The Highest Grossing Films of all time: What do they tell us?

1 Avatar

2 Titanic

3 Marvel’s The Avengers

4 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

5 Iron Man 3

6 Transformers: Dark of the Moon

7 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

8 Skyfall

9 The Dark Knight Rises
10. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest

11 Toy Story 3

12 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

13 Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

14 Alice in Wonderland (2010)

15 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

16 The Dark Knight

17 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

18 Jurassic Park

19 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End

20 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1

21 The Lion King

22 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

23 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

24 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

25 Finding Nemo

If we look at the list of the highest grossing films of all time, what should we take away when we “read between the lines”?

#1. First of all, Overseas gross makes up over 50% of all these box office totals. That means more people are watching movies in other countries than in the United States. That trend has just appeared in the last few years.

#2.**All but one (Titanic) were made in the last 10 years (2003-2013). Young people don’t want to see old movies. The movies they like are action and adventure and fantasy.

#3.James Cameron made the top two highest-grossing films of all time. As of this year (2013), Director James Cameron is still “King of the World” at the box office.

#4. Three of the films in the top ten are comic book movies. Young people like comic book movies. They know what to expect, and the action is like a storyboard in one of their video games.

#5. There is only one Harry Potter movie-the last one made in 2004 –on the list at # 4. What was old is new again, but also, what was new can become old rather quickly! Harry Potter is in the top ten, but only one of the series is on the list.

#6.** The original Star Wars is not in top ten. In fact, none of the Star Wars movies is in the top ten list. #13 is the Phantom Menace-the Episode 1 film. Star Wars held the highest grossing film record at Number One for only five year. From 1978-1982, Star Wars was in the top spot. But, what was new became old quickly in this business!

#7. **Iron Man 3 is the most current film release on the list-made in 2013.The Avengers is at # 3-it’s second most recently-made film-2012-is in Top 3. So currently, comic book movies are doing really, really well! That means: THAT is the reason for a huge spate of comic book movies!

*8.**One Lord of the Rings film is in the top ten, at # 7. So that means that sequels and movie series are still very successful films. And the name recognition, the “brand name”, if you will, is the selling point for many of these in overseas markets.

#9.**James Bond made the top ten. It’s in Spot # 8-That is the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, starring Daniel Craig. Here’s a case in point: James Bond is one of the oldest “brand name” movie series, and it is still going strong. Skyfall is now in the top ten highest grossing films of all time!

#10.Pirates of the Carribbean is in the Top Ten-at # 10. It’s not the most recent, however. It’s the one made in 2006. (It was the second film in the series). That is why there were so many sequels. They kept hoping to “recreate the magic” and make the money!

What else have we learned?

** The oldest film in top ten list is in Spot # 2- Titanic-released in 1997. Titanic was a love story and DiCaprio is still a huge box-office draw. James Cameron is still making blockbusters and having a huge impact on an ever-changing film industry.
Kids movies, Comic book films, Fantasy, and Science Fiction are all top money makers. Duh! We knew all of these things, but the numbers don’t lie. That is one reason that so many safe bets are sequels and familiar names that producers know will automatically draw people in to the theatre.
If you have a bold vision, you can make a bundle. Thus, it has always been. However, it is harder and harder to get funding for a new, young creative genius.
People still like good stories and well written scripts. There are always going to be some movies that will get made, in spite of the overwhelming odds against them. But, more and more people are lamenting the dearth of the quality films and the innovative scripts coming out of Hollywood.
Skyfall is part of the James Bond series,, then there’s the Harry Potter books, Lord of the Ring/The Hobbit

 books and other brand names that come from books. These books will sell movies. But most likely, the good books will not be the highest grossing films to make the list. (Unless it happens to be a children’s book!).
**There are no rules! Anything can happen in Hollywood-rules are made to be broken! Every time you close a window…(you know the saying), meaning that Hollywood has re-invented itself many times over, as I have documented in the past on the Six Degrees blog.( Shameless plug here: Read my upcoming book: “Six Degrees of Film”, to hear more about the history and timeline of Hollywood films).So the prediction here is that this era will lead to another wave of innovative film-making.
*To reiterate: Small, independent films are still being made…most of the creative writing is seen in these small films.. And on small screens such as HBO, Showtime, and Netflix, …they all have creative productions and are realizing a new wave of creative storytelling for a new generation of viewers.
But, “The Cinema experience” is still valid. (*See the post: “The Cinema Experience” on Six Degrees site). Overseas audiences will make up the bulk of the profit in the coming years. Film-making, and in particular Hollywood film-making, has always been moving in a fluid direction. They go where the money is.
And profits are being made overseas. But that isn’t necessarily the end of film as we know it. It will change and evolve, for sure, but there are still some good films being made. There are just fewer of them and they are harder to find these days.
Children and young people love movies. They love going to their favorite movies over and over again. And one thing still holds true: Creativity will take you far.
‘It Ain’t Necessarily So’ for those who lament the death of the box-office and theatre experience. You don’t even have to be young or have a completely new idea to succeed. Look at James Bond and the Titanic and you know it’s true. It also proves that love stories and tried and true brands will still sell tickets!
One thing that lots of big Hollywood film stars don’t like to hear is this: Big name movie stars don’t necessarily draw in movie audiences. Most of the top films used little known or young up and coming actors to create their characters. DiCaprio had been in movies as a child, but became a star after Titanic.
So, to recap: Take heart from these numbers, which give us a fair amount of good news about the premature announcement that Hollywood film-making is a thing of the past and all good movies are gone forever. There is hope for the future of film. And after all, we are a nation of cock-eyed optimists who usually feel “The Best is Yet to Come!”
**Stay tuned for Part Two of this report on “Highest Grossing Films in Hollywood”

Scroll to Top