Many movies defy expectations and turn out to be unexpected blockbuster smashes. These movies frequently have little money, little star power, and obscure filmmakers, but they still manage to draw people in and rule the box office. They are the “little engines that could,” defying the odds and demonstrating that any challenge can be surmounted by a compelling narrative and excellent filmmaking.
Here are several movies that have surprised the globe and had an impact on the business, from genre-defying movies like Joker and Slumdog Millionaire to indie films like Get Out and District 9 to Get Out and Get Out.
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Apocalypse Now (1979)
The story of Captain Willard, a US Army special operations officer dispatched on a covert mission to murder and execute a rebellious American colonel during the Vietnam War, is told in the gripping and violent war movie Apocalypse Now. Willard faces the true nature of his job and the cost of the fight as he makes his way deeper into the bush and encounters the horrors of war and the depths of human nature. Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now was a very complex and ambitious movie that had a lot of production issues.
Poor weather, logistical issues, and tensions amongst the actors and crew hindered the shooting of the movie, which was shot in the Philippines. Additionally, the movie greatly overran its budget and time, which led to production and financial issues. Coppola also struggled with editing, and the final version of the movie ran for more than three hours. Despite these challenges, the movie was a box office and critical success, earning over $150 million globally and taking home the Palme d’Or at the 1979 Cannes Film Festival. It is regarded as a masterpiece of all time and a staple of the war genre.
District Nine (2009)
Neill Blomkamp’s science fiction picture District 9 depicts the tale of an alien species that is compelled to live in squalid conditions on Earth. The movie is a critique on how underprivileged groups are treated in society and on power abuse. Because it was Blomkamp’s first feature picture and a low-budget science fiction movie with a largely unknown cast and crew, it was not generally anticipated to be a box office success. Nevertheless, the movie got favourable reviews and became a box office success, earning over $210 million globally on a $30 million budget. It is regarded as one of the best director debut pictures and the epitome of a sleeper smash.
Get Out (2017)
In Jordan Peele’s horror-thriller Get Out, a young African American guy named Chris visits the family of his white lover and discovers a terrible scheme. The social commentary in the movie tackles issues including racism, discrimination, and the commercialization of both bodies and brains.
It was a low-budget horror film with an original and controversial premise, so it wasn’t thought to be a surefire smash, despite earning excellent reviews and buzz after its Sundance premiere. It was also Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, and it starred mostly unknown performers, which made it more difficult to forecast the film’s box office success. On the other hand, despite having a $4.5 million budget, it ended up being a sleeper hit, earning over $255 million globally. Jordan Peele became the first African American to win the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay for it, as well. Best Picture and Best Director nominations were also made for it.
In the science fiction movie Gravity, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play two astronauts who become lost in space following a disastrous accident. The movie is directed by Alfonso Cuarón. The movie delves into deeper issues of human connection and the fragility of life while exploring the extreme physical and psychological hurdles of surviving in space. Despite having well-known actors, the film lacked a renowned director and a prominent advertising campaign. The movie was also seen as a dangerous undertaking because of its distinctive visual effects and the difficulties of shooting in space.
Nevertheless, despite a $100 million budget, it was well received and became a box office success, earning over $723 million globally. It received high praise from critics as well, garnering numerous nominations and awards. The captivating plot and breathtaking visual effects, which are regarded as a technological accomplishment, were responsible for the movie’s success. The success of Gravity demonstrated that, regardless of its star power or the names attached, moviegoers are willing to spend money on a well-made film with an intriguing subject.
In the psychological thriller Joker, Arthur Fleck, a failing comedian, tells the story of how one of the DC Universe’s most recognisable and notorious villains, the Joker, first appeared. At first, it wasn’t anticipated that the film would be a huge box office success. It was promoted as a psychological thriller for adults that was dark, gritty, and adult-oriented, a genre that often doesn’t fare as well at the box office as more popular, action-packed movies. Additionally, it was not based on any existing comic book or superhero characters, who are known to be popular with audiences.
Even Comscore’s senior media analyst Paul Dergarabedian predicted that the film would debut closer to $50 million because it wasn’t your normal comic book movie. Additionally, Todd Phillips, who is most known for his comedies, was the film’s director, which may have hurt the movie’s chances at the box office. Despite these obstacles, Joker became a box office and critical hit, earning more over $1 billion globally and garnering multiple nominations.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
Nia Vardalos is the writer and star of the romantic comedy My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The film tells the sweet tale of Toula Portokalos, a young Greek-American lady who falls in love with a non-Greek guy and strives to win over her traditional Greek family while also coming to terms with her own identity. Because it was produced on a small budget and did not receive extensive promotion, the movie was not widely anticipated to be a box office hit. Additionally, it featured Nia Vardalos, a then-relative unknown actress, and was a romantic comedy, a busy and competitive genre. Nevertheless, the movie’s favourable reviews and effective word-of-mouth marketing helped it become a box office success, earning nearly $368 million globally on a $5 million budget.
The movie’s success came as a great shock, and at that point it held the records for both highest-grossing independent picture and highest-grossing romantic comedy. The movie’s success demonstrated both the potential for box office success and the importance of word-of-mouth marketing for the motion picture business.
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
A young Indian man from the slums who auditions for the Hindi version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire is the subject of Danny Boyle’s British drama film Slumdog Millionaire. The movie, which was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, addresses issues of destiny, love, and the human spirit while simultaneously giving a scathing account of social injustice and poverty in modern-day India.
Slumdog Millionaire wasn’t really anticipated to be a box office success for a number of reasons, including being produced on a modest budget and not receiving much publicity. In addition, it was an indie British movie with a largely unrecognisable cast. Even the movie’s studio, Warner Bros., expressed misgivings about Slumdog Millionaire’s commercial potential and urged it be distributed straight to DVD without a US theatrical release. Despite this, the movie got favourable reviews and became a box office success, earning over $377 million globally on a $15 million budget.
Star Wars (1977)
In the film Star Wars, which was eventually renamed Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, a young farm boy named Luke Skywalker learns that he is the galaxy’s final hope in a battle against the wicked Empire and its formidable leader, Darth Vader. Luke learns the ways of the Force as he sets out on a mission to rescue Princess Leia with the aid of Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Obi-Wan Kenobi. The movie wasn’t initially anticipated to be a big box office hit. In 1977, 20th Century Fox, the studio that distributed the film, did not extensively advertise it because it was a high-risk endeavour.
Additionally, George Lucas, who wasn’t a well-known director at the time, was the film’s director, and the majority of the cast members were unproven performers, which might not have aided the film’s chances at the box office. Even throughout production, Universal Pictures had doubts about Lucas’ ability to carry it off. The lack of popularity of the science fiction genre and the visual effects in 1977 may have further hampered the film’s box office prospects. Despite these difficulties, Star Wars was a huge commercial success, earning over $775 million worldwide and holding the record for highest-grossing movie until E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial overtook it in 1983. With its groundbreaking special effects and storytelling, the movie transformed the cinema business and gave rise to a franchise that is still popular today.
The Blair Witch Project (1999)
The trailblazing found-footage horror movie The Blair Witch Project changed the genre and became a cultural sensation after its debut. The film, which was directed by Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sánchez, follows a crew of documentary filmmakers as they travel into the Maryland woods to learn the truth about the Blair Witch tale only to get lost and come under the threat of a demonic power. The Blair Witch Project had a little budget and did not receive much publicity. Additionally, it was a found-footage horror film, which was a brand-new subgenre at the time, and it was released during a congested summer movie season. However, the movie garnered favourable reviews and was promoted as a true story, creating a lot of excitement and interest among viewers and helping it become a box office success, earning nearly $248 million globally on a budget of $60,000.
The movie’s triumph was regarded as one of the biggest cinematic surprises in history and it established a new benchmark for independent film marketing by demonstrating how a low-budget movie can achieve massive box office success with creative marketing.
The Passion of the Christ (2004)
Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ is a stirring and divisive movie that depicts the final twelve hours of Jesus of Nazareth’s life. The movie depicts Jesus’s physical and psychological pain as he is detained, tried, and ultimately executed in a dramatic and severe manner.
It wasn’t initially anticipated that The Passion of the Christ would be a great box office hit. Due to its depiction of violence and the idea that it was anti-Semitic, the movie was the subject of intense debate and boycott requests. Additionally, it was only released in a small number of US theatres and was made by a little firm (Icon Productions). Strong word-of-mouth, favourable reviews, and the backing of the Christian community, however, were what ultimately made the movie a box office success, earning over $611 million globally.
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