10 Best Picture Winners That Flopped At The Box Office

By Ben Gibbons Published 1 day ago

The Oscars may decide on the Best Picture in any given year, but audiences don’t always agree, and that can clearly be seen at the box office.

10 Best Picture Winners That Flopped At The Box Office


  • Academy Award winners don't always bring in big bucks, as seen with Best Picture winners Cimarron, Chariots of Fire, and The Last Emperor.
  • Some Oscar winners like Crash, No Country for Old Men, and The Hurt Locker, although acclaimed, struggled financially at the box office.
  • Even Best Picture winners like The Artist, Birdman, Moonlight, and CODA didn't rake in huge profits, showcasing the divide between awards and box office success.


The Academy Awards may bestow films with the most sought-after accolades in the industry, but that doesn't always mean the movie is a financial success. Hollywood and the rest of the world have several different organizations that are designed to give recognition and praise to the best and brightest movies ever made. However, the public has a slightly different system for showing their affection and admiration for movies, which is arguably more important; the box office. Audiences pay with their hard-earned money to see films that resonate with them and the box office is an important record of these transactions.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is nearing its 100th anniversary, but in all the years of its operation, the Best Picture winners haven't always performed well when it comes to the box office. Whether the movie was not designed for the mainstream, the marketing failed to push it out, or the movie simply wasn't deemed that great, some of the "best" movies had minimal returns. And while a flop is technically a movie that fails to recover its budget, a higher bar is in place for the movies that are supposedly the best in the industry.

10 Cimarron (1931)

Box Office: $1,383,000

10 Best Picture Winners That Flopped At The Box Office

Cimarron was awarded Best Picture when the award was still called Outstanding Picture. However, despite there being far fewer options on the table to compete for the title, Cimarron is one of the films that lacks any real depth. At the time of recording, the movie had a massive budget of around $1.5 million to produce the picture, but it failed to earn back its budget, falling shy by over $100,000 (via Historical Journal of RTF). A middling Western that ranked near the bottom of the box office in its year of release.

9 Chariots Of Fire (1981)

Box Office: $61,910,507

10 Best Picture Winners That Flopped At The Box Office

Chariots of Fire had a fairly low budget that almost guaranteed its success at the box office, and it was able to more than recover the investment to make the picture (via The Numbers). However, the movie also failed to outperform many other films in 1981 when it was released. Domestically, it ranked at the very bottom for earnings (via Box Office Mojo), but even when taking into consideration the global earnings, the film barely cracked the top 10 in 1981.

8 The Last Emporer (1987)

Box Office: $44,005,435

10 Best Picture Winners That Flopped At The Box Office

The Last Emperor earned $44 million upon release, but this figure saw it lagging far behind other movies released at the same time, and considering the $25 million to make the movie plus marketing costs, it barely broke even (via The Numbers). The movie failed to draw in audiences upon release and only began to earn higher sales after being nominated for the award, which led curious cinemagoers to buy a ticket. It may have won Best Picture, but it certainly didn't capture the attention and hearts of the wider audience of film fans in any meaningful way.

7 Crash (2004)

Box Office: $98,410,061


Another winning movie that turned a profit thanks to a low budget was Crash (via Box Office Mojo). Crash was one of the most controversial winners of the award, especially considering the fact that it beat out stiff competition like Brokeback Mountain, which had won many of the precursor awards and was expected to win Best Picture. However, it is possible that Crash was voted in as the winner, despite being a far weaker project, due to other politics at the time, but the film is likely one that few people remember, while Brokeback Mountain endures as a classic.

6 No Country For Old Men (2007)

Box Office: $164,035,753

10 Best Picture Winners That Flopped At The Box Office

Many movies released during 2007 were just tens of millions of dollars below the $1 billion mark, but that was not the case for No Country for Old Menby the Coen brothers. Despite winning in multiple categories, this film was too niche for the public as it only raised a fraction of what any one of the top 10 managed to pull in (via Box Office Mojo). It may have won Best Picture and raised a decent sum against its budget (via The Numbers), but it lagged far behind its competition in terms of profitability.

5 The Hurt Locker (2008)

Box Office: $49,876,984

10 Best Picture Winners That Flopped At The Box Office

Despite being released a year later, The Hurt Locker managed to earn less than a third of what the previous year's winner managed, against an already low budget (via The Numbers). Just one year later, in 2009, movies like James Cameron's Avatar would shatter the record for highest-earning movie and earn well over $2 billion, but The Hurt Locker is a comparative disappointment compared to most other movies released in 2008. Despite this discrepancy, it still picked up the most coveted award in the industry against Avatar and several other much more widely praised films.

4 The Artist (2011)

Box Office: $128,100,584


The Artist paid tribute to the early days of Hollywood, and as a result, it appeared to get recognition and acclaim back. However, the film was by no means one of the most or even marginally high-ranking films of 2011. The Artist ranked as the 169th highest-earning title out of 200 at the box office (via Box Office Mojo), but despite barely edging out the other lowest-earning films of the year (via The Numbers), it was able to land an Oscar for Best Picture. This is not to say that the movie isn't enjoyable, but it clearly wasn't even acknowledged by a majority of moviegoers.

3 Birdman (2014)

Box Office: $102,926,247

10 Best Picture Winners That Flopped At The Box Office

Birdman, starring Michael Keaton, faced off some incredibly strong competition in the 2014 Academy Awards against titles like The Imitation Game, American Sniper, and The Theory of Everything. However, despite being on the lower end of the box office figures (via The Numbers), Birdman nabbed the win. The movie had a lot to be praised, from performance to writing, but it still struggled to capture the public's attention, even after being nominated for the Oscar, with many people expecting one of the other nominees to take home the prize.

2 Moonlight (2016)

Box Office: $64,895,106


Moonlight had a rocky road to earning its Best Picture award after La La Land was incorrectly announced as the winner in 2016. However, the film, which had a meager budget of $1.5 million to produce (via The Numbers), earned one of the lowest-ever box office totals when adjusted for inflation, against every other winner. The film certainly earned its award, but it did not receive nearly wide enough of a release, which could have multiplied its earnings several times over.

1 CODA (2021)

Box Office: $2,237,618

10 Best Picture Winners That Flopped At The Box Office

Considering CODA was released on Apple TV+ with a limited theatrical release, it makes sense that it didn't earn very much in theaters (via The Numbers), but a Best Picture winner that earned less than eight or nine digits is unheard of in modern cinema. The story is moving and emotional, and deals with a topic that is not given nearly enough attention, which puts it in good standing for an awards show like the Academy Awards, and while the budget to make the movie has not been explicitly revealed, Apple is likely to have invested considerably more.

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