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B.O. of the '00s: The Top Grossing Foreign-Language Films

Photo of Peter Knegt By Peter Knegt | Indiewire November 20, 2009 at 4:56AM

The 2010s are fast approaching - 41 days and counting - and indieWIRE is continuing this weekly Friday chart devoted to glancing back at the past ten years. With a film opening each weekend as a starting point, we're charting various sub-categories of 2000s film, focusing on their North American box office performance. This week, with both Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces" and John Woo's "Red Cliff" opening in theaters, iW decided to look back at the last ten years in foreign-language film box office.
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The 2010s are fast approaching - 41 days and counting - and indieWIRE is continuing this weekly Friday chart devoted to glancing back at the past ten years. With a film opening each weekend as a starting point, we're charting various sub-categories of 2000s film, focusing on their North American box office performance. This week, with both Pedro Almodovar's "Broken Embraces" and John Woo's "Red Cliff" opening in theaters, iW decided to look back at the last ten years in foreign-language film box office.

Almodovar himself is included twice in the list - which tracks the top 30 foreign releases - with 2006's "Volver" and 2002's "Talk To Her" (2004's "Bad Education" bubbles just under). Spain tied Germany for the second most frequent European country on the list with 3 titles each, while France had the most films on the list of any country in the world: "Amelie," "Brotherhood of the Wolf," "La Vie En Rose," "The Closet," "A Very Long Engagement," and "Tell No One."

Overall, though, European cinema was overshadowed by a different continent. While in the 1990s it was the most dominant region (with Italy in particular having three of the top four grossers - "Life Is Beautiful," "Il Postino" and "Cinema Paradiso"), it's John Woo's continental comrades that dominated the '00s. Asian films made up six of the top ten grossing films, including far and away the decade's top grosser: Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." "Dragon" grossed an astounding $128,078,872, making it the highest grossing cinematic import by a $70 million margin. Yimou Zhang's "Hero," Ronny Yu's "Jet Li's Fearless," Stephen Chow's "Kung Fu Hustle," Woo-ping Yuen's "Iron Monkey" and Mira Nair's "Monsoon Wedding" all place in the top ten as well.

The list was also dominated by the first seven years of the decade. Films from 2000-2006 made up 23 of the 30 films on the list (2006 being the peak with a whopping 7 entries), with 2009 so far being the only year not to track. France's "Coco Before Chanel," currently in theaters with a $4,847,752 and counting gross, is likely to change that, and there are high hopes for a few films soon en route (including this weekend's aforementioned offerings). But that's still a very suggestive statistic in terms of U.S. filmgoing trends in recent years, as well as changes in distribution and exhibition that hinders foreign films' chances at scoring eight figure grosses (only one film has done so in the past 3 years - "La Vie En Rose").

And finally, for all those industry nerds out there, Sony Pictures Classics was the ruling distributor, with 7 films on the list, while Miramax followed with 5.

Check out the full list below, which includes North American grosses and excludes soley U.S. produced foreign-language films ("Maria Full of Grace," which is included, was a US/Columbia co-production, while "The Passion of the Christ" and "Letters From Iwo Jima" were U.S. only):

The poster for Ang Lee's "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon."


Top Grossing Foreign-Language Films of the 2000s

1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Taiwan) | 2000 | $128,078,872
2. Hero (China) | 2004 | $53,710,019
3. Pan's Labyrinth (Mexico) | 2006 | $37,634,615
4. Amelie (France) | 2001 | $33,225,499
5. Jet Li's Fearless (China) | 2006 | $24,633,730
6. Kung Fu Hustle (China) | 2005 | $17,108,591
7. The Motorcycle Diaries (Argentina) | 2004 | $16,781,387
8. Iron Monkey (Hong Kong) | 2001 | $14,694,904
9. Monsoon Wedding (India) | 2002 | $13,885,966
10. Y Tu Mama Tambien (Mexico) | 2002 | $13,839,658
11. Volver (Spain) | 2006 | $12,899,867
12. Under The Same Moon (Mexico/USA) | 2008 | $12,590,147
13. The Protector (Thailand) | 2006 | $12,044,087
14. The Lives of Others (Germany) | 2007 | $11,286,112
15. Brotherhood of the Wolf (France) | 2002 | $11,260,096
16. House of Flying Daggers (China) | 2004 | $11,050,094
17. La Vie en Rose (France) | 2007 | $10,301,706
18. Talk To Her (Spain) | 2002 | $9,285,469
19. City of God (Brazil) | 2003 | $7,564,459
20. The Orphanage (Spain) | 2007 | $7,161,284
21. The Closet (France) | 2001 | $6,678,894
22. Maria Full of Grace (USA/Colombia) | 2004 | $6,529,624
23. A Very Long Engagement (France) | 2004 | $6,524,389
24. Nowhere in Africa (Germany) | 2003 | $6,180,200
25. Tell No One (France) | 2008 | $6,177,192
26. El Crimen del Padre Amaro (Mexico) | 2002 | $5,717,044
27. Mongol (Russia) | 2008 | $5,705,761
28. Water (Canada) | 2006 | $5,529,144
29. Downfall (Germany) | 2005 | $5,509,040
30. The Counterfeiters (Austria) | 2008 | $5,488,570

"B.O. of the '00s" is a weekly feature from indieWIRE running until the end of the year. Check out the previous editions:

B.O. of the '00s: The Top Grossing Documentaries
B.O. of the '00s: The Top Grossing Sundance Films





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