Hollywood 2014: Biggest Commercial Surprises

Gone Girl

Gillian Flynn
‘s dark and twisted book Gone Girl was an extremely popular film, but the David Fincher-helmed film far exceeded expectations.

The Fox film remained in the top 10 for 10 straight weeks in the U.S., earning $166.1 million to date.

Worldwide, it has grossed $356.5 million, making it the No. 19 film of the year.

The drama, which cost $61, and starred Ben Affleck and RosamundPike, is Fincher’s top grossing film, leading the way to a new record for the domestic box office in the month of October.

Guardians of the Galaxy

A movie about a tree and a talking raccoon? Even with hit-making studio Marvel behindGuardians of the Galaxy, many insiders wondered if an adaptation of the relatively obscure comic book could work. But James Gunn was able to make a funny, charismatic space opera that raked in a huge $332.9 million in the U.S. The film also built Parks and Recreation star Chris Pratt into a full-fledged movie star and launched a new franchise for Marvel and Disney (a sequel is slated for May 5, 2017). And with a worldwide gross of $772.5 million, Guardians, made for $170 milion, is the second biggest film of 2014 after Transformers.

Heaven is for Real

Faith-based film Heaven Is for Real earned a stellar $22.5 million to bury big-budget sci-fi epic Transcendence, starring Johnny Depp. The faith-based TriStar film, made for a lean $12 million, has earned $101.3 million worldwide. It’s not the only faith-based film to flourish this year: God’s Not Dead ($62.6 million) and Son of God ($67.8 million) both exceeded expectations as well.

The Lego Movie

There was a time when February was a dumping ground for weak films, but The Lego Movieproved that the right film can work in that window. The surprise animated hit opened to $69 million domestically for the second-highest February opening ever, and held onto the No. 1 spot for four consecutive weeks. The $60 million family film, which earned an awesome $468.1 million worldwide, also launched a new franchise for Warner Bros., which has several sequels and spin-offs in the works.

No one expected a female-led action film to out-muscle a big-budget epic starring Dwayne Johnson. But that’s just what happened when Luc Besson’s sci-fi action thriller Lucy starringScarlett Johansson beat epic Hercules for the No. 1 spot when it opened in July. The Universal movie had a stellar $43.9 million debut, and went on to earn $458.9 million worldwide, a stunning number for a movie costing $40 million. The film, which attracted both male and female moviegoers evenly, was a big win for Universal and EuropaCorp., and proved Johansson’s box office power.


Angelina Jolie‘s dark take on the iconic villainous role cast a spell over moviegoers to top the domestic box office in May with a debut of $69.4 million, easily taking the No. 1 spot ahead of holdover X-Men: Days of Future Past, which took in $32.6 million. Disney’s film, made for $180 million, also enchanted foreign markets, with Jolie’s star power pulling in big audiences in China, Mexico, Russia, Japan and Brazil especially. The film has earn a stunning $757.8 million worldwide to become Jolie’s highest grossing live-action film, and the third highest-grossing film of 2014.

Universal’s Neighbors exceeded all expectations when it laughed its way to a $49 million domestic debut over Mother’s Day weekend — the No. 4 three-day opening of all time for an R-rated comedy. Starring Zac Efron and Seth Rogen as feuding neighbors, the $18 million comedy went on to earn $268.2 million worldwide and is one of the most profitable films of the year.

Ride Along
Kevin Hart
and Ice Cube delivered an unexpected box office smash for Universal when Ride Along hit theaters in January. The $25 million comedy topped the domestic box office for three straight weekends, a rare feat mostly accomplished by big tentpoles. After a $41.5 million U.S. debut, Ride Along rolled along to a total domestic tally of $134.9 million. While the comedy’s success story is due to its outstanding domestic numbers, it also raked in a respectable $19 million abroad for a worldwide total of $154 million. A sequel is already in the works.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

When the CG-live action project was first in development, there was some concern when producer Michael Bay mentioned the presence of aliens in it. Could fans’ anger lead to a box office bomb? Instead, Paramount’s film, with a budget of $125 million, did swift business, topping the domestic box office with a $65.6 million debut. Most impressively, the film had strong legs and continued to do huge numbers overseas ($286 million) for an impressive worldwide total of $477.2 million.