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by Peter Knegt
January 5, 2014 3:02 PM
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The 30 Highest Grossing Indies of 2013

"Instructions Not Included"

Here's a chart of 2013's thirty highest grossing films tracked by Indiewire's box office charts. While Steve McQueen's "12 Years a Slave" and Woody Allen's "Blue Jasmine" were among the only three films to gross over $30 million, it was Lionsgate and Pantelion's massive Spanish-language hit "Instructions Not Included" -- directed and starring by Mexican star Eugenio Derbez -- that led the year's crop.

Rounding out the top 10 were "Mud," "The Way, Way Back," "The Place Beyond The Pines," "Quartet," "Enough Said," "Philomena" and "Fruitvale Station."  At number 24, "20 Feet From Stardom" was the highest grossing documentary.

Notably, last year's highest grossing film -- "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" -- saw its stars Judi Dench and Maggie Smith both represented in this year's top 10 too with "Quartet" and "Philomena" (continuing the significant trend of the "silver dollar"). Comparatively, this year  had more $20 million grossers (6 vs. last year's 4), $10 million grossers (12 vs. 10) and $5 million grossers (23 vs. 18) than 2012. More on that Monday via our commentary on the biggest winners at the indie box office this year.  But for now, check out the list below. 

Note this list only includes North American grosses for specialty films -- indie, foreign and/or documentary -- that opened in limited release (initially under 500 screens) in 2013 and were released by an independent distributor or a studio specialty division. It also includes films that screened only as an Academy-qualifier in 2012 ("Quartet," "The Gatekeepers," etc). Only grosses up until December 31, 2013 are included, and a lot of films listed could see a considerable amount of their grosses still come in 2014.

'12 Years a Slave'

1. Instructions Not Included (Lionsgate/Pantelion) - $44,467,206
2. 12 Years a Slave (Fox Searchlight) - $37,951,371
3. Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics) - $33,022,324
4. Mud (Roadside Attractions) - $21,590,086
5. The Way, Way Back (Fox Searchlight) - $21,502,690
6. The Place Beyond The Pines (Focus) - $21,403,519
7. Quartet (The Weinstein Company) - $18,390,117
8. Enough Said (Fox Searchlight) - $17,464,587
9. Philomena (The Weinstein Company) - $17,312,034
10. Fruitvale Station (The Weinstein Company ) - $16,101,339
11. Dallas Buyers Club (Focus Features) - $15,847,213
12. Spring Breakers (A24) - $14,124,284
13. Before Midnight (Sony Pictures Classics) - $8,114,627

14. Dhoom 3 (Yash Raj) - $7,185,407
15. The Spectacular Now (A24) - $6,854,611
16. The Grandmaster (The Weinstein Company) - $6,594,959
17. Nebraska (Paramount Vantage) - $6,058,098
18. All Is Lost (Roadside Attractions) - $5,972,093
19. The Bling Ring (A24) - $5,845,732
20. Pulling Strings (Lionsgate/Pantelion) - $5,842,961
21. Chennai Express (UTV) - $5,307,960
22. Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom (The Weinstein Company) - $5,236,120
23. Inside Llewyn Davis (CBS FIlms) - $5,198,928
24. The Company You Keep (Sony Pictures Classics) - $5,133,027
25. 20 Feet From Stardom (RADiUS) - $4,814,733
26. Much Ado About Nothing (Roadside Attractions) - $4,328,849
27. Frances Ha (IFC Films) - $4,066,582
28. Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (Eros) - $3,827,466
29. Metallica Through The Never (Picturehouse) - $3,419,967
30. Emperor (Roadside Attractions) - $3,346,265

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  • daniel | January 24, 2014 9:07 AMReply

    This must be wrong, there is no "Upstream Color".

  • Ehinome Okojie | January 21, 2014 10:06 AMReply

    Yes the term independent may not apply to certain films in this list, an observation is that
    all films here started as limited releases and some expanded their release size because of
    tremendous box office appeal to become wide releases eg instructions not included,
    Hindi language movies in this list eg yeh jawaani hai deewani etc are more or less big
    bollywood releases that are limited in the US as they all were screened in less than 240
    screens. One important point is that social networking is empowering small scale films
    and we will not likely see mega box office successes like titanic and avatar in the near
    future, at least not frequqntly.

  • bonZ | January 6, 2014 10:18 AMReply

    Half of the films in the list are not indies.

  • Zinia | January 6, 2014 3:27 AMReply

    this is such a lousy piece of an article. as many have pointed out, went wrong on so many levels! do ur research right plz!

  • Fil | January 5, 2014 11:30 PMReply

    Agreeing with lots of the comments... Most of those films are not indies. They are really good films, but not indies... Having $20M to make your film is not an "indie" reality.

  • Monco | January 5, 2014 3:29 PMReply

    I'd like to divert your attention towards a fact that, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, Chennai Express and Dhoom 3 ARE NOT INDIE MOVIES. Infact they are big time Bollywood productions and have earned more than Rs 100 crores+

  • Zinia | January 6, 2014 3:23 AM

    u spoke my mind!

  • realvalue | January 5, 2014 3:17 PMReply

    Please post gross figures alongside budget (production and marketing). Or at least have another list for the most profitable, with net figures.

  • tippyofwc | December 17, 2013 5:51 PMReply

    happy to say, i've seen most of them! my faves… the spectacular now, 12 years a slave, dallas buyers club and fruitvale station.

  • ranadeep | November 14, 2013 2:52 PMReply

    How does Chennai Express feature in a list of indies??????? It is not an indie film at all and doesn't deserve to be in a list with the likes of Before Midnight, The Grandmaster and Blue Jasmine!

  • JZ | October 29, 2013 9:50 AMReply

    Can you please start posting the P&A spend with these numbers so we can see how films are performing against their spend? Many of these "highest grossing films" have a 1:1 P&A to gross ratio. If we really want to think about indie film performance, we should see this factored in.

  • Harold | October 22, 2013 11:30 AMReply

    Please redefine your definition of "indie." It is woefully outdated and irrelevant.

  • Lucy | October 16, 2013 10:56 AMReply

    Bling Ring is a flop. Emma Watson is a lousy actress.

  • Phil | October 17, 2013 9:24 PM

    I would actually put the blame at the feet of overrated director Sophia Coppola. Truly a testament to the fact that all you need to make movies is a name and money rather than actually talent.

  • Kcijones001 | October 16, 2013 10:01 AMReply

    I totally thought the spectacular now fell incredibly short.

  • ash | October 10, 2013 5:43 PMReply

    What about The Butler?!

  • KB | October 10, 2013 5:41 PMReply

    WHERE IS THE BUTLER AS #1?!!!! 100m+ domestic?

  • sab | October 17, 2013 3:54 AM

    The Butler is not and indie.

  • Kcijones001 | October 16, 2013 10:05 AM

    Is the Butler an Indie?

  • Rosemary Peppercorn | October 9, 2013 11:49 AMReply

    What is the definition of a "independent" film? It seems any company with Weinstein, SONY, or Goldwyn in its name isn't "independent." Independent of what???

  • sab | October 17, 2013 4:09 AM

    Independent of the Hollywood studio system or the larger studios, which is actually becoming more complex. Now the larger studio systems are developing production companies that deal strictly with lower budget specialized movies. They're getting smart and realizing that investing in big blockbuster movies is even a risk unless its part of a franchise.
    It used to be that if a movie was independent of the Hollywood studio system then it was considered and indie. So if it was made with a small budget, with not a lot of money put into distribution & marketing chances are you probably haven't even heard of it then it's an indie. Indie movies that get any attention are lucky to be heard of especially if they are good and don't get lost in obscurity like they most certainly do. Wisegeek.org has a good explanation. : )

  • VERONICA GUERIN | September 25, 2013 5:59 AMReply

    ones i saw /want to see

    2. Blue Jasmine (Sony Pictures Classics) - $29,605,701
    3. Mud (Roadside Attractions) - $21,590,086
    4. The Place Beyond The Pines (Focus) - $21,403,519
    5. The Way, Way Back (Fox Searchlight) - $21,168,569
    8. Spring Breakers (A24) - $14,124,284
    10. The Spectacular Now (A24) - $6,402,137
    12. The Bling Ring (A24) - $5,845,732
    14. The Company You Keep (Sony Pictures Classics) - $5,133,027
    16. Much Ado About Nothing (Roadside Attractions) - $4,305,440
    17. Frances Ha (IFC Films) - $4,066,582
    18. Emperor (Roadside Attractions) - $3,346,265
    21. The Sapphires (The Weinstein Company) - $2,450,867
    24. No (Sony Pictures Classics) - $2,343,664
    25. Trance (Fox Searchlight) - $2,319,187

  • LUIS VERDIN | September 24, 2013 4:36 PMReply

    Overall success the movie "Instructions Not Included" Eugenio Derbez

  • LUIS VERDIN | September 24, 2013 4:33 PMReply


  • Nic | September 19, 2013 11:15 AMReply

    No The World's End? Produced by Working Title Films, released by Focus, $24m gross. Maybe it opened wide, but still an indie by normal definitions?

  • Lucy | October 16, 2013 10:57 AM

    apparently, they don't do much research.

  • Justin | September 15, 2013 2:41 AMReply

    An Indie film is anything not produced by the major studios (Fox, Universal, blah blah.) These films may be distributed by their subsidiaries, but were produced and paid for independently. Same goes with the music industry. Most bands are signed to a label, but they may not fall under the umbrella of the "major" labels.

  • Everything you are | August 29, 2013 10:22 AMReply

    What about LEE DANIELS' THE BUTLER? That is by FAR the biggest...

  • IDi Amin | September 25, 2013 6:00 AM

    by far the biggest load of propaganda sh** of the decade

  • Kurskij | August 27, 2013 6:08 PMReply

    Ditto @Arlan, Norcross, Munoz

    If some of those are indies - then include any Millenium Films movie in this list.

    They're indy, right?

  • Cc | August 22, 2013 12:25 PMReply

    So one day I was telling someone the type of music I liked and they said "so you like Indy pop". I replied no they are all pretty much signed bands. When in reality they mean the sound and style. So lets go back to the original Indy flicks mostly in the 70's. with microscopic budgets but yet made their way to everyone's home. They defined the style and now being Indy isn't whose signed and what's the budget. It's style now.

  • Arlan Godthaab | August 6, 2013 11:46 AMReply

    I agree with Mr. Norcross and Mr. Munoz - there should be some reliable definition of "indy" - one that takes the actual production budgets and back end deferrals by attached stars and pre-sale pickup deals with national distributors into account. Otherwise, lists like this one are not as helpful to fans and hard-scrabble filmmakers as their publishers (I think) mean them to be. I've had co-starring, strong-supporting and principal roles in 13 feature-length films. According to the budgets funding 90% of the films in THIS list, all of mine would have to be termed SUB- or MICRO-indy. We need a meaningful and reliable DEFINITION for "Indy" that either declines or takes into account the multiplicity of factors that can affect the ultimate meaning of the word.

  • Eric Norcross | August 1, 2013 1:06 AMReply

    A lot of these are true indie films. Good films, yes, but not indie by any real measure. Give me a break with this list.

  • sergio munoz | July 31, 2013 7:30 PMReply

    I simply dont understand how these distributors who are total Hollywood establishment can be seen as independent filmmakers? Can I get the definition for what makes an indie an indie?

  • Dorothy | October 9, 2013 2:31 PM

    As someone else mentioned above, the distributor might be a major house or the subsidiary of a major house, but these films weren't made under the umbrella of a major studio. The distributor names seem to be throwing a number of folks here.

  • Daniel Delago | July 31, 2013 5:42 AMReply

    And 2013 is not over yet... two new indie films I'm looking forward to reviewing are Woody Allen's 'Blue Jasmine' and Shailene Woodley's 'The Spectacular Now.' 'Blue Jasmine' is the strongest box office start for a Woody Allen... ever. Enjoy Woodley in 'The Spectacular Now' before she becomes a household name with 'Divergent.' I always feel that we're losing an indie darling before an actress of Woodley's caliber goes mainstream.

  • brian | July 23, 2013 10:02 AMReply


  • LeonRaymond | July 4, 2013 1:59 PMReply

    This is such B.S. every one of these films were superbly done and had heart to them. Back in the day they would have been all the toast of the town and been touted as regular films you should go see -this whole marginalization of films like this is pure B.S but then when you go and look at all the films with $ 200 Million price tags flopping one after another after another I feel some thing evil is afoot !

  • randy | July 10, 2013 2:20 PM

    so true!