Not all movies are created equal. The process of writing, producing, and directing for the silver screen can be long and arduous for anyone, but the process of turning small-budget, indie films into reality is worlds away from that of massive Hollywood blockbusters. These glossy big budget films tend to shy away from big risks in plot or casting, opting instead for tried and true storylines and well-known actors that can handle the publicity tours and social media campaigns that inevitably precede their release. Despite this cookie cutter approach, it’s enlightening to see which projects present the biggest return on all that investment. And considering all the media noise surrounding premieres nowadays, you probably wouldn’t be able to list the highest grossing movies of all time off the top of your head.
Although there are a few metrics that can be used to measure how much money any particular movie makes, for this list we’ve used the cumulative worldwide box office. This statistic likely represents a movie’s overall success more accurately rather than only domestic box office amounts or first weekend numbers.
You can actually learn quite a bit from this list of the highest grossing movies of all time. For example: with the exception of Titanic, every movie on this list is either part of a larger franchise (e.g. Harry Potter, Jurassic World, Star Wars, etc.) or generated so much hype that sequels were all but guaranteed after the first weekend (Avatar, Frozen). This is probably a huge part of the argument studio execs make when pitching yet another installment to these seemingly never-ending franchises; the staggering amount of commas in the figures is reason enough to ignore those cynical critics who keep insisting Hollywood start being more original. Sure, these movies might have predictable storylines and recycle through casts, but if they could make this much money, it becomes surprisingly easy for studios to ignore arguments for original content or diversity.