Even casual observers who are not diehard followers of the famous film series probably could have guessed that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was going to be a massive hit and make history not long after the movie’s release in 2015. Those predictions were indeed accurate, as The Force Awakens became the highest grossing movie in North American history less than a month after it was released to the public. The latest edition of Star Wars is not the king of the worldwide rankings, though, as the film still has a ways to go before it catches up to a movie that was released back in 2009.
One would be right to believe that it seems as if blockbuster movies are bigger and more popular with customers each year. Five of what were, as of January 2016, the 20 highest grossing films of all time were released at different points of 2015. As big a year as 2015 was for the movie industry, we could see additional records be topped in 2016. The first contender to the throne will likely be a pre-summer blockbuster that will feature multiple superheroes battling it out in a movie that will likely, financially speaking, be different than many films before it. Will it be big enough to claim the top spot on the list of the highest grossing films of all time? We shall see.
Worldwide box office information from The-Numbers
20. Jurassic Park: $1,038,812,584
The movie that is mentioned in the opening paragraph for this piece and also the first that makes the list of the highest grossing films of all time serve as reminders for why studios continue to go back to popular ideas that have been used in the past. Jurassic Park, released in 1993, presented a larger-than-life unimaginable world in which dinosaurs roamed the earth with humans. Fans were thrilled to learn that the series would be rebooted, in a sense, via a movie that was released in 2015, and that film financially out-performed the original by a ton of money.
19. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides: $1,045,663,875
The Jack Sparrow character is one that has helped make the Pirates of the Caribbean brand one that has spread out well beyond the movie world. On Stranger Tides, released in theaters in 2011, was the fourth installment of the Pirates series, and the movie starred Johnny Depp (Sparrow) and also Penelope Cruz. While customers flocked to theaters around the world to see On Stranger Tides, it fell just short of beating an older edition of the series. It turns out, in some cases, that the only thing that can top Sparrow is Sparrow, himself. That could again be the case a couple of years down the road.
18. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest: $1,066,215,812
There are numerous examples over time of movie sequels being flops at the box office and in the eyes of fans. That was not the case back in 2006 when Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest was a colossal success and a bigger hit than Curse of the Black Pearl that was originally released in 2003. Dead Man’s Chest is the last Pirates movie to check in on the highest grossing films of all time as of the posting of this piece, but that may not be the case for too long. Dead Men Tell No Tales is set to be released in 2017, and it could be the most successful Pirates movie in history.
17. Toy Story 3: $1,069,818,229
Toy Story 3 was not only popular enough to become one of the 20 highest grossing films of all time. It made history in becoming the highest grossing animated movie in history and also the first animated movie to rake in over $1 billion worldwide. While the series reached unprecedented heights in 2010, the best days for the Toy Story brand could be to come. Toy Story 4 is scheduled to be released in 2018, and it is not a stretch to believe that expectations for that film will be astronomic considering the long-term success that the series has had across multiple forms of entertainment.
16. The Dark Knight Rises: $1,084,439,099
The Batman trilogy that came from the mind of Christopher Nolan (and others) will live on so long as those three films continue to be featured on cable television networks. Last of the three movies was The Dark Knight Rises, a tale in which Batman resurfaces to – spoiler alert – save Gotham one last time. The Dark Knight Rises is, to date, the most successful Batman movie in history, but that may not be the case by the time that the end of 2016 rolls around. One has to wonder just how profitable this trilogy would have been had the first installment of the series been released during the current decade.
15. Transformers: Age of Extinction: $1,104,039,076
The decision to put a modern spin on the Transformers brand has been a profitable one as it pertains to box office returns. Age of Extinction, released in 2014, was the fourth installment of this live-action series, and it is second among those movies on the list of the highest grossing films of all time. While Age of Extinction fell just shy of equaling the profits earned by a Transformers movie that had been released a few years earlier, it is nevertheless understandable why this series will continue on through the end of the decade. A new Transformers film that will be released in 2017 seems to be destined for big draws at theaters.
14. Skyfall: $1,110,526,981
There are many reasons why fans from all around the world continue to be intrigued and fascinated by the James Bond character. What is interesting about this particular portion of the piece is that Skyfall, released in 2012, is not the most recent Bond film to hit theaters. Spectre was released in the fall of 2015, and yet it has not yet generated a worldwide box office of $1 billion unlike several other films that were released during the year. Spectre is still in theaters as of the posting of this piece, so we will have to see how much money the movie will continue to generate. Maybe the world is simply yearning for a new actor to play Bond.
13. Transformers: Dark of the Moon: $1,123,790,543
Transformers: Dark of the Moon was historic in multiple ways. No Transformers movie has, to date, made more money at the box office. Dark of the Moon was also the second-highest-grossing film of 2011. Dark of the Moon out-performed Age of Extinction by such a narrow margin that logic suggests not much should be read into those numbers. It will, however, be interesting to see the amount of money that is generated by the Transformers movie that is set to be released in 2017. Is it possible that film will finish with a box office of under $1 billion?
12. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King: $1,141,408,667
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King is a masterpiece of the movie business world as it pertains to the highest grossing films of all time. Return of the King was released all the way back in 2003, and yet it continues to hold off other movies that have been released during the current decade on a list that does not account for inflation. Imagine a hypothetical world in which Return of the King was released in 2016. Return of the King may, in such a simulation, be atop such a list, as the series continues to be in entertainment headlines for a variety of reasons.
11. Minions: $1,163,595,387
The Despicable Me franchise picked up a license to print money with the creation of Minions. Those who have never seen the original movie are probably at least somewhat familiar with those yellow creatures who make weird sounds and who have spread well beyond the movie world. McDonald’s toys. Christmas ornaments and online videos featuring the characters performing Christmas carols. Clothes, coffee mugs, stuffed animals and wide variety of other Minions merchandise. Only one animated movie has been more successful than Minions, and one should expect to see more movies featuring these characters in the future.
10. Iron Man 3: $1,215,392,272
Maybe the smartest thing that those responsible for the Iron Man franchise have been able to do is keep fans wanting more by teasing future storylines. Even before Iron Man 3 was officially released in 2013, there were rumors on social media websites and Internet forums about where the series would go following that movie. As with most things, it seems that the life of an Iron Man 4 could come down to money. Robert Downey Jr. will be in his mid-50s by the end of a decade and when the series could be revisited. The franchise could, by then, have become but a memory.
9. Frozen: $1,274,234,980
Frozen not only topped Toy Story 3 as the highest-grossing animated movie in history. It is not just No. 1 on the list of the all-time best-selling Blu-ray titles in the United States. The Frozen brand appears to be headed towards a “once-in-a-generation” status, and the original movie is one that will be watched by children for years to come. Sing-a-long specials that feature the movie’s well-known hits and a plethora of merchandise deals are only the beginning. Disney is reportedly going forward with a Frozen sequel, a movie that could be a lock for a top-five spot in future editions of such lists.
8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II: $1,341,511,219
Fans knew that they would be saying “goodbye” to this version of the Harry Potter movie franchise when Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II was released in 2011. Customers gave the series one impressive farewell, as only two movies released before 2011 have generated higher box office returns. There is only one place for the Harry Potter world to go in the future due to the fact that real-life actors have grown up: A prequel. The prequel is going to create a lot of buzz on the Internet up until the movie is released, and that type of publicity should only mean good things for the future of the franchise.
7. The Avengers: Age of Ultron: $1,404,705,868
The Avengers: Age of Ultron is the second movie release of 2015 to be on the list of the highest-grossing films of all time. A blockbuster unlike some others mentioned in this piece, Age of Ultron featured a cast filled with superstar names. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson and Samuel L. Jackson are only some of the big name associated with the film. Age of Ultron is the second movie of the Avengers franchise to make at least $1.4 billion worldwide. Those two projects will likely be joined by at least one other movie before the end of the decade.
6. Furious 7: $1,514,019,071
Life tragically imitated art in the production of Furious 7 when actor Paul Walker sadly died in a single-vehicle accident. Changes had to be made to the script, and thus filming was delayed. By the time the movie was released in 2015, the desire to see Furious 7 among fans was sky-high. Of the seven movies in the franchise that have been released, none have come even close to equaling the success had by Furious 7. Those who made the treks to theaters to see Furious 7 will not have to wait long to continue following the story. Vin Diesel announced in January 2016 that Fast 8 is set to be released in 2017.
5. The Avengers: $1,519,479,547
It is the one superhero movie that has, to date, reigned as the king of the genre. The Avengers was released in 2012, and it has continued to be the highest-grossing superhero film in history. It will have plenty of tough competition moving forward, starting with that highly-anticipated Batman V Superman movie that will be released in 2016. Assuming that Batman V Superman falls short of the mark, Avengers could eventually be topped by…the Avengers. Avengers: Infinity War – Part 1 and Avengers: Infinity War – Part 2 are both set to be released before the end of 2019.
4. Jurassic World: $1,670,328,025
It took a modern reboot released in 2015 to defeat the original Jurassic Park film released over two decades ago. Those who were not following rumors of the movie’s existence via the Internet were introduced to Jurassic World via a memorable and expensive Super Bowl commercial, and World was the highest-grossing film of 2015 until a certain Star Wars movie was released. Is it silly to believe that humanity would, in the fictitious world of the series, attempt to try this whole experiment again? Maybe, but that didn’t stop fans from flocking to theaters, and that also isn’t keeping a sequel from being released.
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens: $1,837,932,841
It was a given, once it was learned that the movie was being produced, that Star Wars: The Force Awakens was going to make history. No Star Wars film has ever made more money. The Force Awakens is the highest-grossing film in the history of North America, and it is still, as of the posting of this piece, bringing viewers to theaters. What is most promising about the future of the franchise is that The Force Awakens introduced the story to younger fans who can now go back and watch older Star Wars movies. The two sequels to Force Awakens should, in theory, make even more money.
2. Titanic: $2,207,615,668
In the grand scheme of things, Titanic may have to be considered to be the most successful movie of all time. Titanic is the only movie not from the 2000s – it was released in 1997 – to ever come close to making $2 billion, and that it has a worldwide box office of over $2.2 billion despite the fact that it is almost 20 years old is still quite the feat. One also should, when discussing the legacy left by the film, point out that Titanic continues to live on through television replays and through that iconic Celine Dion song that has remained a mainstay of certain radio stations.
1. Avatar: $2,783,918,982
James Cameron directed Titanic, and thus it was only fitting that Cameron’s Avatar would surpass his other classic as the highest-grossing film of all time. While Avatar has since been eclipsed by Star Wars: The Force Awakens at the domestic box office, the latest edition of Star Wars has a long journey to complete before it catches Avatar in worldwide numbers. Avatar is, to date, the only movie to have made over $2 billion at the international box office. Film critic Roger Ebert, when reviewing Avatar, compared the movie to the original Star Wars. Those two works of art are not equals where it matters most: Money.