2023 Box office winners: highest grossing and most successful films including Barbie, Eras Tour, Oppenheimer

Barbie, Oppenheimer, the Eras Tour, and Sound of Freedom are among 2023’s most successful movies
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This has been another good year for the movies, with films like Barbie, Oppenheimer, and Super Mario Bros. bringing in billions of dollars globally. But just because a film has done well at the box office doesn’t make it a success - in fact, half of the ten highest-grossing films of the year may have actually lost money for their studios.

A general rule of thumb is that a film needs to make 2.5x its budget to see a profit, due to marketing and other costs. It’s not an exact science but it gives an insight into the huge returns that the highest budget films need to make.

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So, using this rule, Fast X, The Little Mermaid, Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part One, Elemental, and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, which make up five of the top 10 grossing films of the year, may have all lost money and could be considered flops.

This means that to find the best performing films of the year, we’ve had to factor in how much they cost to produce, and this gives us a different impression than simply reading the top ten list.

Oppenheimer, Eras Tour, and Barbie were among the biggest box film successes of 2023Oppenheimer, Eras Tour, and Barbie were among the biggest box film successes of 2023
Oppenheimer, Eras Tour, and Barbie were among the biggest box film successes of 2023

Barbie - Box office: $1.4 billion budget: $145 million

The undisputed champion of the 2023 box office, Barbie smashed records during its cinematic run. It became the highest-grossing film to be solo-directed by a woman, the highest grossing film of the year, and Warner Bros. highest grossing movie of all time.

The Super Mario Bros. -  Box office: $1.3 billion, budget: $145 million

Super Mario bucked the trend for video game adaptations, and is the only other film after Barbie to break a billion dollars at the global box office this year. The next highest grossing film based on a video game, Pokémon Detective Pikachu, made $900 million less when it was released in 2019.

Oppenheimer - Box office: $952 million, budget: $100 million

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Oppenheimer did very well, especially for a period drama running at three hours, and takes the number three spot this year in terms of total gross. Made for $100 million dollars, it is further proof that movies don’t need huge Marvel level budgets to make money, and in fact it has turned a greater profit than any MCU film released in the last two years.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 - Box office: $844 million, budget: $250 million

A win for Marvel in an otherwise tough year with Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania, and The Marvels both believed to have lost money for the studio. It seems that the Guardians continues to draw in audiences, and saw only a slight drop on the $869 million that Guardians 2 brought in. 

Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse - Box office: $690 million, budget: $100 million

Another rare successful superhero film in a year beset by super-flops, Across the Spider-Verse was helped by the popularity of the first instalment but remained popular in its own right. It was also the second-highest grossing animated film of the year. 

Across the Spider-Verse was one of 2023's biggest box office hitsAcross the Spider-Verse was one of 2023's biggest box office hits
Across the Spider-Verse was one of 2023's biggest box office hits

Sound of Freedom: Box office: $248 million, budget: $14.5 million

A strange big hit this year was Sound of Freedom, a crowdfunded film that was shot in 2018 but failed to find a distributor was finally released in cinemas to high success - this may have had something to do with a message from the film’s star appearing on screen after the opening credits and appealing for audience members to buy tickets for their friends and family.

The Eras Tour - Box office: $250 million, budget: $15 million

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Taylor Swift continued her meteoric rise this year with one of the highest grossing concert films of all time, behind only Michael Jackson’s This Is It (which is not technically a concert film as it follows rehearsals for a tour that never took place). Yet, the film’s success is small fry to Taylor who is believed to have earner several billion dollars from the actual tour itself.

Saw X - Box office: $110 million, budget: $13 million

The budget for the latest Saw movie is small by Hollywood standards, but quite high as horror films go. Still, it managed to bank a tidy profit, despite following the critically panned Spiral. Fans were happy to see villain John Kramer return in the creepy prequel, and it proves far more popular than fellow horror franchise effort The Exorcist: Believer.

Titanic 25th anniversary re-release - Box office: 70 million, budget: ~$0 million

It’s unclear how much the 1997 film cost for its re-release this year, but given that the film’s $295 million budget has already been repaid many times over, with a more than $2 billion box office, it’s safe to say that almost all the money gained from the re-release was profit, making the film another of 2023’s big winners.

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