Cinema has been in a state of constant evolution ever since the first moving images were created in the 19th century, thanks mostly to advances in technology. One can only imagine how audiences from the early 20th century might react if they saw the latest Star Wars movie.
Yet despite the technological advancement in filmmaking, some trends have remained largely the same — especially when it comes to audience preferences. Though some other genres sometimes manage to steal moviegoers’ hearts, audiences consistently are drawn to action, suspense, and adventure on the screen — and so studios consistently produce films to match these tastes.
24/7 Tempo determined the most popular movie released each year since 1930, based on domestic box office sales and Internet Movie Database user ratings. These illustrate how tastes have both changed and, in some ways, stayed the same.
While not every film on the list would be considered action or adventure, the majority would – starting with 1930’s “All Quiet on the Western Front.” Modern audiences’ appetite for these genres is mostly satiated by big budget blockbusters, including a number of different superhero movies and Star Wars films. Action and adventure films are often ranked among the best movies of all time, when accounting for audience ratings.
Film franchises have largely dominated the domestic market starting in the 1970s. In addition to the six Star Wars movies on the list, all three Lord of the Rings films also are on the list as well as both “Alien” and “Aliens.”
Interestingly, despite the list’s nearly 90-year span, a few directors appear several times, illustrating they are best at capturing the public’s interest. With six movies, Steven Spielberg has the most movies on the list, followed by Alfred Hitchcock with five. Christopher Nolan has four, as does animation director Clyde Geronimi for his Disney films.
To determine the most popular movies released each year since 1930, 24/7 Tempo created an index based on the domestic box office gross and the number of total Internet Movie Database user ratings for its 5,600 top-rated movies. For cases in which the domestic box office gross was unavailable, we chose the movie with the highest number of votes. Domestic box office data comes from IMDb and is not adjusted for inflation.