15 Highest-Grossing Ethan Hawke Movies, Ranked
Ethan Hawke has been part of our moviegoing lives since his first starring role in the 1985 film "Explorers," when he was just 15 years old. Now, almost 40 years later, Hawke is experiencing another career resurgence thanks to identifying a genre where he's been magnificent (horror) with the buzzed-about "The Black Phone" set for release in the summer of 2022.
Hawke is a four-time Academy Award nominee who is not only a great actor, but also a great writer, with two of his Academy Award nominations coming as a screenwriter. He's also given us another great actor for the younger generation with his daughter, Maya Hawke, one of the stars of the Netflix series "Stranger Things" and a key character in Quentin Tarantino's Academy Award-winning "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood" in 2019.
These are the highest-grossing Ethan Hawke movies in his career where he had one of the lead roles.
Warning: This article contains spoilers.
15. Before the Devil Knows You're Dead
Release date: Oct. 26, 2007
Director: Sidney Lumet
Budget: $18 million
Box office: $24.9 million
Bottom line: The last film directed by the great Sidney Lumet ("Dog Day Afternoon" and "Network") is a crime thriller told in nonlinear fashion — meaning it jumps around in time — and co-stars Ethan Hawke alongside Academy Award winners Marisa Tomei and the late Phillip Seymour Hoffman.
"Before the Devil" was put on almost every major American film critics' top 10 yearly list and also features Albert Finney as a co-star. Lumet had struggled through almost two decades of bad misses as a director since 1988's "Running on Empty" before making this movie, which represented a real return to form for the four-time Academy Award nominee.
On a different note, if you're really going for a Lumet deep dive, check out the 1981 film "Prince of the City" starring Treat Williams.
14. White Fang
Release date: Jan. 18, 1991
Director: Randal Kleiser
Budget: $14 million
Box office: $34.7 million
Bottom line: It had been two years since Ethan Hawke appeared in a film when he starred in Disney's "White Fang" in 1991, which was based on the famous Jack London novel.
For young actors looking for work in the early 1990s, this was a pretty good break for Hawke, who was only 20 years old on the film's release and worked with director Randal Kleiser, who shot to fame as the director of "Grease" in 1978.
If you were a little kid in the early 1990s, I can almost guarantee you saw this movie at one point — either with your parents or on a school day where the history teacher wheeled in a humongous TV with a VCR the size of a small car.
This would start a streak of steady work for Hawke, who had at least two movies released every year from 1991 to 1994.
13. Assault on Precinct 13
Release date: Jan. 19, 2005
Director: Jean-Francois Richet
Budget: $30 million
Box office: $36 million
Bottom line: In the realm of unnecessary but serviceable remakes, "Assault on Precinct 13" stands toward the top of the list thanks to a couple of predictably great performances by Ethan Hawke and Laurence Fishburne.
While John Carpenter's original 1976 film of the same name remains superior, French director Jean-Francois Richet does a pretty decent job of making this film his own, and while it just barely broke even at the box office, we can't help but think this film has turned a pretty decent profit since its release.
It went from being a DVD rental staple to a steady fixture on streaming services over the last decade.
12. Brooklyn's Finest
Release date: March 5, 2010
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Budget: $17 million
Box office: $39.2 million
Bottom line: As far as gritty cop thrillers go, you can hold "Brooklyn's Finest" up against the very best in the genre. That's thanks in large part to a four-lead lineup of Richard Gere, Don Cheadle, Ethan Hawke and Wesley Snipes that we would probably watch together in whatever kind of movie they made.
This was a movie that wouldn't have been made if the topline actors hadn't all taken significant pay cuts to get in the film. Director Antoine Fuqua made the movie for just $17 million, which was less than half of what he made "Training Day" for in 2001, his previous film with Hawke.
Filmed in 2008, "Brooklyn's Finest" made its debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2009 but didn't get a wide release in U.S. theaters until March 2010.
Release date: Jan. 8, 2010
Director: The Spierig Brothers
Budget: $20 million
Box office: $51.4 million
Bottom line: One of two movies released several months apart in early 2010 starring Ethan Hawke, the vampire movie "Daybreakers" was a hit for both star and directors the Spierig brothers. They reteamed with Hawke in 2014 on the criminally underrated time-travel movie "Predestination" in 2014.
"Daybreakers" and "Brooklyn's Finest" being released in the first few months of 2010 represented what would be an unusually dry period for Hawke when it came to work. Audiences didn't see him in a starring role again until "Sinister" was released in October 2012.
Suffice it to say, Hawke is pretty good when it comes to the horror genre.
10. Great Expectations
Release date: Jan. 30, 1998
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Budget: $25 million
Box office: $55.4 million
Bottom line: This was a movie that got all the hype back in the day, with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow as a pair of young, up-and-coming stars in the leads and Robert De Niro in a small, supporting role.
Based on the Charles Dickens novel of the same name, "Great Expectations'' was a respectable hit for all involved, turning a decent profit at the box office. That's all secondary to what jumps off the page the most when we look at the people behind the movie.
Director Alfonso Cuaron went on to become one of the greatest to ever step behind a camera. He's been nominated for 10 Academy Awards and won four, including a pair of Best Director wins for "Gravity" and "Roma" and is one of just four people to have been nominated for Academy Awards in six different categories.
Release date: July 11, 2014
Director: Richard Linklater
Budget: $4 million
Box office: $57.2 million
Bottom line: "Boyhood" is one of the most ambitious film projects of all time. Director Richard Linklater filmed the actors at different times from 2002 to 2013, depicting the life of a boy growing up in Texas.
Ethan Hawke and Patricia Arquette played the boy's parents and were met with some of the best reviews of their career. "Boyhood" won the Golden Globe Award for Best Film - Drama, Best Director and Best Supporting Actress. It was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Hawke and Best Supporting Actress for Arquette, who won the award.
8. Taking Lives
Release date: March 19, 2004
Director: D.J. Caruso
Budget: $45 million
Box office: $64.2 million
Bottom line: "Taking Lives" was a bizarre serial-killer thriller with Ethan Hawke starring alongside Angelina Jolie. We've made it through this movie at least twice and still can't entirely tell you what the plot is.
If you're wondering why the plot was so convoluted, no less than four different screenwriters had their hands on the script through the filming process. That's never a good sign.
Director D.J. Caruso has been pumping out films pretty steadily since the early 2000s — mostly thrillers — and scored a pair of hits with star Shia LaBeouf in "Disturbia" and "Eagle Eye" just a few years later.
7. Lord of War
Release date: Sept. 16, 2005
Director: Andrew Niccol
Budget: $42 million
Box office: $72.6 million
Bottom line: "Lord of War" caught Academy Award winner Nicolas Cage still in the midst of his A-List superstardom and paired him with future Academy Award winner Jared Leto as one co-star and Ethan Hawke in the other lead.
Hawke has one of the better walk-off moments in his career in this movie when his character, an Interpol agent, parts ways with Cage's character, an arms dealer.
"I would tell you to go to hell," Hawke tells Cage. "But I think you're already there."
This wasn't Hawke's first time working with director Andrew Niccol. The two previously teamed on the sci-fi thriller "Gattaca" in 1997.
Release date: Jan. 15, 1993
Director: Frank Marshall
Budget: $32 million
Box office: $82.5 million
Bottom line: Movie fans from the early 1990s can attest to the buzz that surrounded "Alive" — the drama based on the true life story of Uruguayan Air Force Flight 571 crashing into the Andes Mountains on Oct. 13, 1972.
It was buzz that unfortunately took over the movie itself regarding the cannibalism the survivors of the plane crash were forced into in order to live. While it was a big hit for Hawke early in his career, it remains one of those "Uhhhh, maybe not" movies.
"There are some stories you simply can't tell," famed film critic Roger Ebert wrote in his review of the movie. "The story of the Andes survivors may be one of them."
Release date: Oct. 12, 2012
Director: Scott Derrickson
Budget: $3 million
Box office: $87.7 million
Bottom line: It's hard to think of a more terrifying movie than "Sinister" from director Scott Derrickson with Ethan Hawke in his first lead role in almost three years as a disgraced true crime writer.
Screenwriter C. Robert Cargill said he came up with the idea for "Sinister" after a nightmare he had following the first time he saw horror classic "The Ring" in 2002.
Made for a paltry budget of $3 million, Sinister made almost $90 million at the box office and inspired a sequel three years later. Cargill, Hawke and Derrickson have teamed up again to make another horror movie, "Black Phone," in 2022.
Seriously, if you want to be truly terrified, watch "Sinister" late at night.
4. The Purge
Release date: June 7, 2013
Director: James DeMonaco
Budget: $3 million
Box office: $91.2 million
Bottom line: Ethan Hawke was the lead in a pair of horror movies made for $3 million each in 2012 and 2013 — "Sinister" and "The Purge" — that combined to make almost $200 million at the box office and both become iconic in their own right.
We doubt the team behind the original "The Purge" realized they were creating a juggernaut franchise of films and IP. In the nine years since the original film came out, there have been four "Purge" sequels, with the first three grossing over $100 million, and a television show that lasted two seasons.
3. Training Day
Release date: Oct. 15, 2001
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Budget: $45 million
Box office: $104.5 million
Bottom line: A long, long time from now, when Ethan Hawke's obituary is written, "Training Day" is the first movie that will be mentioned.
Who would have thought the teaming of Denzel Washington and Hawke would have created such an absolute powerhouse of a movie — something for the ages? Director Antonie Fuqua's film has sparked 1,000 memes and is among the most quotable of all time. It also reeled in Academy Award nominations for Hawke, for Best Supporting Actor, and Denzel, who won for Best Actor after winning Best Supporting Actor for "Glory" in 1989.
"Training Day" is infinitely rewatchable. What a movie.
2. The Magnificent Seven
Release date: Sept. 23, 2016
Director: Antoine Fuqua
Budget: $90 million
Box office: $162.1 million
Bottom line: This was the third collaboration between director Antoine Fuqua and Ethan Hawke following "Training Day" and "Brooklyn's Finest" — and featured a reteaming of "Training Day" co-stars Denzel Washington and Hawke.
Of the three movies, it's the most commercial and probably the weakest of the bunch. It's also a remake of the original 1960 film of the same name. This movie came out when co-star Chris Pratt was at his career apex and firmly on the A-List with box-office hits "Jurassic World" and "Guardians of the Galaxy" the previous years.
What we're really trying to say is Hawke should have been the second lead behind Denzel. Because he's a better actor.
1. Dead Poets Society
Release date: June 2, 1989
Director: Peter Weir
Budget: $16 million
Box office: $239.5 million
Bottom line: "Dead Poets Society" was a monster hit when it was released in 1989 and did as much for propelling Ethan Hawke's career as any movie on this list.
Hawke managed to stand out in a cast of young, up-and-coming actors in the cast with the late Robin Williams in the lead as an English teacher at a boarding school in Vermont in the late 1950s.
"Dead Poets Society" was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, while Tom Schulman won for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Interestingly enough, Williams loved to crack jokes on set that almost all of the cast found hilarious, except the 18-year-old Hawke, who found Williams "irritating" and believed the star thought little of him because he was frequently the target of the late comedian's jokes.
That wasn't the case.
Hawke landed his first big-time Hollywood agent after the filming of "Dead Poets Society," upon the direct referral of Williams, who told the agent "he thought (Hawke) might have a pretty good career ahead of him."