I'd like to see a list of genres based in order of profitability throughout movie history. I suspect the horror genre is the most profitable genre going back all the way to the early days of movies, but I'd like confirmation. I suspect Westerns might have been the most profitable genre from the 1920s-1960s, but not as profitable since the 1970s. Same with Musicals. Horror has been profitable in every era of movie history.

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    I'm somehow certain that for the last decade, the damn dumb superhero movies are the most profitable.
    – Pouya
    Jun 9, 2015 at 13:05
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    @Pouya Well, absolutely for sure, but they also cost an entire country's wealth to produce in the first place, whereas some stupid handheld ghost house crap costs 3 million and makes 300 million. (Which shows that some more specifics about the exact statistics asked for might be required here.)
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Jun 9, 2015 at 13:38

2 Answers 2


When comparing profits, cost matters. One site I found says that it is NOT the big budget action adventures that return the most profit to the investors.

Documentaries can have phenomenal returns on investment, because they can be made for a fraction of what a movie costs. The documentary "Tarnation" returned 266,416.97% profit! "Super Size Me" returned 22,614.90%. There are NO documentaries at the bottom of profit-ville.

Horrors and Thrillers are 2 more genres that are big profit makers. "Paranormal Activity" cost $15,000 to make, and raked in $161,830,890 for a return of 539,336.30%! The upshot is:

1 profit maker genre: Horror

2 Documentaries

Drama has a # of movies at the bottom of the "return on investment" list. Drama, romance & comedies - those genres are in the middle somewhere, with some being at the bottom.

As for Action Adventure, In the top 20 movies that have the best ROI, you won't see any of the blockbusters you'd imagine, and "Mad Max" is the only film of its kind in the top 20. http://www.investopedia.com/financial-edge/0410/movie-genres-with-the-best-roi.aspx


This would be an excellent thesis topic for someone, but I think a short answer was aptly provided in the opening scroll of Student Bodies (1981)...

This film is based on a true story: last year, more than 30 horror films were made in America. None of them lost money.

Cheap to make, same ticket price as a blockbuster with a budget 50-100 times higher.

  • While that's very interesting and relevant, it only talks about 1980, and not the history of the movie industry. Aug 13, 2017 at 1:26

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