Top 50 highest-grossing movies of all time
We’ve broken down the top 50 highest-grossing movies of all time, from Marvel flicks and Top Gun: Maverick and to Barbie and Avatar.
On March 1, 1998, Titanic became the first movie to break through the billion-dollar barrier. It was a historic feat, especially given the murmurings that preceded its release; many thought it would be a disaster, and yet, it’s forever enshrined in cinema history.
The tectonic plates of the box office landscape have drastically shifted since then. Look at Top Gun: Maverick, a legacy sequel with a supersized budget of $170 million that proved all the naysayers wrong and became one of the highest-grossing movies ever made.
Last December, James Cameron returned with Avatar 2, a sequel that already beat his former king of the world. And then there’s The Super Mario Bros Movie, the highest-grossing movie of 2023 so far. But what will come of Barbie and Oppenheimer, aka Barbenheimer?
- Highest-grossing movies of all time: 50-41
- Highest-grossing movies of all time: 40-31
- Highest-grossing movies of all time: 30-21
- Highest-grossing movies of all time: 20-11
- Highest-grossing movies of all time: 10-1
A total of 53 movies have made more than $1 billion at the global box office, with Jurassic World Dominion being the most recent addition, and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and The Dark Knight just missing the cut on the list with worldwide grosses of $1.017 billion and $1.005 billion respectively.
Avatar: The Way of Water earned an incredible spot on the list following its immense theatrical run, and The Super Mario Bros Movie has claimed a high spot. Everyone’s eyes are on Barbie and Oppenheimer and for good reason as Barbie just crossed $1 billion with Oppenheimer nearing $900 million – can Nolan’s latest epic do the same?
Starting from the lowest all the way to the box office king of the world, these are the top 50 highest-grossing movies ever.
Please note: this isn’t taking inflation into account, so there’s no Gone With The Wind pedantry at the bottom of this article.
50. Zootopia – $1.024 billion
Zootopia, also known as Zootropolis, is a bit of a box office anomaly. Let’s be honest with ourselves, when’s the last time you spoke about it at any length, other than saying something like, “Aw yeah, that was a good movie” or “I loved the sloth bit”?
There are a few reasons behind its success: firstly, it is actually a great film; secondly, it received amazing reviews, with a 98% rating on Rotten Tomatoes; and thirdly, it was the first Disney animated film to be screened in domestic IMAX theatres since Treasure Planet back in 2002.
49. Alice in Wonderland – $1.026 billion
We’re well and truly into “How in god’s name did this gross more than a billion dollars?” territory. Alice in Wonderland isn’t just naff: it’s outright bad, with the sole strength of Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter and the excitement of his reunion with Tim Burton hooking people in.
Somehow, it not only crossed over the billion-dollar mark, but Disney greenlit a sequel: Alice Through the Looking Glass, which landed at 28% on Rotten Tomatoes and didn’t even crack $300 million worldwide. Delayed justice.
48. Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace – $1.027 billion
Star Wars may not be the biggest pop culture property on the planet anymore, but in the lead-up to the release of The Phantom Menace, there was no doubt about its success. All it took was an ingeniously simple poster: a young Anakin, with his shadow resembling the cowl of his later Sith Lord.
It’s not a bad movie – it has pod-racing and Duel of the Fates, so it gets a pass on all of its flaws – and it caught fire at the box office, grossing $1.027 billion. The franchise wouldn’t see this level of financial success until more than 10 years later.
47. Finding Dory – $1.029 billion
Not dissimilar to Zootropolis, this is a case of: “Really, that made more than $1 billion?” Finding Dory comfortably swam past the billion-dollar threshold, becoming one of Pixar’s biggest hits in its decorated history.
Lest we forget the popularity of Finding Nemo – on any given day, it could be argued as the studio’s best work – and more importantly, Ellen DeGeneres’ Dory. Ah, how times have changed.
46. Despicable Me 3 – $1.035 billion
Viva la Minions. Even as a steadfast hater of Illumination’s yellow mischief-makers, their mass-market appeal cannot be denied: clearly people cannot get enough of Steve Carell’s Gru-some supervillain and his unintelligible helpers.
The third entry in the franchise finished its box office run with $1.035 billion, despite mixed reviews from critics. With another Minions entry hitting cinemas this week, one can likely expect another despicable success.
45. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – $1.046 billion
Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has always been chasing the high of Curse of the Black Pearl. While Gore Verbinski’s two sequels had their swashbuckling charm, On Stranger Tides is brutally boring, even with Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack at the helm.
Yes, it made more than $1 billion at the box office, but nobody ever talks about it. To sour its success even further, it’s still the most expensive movie of all time, with a ballooned budget of more than $410 million.
As I’m putting this list together, it’s hard not to wonder: do we even deserve good movies? Guy Ritchie’s live-action take on Aladdin isn’t terrible, but it certainly isn’t good. It’s bursting with spectacle, and Will Smith does well to fill Robin Williams’ impossibly big shoes as the Genie, but it’s all a bit vapid.
Alas, it comfortably earned a spot on the highest-grossing movies with a haul of more than $1.05 billion, and Ritchie has now been enlisted by the House of Mouse to bring Hercules to life.
43. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – $1.056 billion
As Gordon Ramsay once said: “Finally, some good f**king food.” In 2016, Lucasfilm released its first big-screen spinoff with Rogue One, exploring the tragic efforts of the Rebels who stole the Empire’s blueprints for the Death Star.
Its feel-bad ending was inevitable, yet it still packed a punch. However, there’s a reason we all went back to see it: in its closing minutes, Gareth Edwards delivered the greatest, most exhilarating Darth Vader scene we’d ever seen.
42. The Lion King – $1.064 billion
In 1994, Disney released one of its most seminal movies: The Lion King. It’s as close to perfect as an animated movie can get: it has the godly cadence of James Earl Jones as Mufasa; Elton John wrote the soundtrack; and Hans Zimmer won his first Oscar for its score.
Its box office success was only the beginning, with the film spawning several direct-to-video sequels, spinoffs, an award-winning stage show, and a remake – more on that later.
41. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest – $1.066 billion
Gore Verbinski’s first Pirates sequel was a given after Curse of the Black Pearl became an immediate hit. It wasn’t slammed by critics, but its reception was far more mixed this time around, with the exception of the plaudits for Davy Jones’ untouchable CGI.
The box office tells a different story, however: it grossed more than $1.06 billion, making it the highest-grossing movie in the franchise.
40. Toy Story 3 – $1.067 billion
There’s a few red flags we can all agree on when it comes to movies: someone thinking The Shawshank Redemption is bad; anyone who believes Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is the best Indiana Jones movie; and notably, not feeling the slightest bit emotional at the end of Toy Story 3.
Released 11 years after Toy Story 2, the third film was a tear-jerking triumph on all fronts, making a perfect end to the trilogy – or so we thought.
39. Toy Story 4 – $1.073 billion
Toy Story 4 is fantastic. Was it needed? Absolutely not. Does it feel like Pixar capitalising on our love of these characters? A bit. But did it make us cry? Easily.
Functioning more as an epilogue for Woody than another instalment of Toy Story, the fourth film soared on breath-taking visuals and a surprisingly poignant plot. Even now, it’s one of the studio’s highest-grossing movies ever.
38. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – $1.0741 billion
Really, The Rise of Skywalker was always going to be a bit of a mess; The Force Awakens was a glorious jolt of Star Wars nostalgia, and The Last Jedi was a bold inversion of the franchise’s mythos, upending the trilogy’s presumed direction and charting a course somewhere different entirely.
However, the latter film’s incendiary divisiveness saw Lucasfilm attempt a course correction. The result was a large box office success, but it still provokes volatile discourse between its fans and critics on social media.
37. Joker – $1.0744 billion
Is it just me, or is it getting crazier out there? While the idea of a Joker origin story was first met with scepticism, Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix didn’t just prove people wrong – they made the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time.
There was a fair amount of buzz around the film during its production, but the reviews out of the Venice Film Festival were unprecedented, with many hailing it to be a masterpiece. This unfettered praise didn’t continue into wide release, but a musical sequel is now on the way with Lady Gaga as Harley Quinn.
36. The Dark Knight Rises – $1.081 billion
There’s two types of people: there’s people who recognise The Dark Knight Rises as one of the greatest Batman movies ever, and an epic, worthy conclusion to one of the great blockbuster trilogies; and there’s those who are wrong.
Released four years after The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan’s Bat-finale didn’t land with every fan, but the sheer weight of anticipation made it a sure-fire hit as soon as it hit cinemas, with audiences wowed by Tom Hardy’s Bane and a spine-tingling climax.
35. Jurassic Park – $1.099 billion
Titanic may have been the first movie to make more than $1 billion, but Jurassic Park’s inaugural dino-thrills have made their way back to theatres in the decades since its release, allowing it to comfortably join the other highest-grossing movies.
It was an adventure 65 million years in the making, and for generations of moviegoers, it was the first time they truly experienced cinematic wonder. Its sequels never captured the same magic, nor did the Jurassic World trilogy – not that it mattered when it came to the box office.
34. Transformers: Age of Extinction – $1.104 billion
Unlike earlier entries on this list, Transformers: Age of Extinction’s billion-busting success isn’t in the least bit surprising: it’s loud, shiny, action-packed, stars Mark Wahlberg, and features a Dinobot.
Michael Bay may be a contentious filmmaker, but the Transformers franchise proved his ability to deliver a hit no matter how crap the film is; that, and the visual effects work is astounding, regardless of how you feel about these movies.
Even now, I wish I was James Bond, just for the day; kissing all the girls, blow the bad guys away. He’s the big screen’s finest secret agent, licensed to kill, mixing business with girls and thrills – and yet, his 23rd outing was the first in the franchise to make more than a billion dollars.
It’s even more extraordinary when you take into account its immediate predecessor: Quantum of Solace, reputably one of the worst – if not the worst – in Bond’s canon. However, there’s a myriad of factors behind Skyfall’s success that can be summed up in three words: it’s bloody amazing.
32. Transformers: Dark of the Moon – $1.124 billion
This is a pro-Transformers space. Dark of the Moon latched onto our imaginations with something deviously simple: what if Apollo 11 was actually a mission to find alien aircraft which crash-landed on the moon?
It was a relative return to form after Michael Bay’s stumble with Revenge of the Fallen, jam-packed with city-wide destruction and dynamic, eye-popping action sequences. The first film is far and away the best, but this remains the franchise’s highest-grossing movie.
31. Captain Marvel – $1.129 billion
Here comes the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Captain Marvel is the franchise’s first of many entries on this list, coming off the back of one of its biggest events and formally introducing one of the most powerful – and divisive, for all the wrong reasons – characters.
Brie Larson’s hero was teased in the wake of Infinity War’s stomach-dropping ending, with Samuel L. Jackson paging a symbol as the world fell to dust. The movie itself was a smash-hit and became the MCU’s seventh film to top $1 billion.
30. Spider-Man: Far From Home – $1.132 billion
Listen, Spider-Man: Far From Home is a terrific movie. It finally takes Peter Parker out of New York and makes Europe his playground, it has one of the MCU’s most charismatic villains with Jake Gyllenhaal’s Mysterio, and it has a whopper of a cliffhanger.
Those reasons contributed to its box office success, and the fact that everyone loves Spidey, but it isn’t why it made more than a billion: it was the first MCU movie to hit cinemas after Avengers: Endgame, so it was always going to make crazy money.
29. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – $1.146 billion
Will mainstream blockbusters ever reach the same dizzying heights as Lord of the Rings? Return of the King is the grand culmination of one of the greatest stories to ever be adapted for the screen. It’s an impossible-to-top benchmark in filmmaking craft and cultural achievement.
Not only did Return of the King break a billion, but it was rewarded handsomely at the Oscars, taking home every award it was nominated for – including Best Picture.
28. Aquaman – $1.148 billion
In 2018, DC’s cinematic universe wasn’t in the best shape. Batman v. Superman was a flop, Suicide Squad was a disaster, and Joss Whedon dismantled Zack Snyder’s Justice League into something altogether embarrassing.
Then came Aquaman, James Wan’s rip-roaring, ultra-movie movie with Pitbull covering Toto’s Africa, an octopus playing the drums, sea warriors riding sharks, and Jason Momoa and Patrick Wilson duking it out in the battle of smolders.
27. Captain America: Civil War – $1.153 billion
What’s better than Earth’s mightiest heroes fighting an intergalactic enemy? Them fighting each other. “Divided we fall,” the tagline read, pitting the MCU’s two poster boys against each other and forcing fans to pick a side: Team Cap or Team Iron-Man.
Directed by the Russo brothers, Civil War remains one of the very best films in the franchise, blending the political interplay that made Winter Soldier so brilliant with never-before-seen superhero thrills and heart-wrenching character work. That, and it introduced Spidey to the mix. Underoos!
26. Minions – $1.159 billion
I weep for humanity. In the age of origin stories, spinoffs, and needless sequels, Minions isn’t even one of the most criminal examples – but it is a movie all about the most infuriating characters in the Despicable Me series, and that’s bad enough.
Minions earned mixed reviews from critics, with its supporters praising its Looney Tunes-esque mishaps and slapstick. Just like Despicable Me 3, it’s a testament to the popularity of Illumination’s creation and their box office power, and time will tell if it remains their highest-grossing movie.
25. Iron Man 3 – $1.215 billion
Though a better film than Spider-Man: Far From Home, Iron Man 3 enjoyed a similar knock-on effect: it was the first MCU movie to follow The Avengers, the franchise’s then-most successful entry, and its trailers showed Tony Stark struggling with the events of the Chitauri invasion.
While its box office haul speaks for itself, it’s a film more commonly associated with controversy rather than success as a result of Shane Black’s twist on The Mandarin. In this writer’s opinion, it’s a delightful bait-and-switch, but others felt it was a disservice. Still, despite the debate, it’s one of Marvel’s highest-grossing movies.
24. Fast & Furious 8 – $1.236 billion
Fast & Furious 8, or The Fate of the Furious, or F8 – whatever you want to call it, the eighth film in long-running franchise was a dramatic success, becoming its second-best performer at the box office.
Whether it was the curiosity of an entry without Paul Walker whatsoever, The Rock and Jason Statham going at it again, or the introduction of Charlize Theron’s Cipher, fans turned up in spades. However, reviews were less than kind, with the film attracting the worst reviews since the fourth entry back in 2009.
Of all of Pixar’s 2000s movies, The Incredibles was always crying out for a sequel. It came out five years prior to the start of the MCU, and it’s still the best Fantastic Four movie despite having no connection to Marvel’s first family at all.
By the time Brad Bird returned to work on a follow-up, the superhero craze was in full swing, so he strove to concentrate more on the family dynamic of The Incredibles. The film landed with both critics and fans, remaining in the top 10 domestic earners of all time even now.
22. Beauty and the Beast – $1.274 billion
If we’re forgetting about Alice in Wonderland – which we all should, quite frankly – Beauty and the Beast solidified the Disney live-action formula: revise the songs slightly, cast inoffensive actors, and always, always adhere to the original, even if it feels to the detriment of the movie.
Bear in mind, Beauty and the Beast was the first animated movie to ever be nominated for Best Picture, so a flop would have been mildly catastrophic for Disney. Fortunately for the studio, it was an emphatic win, becoming the highest-grossing live-action musical movie to this day.
21. Frozen – $1.282 billion
Frozen conquered the world. For a time, of its animated classics, it was Disney’s highest-grossing movie ever. It took home the Oscars for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Song, with Let It Go – the ultimate earworm – earning a perpetual spot on playlists in every shopping centre and supermarket.
As well as its huge box office haul, many critics declared it the best Disney film since the studio’s renaissance era – however, it went onto beat itself six years later with the sequel.
20. The Super Mario Bros Movie – $1.3 billion
If you didn’t think The Super Mario Bros Movie was going to become one of the highest-grossing films of all time, you haven’t been paying attention: it has an all-star cast, Nintendo was directly involved in the project, and it comes from Illumination, the studio behind the Despicable Me franchise.
Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse is the only movie to have rivaled its opening weekend in 2023, but it’s unlikely it’ll be beaten this year.
19. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – $1.311 billion
There’s always been two takeaways from the Jurassic World movies: a dinosaur theme park is still a really bad idea, obviously; but if you build one, people will come.
J.A. Bayona’s horror-hued sequel is a mixed bag; it has a strong start with one of the most harrowing images in the whole franchise, and shows promising gothic flair in the second half, but mostly descends into hare-brained nonsense by the end. Not quite raptor-ous, then, but successful nonetheless, sitting comfortably as the second highest-grossing movie in the series.
18. Star Wars: The Last Jedi – $1.333 billion
Is Star Wars: The Last Jedi the most controversial blockbuster of all time? Probably, given the toxic backlash and insufferable debate that still plagues social media nearly five years since its release. Still, that word-of-mouth and the yet-to-be-quelled Star Wars hype ensured it would be a box office smash.
Rian Johnson’s sequel had a lot riding on it: it marked the fully-fledged return of Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker; and The Force Awakens was a safe, mighty start to the new trilogy. For some, it’s one of the franchise’s most remarkable, fascinating efforts – for others, it’s a disgrace.
17. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II – $1.342 billion
“It All Ends” was the tagline’s promise. Ten years after the Philosopher’s Stone, Harry Potter’s journey concluded with the Deathly Hallows Part II. It didn’t just stick the landing: there’s a strong argument for it being the most entertaining in the franchise – who didn’t cheer when Neville killed the last Horcrux?
Naturally, one of the most widely-known franchises was always going to be jaunting to the bank with its last film, but this felt worthy of being a hit.
16. Black Panther – $1.348 billion
Coming after Chadwick Boseman’s debut as T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War, the MCU gave Black Panther his own feature film. The result was a triumph, earning a whopping $1.348 billion worldwide, and in a particularly rare case, earning more domestically than globally.
Its representation isn’t its only success – there’s a lot to be said for the nuance and motives of Michael B. Jordan’s antagonist – but it has to be noted: it was the first Marvel movie with a Black director and predominantly Black cast, and it was the first superhero movie to earn a Best Picture nomination.
15. Barbie – $1.381 billion
Greta Gerwig’s pinked-themed girl power movie Barbie completely shattered its box office earning predictions to rake in a billion in revenue in the two weeks since its release.
The movie, starring Margot Robbie and Ryan Gosling as Ken, took these iconic dolls and had them go on a journey of self-discovering in order to find their individual identities outside of what it’s expected of them.
Gerwig’s film was one of the most highly anticipated movies of the summer as it was one half of the Barbenheimer meme and the hype seems to have paid off as the movie continues to make a lot of money.
14. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $1.402 billion
Joss Whedon returned to the MCU for Avengers: Age of Ultron, one of the most hotly-anticipated movies of the franchise after the success of the team’s first team-up. Its financial success was clear in the numbers, and at the time it was the second-biggest opening ever.
How it was received is another story entirely. While not dismissed by critics and fans, many noted its shortcomings, like how the titular “Age” lasted no time at all, or how the juggling of the characters made the film almost incoherent. Worst of all, Black Widow said she’s a monster because she can’t have kids. Big yikes. There’s some A-grade Hulk-smashing, though.
13. Frozen 2 – $1.450 billion
Frozen 2 is a strange one. Yes, a sequel to a global phenomenon still rearing its head even now was always inevitable. Yes, it boasts a great soundtrack, whether it’s the ’80s vibes of Lost in the Woods or Idina Menzel’s belting vocals in Into the Unknown.
But – and this isn’t a slight against the film – it simply hasn’t lived on in the same way as the first film, instead piggy-backing on it. In some ways, it’s better and more emotionally rich than Frozen, but its box office takings speak to its predecessor’s popularity more than anything else.
12. Top Gun: Maverick – $1.488 billion
Only fools would bet against Tom Cruise, Top Gun, and ’80s nostalgia on the biggest screens possible. Some people genuinely thought Top Gun: Maverick would flop at the box office, believing its pop culture presence to be dead in the water – instead, it’s been soaring sky-high.
A potent mix of near-universal critical praise and word-of-mouth has made it Tom Cruise’s highest-grossing movie ever and the biggest hit of 2022, even beating Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. It appears moviegoers still have the need… the need… for speed.
11. Furious 7 – $1.515 billion
Up until Furious 7, the Fast and Furious franchise’s biggest box office hitter was the sixth film, which grossed $789 million worldwide. Previous entries had either been modest hits or flops, so what changed?
The honest answer is tragedy: Paul Walker, the co-lead next to Vin Diesel, passed away during the movie’s production, causing James Wan to halt shooting while they figured out how to proceed. Against all the odds, they struck a pitch-perfect balancing act of footage they already had and subtle CGI, and managed to pull off one of the most touching tributes in any blockbuster.
The top 10 highest-grossing movies of all time
10. The Avengers – $1.520 billion
It was all leading to this: from the first time Samuel L. Jackson’s Nick Fury mentioned the “Avenger’s Initiative” in the post-credits scene of Iron Man, comic book fans knew a team-up was in the pipeline. Movies had collided before, but nothing had ever been done on this scale.
We take The Avengers for granted now, given everything that’s came since, but it’s a miracle that it worked. The script was funny, the action was propulsive, and the 360° shot of the heroes with Alan Silvestri’s theme was enough to make anyone a fan. Out of all the highest-grossing movies, this one makes sense.
9. The Lion King – $1.663 billion
This may be the most depressing entry on the list. Not because it’s a bad film – you’re kidding yourself if you can’t credit the gorgeous, game-changing visual work at play here – but it does almost nothing interesting beyond its technical wizardry.
Like many, I was hooked in by the first trailer, which ramped the nostalgia up to 11 with an enchanting mix of King of Pride Rock, and unveiled a star-studded cast. The film itself was actually a bit weird – seeing live-action-style animals sing is really jarring, it turns out. As expected though, it became one of cinema’s highest-grossing movies.
8. Jurassic World – $1.671 billion
It had been 22 years since Steven Spielberg’s original classic. The powers that be decided it was time to revisit Isla Nublar in Jurassic World, following the opening of a brand-new park on the same island and, apparently, forgetting all of the lessons of the first film.
This is an example of a critic-proof movie: it was always going to make more than a billion dollars, and it helped that it’s the second-best-reviewed film in the franchise after Jurassic Park, becoming one of the highest-grossing movies ever made. It also features one of the gnarliest kills in the whole series, and it’s worth a watch for that alone.
7. Spider-Man: No Way Home – $1.921 billion
One of the more recent films in the MCU is also one of its biggest success stories. Spider-Man: No Way Home had to work its way out of a corner after Far From Home’s identity-revealing cliffhanger, but that resolution isn’t what drove people into cinemas.
Perhaps the worst-kept secret in blockbuster history, No Way Home brought back Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s wall-crawlers for another spin, alongside their villains, including Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin and Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock. Are we really surprised that it’s the highest-grossing movie in Spider-Man’s history?
6. Avengers: Infinity War – $2.052 billion
We’re in the $2 billion club now. Ever since the Mad Titan was teased in The Avengers’ post-credits scene, Thanos’ arrival was a ticking time bomb. Dread it, run from it, destiny still arrives, and Infinity War gathered all of its heroes for one of the biggest showdowns we’d ever seen.
The film deserves plaudits for deftly navigating between so many characters and locations, from Wakanda to Titan. However, its legacy will always be how it left audiences stumbling out the cinema, tears dripping from their chin, wondering how the universe had been so cruel as to show them Spider-Man dying in Tony Stark’s arms.
5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – $2.071 billion
George Lucas’ prequels have enjoyed somewhat of a reappraisal in recent years, particularly around the release of Obi-Wan Kenobi. By 2015, Lucasfilm was ready to have another crack at the galaxy far, far away and kicked off a whole new trilogy with The Force Awakens.
You can point out all of its similarities to A New Hope all you like, because The Force Awakens is as close to perfect as a Star Wars film can get. The magic in the air on opening night as John Williams’ theme blared through the speakers was unlike anything ever experienced. Of the highest-grossing movies in the franchise, it deserves to be at the top.
4. Titanic – $2.254 billion
The one that started it all. Titanic was widely predicted to be a crippling, historic studio disaster, as it was the most expensive film ever made at the time and endured a surprising delay from the prime summer blockbuster spot.
Of course, we know better than to bet against James Cameron now, don’t we? In North America, it stayed in the number one spot for 15 consecutive weeks, a record that’s yet to be beaten – it most likely never will. There’s a reason the director declared himself “King of the World” at the Oscars: when it comes to movies, he is.
3. Avatar: The Way of Water – $2.315 billion
Avatar: The Way of Water, the sequel to James Cameron’s box office-defining mega-hit, has been dominating cinemas since its release, having quickly soared to become the third highest-grossing movie of all time.
It’s all down to the perfect alchemy of hype, offline excitement (social media will try to convince you nobody cares about Avatar, when that’s far from true), distributors deserting multiplexes out of fear of being pancaked by Cameron, and a movie that’s every bit as good as it should have been. Check out our review here.
2. Avengers: Endgame – $2.799 billion
Before we even talk about the movie itself, consider the step up to the number two spot: Avengers: Endgame made nearly $600 million more than Titanic at the box office, and no other movie has landed in the middle. It’s a monumental commercial achievement that’s hard to fully explain.
Endgame marked the end of the Infinity Saga, an 11-year journey that started with Iron Man in 2008. It’ll be a long, long time before another pop culture event of the same caliber or scale can summon a $1.2 billion opening weekend. If only it would come back to cinemas again!
1. Avatar – $2.923 billion
Avengers: Endgame briefly snagged the top spot from Avatar during its theatrical run, even pushing a so-called “extended” version with some deleted scenes tacked onto the end so it could take the crown. All James Cameron had to do was re-release Avatar in China, and it was number one again.
Avatar has become an easy punching bag in the years since its release. It hasn’t left a huge mark on pop culture, and there’s the oft-quipped brain fog around any of the characters’ names. But a mediocre film can’t reach more than $2.8 billion – Avatar’s spectacle was like seeing a new color for the first time, and Cameron has returned to show everyone how it’s done this year with The Way of the Water.
This article will be updated upon any box office changes. In the meantime, check out our list of the longest movies ever made here.