With its fearless heroes (and anti-heroes) and reliance on recurring tropes, modern action movies, one might argue, pick up where classic Westerns left off. Consider 1970s blockbusters like “Star Wars” (later subtitled “Episode IV – A New Hope”) or “Superman,” which introduced new types of epic showdowns and intrepid protagonists while expanding upon the theme of good versus evil. (Can you answer these real Jeopardy! questions about “Star Wars?)
These films gave birth to lucrative franchises, and many others followed. It should come as no surprise that many of the most successful blockbusters of the past five decades have been franchise installments. Examples include everything from “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” to “The Matrix Reloaded” to “Transformers: Age of Extinction.”
Not every title is a critical darling or even a fan favorite, but most have made killings at the box office nevertheless. (The action genre makes a strong showing on our list of the most successful R-rated movies of all time.)
While the action genre might be cooling off a bit, it remains ubiquitous around the globe. Often touting spectacle over substance, these types of movies make for easy draws both domestically and abroad. Directors such as James Cameron and Ryan Coogler certainly hope the trend continues as they unleash upcoming installments in the respective “Avatar” and “Black Panther” franchises later this year.
To determine the highest-grossing action movies of all time, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data on global box office from Opus Data, a product of Nash Information Services. Action films – as defined by genre classification on IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon – were ranked based on lifetime global box office, adjusted for inflation. Global box office figures were adjusted for inflation using historical ticket prices from the National Association of Theatre Owners. Ratings on IMDb and audience and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator, are current as of October 2022. Director credits come from IMDb.
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