‘Oppenheimer’ Is Now the Highest Grossing Best Picture Oscar Winner in 20 Years

For the first time since “Lord of the Rings: Return of the King,” film’s top prize went to a film that grossed over $500 million at the box office

With its Best Picture win at the Academy Awards, “Oppenheimer” has become the highest grossing film to win the top Oscar in 20 years…and by a considerable margin.

Back in 2004, “Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” won Best Picture as one of a record-tying 11 Oscars and became, to date, the last Best Picture winner to also be the highest grossing film at the box office that year.

In the two decades since, no Best Picture winner has grossed more than $500 million at the global box office until “Oppenheimer,” which rode director Christopher Nolan’s overwhelming global popularity, its critical acclaim, and yes, the “Barbenheimer” memes, to a $957 million global box office total.

In between “LOTR” and “Oppenheimer,” the highest grossing Best Picture winner is Tom Hooper’s “The King’s Speech,” which made $424 million worldwide in 2010. Only two other winners, “Slumdog Millionaire” in 2008 and “Green Book” in 2018, have grossed more than $300 million worldwide in that time period.

Since the victory of “Return of the King,” the Oscars and the Academy members have seen their taste become increasingly distanced from the franchise-driven nature of the modern box office. But “Oppenheimer” bucked that trend, winning critics, industry insiders, and global audiences alike, becoming the third-highest grossing film of 2023 behind only “The Super Mario Bros. Movie” and fellow Best Picture nominee “Barbie.”

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