19 People Who Won Oscars For Their First Movie

MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images
MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

For any aspiring filmmaker—be it an actor, writer, director, or beyond—getting one's first big break is the key to finding success in Hollywood. For a very select few, that first gig has led to critical acclaim, and an Oscar. Here are 19 of the lucky ones.

1. Lupita Nyong'o

Lupita Nyong'o at the 2014 Academy Awards.
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Lupita Nyong'o wasn't a total film novice when she landed the role of Patsey in Steve McQueen's Best Picture winner 12 Years a Slave (2013). In 2009, she produced, directed, edited, and handled all the publicity for the documentary In My Genes. But 12 Years a Slave marked her debut in front of the camera, and what a debut it was. In addition to the Academy Award, Nyong'o won more than 50 awards for the role from critics and film festivals around the world. Unlike other actors who've fallen victim to the "Oscar Curse," Nyong'o has chosen her follow-up roles carefully, with key roles in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Mira Nair's The Queen of Katwe, and Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book. And, of course, 2018's blockbuster (and Best Picture nominee) Black Panther.

2. Anna Paquin

Actress Anna Paquin
Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Long before True Blood, 9-year-old Anna Paquin got her first big break in The Piano. She beat 5000 other girls, including her sister, for the role. Her only acting experience: a small role as a skunk in the school play. Paquin was 11 when she won Best Supporting Actress in 1994. Holly Hunter won Best Actress for playing her character's mother.

3. Gale Sondergaard

Actress Gale Sondergaard
SweeneyTodd48, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

Gale Sondergaard won Best Supporting Actress in 1937 for the costume drama Anthony Adverse. It was the only Academy Award of her career. Years later, she dropped out of playing the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, reportedly because she didn't want to wear disfiguring makeup. That's how people win Oscars nowadays!

4. Katina Paxinou

Greek actress Katina Paxinou circa 1943.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Greek actress Katina Paxinou also peaked early. She honed her acting skills on stage, even when her parents disowned her for her career choice. When Paxinou finally got in front of a movie camera in the 1943 film For Whom the Bell Tolls, she won Best Supporting Actress.

5. Harold Russell

Harold Russell in his Oscar-winning role.
Samuel Goldwyn Company, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 2014, Barkhad Abdi was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in his first film role. Before playing a Somali pirate leader in Captain Phillips, he worked as a chauffeur. Almost all first-role Oscar winners are women; only two men have accomplished the same feat. The first was Harold Russell, a World War II veteran who lost both hands in the war. He's the only person to win two Academy Awards for the same performance, the 1946 film The Best Years of Our Lives. The first was Best Supporting Actor; the second was an honorary Oscar for bringing hope and courage to fellow veterans. In 1992, he controversially sold his Best Supporting Actor statuette to pay for his wife's medical expenses. Since 1950, Oscar winners have had to sign an agreement that prohibits selling their awards without first offering to sell it back to the Academy for $1.

6. Mercedes McCambridge

Actress Mercedes McCambridge
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Orson Welles called her "the world's greatest living radio actress," but Mercedes McCambridge was also impressive enough on camera to win Best Supporting Actress for All the King's Men in 1950. She was nominated for the same award again for Giant in 1957, but didn't take home the golden statuette. One of her strangest later roles: The voice of Pazuzu the demon in The Exorcist.

7. Shirley Booth

Actress Shirley Booth
Keystone/Getty Images

Sometimes a rookie carries an entire film. Shirley Booth's first role in 1952's Come Back, Little Sheba won her an Academy Award for Best Actress. There was a reason Booth was trusted with a big part: She won her second Tony two years earlier playing the same role.

8. Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand next to her Funny Girl poster.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It's hard enough to win an Oscar. But Barbra Streisand is among the few performers to have collected at least one Oscar, Emmy, Grammy, and Tony Award. Just four years after being nominated for a Tony for Funny Girl and losing, Streisand won Best Actress for the same role in the 1968 film. Then she was honored with a Special Tony for career achievement in 1970, making her almost an EGOT. It was non-competitive, but we're still impressed.

9. Eva Marie Saint

Actress Eva Marie Saint
Keystone Features/Getty Images

Before she played the femme fatale in the Hitchcock classic North by Northwest, Eva Marie Saint's breakout role was in 1954's On the Waterfront. She won Best Supporting Actress. She had some prior TV and stage experience, but it was still her film debut.

10. Jo Van Fleet

From left: Jack Lemmon (Best Supporting Actor winner for Mister Roberts), Jo Van Fleet (Best Supporting Actress winner for East of Eden), presenter Grace Kelly and Ernest Borgnine (Best Actor winner for Marty) pose with their Oscars, 1956.
From left: Jack Lemmon (Best Supporting Actor winner for Mister Roberts), Jo Van Fleet (Best Supporting Actress winner for East of Eden), presenter Grace Kelly and Ernest Borgnine (Best Actor winner for Marty) pose with their Oscars, 1956.
UCLA Library Special Collections, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A year after Saint's win, another upstart—stage actress Jo Van Fleet—took home the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Both actresses won Oscars under the direction of Elia Kazan, but their careers took very different turns: After playing Kate in East of Eden, Fleet was typecast as an old woman, often much older than she actually was. Ouch.

11. Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews with her Oscar
Keystone/Getty Images

Julie Andrews initially turned down the title role in Mary Poppins, because she didn't want to film her first movie while pregnant. So Disney decided to wait until Andrews had the baby—they thought she was that perfect for the role. So did the Academy: Andrews won the Best Actress Oscar in 1965. One year later, she was nominated for The Sound of Music, but didn't win.

12. Tatum O'Neal

Actress Tatum O'Neal
Peter Kramer/Getty Images

At 10 years old, Tatum O'Neal was the youngest winner in history, beating out her 31-year-old co-star Madeline Kahn for the Best Supporting Actress award. She was 9 when she starred alongside her father Ryan O'Neal in 1973's Paper Moon.

13. Marlee Matlin

actress Marlee Matlin
Newsmakers

Marlee Matlin's Best Actress Award for the 1986 film Children of a Lesser God broke even more records. At 21, Matlin is the youngest performer to win Best Actress and still the only deaf performer to win an Academy Award.

14. Haing S. Ngor

Dr Haing S Ngor
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The only other actor to win an Oscar for his first role was Haing S. Ngor for the 1984 film The Killing Fields about the Khmer Rouge takeover of Cambodia. The Cambodian-American physician-turned-actor is still the only Asian actor to win an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Eleven years after his Oscar win, Ngor was tragically murdered during a robbery outside his home in Los Angeles.

15. Michael Arndt

Michael Arndt wins an Oscar.
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Winning debuts aren't limited to actors. It only took three days for Michael Arndt to write Little Miss Sunshine. (Well, three days and then a year of revisions.) The screenplay sold in 2001 and then spent a few more years in pre-production. The completed film was a surprise hit, winning Best Original Screenplay in 2007 (it also won a Best Supporting Actor statuette for Alan Arkin, and nods for Best Picture and Best Supporting Actress for Abigail Breslin). Arndt's second script, for Toy Story 3, was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2011. Most recently, he co-wrote the script for Star Wars: The Force Awakens with J.J. Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan.

16. Diablo Cody

Diablo Cody wins an Oscar.
Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Screenwriter Diablo Cody wrote her first film in just a few months at a Minnesota Starbucks. (And not just any Starbucks—a Starbucks inside a Target.) Juno won Best Original Screenplay in 2008.

17. Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer Hudson wins an Oscar
Vince Bucci/Getty Images

When singers get voted off American Idol, we don't usually hear much from them again. But when Hudson got the boot in 2004, she was just getting started. She was cast as Effie White in the film adaptation of Dreamgirls even before she had a record deal. Hudson had big shoes to fill—Jennifer Holliday won a Tony and Grammy for the role in 1982 and 1983, respectively. Hudson stole the show from Beyoncé and sent a message to everyone when she sang "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going." The singer won Best Supporting Actress in 2007, the third African American woman to ever do so. A year later, she took home her first Grammy.

18. Geoffrey Fletcher

Screenwriter Geoffrey Fletcher
Jason Merritt/Getty Images

Most screenwriters start their careers with an original screenplay. Geoffrey Fletcher made his name with a heart-wrenching adaptation of the Sapphire novel Push. Precious won Best Adapted Screenplay in 2010, making Fletcher the first African American to win an Academy Award for writing. In 2014, John Ridley won the same award for 12 Years a Slave.

19. Mark Boal

Mark Boal wins an Oscar
Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Before turning to film, Mark Boal honed his writing and research skills as a journalist. That came in handy as he wrote and produced The Hurt Locker, which won both Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture in 2010. That year, the film's director Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win Best Director. They teamed up again for Boal's second film, Zero Dark Thirty, in 2012. It was nominated for Best Original Screenplay and Best Picture again, but didn't win either award.

An earlier version of this post appeared in 2014.

The 35 Most Profitable Movies of All Time, Based on Return on Investment

Paramount Home Video
Paramount Home Video

When it comes to box office dollars, the recipe for a successful movie is pretty simple: small budget + massive ticket sales = huge profit. If done correctly, this means an enormous return on investment (ROI) for the clever minds behind the film. According to data from The Numbers, the 35 movies below have mastered that moneymaking recipe to become some of the most profitable films of all time, based on ROI.

1. Deep Throat (1972)

A theater marquee advertises the film 'Deep Throat', starring Linda Lovelace (1949 - 2002), directed by Gerard Damiano, 1972.
A theater marquee advertises the film Deep Throat, starring Linda Lovelace, in 1972.
Arnie Sachs/CNP/Getty Images

Budget: $25,000
Profit: $22,528,467

While studio executives have long labeled an X (or NC-17) rating a kiss of death for box office totals, this infamous Linda Lovelace flick proved differently. The movie ushered in an era of what became known as “porno chic”—dirty movies that featured real actors, bona fide plots, and notable production values in an attempt to lure a more mainstream moviegoing public. The idea worked: Deep Throat ended up earning an ROI of 90,014 percent—a number that has kept it in the top spot for nearly 50 years, with no indication it’s likely to lose its top ranking any time soon.

2. Facing the Giants (2006)

Tracy Goode and Alex Kendrick in Facing the Giants (2006)
Tracy Goode and Alex Kendrick in Facing the Giants (2006).
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Budget: $100,000
Profit: $38,551,255

Sports movies have often led to major box office hits. But Alex Kendrick’s Facing the Giants had one additional plot point going for it: It’s a sports movie and a Christian drama, a sub-genre that has been turning modestly budgeted films into box office behemoths over the past several years. In this case, it meant an ROI of 38,451 percent.

3. Paranormal Activity (2007)

Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat in Paranormal Activity (2007)
Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat in Paranormal Activity (2007).
Paramount Home Video

Budget: $450,000
Profit: $89,376,549

Written and directed by Oren Peli, this classic found footage horror film scared up nearly $90 million in theaters and ending up with an ROI of 19,761 percent.

4. Fireproof (2008)

Kirk Cameron in Fireproof (2008)
Kirk Cameron in Fireproof (2008).
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Budget: $500,000
Profit: $57,096,178

Two years after directing Facing the Giants, Alex Kendrick directed Fireproof, another Christian drama—this one focused on the deterioration of the marriage between a fire captain (played by teen heartthrob-turned-Christian movie star Kirk Cameron) and his hospital administrator wife and how the threat of divorce turns him into a changed man. The film was largely savaged by critics, but that didn’t stop it from becoming a huge box office hit and the highest-grossing indie film of 2008. Its 11,319 percent ROI also made it one of the most profitable films of all time.

5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

A scene from <em>The Texas Chainsaw Massacre</em> (1974).
A scene from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).
New Line Cinema

Budget: $140,000
Profit: $14,164,858

Tobe Hooper’s classic 1974 horror film is about Leatherface, a chainsaw-wielding maniac, and his cannibalistic family who stalk and torture a group of teens who stumble upon their home while visiting the grave and former home of their grandfather. Though the no-budget film spawned a full-on franchise—complete with sequels, remakes, reboots, and more to come—the original, and its 10,018 percent ROI, still stand alone.

6. The Gallows (2015)

Cassidy Gifford and Jesse Cross in The Gallows (2015)
Cassidy Gifford and Jesse Cross in The Gallows (2015).
Warner Bros.

Budget: $100,000
Profit: $6,898,494

Though it’s hard to predict precisely which movies will become box office hits, it’s fairly safe to say that horror movies—and low-budget horror movies in particular—tend to fare the best in terms of profitability, partially because it’s a genre that can be made well even if it’s made cheaply. Which is certainly the case with Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff The Gallows, a found footage horror movie that sees a cursed play come back to haunt a small town 20 years after a high school tragedy. An abysmal 15 percent Rotten Tomatoes score hardly matters when you’ve got a 6798 percent ROI.

7. Eraserhead (1977)

Jack Nance in Eraserhead (1977)
Jack Nance in Eraserhead (1977).
The Criterion Collection

Budget: $100,000
Profit: $4,652,535

David Lynch announced his arrival in the most Lynchian way possible with this surreal and totally bizarre movie that deals with male paranoia in a surprisingly personal way. Though Lynch has said relatively little about the movie himself, preferring that people maintain their own ideas of what it’s about, it’s rumored that it was largely inspired by the birth of Lynch’s daughter Jennifer (also a director), who had clubbed feet that required corrective surgery. Whatever the case, the movie—and its 4553 percent ROI—launched Lynch as a major new talent, and led to his next film: 1980’s The Elephant Man, which earned eight Oscar nominations.

8. An Inconvenient Truth (2006)

Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
Al Gore in An Inconvenient Truth (2006).
Paramount Home Entertainment

Budget: $1,000,000
Profit: $46,416,400

Six years after former vice president Al Gore unsuccessfully made a run for president in 2000, he reemerged as an authority on climate change. It’s not often that a documentary has lured so many viewers to a theater—or inspired so many of those viewers to take action after the fact and create a whole new generation of environmental activists. Ultimately, the $1 million production saw a 4542 percent ROI.

9. The Big Parade (1925)

'The Big Parade' stars Renee Adoree and John Gilbert working with director King Vidor.
The Big Parade stars Renee Adoree and John Gilbert working with director King Vidor.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Budget: $245,000
Profit: $11,015,791

In 1992, nearly 70 years after its release, King Vidor’s The Big Parade—an acclaimed silent World War I film—was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry. The film, which was adapted from Laurence Stallings’s autobiographical book Plumes, was unique among the war films that came before it in that it didn’t shy away from addressing the loss of human life and the true cost of war. It paved the way for many war films that came after it, including Lewis Milestone’s Oscar-winning All Quiet on the Western Front, though none ever matched its 4396 percent ROI.

10. The Devil Inside (2012)

Suzan Crowley in The Devil Inside (2012)
Suzan Crowley stars in The Devil Inside (2012).
Toni Salabasev/Paramount Pictures

Budget: $1,000,000
Profit: $37,422,146

Hoping to replicate the success (and format) of Paranormal Activity, The Devil Inside—a similarly documentary-style film, directed and co-written by William Brent Bell—managed to achieve an ROI of 3642 percent. Though it was not nearly as supernatural of an outcome as Oren Peli managed with Paranormal Activity, it's enough to earn the movie a spot right below his film in terms of profit.

11. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

A still from 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'
A still from A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965).
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Budget: $150,000
Profit: $5,306,612

Though Charles Schulz wasn’t particularly excited about getting into animated movies with the Peanuts, and CBS reportedly hated the final result of A Charlie Brown Christmas, this beloved special has been delighting audiences for more than half-a-century—on television, home video, and via special theatrical screenings during the holiday season. All of which has led to its 3438 percent ROI.

12. Peter Pan (1953)

A still from Peter Pan (1953)
A still from Peter Pan (1953).
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment

Budget: $4,000,000
Profit: $139,757,67

This Walt Disney classic, with its widespread appeal to children and adults alike, had a total ROI of 3394 percent. Never growing up appears to be a profitable endeavor.

13. Cat People (1942)

Jane Randolph stars in Jacques Tourneur's 'Cat People' (1942).
Jane Randolph stars in Jacques Tourneur's Cat People (1942).
RKO Pictures/Courtesy of Getty Images

Budget: $134,000
Profit: $4,596,853

Jacques Tourneur’s 1942 classic proves that horror films have long been a profitable endeavor. In this case, a young woman named Irena fears that she is descended from a mythical family of felines and that any feelings of passion could turn her into a blood-thirsty panther. None of this dissuades her boyfriend, Oliver, who asks her to marry him nonetheless. When Irena withholds her passion for her husband for his own sake, he falls in love with another woman—and all hell breaks loose. The quirky story was like catnip to audiences, who helped it drum up a 3330 percent ROI.

14. Waiting… (2005)

Justin Long and Ryan Reynolds in 'Waiting...' (2005)
Justin Long and Ryan Reynolds star in Waiting... (2005).
Lions Gate Home Entertainment

Budget: $1,125,000
Profit: $36,128,709

In 2005, filmmaker Rob McKittrick turned his years of experience waiting tables into a cult classic comedy, appropriately titled Waiting…, that featured a stellar cast of soon-to-be superstars including Ryan Reynolds, Anna Faris, Justin Long, and David Koechner. The film developed a surprise following that led to a 3111 percent ROI on its $1.1 million budget—and a 2009 sequel, Still Waiting….

15. God’s Not Dead (2014)

Kevin Sorbo and Shane Harper in God's Not Dead (2014)
Kevin Sorbo and Shane Harper in God's Not Dead (2014).
Pure Flix Entertainment

Budget: $1,150,000
Profit: $36,693,952

A huge hit with Christian moviegoers, this Kevin Sorbo starrer scored an ROI of 3091 percent and managed to stick around in theaters for a whopping 20 weeks.

16. Grease (1978)

Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in 'Grease' (1978)
Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta in Grease (1978).
Paramount Home Entertainment

Budget: $6,000,000
Profit: $184,126,016

An American classic that is still finding new audiences, Grease sang and danced its way to the near top of the list with an ROI of 2969 percent.

17. High School Musical (2006)

Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens in 'High School Musical' (2006)
Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens in High School Musical (2006).
Walt Disney Television

Budget: $4,200,000
Profit: $123,587,394

A descendant of Grease, this Disney musical adaptation of Romeo & Juliet introduced Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens, Ashley Tisdale, Corbin Bleu, and a host of new young actors to the world and kicked off a franchise that included three films in the original series, six spin-offs, and a Disney+ series that debuted in November 2019 and has already been renewed for a second season. It also earned a 2843 percent ROI.

18. Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)

Mark Hamill stars in 'Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope' (1977)
Mark Hamill stars in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977).
Star Wars © & TM 2015 Lucasfilm Ltd. All Rights Reserved.

Budget: $11,000,000
Profit: $292,940,192

The Star Wars franchise has come a long way since its original entry was released more than 40 years ago. In addition to holding the top spot on the list of highest-grossing domestic movies adjusted for inflation, the film’s relatively low budget of $11 million and enormous 2563 percent ROI make it one of the most profitable films ever made, too.

19. Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

Brian Boland and Katie Featherston in Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)
Brian Boland and Katie Featherston in Paranormal Activity 2 (2010).
Paramount Pictures

Budget: $3,000,000
Profit: $77,221,343

The seventh horror movie on this list (and the second with "Paranormal Activity" in its title), Paranormal Activity 2 ended up with an ROI of 2474 percent, even though its $3 million budget dwarfed the original film's.

20. Insidious (2011)

Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson in Insidious (2010)
Rose Byrne and Patrick Wilson in Insidious (2010).
FilmDistrict

Budget: $1,500,000
Profit: $35,196,552

Another horror film that managed to scare up a huge audience, Insidious possesses an ROI of 2246 percent.

21. Split (2011)

James McAvoy stars in 'Split' (2017).
James McAvoy stars in Split (2017).

John Baer/ © 2016 Universal Studios

Budget: $5,000,000
Profit: $108,837,000

M. Night Shyamalan went back to his indie roots for Split, the second film in his Unbreakable trilogy, by shooting the film—which starred James McAvoy in a captivating performance—for a mere $5 million. It’s box office total of more than $108 million meant an impressive 2077 percent ROI.

22. Intouchables (2012)

François Cluzet and Omar Sy in Intouchables (2011)
François Cluzet and Omar Sy in Intouchables (2011).
Thierry Valletoux/Gaumont - Quad

Budget: $10,800,000
Profit: $231,488,178

This French buddy comedy, directed by Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano, became the second highest-grossing film in France within a few weeks of its original release. The film, which earned eight César Award nominations—and won for Best Actor for Omar Sy—became a hit worldwide, earning more than $231 million and a 2043 percent ROI.

23. Young Frankenstein (1974)

Teri Garr, Gene Wilder, and Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein (1974)
Teri Garr, Gene Wilder, and Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein (1974).
20TH CENTURY FOX

Budget: $2,800,000
Profit: $57,510,448

This comedic reimagining of Frankenstein was a major hit for Mel Brooks and ended up with a total ROI of 1954 percent.

24. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

Still from 'It's a Wonderful Life' (1946)
Still from It's a Wonderful Life (1946).
Paramount Pictures

Budget: $3,180,000
Profit: $60,536,880

Frank Capra's uplifting holiday classic is the oldest movie on this list, the source of the idea that every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings, and a major hit, with an ROI of 1804 percent.

25. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Edward Bunker, and Lawrence Tierney in Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Steve Buscemi, Harvey Keitel, Quentin Tarantino, Michael Madsen, Tim Roth, Chris Penn, Edward Bunker, and Lawrence Tierney in Reservoir Dogs (1992).
Lions Gate Films Home Entertainment

Budget: $1,200,000
Profit: $22,452,279

Earning a well-deserved ROI of 1771 percent, Quentin Tarantino's directorial debut gunned its way to becoming the tenth most profitable movie.

26. Jaws (1975)

Susan Backlinie in 'Jaws' (1975)
Susan Backlinie in Jaws (1975).
MCA/Universal Home Video

Budget: $12,000,000
Profit: $222,629,082

This classic film, with its abundance of blood, screaming, and somewhat-obvious shark props, racked up an ROI of 1755 percent and kept beachgoers out of the water for years.

27. Annabelle (2014)

Annabelle Wallis in Annabelle (2014)
Annabelle Wallis in Annabelle (2014).
Gregory Smith/Warner Bros. Entertainment

Budget: $6,500,000
Profit: $98,033,662

Yes, another horror film! John R. Leonetti's Annabelle managed to creep its way up to more than $250 million in ticket sales worldwide, yielding an ROI of 1408 percent.

28. Beauty And The Beast (1991)

Robby Benson and Paige O'Hara in Beauty and the Beast (1991)
Robby Benson and Paige O'Hara in Beauty and the Beast (1991).
Walt Disney Productions

Budget: $20,000,000
Profit: $287,924,831

The second Disney movie appearing on this list, this classic love story earned the biggest profit and started out with the biggest budget. What does that mean? Well, in this case, an ROI of 1340 percent.

29. The King’s Speech (2010)

Colin Firth in The King's Speech (2010)
Colin Firth in The King's Speech (2010).
The Weinstein Company

Budget: $15,000,000
Profit: $196,296,922

Earning an ROI of 1209 percent, this historical drama was a major hit, starring Colin Firth as King George VI and Geoffrey Rush as Lionel Logue, his speech therapist.

30. Magic Mike (2012)

Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez, and Channing Tatum in Magic Mike (2012)
Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez, and Channing Tatum in Magic Mike (2012).
Claudette Barius/Warner Bros. Entertainment

Budget: $7,000,000
Profit: $89,660,661

Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey didn't have to bare it all to drum up more than $170 million in ticket sales, leaving director Steven Soderbergh with an ROI of 1181 percent.

31. The Fault In Our Stars (2014)

Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in The Fault in Our Stars (2014)
Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort in The Fault in Our Stars (2014).
James Bridges/Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Budget: $12,000,000
Profit: $146,328,566

Based on the incredibly popular book by John Green, the big screen adaptation of The Fault in Our Stars took our tears and turned them into a profit of nearly $150 million. That’s an ROI of 1119 percent for those keeping count.

32. The Purge (2013)

A still from 'The Purge' (2013).
A still from The Purge (2013).
Daniel McFadden/Universal Pictures

Budget: $3,000,000
Profit: $35,920,740

Writer/director James DeMonaco's innovative take on anarchy ended up scoring an ROI of 1097 percent—and launching a full franchise.

33. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Anil Kapoor and Dev Patel in Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Dev Patel and Anil Kapoor in Slumdog Millionaire (2008).
FOX SEARCHLIGHT PICTURES

Budget: $14,000,000
Profit: $163,354,988

Danny Boyle's Oscar-winning romantic drama earned nearly $385 million worldwide for an ROI of 1067 percent.

34. Black Swan (2010)

Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel in Black Swan (2010)
Natalie Portman and Vincent Cassel in Black Swan (2010).
Fox Searchlight Pictures

Budget: $13,000,000
Profit: $148,130,645

Full of hallucinations, ballet, and (of course) swans, Darren Aronofsky's psychological thriller performed brilliantly, achieving an ROI of 1039 percent.

35. Unfriended (2015)

Shelley Hennig in Unfriended (2014)
Shelley Hennig in Unfriended (2014).
Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Budget: $1,000,000
Profit: $11,191,847

Shot on a $1 million budget, Unfriended—a found footage horror movie directed by relative newcomer Levan Gabriadze—took in more than $60 million worldwide, leaving it with an ROI of 1011 percent.

11 Fascinating Facts About Mad Max

Mel Gibson stars in George Miller's Mad Max (1979).
Mel Gibson stars in George Miller's Mad Max (1979).
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

What began as director George Miller's ambitious action film about a solitary cop (Mel Gibson) on a mission to take down a violent biker gang has evolved into a post-apocalyptic sensory overload of a franchise that now has four films to its credit—Mad Max (1979), The Road Warrior (1981), Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985), and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)—and additional sequels in the works. So let's obsess over Miller’s masterpieces even more with these 11 things you might not know about the franchise.

1. Director George Miller worked as a doctor to raise money for Mad Max.

Mel Gibson in Mad Max (1979)
Mel Gibson in Mad Max (1979).
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

Since the film only had a budget of $350,000, Miller scraped together extra money as an emergency room doctor to keep the movie going. “It was very low budget and we ran out of money for editing and post-production, so I spent a year editing the film by myself in our kitchen, while Byron Kennedy did the sound,” Miller told CraveOnline. “And then working as an emergency doctor on the weekends to earn money to keep going. I’d got my best friend, and friends of friends of friends of his, and Byron ditto, and I thought, ‘Oh my God, we made a film and it won’t cut together and we’re going to lose all their money.’”

Miller’s medical training is all over the film: Max Rockatansky is named after physician Carl von Rokitansky, a pathologist who created the Rokitansky procedure, a method for removing organs in an autopsy.

2. Mel Gibson went to the Mad Max audition to accompany his friend, not for the part.

Gibson was black and blue after a recent brawl with “half a rugby team” when his friend asked him to drop him off at his Mad Max audition. Because the agency was also casting “freaks,” they took pictures of Gibson, who was simply waiting around, and asked him to come back when he healed. When he did, Miller gave him the role on the spot. In a clip for Scream Factory, Gibson recalled the moment: “It was real weird. [Miller] said, ‘Can you memorize this?’ and it was like two pages of dialogue with a big speech and stuff. I was like, ‘Yeah, sure.’ I went into the other room and just got a gist of what it was and I came out and just ad-libbed what I could remember. I guess they bought it.”

3. George Miller paid Mad Max crew members in beer.

With barely enough money to finish the original film, Miller offered to pay ambulance drivers, a tractor driver, and some of the bikers on set with “slabs” (Australian for a case of 24 cans) of beer, according to The Guardian.

4. Real-life motorcycle club the Vigilanties played Toecutter’s gang for Mad Max.

Forget the money required to train stuntmen; Miller and crew hired real bikers to professionally ride into production. In an interview with Motorcyclist Online, actor Tim Burns said about working with them: “[The Vigilanties] all wanted to ride the bikes as fast as possible, as often as possible, by their nature. Their riding was individually and collectively superb.” Additionally, stuntman Dale Bensch, a member of The Vigilanties, recalled seeing the ad for the shoot at a local bike shop, and took a moment to clarify a mishap that had happened during production. Bensch said, “There’s an urban myth that a stuntman was killed, and that was me. The scariest thing was dropping the bike on that bridge. They took the speedo and tach off because they didn’t want to damage more than they had to. They wet the surface to make it easier, but I hung onto the bike too long and it flipped me over with it; that’s why it looked bad. But it’s a famous scene, so it worked out all right!”

5. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior was inspired by the oil crises of the 1970s.

During an interview with The Daily Beast, Miller discussed the making of The Road Warrior. Of its inspiration, he said, “I’d lived in a very lovely and sedate city in Melbourne, and during OPEC and the extreme oil crisis—where the only people who could get any gas were emergency workers, firemen, hospital staff, and police—it took 10 days in this really peaceful city for the first shot to be fired, so I thought, ‘What if this happened over 10 years?’”

6. Mel Gibson only had 16 lines of dialogue in The Road Warrior.

Upon Fury Road’s release in 2015, social media lit up with complaints that Tom Hardy was underutilized, only there to grunt and utter a couple of one-liners. But just to remind you, in Mad Max 2, Mel Gibson only has 16 lines of dialogue in The Road Warrior.

On his use of sparse dialogue, Miller told The New York Times, “Hitchcock had this wonderful saying: ‘I try to make films where they don’t have to read the subtitles in Japan.’ And that was what I tried to do in Mad Max 1, and I’m still trying to do that three decades later with Fury Road.”

7. Mel Gibson says The Road Warrior is his favorite movie in the original trilogy.

Once upon a time Mel Gibson enthusiastically spoke about Beyond Thunderdome, telling Rolling Stone, "[The films are] a sort of cinematic equivalent to rock music. It's something to do with the nihilistic sentiments of the music of the ’80s—which can't continue. I say, let's get back to romanticism. And this film [Thunderdome] is actually doing that. It's using that nihilism as a vehicle, I think, to get back to romance.”

Years later, he told Playboy what he really thought of the films, namely that The Road Warrior was his favorite. “It still holds up because it’s so basic,” Gibson said. “It’s about energy—it didn’t spare anyone: people flying under wheels, a girl gets it, a dog gets it, everybody gets it. It was the first Mad Max, but done better. The third one didn’t work at all.”

8. Beyond Thunderdome was inspired by Lord Of The Flies.

Mel Gibson and Tina Turner in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).
Mel Gibson and Tina Turner in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985).
Warner Home Video

Even though Miller and his producers were on the fence about a third Mad Max, they couldn’t help but give in. "George was sitting and talking to me about … quantum mechanics, I think," Miller’s co-writer Terry Hayes recalled to Rolling Stone. "The theory of the oscillating universe. You could say he's got a broad range of interests. And I said something about ‘Well, if there was ever a Mad Max III ...' And he said, 'Well, if there was ...'"

In a 1985 interview with Time Out, Miller recalled the story himself. “We were talking one day and Terry Hayes started talking about mythology and how where people are short on knowledge, they tend to be very big on belief. In other words, they take a few fragments of knowledge and, if you take like the Aboriginal tribes of Australia, they just take simple empirical information and using those little bits of the jigsaw construct very elaborate mythological beliefs, which explain the whole universe,” Miller said. “Terry was saying if you had a tribe of kids after the apocalypse who had only a few fragments of knowledge, [they would construct] a mythological belief as to what was before. And what would happen if Max or someone like that [came in] ... and it kicked off the idea of kids who were Lord of the Flies-type kids, and that led to this story.”

9. Tina Turner was cast in Beyond Thunderdome because of her positive persona.

According to Rolling Stone, Tina Turner beat out Jane Fonda and Lindsay Wagner for the role of Aunty Entity. On her casting, Miller told Time Out, “One of the main reasons we cast Tina Turner is that she’s perceived as being a fairly positive persona. You don’t think of Tina Turner as someone dark. You think of the core of Tina Turner being basically a positive thing. And that’s what we wanted. We felt that she might be more tragic in that sense. But more importantly [when] we actually wrote the character, as a shorthand way of describing the character we said someone ‘like Tina Turner’—without even thinking of casting her. We wanted a woman ... we wanted someone who had a lot of power, charisma, someone who would hold a place like that together—or build it in the first place. And we wanted someone who was a survivor.”

10. Mad Max characters’ names hint at their backstories.

One of the most peculiar quirks of Miller’s franchise has to be his bizarre character names. In an interview with Fandango, Miller explained exactly how he comes up with them: “One of the things is that everything in the story has to have some sort of underlying backstory. Not just every character, but every vehicle, every weapon, every costume—and the same with the language. So [the concept] was always found objects, repurposed. Immortan Joe is a slight adjustment to the word 'immortal.' The character Nux says 'mcfeasting' instead of using the word 'feasting,’” Miller explained, adding that his favorite name of all is Fury Road’s The Dag (played by Abbey Lee). “In Australia, the dag is sort of a goofball-type.”

11. George Miller is a proud feminist.

Director George Miller, recipient of the Feature Film Nomination Plaque for “Mad Max: Fury Road," poses in the press room during the 68th Annual Directors Guild Of America Awards at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on February 6, 2016 in Los Angeles
George Miller poses with the Feature Film Nomination Plaque for Mad Max: Fury Road during the 68th annual Directors Guild Of America Awards in 2016.
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Perhaps evidenced by Charlize Theron’s scene-stealing role as Imperator Furiosa, Miller is a proud, outspoken feminist. He told Vanity Fair, “I’ve gone from being very male dominant to being surrounded by magnificent women. I can’t help but be a feminist.” That female influence even stretched behind the scenes, with Miller asking his wife Margaret Sixel to edit Fury Road. “I said, ‘You have to edit this movie, because it won’t look like every other action movie,” Miller recalled. Moreover, feminist activist Eve Ensler also consulted on the film to offer, according to Ensler herself, “perspective on violence against women around the world, particularly in war zones.”

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER