The List of 2023 Highest-Grossing Movies Proves One Thing: The Budgets Are Now Ridiculously Big

The List of 2023 Highest-Grossing Movies Proves One Thing: The Budgets Are Now Ridiculously Big
Image credit: Universal Pictures

Inflation or extravagance – which is to blame?

Even though the writers and actors were on strike for nearly half a year, 2023 has still seen a plethora of top-tier premieres, with many more yet to open in theaters in the upcoming months. Furthermore, a lot of these new releases have been totally killing it at the box office, making billions of dollars and helping the industry recover from the pandemic-induced crisis.

At the same time, these new films have cost their studios hundreds of millions of dollars to make, significantly driving up the average movie budget. Here's a list of 2023's highest-grossing films with their budgets and box office revenue.

  1. Barbie (budget $145 million – b/o $1.438 billion)

  2. The Super Mario Bros. Movie (budget $100 million – b/o $1.363 billion)

  3. Oppenheimer (budget $100 million – b/o $939 million)

  4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (budget $250 million – b/o $846 million)

  5. Fast X (budget $340 million– b/o $714 million)

  6. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (budget $100 million – b/o $690 million)

  7. The Little Mermaid (budget $265 million – b/o $570 million)

  8. Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One (budget $291 million – b/o $568 million)

  9. Elemental (budget $200 million – b/o $492 million)

  10. Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantimania (budget $200 million – b/o $476 million)

  11. Transformers: Rise of the Beasts (budget $200 million – b/o $439 million)

  12. John Wick: Chapter 4 (budget $100 million – b/o $436 million)

  13. Meg 2: The Trench (budget $139 million – b/o $395 million)

  14. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny (budget $300 million – b/o $383 million)

  15. Creed III (budget $75 million – b/o $275 million)

  16. The Flash (budget $220 million – b/o $270 million)

  17. The Nun II (budget $38 million – b/o $249 million)

  18. Sound of Freedom (budget $14.5 million – b/o $235 million)

  19. Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves (budget $150 million – b/o $208 million)

  20. Insidious: The Red Door (budget $16 million – b/o $189 million)

More Money = Less Money

While there are a few low-budget films on the list, we can see a clear trend here: studios have been investing more and more in their productions, with budgets sometimes as huge as $340 million.

Only a few years ago, a film costing $100 million to make was considered big-budget, with Marvel allocating $200 million for their biggest projects. A decade ago, a budget of $50 million was seen as huge. Perhaps inflation has played a role, as studios now have to spend more for the same products and services. But bigger budgets haven't exactly been good for the industry.

It's now becoming increasingly common for studios to lose money on big-budget bets. Take this year's Dungeons & Dragons or Indiana Jones: both failed to break even, as no amount of VFX can make up for a weak script. Now the question is whether it's time studios stopped squandering billions on special effects and instead started investing more in quality writing.

Of course, as journalists, we have a bit of a bias in this matter, so our opinion is to be taken with a grain of salt.

Do you think studios are flaunting their capitals or they have to spend more money due to inflation?