Making movies is a risky business for independent producers, but every so often a film comes along that smashes expectation and proves that indies aren't just for the art house crowd. In tandem with the launch of our new Inside Indie section, THR recognizes the highest-grossing independent films of all time.
By far the highest-grossing martial arts film of all time, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon also takes the crown for being the highest-grossing foreign film in the U.S., taking in $128 million domestically. Its high-flying wirework choreographed by Yuen Wo Ping captivated the American audiences who were unaccustomed to seeing such imaginative combat.
U.S. Release: December 22, 2000. Rated PG-13.
9. 'Pulp Fiction'
$213.9 million worldwide.
In his sophomore directorial effort, the 30-year-old Quentin Tarantino mystified audiences with crackling dialogue and a glowing suitcase. The film would go on to earn the filmmaker his first Academy Award, shared with Roger Avary, for screenplay written directly for the screen (since renamed original screenplay).
U.S. Release: October 14, 1994. Rated R.
8. 'Fahrenheit 9/11'
$222.4 million worldwide.
Easily the most controversial movie of the year and maybe the decade, Michael Moore's damning documentary about the inefficiencies of the Bush administration rode the headlines all the way to the bank, and proved that the more waves he makes, the more money he takes.
U.S. Release: June 25, 2004. Rated R.
7. 'Good Will Hunting'
$225.9 million worldwide.
A film about a wunderkind, written by two wunderkinds, Good Will Hunting was the launchpad for two of Hollywood finest talents. Matt Damon transitioned into a global action star/Oscar-nominated actor and Ben Affleck became the thoughtful, Oscar-winning multihyphenate.
U.S. Release: January 9, 1998. Rated R.
$231.4 million worldwide.
The film's sly wit and objective nature provided a fresh and light-hearted glimpse into the ever-divisive issue of teen pregnancy. Diablo Cody's debut script went on to win her the Oscar for best original screenplay.
U.S. Release: December 25, 2007. Rated PG-13.
5. 'The Blair Witch Project'
$248.6 million worldwide.
Perhaps the most profitable film of all time, with a reported budget of $25,000, The Blair Witch Project popularized the now ubiquitous and hyperprofitable genre of "found footage" films.
U.S. Release: July 30, 1999. Rated R.
4. 'Shakespeare in Love'
$289.3 million worldwide.
Preproduction started way back in 1991 when the project was under the Universal banner, but when rising star Julia Roberts dropped out of the lead role of Juliet, Uni balked and dropped the project. Once in turnaround the other majors didn't touch it, but Harvey Weinstein's Miramax swooped in, bankrolled it, and ended up with the best picture statuette at the 71st Academy Awards.
U.S. Release: January 8, 1998. Rated R.
3. 'My Big Fat Greek Wedding'
$368.7 million worldwide.
Despite the fact that it never held the No. 1 spot on the box office charts, the Joel Zwick-directed romantic comedy, which reportedly cost $6 million to make, proved to be one of the most profitable films of all time and the second-highest-grossing romantic comedy of all time.
U.S. Release: August 2, 2002. Rated PG.
2. 'Slumdog Millionaire'
$377.9 million worldwide.
Danny Boyle's eclectic adaptation of Vikas Swarup's novel Q & A garnered widespread critical acclaim, and went on to take home best picture, best director and best adapted screenplay at the 2009 Academy Awards.
U.S. Release: January 23, 2009. Rated R.
1. 'The Passion of the Christ'
$611.9 million worldwide.
Financed by Mel Gibson himself, without the safety net of a distributor in place, the film went on to become the highest-grossing indie of all time and the second-highest-grossing R-rated film of all time.