The Best Movies of All Time • Art de Vivre
The highest-grossing films of all time

The highest-grossing films of all time

As 2023 begins, what better time to reflect on the highest-grossing movies of all time and what role the box office plays in their release?

Here we look at the most sold and monetised movies spanning decades, from James Cameron’s fantasy film 'Avatar' and 'Titanic' to Marvel Cinematic Universe’s iconic ‘Avengers: Endgame.’

1. Avengers: Endgame (2019)

This Avengers movie shows the aftermath of the movie Avengers: Infinity War (2018). The universe is in ruins and the Avengers assemble to reverse the mad Titan Thanos’ actions and restore balance.

Avengers movies have always been a top favourite as reflected in ticket sales: in just eight days, Avengers: Endgame had grossed a half-billion dollars domestically (in the US and Canada).

It is no wonder that Endgame was so successful. The Morning Consult’s survey showed that Marvel fans voted Iron Man and Thor as being the most favorited characters, both with a vote of 78% and 74% for Captain America. The superhero team in this movie won over viewers.

2. Avatar (2009)

Oscar-winning Canadian filmmaker James Cameron, also a deep ocean explorer, has been focusing solely on Avatar sequels over the past decade, the highest-grossing film of all time.

Cameron’s story of an alien planet and the paraplegic Marine uniting with its inhabitants topped the charts, despite concerns that it could not compete with the Titanic.

During the seven weeks following its release, $595 million was spent at the North American box office by viewers.

Avengers: Endgame eventually stole the crown from Avatar, the film having held onto its global record of being the only film to ever have earned $2 billion outside of the US and Canada for nearly ten years.

This movie, inclusive of re-releases, has earnt over $2.847 billion in the last 13 years.

3. Titanic (1997)

Article slider: "41: best moment in Titanic"

Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic (1997) © IMDB

This romantic drama unites a historical story of the sinking of the RMS Titanic maiden voyage with James Cameron’s renowned imagination.

The production budget for the film was $200 million, making it one of the most expensive films ever made yet that investment was rewarded.

Titanic was re-released in 2012 to commemorate the centennial of the sinking of the ship, earning an additional $343.6 million worldwide. This step made it the second film to gross more than $2 billion worldwide after Avatar.

Overall, the Titanic held 15 weeks at number one, achieving 14 Oscar nominations and 11 statuettes.

The movie ironically held the all-time box office record for 12 years until Cameron stole his own crown with Avatar.

4. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)

Abrams combined the old and the new for this movie, hoping viewers would still be interested in following the Star Wars trilogy and prequels.

It turns out they were, with the film grossing $936.7 million at the box office. The film showcases a period of thirty years after the defeat of the Galactic Empire where Han Solo and his young allies face a new threat from the evil Kylo Ren and the First Order.

It became the highest-grossing film of 2015 and the third-highest-grossing film at the time of its release.

It remains the highest-grossing domestic release of all time, surpassing Avatar and joining the $2 billion group within 54 days.

5. Jurassic World (2015)

According to Rotten Tomatoes, the definitive site for movie and TV reviews, this movie became the second-best-reviewed film in the Jurassic series, meaning Spielberg’s many script changes paid off.

Jurassic World battled competitors like the Avengers and Minions in the summer of 2015 but came out on top, becoming the third film since Titanic to pass $600 million at the domestic box office.

Jurassic World topped the Jurassic Park movie franchise by making over $1.304.8 million worldwide.

Legacy Effects provided an animatronic Apatosaurus for the film and maquettes were used to show the velociraptors. Many of the dinosaurs were computer generated.

Sadly, Stan Winston, a special make-up effects creator and acquaintance of Spielberg, died before he could deliver the use of the previous animatronic dinosaurs from Jurassic Park.

Why is the box office so important?

Many of these movies are discussed initially in terms of the results they achieved during the box office period and there is a reason for that.

The box office looks at how much money the movie generates over the opening weekend of the film, including domestic and international sales figures, unless international sales are not instantly available.

The importance of box office results lies in determining how popular a movie has been and whether it has been a success or a failure.

Major and minor factors can affect box office numbers. The budget laid out to make the movie, how much advertising was implemented and the public response to the actors participating in the movie. For example, Marvel’s use of Iron Man, Captain America and Thor was a massive hit.

There is pressure on studios to decide on the best release date – school holidays often influence a studio’s choice.

What do box office numbers show?

Marketer and blogger Neal Sivadas found that in the results from his configured box office data in 2018. May, June, July, November, and December were the months that saw the best box office return, as predicted.

Neal used data from thousands of films from the database which producer Gitesh Pandya keeps up to date on all recent releases. The site provides all box office monetary figures with details of the top ten titles, amounts made in dollars since release and a list of upcoming releases.

Box Office Guru shows that Avatar has taken the box office by storm again with their new movie, ‘Avatar: The Way of Water’, remaining number one for four weeks.

Since its release last month, Avatar has racked up over $516,800,000, showing that James Cameron continues to dominate the box office and Christmas remains an effective period for a movie release.


Credits for the Main photo: Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic (1997), © 2011 Paramount Pictures and Twentieth Century Fox - IMDB

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