Top 50 highest-grossing movies of all time, from Top Gun: Maverick to Spider-Man

Cameron Frew
Avatar, Top Gun: Maverick and Spider-Man No Way Home
20th Century Studios/Paramount Pictures/Sony Pictures

Whether it’s Top Gun: Maverick, Avatar, or the Marvel Cinematic Universe, billion-dollar movies are no longer a rarity. These are the top 50 highest-grossing movies of all time. 

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. With such a steady stream of high-rolling blockbusters over the past decade, financial expectations are simply too steep; one only need look at how The Batman’s $770 million haul is still weaponized by its staunchest critics.

There’s no better example than Top Gun. The original movie was considered a huge commercial success, grossing $357 million against a $15 million budget. Top Gun: Maverick had a supersized budget of $170 million, but it’s proven all the naysayers wrong with $1.006 billion worldwide and become one of the highest-grossing movies ever made – and it’s still going.


Contents

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in James Cameron's Titanic, one of the highest-grossing movies ever made.
20th Century Studios
Titanic is still one of the box office kings of the world.

The top 50 highest-grossing movies of all time

A total of 50 movies have made more than $1 billion at the global box office. It’s a lucrative list that spans several genres, from bladder-straining epics to superheroes, more superheroes, and some more superheroes.

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. The Dark Knight – $1.005 billion

Heath Ledger's Joker hanging out of a car in The Dark Knight, the second-highest grossing movie of the trilogy
Warner Bros.
Heath Ledger’s Joker became an iconic villain in The Dark Knight.

It’s fair to say that nobody has ever cared about The Dark Knight’s box office takings: as the Joker said, it’s not about the money. It’s the best Batman movie ever made, simple as that, fortified by Heath Ledger’s legendary performance as the Clown Prince of Crime.

Nevertheless, it broke several records during its theatrical run; notably, it was the first superhero movie to make more than $1 billion.

49. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – $1.017 billion

Martin Freeman as Bilbo Baggins in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, one of the highest-grossing movies in the Middle-earth franchise.
Warner Bros.
The first Hobbit film was the last Middle-earth entry to break a billion.

It had been nearly 10 years since Peter Jackson concluded his Lord of the Rings trilogy. With the first Hobbit movie, fans heralded the Return of the King to cinemas, not to mention the casting of Martin Freeman as Bilbo and Ian McKellen reprising his role of Gandalf.

While not a critical smash-hit (The Desolation of Smaug is far better), it broke into the billion-dollar club – however, it was the last Middle-earth adventure to do so.

48. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone – $1.018 billion

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, one of the highest-grossing movies of the franchise.
Warner Bros.
Only two Harry Potter films have made more than a billion dollars.

First of all: yes, it’s called Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and I don’t care if it was changed to “Sorcerer’s Stone” in the US. Secondly, Harry Potter has always been a hit at the box office, but the first entry ranks among the franchise’s most prominent performers.

With a haul of more than $900 million in its initial run, Harry Potter’s first chapter has seen its box office figure steadily rise over the past 20 years thanks to regular re-releases, still ranking as one of the highest-grossing movies in the series.

47. Zootopia – $1.024 billion

Judy Hopps, Nick Wilde and Flash the Sloth in Disney's Zootropolis, also known as Zootopia, one of Disney's highest-grossing movies
Disney
Zootopia ranks among Disney’s most successful animated films.

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.

46. Alice in Wonderland – $1.026 billion

Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter hosting a tea party in Disney's live-action Alice in Wonderland, one of the studio's highest-grossing movies.
Disney
Alice in Wonderland was an inexplicable success.

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.

45. Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace – $1.027 billion

Darth Maul with his two-sided lightsaber in Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, one of the franchise's highest-grossing movies even today.
Lucasfilm
Everyone can agree that Duel of the Fates was the best bit of The Phantom Menace.

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.

44. Finding Dory – $1.029 billion

Dory and Destiny the whale in Disney Pixar's Finding Dory, which became one of the studio's highest-grossing movies
Disney
Finding Dory was a long-awaited sequel to Finding Nemo.

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.

43. Despicable Me 3 – $1.035 billion

Gru surrounded by Minions in Illumination's Despicable Me 3, the second highest-grossing movie of the franchise.
Universal Pictures
Despicable Me 3 is the second-biggest hit of the franchise.

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.

42. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides – $1.046 billion

Johnny Depp and Penélope Cruz in water in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, one of the highest-grossing movies if the franchise.
Disney
On Stranger Tides ranks among one of the worst Pirates films, but it made more than a billion worldwide.

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.

41. Aladdin – $1.051 billion

Will Smith as the blue Genie in 2019's live-action remake of Disney's Aladdin, one of the studio's highest-grossing movies.
Will Smith starred as Genie in the Aladdin remake.

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.

40. 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.

39. The Lion King – $1.064 billion

The Circle of Life scene in Disney's The Lion King, a classic that's still one of the studio's highest-grossing movies
Disney
The Lion King is still one of Disney’s biggest and best movies.

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.

38. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest –  $1.066 billion

Bill Nighy's Davy Jones with all of his CGI tentacles in Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, the highest-grossing movie of the series.
Disney
Davy Jones’ CGI still looks incredible to this day.

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.

37. Toy Story 3 – $1.067 billion

The toys in Disney Pixar's Toy Story 3 in the furnace scene at the end of the film, the second-highest grossing movie of the quadrilogy.
Disney
If you didn’t cry at Toy Story 3, are you human?

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.

36. Toy Story 4 – $1.073 billion

Woody and Forky in Disney Pixar's Toy Story 4, the franchise's highest-grossing movie.
Disney
Toy Story 4 may have been needless, but it was still fantastic.

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.

35. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker – $1.0741 billion

Kylo Ren and Rey's lightsaber duel in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, the third highest-grossing movie in the franchise.
Lucasfilm
The Rise of Skywalker was divisive, but it still did well at the box office.

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.

34. Joker – $1.0744 billion

Joaquin Phoenix in 2019's Joker, an origin story for the DC villain and the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time
Warner Bros.
Joker is the highest-grossing R-rated movie of all time.

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.

33. The Dark Knight Rises – $1.081 billion

Christian Bale's Batman and Tom Hardy's Bane locking arms in DC's The Dark Knight Rises, the highest-grossing Batman movie ever.
Warner Bros.
The Dark Knight Rises was an epic conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy.

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.

32. 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.

31. Transformers: Age of Extinction – $1.104 billion

Optimus Prime riding a Dinobot in Michael Bay's Transformers: Age of Extinction, the franchise's second highest-grossing movie
Paramount Pictures
Despite abysmal reviews, Michael Bay’s Transformers movies always perform.

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.

30. Skyfall – $1.109 billion

Daniel Craig as James Bond next to his classic Aston Martin in Skyfall, the highest-grossing movie in the franchise.
Sony Pictures
Skyfall was the highest-grossing James Bond film of all time.

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.

29. Transformers: Dark of the Moon – $1.124 billion

Shia LaBeouf running in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, the highest-grossing movie in the franchise.
Paramount Pictures
Dark of the Moon is the highest-grossing Transformers movie.

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.

28. Captain Marvel – $1.129 billion

brie-larson-as-captain-marvel-in-phase-3-of-the-marvel-cinematic-universe
Marvel Studios
Brie Larson joined the MCU as the all-powerful Captain Marvel.

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.

27. 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.

26. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King – $1.146 billion

Elijah Wood's Frodo holding the One Ring over Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings: Return of the King, the highest-grossing movie of the franchise.
New Line Cinema
Return of the King took home Best Picture and every other Oscar it was nominated for.

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.

25. Aquaman – $1.148 billion

Jason Momoa as Aquaman holding a trident under a waterfall in Aquaman, one of DC's highest-grossing movies.
Warner Bros.
Aquaman was a surprising success for the DCEU.

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.

24. Captain America: Civil War – $1.153 billion

Captain America and Iron Man fighting in Civil War, one of the best Marvel Cinematic Universe entries and still one of its highest-grossing movies.
Marvel Studios
Captain America: Civil War gave us an all-time fight between two Avengers.

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!

23. Minions – $1.159 billion

Minions holding an Orlando sign in 2015's Minions, an origin story for the Despicable Me characters and the franchise's highest-grossing movie.
Universal Pictures
Minions is the highest-grossing movie in the Despicable Me franchise.

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.

22. Iron Man 3 – $1.215 billion

Tony Stark with a suit of armor in Iron Man 3 from Phase 2 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Marvel Studios
Writer-director Shane Black made his mark in the MCU with Iron Man 3.

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.

21. Fast & Furious 8 – $1.236 billion

Charlize Theron and Vin Diesel in Fast and Furious 8, the second highest-grossing movie in the franchise.
Universal Pictures
Fast and Furious 8 introduced Charlize Theron’s villain Cipher.

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.

20. The Incredibles 2 – $1.243 billion

Elastigirl riding her motorcycle in Disney Pixar's The Incredibles 2, the studio's highest-grossing movie.
Disney
The Incredibles 2 is one of Pixar’s highest-grossing movies.

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.

19. Beauty and the Beast – $1.274 billion

Emma Watson as Belle with Dan Stevens' Beast in Disney's Beauty and the Beast live-action remake.
Disney
Beauty and the Beast is the highest-grossing live-action musical movie of all time.

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.

18. 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.

17. Top Gun: Maverick – $1.288 billion

Tom Cruise in Top Gun: Maverick, one of the highest-grossing movies ever.
Paramount Pictures
Top Gun: Maverick has become the highest-grossing movie of Tom Cruise’s career.

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.

16. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom – $1.311 billion

The heartbreaking brachiosaurus death during the eruption in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, the second highest-grossing movie of the franchise.
Universal Pictures
Fallen Kingdom has the saddest dinosaur death in all of Jurassic Park.

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.

15. Star Wars: The Last Jedi – $1.333 billion

Kylo Ren and Rey's throne room fight in Star Wars: The Last Jedi..
Lucasfilm
Star Wars: The Last Jedi may be the most controversial blockbuster ever made.

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.

14. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II – $1.342 billion

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, and Bonnie Wright at the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, the highest-grossing movie in the franchise.
Warner Bros.
Deathly Hallows Part II was the grand finale to the Harry Potter saga and the franchise’s highest-grossing movie.

“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.

13. Black Panther – $1.348 billion

chadick-boseman-fights-michael-b-jordan-in-marvel-cinematic-universe-phase-3-movie-Black-Panther.
Marvel Studios
Black Panther features a good hero and a great villain.

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.

12. Avengers: Age of Ultron – $1.402 billion

James Spader as Ultron in Avengers: Age of Ultron, the second team-up movie of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Disney/Marvel
James Spader voiced the villain in Avengers: Age of Ultron, one of the MCU’s highest-grossing movies.

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.

11. 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.

The top 10 highest-grossing movies of all time

10. Furious 7 – $1.515 billion

Paul Walker looking at Vin Diesel at the ending of Furious 7.
Universal Pictures
Paul Walker’s death halted the production of Furious 7, which went on to become the franchise’s highest-grossing film.

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.

9. The Avengers – $1.519 billion

The Avengers first teamed up in 2012 in one of the biggest Marvel Cinematic Universe movies ever, and also the ninth highest-grossing movie of all time.
Marvel Studios
The MCU had all been leading up to this moment.

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.

8. 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.

7. Jurassic World – $1.671 billion

The Mosasaurus feeding scene in 2015's Jurassic World, the seventh highest-grossing movie of all time.
Universal Pictures
Jurassic World’s Mosasaurus stole the show.

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.

6. Spider-Man: No Way Home – $1.833 billion

Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland's Spider-Man together in No Way Home, the sixth highest-grossing movie of all time.
Sony Pictures
There were three Spideys for the price of one in No Way Home.

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?

5. Avengers: Infinity War – $2.048 billion

Josh Brolin as Thanos bringing down a moon in Avengers: Infinity War, the first of the MCU's two-part Infinity War finale and the fifth highest-grossing movie of all time.
Marvel Studios
Infinity War was the beginning of the end for some of earth’s mightiest.

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.

4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – $2.070 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.

3. Titanic – $2.201 billion

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic, the third highest-grossing movie of all time.
20th Century Studios
Titanic was the king of the world for many years.

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.

2. Avengers: Endgame – $2.798 billion

Earth's mightiest heroes altogether for Avengers: Endgame, the finale of the Infinity Saga in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the second the highest-grossing movie of all time.
Disney/Marvel
It was the end of the line for some Avengers in this one.

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 calibre or scale can summon a $1.2 billion opening weekend. If only it would come back to cinemas again!

1. Avatar – $2.847 billion

Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington in the original Avatar, the highest-grossing movie of all time.
20th Century Studios
The original Avatar is still the highest-grossing movie of all time.

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 colour for the first time, and Cameron will return to show everyone how it’s done this year with The Way of the Water.

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This article will be updated upon any box office changes.

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