is portrayed by Brandon Routh and is depicted as coming back to earth to resume life as a common earthling. On a gross budget of $223 million, director Bryan Singer spent $10 million on an abstract and visually mesmerizing portrayal of Superman’s homeworld, Krypton. However, the scene was later deleted from the movie, making it the most expensive deleted movie scene of all time. The next appearance Superman would make on-screen would be in 2013 in Man of Steel, with a new lead actor as Henry Cavill and a new director, Zack Snyder. The change was good and possibly needed, as the film grossed $668 million at the box office.
4 Pearl Harbor – Bombing Of Pearl Harbor Scene
So far, we’ve learned that when it comes to film directing, bloody war scenes and model-replicated shipwrecks can be expected to eat a chunk out of the film’s budget. Add both these elements into a single film, like Michael Bay’s romantic war drama, Pearl Harbor, and you can undoubtedly expect million-dollar scenes. Starring Ben Affleck, Josh Hartnett, and Kate Beckinsale, the film presented a fictionalized portrayal of the 1941 Japanese attack on the U.S. naval base, Pearl Harbor, located in Honolulu, Hawaii. Surprisingly, the explosions were not the work of CGI but were generated with loads of dynamite and gasoline to blow up actual inactive Navy ships. Talk about keeping it real! The bombing scene of Pearl Harbor would cost $5.5 million while the film grossed $449.2 million at the box office.
3 I Am Legend
One would think that the most expensive part of a zombie movie is the zombie effects and vampiric flesh-eating qualities they portray. However, in the case of Will Smith’s I Am Legend released in 2007, not even the post-apocalyptic empty streets of New York would be the cause of the most expensive cost in the action thriller film. Playing the role of Dr. Robert Neville, a virologist for the U.S. Army, Smith gives us a brief history of how he lost his wife, Zoe Neville (Salli Richardson), and his daughter Marley (Willow Smith) following the outbreak of the Krippin virus. The scene included a digital portrayal of the bombing of the Brooklyn Bridge, the cooperation of 14 government agencies, a lighting rig, and 1,000 extras, totaling $5 million.
2 The Matrix Reloaded – Freeway Chase
From the release of the very first Matrix installment in 1999, it was clear that computer-generated images (CGI) and graphics played a major part in the production of the film. Neo (Keanu Reeves) made the bullet-dodging scene rooftop scene famous for many years. However, there are other scenes in later installments that demanded much more effort, resources, and funding. The freeway chase in The Matrix Reloaded (2003) proves that it takes much more creativity to bring a scene to life without the help of digital effects. With a budget of roughly $150 million to play with, the Wachowskis used $2.5 million of that money to create a fake freeway using an inactive naval base in California. Surely Laurence Fishburne and Carrie-Ann Moss appreciated the realism involved.
1 Vanilla Sky – Time’s Square Scene
While emptying out certain parts of New York City wasn’t the biggest expenditure cost for Francis Lawrence in I Am Legend, the same can’t be said for Cameron Crowe’s psychological thriller, Vanilla Sky, which was released in 2001. There are also elements of romance and science fiction in the film, but it mostly depicts David Aames’ (Tom Cruise) psychological warping between reality and dream state. The film begins with David driving down to the usually bustling Times Square, only to find it completely swept of human activity. Not a soul in sight! While no CGI was used, Crowe instead opted to make a deal with the boys in blue at NYPD for 30 seconds of footage, a price tag of $1 million. Also included in the film are Penelope Cruz and Cameron Diaz, both of who play Cruise’s love interests. Lucky man!
READ NEXT: 9 Most Expensive Costumes In Film And Television
The 10 Most Expensive F1 Contracts, As Of 2022