Movies are not just products of art, but also profit-driven economic goods. Modern film productions usually have budgets of several million dollars available. Not much of a problem for a production company as long as the movies generate profits in the end. The most financially successful films have done just that.
Nowadays, the top highest-grossing movies generate gross revenues that go well into the billions at the box office. But what movies are the most successful in that regard? The following list shows you the ranking of the global top ten highest-grossing movies of all time. (Unsurprisingly, all of them are Hollywood productions).
Note: This ranking lists the overall highest-grossing movies. For the inflation-adjusted ranking of the Top 10 Highest-Grossing Movies of All Time, click here.
The 10 Highest-Grossing Movies of All Time
James Cameron originally planned to make ‘Avatar’ in the 1990s but then concluded that the technical possibilities weren’t yet developed enough to realize his vision for the film, a futuristic science fiction epic. It took another whole decade until the film was then finally made. The leading actors were Samuel Worthington and Zoe Saldana, and the production proved to be a historic financial success. Now, almost a decade and a half after its release, the film remains the highest-grossing movie in the history of the movie industry.
2. Avengers: Endgame
‘Avengers: Endgame’ represents the 22nd movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and the fourth installment of the extremely successful ‘Avengers’ franchise. It is the highest-grossing superhero movie of all time. The film was directed by the Russo brothers and stars the known cast from past movies of the Avengers and Marvel universe: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, and many more.
3. Avatar: The Way of Water
‘Avatar: The Way of Water’ marked the highly anticipated second chapter in James Cameron’s ‘Avatar’ franchise, set in the futuristic science fiction world of Pandora. The successor movie proved to be almost as financially successful as the original, the highest-grossing movie of all time. Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana returned to reprise their starring roles 13 years after the original, while Kate Winslet joined the cast as a new addition.
Titanic, released in 1997, still is the fourth highest-grossing movie in history, which should tell you all about the extraordinary impact the movie had. Based on the real-life 1912 sinking of the Titanic, the movie directed by James Cameron tells a fascinating, romantic, and dramatic story at once, with spectacular effects and imagery. The movie’s starring roles were played by Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, who proved to be the perfect pair to tell a love story in the middle of a tragedy in the middle of the Sea.
5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens
‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’ marks the seventh installment of the franchise and serves as a direct successor to ‘Star Wars: Return of the Jedi’, the third movie in the saga, released in 1983. ‘Star Wars’ already was one of the most financially successful movie franchises in history. With ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’, director JJ Abrams managed to bring George Lucas’ creation onto a whole new level of box office success, however. The 2015 movie (still) starring Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill, was the most financially successful of the entire franchise and indeed also the fifth highest-grossing movie in movie history.
6. Avengers: Infinity War
Just a year before the ‘Avengers: Endgame’ movie, the Russo brothers gave the world ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, the 19th movie in the MCU franchise and the third of the ‘Avengers’ franchise. The movie was slightly less financially successful than its successor but still managed to break the two billion U.S. dollar mark. The strong Marvel universe star lineup consisting of the well-established Marvel stars Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, and Scarlett Johansson certainly helped in the movie’s huge financial success.
7. Spider-Man: No Way Home
‘Spider-Man: No Way Home’ represents the eighth canonic Spider-Man film and the last one in the Tom Holland Spider-Man trilogy as well as the 27th movie of the MCU. Directed by Jon Watts, the movie introduced the multiverse concept to the Spider-Man franchise. The film has had tremendous financial success and stands now as the highest-grossing Spider-Man movie as well as the most successful single-superhero movie of all time. The movie stars Tom Holland as Spiderman, alongside Zendaya as Spiderman’s girlfriend MJ, and Benedict Cumberbatch as Dr. Strange.
8. Jurassic World
‘Jurassic World’ reignited the awe and wonder of Steven Spielberg’s original ‘Jurassic Park’. Directed by Colin Trevorrow, the film serves as a spiritual successor to the original trilogy. It introduces a new generation of characters while paying homage to the franchise’s roots. The film also features a diverse array of genetically modified dinosaurs, with the mighty Indominus Rex at the center of the chaos. Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas-Howard got the starring roles in the movie, which proved to be highly successful at the box office.
9. The Lion King
‘The Lion King’ brought back the beloved characters and story of Disney’s all-time classic to life in a visually stunning and technologically groundbreaking adaptation. Directed by Jon Favreau, the film was produced as a photorealistic animated musical drama, while keeping the plot of the timeless story largely unchanged. The movie was highly financially successful and is now the highest-grossing Walt Disney adaptation of all time. Actors Donald Glover, Seth Rogen, and Chiwetel Ejiofor got the starring (voice) roles, while the film also featured many big names in supporting roles, such as singer Beyonce Knowles-Carter and comedian John Oliver.
10. The Avengers
‘The Avengers’ assembled a cinematic milestone, bringing together multiple superheroes of the Marvel comic book universe to the big screen for the first time. This epic collaboration marked the sixth movie of the MCU and the culmination of Marvel Studios’ Phase One while setting the stage for a new era of interconnected storytelling in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This groundbreaking movie was directed by Joss Whedon and ended up being a huge success at the box office, launching what is now the highest-grossing movie franchise of all time. Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Mark Ruffalo played the major roles, while many other big names had supporting roles.
The 10 Highest-Grossing Movies of All Time
(as of December 2023)
|Top 10 Highest-Grossing Movies of All Time:
All-Time Gross: $2.92 billion
|2. AVENGERS: ENDGAME
All-Time Gross: $2.80 billion
|3. AVATAR: THE WAY OF WATER
All-Time Gross: $2.32 billion
All-Time Gross: $2.26 billion
|5. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS
All-Time Gross: $2.07 billion
|6. AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR
All-Time Gross: $2.05 billion
|7. SPIDER-MAN: NO WAY HOME
All-Time Gross: $1.92 billion
|8. JURASSIC WORLD
All-Time Gross: $1.67 billion
|9. THE LION KING
All-Time Gross: $1.66 billion
|10. THE AVENGERS
All-Time Gross: $1.52 billion
|The 10 highest-grossing movies of all time by all-time gross. The gross numbers are nominal and not adjusted for inflation.
[Updated as of December 2023]