There are always those blockbuster movies that audiences just know are massive commercial hits. Even if you didn’t check out the official numbers of how much money they made, you know the films were big deals. On the flip side, most people also know when a movie becomes a flop because it’s talked about often.
However, there’s an interesting middle section of sorts where movies ended up making way more money than most people probably realized. Whether it was because they were critically panned, forgettable, or just the kind of thing you didn’t think would gross near or more than $1 billion, some films have shocking box office totals.
The Martian (2015) – $630.1M
Stream On DirecTV
There’s no doubt that The Martian is one of the more impressively made films of the last decade. The Ridley Scott-directed movie won a Best Picture award at the Golden Globes and was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay.
The film centers on an astronaut who gets left behind on Mars after a mission and NASA’s struggle to find a way to bring him home. As great as the movie is, it seems like one that would be a critical darling but would unjustly get overlooked by casual viewers. Instead, it was a commercial hit en route to just over $630 mlilion.
Incredibles 2 (2018) – $1.243B
Stream On Disney+
On the surface, it makes total sense that Incredibles 2 was a huge commercial hit. It’s aimed at children (which is usually a safe way to make a lot of money), is the sequel of a popular film, and comes from Pixar, who are basically the kings of the animation world.
That being said, it’s still pretty surprising to see that it surpassed the $1 billion mark. The original came in at just over $600 million, so this was a big jump, especially given that it arrived over a decade later. At the time of its release, Incredibles 2 even became the second-highest-grossing animated movie ever, though it currently sits in fourth.
Ghost (1990) – $505.7M
Stream On AMC+
Even if you’ve never seen Ghost, you likely know about the memorable scene involving pottery between Demi Moore and Patrick Swayze. Of course, there are plenty of iconic scenes from films that came out in the ’80s and ’90s even if they weren’t box office smashes.
That’s why it’s kind of surprising to learn that Ghost amassed $505.7M in theaters. Telling the story of a man who was murdered and returns as a ghost to save the women he loves from the same fate, it’s not exactly a plot that feels like it appeals to a massive audience. Still, Ghost won the box office for 1990 and was among the highest-grossing films ever when it came out.
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018) – $910.8M
Rent On Apple TV
Almost everyone seems to love Queen. The legendary rock band has millions of fans and influenced music in a way that remains impactful to this day. You’d expect the biopic on the band to be a big hit but Bohemian Rhapsody dominated the box office.
The film racked up $910.8 million during its run, which is a massive number by any stretch but especially when compared to other music biopics like Rocketman for example. Thanks to great music, Rami Malek’s Oscar-winning turn as Freddie Mercury, and the epic concert scene at the end, the film exceeded expectations.
Big Hero 6 (2014) – $657.8M
Stream On Disney+
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the highest-grossing franchise in movie history and even Marvel films outside of that series still tend to be huge at the box office. So, Big Hero 6 being a success shouldn’t be surprising but a lot of people still don’t know that it’s even a Marvel property.
This film about a genius prodigy kid, his inflatable robot, and their friends who form a superhero team isn’t one of Walt Disney Animation Studio’s most buzzworthy movies. Things like Frozen, Moana, and Wreck-It Ralph are talked about more, so Big Hero 6‘s intake of $657.8M is somewhat of a shock.
2012 (2009) – $791.2M
Stream On Peacock
If you think about it, disaster movies tend to do pretty well at the box office. There’s just something about the threat of the end of the world that brings in audiences but it feels like one of the more forgettable attempts at that kind of story was 2012.
The concept was based on the theory that the world would end in the year 2012 and depicted the lives of several people during these catastrophic events. The film raced to $791.2M worldwide, which seems high considering 2012 was met with mixed reviews and didn’t have a hugely bankable star as the lead.
Ice Age: Continental Drift (2012) – $877.2M
Stream On Disney+ & Max Go
When it first debuted in 2002, the Ice Age franchise was a pretty big deal. The first few installments were commercially successful and even if critics didn’t love them all, it seemed like casual audiences did. By the time 2012 rolled around though, it didn’t feel like anyone cared anymore.
Kind of like Shrek, the interest waned in the eyes of most and 2016’s Ice Age: Collision Course showed that. That’s why it is so unexpected to find that the fourth installment, released in 2012, was a little over $100M shy of $1 billion when it grossed $877.2M. It feels like nobody was talking about these films by then.
Transformers: Age Of Extinction (2014) – $1.104B
Stream On Paramount+ & FXNow
It’s no secret that the Transformers franchise was hugely popular. The first film in 2007 led to legions of fans who supported the movies through two more installments that were met with lackluster reviews from critics. It seemed like things were done there but then the series was somewhat rebooted.
The popular Mark Wahlberg took over as the lead and though he’s a proven big name in Hollywood, it still feels strange to think that Transformers: Age of Extinction performed so well commercial. Grossing over $1 billion is something of a surprise for a series that felt like it was a bit dead in the water in terms of interest.
Life Of Pi (2012) – $609M
Stream On HBO Max
Every few years, a movie comes along that is so visually stunning that people look forward to experiencing it. However, that doesn’t always equal big box office numbers as it did for Avatar in 2009. In 2012, Life of Pi seemed like that movie.
Ang Lee’s tale about a zookeeper’s son who gets stranded at sea with a vicious tiger is one of the most gorgeous films ever but it didn’t have a setup that catered to most casual audiences. Despite that, it managed to rack up $609 million at the worldwide box office.
The Secret Life Of Pets (2016) – $875.4M
Stream On FXNow
It’s pretty clear that movies aimed at families are known to bring in the big bucks. With parents bringing their kids in to see these films, that means plenty of tickets get sold. Still, the majority of hit movies in this vein are from Disney, Pixar, or Dreamworks but recently, Illumination has come on hot.
Most people know the studio for the Despicable Me franchise and the Minions spin-off. However, one of their biggest hits is actually The Secret Life of Pets, which isn’t remembered by all that many people. In fact, the sequel grossed about half of the original’s $875.4 million, proving that it didn’t quite have the staying power.
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