Indie movies sometimes hit it big. The offbeat 1999 horror flick “The Blair Witch Project,” which cost less than $500,000 to produce and had a cast nobody had ever heard of, brought in $258 million. Two years earlier, “The Full Monty,” a wry look at working class men in the north of England and their racy plan to make some money, had earned the same amount.
Films like these are the exception, though. Major production companies tend to prefer tried and true formulas to offbeat original projects that might make a buck — but probably won’t. That’s why the top box office earners these days, the true blockbusters, tend to be sequels to previously successful properties (“Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone”) or extensions of popular franchises like “Star Wars” or the seemingly endless story lines from the Marvel universe. These are the best movie franchises to marathon from home.
Also potentially very successful, to be fair, are animated features which do tend to show some originality, like “Shrek,” “Cars,” and “Finding Nemo.” And, as 24/7 Tempo discovered when we assembled this list of the biggest box office hits of the 2000s, (comparatively) low-budget indies do sometimes surprise everyone and rake in major profits. See which movies that made the most money with the fewest dollars.
For example, No. 43 on the list “My Big Fat Greek Wedding,” produced by Tom Hanks with a budget of $5 million, realized $368 million worldwide. And way up in the No. 11 position, controversial actor-director Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ,” which cost $30 million to make, has the distinction of being the highest-grossing independent film of all time, with a box office of $622 million.
To identify the biggest box office hits of the 2000’s, 24/7 Tempo reviewed box office data as of April 2021 from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by consulting firm Nash Information Services. Rankings are out of 4,230 movies for which data was available. Information on the cast and director(s) for each movie is from IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon.