A list of the highest-grossing films of all time is filled with movies made by studios. Many of these are superhero or Star Wars films. Studios had the capital to make these films, some of which cost hundreds of millions of dollars to produce. Recently, the most expensive films have been made by new “studios” such as Amazon, Apple and Netflix, which make films to boost the number of people who subscribe to their streaming services.
Independent films are defined as those not made by large studios. From time to time, one breaks through and has a large box office haul. However, this is rare.
To determine the highest-grossing independent film of all time, 24/7 Tempo reviewed worldwide ticket sales data for nearly 200 of the most popular independent films based on rankings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon; Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator; and Ranker, a digital opinion database. Ticket sales data and production budgets came from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by Nash Information Services. Information on cast and director came from IMDb.
Some of the films we considered had tiny budgets. “Night of the Living Dead” was made for $114,000 and grossed more than $200 million. “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” was made for $140,000 and grossed almost $130 million. “The Blair Witch Project” had a budget of $600,000 (tiny when adjusted for inflation) and made a whopping $450 million.
Occasionally, there are also films with big budgets and big stars that qualify as independent. For example, after the success of “Pulp Fiction,” Quentin Tarantino went on to make the two “Kill Bill” films and “Inglourious Basterds” (all four were on our list). And showing just how broad the category is, the highest-grossing independent film of all time is “The Passion of the Christ,” with a gross of almost $1 billion.
“The Passion of the Christ” was released in 2004, directed by Mel Gibson and starred Jim Caviezel, Monica Bellucci and Maia Morgenstern. Here are the box office details:
- Worldwide ticket sales adjusted for inflation: $917,937,665
- Worldwide ticket sales at time of release: $622,313,635
- Production budget: $25,000,000