Every year, hundreds of millions of us hand over our hard-earned cash to take in some of Hollywood’s latest creations. Whether your taste runs to the comedic or the tragic, there’s no shortage of new films to tempt your fancy. The end result is an industry that’s among the biggest money-spinners in the world. Of course, not all its offerings turn out to be cash cows (prime examples: 2003’s Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, which lost more than $166 million at the box office, and the 1999 flop, The 13th Warrior, which is estimated to have lost somewhere in the region of $101 to $190 million). But of those that succeed, the profits are mind-blowing, with Wiki crediting the highest earner of all time with a mammoth $2,795,597,939 in worldwide gross. Intrigued to find out if your favorite is one of the top-grossing movies of all time? Then read on….
20. Minions - Worldwide Gross: $1,159,398,397
Just creeping onto our list at number 20 is the Despicable Me spin-off, Minions. The animated comedy may only rank as the fifth biggest film of 2015, but in terms of earnings, it managed to outperform every other offering from the Despicable Me franchise. Despite receiving a mixed reception from critics (while most were quick to praise the vocal performances of Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm, Michael Keaton, et all, others panned the one-dimensional characterization of the film’s villains), kids lapped it up. Its sequel, Minions: The Rise of Gru, is set for release in July 2020: whether it can outstrip its predecessor’s success at the box-office is something we’ll need to wait and see.
19. Iron Man 3 - Worldwide Gross: $1,214,811,252
It may have been the third outing for Robert Downey Jr. as Ironman, but cinema-goers were clearly still eager for more by the time of Iron Man 3’s release in 2013. The third film in the series managed to outperform both of its predecessors by pulling in $1,214,811,252 in worldwide gross (making it the second highest-grossing film of 2013 after Frozen), pushing the total earnings for the franchise to a mammoth $2,423,918,805. The box office wasn’t the only place it did well: during the 2013 award season, it picked up nominations at both the Academy Awards and the BAFTA’s and scored numerous awards for its leading actors.
18. The Fate of the Furious - Worldwide Gross: $1,238,764,765
In at number 18 with a worldwide gross of $1,238,764,765 is the action-packed eighth installment in the Fast and the Furious franchise, The Fate of the Furious. Starring Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Jason Statham, Michelle Rodriguez and Tyrese Gibson in lead roles, the film’s combination of high-octane adventure and badass characters was a huge draw at the cinema: despite being the first film in the franchise not to feature Paul Walker following his untimely death in 2013, it still came in as the third highest-grossing film of 2017.
17. Incredible 2 - Worldwide Gross: $1,242,805,359
The first installment of The Incredibles may have created the fanbase, but it was the 2018 sequel that really pulled in the crowds at the box office. After making $182.7 million in its first week alone, the film subsequently went on to secure $1,242,805,359 in worldwide gross, making it only the third Pixar feature (after Finding Dory and Toy Story 3) to ever exceed the 1-billion-dollar mark. Despite losing out to Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse at the Academy Awards and Golden Globes, it still managed to claim a share of the glory at awards season, taking home both a Teen Choice for Choice Summer Movie and a People’s Choice for Favorite Family Movie.
16. Beauty and The Beast - Worldwide Gross: $1,263,521,126
Some claim the original is still the best, but when it comes to earnings at the box office, the 2017 remake of Beauty and the Beast beats its predecessor hands down. The live-action reimagining of the classic Disney animation received favorable reviews from the critics (who praised its faithfulness to the 1991 original) and handsome recognition at awards season, receiving 4 nominations at the Critics’ Choice Awards, several at the Academy Awards, and a couple more at the BAFTA’s. In terms of gross earnings, it ranks as the 2nd highest-grossing film of 2017 (narrowly missing out on the top spot to Star Wars: The Last Jedi) and the highest-grossing live-action musical of all time.
15. Frozen - Worldwide Gross: $1,290,000,000.
Coming in at number 15 on the list of highest-grossing films of all time is the top earner for 2013, Frozen. Anyone with a child under the age of 12 (and even a fair share of those that don’t) will have seen (or at least heard of) Disney’s reimagining of the Hans Christian Anderson tale, The Snow Queen. With 2 Academy Awards, a Golden Globe, a BAFTA, 2 Grammy’s and multiple other awards under its belt, it’s one of Disney’s most distinguished offerings for years… and, with a worldwide gross of $1,290,000,000, one of its biggest-ever earners.
14. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom - Worldwide Gross: $1,309,484,461
it may not be the biggest earner in the franchise (see number 6 if you want to find out which is) but the box office sales for 2018’s Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom didn’t exactly disappoint. Directed by J.A. Bayona and starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, B. D. Wong, and Jeff Goldblum in starring roles, the 2nd installment in the three-part follow-up to the original Jurassic Park film series was the third in the franchise to reach more than a billion dollars in gross earnings, and only the 35th film of all time to do the same.
13. Star Wars: The Last Jedi - Worldwide Gross: $ 1,332,539,889
In at number 13 is the first Star Wars film to make our list (see number 4 if you want to know which other installment makes it), 2017’s Star Wars: The Last Jedi. The epic battle of good vs evil was the first film in the franchise to feature a posthumous performance from the much-missed Carrie Fisher, and appropriately enough, is dedicated to her memory. As well as receiving multiple nominations at the Academy Awards and BAFTA’s, the feature film achieved remarkable success at the box office, grossing over $1,332,539,889 worldwide and turning a $417 million profit.
12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 - Worldwide Gross: $1,341,693,157
What would our list be without at least one entry from one of the biggest franchises of the early noughties? The first (and surprisingly enough, only) installment from the Harry Potter film series to make it to the top 20 is Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2. The eighth and final outing for Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley and Emma Watson as Hermione Grainger became the ninth film to hit the 1 billion dollar mark on its release, as well as becoming Warner Bros’ highest-grossing film of all time.
11. Black Panther - Worldwide Gross: $1,346,913,161
Just missing out on a place in the top ten is the 2018 sensation, Black Panther. Starring Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong'o, Danai Gurira, Martin Freeman, and Daniel Kaluuya, the action-packed superhero film took the box office by storm, grossing $1,346,913,161 in worldwide sales and becoming the highest-grossing film by a black director (Ryan Coogler) ever released. Critically, it fared just as well, featuring in most roundups of the Best Films of 2018 and becoming the first film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to win an Oscar.
10. The Lion King - Worldwide Gross: $1,348,047,241
It may have only just been released, but already, The Lion King has achieved what it needs to make our lineup. So far, it’s the second highest-grossing film of 2019, and the highest-grossing animated film of all time (just pushing Frozen into second place). The feature film represents the 2nd Disney remake that director Jon Favreau has taken to success; his first, 2016’s The Jungle Book, may not have fared quite so well as The Lion King, but it still managed to gross a very respectable $966,550,600 worldwide, making it the 40th highest-grossing film of all time.
9. Avengers: Age of Ultron - Worldwide Gross: $1,405,403,694
2015 seems to have been a great year for Hollywood, with 5 of that year’s releases grossing enough at the box office to warrant a place among the 20 highest grossest films of all time. One of its biggest earners was Avengers: Age of Ultron, the sequel to 2012’s The Avengers and the eleventh release from MCU. With an ensemble cast that included the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, and Jeremy Renner, and a production budget estimated to be around $365 million, the chances of it not being a hit were slim to none.
8. Furious 7 - Worldwide Gross: $1,516,045,911
The seventh installment from the Fast and The Furious goliath (and, tragically, the last to feature the much-missed Paul Walker) is, to date, its biggest earner, pulling in $1,516,045,911 in worldwide gross. In its opening weekend alone, it managed to gross $397.6 million, making it the 10th highest-grossing opening of all time (although not, surprisingly enough, the highest-grossing opener in the franchise: its sequel, 2017’s The Fate of the Furious, wins that distinction, having secured a mammoth $541,937,239 during its debut).
7. The Avengers - Worldwide Gross: $1,518,812,988
In at number 7 with a worldwide gross of $1,518,812,988 is the 2012 smash hit, The Avengers. The first in what would go on to become one of the biggest franchises of the 21st century won some serious attention during awards season, while critics were eager to heap praise on director Joss Whedon’s direction and vision. After becoming the first Marvel creation to take home more than 1 billion dollars at the box office, it managed to score a place on Empire’s compilation of the 100 Greatest Movies, coming in at number 65 on a reader’s poll.
6. Jurassic World - Worldwide Gross: $1,671,713,208
The first installment in the Jurassic World trilogy is also its most successful, winning a place at number 6 on our list after scoring $1,671,713,208 in worldwide sales and becoming the first film to gross over $500 million during its opening weekend. It took a long time to get the though; plans for a sequel to the Jurassic Park trilogy had been in the works since 2001, but it took 14 years and multiple changes to the cast, crew, and plot before Universal finally managed to get it ready for release.
5. Avengers: Infinity War - Worldwide Gross: $2,048,359,754
Until 2019, Avengers: Infinity War was the highest grossest installment of the Avengers franchise. After grossing $2,048,359,754 in worldwide sales (making it the first superhero film to exceed the 2-billion-dollar mark), it earned the distinction of becoming the highest-grossing film of 2018 and, until the release of its sequel, Avengers: Endgame, the 4th highest money spinner of all time (which in fairness, it needed to be: if Forbes’s is right, it’s doubtful bosses at Disney would have been quite so amenable to a sequel if it hadn’t recouped a little of the $321.2 million it spent on production).
4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens - Worldwide Gross: $2,068,223,624
The first installment in the Star Wars sequel trilogy is also its biggest earner. With the full force of Disney’s marketing might behind it, there was little chance it wouldn’t succeed. In the end, it did that and more… as well as becoming the highest-grossing film in the US of all-time, and the highest-grossing film of 2015, it also reunited Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and Carrie Fisher in a way that cinema-goers will forever be thankful for.
3. Titanic - Worldwide Gross: $2,187,463,944
The boat may have sunk but James Cameron’s 1997 epic tale of romance and tragedy was never going to do anything but soar. With a production budget of $200 million, it was the most expensive film ever made at the time of its release. Thankfully for Paramount, its sales did more than just recoup the cost of outlay: as well as becoming the first-ever film to take more than one billion in sales on its initial release, the 2012 3D re-release managed to add an extra $343.6 million to previous figures, taking its earnings to a grand total of $2,187,463,944.
2. Avatar - Worldwide Gross: $ $2,789,679,794
It might seem as fresh today as it was then, but it’s been a surprisingly long 10 years since Avatar was released. While it may have been knocked off the top spot this year, 9 years as reigning champion is no mean feat and says much about the groundbreaking work James Cameron put into its production. With 2 sequels already in the works (Avatar 2 is set for release in 2021 and Avatar 3 is expected to drop in 2023), it remains to be seen if Cameron can repeat the same success with the follow up’s as he did with the original. Here’s hoping…
1. Avengers: Endgame - Worldwide Gross: $2,795,597,939
In 2019, Avatar ended its long reign as the highest-grossing film in the world. The reason for losing its crown? Avengers: Endgame, the twenty-second film in the MCU and the sequel to 2012's The Avengers, 2015's Avengers: Age of Ultron and 2018's Avengers: Infinity War. While previous films in the franchise have all done well enough (ranking 5th and 7th place in our list), the latest addition to the franchise has surpassed all expectations, overtaking Avengers: Infinity War’s box office record within just 11 days of release and kicking the much-loved Avatar into 2nd place in the process.
Written by Liz Flynn
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