When it comes to the action genre, studios spend big bucks in the pursuit of big spectacle. Throw in marketing costs, box office sharing, and good old creative Hollywood accounting, and it’s no wonder that some of the genre’s highest-grossing entries aren’t necessarily the most profitable action movies of all time.
For proof, look no further than the 2009 blockbuster “Avatar,” which broke (and then re-broke) box office records but appears at just #33 on the following list. On the flip side of that coin is the most profitable action movie of all time, a low-budget hit that you might not see coming. And some were even good — these are blockbuster hits that are actually critically acclaimed.
So which movies did add the most to their respective bottom lines after all the books were cleared? Well, the James Bond franchise certainly knew how to generate serious bang for its budget during the early days, with its first three installments all making the top 10.
Then we have the unlikely smash “Jаckass: The Movie,” which turned a production budget (adjusted for inflation) of just $3.2 million into $125.2 million (adjusted for inflation) at the worldwide box office. Whether or not “Jаckass” is an actual “action” movie might be up for debate, but there’s no disputing its status as a wildly successful franchise-starter. (Click here for the worst movie from every major franchise.)
Clearly, a list of cinema’s most profitable action movies (adjusted for inflation) is more sweeping in scope when compared to the genre’s highest-grossing titles. Whereas modern franchise installments overwhelm the annals of highest grossers, net profits wrangle in smaller and older films that made a surprise killing at the box office. All this said, one will still find plenty of “Star Wars” titles and other predictable fare on the list of history’s most profitable movies.
To determine the most profitable action movies of all time, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on global box office and production budget from Opus Data, a product of Nash Information Services. Action films were ranked based on the return on investment ratio of global box office to production budget. Global box office figures were adjusted for inflation using historical ticket prices from the National Association of Theatre Owners. Only films with a global inflation-adjusted box office of at least $10 million were considered. Data on IMDb user rating and Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score are current as of October 2022. Genre classification and director credits came from IMDb.
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