2014’s Most Surprising Box Office Hits — From 'John Wick' to 'Ride Along'

To all those who mourned the Hollywood box office after a summer of shape-shifting robots and death-defying Scientologists failed to bring the public into theaters, take heed: we can still always bank on Keanu Reeves going trigger happy over a dead dog. Following just enough press to make you feel like you might have heard somebody mention the title on the subway at some point, John Wick opened this weekend to a pleasantly surprising $14.2 million.

Despite a deficit of marketing, a two-line premise (“He shoots”), and a headlining star who was a punch line at the peak of his career, the Lionsgate picture topped just about everyone’s expectations, exceeding its projected intake by at least 75 percent. Although the action thriller finished second to Ouija, its fervor has already lain hints of a sequel, branding it a success right out the gate.

While '14 has seen plenty of blockbusters disappoint due to people's diminishing interest in the methodologies of dragon training, John Wick is jut one of the year's underdog success stories. From surprisingly engaging indie comedies to shockingly accessible high-concept sci-fi adventures to the odd religious parable that, for whatever reason, people couldn’t help but see, here’s a round-up of some of 2014’s most surprising box office hits.

Image: Lionsgate

'LUCY' ($126.5 million)

Opening against The Rock in Brett Ratner’s Hercules, Scarlett Johansson’s oddball sci-fi flick Lucy managed a duly impressive debut at $43.9 million, and maintained a healthy stamina throughout the summer… never mind the fact that nobody could effectively explain the ending of this bonkers ordeal.

Image: Universal

'NON-STOP' ($91.7 million)

“So… it’s not a third Taken?” the world asked in bewilderment, trying hard as it might to fathom how Liam Neeson could headline an action-thriller that was not part of the deft and delicate Bryan Mills mythology, and certain that no such prospect could possibly make a dime. Wrong again, world.

Image: Universal

'RIDE ALONG' ($134.2 million)

Someday, we’ll stop being “surprised” by Kevin Hart’s successes, since they seem to keep happening… beyond any logical explanation. His and Ice Cube’s buddy cop comedy was particularly triumphant for a January opener, and has spawned a developing sequel of its own.

Image: Universal

'THE OTHER WOMAN' ($83.9 million)

Whether it was the familiarity of Cameron Diaz, the Apatow cred of Leslie Mann, or the misconception that the film was in fact a long-awaited sequel to 1939’s Joan Crawford comedy The Woman, but this quiet revenge comedy far outdid most projections.

Image: 20th Century Fox

'MALEFICENT' ($241 million)

Yes, it had the classic Disney label. Yes, it had Angelina Jolie. And yes, it launched right in the heat of the fairy tale comeback… OK, maybe we should have better foreseen this one.

Image: Disney

'THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL' ($59.1 million)

Opening in only four theaters around the country, Wes Anderson’s fantastic ode to the trials of the hotelier racked in a record-breaking debut weekend of $811,166. After hitting wide release, the film continued to amount considerably sizable intake.

Image: Fox Searchlight

'HEAVEN IS FOR REAL' ($91.4 million)

Let’s fact it. If someone is claiming to tout indisputable evidence proving the existence of a venerable paradise exceeding the margins of human mortality, how can you resist forking over $11 to hear what they have to say? At least that’s my theory behind this one.

Image: Tristar

'LONE SURVIVOR' ($125.1 million)

Though Lone Survivor opened limited in December 2013, it did not go wide until January, making it 2014’s first success story. The gritty war film seemed to strike a chord with American viewers, many of whom simply wanted to believe that Mark Wahlberg was out there protecting all of us.

Image: Universal

'NO GOOD DEED' ($52.4 million)

Still enjoying a theatrical run that is banking most of its appeal on the world’s inclination toward Idris Elba’s stone glare, No Good Deed managed a surprisingly successful opening. But now that it has a gun-toting Keanu to deal with, we’re not so sure it has the stamina to stay in the race.

Image: Sony/Screen Gems