Can Apple’s Napoleon bring box office glory to Ridley Scott and Joaquin Phoenix?

“Napoleon” details the turbulent rise and fall of the iconic French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. The film explores Bonaparte’s ongoing rise to power through the prism of his volatile relationship with his true love, Josephine, while also highlighting his visionary military and political tactics against the backdrop of some of his most famous battles. The film also stars Vanessa Kirby (“Son,” “Mission: Impossible: Dead Reckoning”).

To be honest, Scott hasn’t had much luck with historical epics, especially over the last decade. 2021’s The Last Duel was the filmmaker’s latest foray into the genre and, to put it bluntly, it was an epic disaster. The film grossed just $30 million worldwide against a massive $100 million budget. It’s true that the pandemic was a major factor here, but it was a gigantic flop. Then there’s 2014’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings,” which was another pretty big disappointment, grossing $268 million worldwide on a $140 million budget. Then there’s 2010’s “Robin Hood,” which grossed a respectable $322 million, but its budget somehow ballooned to over $200 million.

All of this means that the genre hasn’t been kind to Scott outside of Gladiator ($451 million worldwide/$103 million budget), even though he can be a very commercially viable filmmaker. We need look no further than “The Martian” ($653 million worldwide/$108 million budget) for evidence of this. Fortunately, in this case, Apple’s involvement and unique, multi-faceted distribution strategy paves the way for a situation where a film doesn’t have to make as much as other historical epics had to make to be considered a success.


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