Special Report

Biggest Worldwide Box Office Hits of the Last 20 years

Global box office numbers provide a fascinating illustration of just how big-budget blockbuster movies speak a universal language across international boundaries.

24/7 Tempo has assembled a list of the top worldwide box office hits over the past 20 years. As the list makes obvious, the movies that make the most money are mostly works of fantasy and science fiction and superhero films, both live-action and animated. Franchises like “Harry Potter,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “Star Wars,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and various Marvel properties make up much of the roster. (It isn’t necessary to add to the box office receipts to see many of these: Consider the best movie franchises to marathon from home.)

Click here to see the biggest worldwide box office hits of the last 20 years.

The list includes plenty of the same movies that were among the biggest domestic box office hits over the same period, though they tend to be in different positions on the list. This shows an interesting difference in viewing tastes between the United States and the rest of the world. Nonetheless, only three films from the domestic list’s top 10 fail to appear in the worldwide top 10. These are the 50 top-grossing movies of all time.

As far as movie studios are concerned, however, the biggest difference between domestic and international hits is the amount of money they bring in. The top movie in the U.S. (“Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens”) raked in $936.7 million while the top film globally brought in an incredible $2.8 billion. See below to find out what it was.

To determine the biggest worldwide box office hits since the 2000s, 24/7 Wall St. obtained worldwide box office, production budgets, and gross box office from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by consulting firm Nash Information Services. Supplemental data on casting came from IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon. Data was collected mid-March 2021.

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