This last week, it’s very likely that, while browsing your social media feed, you stumbled upon articles or posts centred around Avengers: Endgame’s success at the box office. It’s only been weeks, and the superhero flick has already grossed more, on paper, than any Jurassic Park film, any Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and even Star Wars film. This teaches us a few things – first, people nowadays seem to really dig superhero movies. Second, it’s always a good marketing trick to have ‘end’ or ‘final’ in your film’s title – people will always be extra interested and aroused when they’re told something is ending.
One further consideration, very important, is that the overall economy is doing very well at the moment (fingers crossed that it stays like this for a while), so going to the cinema is not the financial hassle it was 10 years ago, perhaps. Which leads me to a very important point: adjusting a box office revenue for inflation is important in giving an overall picture for just how much a certain sum was worth at a particular point in time, compared to nowadays. Thus, even though Avatar remains the highest-grossing film of all time, on paper, the situation changes when we adjust for inflation. Having said that, let’s see how the top 6 lines up.
With 8 Oscars to its name, collected at the 1940 ceremony, Gone With the Wind is the world’s highest-grossing movie of all time: 3,7 billion USD adjusted to the rate in 2017. It made headlines when it was released: 4 hours long, a daring approach to language and dialogue, as well as top-notch performances. Notably, Hattie McDaniel was the first African-American to be nominated and win an Academy Award. The film remains one of the most studied pieces in film schools all over the world.
While James Cameron’s creation did not win any major awards, scooping up only 3 Oscars (for cinematography, visual effects and art direction), the Canadian director couldn’t have been too upset. Avatar gathered 2,8 billion USD (adjusted to 3,25 billion USD in 2017), and attracted quite a cult following back in the day – it’s almost crazy that a sequel hasn’t been released yet.
I might have been only around 4 years old when Titanic was released, but that didn’t stop me from being actively involved in the buzz garnered around the film. I remember chatting about it with fellow kindergarden classmates, without having watched it, of course. Twenty two years later, I still haven’t watched Titanic, but I’m aware of its legendary status, and I’m fully aware that Leo DiCaprio might not have been as famous if he hadn’t frozen to death as Jack Dawson.
The first and, undoubtedly, the best Star Wars film, A New Hope spelled not only the beginning of a billion-dollar saga, but also offered a new hope for sci-fi movies everywhere. It might not have won Best Picture, but it scooped up 6 Academy Awards, and gathered just over 3 billion adjusted USD. The closest any subsequent Star Wars film ever got was in 2015, with the debut of the last trilogy – The Force Awakens got a bit over 2 billion USD.
This was proably the first musical that I ever watched – my mum really wanted me to watch it. It came in an era when musicals were certainly more popular and mainstream than they are today, but it remains one of the highest-praised representatives of the genre. It won 5 Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, and although Robert Wise wasn’t there to collect the statuettes in person, the film collected around 2,5 billion USD.
Although we’re still being delighted by Steven Spielberg masterpieces nowadays, his highest financial triumph came all the way back in 1982. E.T. is one of the biggest reference points in the history of the sci-fi genre, and although it only received 4 relatively minor Academy Awards, it quickly attained cult status. Total revenue? Just a tad under 2,5 billion USD, adjusted to 2017.