Time to check out the most successful movies of all-time based on their box office figures. The rankings of the 21 films are based on their box office gross when adjusted for inflation per 2010 figures, which means more recent released have been dialed back, although it didn’t change their spot on the chart. You’ll find plenty of James Cameron, a lot of Star Wars, quite a few Steven Spielberg, and even 3 movies from the 1930’s, including the two first animated features by Dinsey.
21. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2: A perfect example of how strong this series was on film, the 8th Harry Potter film (the second part of the split 7th book) made $1.342 billion after its 2011 release, which is $1.286 billion worldwide when adjusted for inflation. It broke 16 different box office records at the time.
20. Avengers – Age of Ultron: It didn’t matter that the second Avengers film was far inferior to the first. The 2015 release made just over $1.4 billion worldwide, which is $1.292 billion when adjusted for inflation around the world. The next officially titles Avengers movie, Infinity War, will come out in 2018.
19. Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace: Widely considered the worst of the Star Wars film (we see the new movies trying to ignore the prequel trilogy as much as possible), the Phantom Menace carved up the box office when it came out in 1999, making $1.027 billion, which is $1.3 billion adjusted for inflation. It is one of 3 Star Wars movie on the list.
18. The Lion King: The 1994 Disney mega hit was the most successful and best during the studio’s Renaissance, making $968.5 million worldwide, which is good enough for $1.323 billion when adjusted for inflation. The movie did spawn a number of spin-offs, but none of them went to the cinemas.
17. Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King: The conclusion of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was probably the best film in the series, not to mention the most successful. Released in 2013, it made $1.12 billion worldwide, or $1.34 when adjusted for inflation. Years later The Hobbit trilogy made a lot of money, but felt like a money grab to many instead of an epic retelling of a great story, like the LOTR cinema experience turned out to be.
16. Pinocchio: Released in 1940, the tale of the wooden boy who wanted to be a real one was the 2nd animated film by Disney. It made $84 million on a $2.2 million budget. Adjusted for inflation it’s at $1.386 billion worldwide. A sequel was in the works in the early 2000’s but was scrapped around 2005.
15. Furious 7: The story of the Fast & the Furious franchise is an incredible one, considering it flatlined after the third film only to be resurrected and become one of the biggest money makers Hollywood has ever known. The 7th installment made $1.516 billion worldwide in 2015, or $1.4 billion when adjusted for inflation.
14. The Avengers: Phase 1 of Marvel’s Cinematic ambitions peaked with The Avengers, more or less the first attempt to put so many Superheroes on screen together. It worked like a charm both in the eyes of the critics and moviegoers, making $1.52 billion, which is $1.429 billion when adjusted.
13. Jurassic Park: A groundbreaking movie at the time (1993) which still looks amazing due to the minimal use of CGI, which wasn’t as advanced as it is now. The Steven Spielberg film began a franchise that was dormant for a while, making $1.029 billion worldwide, or $1.494 billion when adjusted for inflation.
12. Jurassic World: It took Universal a while to kickstart the franchise, but the 2015 film was a mega hit for some inexplicable reason (not that good of a movie), making $1.67 billion, down to $1.531 billion on our inflation calculator based on the 2010 numbers.
11. Doctor Zhivago: To me, this was the most surprising film on the list. The 1965 epic made $111.7 million, $1.551 billion adjusted for inflation. Critics were impressed with the grandeur and visuals of the movie at the time, but it was highly criticized for romanticizing the Russian Revolution. Most of the movie takes place in the pre World War I years, the War itself, the Russian revolution and the Russian Civil War.
10. The Exorcist: The 1973 film based on a 1971 book based on a 1949 exorcism was massive hit, making over $400 million (exact number unknown), which is $1.601 billion adjusted for inflation. It is still considered as one of the scariest movies ever made, usually topping (or close to it) all-time horror movies lists.
9. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial: Every movie I’m writing about teaches me something new. In E.T’s case, it’s that there’s a longer name to the film’s title. This all-time classic made $792.9 million at the time (released in 1982), which is $1.711 billion when adjusted for inflation.
8. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens: The return to the Star Wars universe was, as expected, a huge success, under the reviving hands of J.J. Abrams. Bringing back the endless battle between the light & dark sides of the Force made $2.068 billion in the box office, dialed down to $1.9 billion when adjusted for inflation.
7. Jaws: The film is credited for birthing the summer blockbuster and a new approach to market films, while also giving sharks an even worse reputation than they had, one they certainly didn’t deserve. In terms of facts, Jaws made $470.7 million in 1975 (only $9 million budget), which is $1.913 billion when adjusted for inflation.
6. The Sound of Music: A hugely successful adaptation of the 1959 Broadway Musical, the Sound of Music charmed audiences and scorched box offices in 1965. The story of Maria and the von Trapp’s made $286.2 million in the box office back then, $1.955 billion when adjusted for inflation. I really dislike musicals, but this film is something special.
5. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The first animated feature film by Disney (and the 1st movie I ever watched in the cinema), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was a massive success, making $418.2 million worldwide, which is $2.116 billion when adjusted for inflation. The movie has been re-released to the theatres many times over the years.
4. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope: The first Star Wars film changed so many things in movie making, cinema trends and pop culture in general it just might be the most influential cinematic creation of all-time. A New Hope grossed $775.4 million in 1977, $2.2 billion when adjusted for inflation.
3. Avatar: James Cameron keeps talking about sequels (4 of them planned!!!) but for now, all we have is the 2009 original, which is the highest grossing film of all-time with $2.788 billion. When adjusted for inflation, it drops to 3rd, making $2.799 billion. A rather bland story, however the visuals are incredible, and were truly one-of-a-kind when the movie first came out.
2. Titanic: 12 years earlier Cameron released the mega tear-jerker, labeled as an epic romance-disaster film. It was the first billion-dollar film, making $2.187 billion worldwide, good enough for $2.805 billion when adjusted for inflation. The film sold an estimated 128 million tickets during its cinematic run in the United States alone.
1. Gone With the Wind: The almost 4-hour movie from 1937 remains the most successful film in history. The 1936 novel adaptation set in the South during the Civil War and reconstruction era turned into a film filled with memorable quotes that hold up well to this day. It made just under $400 during its cinematic run, which is $3.861 billion when adjusted for inflation.