Ranking the highest-grossing movies of all time

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Ranking the highest-grossing movies of all time

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(Credit: 20th Century Fox)

Film

First and foremost, despite the likes of Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Quentin Tarantino saying otherwise, cinema is a money-making venture. Sure, countless movies have been released in the century-long history of the cinema industry that would argue filmmaking is a noble pursuit of art, and whilst this is true, industry executives, producers and major studios would say otherwise. 

Every month of every year, Hollywood studios vie for box office supremacy, releasing what they think audiences will want to watch, with varying degrees of success. Whilst once upon a time, it was the star power of directors like Francis Ford Coppola and actors like Tom Cruise that could sell tickets, we are now living in the era of the movie franchise, where the likes of MarvelStar Wars and Fast and Furious dominate.  

Such becomes obvious when you look at the list of the highest-grossing films of all time (not adjusting for inflation), where the true strength of Disney studios can fully be realised, owning six of the top ten movies. Though, as is often the case with the highest-earning films of any given year, many of these films are remembered for their flashy action sequences rather than their contributions to the artistic landscape of cinema. 

So, to set the record straight, we’ve put it upon ourselves to rank each movie in the top ten highest-grossing films of all time, from worst to best. 

Things start with Jon Favreau’s live-action adaptation of The Lion King, which earned a staggering $1.66 billion in 2019 despite its poor critical reviews that judged the film to be a subpar version of the iconic 1994 animation. Next up, we’ve put James Wan’s Furious 7, which gave a respectful goodbye to actor Paul Walker whilst earning a sweet $1.515 billion in the process. 

At number eight, we’ve stuck the disappointing dinosaur action movie Jurassic World by Colin Trevorrow, the first in a needless trilogy of sequel movies from Universal, which arguably tarnished the franchise’s quality. On the flip side, we’ve given number seven to a film that kicked off a cinematic monopoly, with Joss Whedon’s The Avengers earning $1.518 billion in 2012, helping the Marvel machine well on its way to financial greatness. 

Jump forward nine years, and Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: No Way Home would demonstrate the strength of the Marvel franchise, with the film earning $1.9 billion thanks to the star power of Tom Holland and Zendaya. Its success came amid the Star Wars franchise’s struggle to achieve greatness, with The Force Awakens being arguably the only celebrated movie of the franchise that Disney has released, earning $2.06 billion in 2015. 

Still, despite the established name of Star Wars, it pales in comparison to the success of Marvel Studios, with the back-to-back Infinity War films of 2018 and 2019 setting a new precedent for the summer blockbuster. Avengers: Endgame takes number four, and Avengers: Infinity War takes number three on our list, with both films earning a combined total of $5.01 billion. 

The highest-grossing films of all time:

  1. The Lion King (Jon Favreau, 2019) – $1.66 billion
  2. Furious 7 (James Wan, 2015) – $1.515 billion
  3. Jurassic World (Colin Trevorrow, 2015), $1.67 billion
  4. The Avengers (Joss Whedon, 2012), $1.518 billion
  5. Spider-Man: No Way Home (Jon Watts, 2021), $1.9 billion
  6. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (J.J. Abrams, 2015), $2.06 billion
  7. Avengers: Endgame (Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, 2019) – $2.7 billion
  8. Avengers: Infinity War (Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, 2018) – $2.04 billion
  9. Titanic (James Cameron, 1997) – $2.2 billion
  10. Avatar (James Cameron, 2009) – $2.9 billion

Taking the top spots are two films from the iconic James Cameron, who remarkably holds two original movies in the top five highest-grossing movies of all time. At number two, we’ve put his 1997 love story Titanic, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, whilst at number one is the science fiction marvel Avatar, which also happens to be the highest-grossing movie of all time, earning a staggering $2.9 billion throughout its lifetime. 

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