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15. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Return on investment: 1008%
Budget $111 million (inflation-adjusted)
Gross revenue $1.1 billion

The Lord of the Rings trilogy was a huge gamble. All three films were shot simultaneously in order to keep to the scheduled yearly release of each film. Had 2001’s Fellowship of the Ring not been successful, the studio would have still been stuck with two almost-done films to finish, promote and release, and the losses involved could have been devastating.

Luckily, there was no need to worry. Fellowship of the Ring was a huge hit, as was the follow-up, 2002’s The Two Towers. However, the final film in the trilogy, The Return of the King, was the most profitable of the three, grossing over $1.1 billion, over ten times what it cost to make it. It was also notable for winning every one of the eleven Academy Awards for which it had been nominated, matching the records set by Titanic and Ben-Hur.

Photo: New Line Cinema