The 20 Most Profitable Movies of All Time (Based on Return on Investment)
When it comes to box office dollars, the recipe for a successful movie is pretty simple: small budget + massive ticket sales = huge profit. If done correctly, this means an enormous return on investment (ROI) for the clever minds behind the film. According to data from The Numbers, the 20 films below have mastered that moneymaking recipe to become the most profitable films of all time, based on ROI.
1. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY (2007)
Written and directed by Oren Peli, this classic found footage horror film tops the list, spending only $450,000 on production and ending up with an ROI of 19,749 percent. Scary.
2. THE DEVIL INSIDE (2012)
Hoping to replicate the success (and format) of Paranormal Activity, this similarly documentary-style film, directed and co-written by William Brent Bell, managed to achieve an ROI of 3632 percent. Though it was not nearly as supernatural of an outcome as Peli managed, it's enough to earn the movie a spot right below his film in terms of profit.
3. PETER PAN (1953)
This Walt Disney classic, with its widespread appeal to children and adults alike, had a total ROI of 3394 percent. Never growing up appears to be a profitable endeavor.
4. GREASE (1978)
An American classic that is still finding new audiences, Grease sang and danced its way to the near top of the list with an ROI of 2969 percent.
5. GOD’S NOT DEAD (2014)
A huge hit with Christian moviegoers, this Kevin Sorbo starrer scored an ROI of 2627 percent and managed to stick around in theaters for a whopping 20 weeks.
6. PARANORMAL ACTIVITY 2 (2010)
The third horror movie on this list (and the second with "Paranormal Activity" in its title), Paranormal Activity 2 ended up with an ROI of 2471 percent, even though its budget dwarfed the original's.
7. INSIDIOUS (2011)
Another horror film that managed to scare up a huge audience, Insidious possesses an ROI of 2139 percent.
8. YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN (1974)
This comedic reimagining of Frankenstein was a major hit for Mel Brooks and ended up with a total ROI of 1954 percent.
9. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)
Frank Capra's uplifting holiday classic is the oldest movie on this list, the source of the idea that every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings, and a major hit, with an ROI of 1804 percent.
10. RESERVOIR DOGS (1992)
Earning a well-deserved ROI of 1771 percent, Quentin Tarantino's directorial debut gunned its way to becoming the tenth most profitable movie.
11. JAWS (1975)
This classic film, with its abundance of blood, screaming, and somewhat-obvious shark props, racked up an ROI of 1755 percent and kept beachgoers out of the water for years.
12. ANNABELLE (2014)
Yes, another horror film! John R. Leonetti's Annabelle managed to creep its way up to more than $250 million in ticket sales worldwide, yielding an ROI of 1408 percent.
13. BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (1991)
The second Disney movie appearing on this list, this classic love story earned the biggest profit and started out with the biggest budget. What does that mean? Well, in this case, an ROI of 1340 percent.
14. THE KING’S SPEECH (2010)
Earning an ROI of 1209 percent, this historical drama was a major hit, starring Colin Firth as King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue, his speech therapist.
15. MAGIC MIKE (2012)
Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey didn't have to bare it all to drum up more than $170 million in ticket sales, leaving director Steven Soderbergh with an ROI of 1181 percent.
16. THE FAULT IN OUR STARS (2014)
Based on the incredibly popular book by John Green, the big screen adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars took our tears and turned them into a profit of nearly $150 million. That’s an ROI of 1119 percent for those keeping count.
17. THE PURGE (2013)
Writer/director James DeMonaco's innovative take on anarchy ended up scoring an ROI of 1097 percent (not to mention a 2014 sequel and a third film on the way next year).
18. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE (2008)
Danny Boyle's Oscar-winning romantic drama earned nearly $385 million worldwide for an ROI of 1067 percent.
19. BLACK SWAN (2010)
Full of hallucinations, ballet, and (of course) swans, Darren Aronofsky's psychological thriller performed brilliantly, achieving an ROI of 1039 percent.
20. UNFRIENDED (2015)
The most recent addition to the list, Unfriended rounds out the top 20 just as it began: with a found footage horror film. Shot on a $1 million budget, the film—directed by relative newcomer Levan Gabriadze—took in more than $60 million worldwide, leaving it with an ROI of 1011 percent.