We usually think of the movies that are nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars as being far less financially successful than major blockbusters. And while that’s typically true in terms of gross, due to their small budgets, these Academy Award movies sometimes actually end up being more profitable than tentpole action franchises.
Recently, Party Casino compiled a list of the most profitable Best Picture nominees since 2008, comparing each movie’s budget to its final gross to figure out its return on investment. The given number represents how many dollars the studio earned in profit for every dollar they spent making the movie; this doesn’t take into account money the studio spent marketing the film, as this data is not publicly available.
The results are fairly surprising, and they put into perspective just how massive of an achievement Get Out was in 2017. Here’s a look at the 15 most lucrative Best Picture nominees since 2008 (but not necessarily the highest-grossing ones).
15. The Blind Side
Worldwide gross: $309 million
The Sandra Bullock drama, The Blind Side, was a bonafide hit when it was released in 2009. The film grossed $309 million worldwide on a $29 million budget and therefore had an ROI of 9.7. This means that for every $1 Warner Bros. spent making the movie, they made $9.70 in profit.
Even just in terms of pure dollars, that gross is fairly impressive. In the United States, it actually made more money than Justice League did in 2017, and that’s not even adjusted for inflation.
Though The Blide Side did not take Best Picture that year — The Hurt Locker won instead — Sandra Bullock was awarded Best Actress.
Next: The two main actors in this film both won Oscars, although the movie did not win Best Picture.
14. Dallas Buyers Club
Worldwide gross: $55 million
Dallas Buyers Club came out right near the start of the “McConaissance,” with Matthew McConaughey playing an AIDS patient who helps fellow patients get medicine. The movie’s actual gross wasn’t actually that extraordinary: $55 million.
But it ended up being quite profitable because of the low budget of $5 million. The ROI was therefore 10.04. Matthew McConaughey went on to win Best Actor, while his co-star, Jared Leto, won Best Supporting Actor, a rare case where two performers from the same film take home both prizes.
Best Picture that year went to 12 Years a Slave, which also did well but had a higher budget and therefore a lower ROI than Dallas Buyers Club.
Next: The fact that this Best Picture nominee was nearly three hours long did not prevent it from becoming a hit.
Worldwide gross: $44.5 million
Boyhood is a bit of a tough sell. After all, it’s a near three-hour movie where a boy grows up and nothing particularly exciting really happens. But audiences were into it, as Boyhood grossed $44.5 million.
With a budget of just $4 million, it had an ROI of 10.13. That’s particularly noteworthy considering that at its height, the movie only played in 775 theaters. For comparison, a major blockbuster film typically plays in over 4,000 theaters.
Boyhood was one of the frontrunners for Best Picture that year, but it ended up losing to Birdman. However, Patricia Arquette won for Best Supporting Actress.
Next: This movie’s 22-year-old lead took home the prize for Best Actress.
12. Silver Linings Playbook
Worldwide gross: $236 million
Silver Linings Playbook was the first of Jennifer Lawrence’s non-franchise films that was a huge hit, grossing $236 million worldwide.
The movie’s budget was $21 million, and so the ROI ended up being a solid 10.20. It went on to earn Jennifer Lawrence the Oscar for Best Actress, but it lost Best Picture to Argo.
Next: This movie was one of the cheapest Best Picture nominees ever.
11. Beasts of the Southern Wild
Worldwide gross: $21 million
Beasts of the Southern Wild was a movie that really came out of nowhere. It was helmed by a first-time director and starred a young girl, Quvenzhané Wallis, who nobody had ever heard of.
The movie never got a wide release in theaters, and it only ever played on 318 screens. But even so, it took in $21 million worldwide, a higher gross than some movies that open on hundreds of more screens. Its ROI was 10.67, mainly because it is one of the cheapest Best Picture nominees ever made with a budget of just $1.8 million.
Next: This 2016 movie never really had a chance at Best Picture, but audiences loved it.
Worldwide gross: $140 million
Starring Dev Patel as a young man who sets out to find the family he was separated from as a kid, Lion was a movie that was beloved by general audiences, while critics were a bit less enthusiastic in their praise of it.
It had a fairly wide release, playing in 1,802 theaters, and that allowed it to gross $140 million worldwide. With a budget of $12 million, its ROI was 10.69.
Lion was never really a contender for Best Picture that year, though, losing to Moonlight.
Next: This movie made billions of dollars, but its ROI wasn’t actually that high due to the massive budget.
Worldwide gross: $2.7 billion
It’s difficult to decide what’s more surprising about this: that Avatar isn’t higher up on the list, or that Avatar was nominated for Best Picture. This was the year — 2009 — that the Academy expanded the Best Picture category to 10, theoretically to allow for more crowd-pleasing blockbusters like Avatar to be up for awards.
And crowd-pleasing Avatar was. It is currently the highest-grossing movie of all time, having grossed an eye-popping $2.7 billion worldwide. However, since it also had one of the highest budgets of any movie ever made — $237 million — its ROI was not as high as it could have been: 10.73.
So while Avatar is the highest-grossing film of all time, it’s far from being the most profitable compared to its budget.
Next: This cheap little movie made a huge splash.
Worldwide gross: $48 million
Years before La La Land, Damien Chazelle wowed audiences with another jazz-oriented drama with Whiplash, starring J.K. Simmons as a music teacher who uses extreme methods on his student, played by Miles Teller.
Surprisingly, for a movie with two major actors in the lead roles, Whiplash only cost $3.3 million. As a result, the decent $48 million gross was more than enough to make Sony Pictures happy, as its ROI was 13.82.
Next: The other Damien Chazelle movie about jazz was even more profitable.
7. La La Land
Worldwide gross: $466 million
Funnily enough, Damien Chazelle’s other jazz drama was almost exactly as profitable as his previous one. La La Land was a grand achievement for Chazelle, grossing $466 million worldwide. After a successful limited release, Summit Entertainment had enough confidence in the movie to open it in over 3,000 screens, and their gambit paid off.
However, Whiplash was a character-focused drama whereas La La Land was a big Hollywood musical with massive setpieces. Therefore, the latter film’s budget was a lot higher — $30 million — meaning that while La La Land was much more of a hit than Whiplash, it was only a little more profitable compared to its budget, with an ROI of 13.87.
Next: This movie received a massive boost in its box office after becoming such an awards contender.
Worldwide gross: $65 million
For much of the 2016 awards season, most people expected La La Land to win Best Picture. Moonlight, a coming-of-age story about a gay black man living in Miami, was a dark horse candidate, but La La Land seemed much more like the type of movie that the Academy would pick. But then, suddenly, it emerged from behind and took the top prize.
Before the Golden Globes, at which Moonlight won Best Drama, the film was only moderately successful. But it received a huge boost after that, and ended its run with $65 million. The fact that the movie only cost $4 million made it the most profitable of the 2016 nominees. Its ROI was 15.25.
Next: This period piece was a much bigger success at the box office than anyone predicted.
5. The Imitation Game
Worldwide gross: $233 million
The Imitation Game on paper seems like the kind of stuffy Oscar-bait drama that would appeal to Academy voters but not to the general population. The Benedict Cumberbatch drama is a period piece about a real person — Alan Turing — something that the Academy loves.
However, The Imitation Game actually did incredibly well. It grossed $233 million worldwide, with a major percentage of that gross coming from the United Kingdom. The budget was $14 million, giving The Imitation Game an ROI of 15.68. It, therefore, did better than that year’s Best Picture winner, Birdman.
Next: This Best Picture winner’s ROI is about 10 points higher than The Imitation Game‘s.
4. Slumdog Millionaire
Worldwide gross: $377 million
Audiences clearly love Patel, as he’s the only actor to lead two movies on this list. Slumdog Millionaire was where most people were first introduced to Patel, and it’s easy to forget just how big of a hit the movie was: it grossed $377 million worldwide.
In the U.S., it was open on nearly 3,000 screens, and American audiences ate it up. But it was also a hit overseas, as the foreign gross was $236 million. With a budget of $15 million, Slumdog‘s ROI was an insane 24.1, more than any blockbuster like Star Wars or Avengers could dream of.
Next: Despite how dark and bizarre this movie was, it’s one of the most profitable recent nominees.
3. Black Swan
Worldwide gross: $329 million
Black Swan is a really strange, dark film, which is typical of Darren Aronofsky’s work. It stars Natalie Portman as a ballerina who descends into madness, and it becomes increasingly bizarre and disturbing as it goes on. You might expect it to not do very well at the box office like Aronofsky’s recent film mother!, which alienated the average moviegoer and earned an F CinemaScore.
But actually, Black Swan did quite well. It grossed an impressive $329 million worldwide, with about $100 million of that coming from the U.S. Since Aronofsky was able to keep the budget low at $13 million, that makes this one of the most profitable Best Picture nominees in recent years, with an ROI of 24.33.
Next: This movie had the best return on investment of any Best Picture winner of the past decade.
2. The King’s Speech
Worldwide gross: $414 million
Every so often, the movie that wins Best Picture is also the one that was the most profitable compared to its budget, and that was certainly the case in 2010 with The King’s Speech.
The Colin Firth drama about King George VI’s struggle to deal with a speech impediment grossed an absolutely astounding $414 million. That made it the No. 18 highest-grossing movie of that year, ahead of blockbusters like The Expendables and The Other Guys.
With a budget of $15 million, The King’s Speech ROI was 26.61.
Next: The most profitable Best Picture nominee in recent years is one that’s up at the 2018 Oscars.
1. Get Out
Worldwide gross: $254 million
Get Out is the most profitable Best Picture nominee of the past decade, and it isn’t even remotely close. The Jordan Peele horror movie was one of the biggest success stories of 2017, grossing $254 million worldwide. It was co-produced by Blumhouse Productions, a company notorious for keeping its budgets tight. Therefore, even though it looks gorgeous and boasts a strong cast, it only cost $4.5 million.
As a result, its ROI is a staggering 55.58, more than double that of any other movie on this list. Yes, you read that correctly. For every dollar Blumhouse spent, they made back about $55 in profit. To put that in perspective, Disney only profited about $5 for every dollar they spent on Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
With movies like these that cost so little and gross so much, Blumhouse is quietly one of the most successful studios in Hollywood.
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