The movie industry has changed radically in the past few decades, yet the top-grossing movie of all time is “Gone With the Wind,” released in 1939, more than 80 years ago.
When the industry began, people had to go to movie theaters to watch films. However, with the advent of TV, people could watch movies in their homes. The next evolution was the home video player, then DVD players, and rental stores like Blockbuster, the 9,000-location chain, where people could rent movies to watch at home.
That gave way to mailed DVDs, which was the original foundation of Netflix — which pioneered streaming. Today, with more broadband connections at home, streaming is commonplace. Here are the best comedy movies available to stream right now.)
Movie success is still based on theater ticket sales, though that may no longer be a good yardstick. The COVID-19 pandemic nearly shut down the industry, and streaming became the primary way people watched films. Still, ticket sales continue to be the way that the highest-grossing films are determined.
To identify the top-grossing movies of all time, 24/7 Tempo reviewed gross box office revenue and estimated ticket sales for major motion pictures released in the United States as reported by The Numbers, an online movie database owned by Nash Information Services. Revenue figures are inflation adjusted based on the value of the dollar in 2020.
Action and adventure films (including superhero movies) dominate the list of finalists. Romances, musicals, dramas, and comedies are also represented in the mix. Films date back to the 1930s, with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937) among the early high-grossing movies, having brought in over $1 billion when adjusted for inflation.
Although “Avatar” (2009) is often referred to as the highest-grossing film ever, it is not at the top of the list when ticket sales are adjusted for inflation. (Find out if the top-grossing movies are also among the 100 greatest movies ever made.)
The highest-grossing movie of all time is the controversial Civil War movie “Gone With the Wind,” released in 1939. It is based on a novel, and today some of its content is considered racist. It starred among the greatest movie actors of all time, led by Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh. The film’s inflation-adjusted box office gross is $1.9 billion, on estimated ticket sales of 202.3 million.