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Subtitles Fading But These Soldiers March On...

Year in Review. Every afternoon, a new wrap-up. Today an exhaustive list of how foreign films performed at the US box office...  

Perhaps no film is a more perfect encapsulation of the 2016 reality for foreign films in the US marketplace than Netflix's Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon sequel. The first was an international theatrical phenomenon and a true blockbuster delivering over $100 million in the United States alone. The sequel sixteen years later was in English and went straight to streaming. 

Despite the inhospitable 21st century climate nowadays, specialty distributors fight on to deliver some variety to the US marketplace. Here's how they fared this year. These numbers were pulled from Box Office Mojo and we tried to be as thorough as possible (though we did skip documentaries and animated features which are sometimes screened in both dubbed and subtitled versions in the same marketplace)

By US Box Office Gross - final numbers. Title links go to reviews. 

01 Dangal $12.3 (India)

02 No Manches Frida $11.5 (USA) available to stream on IMDb

03 Sultan $6.2 (India)
Bollywood films account for a big portion of each year's foreign film grosses in the US. Up until the release of Dangal at Christmas, none were mightier for most of 2016 than the sports drama starring Salman Khan (pictured above).

Oscar Finalists, Isabelle Huppert, and buzzy Korean hits after the jump...

04 Ae Dil Hai Mushkil $4.2 (India)

05 Kabali $3.9 (India)

06 A Man Called Ove $3.3 (Sweden)
This Swedish comedy, adapted from the best seller, is the highest grossing foreign language nominee since Ida (2014) which grossed nearly $4 million. Ove has outgrossed all other nominees besides that Polish winner in the past three years of this particular Oscar race. For what it's worth the highest grossing Foreign Film nominee or winner this decade is Asghar Farhadi's A Separation (2011) which grossed $7 million in theatrical release in the US, even surpassing Michael Haneke's Best Picture nominee Amour (2012)

07 The Mermaid $3.2 (China)
Worldwide this elaborate comic fantasy from Stephen Chow (Kung Fu Hustle) was a true phenonemon grossing over half a billion. Yet in the US... 

08 Compadres $3.1 (Mexico)

09 Ip Man 3 $2.6 (Hong Kong) available to stream on Netflix
Donnie Yen had an amazing 2016. He had his biggest Ip Man hit in the States, co-starred in Netflix's Crouching Tiger sequel, and is a fan favorite in the new Star Wars film Rogue One as a mysterious blind man.

10 Kapoor & Sons - Since 1921 $2.6 (India)

11 Dear Zindagi $2.3 (India)
Shah Rukh Khan continues to be one of Bollywood's biggest draws.

12 Elle $2.3 (France)
Though the film was dropped from Best Foreign Film at the Oscars (argh!) Huppert took the Golden Globe in a surprise victory, got nominated for Best Actress with some of the best reviews of her legendary career, and SPC managed to keep it in theaters for months. A slow burn / great run for a provocative actressy film

13 A Aa $2.3 (India)

14 Fan $2.3 (India)

15 Train To Busan $2.1 (South Korea)
This zombie action flick was a big enough hit worldwide that Hollywood is already ramping up to remake it in the English language

16 The Handmaiden $2 (South Korea)
Park Chan-wook's outre adaptation of the lesbian novel "Fingersmith" was a critical sensation and now Park Chan Wook's biggest box office success in the US. It's also winning critics awards (as well it should). Sadly South Korea didn't submit it for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars and Oscar voters ignored it in the craft categories where it still most definitely belonged.

17 Desierto $2.0 (Mexico)
Alfonso Cuarón's son directed this thriller about an evil redneck (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) hunting down illegal immigrants (Gael García Bernal among them). It barely needed subtitles as the dialogue was sparse at best.

18 Shin Godzilla $1.9 (Japan)

19 MS Dhoni: The Untold Story $1.8 (India)

20 Busco Novio Para Mi Mujer $1.7 (Mexico)

21 Neerja $1.5 (India) available to stream on Netflix

22 Julieta $1.4 (Spain)
Oscar voters didn't help push this one over for audiences. Though still in release it's underperforming for an Almodóvar title which can usually manage at least $3 million in the States. 

23  Toni Erdmann $1.4 (Germany)
It lost Best Foreign Film but critics did what they could to spread the word helping its gross up a strong million plus. Otherwise the length seemed to scare people off a bit and it never became as popular with audiences as it was with critics.

24 Embrace of Serpent $1.3 (Colombia) 
This mesmerizng nominee for Best Foreign Film at least year's Oscars was a sizeable success in theaters, just behind the Oscar winning Son of Saul in terms of box office (the latter not on this chart as it opened in 2015). 

25 Housefull 3 $1.3 (India)

26 Mohenjo Daro $1.2 (India)

27 Wazir $1.1 (India)

28 Rustom $1.0 (India)

29 The Innocents $1.0 (France)
The drama about a doctor discovering a convent of pregnant nuns in the immediate aftermath of World War II was initially France's biggest import but Elle eventually doubled its gross with the help of all the Oscar buzz

30 Baar Baar Dekho $981K (India)

31 Neruda $939K (Chile) 
The Oscar snub came at a bad time for this release but this playful fascinating biopic of sorts still did well in arthouse theaters. 

32 Gentleman $897K (India)

33 Ki & Ka $857K (India)

34 Premam $828K (India)

35 Dishoom $812K (India)

36 Operation Mekong $792K (China) 

37 The Wailing $786K (South Korea) available to stream on Netflix

38 Chongqing Hot Pot $779K (China)

39 I Belonged to You $744K (China)

40 The Monkey King 2 in 3D $709K (China)

41 El Jeremias $647K (Mexico)

42 A Tale of Love and Darkness $568K (Israel/USA)
Before Jackie hit theaters, Natalie Portman made her multilingual directorial debut with this film based on the memoirs of Amos Oz's youth. She plays the writer's mother. 

43 Tunnel $568K (South Korea)

44 Cold War 2 $560K (China)

45 The Age of Shadows $541K (South Korea) 
South Korea's Oscar submission, a period espionage drama, did pretty well despite a lack of media interest.

46 Fitoor $528K (India)

47 Befikre $498K (India)

48 Marguerite $497K (France) available to stream on Netflix
France's version of the Florence Foster Jenkins story preceded the Meryl Streep movie into theaters this Spring. At home in France it won four Cesar awards (Actress, Production Design, Costume Design, and Sound) in categories that could theoretically happen for Oscar nominations for Streep's movie, too. 

49 Detective Chinatown $474K (China)

50 Our Little Sister $467K (Japan)

51 Luck-Key $466K (South Korea)

52 Bagghi $438K (India)

53 I Am Not Madame Bovary $435K (China)
Fan Bingbing hasnt become an arthouse star in the US the way some of her Asian superstar predecessors did (like Zhang Ziyi in the Aughts or Gong Li in the 90s) but she'll always have the red carpet and international franchise cameo appearances (Iron Man 3, X-Men Days of Future Past.)

54 Things to Come $388K (France)
Isabelle Huppert's other critical darling of the year, about a philosophy professor facing life changes

55 The Wasted Times $386K (China)

56 Mr Donkey $356K (China)

57 Happy Bhaag Jayegi $351K (India) 

58 Kahaani 2 $350K (India)

59 LORD Legend of Ravaging Dynasties $350K (South Korea) 

60 Te3n $331K (India) 

61 Kaashmora $327K (India)

62 Mia Madre $303K (Italy)

63 Ixcanul $295K (Guatemala) 
$300,000 might seem paltry for a box office sum but if you've seen Ixcanul, a resolutely anti-commercial movie about a poverty-stricken family living near a volcano and trying to marry off their teenage daughter, you'll be impressed with how well it fared. Especially since there's no real support structure for Guatemalan movies in arthouses. Obviously Chinese, Korean, and Indian films (all over this chart) have distributors dedicated solely to selling them in the US market. Not so with this one so well done. 

64 The People vs Fritz Bauer $288K (Germany)

65 Aquarius $285K (Brazil) Such a great picture. Why didn't it become a big arthouse hit? Was it the length?

66 My Golden Days $269K (France) available to stream on Netflix

67 Dheepan $248K (France) available to stream on Netflix
A reminder that Cannes wins don't help much at the box office. Of course Cannes win MIGHT help at the box office if the movie were released immediately afterwards when people were still talking about them but we'll never know!

68 Naam Hai Akira $219K (India)

69 Ho Mann Jahaan $208K (Pakistan)

70 Kaptaan $203K (India)

71 El Clan $201K (Argentina)  

72 Viva $178K (Cuba/Ireland) available to stream on Netflix

73 The Wave $177K (Norway) avaiable to stream on Netflix

74 Asura: The City of Madness $175K (South Korea) 

75 Rams $149K (Iceland) available to stream on Netflix

76 League of Gods $143K (Hong Kong)

77 The Kind Words $135K (Israel)

78 ISM $134K (India)

79 Spirits Homecoming $125K (South Korea)

80 Sweet Bean $124K (Japan) available to stream on netflix



81 A War $122K (Denmark) available to stream on Netflix
A sad reminder that an Oscar nomination in foreign film guarantees nothing in terms of box office. Sometimes it helps, sometimes no one notices... even when you've got a Game of Thrones actor leading your movie! 

82 Three $119K (Hong Kong)  

83 The Measure of a Man $112K (France) available to stream on Netflix

84 Aferim! $108K (Romania)

85 Dictator $104K (India)

86 Demon $104K (Poland)

87 Rock On 2 $98K (India)

88 Seondal: The Man Who Sells The River $97K (South Korea)

89 So Young 2 $96K (China) 

90 New York New York $92K (China)

91 Fireworks Wednesday $90K (Iran) 
One of Asghar Farhadi's most cherished classics got a US release finally. Only 11 years after its Iranian debut!

92 No One's Life Is Easy... $89K (China) 

93 Sand Storm $86K (Israel)  

94 Mountains May Depart $82K (China) available to stream on Netflix

95 Cock and Bull $82K (China) 

96 Les Cowboys $80K (France) 

97 Sky on Fire $78K (Hong Kong)

98 My Best Friends Wedding $77K (China)
yes, Shu Qi remade the Julia Roberts movie

99 Saala Khadoos $76K (India) available to stream on Netflix

100 Sword Master $75K (Hong Kong)

Just outside the list...
Sweet 20 $71K (Vietnam), Phantom Detective $67K (South Korea), Microbe & Gasoline $63K (France), Time Renegades $60K (South Korea)


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Reader Comments (10)

Ixcanul did surprisingly well because it is surprisingly outstanding. Wonder how much it could have made if it had had real distribution. Deephan is also in my Top 10 for the year.

December 19, 2016 | Unregistered Commenterken s

No. 63 Ho Mann Jahan is actually Pakistani. The industry in Pakistan is going through a revival where a booming television industry is now creating cinema that would appeal , especially, to the urban population.

December 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRizz

rizz - thanks for correction

December 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

46. Our Little Sister is from Japan. Lovely little movie that should have found more audience.

December 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterJija

I hope more people will check out Measure of a Man, and Sweet Bean (among others, naturally).

December 19, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterRoark

I can confirm that Nick Davis' A grade for Ixcanul was both fairly warranted and gave the movie an $8 boost in box office

December 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterAR

AR -- i'm sure Nick will be very happy to hear to this.

December 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Dheepan is actually from France (Jacques Audiard). Even the characters are migrants from Sri Lanka, not India.

That's one film less for India, which already has so many in your top 100!


December 20, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterFX Durandy

If people feel icky about giving Casey Affleck prizes, they should go to Vincent Lindon in MEASURE OF A MAN. Both very internalised performances in films about masculinity - but the French one is better if you're into that sort of movie (it has no big grief, tear inducing stuff, it's just about a man struggling to be).

December 21, 2016 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

FX -- oof. i knew this of course. sorry about that. fixing now.

December 21, 2016 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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