When it comes to the highest-grossing movies of all time, you probably won’t be surprised by any of the names. Although films generate revenues through a number of different streams, box office earnings are the main metric used to determine how successful a film is. So even if you haven’t watched these multi-million dollar movies, you have certainly heard about them.
Over the past decade, franchises have performed particularly well and inched their way into the top of the list. While war films and historical dramas also tend to place well, the Marvel Universe and Star Wars have been top-earners for years. Now that the main Avengers storyline is closed, we can expect new movies to chart in the top ten in years to come.
The highest grossing movies of all time: The top 5
Let's take a deeper look at the top 5 highest grossing movies of all time.
1. Avengers: Endgame
Lifetime Gross Earnings: $2,797,800,564
Release Date: April 26, 2019
Budget: $356 million USD
Directors: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo
Avengers: Endgame had a ton of buzz around it before it even launched, so Hollywood insiders already knew the movie was going to be big. Audiences were ready for the resolution of the one-year long cliffhanger and the ending of a journey that started in 2008 with the original Iron Man. Still, nobody expected the movie to earn a stunning $1.2 billion on its first weekend out.
While domestic box office earnings top the list with a grossing of $858,373,000, the movie also did extremely well in China ($614,316,021), the UK ($114,995,529), and South Korea ($100,016,554). This was the first movie to ever achieve the seemingly impossible: dethrone Avatar from first place position after years of many other movies trying (and failing).
Lifetime Gross Earnings: $2,790,439,000
Release date: December 18, 2009
Director: James Cameron
Budget: 237 million USD
Avatar held on to position #1 on the list of top-grossing movies for an incredible 10 years. Avatar is also a unique case because the movie earned an impressive 72.7% of its box office grossing overseas, an amount higher than usual for most movies. James Cameron’s film took over second place by dethroning Titanic – which is also directed by Cameron. Until Avengers: End Game came out and broke every possible movie record in history, Avatar was also the highest domestic earning movie ever.
Lifetime Gross Earnings: $2,194,439,542
Release date: November 18, 1997
Director: James Cameron
Budget: 200 million USD
Titanic is the oldest movie on the top ten list of high-earnings films. It came out in 1997 and was only recently pushed to third place place because of the new Avengers movie. Titanic was a very expensive movie to make at $200 million. According to CBC, it was, at the time, the most expensive movie ever made. Avengers: End Game did, of course, cost more – but that was many years later and with a large cast of very expensive stars.
While the movie earned an impressive amount of money when it came out, the earnings got even bigger in 2012, when a 3D version of the movie was released on the day of the 100th anniversary of the Titanic’s sinking.
4. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Lifetime Gross Earnings: $2,068,223,624
Release date: December 18, 2015
Director: J.J. Abrams
Budget: 306 million USD
Before the explosive world of the Avengers took over the box office, Star Wars had a few movies as earning leaders. Right now, only 2015’s Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens is in the top 10 – though there’s another Star Wars movie in position #14: 2017’s The Last Jedi. Like the last Avengers movie, The Force Awakens was eagerly awaited by fans. It came out twelve years after the ending of the prequel trilogy and it promised a brand-new world that would also answer many old questions.
5. Avengers: Infinity War
Lifetime Gross Earnings: $1,670,400,637
Release date: April 27, 2018
Director: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo
Budget: 316 million USD
It’s perhaps no surprise that another Avengers movie is sitting near the top. Especially when that movie is the first half of the stunning showdown that finally gets resolved in End Game. While domestically the movie didn’t do better than other films lower on the top 10 list, it had a stunning international debut, breaking all kinds of records in the first month it was out.
Highest-grossing Films Adjusted for Inflation
Including old films in a list of high-earning movies is tricky. A movie released in the 1950s would show much smaller earnings than one released two years ago. But once you adjust for inflation, it’s entirely possible that movie earned much more for its release time. Experts sometimes take to the task, adjusting for inflation and changes in ticket price –but the system isn’t perfect, especially when you’re trying to include worldwide grosses and currency exchange rates come into play.
The short version? An inflation adjusted list is not very accurate.
All that said, most movie experts agree that Gone with the Wind can safely be declared the highest-grossing inflation-adjusted film at the global post office. According to the Guinness World of Records, the 1939 film earned “just” US$393.4 million around the world at the time, but once you adjust those numbers for inflation, they rise to a total gross of $3.44 billion. This would put Gone with the Wind on position #1 in our previous list.
While other inflation-adjusted movies aren’t much of a surprise (Avatar, Avengers: Endgame, and Titanic are still near the top), a list including inflation-adjusted films would include two nice surprises: 1965’s The Sound of Music and 1982’s E.T. the Extraterrestrial in positions 6th and 7th.
Top 100 Highest Grossing Films Of All Time
While new blockbusters might one day change the winners on this list, some movies will be very hard to beat for years to come. Here is a full list of the top 100 most successful blockbuster films of all time.
|4||Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens||$2,068,223,624||2015|
|5||Avengers: Infinity War||$2,048,359,754||2018|
|7||The Lion King||$1,656,943,394||2019|
|11||Avengers: Age of Ultron||$1,402,805,868||2015|
|13||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2||$1,341,932,398||2011|
|14||Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi||$1,332,539,889||2017|
|15||Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom||$1,308,467,944||2018|
|17||Beauty and the Beast||$1,263,521,126||2017|
|19||The Fate of the Furious||$1,236,005,118||2017|
|20||Iron Man 3||$1,214,811,252||2013|
|22||Captain America: Civil War||$1,153,296,293||2016|
|24||The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King||$1,142,219,401||2003|
|25||Spider-Man: Far from Home||$1,131,927,996||2019|
|27||Transformers: Dark of the Moon||$1,123,794,079||2011|
|29||Transformers: Age of Extinction||$1,104,054,072||2014|
|30||The Dark Knight Rises||$1,081,041,287||2012|
|32||Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker||$1,074,144,248||2019|
|33||Toy Story 4||$1,073,394,593||2019|
|34||Toy Story 3||$1,066,969,703||2010|
|35||Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest||$1,066,179,725||2006|
|36||Rogue One: A Star Wars Story||$1,056,057,273||2016|
|38||Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides||$1,045,713,802||2011|
|39||Despicable Me 3||$1,034,799,409||2017|
|42||Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace||$1,027,082,707||1999|
|43||Alice in Wonderland||$1,025,467,110||2010|
|45||The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey||$1,017,003,568||2012|
|46||The Dark Knight||$1,004,934,033||2008|
|47||Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone||$978,087,613||2001|
|48||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1||$976,920,103||2010|
|49||Despicable Me 2||$970,766,005||2013|
|50||The Lion King||$968,511,805||1994|
|51||The Jungle Book||$966,550,600||2016|
|52||Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle||$962,102,237||2017|
|53||Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End||$960,996,492||2007|
|54||The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug||$958,366,855||2013|
|55||The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies||$956,019,788||2014|
|56||The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers||$951,208,089||2002|
|57||Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix||$942,044,510||2007|
|59||Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince||$934,326,396||2009|
|62||Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire||$896,346,229||2005|
|64||The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring||$887,832,826||2001|
|65||Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs||$886,686,817||2009|
|68||Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets||$879,465,594||2002|
|69||Ice Age: Continental Drift||$877,244,782||2012|
|70||The Secret Life of Pets||$875,457,937||2016|
|71||Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice||$873,634,919||2016|
|72||Wolf Warrior 2||$870,325,439||2017|
|73||Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith||$868,390,560||2005|
|74||The Hunger Games: Catching Fire||$865,011,746||2013|
|75||Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2||$863,756,051||2017|
|79||Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen||$836,303,693||2009|
|81||The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2||$829,746,820||2012|
|85||Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them||$814,037,575||2016|
|86||Shrek the Third||$813,367,380||2007|
|88||Jumanji: The Next Level||$796,575,993||2019|
|89||Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban||$796,093,802||2004|
|90||Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales||$794,861,794||2017|
|91||E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial||$793,482,178||1982|
|93||Mission: Impossible – Fallout||$791,115,104||2018|
|94||Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull||$790,653,942||2008|
|96||Fast & Furious 6||$788,679,850||2013|
|99||Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope||$775,512,064||1977|
|100||Guardians of the Galaxy||$772,776,600||2014|