There are many who confuse profit with gross takings, and these are two completely different entities.
These films are those that have been made for relatively modest budgets and have been so unexpectedly successful that they have made millions at the box office, resulting in great profits for their makers. Some of these will be expected, others you will be surprised to see on the list.
This 2007 supernatural horror film was written and directed by Oren Peli and was made for the paltry sum of $15,000. With no big stars on board, this movie was originally an independent feature that representatives from Paramount were impressed by at a screening and promptly acquired. After appearing at a couple of festivals, the film finally had a limited release in September 2009 and went nationwide in October of the same year.
The success was unprecedented and it has gone on to take revenue of $193m a phenomenal profit margin of 645,800 %. This is the kind of success that every film maker dreams of, and makes this little film the most profitable of all time.
Written and directed by and starring Jonathan Caouette, this biographical documentary tells the story of the first 19 years Caouette’s life with his schizophrenic mother. This film is a mix of photos, video footage and diaries, super 8 etc. all lovingly put together by Caouette. He laid out the princely sum of $218 dollars and though it reaped a relatively modest in revenue of $1.1m, compared to how much it was made for it made Caouette a profit of 24,838 %.
This low budget Australian film about the post-apocalyptic lawman of the same name achieved two things; it is the most profitable Australian film of all time and made Mel Gibson a household name. It is also credited with bringing Australian new Wave film to the attention of the rest of the world.
This film, with its barren backdrop, was made for the sum of $200,000, the revenue of $99.7m gave them a phenomenal profit margin of 22,615 %, and set the standard that the following two films in the series failed to live up to.
Super Size Me
This 2004 documentary was the brainchild of the independent film maker Morgan Spurlock. He wrote, directed, produced and starred in this documentation of a 30 day period during which all he ate was food from McDonald’s restaurants. He ate there 3 times a day and over the 30 day period tried every single item on the menu. The change in his physical and psychological wellbeing is plain to see as his weight increases due to his diet.
Spurlock made this film for just $65,000, and the revenue when it hit the theatres was an astounding $29,530,000, a profit margin of 22,615 %. It took him 14 months to lose the 25lbs he gained during the experiment, and with all that money he now has in the bank he needn’t ever worry about abusing his body in the name of art ever again.
The Blair Witch Project
This horror film, shot on a hand held videocam, for a long time held the top spot in the list of most profitable films. Produced from footage shot by amateurs that were then pieced together, the film tells the story of 3 young film students who take a hike into the black hills of Maryland on the trail of local legend known as the Blair Witch, and then disappear.
With a budget of $600,000, The Blair Witch Project was a worldwide smash hit and brought in $248m in revenue. This represented a profit of a staggering 20,592 % and had the small company that made it laughing all the way to the bank.
Night Of The Living Dead
Budget; $114,000, revenue;$30m,profit; 13,057 %, result; global success for a little film first released in 1968. The zombie flick, shot it black and white, became a cult hit across the globe and is still on the lists of top films compiled by industry aficionados. Its cult status has become widespread over the years and it is estimated that the DVD is in the collection of over 80% of Americans.
We know the tune, we know the story and the unexpected success of the film replicates that of our unlikely hero. The mediocre backstreet boxer who is given a shot at the world heavyweight boxing title tugged at the heartstrings of a global audience, and made a star of Sylvester Stallone. Made for $1m and with a revenue of $225m, the profit margin of 11,150 % makes it one of the most profitable films in history, and the only ‘real’ Hollywood film on this list.