Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Captain America: Civil War have made, between the two of them, about $630 million as of this writing. To put that into perspective, that’s more than the 2014 Gross Domestic Product of the island nation of Dominica. If Warner Bros. and Disney pooled their resources, they could buy several island nations on the earnings of about a dozen films.
Of course, despite their respective reviews, both of those films were expected to gross huge amounts of money. Superheroes are the biggest business behind Star Wars, and a giant tentpole superhero flick is considered a disappointment if it earns under $100 million in a single weekend now.
But a big movie making big money isn’t an interesting story. The more interesting stories are always the tales of the sleeper hits. The films that studios did not highly advertise, and that were made for a lower budget, but still managed to worm their way into the top 10, and still managed to co-opt popular culture in a way no one saw coming. These films prove that the public can still decide what’s popular despite multi-million dollar ad campaigns, major 4000-screen releases, and studio machinations. The business is indeed a business, but sometimes quirk, word-of-mouth, and artistry can outweigh studio indifference or smaller release patterns.
Over the years, here have been numerous summer blockbusters that were either mid-range releases in the eyes of major studios, or were minor releases by littler distribution houses, that still raked in major numbers. Here are the ten most notable.