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2. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Return on investment: 3172%
Budget: $25 million (inflation-adjusted)
Gross Revenue: $793 million

Steven Spielberg was a successful director when he made E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. He had helmed Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and Raiders of the Lost Ark, an impressive resume that virtually guaranteed a built-in audience for anything he did. But rather than use his creative blank check to make an astronomically expensive film, he made a relatively low-budget movie about a boy and his adorable alien buddy.

The film went through the roof. It experienced across-the-board success but was especially popular with children, who went back to see the movie over and over again until it was finally yanked from the cold, dead hands of the movie theaters that had been running the film for months. Its earnings of almost $793 million represented a return of almost thirty-two times on its investment, but the filmmakers weren’t the only ones who made money --- the Hershey’s Company saw its profits rise 65% due to the product placement of Reese’s Pieces in the film.

Photo: Universal Pictures