So what do you think is the most successful Hollywood Movie of 2014? Transformers? Lego movie? Interstellar? There’s one movie that stood head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to financial success and if you’re like me, you may have never heard of it.

Before digging deeper, we need to clearly define what financial success means for a movie. I took inspiration from this excellent post from Randal Olson and defined success of a movie to be the ratio of its box office earnings divided by its production costs. So a movie like Transformers might make a lot at the box office, but it also cost over 200 million dollars to make. So the Return on investment isn’t as high as you would think. Before we look at the data, few caveats:

  • Only revenues from US market was used. The worldwide revenue data is noisy, incomplete and unreliable.
  • These numbers were collected in January 2015, so the revenues from the late 2014 movies (like Interstellar) might not be complete.
  • The revenue and production cost data for smaller indie and limited release movies was not available.

The most successful movie in 2014

The most successful movie in 2014 is small budget film called God’s not dead. Its a christian drama film about a devout evangelical christian student who confronts an atheist philosophy professor. The movie was made for 2 million and made a whopping 60 million at the box office, a 30x return on investment! This movie completely overshadows the competition and the next 2 movies are far behind (Annabelle with 12.9x and Fault in our stars with 10.4x returns). Here are the top 20 movies from 2014.

The most successful genres in 2014

I was also interested in finding out what genres tend to get the most bang for the buck. The boxplots below show the earnings to production cost ratios for various genres, where the line in the middle of the box indicating the median ratio for that genre. Not surprisingly, horror movies are far ahead of other genres here. Horror films tend to be cheap to make and there is a dedicated fan base who will always show up for these movies. Horror is followed by Romance, Thrillers and Comedy.

Correlating production cost vs rating

Its probably not surprising for most folks to know that there is little correlation between production cost and the quality of the movie (pearson coefficient: 0.29). The scatter plot below shows the distribution of movie budget against its IMDB rating and you can hover over the data points to get more information.

Larger graph here.