$350 Million Movie That Hollywood Wouldn’t Touch Today

That’s producer Mark Johnson on Rain Man, his sixth collaboration with writer-director Barry Levinson. But Johnson wasn’t quite right. Twenty-five years ago, Rain Man — a talky drama about two very different brothers on a road trip — won the Academy Award for Best Picture and soon became the highest-grossing movie released in 1988.

The movie’s domination of the American box office would have been believable in the 1970s, when small, personal dramas like Love Story and Kramer vs. Kramer climbed to no. 1 with the same momentum as Star Wars and Jaws. But Rain Man arrived on December 16, 1988, on the heels of Die Hard and Who Framed Roger Rabbit and just before Tim Burton’s Batman and the highly anticipated sequels to Lethal WeaponBack to the Future, and Ghostbusters. It was a time when Hollywood was just beginning to perfect its blockbuster science. For its part, Rain Man didn’t even manage a no. 1 opening; its $7 million take was topped by the second week of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Twins. Flash forward to hundreds of millions of dollars and an armful of gold statues: Rain Manfinally exited the box office top 10 after the weekend of May 26, 1989, as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade seized control of multiplexes. The movie’s final domestic tally: $172.8 million.