Insights: The Best Selling Movies Of All Time

What are the all-time top-grossing movies? You might be surprised to learn that four of the top 20 grossing films of all time were released in 2018, and three more in 2019: The “don’t call it a live-action” remake of The Lion King has made it into the Top 10, and Frozen II wasn’t too shabby either. Avengers: Endgame currently holds the top spot on the worldwide box office list. Of course, increased ticket prices and population growth skew those statistics. No film has ever made a profit comparable to the $3.7 billion that Gone with the Wind’s $390 million in box office profits since its 1939 release would have been if adjusted for inflation. But in this case, we’re looking at the highest-earning films ever in terms of box office revenue.

List Of Best Selling Movies Of All Time

10. Frozen II (2019)

Box office: $1.45 billion
Director: Jennifer Lee, Chris Buck

The Frozen sequel has a sensation of diminishing returns, as if it was only made because Disney didn’t want to pass up an easy billion dollars rather than for any compelling aesthetic or narrative reasons. However, to the studio’s credit, it didn’t need to be this amazing; virtually anything with the title “Frozen II” and Anna and Elsa on the poster would’ve been an instant hit. Frozen II builds on the first film in a logical way and emphasizes the elements that made it successful. spectacular computer animation and opulent show tunes. Gary Martin

9. The Avengers (2012)

Box office: $1.51 billion
Director: Joss Whedon

A much easier accomplishment can be found hidden among the flashy box office results of Joss Whedon’s movie. Yes, Whedon’s directing abilities should be praised for The Avengers. Yes, the movie’s release and reaction provide a logical “And that’s when it was official” moment when the MCU officially took over Hollywood. But for comic book enthusiasts in particular, The Avengers is the first movie to successfully capture and maintain the superhero team dynamic. Even though the X-Men and the Fantastic Four were adapted for the big screen, their movies remained largely static. In contrast to two-way, three-way, or more-way combat, both heroes and villains interacted slowly and separately. The Avengers demonstrated why superhero teams are enjoyable in the same way Raimi’s Spider-Man did for comic book superheroes. Mike Burgin

8. Furious 7 (2015)

Box office: $1.52 billion
Director: James Wan

One gets the clear feeling from seeing the seventh chapter of the fast-paced Fast & Furious franchise that, when presented with a creative decision, the filmmakers asked themselves, “What’s the most insane, over-the-top thing we can do here?” Then they actually did that. Furious 7 raises the bar for physics-defying stunts in a series of movies that have been constantly improving on them. The outcome is a ton of fun. Furious 7 is a mix of a daring heist, a revenge thriller, and a heartfelt farewell to a close friend. The movie is heavily influenced by the life and death of franchise star Paul Walker, who passed away in a car accident before the final scenes were shot. You watch in anticipation of Brian O’Conner’s demise as his character goes through one terrifying adventure after another. It seems inescapable and ready to happen at any moment. In more than a few occasions, Walker’s face has been digitally inserted onto the body of another person; his brothers filled in for him to assist the production get finished. In addition, the film honors his life. In the Furious movies, there is a lot of talk about family, and the group has always taken in stray animals. It’s obvious how much fun the cast is having together and there is definite chemistry between them. Furious 7 has such a rich history that it will resonate most strongly with its ardent following, particularly on an emotional level. Having said that, the movie has enough hilarious action sequences and eye candy to appeal to audiences other than diehards. — Brent McKnight

7. The Lion King (2019)

Box Office: $1.65 billion
Director: Jon Favreau

The Lion King resembles the beloved animated classic more like a bloodless X-ray than a more “realistic” remake. If the goal is to capture the spirit of the original rather than artificially inflate its corpse, the new Disney trend of creating “live-action” versions of their animated catalog—”live-action,” of course, being the exact wrong term for what this is—can serve a purpose other than the obvious profitability of reviving an existing brand name. David Lowery’s Pete’s Dragon wasn’t perfect, but it felt more like a fond cover than, well, taxidermy. The new Lion King has an atmosphere like that. It has a taxidermy-like feel. It has the appearance of computers trying to mimic real life with such rigor and determination that the end product is both dispassionate and slightly ominous. What exactly do these beings look like? The picture is diligently put together, and Favreau delivers the same tenacious professionalism he did in The Jungle Book, a movie that shares many of the same issues as this one. It is far too effective in its work. You know, the fact that The Lion King is The Lion King is the issue. It has great tunes, a ton of entertaining supporting characters, and a universally compelling tale. It is a timeless example of sensation and performance. This version, which seems to have been done on purpose—as if that was the infernal goal all along—drains it completely of vitality in order to make it seem more “realistic.” I would want to see a documentary about these stunning creatures in the wild. With its joy, grandeur, scale, and sense of fun, the original movie is one I would really enjoy watching. This? This weird creature, so literal-minded? I have no idea what this is. — Theo Leitch

6. Jurassic World (2015)

Box office: $1.67 billion
Director: Colin Trevorrow

The fourth installment in its paleontological franchise, Jurassic World is undoubtedly more significant as the second part of the tale of Chris Pratt’s unanticipated rise to movie stardom. Pratt made his goofy tenor work for him in Guardians of the Galaxy, proving that he was clearly born to make a career out of portraying endearing idiots. He almost completely shed that skin for the hard-jawed macho guys of the 1950s B-movie canon with Jurassic World. This change gives the movie an air of inevitableness: Even if brand awareness didn’t offer Jurassic World an advantage at the box office, the imagery of Pratt riding a motorcycle among a group of four raptors should be enough to draw in audiences. This moment, along with similar ones, enabled Jurassic World to serve as a thrilling roller coaster ride that was appropriate. They don’t make for a particularly terrific movie, as might be expected, but Trevorrow has enough distractions in store that the film’s flaws and general sloppiness almost don’t matter. Here, John Hammond’s bizarre idea of a dinosaur theme park is finally realized. — Andy Crump

5. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Box office: $2.05 billion
Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo

When it comes to the transition from the comic book panel to the big screen, Avengers: Infinity War is grandiose in a way that has been frequently sought after but never quite achieved. It is what occurs when filmmakers treat their source material with respect, avoiding needless melodrama while completely embracing the grandeur and sheer majesty of it all. (And if Disney has learnt anything, it’s that the product lines will take care of themselves if you concentrate on the viewer experience.) There are many character interactions and emotional beats in Avengers: Infinity War that the audience has been prepared for by the preceding movies (well, maybe not 2008’s The Incredible Hulk). There are a lot of fast-paced fight scenes in this movie. Because of this, as characters interact for the first time or are reintroduced, authors Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely have lots of freedom to riff and play. Our familiarity with these characters adds resonance to nearly every scene and every line, as the remnants and ripples of emotional arcs laid down in the last decade’s worth of films bolster even the smallest moment. Some of the interactions are predictable (though no less enjoyable)—the immediate ego clash between Cumberbatch’s Dr. Strange and Downey Jr.’s Iron Man, for example. Mike Burgin

4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)

Box office: $2.06 billion
Director: J.J. Abrams

The Force Awakens was the cure for fans’ almost fatal Prequel-itis. This act of restorative cinema was made possible by J.J. Abrams and company in large part by going back to the “dirty future” aesthetic that gave the Original Trilogy such a realistic feel (no matter how absurd the dialogue being delivered by the characters). While The Force Awakens achieves a near-perfect balance between practical and special effects, the first three films benefited from budget and technological limitations, while the next three suffered from an oversupply. I say “mainly” without excluding other elements like casting. In addition to Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Adam Driver all perform admirably in their respective roles. The Force Awakens, in the end, just seems right in a way that the Prequels never did. Mike Burgin

3. Titanic (1997)

Box office: $2.21 billion
Director: James Cameron

Even decades after it first screened in theaters, James Cameron’s blockbuster epic is still so pervasive in popular culture that its technical achievements are overshadowed by nostalgia for young Kate and Leo and that damned Celine Dion caterwaul (not to mention the now-deceased James Horner’s iconic score). Cameron is a skilled storyteller who places a Romeo and Juliet remake aboard the sinking ocean liner and surrounds the made-up romance with historical details, ground-breaking special effects, and jaw-dropping images despite his painfully leaden ear for speech. The dialogue is terrible, the story lapses are occasionally mind-boggling (let’s face it, old Rose is a selfish jerk who throws a priceless artifact into the depths after waxing lyrical about herself), and Billy Zane gives his best mustache-twirling silent movie villain performance, but Titanic is still a painstaking testament to the all-out Hollywood spectacle. Miranda Schurr

2. Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Box office: $2.80 billion
Directors: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo

How does one start? That question, when it comes to Avengers: Endgame, is less an expression of unbridled enthusiasm and more of a practical test of how far Kevin Feige and crew have taken the plot and audience over the course of the preceding 11 years and 21 films. There have been many films with running times of three hours or longer, and even a few franchises with 20 or more films, but nothing comes close to what Disney and Marvel Studios have accomplished in terms of cast size, caliber, and consistency (a moment of silence for Terrence Howard and Edward Norton), or in terms of the relatively short time frame in which those films were made. The MCU’s main strength continues to be its casting, despite our repeated praise for it. The MCU’s batting average in terms of casting is practically obscene, and it’s a key component in ensuring the thematic and emotional payoff (and box office success) of Endgame. Examples include charisma-fueled reinventions of decades-old comic book characters (Iron Man, Ant-Man, Star-Lord), pitch-perfect distillations of decades-old comic book characters (Captain American, Thor, Spider-Man), and pitch-perfect distillations of same (Capt For more than ten years, audiences have lived with these performers’ portrayals of these characters. Many people only know this iteration of these characters. This is why the unexpected ashification of so many heroes at the conclusion of Infinity War left less jaded fans perplexed and upset while hitting even the most cynical comic book veterans right in the feelings. It’s also the reason why, as Avengers: Endgame begins (after a little kick to the gut just in case we’ve forgotten the consequences of that snap), the audience is interested in how the survivors are doing in general as well as what they are going to do. It gives the movie an emotional resonance that is unique in both films and pulpier genre offerings. For all the fireworks in the third act, Avengers: Endgame is very much a movie of quiet moments and small but significant emotional payoffs. Because of this connection, the quiet moments become as valuable to the viewer as the spectacle. Fans of comic books understand the thrill of following all their favorite characters over a series of issues that ends with a “universe at risk” conclusion. Moviegoers now do, too, owing to 21 films in 11 years and one enormous, rewarding three-hour conclusion. Mike Burgin

1. Avatar (2009)

Box office: $2.85 billion
Director: James Cameron

Irony and insincerity have no place in the extended universe of Avatar, which is why it makes sense that it is the highest grossing film ever filmed. It doesn’t really matter whether James Cameron meant for the world of Pandora and its futuristic people to borrow directly from every fantasy ur-text ever created because Avatar is the most fundamental example of modern mythmaking. Every sinew of Cameron’s film bears the herculean effort of truly brilliant worldbuilding, telling the straightforward tale of Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and his Dances with Wolves-like rescue of the Na’vi, natives of the planet of Pandora, from the destructive forces of colonialism. Cameron still seems to believe that “the movies” can give audiences a transformative experience. By creating plants and animals with borderline psychopathic obsessiveness and at the while pushing 3-D technology to its breaking point to bring his monstrous imagination to life, James Cameron hopes that we will care about this world as much as Jake Sully and, by extension, James Cameron does. It was successful; “unobtanium” genuinely exists. For a man whose ambition may have long since surpassed his sense of narrative, sense of reason, or sense of what our oversaturated, over-franchised culture can even bear anymore, four sequels seems like a revolting gambit. But Cameron has often shown us to be mistaken. — Dom Sinacola

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