Special Report

100 Top Grossing Movies of All Time

Charles Stockdale

Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures

20. The Lion King (1994)
> Domestic gross (adj. for inflation): $796,077,352
> Domestic gross (unadjusted): $422,783,777
> Estimated tickets sold: 89.1 million
> Starring: Matthew Broderick, Jeremy Irons, James Earl Jones

“The Lion King” combined innovative animation techniques with an unforgettable soundtrack — that earned two Oscars — to create an animated Disney classic. The movie had a higher gross at the domestic box office in 1994 than any other film, then had a successful IMAX release in 2002 and a 3D release in 2011.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

19. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
> Domestic gross (adj. for inflation): $806,487,053
> Domestic gross (unadjusted): $474,544,677
> Estimated tickets sold: 90.3 million
> Starring: Ewan McGregor, Liam Neeson, Natalie Portman

“Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace” has relatively poor reviews online, winning over 53% of critics and 59% of audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. Moviegoers were undoubtedly eager for a new Star Wars film, however, having waited 16 years since the release of “Return of the Jedi.” “The Phantom Menace” spent its first four weekends at No. 1 at the domestic box office and a total of 11 weekends in the top 10.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

18. Jurassic Park (1993)
> Domestic gross (adj. for inflation): $818,561,306
> Domestic gross (unadjusted): $402,828,120
> Estimated tickets sold: 91.7 million
> Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum

“Jurassic Park,” about a dinosaur theme park that descends into chaos, was the highest grossing movie in 1993 at the domestic box office, bringing in nearly double the gross of its closest competitor, “The Fugitive.” In addition to the money grossed during its initial release, “Jurassic Park” made more than $45 million during a 2013 re-release.

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

17. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
> Domestic gross (adj. for inflation): $839,950,442
> Domestic gross (unadjusted): $309,306,177
> Estimated tickets sold: 94.1 million
> Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher

The concluding chapter of George Lucas’s original Star Wars trilogy sold an estimated 94.1 million tickets since its release. The movie grossed over $100 million that year, more than 1983’s second biggest earner, “Tootsie.”

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

16. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
> Domestic gross (adj. for inflation): $850,751,277
> Domestic gross (unadjusted): $858,373,000
> Estimated tickets sold: 95.3 million
> Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo

“Avengers: Endgame” is the top grossing film in the hugely popular Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. The movie — which runs for more than three hours — once again finds the Avengers teaming up to restore order to the universe in the wake of Thanos’s destructive actions. The film was widely enjoyed by critics, who gave it a 94% Freshness rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

15. Avatar (2009)
> Domestic gross (adj. for inflation): $868,974,728
> Domestic gross (unadjusted): $760,507,625
> Estimated tickets sold: 97.3 million
> Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver

Filmmaker James Cameron’s movie about a Marine on a mission in a beautiful alien world is notable in part thanks to its cutting-edge visuals, for which it won an Oscar. The movie cost $237 million to produce, and it grossed more than triple that at the domestic box office.

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

14. Ben-Hur (1960)
> Domestic gross (adj. for inflation): $875,558,817
> Domestic gross (unadjusted): $74,422,622
> Estimated tickets sold: 98.0 million
> Starring: Charlton Heston, Jack Hawkins, Stephen Boyd

Historical epic “Ben-Hur” won 11 Academy Awards in 1960, including Best Picture. The massive film cost $15 million to make (an exceptional amount at the time) and could have potentially bankrupted MGM Studios. The risk paid off, and the movie’s domestic run lasted for 111 weeks.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

13. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
> Domestic gross (adj. for inflation): $876,078,543
> Domestic gross (unadjusted): $290,271,960
> Estimated tickets sold: 98.1 million
> Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher

The second film in the Star Wars saga has the highest rating from critics on Rotten Tomatoes of all the movies in the saga, at 94%. The movie’s intricate plot and fleshed out characters made it a massive blockbuster and helped develop the Star Wars universe. It won one Oscar for Best Sound and was also given a Special Achievement Award for its advanced special effects.

Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Distribution Company

12. One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)
> Domestic gross (adj. for inflation): $892,261,489
> Domestic gross (unadjusted): $144,880,014
> Estimated tickets sold: 99.9 million
> Starring: Rod Taylor, Betty Lou Gerson, J. Pat O’Malley

The production team behind “One Hundred and One Dalmatians” used inexpensive animation methods to keep costs low. The movie’s production budget came out to an estimated $4 million, with the film eventually grossing $144.9 million (unadjusted) at the domestic box office. The movie had numerous theatrical re-releases — in 1969, 1979, 1985, and 1991 — each of which more lucrative than the previous one.

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

11. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
> Domestic gross (adj. for inflation): $965,467,843
> Domestic gross (unadjusted): $936,662,225
> Estimated tickets sold: 108.1 million
> Starring: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac

Director J.J. Abrams’ “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens” takes place 30 years after the events portrayed in “Return of the Jedi.” For the first time, Star Wars creator George Lucas was not involved in the film, which was released a decade after “Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.” “The Force Awakens,” which cost an estimated $245 million to make, grossed $248 million its opening weekend.