Any filmmaker worth their salt will tell you that numbers don’t mean everything when it comes to a movie’s success — but they sure help.
How well a movie fares at the box office has become a controversial subject, especially now that we have competing fandoms, each of them rallying for their cinematic universe of choice.
The more that modern films increase their budgets, the more impressive box office numbers we begin to see — at least, that’s what most producers expect. In this list, we’ll be looking at the ten highest-grossing films of all time.
10. “Furious 7” (2015) — $1.515 Billion
The Fast and the Furious franchise virtually needs no introduction. The first film in the series was released in 2001, which means that we’ve been getting movies about fast cars and speed thrills for the better part of two decades now. Starring Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto, the series is amazingly popular outside of North America, particularly in Brazil, which might be the reason why every entry in the series has been a massive box-office success.
The seventh entry in the series, aptly titled “Furious 7”, is considered by many fans to be the peak of the franchise. It pays a touching tribute to Paul Walker, and it seems to be the point where the series finally embraced its bombastic personality, delivering a satisfying balance of humor and action sequences.
9. Marvel’s “The Avengers” (2012) — $1.519 Billion
2012’s “The Avengers” was a cinematic event with a scope that had never been seen before. The idea that a team of iconic superheroes could come together to battle a common threat was something only heard of in comics, which is why this film was such a game-changer for the film industry.
Critics and fans loved “The Avengers”. The movie set the tone for the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and remains one of the most emblematic superhero films ever made. Expect to hear much more of “The Avengers” in this list.
8. “The Lion King” (2019) — $1.663 Billion
Most of the entries in our list have garnered an overwhelmingly positive reception from critics and fans alike — but the same sadly can’t be said about 2019’s “The Lion King”. A quasi-live-action take on Disney’s animated classic, audiences weren’t charmed by the stale CGI animals they saw in this version of the film.
Despite the negative reception, “The Lion King” still managed to be a massive success at the box office, beating similar Disney projects like “Aladdin” (2019) and “The Beauty and the Beast” (2017). It also remains the most profitable Disney live-action remake ever produced.
7. “Jurassic World” (2015) — $1.671 Billion
After the success of 1993’s “Jurassic Park”, multiple sequels were spawned in an effort to recapture the original’s charm. Unfortunately, most of the Jurassic Park sequels were deemed terribly inferior to the original, and by the mid-2000s, it seemed like the franchise had finally gone extinct.
That is until 2015’s “Jurassic World” reignited the public’s interest in Jurassic Park. A different take on the formula, Jurassic World was all about the action and the spectacle — a move that definitely sat well with fans, as it made it the most commercially-successful movie in the entire franchise.
6. “Spider-Man: No Way Home” (2021) — $1.833 Billion
2021’s “Spider-Man: No Way Home” can be seen as the culmination of three different Spider-Man franchises. The movie features the heroes and villains from almost every live-action version of the character, giving Spidey fans the experience of a lifetime.
Not counting team-up films, No Way Home is the most commercially-successful solo superhero film ever made. Fans loved the overall tone of the film, not to mention how surprisingly emotional it could get. No Way Home also expanded the boundaries of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to include characters from parallel universes, giving the aging franchise a much-needed breath of fresh air.
5. “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018) — $2.048 Billion
The epic climax of the entire Marvel Cinematic Universe began in 2018 with “Avengers: Infinity War”. Years in the making, this movie sees the entire roster of Marvel’s mightiest heroes facing off against Thanos. If the first Avengers film seemed at one time impossible to make, then the production of Infinity War is the stuff of cinematic legends.
This monumental event quickly became one of the most-watched films in Marvel history, grossing over 2 Billion dollars. Despite its massive success, this isn’t even the biggest Marvel box office hit, not by a long shot. That honor belongs to another film that also made our list.
4. “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” (2015) — $2.070 Billion
After the mixed bag that was the prequel trilogy, Disney bought the rights to the franchise from Lucasfilms, ushering in a new era for a galaxy far, far away. In 2015, ten years after the last Star Wars movie was released, J.J. Abrams brought us a new trilogy, beginning with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”.
The first episode in the now-called “Skywalker Trilogy” was incredibly well-received by critics, although it found some resistance from fans that felt like it didn’t live up to the original films. The Force Awakens made a huge splash in theaters and is still the most successful film at America’s domestic box office.
3. “Titanic” (1997) — $2.201 Billion
In retrospect, no one could have predicted the success that was 1997’s “Titanic”. A love story set against the backdrop of the biggest nautical tragedy the world has ever known? What could possibly go wrong? Nothing really, as the movie was a smashing financial hit.
“Titanic” launched the career of Leonardo DiCaprio to where it is today, and also cemented James Cameron’s position as one of the world’s best directors. One thing is for sure, “Titanic” is not the only James Cameron movie on our list.
2. “Avengers: Endgame” (2019) — $2.798 Billion
In “Avengers: Endgame”, the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes embark on one last stand against Thanos, with the future of the universe at stake. Endgame marks the end of an era for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Infinity Saga, to be precise.
It’s hard to understate how influential the MCU has been for modern pop culture. The movies began the whole “cinematic universe” craze we’re living through right now, and it’s easy to see why: these box office numbers don’t lie.
1. “Avatar” (2009) — $2.847 Billion
The highest grossing film of all time is kind of an odd one. James Cameron’s “Avatar” took advantage of the popularity of 3D films and visually-stunning CGI to realize its fantastical sci-fi world, even if Cameron’s trademark storytelling is somewhat lacking in the film’s plot.
Nevertheless, “Avatar” reigns supreme in terms of international box office numbers. Cameron has been quite outspoken when it comes to his plans of turning “Avatar” into an MCU-esque cinematic universe, even though the sequels have failed to materialize. Avatar 2 is set to be released sometime later this year, but the lack of news and a trailer leads us to believe that the movie might be still trapped in development hell.