The Top Grossing Movies in the Last 30 Years
People have varying opinions on what constitutes a good movie. And while it’s nearly impossible to identify a film’s intrinsic quality—at least, in an objective way—one thing that can be measured is the revenue that a movie generates.
With this in mind, here’s a look at the top grossing movies worldwide since the early 1990s, using data from Box Office Mojo. These figures include box office revenue as of May 2021, but don’t consider other revenue sources like merchandise sales.
The Full List: Top 50 Highest Grossing Movies
Coming in at number one on the list is Avatar—since its release in 2009, this Oscar-winning hit has grossed $2.84 billion in box office sales.
|4||Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens||$2,068,455,677||2015|
|5||Avengers: Infinity War||$2,048,359,754||2018|
|7||The Lion King||$1,657,870,986||2019|
|11||Avengers: Age of Ultron||$1,402,809,540||2015|
|13||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2||$1,342,321,665||2011|
|14||Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi||$1,332,698,830||2017|
|15||Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom||$1,310,464,680||2018|
|17||Beauty and the Beast||$1,264,434,525||2017|
|19||The Fate of the Furious||$1,236,005,118||2017|
|20||Iron Man 3||$1,214,811,252||2013|
|22||Captain America: Civil War||$1,153,337,496||2016|
|24||The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King||$1,142,630,912||2003|
|25||Spider-Man: Far from Home||$1,131,927,996||2019|
|27||Transformers: Dark of the Moon||$1,123,794,079||2011|
|29||Transformers: Age of Extinction||$1,104,054,072||2014|
|30||The Lion King||$1,083,720,877||1994|
|31||The Dark Knight Rises||$1,081,142,612||2012|
|33||Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker||$1,074,148,486||2019|
|34||Toy Story 4||$1,073,394,593||2019|
|35||Toy Story 3||$1,066,970,811||2010|
|36||Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest||$1,066,179,747||2006|
|37||Rogue One: A Star Wars Story||$1,056,057,720||2016|
|39||Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides||$1,045,713,802||2011|
|40||Despicable Me 3||$1,034,800,131||2017|
|43||Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace||$1,027,082,707||1999|
|44||Alice in Wonderland||$1,025,468,216||2010|
|46||The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey||$1,017,003,568||2012|
|47||Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone||$1,006,968,171||2001|
|48||The Dark Knight||$1,005,973,645||2008|
|49||Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1||$977,043,483||2010|
|50||Despicable Me 2||$970,766,005||2013|
Avatar cost $237 million to produce, meaning it’s turned a considerable profit over the years. But Avatar’s success was fairly unsurprising, considering the stellar track record of the film’s writer and director, James Cameron.
Cameron also directed Titanic, which broke records back in 1998 when it became the first film to break $1 billion in worldwide box office revenue. In fact, Titanic was the top grossing movie for years, until Avatar stole its title in 2009.
Interestingly, in 2019, Avatar was temporarily dethroned by Avengers: Endgame, which held the number one spot for a couple of years. But thanks to a recent theatrical reissue in China (which alone grossed an estimated $21.1 million) Avatar has since reclaimed its title as the top grossing movie worldwide.
Avengers: Endgame remains a close second, with $2.80 billion in gross revenue. It’s one of 23 films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and besides Endgame, eight other movies from the MCU also appear on the top grossing movies list:
- Avengers: Infinity War – #5
- The Avengers – #8
- Avengers: Age of Ultron – #11
- Black Panther – #12
- Iron Man 3 – #20
- Captain America: Civil War – #22
- Spider-man: Far From Home – #25
- Captain Marvel – #26
Disney acquired Marvel Entertainment back in 2009. And while Marvel honored its existing contracts with other distributors, Disney owns the lion’s share of Marvel film rights and has earned over $18.2 billion as a result.
The Top Distributors
Marvel movies aren’t the only Disney productions to make the list. In fact, 26 of the 50 top grossing films were originally released by Disney, making it the top distributor.
|Rank||Film Studio||# of Top Grossing Titles|
|4||20th Century Fox||2|
|6||New Line Cinema||1|
Warner Bros. and Universal Pictures tie for second. Warner Bros. was the domestic distributor of some pop culture classics like Harry Potter, The Dark Knight, and The Hobbit, while Universal Pictures released Fast and Furious, Despicable Me, and Jurassic Park.
It’s worth mentioning that several of the distributors on the list are labels of larger studios. For instance, Warner Bros. is the parent company of New Line Cinema, Dreamworks is a branch of Universal, and 20th Century Fox was recently bought by Disney and rebranded to 20th Century Studios.
The COVID-19 Impact
The entertainment business was significantly impacted by the global pandemic, like many other industries across the globe. In 2020, global box office revenue totaled $12.4 billion—a 70% dip from 2019.
Despite recent setbacks, industry professionals are feeling confident that things will recover post-pandemic. In a recent interview with The Deadline, Chairman of STXfilms Adam Fogelson said, “People like leaving their homes and having fun, emotional, communal experiences together…I don’t think that will change.”
Animated Map: Visualizing Earth’s Seasons
This map visualizes Earth’s seasons, showing how our planet’s Arctic sea ice and vegetation changes throughout the year.
Animated Map: Visualizing Earth’s Seasons
Why does Earth have seasons?
Many people think the seasons are dictated by Earth’s proximity to the Sun, but this isn’t the case. It’s the Earth’s tilt, not its closeness to the Sun, that influences our seasons.
This animated map by Eleanor Lutz visualizes Earth’s seasons, showing how the temperature changes impact ice levels in the Arctic as well as vegetation more broadly. It also highlights the cloud cover and sunlight each hemisphere receives throughout the year, with each frame in the animation representing a month of time.
Why is Earth Tilted?
Unlike some of the planets that sit completely upright and rotate perpendicularly, Earth rotates on a 23.5-degree axis.
But why? A commonly accepted theory among the scientific community is the giant impact hypothesis. According to this theory, a celestial object called Theia collided with Earth many years ago, when the planet was still forming. This collision not only knocked Earth into its tilted position—some believe that the dust and debris from this impact ended up forming our moon.
Ever since, our planet has been rotating with a slight tilt (which itself is not fixed, as it “wobbles” in cycles), giving us our varying seasons throughout the year.
How Earth’s Tilt Influences our Seasons
As our planet orbits the Sun, it’s always leaning in the same direction. Because of its tilt, the different hemispheres receive varying amounts of sunlight at different times of the year.
In December, Earth is technically closer to the Sun than it is in June or July. However, because the Northern Hemisphere is tilted away from the Sun during December, that part of the planet experiences winter during that time.
The graphic above by the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC) visualizes Earth’s orbit throughout the year, showing when each hemisphere receives the most direct sunlight (and thus, experiences summer).
The Climate Change Impact
While our seasons have always varied, it’s worth noting that climate change has impacted our seasons, and changed how much Arctic ice we lose each summer.
In the past, millions of miles of ice remained frozen throughout the summer months. In the 1980s, there were 3.8 million square miles of ice in July—that’s roughly the same size as Australia.
Over the years, Arctic ice cover has steadily declined. In July 2020, the ice cover was only 2.8 million square miles—a million less than the amount four decades ago.
Some scientists are predicting that we could lose our summer sea ice entirely by 2035, which would have a devastating impact on the Artic’s wildlife and the indigenous people who live there.
10 Travel Destinations for Post-Pandemic Life
Excited to get back to travelling the world? This infographic highlights the 10 most popular tourist destinations.
10 Travel Destinations for Post-Pandemic Life
On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization formally classified the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic. The resulting travel bans decimated the tourism industry, and international air travel initially fell by as much as 98%.
Almost two years later, travel is finally back on the table, though there are many restrictions to consider. Regardless, a survey conducted in September 2021 found that, as things revert to normalcy, 82% of Americans are looking forward to international travel more than anything else.
To give inspiration for your next vacation (whenever that may be), this infographic lists the 10 most visited countries in 2019, as well as three of their top attractions according to Google Maps.
Here were the 10 most popular travel destinations in 2019, measured by their number of international arrivals.
|Country||Number of international arrivals in 2019 (millions)|
|🇬🇧 United Kingdom||39.4|
*Estimate | Source: World Bank
France was the most popular travel destination by a significant margin, and it’s easy to see why. The country is home to many of the world’s most renowned sights, including the Arc de Triomphe and Louvre Museum.
The Arc de Triomphe was built in the early 1800s, and honors those who died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. In 1944, Allied soldiers marched through the monument after Paris was liberated from the Nazis.
The Louvre Museum, on the other hand, is often recognized by its giant glass pyramid. The museum houses over 480,000 works of art, including Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa.
Art isn’t the only thing that France has to offer. The country has a reputation for culinary excellence, and is home to 632 Michelin-starred restaurants, the most out of any country. Japan comes in at second, with 413.
While You’re There…
After seeing the sights in Paris, you may want to consider a visit to Spain. The country is the southern neighbor of France and is known for its beautiful villages and beaches.
One of its most impressive sights is the Sagrada Familia, a massive 440,000 square feet church which began construction in 1882, and is still being worked on today (139 years in the making). The video below shows the structure’s striking evolution.
At a height of 172 meters, the Sagrada Familia is approximately 52 stories tall.
Another popular spot is Ibiza, an island off the coast of Spain that is famous for its robust nightlife scene. The island is frequently mentioned in pop culture—Netflix released an adventure/romance movie titled Ibiza in 2018, and the remix of Mike Posner’s song I Took a Pill in Ibiza has over 1.4 billion views on YouTube.
If you’re looking for something outside of Europe, consider Mexico or Thailand, which are the 7th and 8th most popular travel destinations. Both offer hot weather and an abundance of white sand beaches.
If you need even more convincing, check out these links:
- The 13 Best Beaches in Mexico
- The Best Resorts in Mexico: 2021 Reader’s Choice
- The Best Night Markets in Bangkok, Thailand
- The Best Rooftop Bars in Bangkok
Under normal circumstances, hundreds of billions of dollars are spent each year by international tourists. According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTCC), this spending accounted for an impressive 10.4% of global GDP in 2019.
Travel restrictions introduced in 2020 dealt a serious blow to the industry, reducing its share of global GDP to 5.5%, and wiping out an estimated 62 million jobs. While the WTCC believes these jobs could return by 2022, the emerging Omicron variant has already prompted many countries to tighten restrictions once again.
To avoid headaches in the future, make sure you fully understand the rules and restrictions of where you’re heading.
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