"Direct to video" is still used as kind of a catch-all insult towards allegedly disreputable movies, particularly if they're cheap. But in reality, not all movies that have been released directly to the DVD market have been as cheap to produce as you might think – while they're still not in the same ballpark as most big-screen features, some of them have surprisingly large production budgets, which is also a good indication that some of them weren't intended to be direct-to-DVD in the first place.
Here are the five most expensive direct-to-DVD movies/fiascoes ever released:
#5: Edison Force – $25 Million (2005)
There are some big names in Edison Force, like Morgan Freeman, Justin Timberlake, Kevin Spacey, and even LL Cool J. But they weren't enough to preclude the movie's toxic reviews when it made the festival rounds in 2005, so it ended up relegated to the world of direct-to-DVD films despite a budget of $25 million.
#4: The Contract – $25 Million (2006)
Another expensive direct-to-DVD movie that has received little love from critics and audiences despite an appearance from Morgan Freeman (the guy just doesn't know how to say no) is The Contract, also starring John Cusack. I don't like to dismiss movies I haven't seen, but this is currently hovering at the 0% mark on the Rotten Tomatoes website, despite having cost a relatively pricey $25 million. On the other hand, the Wikipedia article about the movie makes reference to "the scenes on the large rock," so I'm intrigued.
#3: The Flock – $35 Million (2007)
The infamous Weinstein brothers are known for their relentless pursuit of award-season quality at all costs, even if it means pissing off the very filmmakers they've hired to produce that quality. But even they strike out every once in a while, as they did with the $35 million direct-to-DVD flop The Flock, starring Richard Gere and Claire Danes.
#2: Foodfight! – $45 Million (2012)
Probably the most infamous film flop of the last few years is Foodfight!, a by-all-accounts insane children's film about brand mascots coming to life in a supermarket. Cheap-looking animation and jokes that are entirely inappropriate for children (or adults, for that matter), have elevated the movie to the stuff of legend, and it only required a cool $45 million in order to do it. Incidentally, all the real-life brand mascots such as Charlie Tuna and the Vlasic Stork were not paid product placements in the movie, but the companies represented were expected to promote the movie through their own products and advertising. Exactly how this factored into the film's budget would probably take some serious forensic accounting.
#1: Theodore Rex – $52.5 Million (1995)
Speaking of forensic accounting, bear with me on this – the most expensive direct-to-video movie on this list is Theodore Rex. Never heard of it? This infamous 1995 Whoopi Goldberg/tyrannosaurus buddy-cop movie had a budget of $33.5 million. That translates in 2015 dollars to about $52.5 million. That easily makes it the most expensive direct-to-video (DVD wasn't around yet when it came out) movie ever made. I haven't had the pleasure, but since it's a movie about a cop in the future (Whoopi) who's partnered with an anthropomorphic dinosaur, I need to see it as soon as possible. Fortunately, the entire movie is available for free in HD on YouTube. Enjoy!