Special Report

The Only 9 Best Picture Oscar Nominees That Lost Money

The 2023 Oscar nominations for Best Picture are in, and among the critically acclaimed films on the list, some have nevertheless failed to turn a profit. Among these are director Sarah Polley’s drama “Women Talking,” which has eked out only $2.4 million against an estimated $135 million production budget. Other box office bombs on the list include Stephen Speilberg’s coming-of-age film “The Fabelmans” and Todd Field’s psychological drama “Tár.” (Here are the 25 great directors with the most box office bombs.)

These films are still in release, so might make back at least a little more money. That’s not true of older films, though. Despite all-star casts, great cinematography, and numerous awards, some Oscar-nominated movies just haven’t paid off. To determine the Best Picture nominees that never turned a profit, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on production budget and box office from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by Nash Information Services. Films that were nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture were ranked based on the return on investment ratio between production budget and worldwide box office. Data is not adjusted for inflation. Director and cast information is from IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon. 

While a few of the films on this list, including Ron Howard’s “Frost/Nixon” and David Lean’s “A Passage to India,” almost managed to break even, one film made less than a quarter of its budget back. “CODA,” a Sundance favorite that Apple paid a record of $25 million for, has seen a box office return of $0.22 per dollar.

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A number of the films have won multiple honors including Oscars, Golden Globes, and Screen Actors Guild awards. Others were included among the American Film Institute’s choices for best film of the year upon their release. (See the best of the best – Oscar winners for Best Picture ranked.)

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