Open Access Articles- Top Results for List of highest-grossing films

List of highest-grossing films

File:Poster - Gone With the Wind 01.jpg
Gone with the Wind held the record of highest-grossing film for twenty-five years, and, adjusted for inflation, has earned more than any other film.

Films generate income from several revenue streams including theatrical exhibition, home video, television broadcast rights and merchandising. However, theatrical box office earnings are the primary metric for trade publications (such as Box Office Mojo and Variety) in assessing the success of a film, mostly due to the availability of the data compared to sales figures for home video and broadcast rights, and also due to historical practice. Included on the list are charts of the top box-office earners (ranked by both the nominal and real value of their revenue), a chart of high-grossing films by calendar year, a timeline showing the transition of the highest-grossing film record, and a chart of the highest-grossing film franchises and series. All charts are ranked by international theatrical box office performance where possible, excluding income derived from home video, broadcasting rights and merchandise.

Traditionally, war films, musicals and historical dramas have been the most popular genres, but franchise films have been the best performers in the 21st century. All of the films from the Harry Potter franchise and Peter Jackson's Middle-earth series are included in the nominal earnings chart, while the Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises both feature prominently. There is also continued interest in the superhero genre; Batman and Superman from DC Comics and films based on the Marvel Comics brand, such as Spider-Man, X-Men and films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, have generally done well. The only films in the top ten that are not adapted from pre-existing properties are the top two, Avatar and Titanic, both directed by James Cameron. Animated family films have performed consistently well, with Disney films enjoying lucrative re-releases prior to the home video era. Disney also enjoyed later success with films such as Frozen (the highest-grossing animated film) and The Lion King and also with its Pixar brand, of which the Toy Story films and Finding Nemo have been the best performers; beyond Pixar animation, the Shrek, Ice Age, Madagascar and Despicable Me series have met with the most success.

While inflation has eroded away the achievements of most films from the 1960s and 1970s, there are franchises originating from that period that are still active. Besides Superman, James Bond and Star Trek films are still being released periodically, while the Star Wars saga and Planet of the Apes were reprised after a lengthy hiatus; Indiana Jones also saw a successful comeback after lying dormant for nearly twenty years. All six are still among the highest-grossing franchises, despite starting over thirty years ago. Some of the older films that held the record of highest-grossing film still have respectable grosses even by today's standards, but do not really compete against today's top-earners: Gone with the Wind for instance—which was the highest-grossing film for twenty-five years—does not even make the top fifty in the modern market, but, adjusted for inflation, it would still be the highest-grossing film. All grosses on the list are expressed in U.S. dollars at their nominal value, except where stated otherwise.

Highest-grossing films

The two highest-grossing films have both been directed and written by James Cameron.

With a worldwide box-office gross of about $2.8 billion, Avatar is often proclaimed to be the "highest-grossing" film, but such claims usually refer to theatrical revenues only and do not take account of home video and television income, which can form a significant portion of a film's earnings. Once revenue from home entertainment is factored in it is not immediately clear which film is the most successful. Titanic earned $1.2 billion from video and DVD sales and rentals,[1] in addition to the $2.2 billion it grossed in theaters. While complete sales data are not available for Avatar, it earned $345 million from the sale of sixteen million DVD and Blu-ray units in North America,[2] and ultimately sold a total of thirty million DVD and Blu-ray units worldwide.[3] After home video income is accounted for, both films have earned over $3 billion. Television broadcast rights will also substantially add to a film's earnings, with a film often earning as much as 20–25% of its theatrical box-office for a couple of television runs on top of pay-per-view revenues;[4] Titanic earned a further $55 million from the NBC and HBO broadcast rights,[1] equating to about 9% of its North American gross.

When a film is highly exploitable as a commercial property, its ancillary revenues can dwarf its income from direct film sales.[5] The Lion King earned over $2 billion in box-office and home video sales,[6] but this pales in comparison to the $6 billion earned at box offices around the world by the stage adaptation.[7] Merchandising can be extremely lucrative too: The Lion King also sold $3 billion of merchandise,[8] while Pixar's Cars—which earned $462 million in theatrical revenues and was only a modest hit by comparison to other Pixar films[9]—generated global merchandise sales of over $8 billion in the five years after its 2006 release.[10][11] Pixar also had another huge hit with Toy Story 3, which generated almost $10 billion in merchandise retail sales in addition to the $1 billion it earned at the box office.[12]

On this chart, films are ranked by the revenues from theatrical exhibition at their nominal value, along with the highest positions they attained. Twenty-one films in total have grossed in excess of $1 billion worldwide, with Avatar ranked in the top position. All of the films have had a theatrical run (including re-releases) since 1996, and films that have not played since then do not appear on the chart due to ticket-price inflation, population size and ticket purchasing trends not being considered.

File:Dagger-14-plain.png indicates films still playing in theaters around the world in the week commencing 10 July 2020.
Highest-grossing films[13]
Rank Peak Title Worldwide gross Year Reference(s)
1 1 Avatar $2,787,965,087 2009 [# 1][# 2]
2 1 Titanic $2,186,772,302 1997 [# 3][# 4]
3 3 The Avengers $1,518,594,910 2012 [# 5][# 6]
4 4 Furious 7 File:Dagger-14-plain.png $1,506,231,000 2015 [# 7]
5 3 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 $1,341,511,219 2011 [# 8][# 9]
6 6 Avengers: Age of Ultron File:Dagger-14-plain.png $1,321,270,000 2015 [# 10]
7nb1 5 Frozen $1,279,852,693 2013 [# 11][# 12]
8 5 Iron Man 3 $1,215,439,994 2013 [# 13][# 14]
9 4 Transformers: Dark of the Moon $1,123,794,079 2011 [# 15][# 9]
10 2 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King $1,119,929,521 2003 [# 16][# 17]
11 7 Skyfall $1,108,561,013 2012 [# 18][# 19]
12 10 Transformers: Age of Extinction $1,104,039,076 2014 [# 20][# 21]
13 7 The Dark Knight Rises $1,084,439,099 2012 [# 22][# 23]
14 3 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest $1,066,179,725 2006 [# 24][# 25]
15 5 Toy Story 3 $1,063,171,911 2010 [# 26][# 27]
16 6 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides $1,045,713,802 2011 [# 28][# 29]
17 1 Jurassic Park $1,029,939,903 1993 [# 30][# 31]
18 2 Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace $1,027,044,677 1999 [# 32][# 4]
19 5 Alice in Wonderland $1,025,467,110 2010 [# 33][# 34]
20 14 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey $1,017,003,568 2012 [# 35][# 36]
21 4 The Dark Knight $1,004,558,444 2008 [# 37][# 38]
22 2 The Lion King $987,483,777 1994 [# 39][# 31]
23 2 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone $974,755,371 2001 [# 40][# 41]
24 20 Despicable Me 2 $970,761,885 2013 [# 42][# 43]
25 5 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End $963,420,425 2007 [# 44][# 45]
26 24 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug $960,366,855 2013 [# 46][# 47]
27 10 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 $960,283,305 2010 [# 48][# 49]
28 26 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies $955,119,788 2014 [# 50][# 51]
29 6 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix $939,885,929 2007 [# 52][# 45]
30 9 Finding Nemo $936,743,261 2003 [# 53][# 17]
31 8 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince $934,416,487 2009 [# 54][# 55]
32 5 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers $926,047,111 2002 [# 56][# 57]
33 6 Shrek 2 $919,838,758 2004 [# 58][# 59]
34 8 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire $896,911,078 2005 [# 60][# 61]
35 10 Spider-Man 3 $890,871,626 2007 [# 62][# 63]
36 15 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs $886,686,817 2009 [# 64][# 65]
37 6 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets $878,979,634 2002 [# 66][# 67]
38 29 Ice Age: Continental Drift $877,244,782 2012 [# 68][# 69]
39 5 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring $871,530,324 2001 [# 70][# 71]
40 34 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire $864,912,963 2013 [# 72][# 73]
41 11 Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith $848,754,768 2005 [# 74][# 75]
42 19 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen $836,303,693 2009 [# 76][# 77]
43 33 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 $829,685,377 2012 [# 78][# 79]
44 24 Inception $825,532,764 2010 [# 80][# 81]
45 7 Spider-Man $821,708,551 2002 [# 82][# 83]
46 2 Independence Day $817,400,891 1996 [# 84][# 85]
47 19 Shrek the Third $798,958,162 2007 [# 86][# 83]
48 14 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban $796,688,549 2004 [# 87][# 88]
49 1 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial $792,910,554 1982 [# 89][# 90]
50nb2 31 2012 $791,217,826 2009 [# 91][# 92]

nb1Box Office Mojo stopped updating its main total for Frozen in August 2014 while it was still in release. The total listed here incorporates subsequent earnings up to the end of 2014.
nb2Box Office Mojo fails to factor a re-release of 2012 into its charts.


Highest-grossing films adjusted for inflation

File:Inflation rate world.PNG
World map showing inflation rates in 2009.

Due to the long-term effects of inflation, notably the significant increase of movie theater ticket prices, the list unadjusted for inflation gives far more weight to later films.[14] The unadjusted list, while commonly found in the press, is therefore largely meaningless for comparing films widely separated in time, as many films from earlier eras will never appear on a modern unadjusted list, despite achieving higher commercial success when adjusted for price increases.[15] To compensate for the devaluation of the currency, some charts make adjustments for inflation, but not even this practice fully addresses the issue since ticket prices and inflation do not necessarily parallel one another. For example, in 1970 tickets cost $1.55 or about $6.68 in inflation-adjusted 2004 dollars; by 1980, prices had risen to about $2.69, a drop to $5.50 in inflation-adjusted 2004 dollars.[16] Ticket prices have also risen at different rates of inflation around the world, further complicating the process of adjusting worldwide grosses.[14]

Another complication is release in multiple formats for which different ticket prices are charged. One notable example of this phenomenon is Avatar, which was also released in 3D and IMAX: almost two-thirds of tickets for that film were for 3D showings with an average price of $10, and about one-sixth were for IMAX showings with an average price over $14.50, compared to a 2010 average price of $7.61 for 2D films.[17] Social and economic factors such as population change[18] and the growth of international markets[19][20][21] also impact on the number of people purchasing theater tickets, along with audience demographics where some films sell a much higher proportion of discounted children's tickets, or perform better in big cities where tickets cost more.[15]

The measuring system for gauging a film's success is based on unadjusted grosses, mainly because historically this is the way it has always been done due to the practices of the film industry: the box office receipts are compiled by theaters and relayed to the distributor, which in turn releases them to the media.[22] Converting to a more representative system that counts ticket sales rather than gross is also fraught with problems due to the fact that the only data available for older films are the sale totals.[18] As the motion picture industry is highly oriented towards marketing currently released films, unadjusted figures are always used in marketing campaigns so that new blockbuster films can much more easily achieve a high sales ranking, and thus be promoted as a "top film of all time",[16][23] so there is little incentive to switch to a more robust analysis from a marketing or even newsworthy point of view.[22]

Despite the inherent difficulties in accounting for inflation, several attempts have been made. Estimates depend on the price index used to adjust the grosses,[23] and the exchange rates used to convert between currencies can also impact upon the calculations, both of which can have an effect on the ultimate rankings of an inflation adjusted list. Gone with the Wind—first released in 1939—is generally considered to be the most successful film, with Guinness World Records in 2014 estimating its adjusted global gross at $3.4 billion. Estimates for Gone with the Wind‍ '​s adjusted gross have varied substantially: its owner, Turner Entertainment, estimated its adjusted earnings at $3.3 billion in 2007, a few years earlier than the Guinness estimate;[24] other estimates fall either side of this amount, with one putting its gross just under $3 billion in 2010,[25] while another provided an alternative figure of $3.8 billion in 2006.[26] Which film is Gone with the Wind‍ '​s nearest rival depends on the set of figures used: Guinness have Avatar in second place with $3 billion, while other estimates see Titanic in the runner-up spot with first-run worldwide earnings of almost $2.9 billion at 2010 prices. The only other film that all sources agree grossed in excess of $2 billion at current prices is Star Wars; according to Guinness it has earned $2.8 billion at 2014 price levels, while other sources from 2010/2011 put its adjusted earnings at $2.2–2.6 billion.[25][27]

Highest-grossing films adjusted for inflation[28][29]
Rank Title Worldwide gross
(2014 $)
1 Gone with the Wind $3,440,000,000 1939
2 Avatar $3,020,000,000 2009
3 Star Wars $2,825,000,000 1977
4 Titanic $2,516,000,000T 1997
5 The Sound of Music $2,366,000,000 1965
6 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial $2,310,000,000 1982
7 The Ten Commandments $2,187,000,000 1956
8 Doctor Zhivago $2,073,000,000 1965
9 Jaws $2,027,000,000 1975
10 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs $1,819,000,000S 1937

TThe figure for Titanic is based on the gross from its 1997 theatrical release, and does not incorporate earnings from the 2012 reissue, which has since added approximately $343 million to the total.[30]

SThe 2015 edition of Guinness World Records does not provide an explicit figure for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. However, it does state that it is one of only two pre-1955 films—the other being Gone with the Wind—that are among the adjusted top ten. It placed tenth in the 2012 edition, and the eleventh highest-grossing film according to the 2015 edition is The Exorcist, which has grossed $1.794 billion adjusted to 2014 prices. The adjusted grosses for the other films on the chart increased by 4.2 percent between 2011 and 2014 according to Guinness, and using this apparent rate of inflation would take the adjusted gross for Snow White from $1.746 billion at 2011 prices to $1.819 billion at 2014 prices.


High-grossing films by year

Glossary: Distributor rentals

Box-office figures are reported in the form of gross or distributor rentals, the latter being especially true of older films. Commonly mistaken for home video revenue, the rentals are the distributor's share of the film's theatrical revenue i.e. the box office gross less the exhibitor's cut.[31][32] Historically, the rental price averaged at 35–40% when the distributors owned the theater chains, equating to just over a third of the gross being paid to the distributor of the film.[33] In the modern marketplace, rental fees can vary greatly—depending on a number of factors—although the films from the major studios average out at 43%.[31]

Audience tastes were fairly eclectic during the 20th century, but several trends did emerge. During the silent era, films with war themes were popular with audiences, with The Birth of a Nation (American Civil War), The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, The Big Parade and Wings (all World War I) becoming the most successful films in their respective years of release, with the trend coming to an end with All Quiet on the Western Front in 1930. With the advent of sound in 1927, the musical—the genre best placed to showcase the new technology—took over as the most popular type of film with audiences, with 1928 and 1929 both being topped by musical films. The genre continued to perform strongly in the 1930s, but the outbreak of World War II saw war themed films dominate again during this period, starting with Gone with the Wind (American Civil War) in 1939, and finishing with The Best Years of Our Lives (World War II) in 1946. Samson and Delilah (1949) saw the beginning of a trend of increasingly expensive historical dramas set during Ancient Rome/biblical times throughout the 1950s as cinema competed with television for audiences,[34] with Quo Vadis, The Robe, The Ten Commandments, Ben-Hur and Spartacus all becoming the highest-grossing film of the year during initial release, before the genre started to wane after several high-profile failures.[35] The success of White Christmas and South Pacific in the 1950s foreshadowed the comeback of the musical in the 1960s with West Side Story, Mary Poppins, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music and Funny Girl all among the top films of the decade. The 1970s saw a shift in audience tastes to high concept films, with six such films made by either George Lucas or Steven Spielberg topping the chart during the 1980s. The 21st century has seen an increasing dependence on franchises and adaptations, with Avatar in 2009 being the only chart-topper forming an original work.

File:Steven Spielberg 1999.JPG
Films directed by Steven Spielberg have been the highest-grossing film of the year on six occasions, and on three occasions have been the highest-grossing film of all time.

Steven Spielberg is the most represented director on the chart with six films to his credit, occupying the top spot in 1975, 1981, 1982, 1984, 1989 and 1993. Cecil B. DeMille (1932, 1947, 1949, 1952 and 1956) and William Wyler (1942, 1946, 1959 and 1968) are in second and third place with five and four films respectively, while D. W. Griffith (1915, 1916 and 1920), George Roy Hill (1966, 1969 and 1973) and James Cameron (1991, 1997 and 2009) all feature heavily with three films apiece. George Lucas directed two chart-toppers in 1977 and 1999, but also served in a strong creative capacity as a producer and writer in 1980, 1981, 1983, 1984 and 1989 as well. The following directors have also all directed two films on the chart: Frank Lloyd, King Vidor, Frank Capra, Michael Curtiz, Leo McCarey, Alfred Hitchcock, David Lean, Stanley Kubrick, Guy Hamilton, Mike Nichols, William Friedkin, Peter Jackson and Gore Verbinski; Mervyn LeRoy, Ken Annakin and Robert Wise are each represented by one solo credit and one shared credit, and John Ford co-directed two films. Disney films are usually co-directed and some directors have served on several winning teams: Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske, Clyde Geronimi, David Hand, Ben Sharpsteen, Wolfgang Reitherman and Bill Roberts have all co-directed at least two films on the list. Only five directors have topped the chart in consecutive years: McCarey (1944 and 1945), Nichols (1966 and 1967), Spielberg (1981 and 1982), Jackson (2002 and 2003) and Verbinski (2006 and 2007).

Due to release schedules—especially in the case of films released towards the end of the year—and different release patterns across the world, many films can do business in two or more calendar years; therefore the grosses documented here are not confined to just the year of release. Grosses are not limited to original theatrical runs either, with many older films often being re-released periodically so the figures represent all the business a film has done since its original release; a film's first-run gross is included in brackets after the total if known. In the cases where estimates conflict both films are recorded, and in cases where a film has moved into first place due to being re-released the previous record-holder is also retained. Due to incomplete data it cannot be known for sure how much money some films have made and when they made it, but generally the chart chronicles the films from each year that went on to earn the most. At least one film every year has generated $100 million in gross revenue at the box office since 1967, and from 2008 each year has succeeded in producing a billion dollar grossing film.

File:Dagger-14-plain.png indicates films still playing in theaters around the world in the week commencing 10 July 2020.
High-grossing films by year of release[36][37][38]
Year Title Worldwide gross Budget Reference(s)
1915 The Birth of a Nation $50,000,000–100,000,000
$20,000,000+R ($5,200,000)R
$110,000 [# 93][# 94][# 95]
1916 Intolerance $1,000,000*R IN $489,653 [# 96][# 97]
1917 Cleopatra $500,000*R $300,000 [# 96]
1918 Mickey $8,000,000 $250,000 [# 98]
1919 The Miracle Man $3,000,000R $120,000 [# 99]
1920 Way Down East $5,000,000R ($4,000,000)R $800,000 [# 100][# 101]
1921 The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse $5,000,000R ($4,000,000)R $600,000–800,000 [# 102]
1922 Robin Hood $2,500,000R $930,042.78 [# 103][# 104]
1923 The Covered Wagon $5,000,000R $800,000 [# 105][# 106]
1924 The Sea Hawk $3,000,000R $700,000 [# 105]
1925 The Big Parade $18,000,000–22,000,000R
$382,000 [# 107][# 108][# 109]
Ben-Hur $9,386,000R $3,967,000 [# 110]
1926 For Heaven's Sake $2,600,000R FH $150,000 [# 100][# 111]
1927 Wings $3,600,000R $2,000,000 [# 100][# 112][# 113]
1928 The Singing Fool $5,900,000R $388,000 [# 113][# 114]
1929 The Broadway Melody $4,400,000–4,800,000R $379,000 [# 115][# 116]
Sunny Side Up $3,500,000*R SS $600,000 [# 117][# 118]
1930 All Quiet on the Western Front $3,000,000R $1,250,000 [# 100][# 119][# 120][# 121]
1931 Frankenstein $12,000,000R ($1,400,000)R $250,000 [# 122][# 123]
City Lights $5,000,000R $1,607,351 [# 124]
1932 The Sign of the Cross $2,738,993R $694,065 [# 106][# 125][# 126][# 127]
1933 King Kong $5,347,000R ($1,856,000)R $672,255.75 [# 128]
I'm No Angel $3,250,000+R $200,000 [# 129][# 130]
Cavalcade $3,000,000–4,000,000R $1,116,000 [# 101][# 120]
She Done Him Wrong $3,000,000+R $274,076 [# 131][# 132][# 133]
1934 The Merry Widow $2,608,000R $1,605,000 [# 134][# 126]
It Happened One Night $1,000,000R ON $325,000 [# 135][# 136]
1935 Mutiny on the Bounty $4,460,000R $1,905,000 [# 126]
1936 San Francisco $6,044,000+R ($5,273,000)R $1,300,000 [# 134][# 126]
1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs $418,000,000+S7 ($8,500,000)R $1,488,423 [# 137][# 138]
1938 You Can't Take It With You $5,000,000R $1,200,000 [# 139][# 140]
1939 Gone with the Wind $390,525,192–400,176,459
($32,000,000)R GW
$3,900,000–4,250,000 [# 141][# 142][# 143][# 144]
1940 Pinocchio $87,000,862* ($3,500,000)R $2,600,000 [# 145][# 138][# 146]
Boom Town $4,600,000*R $2,100,000 [# 147][# 148]
1941 Sergeant York $7,800,000R $1,600,000 [# 149][# 150]
1942 Bambi $267,997,843 ($3,449,353)R $1,700,000–2,000,000 [# 151][# 152][# 153]
Mrs. Miniver $8,878,000R $1,344,000 [# 154][# 155]
1943 For Whom the Bell Tolls $11,000,000R $2,681,298 [# 156][# 157][# 158]
This Is the Army $9,555,586.44*R $1,400,000 [# 159][# 160][# 158]
1944 Going My Way $6,500,000*R $1,000,000 [# 161][# 162][# 163]
1945 Mom and Dad $80,000,000MD/$22,000,000R $65,000 [# 164]
The Bells of St. Mary's $11,200,000R $1,600,000 [# 165]
1946 Song of the South $65,000,000* ($3,300,000)R $2,125,000 [# 166][# 167][# 168]
The Best Years of Our Lives $14,750,000R $2,100,000 [# 169][# 170]
Duel in the Sun $10,000,000*R $5,255,000 [# 161][# 171]
1947 Forever Amber $8,000,000R $6,375,000 [# 117][# 171]
Unconquered $7,500,000R UN $4,200,000 [# 172][# 173]
1948 Easter Parade $5,918,134R $2,500,000 [# 163][# 174]
The Red Shoes $5,000,000*R £505,581 (~$2,000,000) [# 161][# 175][# 176]
The Snake Pit $4,100,000*R TBA [# 177]
1949 Samson and Delilah $14,209,250R $3,097,563 [# 178][# 106]
1950 Cinderella $88,000,466*
$2,200,000 [# 179][# 180][# 181]
King Solomon's Mines $10,050,000R $2,258,000 [# 182]
1951 Quo Vadis $21,037,000–26,700,000R $7,623,000 [# 178][# 183][# 184]
1952 This Is Cinerama $50,000,000CI $1,000,000 [# 185][# 186]
The Greatest Show on Earth $18,350,000R GS $3,873,946 [# 187][# 188][# 106]
1953 Peter Pan $145,000,000 $3,000,000–4,000,000 [# 189]
The Robe $25,000,000–26,100,000R $4,100,000 [# 190][# 191][# 184]
1954 Rear Window $36,764,580* ($5,300,000)*R $1,000,000 [# 192][# 183]
White Christmas $26,000,050* ($12,000,000)*R $3,800,000 [# 193][# 194][# 195]
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea $25,000,134*
$4,500,000–9,000,000 [# 196][# 197][# 161][# 198]
1955 Lady and the Tramp $88,300,200* ($6,500,000)*R $4,000,000 [# 199][# 161][# 200]
Cinerama Holiday $21,000,000CI $2,000,000 [# 201][# 202]
Mister Roberts $9,900,000R $2,400,000 [# 203]
1956 The Ten Commandments $90,066,230R
$13,270,000 [# 106][# 204][# 205]
1957 The Bridge on the River Kwai $30,600,000R $2,840,000 [# 205]
1958 South Pacific $30,000,000R $5,610,000 [# 206]
1959 Ben-Hur $90,000,000R
$15,900,000 [# 207][# 208]
1960 Swiss Family Robinson $30,000,000R $4,000,000 [# 209]
Spartacus $60,000,000 ($22,105,225)R $10,284,014 [# 210][# 211]
Psycho $50,000,000+ ($14,000,000)R $800,000 [# 212]
1961 One Hundred and One Dalmatians $215,880,212 $3,600,000–4,000,000 [# 213][# 214][# 153]
West Side Story $105,000,000 ($31,800,000)R $7,000,000 [# 215][# 216]
1962 Lawrence of Arabia $75,500,852 ($69,995,385) $13,800,000 [# 217][# 218]
How the West Was Won $35,000,000R $14,483,000 [# 219]
The Longest Day $33,200,000R $8,600,000 [# 216][# 218]
1963 Cleopatra $40,300,000R $31,115,000 [# 216][# 218]
From Russia with Love $78,900,000/$29,400,000R
$2,000,000 [# 220][# 221][# 222]
1964 My Fair Lady $55,000,000R $17,000,000 [# 223]
Goldfinger $124,900,000 ($46,000,000)R $3,000,000 [# 220][# 222]
Mary Poppins $44,000,000–$50,000,000R $5,200,000 [# 224][# 223]
1965 The Sound of Music $286,214,076 ($114,600,000)R $8,000,000 [# 225][# 216]
1966 The Bible: In the Beginning $25,300,000R $18,000,000 [# 211]
Hawaii $34,562,222* ($15,600,000)*R $15,000,000 [# 226][# 161]
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? $28,000,089* ($14,500,000)*R $7,613,000 [# 227][# 161][# 228]
1967 The Jungle Book $170,800,000–199,475,744 $3,900,000–4,000,000 [# 229][# 230][# 153]
The Graduate $85,000,000R $3,100,000 [# 231][# 232]
1968 2001: A Space Odyssey $138,000,000–190,000,000
$10,300,000 [# 233][# 234][# 216]
Funny Girl $80,000,000–100,000,000 $8,800,000 [# 235][# 236]
1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid $152,308,525 ($37,100,000)R $6,600,000 [# 237][# 216][# 232]
1970 Love Story $80,000,000R $2,260,000 [# 238][# 239]
Airport $75,000,000R $10,000,000 [# 240][# 241]
1971 The French Connection $75,000,000R $3,300,000 [# 117]
Fiddler on the Roof $49,400,000R
$9,000,000 [# 242][# 243]
Diamonds Are Forever $116,000,000 ($45,700,000)R $7,200,000 [# 220][# 221]
1972 The Godfather $245,066,411–286,000,000
$6,200,000 [# 244][# 243][# 245][# 246]
1973 The Exorcist $413,071,011 ($110,000,000)R $10,000,000 [# 247][# 248]
The Sting $115,000,000R $5,500,000 [# 249][# 250]
1974 The Towering Inferno $88,650,000R $15,000,000 [# 251]
Blazing Saddles $80,000,000+R $2,600,000 [# 252][# 253]
1975 Jaws $470,653,000 ($193,700,000)R $9,000,000 [# 254][# 255][# 256]
1976 Rocky $225,000,000 ($77,100,000)R $1,075,000 [# 257][# 243][# 258]
1977 Star Wars $775,398,007
$11,293,151 [# 259][# 90][# 243][# 260]
1978 Grease $394,589,888 ($341,000,000) $6,000,000 [# 261][# 262][# 231]
1979 Moonraker $210,300,000 $31,000,000 [# 220][# 263]
Rocky II $200,182,289 $7,000,000 [# 264][# 265][# 263]
1980 The Empire Strikes Back $538,375,067 ($413,562,607)SW $23,000,000–32,000,000 [# 266][# 267]
1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark $389,925,971
$18,000,000–22,800,000 [# 268]
1982 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial $792,910,554
$10,500,000–12,200,000 [# 89][# 90][# 269][# 270]
1983 Return of the Jedi $475,106,177 ($385,845,197)SW $32,500,000–42,700,000 [# 271][# 267]
1984 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom $333,107,271 $27,000,000–28,200,000 [# 272][# 273][# 274]
1985 Back to the Future $389,053,797 ($381,109,762) $19,000,000–22,000,000 [# 275][# 276]
1986 Top Gun $356,830,601 ($345,000,000) $14,000,000–19,000,000 [# 277][# 278][# 273]
1987 Fatal Attraction $320,145,905 $14,000,000 [# 279][# 273]
1988 Rain Man $354,825,476 $30,000,000 [# 280][# 281]
1989 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade $474,171,806–494,000,000 $36,000,000–55,400,000 [# 282][# 273][# 283]
1990 Ghost $505,702,423 $22,000,000 [# 284][# 273]
1991 Terminator 2: Judgment Day $519,843,975 $94,000,000 [# 285][# 286]
1992 Aladdin $504,050,219 $28,000,000 [# 287][# 153]
1993 Jurassic Park $1,029,939,903 ($914,691,118) $63,000,000–70,000,000 [# 30]
1994 The Lion King $987,483,777 ($766,964,132) $45,000,000–79,300,000 [# 39]
1995 Toy Story $370,638,993 ($361,958,736) $30,000,000 [# 288][# 289]
Die Hard with a Vengeance $366,101,666 $70,000,000 [# 290][# 291]
1996 Independence Day $817,400,891 $75,000,000 [# 84]
1997 Titanic $2,186,772,302 ($1,843,201,268) $200,000,000 [# 3]
1998 Armageddon $553,709,626 $140,000,000 [# 292][# 293]
1999 Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace $1,027,044,677 ($924,317,558) $115,000,000–127,500,000 [# 32][# 267]
2000 Mission: Impossible II $546,388,105 $100,000,000–125,000,000 [# 294][# 273]
2001 Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone $974,755,371 $125,000,000 [# 40]
2002 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers $926,047,111 ($921,780,457) $94,000,000 [# 56]
2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King $1,119,929,521 ($1,119,110,941) $94,000,000 [# 16]
2004 Shrek 2 $919,838,758 $150,000,000 [# 58]
2005 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire $896,911,078 $150,000,000 [# 60]
2006 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest $1,066,179,725 $225,000,000 [# 24]
2007 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End $963,420,425 $300,000,000 [# 44]
2008 The Dark Knight $1,004,558,444 ($997,039,412) $185,000,000 [# 37]
2009 Avatar $2,787,965,087 ($2,749,064,328) $237,000,000 [# 1][# 295]
2010 Toy Story 3 $1,063,171,911 $200,000,000 [# 26]
2011 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 $1,341,511,219 $250,000,000HP [# 8][# 296]
2012 The Avengers $1,518,594,910 $220,000,000 [# 5]
2013 Frozen $1,279,852,693 $150,000,000 [# 11]
2014 Transformers: Age of Extinction $1,104,039,076 $210,000,000 [# 20]
2015 Furious 7 File:Dagger-14-plain.png $1,506,231,000 $190,000,000 [# 7]

( ... ) Since grosses are not limited to original theatrical runs, a film's first-run gross is included in brackets after the total if known.

*Canada and U.S. gross only.

RDistributor rental.

TBATo be ascertained.

INNo contemporary sources provide figures for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, although The Numbers provides a figure of $8,000,000 for the North American box office gross.[39] However, it is possible this figure has been mistaken for the gross of the 1954 remake which also earned $8,000,000 in North American rentals.[40]

FHSome sources such as The Numbers state that Aloma of the South Seas is the highest grossing film of the year, earning $3 million.[41] However, no contemporary sources provide figures for Aloma of the South Seas, so it is unclear what the $3 million figure relates to. If it were the rental gross then that would have made it not only the highest-grossing film of the year, but one of the highest-grossing films of the silent era, and if that is the case it would be unusual for both International Motion Picture Almanac and Variety to omit it from their lists.

SSIt is not clear if the figure for Sunny Side Up is for North America or worldwide. Other sources put its earnings at $2 million,[42] which may suggest the higher figure is the worldwide rental, given the confusion over international figures during this period.[43]

ONThe figure for It Happened One Night is not truly representative of its success: it was distributed as a package deal along with more than two dozen other Columbia films, and the total earnings were averaged out; the true gross would have been much higher.

S7Snow White‍ '​s $418 million global cume omits earnings outside of North America from 1987 onwards.

GWIt is not absolutely clear how much Gone with the Wind earned from its initial release. Contemporary accounts often list it as earning $32 million in North American rentals and retrospective charts have often duplicated this claim; however, it is likely this was the worldwide rental figure. Trade journals would collate the data by either obtaining it from the distributors themselves, who were keen to promote a successful film, or by surveying theaters and constructing an estimate. Distributors would often report the worldwide rental since the higher figure made the film appear more successful, while estimates were limited to performance in North America; therefore it was not unusual for worldwide and North American rentals to be mixed up. Following the outbreak of World War II, many of the foreign markets were unavailable to Hollywood so it became standard practice to just report on North American box-office performance.[43] In keeping with this new approach, the North American rental for Gone with the Wind was revised to $21 million in 1947 ($11 million lower than the previous figure),[44] and as of 1953—following the 1947 re-release—Variety was reporting earnings of $26 million.[45] Through 1956, MGM reported cumulative North American earnings of $30,015,000 and foreign earnings of $18,964,000, from three releases.[46] Worldwide rentals of $32 million from the initial release is consistent with the revised figures and later reported worldwide figures: they indicate that the film earned $21 million in North America and $11 million overseas from the initial release, and added a further $9 million in North America and $8 million overseas from subsequent re-releases up to 1956.

MDMom and Dad does not generally feature in 'high-gross' lists such as those published by Variety due to its independent distribution. Essentially belonging to the exploitation genre, it was marketed as an educational sex hygiene film in an effort to circumvent censorship laws. Falling foul of the Motion Picture Production Code, Mom and Dad was prevented from obtaining mainstream distribution and restricted to independent and drive-in theaters. It was the biggest hit of its kind, and remained in continual distribution until the 1970s when hardcore pornography eventually took over. At the end of 1947 it had earned $2 million, and by 1949, $8 million; by 1956 it had earned $22 million in rentals, representing a gross of $80 million, and would have easily placed in the top ten films in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Estimates of its total earnings are as high as $100 million.

UNChopra-Gant stipulates that the figure given for Unconquered is for North American box-office, but as was common at the time, the chart confuses worldwide and North American grosses. Other sources state that the takings for Forever Amber ($8 million) and Life with Father ($6.5 million)[47] were in fact worldwide rental grosses, so it is possible this is also true of Unconquered.

CIThe Cinerama figures represent gross amounts. Since the Cinerama corporation owned the theaters there were no rental fees for the films, meaning the studio received 100% of the box-office gross, unlike the case with most other films where the distributor typically receives less than half the gross. Since Variety at the time ranked films by their US rental, they constructed a hypothetical rental figure for the Cinerama films to provide a basis for comparison to other films in their chart: in the case of This Is Cinerama, the $50 million worldwide gross was reconfigured as a $12.5 million US rental gross; this is exactly 25% of the amount reported by Cinerama, so Variety's formula seemingly halved the gross to obtain an estimate for the US share, and halved it again to simulate a rental fee. Variety‍ '​s 'rental' amounts are often repeated, but have no basis in the reality of what the films actually earned—they are hypothetical figures conceived for comparative analysis.[48] All five Cinerama features collectively generated $120 million in worldwide box office receipts.[49]

GSVariety put the worldwide rental for The Greatest Show on Earth at around $18.35 million (with $12.8 million coming from the United States[40]) a year after its release; however, Birchard puts its earnings at just over $15 million up to 1962. It is likely that Birchard's figure is just the North American gross rental, and includes revenue from the 1954 and 1960 reissues.

SWThe 'first run' Star Wars grosses do not include revenue from the 1997 special edition releases; however, the figure does include revenue from the re-releases prior to the special editions.

HPProduction costs were shared with Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1.


Timeline of highest-grossing films

File:Birth of a Nation theatrical poster.jpg
The Birth of a Nation pioneered many of the techniques used in film-making today, becoming the most successful film ever made at the time of its release.

At least ten films have held the record of 'highest-grossing film' since The Birth of a Nation assumed the top spot in 1915. Both The Birth of a Nation and Gone with the Wind spent twenty-five consecutive years apiece as the highest-grosser, with films directed by Steven Spielberg holding the record on three occasions and James Cameron—the current holder—twice. Spielberg became the first director to break his own record when Jurassic Park overtook E.T., and Cameron emulated the feat when Avatar broke the record set by Titanic.

Some sources claim that The Big Parade superseded The Birth of a Nation as highest-grossing film, eventually being replaced by Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which in turn was quickly usurped by Gone with the Wind.[50] Exact figures are not known for The Birth of a Nation, but contemporary records put its worldwide earnings at $5.2 million as of 1919.[51] Its international release was delayed by World War I, and it was not released in many foreign territories until the 1920s; coupled with further re-releases in the United States, its $10 million earnings as reported by Variety in 1932 are consistent with the earlier figure.[52] At this time, Variety still had The Birth of a Nation ahead of The Big Parade ($6,400,000) on distributor rentals and—if its estimate is correct—Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs ($8,500,000)[53] would not have earned enough on its first theatrical run to take the record;[54] although it would have been the highest-grossing 'talkie',[55] displacing The Singing Fool ($5,900,000).[56] Although received wisdom holds that it is unlikely The Birth of a Nation was ever overtaken by a silent-era film,[57] the record would fall to 1925's Ben-Hur ($9,386,000) if The Birth of a Nation earned significantly less than its estimated gross.[58] In addition to its gross rental earnings through public exhibition, The Birth of a Nation played at a large number of private, club and organizational engagements which figures are unavailable for.[59] It was hugely popular with the Ku Klux Klan who used it to drive recruitment,[60] and at one point Variety estimated its total earnings to stand at around $50 million.[61] Despite later retracting the claim, the sum has been widely reported even though it has never been substantiated.[51] While it is generally accepted that Gone with the Wind took over the record of highest-grossing film on its initial release—which is true in terms of public exhibition—it is likely it did not overtake The Birth of a Nation in total revenue until a much later date, with it still being reported as the highest earner up until the 1960s.[59] Gone with the Wind itself may have been briefly overtaken by The Ten Commandments (1956), which closed at the end of 1960 with worldwide rentals of $58–60 million[62][63] compared to Gone with the Wind's $59 million;[64] if it did claim the top spot its tenure there was short-lived, since Gone with the Wind was re-released the following year and increased its earnings to $67 million. Depending on how accurate the estimates are, the 1959 remake of Ben-Hur may also have captured the record from Gone with the Wind: as of the end of 1961 it had earned $47 million worldwide,[65] and by 1963 it was trailing Gone with the Wind by just $2 million with international takings of $65 million,[66] ultimately earning $66 million from its initial release.[67]

File:Deep Throat poster 2.jpg
The 1972 pornographic film Deep Throat reportedly earned as much as $600 million, a figure that may have been inflated by gangsters in money laundering schemes.

Another film purported to have been the highest-grosser is the 1972 pornographic film, Deep Throat. In 1984, Linda Lovelace testified to a United States Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on juvenile justice that the film had earned $600 million;[68] this figure has been the subject of much speculation, since if it is accurate then the film would have made more money than Star Wars, and finished the 1970s as the highest-grossing film. The main argument against this figure is that it simply did not have a wide enough release to sustain the sort of sums that would be required for it to ultimately gross this amount.[69] Exact figures are not known, but testimony in a federal trial in 1976—about four years into the film's release—showed the film had grossed over $25 million.[70] Roger Ebert has reasoned it possibly did earn as much as $600 million on paper, since mobsters owned most of the adult movie theaters during this period and would launder income from drugs and prostitution through them, so probably inflated the box office receipts for the film.[71]

The Birth of a Nation, Gone with the Wind, The Godfather, Jaws, Star Wars, E.T. and Avatar all increased their record grosses with re-releases. The grosses from their original theatrical runs are included here along with totals from re-releases up to the point that they lost the record; therefore the total for The Birth of a Nation includes income from its reissues up to 1940; the total for Star Wars includes revenue from the late 1970s and early 1980s reissues but not from the 1997 Special Edition; the total for E.T. incorporates its gross from the 1985 reissue but not from 2002; the total for Avatar—as the current record-holder—includes all its earnings at the present time. Gone with the Wind is represented twice on the chart: the 1940 entry includes earnings from its staggered 1939–1942 release (roadshows/first-run engagements/general release)[72] along with all of its revenue up to the 1961 reissue prior to losing the record to The Sound of Music in 1966; its 1971 entry—after it took back the record—includes income from the 1967 and 1971 reissues but omitting later releases. The Godfather was re-released in 1973 after its success at the 45th Academy Awards, and Jaws was released again in 1976, and their grosses here most likely include earnings from those releases. The Sound of Music, The Godfather, Jaws, Jurassic Park and Titanic increased their earnings with further releases in 1973, 1997, 1979, 2013 and 2012 respectively, but they are not included in the totals here since they had already conceded the record prior to being re-released.

Timeline of the highest-grossing film record
Established Title Record setting gross Reference(s)
1915[50] The Birth of a Nation $5,200,000R [# 94]
1940 $15,000,000R [# 297]
1940[24] Gone with the Wind $32,000,000R [# 298]
1963 $67,000,000R [# 299]
1966[50] The Sound of Music $114,600,000R [# 216]
1971[50] Gone with the Wind $116,000,000R [# 300]
1972[50] The Godfather $127,600,000–142,000,000R [# 243][# 301]
1976[73][74] Jaws $193,700,000R [# 255]
1978[75][76] Star Wars $410,000,000/$268,500,000R [# 302][# 243]
1982 $530,000,000 [# 90]
1983[77] E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial $619,000,000–664,000,000 [# 90][# 269]
1993 $701,000,000 [# 303]
1993[50] Jurassic Park $914,691,118 [# 30]
1998[78] Titanic $1,843,201,268 [# 3]
2010[79][80] Avatar $2,749,064,328 [# 1]

RDistributor rental.

File:Double-dagger-14-plain.pngIncludes revenue from re-releases. If a film increased its gross through re-releases while holding the record, the year in which it recorded its highest gross is also noted in italics.


Highest-grossing franchises and film series

File:Dr No trailer.jpg
The James Bond series was the first to gross over $1 billion and is still the highest-grossing after adjusting for inflation.

Prior to 2000, only seven film series had grossed over $1 billion at the box office: James Bond,[81] Star Wars,[82] Indiana Jones,[83] Rocky,[84][85][86] Batman,[87] Jurassic Park[88] and Star Trek.[89] Since the turn of the century that number has increased to over forty, excluding one-off hits such as Avatar, Titanic, Frozen and Alice in Wonderland.[90] This is partly due to inflation and market growth, but also to Hollywood's adoption of the franchise model: films that have built-in brand recognition, such as being based on a well known literary source or an established character. The methodology is based on the concept that films associated with things audiences are already familiar with can be more effectively marketed to them, and as such are known as "pre-sold" films within the industry.[27]

The films in the cross-franchise Marvel Cinematic Universe have collectively grossed the most, amassing over $8 billion at the box office, although the Eon James Bond films have earned over $13 billion in total when adjusted to 2011/12 prices.[91] The Harry Potter franchise is the highest-grossing series based on a single property, earning nearly $8 billion at the box office; Harry Potter has also generated at least $3.5 billion in home video revenue,[92] taking total consumer spending on the films to over $11 billion. If ancillary income from merchandising is included, then Star Wars is the most lucrative franchise, earning more than $22 billion in total, with direct income from the films themselves accounting for just one third of overall revenues.[93][94] The Marvel Cinematic Universe is the only series where three films have grossed in excess of $1 billion, and the two Avengers films comprise the only franchise where each installment has grossed over $1 billion. Avengers is also the only franchise to have a series average of over $1 billion per film, although the Star Wars, Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean franchises and Peter Jackson's Middle-earth adaptation also average over $1 billion adjusted for inflation.[27]

File:Dagger-14-plain.png indicates that at least one film in the series is playing in the week commencing 10 July 2020.
Highest-grossing franchises and film series[§] (The films in each franchise can be viewed by selecting "show".)
Rank Series Total worldwide box office No. of films Average of films Highest-grossing film

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Box office sources


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External links


Template:List of Box office number-one films

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