M. Night Shyamalan is best known for his huge twists, and in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the director was untouchable. Even Steven Spielberg’s or Martin Scorsese’s name attached to a movie couldn’t have garnered so much attention.
But that quickly took its course, and the writer-director’s career trajectory took some weird turns with even weirder box office returns. Interestingly, Shyamalan is seemingly bulletproof, having had a surprising number of failures, but still somehow bounces back like they never happened.
ten The Visit (2015) – $98.4 million
After a series of critical failures (although still box office successes), Visit was a huge comeback for M. Night Shyamalan. As Shyamalan is best known for his twists and quirky storytelling, Visit brought back those beloved brands, and it even features some of the scariest scenes he’s ever done.
Although the film is far from the director’s highest-grossing film, it was one of his biggest successes in terms of net profit. The 2015 film was made on a shoestring, especially by Shyamalan’s standards, as it had a production budget of just $5 million. It’s small change compared to a movie like The last air Master.
9 The Event (2008) – $163.4 million
In 2008, the writing was on the wall that Shyamalan’s formula was beginning to crack, and The event is known for its ridiculous storytelling and how badly turned out it is. In the years that followed, Shyamalan tried to pass off the film as a satire, even though it has the same overdramatic tendencies as his other films.
Between Mark Wahlberg being attached to the project, Shyamalan’s name still carrying some weight, and the promise of being an epic mystery movie, the film earned over $160 million at the box office. Still, negative word of mouth about the film spread before it could do Unbreakable money levels.
8 After Earth (2013) – $243.6 million
Over all, After Earth was a vanity project for Will Smith and an attempt to turn his son into a movie star. Regardless of the film’s blatant nepotism, it still grossed a decent amount worldwide.
Sadly, despite making nearly a quarter of a billion dollars, After Earth is still considered a failure. The 2013 film had an inflated budget of $130 million, and since the marketing budget tends to be the same production cost, the film operated at a significant loss.
seven Glass (2019) – $247 million
In an attempt to create his own cinematic universe, Glass is the sequel of the two Unbreakable and To divide. Despite its polarized reception, enough people were intrigued that it became one of the director’s greatest achievements. Glass‘ The success stems from what worked for Shyamalan for his previous two films, which was to make the film on a much lower budget than he was used to.
It’s hard to believe that Shyamalan even pulled off the movie with just $20 million, which is impressive in itself. Everyone would think that the star power of James McAvoy, Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson alone would have cost way more than the film’s budget. The actors were likely offered endpoints, meaning they would get a percentage of the movie’s gross profit. And if so, it worked really well for everyone, as the left-field superhero movie made 12 times its budget.
6 Unbreakable (2000) – $248.1 million
After the phenomenal success that has been The sixth sense, audiences were waiting to see how Shyamalan would follow up on the mysterious horror. The result was Unbreakablewhich may not have been exactly what audiences wanted, but it was a fascinating take on the superhero genre.
However, since the film felt almost like an introspective, philosophical look at what piques viewers’ interest in the genre, it’s not a big seller. The movie was a huge hit, but it still made half of what The sixth sense did and had double the budget.
5 The Village (2004) – $256.6 million
The village was Shyamalan’s fourth major film following the formula he perfected with The sixth sense. As is the case with all his previous films, Shyamalan creates a world that feels normal, but there’s something a little off. And it’s soon revealed what’s really going on behind the scenes that makes viewers watch the film completely differently.
The 2004 movie was the first time the big twist didn’t fully land with the audience, and many think it’s a great movie but ruined by its ending, but it still managed to generate an impressive number in the whole world. But even though the film’s ending may have had a polarizing response, it’s still as much about the journey. The dramatic performances, bright colors, and Oscar-nominated score all helped the film become one of Shyamalan’s most impressive productions.
4 Split (2016) – $278.4 million
After Visit sparked a Shyamalan revival, the director quickly followed up with To divide, a thriller about a man (James McAvoy) with 24 different personalities. With the wrong actor, the film could have been terrible, but McAvoy is just as responsible for the film’s incredible box office run as Shyamalan. The actor wears the film and he manages to turn what looks like a schlocky B-movie into something serious.
Another key element of Split’s The shattering box office success is the revelation of Bruce Willis in the mid-credits scene, showing that the film is tied to a larger universe. It got the audience talking almost more than the movie itself. The film had a budget of just $9 million, which means it made 30 times its budget, which is almost unheard of, and in that respect is the director’s biggest success.
3 The Last Airbender (2010) – $319.7 million
As with so many of the director’s films, The last air Master may seem to have succeeded with a $319 million figure, but it massively underperformed and was hated by critics and audiences alike. The movie made for Avatar the series what batman and robin made for Batmanbecause it killed off a film series that had the potential to be a Harry Potter-sized franchise.
However, while this is easily M. Night Shyamalan’s worst film, the film’s failure still hasn’t slowed him down. For any other director, this could have been career-critical, so it’s a feat that Shyamalan is still so successful today.
2 Signs (2002) – $408.2 million
After tackling the horror genre with The sixth sensethe superhero genre with UnbreakableShyamalan was seemingly redefining all genres, and the next logical step was to turn to science fiction. Panels didn’t quite redefine the genre as people expected, but audiences still showed up in droves to see it.
Although the final twist is that aliens are allergic to water, which is a derivative of War of the Worlds’ end, Panels is still extremely entertaining and full of terrifying scenes. And while they’re not the most beloved movies in his filmography, aliens are used sparingly, easily making it Shyamalan’s most suspenseful work.
1 The Sixth Sense (1999) – $672.8 million
If anyone ever wondered why studios kept greenlighting Shyamalan films after so many disasters in the 2000s and 2010s, The sixth sense that is why. When a fresh-faced writer-director comes up with a completely original script that’s grossing over $670 million on a budget of just $40 million, he’s someone worth taking a risk on.
The film established Shyamalan’s style, and the film’s latest plot twist kept audiences talking for months, becoming a phenomenon and breaking so many box office records. The sixth sense was the second highest-grossing film of 1999, beaten only by Star Wars: The Phantom Menaceand it was one of the few top 10 films of the year not based on an existing property.
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