Oscars 2013 by Box Office

One thing I like to do each year is check in to see how the Best Picture nominees are doing in terms of box office. Some people like to think it matters, but it really doesn’t. If they like a film (The Artist, The Hurt Locker), it doesn’t matter how much it made. But it’s also interesting to see how much things are making nonetheless.

And since this has become an annual thing, I’m just gonna go and show all the Best Picture nominees where there are concrete box office figures and see how each winner did. Because fuck it,  maybe some people think this is important. Mostly I’m interested to see what some of these nominees made.

So here’s how each Best Picture nominee has done, box office wise:

One thing I’ll mention before I get into analyzing or whatever — the numbers I’m giving you are final numbers. As in, how much money the films have made at the box office, total. There are very specific breakdowns to be made — how much the film made in its initial run, how much it made after it was nominated, and how much it made after the Oscars (since Best Pictures used to get post-Oscar runs, back in the days before DVDs and them being widely available, to take advantage of them having won. Or, it’s something like Star Wars, which has made $150 million more than it did in its initial release in later rereleases). But I’m not gonna bother with that. Some films will be #1 for their year, but won’t have been #1 until after they were nominated or after they won. I’m not gonna bother with any of that. If it’s #1, it’s #1. No complexity here, since, like I said, I don’t really buy into box office as being a prognosticator for what does and can win.

So now, here’s the past 40 years of Best Picture nominees and how they did. I couldn’t go back any further because there really aren’t any concrete box office numbers before then. At least, none readily available for me to find.


Nominees – Box Office Totals

(winner in bold)



1. The Towering Inferno – $116 million

2. The Godfather Part II – $47.5 million

3. Chinatown – $29.2 million

4. The Conversation – $4.4 million

5. Lenny – Unknown

 It’s pretty crazy that Godfather II only made $47 million at the box office, considering the first one was the highest-grossing movie of all time for a minute. How was the first one a phenomenon but the second not? Weird.

Other than that, it makes sense the order these went in.


1. Jaws – $260 million

2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – $109 million

3. Dog Day Afternoon – $50 million

4. Nashville – $10 million

5. Barry Lyndon – Unknown

 That’s the order I’d have expected as well. Interesting that Cuckoo’s Nest crossed $100 million. So far, both winners we’ve seen have been in the top two.


1. Rocky – $117.2 million

2. All the President’s Men – $70.6 million

3. Taxi Driver – $28.3 million

4. Network – $23.7 million

5. Bound for Glory – Unknown

 That makes sense. Rocky was always considered a populist decision.

The biggest thing here is that All the President’s Men made $70 million. That’s crazy money for a film like that in 1974. It made more than Godfather II!


1. Star Wars – $461 million

2. Annie Hall – $38.3 million

3. The Turning Point – $25.9 million

4. Julia – $20.7 million

5. The Goodbye Girl – Unknown

Well, obviously.

Annie Hall, though — #2. So far everyone has been a top two grosser.

Interesting I couldn’t find The Goodbye Girl’s box office. I’d have thought that would have made money. I wonder if it made more than Annie Hall or not. I’m guessing probably not. But interesting that there’s nothing.


1. Heaven Can Wait – $81.6 million

2. The Deer Hunter – $49 million

3. Midnight Express – $35 million

4. Coming Home – $32.7 million

5. An Unmarried Woman – Unknown

 Yeah, I’d have expected Beatty to go #1. Interesting that Deer Hunter is 2. Still 2.

Midnight Express made $35 million. Solid receipts for a movie about a Turkish prison.


1. Kramer vs. Kramer – $106.3 million

2.  Apocalypse Now – $78.8 million

3. All That Jazz – $37.8 million

4. Norma Rae – $22.2 million

5. Breaking Away – $16.4 million

 Love that All That Jazz made third here.

Makes sense that Kramer vs. Kramer made the most money. People eat up that stuff.

I like that Apocalypse Now made its money back in theaters, though. Sort of. I don’t know if it really did that, but on paper, it looks like it might have.


1. Coal Miner’s Daughter – $67.2 million

2. Ordinary People – $54.8 million

3. The Elephant Man – $26 million

4. Raging Bull – $23.3 million

5. Tess – $20.1 million

Yeah, that’s about what I expected. Again, winner is still in the top two. But I do find it interesting that Coal Miner’s Daughter took #1 there. And that the totals were relatively low, considering what the year before this did.


1. Raiders of the Lost Ark – $212.2 million

2. On Golden Pond – $119.3 million

3. Chariots of Fire – $59 million

4. Reds – $40.4 million

5. Atlantic City – $12.7 million

 On Golden Pond made $100 million. That’s awesome.

The first time the winner isn’t in the top 2 on this table.

Then again, Chariots of Fire is kind of an upset nominee.

Though I guess Reds would have been 4th, if we consider that the film that was going to win, based on the Best Director win.

Interesting year, all around. They all made some sort of money.


1. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – $359.2 million

2. Tootsie – $177.2 million

3. The Verdict – $54 million

4. Gandhi – $52.8 million

5. Missing – $14 million

 Whoa. Gandhi is fourth. That’s a first for this table.

Then again, the top two are very specific films. And it still made $50 million. So it’s not like it was lagging in the box office department. $50 million in 1982 is a solid return for a film like this.


1. Terms of Endearment – $108.4 million

2. The Big Chill – $56.3 million

3. The Right Stuff – $21.2 million

4. Tender Mercies – $8.4 million

5. The Dresser – $5.3 million

 $100 million. America loves them some weepies.

The Big Chill was a nice breakout hit, as you can tell.

And Tender Mercies and The Dresser — why are they even on this list (Well… Tender Mercies. I understand that.)

What a weird, weak year 1983 was.


1. Amadeus – $51.6 million

2. Places in the Heart – $34.9 million

3. The Killing Fields – $34.7 million

4. A Passage to India – $27.2 million

5. A Soldier’s Story – $21.8 million

 Ha ha. Amadeus was the top grosser. That’s how you know it wasn’t a strong list.

I’m glad it made money, though.

We always get one of these per decade, it seems — the Oscar list that no one saw. And then they ask if the Oscars are out of touch.


1. The Color Purple – $94.2 million

2. Out of Africa – $87.1 million

3. Witness – $68.7 million

4. Prizzi’s Honor – $26.7 million

5. Kiss of the Spider Woman – $17 million

 Amazing that The Color Purple won nothing. Amazing.

Remember this just in case 12 Years a Slave doesn’t win this year. That film actually had strong box office and they still shut it out.

Interesting that both The Color Purple and Out of Africa made more money than Witness.

Again, though — back to top two.


1. Platoon – $138.5 million

2. Hannah and Her Sisters – $35.4 milion

3. Children of a Lesser God – $31.9 million

4. A Room with a View – $21 million

5. The Mission – $17.2 million

Wow. Platoon was a major hit. Didn’t really know that.

And the rest of them just were not. At all.

Then again, I don’t much love this Best Picture list outside of Platoon. It makes sense that none of them made money.

This was a real easy choice for them.


1. Fatal Attraction – $156.6 million

2. Moonstruck – $80.6 million

3. Broadcast News – $51.2 million

4. The Last Emperor – $44 million

5. Hope and Glory – $10 million

 Fourth again. Another three hour epic involving Asia.

Still made $44 million, though, which is impressive.

So far, the only films to not finish in the top two are long epics that are clearly ones that Oscar goes for, and a so-called “upset winner.”


1. Rain Man – $172.8 million

2. Working Girl – $63.8 million

3. Dangerous Liaisons – $34.7 million

4. Mississippi Burning – $34.6 million

5. The Accidental Tourist – $32.6 million

 Oh yeah. That was an easy #1. Shocked that Working Girl made so much money.

Scratch that. Shocked that it’s a Best Picture nominee.

The numbers make sense here, though. This was an easy decision all around for them.


1. Driving Miss Daisy – $106.6 million

2. Dead Poets Society – $95.9 million

3. Born on the Fourth of July – $70 million

4. Field of Dreams – $64.4 million

5. My Left Foot – $14.7 million

 I guess this lends credence to the opinion that box office matters.

Or rather, it’s forming my opinion on the matter, which is — if a film has made a lot of money, and carries emotion (Miss Daisy, Terms of Endearment, etc), it’s easier for them to vote for it, because it has the public’s backing. It’s harder for them to vote for something that nobody saw, unless they love it. The box office numbers only make their decision easier, I think. They don’t change their opinion. Voters won’t vote for something just because it didn’t make money. However, if there is something that did make money, they’re more than likely to jump on the bandwagon.

Oh, but yeah, interesting that Dead Poet’s almost topped $100 million.

And that Born on the Fourth of July made $70 million. That’s a nice return.

I’d have also thought for sure that Field of Dreams would have been top two on this list. Surprised that didn’t make as much money as I thought.


1. Ghost – $217.6 million

2. Dances with Wolves – $184.2 million

3. The Godfather Part III – $66.7 million

4. Awakenings – $52.1 million

5. Goodfellas – $46.8 million

 Dances with Wolves made $184 million.


I’m also surprised Goodfellas almost hit $50 million. I was actually expecting somewhere in the $30 million range.


1. Beauty and the Beast – $145.9 million

2. The Silence of the Lambs – $130.7 million

3. The Prince of Tides – $74.8 million

4. JFK – $70.4 million

5. Bugsy – $49.1 million

 Once again, top two.

Though the biggest surprise for me here — The Prince of Tides, $70 million? What the fuck?

Also, $70 million for JFK. Awesome. Oliver Stone was really on a hell of a run from ’86-’91.

Even Bugsy made $50 million. That’s a solid year for nominees.

Still, though… The Prince of Tides. What were they thinking?


1. A Few Good Men – $141.3 million

2. Unforgiven – $101.2 million

3. Scent of a Woman – $63.1 million

4. The Crying Game – $62.5 million

5. Howards End – $26 million

 Unforgiven made $100 million. That’s awesome.

Also, top two. Again. Still only three years where it hasn’t been top two.

Also, The Crying Game made $60 million. Because everyone had to go see the chick with a dick.


1. The Fugitive – $183.9 million

2. Schindler’s List – $96.1 million

3. The Piano – $40.2 million

4. In the Name of the Father – $25.1 million

5. The Remains of the Day – $23.2 million

 Top two again. And of course it made almost $100 million. That makes total sense. There isn’t much surprising about this list at all.

The Piano made more than I’d have expected. That’s something.


1. Forrest Gump – $329.7 million

2. Pulp Fiction – $107.9 million

3. Four Weddings and a Funeral – $52.7 million

4. The Shawshank Redemption – $28.3 million

5. Quiz Show – $24.8 million

 The one thing to take from this list — Shawshank didn’t even make $30 million.

So no one saw the movie, yet they liked it enough to nominate it for Best Picture. (But not enough to also give it the Best Director nomination. Though I guess they also gave it Editing, which is half the battle.)


1. Apollo 13 – $172.1 million

2. Braveheart – $75.6 million

3. Babe – $63.7 million

4. Sense and Sensibility – $43.2 million

5. Il Postino – $21.8 million

 How Apollo 13 got overtaken by Braveheart is beyond me.

I mean, sure, top two still, but Apollo 13 had everything going for it.

Methinks this might tell us something with Gravity this year.

Also, outside of maybe putting Babe over Braveheart, I’d have had this exact same order, if guessing.


1. Jerry Maguire – $154 million

2. The English Patient – $78.7 million

3. Shine – $35.9 million

4. Fargo – $24.6 million

5. Secrets & Lies – $13.4 million

 Top two, again.

Weird that Fargo made no money.

Otherwise, totally in line with what I’d have expected.


1. Titanic – $600.8 million

2. As Good as It Gets – $148.5 million

3. Good Will Hunting – $138.4 million

4. L.A. Confidential – $64.6 million

5. The Full Monty – $46 million

 Well… yeah.

Interesting that we had three $100 million films on this list. That’s the first time that’s happened, I’m sure.

All of these made money, too. which is awesome.


1. Saving Private Ryan – $216.5 million

2. Shakespeare in Love – $100.3 million

3. Life Is Beautiful – $57.2 million

4. The Thin Red Line – $36.4 million

5. Elizabeth – $30.1 million

 Just passed $100 million.

Not that it matters. Was handily top two.

Still interested in how it won, but I guess I understand it. Even so — yeah, we’ll just leave it.

Top two.

And somehow even Elizabeth made $30 million.


1. The Sixth Sense –$293.5 million

2. The Green Mile – $136.8 million

3. American Beauty – $130.1 million

4. The Cider House Rules – $57.5 million

5. The Insider – $29.1 million

 Three $100 million movies yet again.

Not that American Beauty needed it. They were never gonna vote for the first two.

But hey, look at that. Our fourth time where a film wasn’t in the top two.

Though this time, it barely missed two.


1. Gladiator – $187.7 million

2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon – $128.1 million

3. Erin Brockovich –  $125.6 million

4. Traffic – $124.1 million

5. Chocolat – $71.5 million

Yeah, that makes sense.

Love that Crouching Tiger crossed $100 million domestically.

Also, jesus. Four of the five crossed $100 million.

Traffic made $100 million.

And even Chocolat made $75 MILLION! Wow.

That’s… a lot of money for Best Picture nominees.

Imagine if they’d nominated Cast Away too.


1. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring – $313.4 million

2. A Beautiful Mind – $170.7 million

3. Moulin Rouge – $57.4 million

4. Gosford Park – $41.3 million

5. In the Bedroom – $35.9 million

 #1 is not surprising at all.

A Beautiful Mind making $170 million is, though.

I bet that made their decision a lot easier.

Otherwise, solid grosses for the two indies.

Moulin Rouge went within expectations as well.

A Beautiful Mind is the big surprise to me. That lets me know why it was the choice they all gravitated toward.


1. The Lord of the Rings: the Two Towers – $339.8 million

2. Chicago – $170.7 million

3. Gangs of New York – $77.8 million

4. The Hours – $41.7 million

5. The Pianist – $32.6 million

 $170 million for Chicago. Damn. That’s a lot. I’d have thought $80-100 million.

Gangs made almost 80. That’s solid. I thought no one would go. I guess this is how Marty realized how to make money. Cast Leo. And he never looked back.

$170 million for Chicago. Damn.

And how come we didn’t get any musicals after this?


1. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – $377 million

2. Seabiscuit – $120.3 million

3. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – $93.9 million

4. Mystic River – $90.1 million

5. Lost in Translation – $44.6 million

 Four movies above $90 million.

$100 million for Seabiscuit. That’s awesome.

$93 million for Master and Commander. I guess because Russell Crowe was the draw back then.

Mystic River made 90. That’s… solid.


1. The Aviator – $102.6 million

2. Million Dollar Baby – $100.5 million

3. Ray – $75.3 million

4. Sideways – $71.5 million

5. Finding Neverland – $51.7 million

 Damn, they were neck and neck everywhere, weren’t they?

Also, only a slight intention on the neck joke.


1. Brokeback Mountain – $84 million

2. Crash – $54.6 million

3. Munich – $47.4 million

4. Good Night and Good Luck – $31.6 million

5. Capote – $28.8 million

 Still top two.

Also, this was that year where everyone asked if the Oscars were out of touch.

To which I said, “Have you seen three of these movies? No. they’re great.” Sure, Capote didn’t need to be there, and Crash was… well, it is what it is… but the fact that these didn’t make money doesn’t say anything about the Oscars. It just says the public is stupid and would rather have seen a King Kong remake than good movies.

Oh, but yeah, amazing how Brokeback made the most money and they still wouldn’t vote for it.

Hooray, reactionaries!


1. The Departed – $132.4 million

2. Little Miss Sunshine – $59.9 million

3. The Queen – $56.4 million

4. Babel – $34.3 million

5. Letters from Iwo Jima – $13.8 million

 I bet it being the top grosser and Marty being overdue made this an easy choice.

Letters only made $13 million. To the people who believe in this sort of thing — how are they gonna vote for something that made no money? (And to those people I say… wait 3 years.)

But yeah, interesting that the films made so little money. Imagine if The Departed WEREN’T here.


1. Juno – $143.5 million

2. No Country for Old Men – $74.3 million

3. Atonement – $50.9 million

4. Michael Clayton – $49 million

5. There Will Be Blood – $40.2 million

 Still top two.

Also real upset that these movies didn’t make more money.

$74 million for No Country is, actually, really impressive. Considering how it’s a film not designed for “regular” (read: stupid) audiences. I sat with an audience who audibly started complaining at the end of that movie, because it was so ambiguous and slow and so much of a non-ending. So the fact that it still made so much is really interesting.


1. Slumdog Millionaire – $141.3 million

2. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button – $127.5 million

3. The Reader – $34.2 million

4. Milk – $31.8 million

5. Frost/Nixon – $18.6 million

 Yeah, that makes sense.


1. Avatar – $749.8 million

2. Up – $293 million

3. The Blind Side – $256 million

4. Inglourious Basterds – $120.5 million

5. District 9 – $115.6 million

6. Up in the Air – $83.8 million

7. Precious: Based on the Novel “Push by Sapphire – $47.6 million

8. The Hurt Locker – $17 million

9. An Education – $12.6 million

10. A Serious Man – $9.2 million

 This is the fifth time in 40 years that the winner wasn’t in the top two.

Of course, ten nominees now, but if we split the list in half, Hurt Locker would be in the fourth spot.

However, if we go by the Best Director list to see which five films they liked the best (since clearly The Blind Side, District 9, An Education, A Serious Man and Up were benefits of the expanded slate), then The Hurt Locker is actually #5!

This was the first time a film made so little money and actually won Best Picture. At least, in the “box office” era. Which is quite interesting.

But, honestly, it was this or Avatar. So they were going to the extreme either way. And again, like I said earlier — they’re gonna vote for what they like, regardless of the box office. The box office only seems to confirm their position, or make it easier for them to choose something.


1. Toy Story 3 – $415 million

2. Inception – $292.6 million

3. True Grit – $171.2 million

4. The King’s Speech – $135.5 million

5. Black Swan – $107 million

6. The Social Network – $97 million

7. The Fighter – $93.6 million

8. The Kids Are All Right – $20.8 million

9. 127 Hours – $18.3 million

10. Winter’s Bone – $6.5 million

 So, fourth. Of ten. That puts it second if we split the list in half, or if we go by the director list again for the top five movies, then it still places second.

Since on a list of five, Toy Story doesn’t make it. I’m pretty sure Inception doesn’t make it either. Which means your top two grossers are True Grit and The King’s Speech. So it’s right up there no matter what. And it made $100 million. Which relatively makes it a hit.

Pretty much all the major contenders here were around $100 million, so for those who believe in the box office thing, that’s what they go for, I think.


1. The Help – $169.7 million

2. The Descendants – $82.6 million

3. War Horse – $79.9 million

4. Moneyball – $75.6 million

5. Hugo – $73.9 million

6. Midnight in Paris – $56.8 million

7. The Artist – $44.7 million

8. Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close – $31.8 million

9. The Tree of Life – $13.3 million

 7 of 9, and clearly would be 4th of 5 on a list.

I’m real curious to see how a list of five would have went this year.

But either way, it made $45 million, almost, which makes it a relative hit. Compared to The Hurt Locker, anyway. But it still wasn’t a widespread hit by any means. Which means, again — they like what they like. Box office doesn’t matter.

There was no real bonafide hit on this list besides The Help, anyway. And they were never voting for that.

But that puts us at six times. Where the Best Picture winner wasn’t the top 2 (or four, on the expanded lists) grossers on the nominees list.


1. Lincoln – $182.2 million

2. Django Unchained – $162.8 million

3. Les Misérables – $148.8 million

4. Argo – $136 million

5. Silver Linings Playbook – $132.1 million

6. Life of Pi – $125 million

7. Zero Dark Thirty – $95.7 million

8. Beasts of the Southern Wild – $12.8 million

9. Amour – $6.7 million

 #4. There you go. $100 million. Which six films managed to hit this year. And one just missed by $4 million. Goddamn.


 Will Be Added Later

As for this year’s list, I’ll preface it by saying that these numbers are as of RIGHT NOW. (Note: This article was written a few days ago. But essentially right now.) Some of the films are either still in theaters or in the process of getting rereleases, so the final numbers will change by the time they’re out of theaters.

1. Gravity — $261.6 million

2. American Hustle — $128.1 million

3. Captain Phillips — $106.3 million

4. The Wolf of Wall Street — $99.5 million

5. 12 Years a Slave — $44 million

6. Philomena — $26.1 million

7. Dallas Buyers Club — $20.8 million

8. Her — $19.6 million

9. Nebraska — $12.1 million

So, essentially, at this point, we can pretty much narrow down our major contenders to three films — Gravity, American Hustle and 12 Years a Slave. #1, #2 and #5. And on Oscar night, they will remain in those spots.

So, not that far off from the norm.

I’m not really sure what that means for the people looking for meaning in the box office figures, but there you have it. You have four legitimate hits on there, that have hit $100 million. 12 Years a Slave, I’m considering a hit because it made that much money and is about slavery and was made by actual black people. And everything else made money because they didn’t spend any money on them. So, relatively, these are all hits.

That said, for those looking for objective hits, there are really only four of them. So, do with that what you will.

If Gravity wins, it might be because it’s the easiest film to choose. It made money, they loved it, it’s winning Best Director — we might have another 2006 on our hands.

If American Hustle wins, it’s because they loved it, it also made money, and because they liked it more than Gravity. (Which, in that case, it will have also won Best Director, most likely. But maybe not.)

If 12 Years a Slave wins, it means they liked it. There’s no box office factor going for it. Which is why I don’t subscribe to this whole notion.

They like what they like.

– – – – – – – – – –

Tomorrow, I’m going to do something equally as ridiculous as trying to figure out Best Picture by looking at the box office numbers, but it’s fun and I enjoy it, so I’m going to write it up. Because we’re basically just killing time until the ceremony anyway.


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