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There's Something Screwy About this 15 Most Profitable Films List

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | March 22, 2011 |

By Dustin Rowles | Industry | March 22, 2011 |


There's a list making the movie blog rounds today -- the 15 Most Profitable films of All Time -- a list that was actually posted last September on CNBC. But it's a slow news cycle, so some enterprising outfit decided to resurrect the list (I got it via Movieline) and spread it around the web. The list is as follows:

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)

The list itself is based on how much the film grossed compared to its investment, and it's ranked above according to the Return on the investment. What's screwy about the list is that, last year, I put together a similar list of the most profitable movies of all time ranked by their return on the investment. According to my list, Paranormal Activity is the most profitable, with a 645,801 percent return on the investment, compared to the 6,150 percent return on the investment of My Big Fat Greek Wedding above.

1. Paranormal Activity (Budget: $15,000; Revenue: $193 million): 645,801.51%

2. Tarnation (Budget: $218; Revenue: $1.1 million): 266,416.97%

3. Mad Max (Budget: $200,000; Revenue $99.7 million): 24,837.50%

4. Super Size Me (Budget: $65,000; Revenue: $29,529,368): 22,614.90%

5. The Blair Witch Project (Budget: $600,000; Revenue: $248 million): 20,591.67%

6. Night of the Living Dead (Budget:$114,000; Revenue: $30 million): 13,057.89%

7. Rocky (Budget: $1 million; Revenue: $225 million): 11,150.00%

8. Halloween (Budget: $325,000; Revenue: $70 million): 10,669.23%

9. American Graffiti: (Budget: $777,000; Revenue: $140 million): 8,909.01%

10. Once (Budget: $150,000; Revenue: $18 million): 6,232.39%

11. The Stewardesses (Budget: $200,000; Revenue: $25 million): 6,150.00%

12. Napoleon Dynamite (Budget: $400,000; Revenue: $46 million): 5,667.62%
1
3. Friday the 13th (Budget: $550,000; Revenue: $59,7 million): 5,332.24%

14. Open Water (Budget: $500,000; Revenue: $52,100,882): 5,110.09%

15. Gone with the Wind (Budget: $3.9 million; Revenue: $390 million) 4,906.73%

Granted, I know nothing about math. So, maybe someone else could explain the discrepancy between the two lists, and what the differing methodologies were that allowed us to come up with two completely different sets of films as the most profitable ones of all time. Note, also: That CNBC is a financial site, while I passed college Algebra on only the second time I tried.

Who do you think is more trustworthy? Also, if you're looking for an arbitrary reason to choose one list over the other, keep in mind that my list doesn't have Mrs. Doubtfire on it.



Dustin is the founder and co-owner of Pajiba. You may email him here or follow him on Twitter.



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