How Much Did You Contribute to the 15 Most Profitable Films' Grosses?

Everyone accidentally saw Avatar and made it the highest-grossing film ever, but did you know that movie cost, like, nine figures to make? It really did. Therefore, James Cameron's 3-D coloring book doesn't rank among the most profitable films ever made based on how much it grossed compared to its investment. CNBC's new list of the 15 most profitable films is based on that figure, with multiple films earning back over 2,500x their budget. Let's investigate ahead.

All figures' budgets are adjusted for inflation.

15. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (2003)

Return on investment: 1008% (Budget $111 million / Gross revenue $1.1 billion)

14. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)

Return on investment: 1160% (Budget $38 million / Gross revenue $441 million)

13. There's Something About Mary (1998)

Return on investment: 1194% (Budget $31 million / Gross revenue $370 million)

12. The Hangover (2009)

Return on investment: 1297% (Budget $36 million / Gross revenue $467 million)

11. Jaws (1975)

Return on investment: 1308% (Budget $36 million / Gross revenue $471 million)

10. Ghost (1990)

Return on investment: 1446% (Budget: $35 million / Gross Revenue: $506 million)

9. Home Alone (1990)

Return on investment: 1590% (Budget $30 million / Gross revenue $477 million)

8. The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Return on investment: 1749% (Budget: $35 million / Gross Revenue: $612 million)

7. American Beauty (1999)

Return on investment: 1780% (Budget $20 million / Gross revenue $356 million)

6. Star Wars (1977)

Return on investment: 1938% (Budget $40 million / Gross Revenue: $775 million

5. Grease (1978)

Return on investment: 1975% (Budget $20 million / Gross revenue $394 million)

4. Pretty Woman (1990)

Return on investment: 2013% (Budget $23 million / Gross revenue $463 million)

3. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Return on investment: 2520% (Budget $15 million / Gross revenue $378 million)

2. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Return on investment: 3172% (Budget: $25 million / Gross Revenue: $793 million)

1. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)

Return on investment: 6150% (Budget $6 million / Gross revenue $369 million)

My God: Top-ten standing for American Beauty? Top-three placement for Slumdog Millionaire and My Big Fat Greek Wedding? It boggles the mind, even if you know that Greek is the highest-grossing romantic comedy ever. Something is sinister about the term "profitable," like we've been duped by cheap toy makers. Damn you and your Pet Rock of a romcom, Nia Vardalos!

Did you contribute to all these enormous successes? Even the embarrassing ones? How many of the Best Picture winners did you see after they took home the prize? And how much do you resent Christ and the year 2004 right about now?

· The 15 Most Profitable Films [CNBC via Moviefone]


  • backbaconnbeer says:

    Lord Of The Rings Trilogy was filmed all at once at a cost of $250 Million. So the budget of Lord Of The Rings:Return Of The King would be approx. $74 Million. The general rule in the film business is a film is profitable after it had returned 2 1/2 times its cost.

  • Gary says:

    Also, the original production budget on Star Wars was $11 million. I don't know where exactly half of the above figures came from, but they seem largely inaccurate.

  • Mad Max says:

    I'd heard that 'Mad Max' was the most profitable feature film until "The Blair Witch Project' came along and dethroned it, but the most profitable movie of all time was "Deep Throat'. None of those movies are even on the list.

  • Citizen Bitch says:

    so who gets all the money?

  • patrick joyce says:

    Monty Python and the Holy Grail was made for 365000 and grossed 128000000. that is 35068.5%

  • Noah says:

    This list is extremely wrong. Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity (while being bad movies) were the most profitable, and some of the budget is off. Star Wars didn't cost 40mil. The studio company wouldn't dream of going over 15 - after Star Wars movie budgets started rising, but Star Wars cost about 11mil to make. And Jaws cost like 7mil. Idk who made this list but I want them fired. Or demoted. Or made fun of.

  • Morgo says:

    haha nerdy commenters love arguing about box office grosses. Like it makes any difference!

  • Joe says:

    All of you seem to be bitching for some reason. Let's try some thinking instead. All of these movies seem to be American made studio films that are not pornographic in nature. If these are requirements then none of the films you think should be on the list fit the bill. Also, inflation must be taken into account because purchases of DVDs, or other sales of the movie outside of the theater, may take place way down the line from when the movie actually came out. In other words, DURRRRRRRR I CAN MAKE A REASONABLE ASSUMPTION WHEREAS YOU ARE ALL RETARDED. Peace

  • eric says:

    and where is The Blair Witch Project? i don't understand how you came up with these calculations.

  • Samuel says:

    Jurassic Park should be on this list too, 1451% return.

  • Mike says:

    I hated Slumdog Millionaire. One of the most overrated movies of all time.

  • Lars Nygren says:

    Having seen 14 movies on the list and liking 13 of them, I think this list says more us and the movies we see than the movies themselves.
    I think the Lord of the Rings Triogy, not just Return of the Kin, and the Passion of the Christ will be seen for years to come. They will be seen because they are great movies.
    Some movies on the list, like Home Alone, My Big Fat Greek Weding,and There's Something About Mary, tell me that most of like a good comedy.
    Even Pope John Paul II liked The Passion of the Christ. I remember his comment that "It is as it was", and he gave a papal blessing to the movie's star ( sorry but I can't spell his last name.)
    I do hope that studios do bear in mind that sometimes popularity doesn't compensate for drek. I personally find 3d and CGI by and large distracting, and not worth the time. 3d has be around for over 50 years, and has gone through periods of popularity and periods relagated to cheap horror movies.
    I will not comment on what belongs on the list and what doesn't. Profit is only one criterion. The list shows that we all will pay to see a good movie

  • gregvvv says:

    What about PORKY'S???

  • Petie the Porker says:

    "The list shows that we all will pay to see a good movie"
    Or it shows that we will pay to see a bad movie.
    Or it shows how damned Hollywood has become.
    Or it shows how willingly people will go and watch some of this drek.
    I hate to rain on your parade but "I will not comment on what belongs on the list and what doesn't. Profit is only one criterion" is just crap. Do you not see the title for the list? It doesn't matter if you think the films are "good" or how much you like them and it doesn't matter if you think "this list says more us and the movies we see than the movies themselves" (whatever the hell that means; I know you think you're deep, but I could just as well argue that we watch these films because they are the only crap that studios will release to theaters). Profit is only one criterion? Hate to break it to you, but in this list profit is the ONLY criterion. Take your fancyass opinions (which are worthless; good comments about 3D and CGI though, burn both) somewhere else or read the title again. This list even failed to illustrate rightfully what the most profitable films were.

  • Truth says:

    Paranormal Activity:
    Budget: U$15,000
    Gross Revenue: U$193,000,000
    Profit: 1,286,666%

  • tylerharrell says:

    you guys are morons...and this isn't the first time I posted a comment like this.

  • Bill says:

    Everyone forgets that "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" has been in theaters, still making money since the 1970's what I don't understand is how it is never listed as a profitable movie. I'm not saying it's a great movie but it certianly made a helluva alot of money.

  • Rob Cuthbert says:

    What about The Empire Strikes back?
    Budget: U$18 million
    Gross Revenue: U$290 Domestic + $248 Foreign = $540 million worldwide?

  • Terry says:

    It seems like their list is comprised of studio movies online, which would explain the exemptions of "Blair Witch" and "Paranormal." If this is so, it should be specified in their article. Terrible editorial work again at

  • Earl says:

    No love for the horror genre because Blair Witch Project and Paranormal Activity would be at the top of this list instead there not even on this list shame on those who researched and published this article.

  • Ace says:

    So Blair Witch, Animal House, Saw, Paranormal Activity, and every movie this list missed is not American, and pornographic?

  • Fanny says:

    The person that made this list definitely suck at his job.
    As everybody already said, where are Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity? And Star Wars first trilogy?

  • Paul says:

    If you really want to figure out the most profitable films in history, go beyond the domestic gross. Add in worldwide gross, cable, video, TV, and, the killer bonanza for two of these films, merchandising. "Star Wars" probably runs away with the overall total with "E.T." still in 2nd.

  • john says:

    i think the article was not well researched..How can they exclude Blairwitch & Paranormal Activity?