A "successful" movie could be one that has stood the test of time and became a classic. Or it could be one that won a lot of awards or got rave reviews. But those are hard to standardize, so let's just look at dollars. Even then, "successful" can mean different things.
Ask anyone what the top movie of all time is, and they'll say Avatar, which has grossed almost three billion dollars worldwide. That figure is top of mind these days as we watch Avatar 2 soar up the chart and shovel in cash. But there's a flaw in that thinking that is obvious on the chart. Ticket prices are now higher than they've ever been. There were no billion-dollar-grossing movies before 1990, and only two films made a billion and a half before 2010 (both by James Cameron), but now plenty of them do. That's inflation. If you were to adjust those dollar amounts for inflation, you'd see a very different chart -and you can see that chart at Information is Beautiful.
But that is still defining "success" as box-office gross. What if we defined a movie's financial success as return on investment? How much a movie makes compared to its budget gives us a whole new chart that will surprise you with a completely new top tier of films. But it's not the last chart, nor the most astonishing chart. If you adjust a little by adding more films that didn't quite make the top 500 cut, you'll find some intriguing data on movies with a huge ROI. And that tells us not only what movie might be defined as the most successful ever, but what type of movie gives the best ROI. I'm not going to give it away, but if you've ever considered investing in a film production, you'll want to see the stats and charts at Information is Beautiful. -via Kottke
(Image credit: David McCandless, Tom Evans, Paul Barton - Information is Beautiful)