Over the past decade or so, China has become a major influence in Hollywood. Because of the rise in audience attendance and the potential market for Hollywood studios, some movies are made with Chinese moviegoers in mind to maximize profits. “The Chinese government only allows a small number of foreign movies into China each year, and after America, China is the number two biggest movie-going country in the world,” Stephen Colbert said.

“So, it’s only natural for American moviemakers to try and please the cultural gatekeepers of the Chinese government.” Almost all of the films that have entered the highest grossing list in China have been superhero movies, but there are some surprise hits thrown in, as well. Here are a few of the films that might surprise you with their box office receipts in China.

The Golden Compass

Expectations were extremely high for “The Golden Compass” starring the likes of Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig with a budget coming in at $180 million. However, in the United States, the film was a flop with a $70 million return and barely cracking the top 40 in the country’s yearly results. The movie was better received in China, however. It was the 27th most popular movie of 2008 in China, ahead of many films made in the country. Back then, though, China’s market wasn’t as nearly as significant, so it only added about $5 million in total.


“2012” was the disaster movie starring John Cusack about the Mayan prediction of the world coming to an end. Thankfully it didn’t happen, but Chinese audiences flocked to the theaters as if it were going to happen. The film was the top box office draw in China in 2009, pulling in $68.6 million. Only “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” even came close to topping that. Some point at this film as being the first to truly target Chinese audiences specifically as the country’s government saves the day in the end.

The Great Wall

Straight from the beginning, American movie audiences thought that “The Great Wall” was the ultimate in pandering to a Chinese market. After all, the film starred Matt Damon of all people, leading to some controversy with the casting. Zhang Yimou directed this blockbuster that took more than $150 million to make, and only pulled in about $45 million in North America. China made it the eighth most popular film of 2016, adding in a whopping $170 million to give “The Great Wall” an overall profit.


It’s no surprise that Americans love their video games, but China takes it to another level. This 2016 release came with a $160 million budget, and was based on “World of Warcraft”, perhaps the most popular computer game in China. The film was a huge flop in the United States with just $47 million. In China, it was the year’s third largest film with $213 million, even surpassing the likes of “Captain America: Civil War”.