Box Office Blockbusters: The Top Grossing Movies in the Last 30 Years
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Box Office Blockbusters: The Top Grossing Movies in the Last 30 Years

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Top Grossing Movies in the Last 30 Years

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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.

RankTitleLifetime GrossYear
1Avatar$2,847,246,2032009
2Avengers: Endgame$2,797,501,3282019
3Titanic$2,201,647,2641997
4Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens$2,068,455,6772015
5Avengers: Infinity War$2,048,359,7542018
6Jurassic World$1,670,516,4442015
7The Lion King$1,657,870,9862019
8The Avengers$1,518,815,5152012
9Furious 7$1,515,255,6222015
10Frozen II$1,450,026,9332019
11Avengers: Age of Ultron$1,402,809,5402015
12Black Panther$1,347,597,9732018
13Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2$1,342,321,6652011
14Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi$1,332,698,8302017
15Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom$1,310,464,6802018
16Frozen$1,281,835,2462013
17Beauty and the Beast$1,264,434,5252017
18Incredibles 2$1,243,089,2442018
19The Fate of the Furious$1,236,005,1182017
20Iron Man 3$1,214,811,2522013
21Minions$1,159,444,6622015
22Captain America: Civil War$1,153,337,4962016
23Aquaman$1,148,485,8862018
24The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King$1,142,630,9122003
25Spider-Man: Far from Home$1,131,927,9962019
26Captain Marvel$1,128,462,9722019
27Transformers: Dark of the Moon$1,123,794,0792011
28Skyfall$1,108,569,4992012
29Transformers: Age of Extinction$1,104,054,0722014
30The Lion King$1,083,720,8771994
31The Dark Knight Rises$1,081,142,6122012
32Joker$1,074,251,3112019
33Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker$1,074,148,4862019
34Toy Story 4$1,073,394,5932019
35Toy Story 3$1,066,970,8112010
36Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest$1,066,179,7472006
37Rogue One: A Star Wars Story$1,056,057,7202016
38Aladdin$1,050,693,9532019
39Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides$1,045,713,8022011
40Despicable Me 3$1,034,800,1312017
41Jurassic Park$1,033,928,3031993
42Finding Dory$1,028,570,9422016
43Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace$1,027,082,7071999
44Alice in Wonderland$1,025,468,2162010
45Zootopia$1,023,792,5582016
46The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey$1,017,003,5682012
47Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone$1,006,968,1712001
48The Dark Knight$1,005,973,6452008
49Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1$977,043,4832010
50Despicable Me 2$970,766,0052013

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.

RankFilm Studio# of Top Grossing Titles
1Disney26
2Universal Studios8
3Warner Bros8
420th Century Fox2
5Paramount2
6New Line Cinema1
7Dreamworks1
8Sony2

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.”

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Misc

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.

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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.

Earth's Seasonal Climates

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.

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10 Travel Destinations for Post-Pandemic Life

Excited to get back to travelling the world? This infographic highlights the 10 most popular tourist destinations.

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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.

Bon Voyage

Here were the 10 most popular travel destinations in 2019, measured by their number of international arrivals.

CountryNumber of international arrivals in 2019 (millions)
🇫🇷 France*90.0
🇪🇸 Spain83.5
🇺🇸 U.S.79.3
🇨🇳 China65.7
🇮🇹 Italy64.5
🇹🇷 Turkey51.2
🇲🇽 Mexico45.0
🇹🇭 Thailand39.8
🇩🇪 Germany39.6
🇬🇧 United Kingdom39.4

*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.

Beaches Galore

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:

Expect Turbulence

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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