Top 50 All-Time Box Office Hits
Movies have come a long way since they were first invented in 1878 by Eadward Muybridge. Back then, his two-second long film, which featured consecutive shots sewn together to show moving action, was little more than an experiment to prove a concept. But films such as this were revolutionary and paved the way for the incredible, high-grossing spectacles we know today.
In 1906, the first ever feature film, "The Story of the Kelly Gang", was released and it demonstrated the commercial viability of showing long-form movies to the public. Silent films dominated and became hugely popular, until 1927 when "The Jazz Singer" became the first film to feature synchronized audible dialogue. Safe to say, it was a huge success and is the predecessor to box office giants such as "Avatar", "Titanic", and the "Avengers" series.
A "blockbuster" movie describes any film made by a large film studio with a big budget that achieves commercial and popular success. The term originates from the 1920s when advertisers would describe films as being as impactful as a type of bomb; a blockbuster. Examples include James Cameron’s "Avatar" and the first film to be considered a blockbuster: "Jaws".
"Jaws" was the first film to earn $100 million at the box office and set the precedent for movies released by big corporations. The original Star Wars trilogy built on this success and cemented the idea of blockbusting movies. A modern-day development of this is the movie franchise; where multiple films set in a single universe are made and linked together. The Marvel franchise is perhaps the most successful example of this.
What Makes a Box Office Hit?
In the most simple terms, a film is classed as a box office hit if it makes substantially more money than its original budget. This is not necessarily an accurate assessment of a film’s quality. For example, many films are received well by critics but end up losing money and are therefore termed box office bombs. Jaws, the first huge box office hit, was deemed to have been so well-liked because of its fast pace, tension, and outrageous plot premise.
Box office takings are determined by ticket sales at cinemas however, this has changed recently with the advent of streaming services. Now, some of the biggest films of the year aren’t even released in cinemas and go straight to streaming services. Therefore, it is becoming harder to determine which films are actually the most successful in a monetary sense. This has led some people to claim that the era of blockbuster movies is in decline or perhaps already over.
Which Movie Made 1 Billion the Fastest?
The anticipation was building throughout the end of the 20th century looking toward when a film would make $1 billion at the box office. The moment came in 1998 when "Titanic" was released. The combination of a dramatic true story, high-profile actors like Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, and James Cameron’s expertise meant it was an instant hit. Within 74 days of its first release, it made $1 billion and became the first film to make $1.5 billion within 188 days after a re-release.
The new century saw the record of "Titanic" smashed by a series of films geared towards attracting mass audiences. Both "Jurassic World" films made it in 14 and 13 days whilst "Spider-Man: No Way Home" got there in 12 days. "Avengers: Infinity War" shot to $1 billion in 11 days, but is only second to "Avengers: Endgame", which earned $1 billion in just 5 days after its first release. However, it still remains only the second highest-grossing film of all time.
Which Movie Has the Highest Budget?
Movie budgets have grown rapidly in the 21st century as new technology allows for more extravagant filmmaking procedures. Special effects and Computer Generated Imagery (CGI), which are regularly used in the biggest box office movies such as "Avengers", "Avatar", and "Pirates of the Caribbean", cost hundreds of millions to use. The first film to have a budget over $100 million was "True Lies" in 1994, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee-Curtis. James Cameron directed and used the budget on elaborate action scenes.
The movie with the highest-ever budget was "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides". As the fourth installment of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, it utilized over 1,000 shots that featured computer-generated special effects which ended up using much of the budget. Four of the five films from the franchise feature in the top 50 films with the highest budgets. Despite the huge costs, the film made over $1 billion at the box office and was therefore judged a success.
50 Highest-Grossing Movies of All Time
Nearly all of the highest-grossing movies of all time have been made in the 21st century, mostly thanks to the rise of a number of highly successful franchises. Hollywood production studios have favored films that will retain an audience for multiple sequels and spin-offs, therefore meaning that high-grossing films often come in quick succession.
Old powerhouses of the industry like Disney have also bought the rights to intellectual property such as "Star Wars", pumping billions into making them box office hits. The rankings below show a trend of worldwide box office success growing recently, with a few classic movies holding out amongst the rest. The future is more uncertain with streaming services dominating the market, but franchises like "Avatar" are seeking to keep the box office mojo flowing. Let's dive into 50 of the highest-grossing movies ever made, based on lifetime gross calculations.
1. "Avatar", 2009 — $2,922,917,914
Director: James Cameron Starring: Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana
Avatar is a groundbreaking film that utilizes never-before-seen special effects to construct the alien world of Pandora. It tells the story of Jake Sully, an American paraplegic Marine who is sent to investigate the native Na’vi tribe’s way of life, via a disembodied avatar of himself in Na’vi form. Jake is to report back on a key site where a rare mineral is deposited of interest to an Earth-based resource extraction firm but instead sides with Na’vi. A large battle ensues between the humans and Na’vi. It became a blockbuster due to the high-quality special effects and unique premise.
2. "Avengers: Endgame", 2019 — $2,797,800,564
Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo Starring: Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson
Endgame is the final film in the "Avengers" film series that sits within the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe. Following the decimation of Earth by Thanos, the Avengers scramble to find a way to bring back their defeated allies and prepare for a final showdown to save the planet. As the final installment of an already hugely popular series, Endgame was destined to be a box office hit meaning Marvel had the license to spend on the production’s cast and special effects.
3. "Titanic", 1997 — $2,194,439,542
Director: James Cameron Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet
Titanic was record-breaking for being the first film to gross over $1 billion. It tells the true story of the sinking of the cruise liner, Titanic, in 1912 when the boat hit an iceberg. The main characters are fictional as they fall in love before the ship sinks, but their stories of clinging to life in the freezing waters are based on true survival tales. The pull of star actors, a blockbuster director, and a tragic true story ensured the movie’s box office success.
4. "Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens", 2015 — $2,068,223,624
Director: J.J. Abrams Starring: Daisy Ridley and John Boyega
The film is the first in a rebooted series of new Star Wars films set thirty years after the "Return of the Jedi". It tells the story of Rey, Finn, Han Solo, and their Rebel Alliance companions in their search for Luke Skywalker as they fight against the evil First Order. Its blockbuster status was almost guaranteed after the nostalgia surrounding the original series and the hype created by returning stars such as Harrison Ford.
5. "Avengers: Infinity War", 2018 — $2,048,359,754
Director: Anthony and Joe Russo Starring: Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Hemsworth
"Infinity War" is the third film in the "Avengers" series of films. After saving the Earth from various foes, the Avengers face their ultimate enemy; Thanos. Thanos is on a quest to find six infinity stones to unlock special power to inflict his evil will on the world. The Avengers unite in an attempt to overcome the insurmountable. The attraction of an all-star cast, high-class effects, and beloved comic-book characters ensured its blockbuster status.
6. "Spider-Man: No Way Home", 2021 — $1,916,306,995
Director: Jon Watts Starring: Tom Holland and Zendaya
The third in a trilogy of new "Spider-Man" films set in the MCU, the film utilizes multi-verses and character crossovers to make a unique take on the character. Peter Parker’s identity as Spider-Man is revealed, leading to an unwanted level of fame and an inability to separate his personal life. He seeks the help of Doctor Strange to make him forget his identity as Peter Parker to solely focus on being a superhero. But it opens the universe up to a series of evil forces that he must face up to. The film uses the two other iterations of Spider-Man meaning fans of all ages can get excited.
7. " Avatar: The Way of Water", 2022 — $1,762,401,348
Director: James Cameron Starring: Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana
The sequel to the Oscar-winning original "Avatar", "Avatar: The Way of Water" is set fourteen years later. Jake and his bonded Na’vi Ney’tiri have formed a family but must begin exploring new lands. After an ancient force is awakened, Jake is forced to once more fight human forces. It was originally planned to be released in 2014, but various production setbacks delayed the release until 2022. There was significant excitement surrounding the picture after the long wait and the groundbreaking special effects pushed the budget to blockbuster levels.
8. "Jurassic World", 2015 — $1,671,713,208
Director: Colin Trevorrow Starring: Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard
"Jurassic World" picks up on the same sort of story in the original "Jurassic Park" series. On a secluded island, a theme park focused on real dinosaurs soon becomes a nightmare after the largest predator escapes. A group of scientists must team up to bring the dinosaur under control and save the tourists. With a large budget to cover the dinosaur CGI and the hype of a series reboot from the original to fuel it, "Jurassic World" had an easy ride to box-office success.
9. "The Lion King", 2019 — $1,656,943,394
Director: Jon Favreau Starring: James Earl Jones and Beyonce
The 2019 "Lion King" film is a photorealistic remake of the 1994 animated feature of the same name. It follows Simba, a young lion who is exiled from the animal kingdom after his father, King Mufasa, is murdered in a coup. Simba must journey back to his homeland and retake what is rightfully his. With help from Beyonce, a mega-star, in the role of Nala, a good helping of nostalgia, and a large budget for complex CGI, "The Lion King" was a blockbuster from the start.
10. "The Avengers", 2012 — $1,518,812,988
Director: Joss Whedon Starring: Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans
"The Avengers" is the first film in the "Avengers" series and kicked off the interest in the MCU in general. It documents the origins of the formation of the Avengers. After Thor’s evil brother Loki unlocks an unearthly power, a group of the most powerful superheroes is recruited to fight Loki and save the world. At the time, it was the climax of a series of early Marvel films and therefore warranted a large budget. The prospect of seeing so many of the franchise’s stars unite in one film was also incredibly tantalizing, leading to its huge box office takings.
11. "Furious 7", 2015 — $1,516,045,91
Director: James Wan Starring: Paul Walker and Nathalie Emmanuel
"Furious 7" is the seventh film in the "Fast & Furious" franchise and features a large ensemble cast of high-profile stars. The story follows Dom and Brian, both police officers gone rogue and who have returned to virtuous ways to stop an international terrorist. The film was a blockbuster due to its hefty budget and cast of well-known actors. It is also the last on-screen appearance of lead actor Paul Walker who died during production. In part because of this, the film received high levels of popularity.
12. "Top Gun: Maverick", 2022 — $1,488,732,821
Director: Joseph Kosinski Starring: Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer
"Top Gun: Maverick" is the sequel to the original "Top Gun" film that follows the story of a group of fighter jet pilots. The sequel resumes thirty years later with Maverick, played by Cruise, training a new crop of pilots whilst he deals with past traumas. The film is important as it is seen by many in the industry as a movie that revived the box office power after the impact of Covid. Nostalgia and the star power of Tom Cruise ensured it was a blockbuster smash.
13. "Frozen II", 2019 — $1,450,026,933
Directors: Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck Starring: Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel
The first "Frozen" film was a worldwide phenomenon and provided Disney with yet another classic. Songs from the original topped music charts for weeks and so a sequel was inevitable. The sequel follows Elsa, who begins hearing a mysterious sound and decides to go on a journey to find the source, ending up on a path of self-discovery. With the success of the first, the hunger for a sequel only continued to grow and that was reflected in the box office numbers.
14. "Avengers: Age of Ultron", 2015 — $1,402,805,868
Director: Joss Wheadon Starring: Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans
The film sees a return of the Avengers superhero team as they fight another existential power. This time, Tony Stark has created an AI system called Ultron which goes rogue and threatens to wipe out humanity. The Avengers assemble once more to take it down. After the success of the first film, the budget for a second was justifiable and the same groups of star performers were sure to bring in the cash all over again.
15. "Black Panther", 2018 — $1,346,913,161
Director: Ryan Coogler Starring: Chadwick Boseman and Lupita Nyong’o
"Black Panther" was the first film in the Marvel franchise to feature a Black lead protagonist. The story follows T’Challa, the superhero Black Panther, who returns to his kingdom Wakanda to rule as king. However, when he returns, a resurgent evil force threatens his country and he must use the full extent of his powers to save his nation. Thanks to a unique premise and a fresh set of actors, the film smashed box office expectations and birthed a new hero.
16. "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2", 2011 — $1,341,693,157
Director: David Yates Starring: Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson
Of all the "Harry Potter" movies, the final installment hits the highest in terms of box office revenue. The story picks up after "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1" with the maturing magic students continuing their hunt for Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes. It all culminates in a much-anticipated showdown between the personnel at Hogwarts and Voldemort’s Death Eaters. After a decade of films and even longer since the release of the book, the final spectacle was much anticipated and led to a strong box office performance.
17. "Star Wars: Episode VII — The Last Jedi", 2017 — $1,332,539,889
Director: Rian Johnson Starring: Daisy Ridley and John Boyega
The second film in the franchise’s revival sees Rey learn the ways of the force under Luke Skywalker. Rey must hone her Jedi powers and bolster the resistance's fight against the evil of the First Order. The grand universe of "Star Wars" demands a lot of complex CGI and therefore a large budget. The eye-catching visual style of the new direction and the return of Mark Hamill drew fans back for a box office hit.
18. "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom", 2018 — $1,310,484,461
Director: J. A. Bayona Starring: Chris Pratt and Jeff Goldblum
The sequel to "Jurassic World", "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" flips the tried and tested premise on its head. Instead of fighting the dinosaurs, this time the scientists are trying to save them. After a dormant volcano shows signs of catastrophically erupting on Jurassic World island, a group of scientists journeys back to save the ancient animals. With the demanding effects needs from the dinosaur animation, the budget was large but fans still had an appetite for the chaotic film style.
19. "Frozen", 2013 — $1,290,000,000
Director: Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck Starring: Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel
"Frozen" was a global phenomenon upon its release. The combination of inspiring female leads, catchy power ballads, and goofy side characters was a recipe for success. Princess Anna, with the help of some companions, goes on the hunt for her estranged sister who has the ability to control ice and snow. Idina Menzel puts in a rousing performance in the hit song "Let It Go" which helps maintain the film’s popularity for years.
20. "Beauty and the Beast", 2017 — $1,263,521,126
Director: Bill Condon Starring: Emma Watson and Dan Stevens
Another of Disney’s remakes of an animated classic, this time it’s live-action instead of photorealism. Telling the story of Belle, a normal village girl, who falls in love with a cursed wealthy landowner, it features Emma Watson in one of her largest roles since the end of the "Harry Potter" franchise. Disney’s powerhouse status meant the blockbuster status of the film was almost guaranteed and audiences were obviously excited to see new life breathed into a classic tale.
21. "Incredibles 2", 2018 — $1,242,805,359
Director: Brad Bird Starring: Craig T. Nelson and Bob Odenkirk
The first "Incredibles" film was unique for its animated take on a superhero movie. At the end of the first film, a sequel was hinted at which people assumed would come soon after the movie’s popularity. The sequel finally came 14 years after the first, it follows the superhero family as they are tasked with restoring faith in the public eye whilst bringing up children. The sheer anticipation alone carried the film to box office success.
22. "The Fate of the Furious", 2017 — $1,238,764,765
Director: F. Gary Gray Starring: Vin Diesel and Dwayne Johnson
Styled as "F8", "The Fate of the Furious" is the eighth installment of the "Fast and Furious" franchise. It follows the well-known crew of crime-makers turned crime fighters as they reunite to stand up to a mysterious woman. It is the first film in the series without Paul Walker following his death. The series has always performed well and the retention of action stars like Jason Statham and Dwayne Johnson meant another blockbuster was on the way.
23. "Iron Man 3", 2013 — $1,214,811,252
Director: Shane Black Starring: Robert Downey Jr. and Ben Kingsley
The "Iron Man" series made the MCU the popular powerhouse it is today. Downey Jr.’s performance as businessman Tony Stark cemented his character and the playful mood of the entire franchise for years to come. The third film sees Stark once again fight a seemingly invincible enemy with the help of his armored flying suits. It was a sure-fire box office hit for Disney and Paramount Pictures after the love for the first two and it won an Academy Award for Visual Effects.
24. "Minions", 2015 — $1,159,398,397
Director: Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda Starring: Steve Carrell and Sandra Bullock
Minions is a spin-off prequel from the hit "Despicable Me" film trilogy. It follows Minions Kevin, Stuart, and Bob as they decide to hunt for a new master. Their journey takes them across the world, meeting other villains until they eventually unite with Gru. The fact that this spin-off performed better than any of the original films may have surprised some but it stands testament to the popularity of the yellow sidekicks.
25. "Captain America: Civil War", 2016 — $1,153,304,495
Directors: Anthony and Joe Russo Starring: Chris Evans and Robert Downey Jr.
"Captain America: Civil War" is the third film in the "Captain America" series and features an ensemble of many of the famous Avenger faces. In an interesting twist, the film pits Captain America and Iron Man against each other as they come to blows over some philosophical standpoints. As a mid-series entry to the MCU franchise, it would be fair to expect some drop-off in audience attention, but the unique premise and Marvel formula meant the film was a box-office hit.
26. "Aquaman", 2018 — $1,148,161,807
Director: James Wan Starring: Jason Momoa and Amber Heard
"Aquaman" is the first superhero entry to this list released by Marvel’s main rivals DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Aquaman, a superhero with power over the seas, fights the evil King of Atlantis for control of the deep. Jason Momoa’s first major role after "Game of Thrones" saw him in a massive moment for DC. Amidst the constant hits from Marvel, this needed to be a success and so the film was pumped with a high budget for special effects.
27. "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King", 2003 — $1,142,219,401
Director: Peter Jackson Starring: Elijah Wood and Viggo Mortensen
The "Lord of the Rings" trilogy was a powerhouse for drawing audiences into cinemas. Based on J. R. R. Tolkien’s beloved book series, Peter Jackson’s films captured the vast world and tones of hope just right in three epic movies. The final film, "The Return of the King", concludes Frodo’s journey to destroy the One Ring and Aragorn’s rise to become king of men. It was nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards and won multiple others across different ceremonies. It exists as the gold standard for book-to-film adaptations.
28. "Spider-Man: Far From Home", 2019 — $1,131,927,996
Director: Jon Watts Starring: Tom Holland and Zendaya
The film is a sequel to Holland’s first as Spider-Man and sees the eponymous hero fight off a series of monsters whilst holidaying in Europe. It became the first "Spider-Man" film to reach $1 billion at the box office and made him one of the most popular heroes in the franchise. It spawned further sequels and cemented Spider-Man’s place in the Avengers.
29. ""Captain Marvel, 2019 — $1,128,274,794
Directors: Anna Boden, Nia DaCosta, and Ryan Fleck Starring: Brie Larson and Lashana Lynch
Captain Marvel is the first female Avengers character to have their own film. It tells the story of an extraterrestrial warrior, known as Captain Marvel, who is living on Earth. She becomes entangled in an intergalactic war whilst also trying to discover as much as she can about her own past. The film adds another to the star lineup of the Avengers and drew a lot of attention for its groundbreaking casting.
30. "Transformers: Dark of the Moon", 2011 — $1,123,794,079
Director: Michael Bay Starring: Shia LaBoeuf and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
The third installment in the successful "Transformers" film franchise sees the return of the ever-fighting Autobots and Decepticons. The film takes place at a time when the Decepticons renew their eternal war with the Autobots. Optimus Prime decides they must revive the ancient Sentinel Prime to win the war for the Autobots but things don’t go as planned. The heavy action scenes and impressive visual effects made for an attractive prospect, even if the film received poor critical reviews.
31. "Jurassic Park", 1993 — $1,109,802,321
Director: Steven Spielberg Starring: Jeff Goldblum and Laura Dern
One of the original blockbusters, "Jurassic Park" has all the hallmarks of a box office smash. It follows the story of Jurassic Park, an island-cum-tourist attraction where scientists have been breeding dinosaurs. After a Tyrannosaurus Rex escapes, the scientists must fight to stop the situation from getting fully out of control as they fight for their lives. Groundbreaking visual effects made the dinosaurs look incredibly lifelike whilst top actors imbued quirky life into their characters. It has been the blueprint for many successful films that have followed.
32. "Skyfall", 2012 — $1,108,561,013
Director: Sam Mendes Starring: Daniel Craig and Javier Bardem
"Skyfall" is the highest-grossing "Bond" film of all time. Following the theme of Craig’s Bond character, "Skyfall" has a dark and somber tone throughout that positions Bond in a gritty, realistic world. Bond is forced to face his past traumas whilst MI6 deals with its own messy misdealings with a vengeful ex-agent. Craig’s Bond era saw a growth in popularity for the franchise and a more nuanced approach to filmmaking which translated into box office success.
33. Transformers: Age of Extinction, 2014 — $1,104,054,072
Director: Michael Bay Starring: Mark Wahlberg and Stanley Tucci
The fourth film in the series based on the popular toy line, "Transformers: Age of Extinction" adds a prehistoric twist to the Transformers franchise. With a new cast of human characters, the film received widely negative reviews for its poorly thought-out story, long runtime, and over-reliance on action scenes. Nonetheless, the draw of a Michael Bay action movie was still enough to make it an undeniable money earner.
34. "The Dark Knight Rises", 2012 — $1,081,169,825
Director: Christopher Nolan Starring: Christian Bale and Tom Hardy
After decades of "Batman" remakes and reboots on both the small and big screens, Christopher Nolan’s trilogy breathed fresh life into the beloved caped crusader. Adding much darker tones to the story and removing the cartoonish elements, Nolan created an atmospheric classic. In this, the final installment, Batman fights once more against evil villains: and this time, it's Bane. Intent on destroying Gotham, Bane does all he can to stop Batman who must find a way to save the city. The real-life action sequences and gritty acting made for a spectacle that smashed the box office.
35. "Joker", 2019 — $1,074,458,282
Director: Todd Phillips Starring: Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro
"Joker" was a unique entry into the superhero movie genre. Instead of an all-action flick pitting the hero against the villain, "Joker" took a character-driven deep dive into the origins of the most famous comic book villain ever: the Joker. It tells the story of a normal party clown who becomes shunned by society and labeled a freak, so he resorts to a life of crime and violence. The film achieved blockbuster status due to the reputation of Phoenix’s leading performance that stole the show. It was another hit to add to DC’s list as it tries to carve out some of the markets from Marvel’s share.
36. "Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker", 2019 — $1,074,149,279
Director: J. J. Abrams Starring: Adam Driver and Daisy Ridley
The final installment of the rebooted "Star Wars" trilogy, sees Rey face up to the ultimate enemy and leader of the First Order: a returning Emperor Palpatine. The convoluted and disjointed story was criticized by many but the draw of seeing the "Star Wars" universe on the big screen one more time remained enough of a draw for fans to make it a box office success. Further films and series are being planned.
37. "Toy Story 4", 2019 — $1,073,394,593
Director: Josh Cooley Starring: Tom Hanks and Keanu Reeves
After "Toy Story 3", many thought the beloved animated saga had come to an end. However, Pixar announced a fourth film with the same characters which turned out to be a huge success. The film follows the well-known toys as they try to teach Forky, a fellow toy, his importance to their owners. With the heartwarming charm of a Pixar film to look forward to, "Toy Story 4" didn’t disappoint in terms of both revenue and critical reception.
38. "Toy Story 3", 2010 — $1,066,970,811
Director: Lee Unkrich Starring: Tom Hanks and Tim Allen
What many thought to be the final film in the classic animated series, "Toy Story 3" was a bittersweet tale. As Andy prepares to leave home for university, the toys are accidentally donated to a nursery where an evil conspiracy is uncovered. The film ends with a poignant and fitting handover between generations, leaving the toys in safe hands. The cost of animation and Pixar’s name recognition alone made this a blockbuster and the box office numbers prove the series' popularity.
39. "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest", 2006 — $1,066,179,747
Director: Gore Verbinski Starring: Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom
"Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest" is a sequel to the first film in the franchise, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl". It follows Jack Sparrow (Captain … Jack Sparrow, that is) as he swashbucklers around the oceans to find Davy Jones' heart in exchange for his freedom from his service. Other forces, including the Kraken, interfere to make the task a lot more complicated. The first film was a massive hit and Disney already had plans for more films. Depp’s star power and jovial portrayal of Captain Sparrow had already won fans over and made the film an instant blockbuster.
40. "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story", 2016 — $1,058,682,142
Director: Gareth Edwards Starring: Felicity Jones and Diego Luna
"Rogue One" is the first Star Wars film made by Disney that is not a part of the "Skywalker Saga". It is a spinoff and follows rebel fighters as they struggle against the Empire to steal the blueprints of the Death Star. With completely new characters and no reliance on older stars, the film was a departure from standard "Star Wars" fare. In the end, this worked in the film’s favor as the compact and pacy story performed well at the box office.
41. "Aladdin", 2019 — $1,050,693,953
Director: Guy Ritchie Starring: Will Smith and Mena Massoud
Another of Disney’s remakes, this title is a live-action entry like "Beauty and the Beast". It follows street urchin Aladdin as he falls in love and battles the evil sorcerer Jafar. The appetite for live-action remakes of animated classics was unknown but the star power added by Will Smith certainly helped push the box office north of $1 billion.
42. "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides", 2011 — $1,045,713,802
Director: Rob Marshall Starring: Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz
"Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides" is the fourth film in the "Pirates" franchise. It follows the swashbuckling Captain Jack Sparrow as he adventures to find the fountain of youth. Along the way, he must face legendary foes like Blackbeard and frenemy Barbossa. With the box office success of the other films, the budget was easy to find for another, especially with the returning Depp to make it a blockbuster. The box office return here was large enough to warrant another sequel.
43. "Despicable Me 3", 2017 — $1,034,800,131
Director: Pierre Coffin and Kyle Balda Starring: Steve Carrell and Trey Parker
The third installment in the main "Despicable Me" franchise, this film follows Gru and his minions once more as they try to stop a failed child actor from destroying Hollywood. With a relatively small budget of $80 million, the profit margins from this third film were extremely high which is a testament to its popularity. Universal Pictures has renewed the series for a fourth movie in the coming years.
44. "Finding Dory", 2016 — $1,028,570,942
Director: Andrew Stanton Starring: Ellen DeGeneres and Albert Brooks
"Finding Nemo" is one of the most popular animated films in history. In the original movie, one of the favored characters was Nemo’s sidekick, the forgetful blue tang Dory. This spinoff follows the amnesiac fish Dory as she journeys through the oceans to find her parents, meeting many friends and enemies along the way. The appetite for this film was preexisting from Nemo’s popularity, and Pixar had always wanted to capitalize on this. It worked and the film was a box office smash.
45. "Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace", 1999 — $1,027,082,707
Director: George Lucas Starring: Ewan McGregor and Liam Neeson
The original "Star Wars trilogy", kicked off by "A New Hope", was a phenomenon. It broke box office records with ease and brought millions of people into cinemas to see its groundbreaking effects and epic story. So, when a new set of three prequels were released, the excitement was off the scales. "The Phantom Menace" was the first of these and told the story of two Jedi Knights fighting to stop evil predecessors to the Empire from gaining too much power. Along the way, they also discover a young Anakin Skywalker. The blockbuster status of this film was secured upon announcement as a successor to the originals and performed as such in terms of revenue.
46. "Alice in Wonderland", 2010 — $1,025,468,216
Director: Tim Burton Starring: Helena Bonham Carter and Johnny Depp
C. S. Lewis' classic fantasy tale has been made and remade countless times for both film and television. It is the perfect kind of story for Tim Burton’s wacky directorial style and Johnny Depp’s casting suited the Mad Hatter’s oddball traits. The story centers on Alice, a young girl who falls down a rabbit hole and into another world full of strange characters. She gets entangled in a war between the tyrannical Red Queen and the virtuous White Queen. Disney’s involvement pushed the film to new heights and the dazzling visual style drew audiences in large numbers
47. "Zootopia", 2016 — $1,024,121,104
Director: Rich Moore and Byron Howard Starring: Ginnifer Goodwin and Jason Bateman
"Zootopia" is Disney’s 55th animated feature film and one of their highest-grossing outside of a franchise. The story takes place in the titular city, where anthropomorphic animals live and work. A rabbit police officer and a red fox con artist team up to investigate the mysterious disappearances of the city's predatory animals. The film was praised for its nuanced take on differences and humor weaved between political discourse.
48. "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone", 2001 — $1,023,842,938
Director: Chris Columbus Starring: Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson
The first film in the "Harry Potter" franchise sets the scene for the next decade and a half of storytelling. Here we see a young Harry, Ron, and Hermione enrolled at Hogwarts; a school for witches and wizards. They soon become caught up in a deadly prophecy involving Harry and the evil Voldemort, bonding them in life and death. The books were hugely popular so the film was deserving of blockbuster treatment from Warner Bros. The hype translated into a long and successful box office performance that lasted across the franchise.
49. "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey", 2012 — $1,017,030,651
Director: Peter Jackson Starring: Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen
With the success and love of Tolkien’s "Lord of the Rings", there was always a demand to see other works of his adapted to the big screen. After a decade of negotiation, the rights to "The Hobbit" were secured and production began. This, the first film in a series of three, documents Bilbo Baggins' arduous journey to aid a troupe of Erebor dwarfs on their quest to reclaim their homeland. On the way, he meets Gollum and finds the One Ring. The three films combined hold the record for the largest budget for consecutive movies.
50. "The Dark Knight", 2008 — $1,006,234,167
Director: Christopher Nolan Starring: Christian Bale and Heath Ledger
The sequel to Nolan’s first "Batman" film, "Batman Begins", "The Dark Knight" follows up with an even grittier and more intense depiction of Batman. Here, Batman is often depressed and anxious about his role in society. It follows him as he works with one of Gotham City’s police chiefs to fight crime, but their efforts are interrupted by The Joker, an old foe of Batman’s who just wants the world to burn. Cinemagoers loved the pacy action, hard-hitting character arcs, and general chaos of Ledger’s Joker. It was Ledger’s last on-screen appearance before he died.
The Biggest Blockbusters of All Time
Many of the films on the above list are modern, seeing releases in the 21st century. During a time when cinema was experiencing a new boom, the high budgets, star talents, and famous franchises almost guaranteed box office success. Some favorites like "The Jungle Book" are missing but only just, whilst other classics like 1939’s "Gone With the Wind" technically gross higher than all listed here after inflation is taken into account. The future will surely see records on this list smashed as huge franchises such as "Avatar" and "Star Wars" roll on.
After seeing the necessity of major movie stars in making a blockbuster, why not read about the most influential actors and actresses from the history of film?
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