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Ranking the Box Office Results of the Last 30 Best Picture Winners, Adjusted for Inflation

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | January 14, 2013 | Comments ()


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At the box office this weekend, Zero Dark Thirty expanded nation-wide and racked up an impressive $24 million, which suggests that not only did the Oscar nomination help, but many people might have turned out to see if Kathryn Bigelow truly was snubbed of a Best Director nomination (she was) (alternative theory for why it performed so well: Because it's a really good movie). In fact, the wide release of Zero Dark Thirty put down the two new releases, A Haunted House (an embarassing $18 million) and Gangster Squad ($16.7 million). Two other Oscar nominees for Best Picture continued to chug along, too: Django Unchained added $11 million to raise its total to $125 million, while Les Mis added $10 million, good for $119 million overall. Among other Best Picture nominees, Silver Linings Playbook sits at $41 million; Lincoln has made $152 million; Life o Pi ($94 million), and Argo ($111 million).

However, among this year's nominees, there are zero that will ever climb atop the list of highest grossing movies among Best Picture winners (adjusted for inflation), but two that could potentially break the record for lowest grossing Best Picture winner. The bad news for Kathryn Bigelow is that her Hurt Locker holds that title; the good news is, if Zero Dark Thirty wins, it's already surpassed The Hurt Locker. However, Beasts of the Southern Wild ($11 million) could fall below The Hurt Locker (but likely would not, with a re-release likely to push it to number two) and Amour ($650,000), should it win, would almost certainly take the title.

At any rate, I took the liberty of going back 30 years and adjusting the Best Picture winners for inflation, and the rankings, I think, might be surprising.

30. The Hurt Locker (2009) -- $17 million

29. The Artist (2012) -- $43 million

28. Crash (2005) -- $66 million

27. No Country for Old Men (2007) -- $82 million

26. The Last Emperor (1987) -- $83 million

25. Amadeus (1984) -- $115 million

24. Million Dollar Baby (2004) -- $122 million

23. Ghandi (1982) -- $130 million

22. The English Patient (1996) -- $134 million

21. Braveheart (1995) -- $134 million

20. The King's Speech (2011) -- $137 million

19. Slumdog Millionaire (2008) -- $153 million

18. Shakespeare in Love (1998) -- $154 million

17. The Departed (2006) -- $156 million

16. Schindler's List (1993) -- $178 million

15. Out of Africa (1985) -- $185 million

14. Unforgiven (1989) -- $189 million

13. American Beauty (1999) -- $193 million

12. Driving Miss Daisy (1989) -- $196 million

11. Chicago (2002) -- $220 million

10. A Beautiful Mind (2001) -- $228 million

9. Silence of the Lambs (1991) -- $241 million

8. Terms of Endearment (1983) -- $255 million

7. Gladiator (2000) -- $270 million

6. Platoon (1986) -- $275 million

5. Rain Man (1988) -- $336 million

4. Dances with Wolves (1990) -- $339 million

3. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) -- $478 million

2. Forrest Gump (1994) -- $611 million

1. Titanic (1997) -- $998 million



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • Wasn't Unforgiven in 1992?

  • Zombi3

    "30. The Hurt Locker (2009) — $17 million

    29. The Artist (2012) — $43 million"

    So let me see, a black and white silent film made by the French made two and a half times as much money as Hurt Locker?

    Ouch.

  • LibraryChick

    The Hurt Locker was not a commercial success compared to other Best Picture winners. Should we be surprised? I never saw a single trailer for it. It never came to theaters in my area. My parents never heard of it until there was a segment about it on 60 Minutes, and I think it came out on DVD a week later. Most of my veteran friends had no desire to see it because they already lived it in one form or another (even if they weren't bomb techs).

    The Artist had a few advantages, namely better marketing, a cute little dog, and the novelty of being a mostly silent movie in the sound era. When I saw it in the theater, the crowd was primarily the nostalgic senior citizen crowd. It's really not that hard to figure out why it trounced The Hurt Locker commercially.

    For the older movies, we should also consider the DVD factor. Titanic tops this list because teenage girls watched it over and over again in the theaters back when it took forever for movies to become available on video. If the theater in my town was dumb enough to keep Titanic around for three months when we were only a four-screen town, imagine how it performed in other places. Then again, if DVDs had been on the current release schedule, imagine how much less money it would have made.

  • Max

    A Haunted House made more money this weekend than The Hurt Locker made during it's entire release??? Talk about an embarassing 18 million...

  • Kballs

    The Hurt Locker barely broke even in theaters??? That's obnoxious.

  • Untamed

    Adjusted for inflation how? Reduced the earnings from long ago or increased them incrementally? And are we to assume that you are using domestic earnings and not international? I just find your numbers hard to jive with reported earnings without knowing the answers.

  • QueeferSutherland

    Think how much more Chicago would have made if Tom Kane wasn't so fixated on Lennox Gardens.

    /pours one out for Crazy Fraiser
    //pours case out for Kathleen Roberson's rack

  • Return of the King won in 2003, not 1993.

  • Peter Jackson

    That's what you think

  • magslivs

    I"m not the best at math. but I don't think the Lord of the Rings came out in 1993...

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