December 23, 2009

Top 10 Biggest Sleeper Movie Hits of the Decade

10. "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" (Sony Pictures Classics, 2000)
Budget: $17 million
Domestic gross: $128 million

Except for a handful of martial arts fans, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" was indeed hidden from sight during its production. Most Westerners weren't familiar with stars Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh. Taiwanese director Ang Lee, coming off the commercial failure of "Ride With the Devil," wasn't exactly known for burning up the boxoffice, either. Even its rollout was uneventful: "Tiger" was first shown out of competition at the Festival de Cannes and made its U.S. premiere at the Hawaii International Film Festival. But after an Oscar-qualifying run in December 2000, it opened wide Jan. 12, 2001, to $8.6 million. And then, the subtitled movie became a sensation. While it never made more than $10.5 million during a single boxoffice weekend, it clawed its way to a $128 million domestic cume. It became the highest-grossing foreign-language film in U.S. history, won the Oscar for best foreign-language film, made an international star of Zhang Ziyi and ushered in an Asian movie revival in the West.

9. "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" (Lionsgate, 2005)
Budget: $5.5 million
Domestic gross: $50.4 million

"Tyler who?" most folks in Hollywood were asking each other the Monday morning after the Atlanta-based filmmaker's "Diary of a Mad Black Woman" opened in first place to the tune of $21 million. The answer was Tyler Perry, and he was already well-known by the extensive black fan base he'd cultivated during his years writing and performing plays on the so-called Chitlin' Circuit. Even though Perry was repped by CAA's Charles King, several Hollywood studios had given him the cold shoulder before Lionsgate's Mike Paseornek struck a deal for Perry's first feature, in which he also appears as his signature big mama character, Madea. The relationship has spawned a whole series of consistently profitable films, two TV series and a potential Oscar winner in "Precious," which Perry joined as exec producer after Lionsgate acquired it at this year's Sundance.

8. "Slumdog Millionaire" (Fox Searchlight, 2008)
Budget: $15 million
Domestic gross: $141.3 million

This could easily be at the top of the list when taken as a whole. Not just because it was very nearly buried by Warner Bros. before anyone ever had a chance to see it. Not just because it is essentially a foreign film with unknown actors and multiple languages. Not just because it's violently R-rated and yet went out into the world to gross $362 million worldwide. That certainly would have been enough. But it did all of this and then won eight Oscars, including best picture, for good measure. Jai ho!

7. March of the Penguins (Warner Independent/National Geographic, 2005)
Budget: $8 million
Domestic gross: $77.4 million

Penguins sure are cute, but a whole movie about a bunch of birds who do nothing but march inland, canoodle, fish, lay eggs and huddle together for warmth among ferocious winter storms? After the French-made production played Sundance in 2005, new -- and ultimately short-lived -- Warner Independent, along with National Geographic, acquired U.S. rights for $1 million and released it in only four theaters in June. But it steadily warmed moviegoers' hearts, played all the way to November, won the documentary Oscar and became the top-grossing nature documentary ever.

6. Jackass: The Movie (Paramount, 2002)
Budget: $5 million
Domestic gross: $64.3 million

True, the TV series "Jackass" had run for two seasons on MTV before MTV Films, at the time something of a poor stepchild at Paramount Pictures, greenlighted a movie version starring Johnny Knoxville and his whacked-out crew and directed by Jeff Tremaine. Seemingly embarrassed to be stooping to a slapdash mix of skits involving urine-soaked snowballs, soiled trousers and unpixelated private parts, Paramount kept the movie away from the censorious eyes of critics. But the fans couldn't have cared less. Opening to a $22 million weekend, "Jackass" stunned Hollywood by arriving in first place, spawning a 2006 sequel and surely an even-grosser 3D version set to let it all hang out this coming October.

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Where are "The Passion of the Christ" and "Fahrenheit 9/11"?

Where is "District 9". It was directed by a no-name apprentice of Peter Jackson, and it made 240 million, despite having a small 30 million dollar budget

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Top 10 Biggest TV Biz Blunders
Top 10 Sleeper Movie Hits
Top 10 Outrageous Reality TV Moments
Top 10 Shocking Hollywood Job Exits
Top 10 Misbegotten Media Mergers
Top 10 Technologies Tormenting Hollywood
Top 10 Movie Flops
Top 10 Movies
Top 10 TV Series

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