To call American Sniper a sleeper hit is an understatement. Usually the box office crown goes to a franchise film. Clint Eastwood‘s war drama cost under $60 million, won’t evolve into a series of movies, and has an R-rating. You have to go back to 1998’s Saving Private Ryan to see that same kind of success under the same parameters (America loves soldiers).
According to Variety, American Sniper has grossed $337.2 million domestically since opening in limited release late last December. That gross puts it ahead of The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1, which made $336.8 million. American Sniper is also the highest grossing film of Eastwood’s career and Bradley Cooper‘s highest-grossing domestic release.
It’s worth noting that the movie won’t take the international box office crown from Transformers: Age of Extinction, which made $1.1 billion worldwide compared to Sniper‘s $500 million. Like it or not (and I certainly didn’t like it), American Sniper connected with a lot of people, or at least aroused enough curiosity that people went to see it.
While any direct continuation of American Sniper would likely tank and seem crass (not that Hollywood is above being crass), I expect the repercussions of its success will be an uptick in studios adapting military memoirs. When you look at the gross for not only American Sniper but also 2013’s Lone Survivor, which grossed $149 million worldwide off at $40 million budget, there’s a large market of moviegoers who want hoo-rah tales of sacrifice that ignore the larger ramifications of America’s War on Terror. They’re not interested about the people on the opposite side of the conflict; we just want to show that our best soldiers killed lots of them and then nobly sacrificed their lives.
It’s a story as simple and fantasy-driven as Transformers, and so while American Sniper may be a sleeper, in retrospect, its success is no surprise.