The 10 highest-grossing movies of all time

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The 10 highest-grossing movies of all time

(Credits: Far Out / Pedro-Marroquin)


Transience isn’t often brandished as a hallmark of quality in the realms of art and entertainment, but neither is longevity. Initial ideas for movies that gain popularity, either through artistic merit or simple entertainment value, have all too often been run into the ground by interminable sequels and reruns. 

Taking George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise as an example, many fans will agree that the universe lost some of its magic after the initial trilogy of the late 1970s and early ’80s. Alas, Lucas returned for the prequel episodes in 1999, garnering notably diminished critical reviews. 

Why, then, did the universe continue to expand through subsequent movies and spin-off series? The answer is, of course, money. In 2012, Lucas sold Star Wars to Disney in a $4billion deal. Since then, the legendary New Hollywood filmmaker has expressed regret over the decision, mentioning that he’s not entirely satisfied with the direction in which Disney has taken his story. 



“I’ve spent my life creating Star Wars — 40 years — and giving it up was very, very painful,” Lucas said in Paul Duncan’s The Star Wars Archives: Episodes I-III 1999-2005. “But it was the right thing to do. I thought I was going to have a little bit more to say about the next three because I’d already started them, but they decided they wanted to do something else. Things don’t always work out the way you want. Life is like that.”

James Cameron, another titan of the realm of filmmaking, has enjoyed monumental success as both a creator of critically praised blockbusters and some serious dough. Cameron’s 1997 epic, Titanic, jump-started the career of a young Leonardo DiCaprio and scraped in a record-breaking $2.2billion during its theatrical release. 

In 2009, Cameron set his sights higher still with Avatar, his otherworldly spectacle of live-action and animation. The movie has grossed $2.9billion, which remains a world record figure. A sequel may not have always been on the cards, but the temptation can be hard to resist when such a mass of money and attention gravitates. 

In 2016, Cameron finally announced plans for the expansion of the Avatar story, with several new movie ideas lined up, pending ongoing success. In 2022, Avatar: The Way of Water was released to mixed reviews, but a haul of $2.3billion ensured it third place on our list below and an alleged three further instalments for the franchise. 

Prior to the arrival of The Way of Water, Cameron noted apprehension concerning the sequel, mostly citing changes over the 13-year gap between the instalments. Talking to Total Film in 2022, Cameron said Avatar could be limited to just three films depending on the success of The Way of Water

“The market could be telling us we’re done in three months, or we might be semi-done, meaning: ‘OK, let’s complete the story within movie three, and not go on endlessly,’ if it’s just not profitable.”

“We’re in a different world now than we were when I wrote this stuff, even. It’s the one-two punch — the pandemic and streaming,” he continued to explain. “Or, conversely, maybe we’ll remind people what going to the theatre is all about. This film definitely does that.”

“The question is: how many people give a shit now?” Well, according to the impressive haul, enough people give a shit for Cameron to keep cranking out the Avatar movies for a few years. 

So, franchises may not necessarily be synonymous with critical reverence, but by gosh, they can turn a profit! See the list of the ten highest-grossing movies (at the box office) of all time below. 

The 10 highest-grossing movies:

  1. Avatar – $2,923,706,026
  2. Avengers: Endgame – $2,797,501,328
  3. Avatar: The Way of Water – $2,320,250,281
  4. Titanic – $2,257,844,554
  5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens – $2,068,223,624
  6. Avengers: Infinity War – $2,048,359,754
  7. Spider-Man: No Way Home – $1,921,847,111
  8. Jurassic World – $1,671,537,444
  9. The Lion King – $1,656,943,394
  10. The Avengers – $1,518,815,515

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