When the world discovered that director James Cameron was building a 775 ft replica of the Titanic for the 1997 film, everyone knew the film would either be a massive success or a monumental failure. Just how much of a success would eventually floor naysayers and supporters alike when the film became the first ever to gross $ 1 billion worldwide less than four months after being released.
Here are your top 25 highest-grossing movies of all time, from the lowest to the undisputed box office king.
Captain America: Civil War (2016) $1.153 billion
The Russo brothers’ Civil War is ranked 25th on our list and is arguably one of the best films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. To label Captain America: Civil War as part of the Captain America trilogy is almost unfair. While it clearly is that, it functions more or less as Avengers 2.5.
Additionally, it introduced Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther and Tom Holland’s Spider-Man – a timely and very effective introduction. Civil War became the highest-earning film of 2016, grossing a whopping $1.15 billion worldwide. That includes a domestic haul of $408 million.
Minions (2015) $1.159 billion
After two blockbuster Despicable Me films, the time finally arrived to tell the story of Gru’s eccentric, loveable, yellow sidekicks. It was a genius move.
The Minions, the breakthrough stars of the Despicable Me films, were given their own movie in 2015, and big money was earned. Minions scored the biggest opening weekend ever for Illumination Entertainment, grossing over $500 million at the international box office. It went on to earn an additional $336 million domestically and $823.3 million from international audiences and made just under $1.16 billion in total.
Iron Man 3 (2013) $1.215 billion
Despite being a stronger film than Spider-Man: Far From Home, Iron Man 3 had a similar knock-on effect: it was the first MCU film to follow The Avengers, the franchise’s most successful entry at the time, and its trailers portrayed a traumatized Tony Stark coping with the events of the alien attack.
While its box office success speaks for itself, the adaptation of The Mandarin we meet in Ironman 3 is usually linked with more controversy than triumph. The scriptwriter probably thought it was a charming bait-and-switch, but fans thought it was a disservice. Despite the controversy, it is one of Marvel’s highest-grossing films.
Fast & Furious 8 (2017) $1.236 billion
The Fate of the Furious, F8, or Fast & Furious 8 – whatever you choose to call it, the eighth film in the long-running franchise was a commercial success but didn’t do so well with the fans. After the highs of James Wan’s Furious 7, F8 fell short of everyone’s expectations. It was the lowest-rated Fast & Furious film among reviewers since the fourth installment. It even trailed the sixth Fast and Furious movie domestically.
Still, it did exceptionally well abroad, becoming the sixth film to gross a billion dollars outside the United States and Canada. In total, the seventh and eighth installments of this franchise cost half-billion dollars to produce and grossed a total of $2.75 billion worldwide.
The Incredibles 2 (2018) $1.243 billion
The Incredibles, directed by Brad Bird, was released four years before the MCU, at a period when the Pixar image was as close to an assurance of commercial success (and quality) as the movie business had.
Fourteen years later, in the midst of the superhero movie revolution, Bird’s sequel more than doubled the original’s grosses and became the largest-grossing animated film ever in the United States. Outwitting, outlasting, and outperforming the other, lesser-known “Fantastic Four” by leaps and bounds, it became a firm favorite of children and parents alike.
Beauty and the Beast (2017) $1.274 billion
If we ignore Alice in Wonderland – which we really should, as it was a disaster – Beauty and the Beast confirmed the Disney live-action formula: slightly modify the songs, hire pleasant if not innocent actors, and always, always stick to the original, even if it feels detrimental to the film.
Beauty and the Beast became the first animated film in history to receive a nod for Best Picture, so a flop would have meant a minor disaster for Disney. Fortunately for the studio, it was a resounding success, establishing itself as the highest-grossing live-action musical film of all time.
Frozen (2013) $1.282 billion
Do you want a build a Snowman? Sorry, we just had to. When Frozen came out, it immediately ruled the world. For a while, it was the highest-grossing animated film ever made by Disney. It won Oscars for Best Original Song as well as Best Animated Feature, with the ultimate earworm, “Let It Go,” finding a permanent presence on playlists in every shopping mall and supermarket.
Along with its massive box office success, many critics proclaimed it the best Disney film since the studio’s Renaissance era, but it outperformed itself six years later with the sequel.
Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) $1.311 billion
The Jurassic Park series had been dormant for several years when Jurassic World resurrected it in a dramatic way. The sequel, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, was released in 2018. While critical reaction was divided, the fifth installment in the dinosaur-filled franchise grossed a whopping $1.31 billion at the international box office.
The horror-tinged sequel was a mixed bag; it had a solid opening with one of the franchise’s most heartbreaking scenes to date and displays fascinating gothic flair in its latter half but generally slides into hare-brained silliness by the end of the film. Not exactly T-Rexriffic, but nevertheless successful, with the film ranking as the series’ second highest-grossing film.
Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) $1.333 billion
Rian Johnson’s The Last Jedi, one of the more contentious episodes in the Star Wars series (let’s not even get started on the casino planet), took the normal downturn that has struck earlier middle films in the franchise. The Empire Strikes Back was 31.9% less profitable than A New Hope, Attack of the Clones was 34.6% less profitable than The Phantom Menace, and The Last Jedi was 33.8% less profitable than The Force Awakens.
Many fans, on the other hand, despised it. Despite being divisive, it was also a huge success. Episode VIII debuted with a remarkable $220 million domestically and ended with $1.33 billion. While the film’s legacy is, to say the least, complicated, it was a huge financial success for Disney and Lucasfilm.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II (2011) $1.342 billion
J.K. Rowling’s fantasy series fans got to see their favorite characters (as well as the celebs who portrayed them) grow up right before their eyes. The conclusion of the voyage that began in 2001 also marked the beginning of a new Hollywood pattern of breaking final chapters in half.
With $169.1 million, the second half of the Potter finale set an all-new record for an opening weekend at the time, and its $960 million foreign haul trailed only Avatar and Titanic. In total, the eight Harry Potter films grossed a total of $7.72 billion by the end of their magical run.
Black Panther (2018) $1.348 billion
Following Chadwick Boseman’s debut as T’Challa in Captain America: Civil War, the Marvel Cinematic Universe gave the Black Panther his feature film. The result was a triumph, with a stunning $1.348 billion earned globally.
The Black Panther’s representation wasn’t its only success – there’s much to be said for Michael B. Jordan’s antagonist’s nuance and desires. Fantastic acting aside, it was the first Marvel film with a black director and an overwhelmingly black cast. Black Panther brought a multitude of firsts to the big screen; as such it was fitting that it became the first superhero movie to receive a Best Picture nomination.
Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) $1.402 billion
After the success of the team’s initial team-up, Joss Whedon returned to the MCU for Avengers: Age of Ultron, one of the franchise’s most eagerly awaited films. Its financial success was evident in the numbers, and it was the second-largest opening ever at the time. How it was received is an entirely different marvel.
While critics and fans were not dismissive of the picture, many pointed out flaws, such as how the titular “Age” lasted essentially no time at all or how the balancing act of the characters made the film almost nonsensical. Even worse, Black Widow called herself a monster since she couldn’t have children. Talk about misreading a room. However, the film does feature some proper A-grade Hulk-smashing.
Frozen 2 (2019) $1.450 billion
A sequel is unavoidable when a movie becomes not just an international sensation but also the highest-grossing film in the history of animated entertainment. Its runaway success commenced with the third-highest opening weekend for an animated movie (following Pixar sequels Incredibles 2 and Finding Dory). Then it became the highest-grossing film for the five-day Thanksgiving holiday, which was even more astounding given that it had only opened the previous weekend.
It became Disney’s sixth billion-dollar film on its fourth weekend of release and has now surpassed the original Frozen as the highest-grossing animated movie of all time.
Top Gun: Maverick (2022) $1.488 billion
Top Gun, Tony Scott’s fighter pilot film, dominated the box office in 1986, grossing $357.3 million globally. It went on to become an internationally acclaimed cult classic. At the time, no one would have guessed that, over thirty-five years later, its sequel would earn more than that in the United States alone, propelling it to No. 7 on the domestic charts and entering the top 25 performers globally at No. 13 with over $1.3 billion in revenue.
Part of that was probably due to Tom Cruise reprising his role as Pete “Maverick” Mitchell. Still, wisely executed fan support and specially constructed, state-of-the-art IMAX cameras inside cockpits for dazzling action scenes also played a role in delivering 2022’s biggest crowd-pleaser.
Furious 7 (2015) $1.515 billion
The Fast & Furious franchise’s largest box office hit until Furious 7 was the sixth film, which collected $789 million worldwide. So what changed from previous entries, which were either minor hits or complete disasters?
The honest explanation is tragedy: Paul Walker, the film’s co-star alongside Vin Diesel, died during production, forcing James Wan to pause filming while they figured out how to move forward. Against all odds, they pulled together one of the most emotional tributes in any blockbuster by striking a pitch-perfect balancing act between footage they already had and discreet CGI.
The Avengers (2012) $1.520 billion
The Avengers, released in 2012, is number ten on our list. The final film in the MCU’s First Phase grossed more than $1.5 billion globally, breaking multiple box office records.
Upon its release, the mega-starred film became one of the highest-grossing films in the MCU of all time and the worldwide highest-grossing film of 2012. It also became the first Marvel movie to gross $1 billion in ticket sales. The film also led to the worldwide discovery that archery is one of the world’s coolest sports.
The Lion King (2019) $1.663 billion
Much may be said about 2019’s The Lion King. It was a remake of one of the world’s most beloved Disney animated films of all time and was labeled as live-action even though it was basically animated because everything was done with CGI.
It was met with mixed reactions, as fans found the lifelike animal creatures who love to sing to be particularly unnerving. However, The Lion King grossed an astounding $1.65 billion at the box office, becoming Disney’s highest-grossing remake ever. Quite a feat if you consider that it is the highest-grossing Disney film ever, and it didn’t feature any superheroes or lightsabers.
Jurassic World (2015) $1.671 billion
When the first Jurassic Park film graced our theatres in 1993, it became the highest-grossing film ever, and it continues to shatter records to this day. Fortunately for us, after 22 years, Steven Spielberg decided it was time to return to Isla Nublar and brought us Jurassic World. The adventure follows the debut of a brand-new modern theme park on the island, presumably discarding all of the lessons we were supposed to learn during the first film – and making new ones along the way.
This film would always succeed and gross more than a billion dollars. It was the second-best-reviewed film in the trilogy after its release after Jurassic Park, and it immediately became one of the highest-grossing movies ever made.
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) $1.921 billion
One of the MCU’s most recent flicks is also one of its most successful. Spider-Man: No Way Home had to backtrack after Far From Home’s identity-revealing cliffhanger, but that conclusion wasn’t what drew fans in.
In what was probably the worst-kept surprise in cinematic history, No Way Home reunited Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield’s spidey-wall-crawlers with their adversaries, including Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin and Alfred Molina’s Doc Ock. Is it really surprising that it’s Spider-Man’s highest-grossing film? We think not.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018) $2.052 billion
We’ve officially reached the point where films crossed the $2 billion milestone. Thanos’ emergence has been a ticking time bomb since the oversized Titan was first revealed in The Avengers’ post-credits scene. Dread it, avoid it. Destiny still comes, and Infinity War assembled all of our heroes for one of the most epic battles we’d ever seen.
The film deserves kudos for skillfully navigating between so many personalities and settings, from Titan to Wakanda. Its legacy, though, will forever be how it left us staggering out of theaters, tears dripping from our faces, wondering how the universe could be so cruel as to show us Spiderman’s final moments in Ironman’s arms.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) $2.071 billion
In recent years, George Lucas’ prequel series has received some reappraisal, particularly when it comes to Obi-Wan Kenobi. By 2015, Lucasfilm was ready to take another shot at the galaxy far, far away, and The Force Awakens became the first film to be launched as part of the new trilogy.
You may draw all the parallels to A New Hope you want because The Force Awakens is as close to perfect as a Star Wars film can get. It was impossible to describe the magic in the air on opening night as John Williams’ theme blared through the speakers. It definitely deserves to be at the top of the franchise’s highest-grossing films and on this list’s top five.
Titanic (1997) $2.254 billion
Due to Titanic’s enormous cost and significant delay from the top summer blockbuster spot, its fate was widely anticipated to be a monumental catastrophe.
But time has taught everyone to never bet against James Cameron. Titanic held the number one slot in North America for 15 weeks in a row, a record that has yet to be broken and is unlikely to be broken ever again. There’s a reason the director dubbed himself “King of the World” at the 1998 Academy Awards: he is.
Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) $2.315 billion
The sequel to James Cameron’s King of the box office, Avatar: The Way of Water, has dominated theatres since its premiere at the end of 2022, fast becoming the sixth movie in history to break the $2 billion mark. It is a festival of eye candy and, as with its predecessor, a film that must be watched multiple times on multiple screens.
It’s all due to the ideal combination of excitement, offline passion (social media will try to tell you that no one cares about Avatar, which is a lie), distributors abandoning multiplexes in fear of getting wrecked by Cameron, and a film that’s every bit amazing as it should have been.
Avengers: Endgame (2019) $2.799 billion
Before we even get into the details here, ponder the jump from number four to number two: At the box office, Avengers: Endgame made roughly $600 million more than Titanic, and no other film has managed to wedge itself into that space until Avatar: The Way of Water came along. It’s a massive commercial feat that’s difficult to completely appreciate unless you’re an accountant playing with all those zeros daily.
Endgame concluded the Infinity Saga and finished an 11-year adventure that kicked off with Iron Man in 2008. For some of us, that is a lifetime, and it was the ride of our lives. If you were lucky enough to sit in a theatre at the moment Captain America caught Mjolnir and cried out,”: Avengers, assemble!” you know what it is to LIVE. We can only hope the MCU will go back to its former glory days in the near future.
Avatar (2009) $2.923 billion
To the King of the box office! Whether you love it or hate it, a mediocre film will never reach revenues over and above $2.8 billion from theatre exhibitions only. Watching Avatar for the first time was like finally being able to see, and several moviegoers went to see the film again and again (and again and again). From regular 3D to IMAX, we just couldn’t get enough! Still can’t to be honest.
Interestingly, in its theatrical run, Avengers: Endgame briefly overtook Avatar, even pushing an “extended” version. Nonetheless, James Cameron only needed to re-release Avatar in China, and it became number one again – Firmly gluing that crown where it just might stay for another decade (or three).