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3. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

Return on investment: 2520%
Budget $15 million (inflation-adjusted)
Gross revenue $378 million

At first glance, Slumdog Millionaire probably didn’t seem like it had the makings of a particularly profitable film. After all, the premise of a Bombay street urchin’s rise to fame as a game show contestant doesn’t exactly scream “huge box office success." In fact, Warner Bros. was so unconvinced about the film’s commercial prospects that the studio had considered not even giving it a theatrical release, preferring to release it directly to DVD.

However, the movie premiered at the 2008 Telluride film festival and generated very strong buzz among festival attendees. The film was given US distribution, and eight Academy Awards later, including Best Picture, it was well on its way to massive earnings. Ultimately the film made almost $378 million on its $15 million investment, a return of over twenty-five times.

Photo: Fox Searchlight Pictures