It received mixed reviews from critics, but the anti-trafficking crime movie Sound of Freedom became a surprise box-office hit this summer. Now, the independent film has reached another milestone—overtaking Academy Award-winner Good Will Hunting’s cinema success.
Since its release on July 4, the sleeper hit has grossed $230,684,308 worldwide. In comparison, Good Will Hunting earned $225,933,435 worldwide during its run in 1997. Directed by Gus Van Sant and written by Ben Affleck and Matt Damon, Good Will Hunting won the Oscar for Best Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor for Robin Williams and is often cited as one of the best films of all time.
This is the second Academy Award-winner the Sound of Freedom has surpassed at the box office, already beating Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. The 1994 crime film starred John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, racked up $214 million globally, and was nominated for seven Oscars, winning one.
Sound of Freedom is based on the real-life story of Tim Ballard, a former CIA operative who founded the anti-trafficking non-profit Operation Underground Railroad (also known as O.U.R). Ballard’s role is played by Jim Caviezel, best known for playing Jesus in Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ (2004).
The film follows Ballard as he attempts to save two siblings from child traffickers in Colombia, with Mira Sorvino starring as Ballard’s wife Katherine.
Despite its box office success, the movie has been criticized for its portrayal of child trafficking with some calling it inaccurate and for allegedly promoting right-wing conspiracy theories, particularly Q-Anon.
Beginning in 2017, the Q-Anon movement believes that a group of Satanic human cannibals secretly operate a worldwide child sex trafficking ring while uniting in a plot against former president Donald Trump.
In July, Ballard denied the connection. Appearing on Fox News, he called the accusations “sick.”
“Every show I’ve seen they just like to throw the word out QAnon, they make zero connection to the actual story,” he told host Steve Doocy.
Ballard himself has come under scrutiny, after being accused of sexual misconduct by seven women in September. According to Vice News, Ballard asked women to pretend to be his wife during undercover missions abroad, reportedly pressuring them to share a bed and shower together to trick traffickers.
Ballard denied the allegations in a statement, stating that they are “baseless inventions designed to destroy me and the movement we have built to end the trafficking and exploitation of vulnerable children.”
In response to the allegations, O.U.R. said that Ballard had resigned in June 2023 and that the organization was “committed to combatting sex trafficking and saving children who have been captured and sold into slavery.”