In just three weeks, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” has raked in more than $760 million, solidifying its position as the top grossing movie in American history. Accounting for ticket price inflation, however, the seventh installment of the Star Wars franchise doesn’t even crack the top 20 highest grossing film of all time.
Adjusting movies for ticket price inflation is a common way to compare the popularity of movies from different years. The calculation is done by multiplying the number of tickets sold from the year the movie was released through the present day by the current estimated average ticket price. In 2016, the average movie ticket costs an estimated $8.61.
“Gone with the Wind” — one of the most famous movies in the history of cinema — earns the distinction of highest grossing movie of all time, bringing in a total of $1.74 billion since it was made in 1939. In fact, 14 of the 25 highest grossing films were released prior to 1980.
While a film’s primary release almost always grosses more money than subsequent releases, 17 of the top grossing films have been released more than once — either as reissues or special editions, or in new formats such as IMAX or 3-D. “Star Wars,” for example, grossed more than $307 million when it was first released in 1977. When the special edition trilogy was released in theaters in 1997, the film brought in another $138 million. Adjusted to today’s ticket prices, the first “Star Wars” movie might have grossed more than $1.5 billion, the second highest of all time.
Not all initial releases are the most profitable. Disney’s 1937 release of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” grossed just $66.6 million, while three subsequent releases after 1980 grossed the film an additional $118 million. In today’s ticket prices, the Disney classic might have made $940 million.
Creating multiple installments of popular franchises is another way studios can drive up revenues. After adjusting for ticket prices, five of the seven “Star Wars” movies land in the top 25 grossing films of all time. Additionally, the original “Jurassic Park,” as well as the 2015 revival, “Jurassic World,” both make the list. Disney classics, such as “The Lion King,” “101 Dalmatians,” “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” and “Fantasia,” are also among history’s top grossing films.
To identify the top grossing films of all time, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed gross domestic movie theater ticket sales for U.S. films from movie ticket tracking website Box Office Mojo. Ticket prices are inflation adjusted to 2016 ticket prices.
These are the top-grossing films of all time.