A good indication of success for any blockbuster is its box office numbers. If the digits are right, then there’s a good chance the movie was also a hit critically.
But with all the films and movie series being released over the years, it’s unlikely you can remember which ones broke records off the top of your head.
So, to refresh your memory, here is a rundown of the 50 most successful movies and highest-grossing films of all time (according to BoxOfficeMojo).
1. Avatar (2009)
Lifetime Gross: $2,802,013,640
Avatar is officially the best-selling movie worldwide. Stealing the crown from Endgame, this movie was reissued in China in 2021 which added another $12.3 million to its total haul.
Any director would be disappointed to see their hard work defeated so easily at the box office, but the good thing here is that James Cameron beat his very own masterpiece.
This groundbreaking sci-fi blockbuster about humans exploring a planet inhabited by blue people not only changed everything we thought we knew about special effects, it also beat Titanic by becoming the highest-grossing movie of all time only two months after its release.
2. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Lifetime Gross: $2,797,501,328
The epic showdown that concluded the MCU’s third phase in 2019 unsurprisingly broke all possible box office records in a matter of weeks, becoming the most successful movie ever for two years. Endgame was the highest-grossing movie of all time until the crown was swiftly stolen by Avatar.
To give it more chances to become king of the box office at the time, Disney and Marvel re-released the film two months later with six minutes of new footage, a good idea that changed film history in just a few days.
In this jaw-dropping epilogue, the Avengers attempt to beat Thanos and save the world years after he made half the planet disappear with just one snap.
3. Titanic (1997)
Lifetime Gross: $2,471,754,307
A Romeo & Juliet-inspired tale set on the Titanic might seem a little soap-ish, yet James Cameron hit us all in the feels when he released this iconic romance movie in 1997.
The iconic Hollywood blockbuster that made Leo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet international stars was an enormous surprise at the time and managed to break free from the “silly blockbuster” stereotype by earning 14 Oscar nominations and 11 wins. That heart certainly did go on.
4. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
Lifetime Gross: $2,068,455,919
In 2015, the long-awaited return of the Star Wars saga was a huge deal. The numbers it made at the box office proved that the saga’s spell hadn’t worn off even after almost a decade and some questionable installments (we’re looking at you, George Lucas).
Despite a rather traditional storyline about a chosen one rising against a totalitarian empire, The Force Awakens exceeded expectations thanks to J.J. Abrams’ vision and a fresh cast, giving the audience the space thrills they had been waiting for.
5. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Lifetime Gross: $2,048,359,754
You’ve got the gist by now – when Marvel and Disney want to rule the world, they just get out of bed and do it. With the penultimate installment of the Thanos storyline, in which Captain America and his friends realize that the giant manipulative purple man might not be good news after all, the MCU hit it big by reuniting all the heroes we know and love.
Banking everything on those crossover thrills that we were all waiting for since the first Avengers, this major blockbuster resulted in a gut-wrenching cliffhanger and a lovely check for Disney – $2 billion in only 48 days.
6. Jurassic World (2015)
Lifetime Gross: $1,670,516,444
Two decades after Steven Spielberg made us shudder for the first time with its themed park filled with ‘friendly’ dinosaurs, director Colin Trevorrow received the green light to create his own sequel to the 90s masterpiece.
A more modern and CGI-efficient opus which, though it lacked the charm of the originals, was entertaining enough to rack up $600 million domestically, the third movie to do so since Titanic. Best believe James Cameron is keeping an eye on these pterodactyls.
7. The Lion King (2019)
Lifetime Gross: $1,657,870,986
Although many didn’t look kindly upon this CGI reboot of the Disney masterpiece, parents all over the world rushed to cinemas to make their six year-olds understand why they lose their marbles every time someone sings Hakuna Matata.
Paradoxically, the film became the lowest-rated movie on Rotten Tomatoes (52%) to have had such a huge success at the box office. But we don’t think that will keep anyone at Disney from sleeping at night.
8. The Avengers (2012)
Lifetime Gross: $1,518,815,515
The Avengers’ concluded the first successful series of Marvel films with a big bang, paving the way for a new storyline in which all the main heroes would regularly reunite and kick some butt together.
With fantastic acting, mouth-watering special effects, and a classic goodie vs baddie storyline, this movie became the first motion picture to rack up $200 million in only one weekend, allowing the Avengers to start their ascension to box office stardom. The rest is cinema history.
9. Furious 7 (2015)
Lifetime Gross: $1,515,255,622
The seventh installment in the Fast & Furious franchise was released after Paul Walker’s death, a tragic event that led more people (even those who weren’t hardcore fans) than ever to run to the nearest theatre and pay tribute to the late star.
With each installment always more visually impressive than the last, it’s with this seventh opus that James Wan managed to get $147 million in just one weekend, surpassing the previous movies far and wide.
Is Furious 7 the actor’s greatest movie? Check out our list of Paul Walker’s best roles!
10. Frozen II (2019)
Lifetime Gross: $1,450,026,933
Although it isn’t quite as memorable as the first, Frozen II attracted thousands of curious families who were eager to see the follow-up to Elsa’s adventures more than five years after its record-breaking predecessor.
Thanks to the hype and effective merch launched to hypnotize children all over the world in-between releases, this sequel financially surpassed its forbearer and eventually reached the coveted spot of highest-grossing animated movie of all time.
11. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
Lifetime Gross: $1,402,809,540
Three years after the heroes had first joined forces, Age of Ultron made waves at the box office once again by banking on the zillion fans that couldn’t wait to see Iron Man & co again.
Although the battle against the world-destroying Ultron hasn’t become a fan-favorite and didn’t make quite as much as the three other installments, people were content enough to see explosions and fists being swung. Disney also got a little bit richer. Everybody wins!
12. Black Panther (2018)
Lifetime Gross: $1,347,597,973
The first ever superhero film to have an all-Black cast, Black Panther‘s movie was also a visual and storytelling triumph that helped the MCU leave its comfort zone by exploring a part of its universe that fans were less familiar with.
The epic story that follows T’Challa as he is crowned king of the hidden, highly-advanced country of Wakanda, became the fifth film to get a whooping $200 million in one opening weekend.
13. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011)
Lifetime Gross: $1,342,223,936
The last installment in the world-famous wizarding franchise is unsurprisingly the first film of the saga to have reached the top 15 of this list.
With an epic showdown and some gut-wrenching moments that marked the end of many people’s childhoods, this second and last part of the series earned the complete Harry Potter film series a worldwide success with over a dizzying $7 billion.
14. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)
Lifetime Gross: $1,332,698,830
The controversial, penultimate installment of the Skywalker saga might have split the fanbase, but it is still 14th on the highest-earning list.
With a respectable $600 million at the domestic box office, this is something that other equally ambitious installments (cough, prequels) never managed to do despite an enormous budget.
15. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018)
Lifetime Gross: $1,310,464,680
Critical acclaim or not, good box office numbers are an unstoppable force that almost always lead to a second installment.
This is broadly the story of the Jurassic World franchise which, even if it hasn’t had half of the impact the original films had, still had enough visual wonders to attract people to its repetitive but effective “hey, dinosaurs are back” formula.
16. Frozen (2013)
Lifetime Gross: $1,281,019,275
Of course, what is a list of box office successes without Frozen? Although Tangled helped Disney regain speed a few years earlier, it is this Norway-inspired musical gem that really marked the beginning of a new – extremely lucrative- era for Mickey.
Although it was defeated by its cousin, The Lion King reboot, Frozen is still holds the record for one of the biggest international box office successes for an animated movie. With numbers like these, you can bet Disney isn’t letting it go anytime soon.
17. Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Lifetime Gross: $1,264,064,831
You know the drill by now – not all movies on this top-earning list are necessarily masterpieces in everyone’s eyes.
But although the okay-enough Beauty and the Beast live-action reboot was nowhere near as charming and genuine as its animated ancestor, the heavy use of auto-tune and Ewan McGregor’s questionable French accent didn’t keep the film from entering the record books in less time than it takes to say “be my guest”.
18. The Incredibles 2 (2018)
Lifetime Gross: $1,243,089,244
There’s something to be said about a movie being so good that people are still as excited about its characters 14 years later. The family of superheroes that captivated children in 2004 came back in full force for this new 2018 film, picking up exactly where it left off, and audiences were not disappointed.
With gorgeous animation and a cool family we all wish we could be a part of, you can imagine Pixar execs got a lovely check in the post.
19. The Fate of the Furious (2017)
Lifetime Gross: $1,236,005,118
Though it didn’t quite touch the stars like the seventh installment had in 2015, a lot of people were still eager to see Vin Diesel drive dangerously fast with his friends in The Fate of the Furious.
Despite huge numbers worldwide, this opus was not quite as critically acclaimed as its predecessors, with only 67% on Rotten Tomatoes. Not that it’s keeping anyone from planning a ninth one.
20. Iron Man 3 (2013)
Lifetime Gross: $1,214,811,252
This third chapter in the Iron Man film series made Tony Stark an undeniable legend in the MCU.
Although some fans were a bit disappointed by the way the plot strayed away from the comics, Tony’s fight against the powerful Mandarin remains the top grossing non-Avenger MCU film overseas with over $800 million.
21. Minions (2015)
Lifetime Gross: $1,159,444,662
Whether you find them cute or incredibly irritating, there’s no denying that the ‘Minions’ are one of the most memorable non-human creatures to have ever come out of a non-Disney franchise.
The yellow sidekicks got their own story after making viewers laugh in Despicable Me, in a spin-off tale that became the second highest-grossing animated movie overseas, surpassed only by the inimitable Frozen.
22. Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Lifetime Gross: $1,153,561,649
Following in Iron Man’s footsteps, Captain America finally got his very own box office victory thanks to the last installment in his stand-alone storyline.
This film saw Cap confront Tony Stark and half of the Avengers squad in an ultimate battle of principles and also served as an introduction to the long-awaited MCU version of Peter Parker – something that helped Civil War become the fifth highest-grossing opening in cinema history.
23. Aquaman (2018)
Lifetime Gross: $1,148,485,886
Its charismatic lead and its more-fantasy-than-sci-fi story however, allowed it to move Christian Bale’s The Dark Knight out of the way and make DCEU history. Aquaman’s movie was indeed captivating, but enough to beat one of the best trilogies of all time? Shocking, we know.
24. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Lifetime Gross: $1,142,456,987
Over fifteen years after its release, The Return of the King continues to shine bright like a diamond despite its age.
With special effects that still hold up over a decade later, and an epic story that saw its hype revived by the Game of Thrones frenzy, this last installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy proved to be a worthy send-off with 11 Oscars and some unforgettable long queues at your local theatre.
25. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)
Lifetime Gross: $1,131,927,996
This release happened after a long, scary feud between Sony and Disney, whose collaboration almost marked the end of Tom Holland’s run as the webslinger. Fortunately, the reconciliation of the two giants helped this second installment become Sony’s highest-grossing movie of all time.
Money doesn’t always buy happiness, but it sure can mend business friendships!
26. Captain Marvel (2019)
Lifetime Gross: $1,128,462,972
In addition to making history in the MCU with the very first stand-alone movie led by a female character, Carol Danvers also beat Wonder Woman’s numbers and became the seventh Marvel film to reach $1 billion internationally.
What’s more, the first chapter of Captain Marvel’s adventures received a thumbs from audiences and critics alike, and we’ll be getting a second one very soon!
27. Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon (2011)
Lifetime Gross: $1,123,794,079
Ironically, the lowest-rated Transformers movie made the most money globally. Although the franchise was already as tired as your grandfather after a run by 2011, people were still curious enough to rush to theatres and see what new adventures would happen to Shia LaBeouf in robot-land.
Only the last Harry Potter installment beat its box office numbers that year.
28. Skyfall (2012)
Lifetime Gross: $1,108,561,013
Keeping a formula as old as James Bond fresh and interesting is an arduous task, but Skyfall succeeded where the previous opus, Quantum of Solace did not.
Considered the best James Bond movie ever, Daniel Craig’s third mission as 007 earned a beautiful 92% on Rotten Tomatoes, while also racking up a whopping $300 million domestically and $1 million globally. It’s not every day you get the best of both worlds, but James Bond did just that.
29. Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)
Lifetime Gross: $1,104,054,072
Still struggling to go beyond a rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes with its fourth installment, the Transformers franchise still honored its huge budget with some really good box office numbers.
Even without Shia LaBeouf, who had then fallen from grace in blockbuster-land, the movie still made $1 billion globally. Next time you feel low about your creative work – remember that even with an 18% on Rotten Tomatoes, there is hope as long as there are banknotes.
30. The Lion King (1994)
Lifetime Gross: $1,083,720,877
If the world was fair, this movie would have been in the top 10, but the 1990s were a different time and it is still amazing that The Lion King is still in this list 26 years later.
If you also loved Simba’s story, you won’t be surprised to hear that it stayed the highest-grossing animated film in the U.S. until Finding Nemo in 2003.
31. The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
Lifetime Gross: $1,081,142,612
This is yet another success for Christopher Nolan who did what very few directors ever managed to do with a comic-book adaptation – give Bruce Wayne a complex and captivating storyline that felt more like a well-crafted thriller than a superhero movie.
This great Batman movie didn’t only receive praise for its perfect execution and epilogue, it also broke records for any DC-inspired trilogy by reaching almost $3 billion worldwide.
32. Joker (2019)
Lifetime Gross: $1,074,251,311
It is truly impossible to compare Heath Ledger’s Joker to Joaquin Phoenix’s, but one thing is sure – Todd Phillips’ take on Batman’s arch-nemesis exceeded expectations.
Seducing a whole new generation of DC fans upon its release, Joker earned an honorable 68% on Rotten Tomatoes and gained legions of hardcore fans who were moved to the chore by this origin story. A success also visible in the numbers it brought to Todd’s bank account.
33. Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
Lifetime Gross: $1,074,144,248
That said, the film was not received very well, with only 51% on Rotten Tomatoes. What’s more, the film basically launched a civil war among fans after changing directors and going into a completely new direction. Nonetheless, the numbers were a pretty sight and allowed the entire franchise to close the Skywalker era with a bang.
34. Toy Story 4 (2019)
Lifetime Gross: $1,073,394,593
Although many people thought the third Toy Story had closed the saga in the best possible way, this fourth installment still attracted huge crowds of nostalgic adults (occasionally accompanied by their children). In fact, this 2019 movie helped make history for Pixar by giving it its best opening ever.
35. Toy Story 3 (2010)
Lifetime Gross: $1,066,970,811
When it was still believed the franchise would end with this installment, everyone praised it as the perfect epilogue. Toy Story 3 not only provided the perfect sequel to a beloved story, it also stayed the second highest-grossing domestic success for Disney until 2012.
36. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)
Lifetime Gross: $1,066,179,747
Although the Pirates of the Caribbean series has long lost its luster today, it will surprise you to learn that it was once all the rage and made Disney even richer than it already was.
That year, Dead Man’s Chest became the studio’s biggest opening ever, though it was clearly the beginning of the end for Jack Sparrow as the movie got only 53% on Rotten Tomatoes.
37. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
Lifetime Gross: $1,056,057,720
The first Star Wars spinoff wasn’t expected to do much except make some hardcore fans smile, and yet this side story that takes place before the destruction of the first Death Star was a hit among fans and critics alike.
Even the hugely awaited Solo, Han’s stand-alone movie, didn’t match its box office success. You know your movie is good when it beats the origin story of one of the most beloved characters in cinema history.
38. Aladdin (2019)
Lifetime Gross: $1,050,693,953
As live action reboots go, Aladdin‘s success shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Following in the footsteps of Beauty and the Beast and Cinderella, Disney’s middle-eastern fairytale is nearly a carbon copy of the original animated classic.
People were sufficiently intrigued by Will Smith’s great role as the genie and the film’s well-marketed original songs, for a second opus to be greenlit soon thereafter.
39. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)
Lifetime Gross: $1,045,713,802
This movie’s quality and overall reception proved that the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise was no longer as beloved as it once was. Yet Johnny Depp’s performance and Penelope Cruz’s honorable efforts helped this below average swashbuckling flick make it into our list.
In spite of horrible reviews (33% on Rotten Tomatoes) this fourth installment did an okay job financially, racking up a sum that even the more acclaimed first and second chapters didn’t get.
40. Despicable Me 3 (2017)
Lifetime Gross: $1,034,800,131
Few animated franchises know how to hold people’s interest for almost 10 years, but Despicable Me 3 clearly made kids want to come back for a third round. Indeed, the movie was the biggest launch ever in North America until it was dethroned by Avengers: Endgame.
41. Jurassic Park (1993)
Lifetime Gross: $1,033,928,303
Although it was defeated at the box office by its recent sequels, you’ve got to give it to the original Jurassic Park for still ranking quite high in a list predominantly made of 21st century releases.
Before James Cameron became the king of Hollywood, it was Spielberg who occupied that throne thanks to his unforgettable park of dinosaurs. Although it didn’t surpass Spielberg’s other masterpiece E.T right away, the film eventually did so thanks to a few re-releases the following years, proving that people never get tired of classics.
42. Finding Dory (2016)
Lifetime Gross: $1,028,570,942
Over a decade after Finding Nemo, people were impatient to meet Nemo and the gang again and were pleased to learn more about one of the most beloved characters of the franchise – Dory. Pixar wasn’t disappointed since the film was well-received critically and became one of its highest-grossing movies.
43. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)
Lifetime Gross: $1,027,082,707
Over 20 years after saying goodbye to Luke Skywalker and his friends, fans were elated at the thought of venturing once again into a galaxy far, far away. Many of them were unfortunately disappointed by the lackluster plot and average new characters (looking at you, Jar Jar Binks), which was only the beginning of a descent into darkness for both Anakin and the prequels themselves.
That being said, the ‘worst Star Wars movie‘ still ranks higher than the original installments thanks to the ‘curiosity’ factor. The same sadly cannot be said of its two successors.
44. Alice in Wonderland (2010)
Lifetime Gross: $1,025,468,216
Tim Burton’s live-action adaptation of Disney’s beloved classic was not received as positively by the critics as it was by the public, but it still managed to represent a huge turning point for Disney.
Without the pretty numbers it did at the box office, it’s unsure if Mickey would have felt confident enough to launch its big ‘reboot era’ with Maleficent and Cinderella a few years later.
45. Zootopia (2016)
Lifetime Gross: $1,023,792,558
Zootopia is the top grossing animated film has Disney ever made that isn’t linked to Pixar, and for good reasons. This sadly relevant but powerful story about discrimination, set within an anthropomorphized animal kingdom, made people cry, laugh and dance in theatres. As expected, it was immortalized by a humongous success at the box office.
46. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
Lifetime Gross: $1,017,003,568
Not everyone was on board for the heavily CGI’d prequel to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, but fans gave it a chance, as shown by how well it did upon its release. Nearly 10 years after Aragorn’s coronation had closed the original trilogy, Peter Jackson brought us back in time to meet Frodo’s uncle Bilbo.
This was a new story good enough to reach 64% on Rotten Tomatoes, but was the last Hobbit film to hit the billion worldwide. There’s an end to everything.
47. Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
Lifetime Gross: $1,006,968,171
Just like the last installment made people rush to theatres, the first chapter in Harry Potter’s magical adventures attracted thousands of people who had read the book and were eager to know what director Chris Columbus had done with it.
He clearly done something good as this book-turned-movie remained the franchise’s biggest financial success until the last installment in 2011.
48. The Dark Knight (2008)
Lifetime Gross: $1,005,973,645
Christopher Nolan earned yet another spot on this list with the second chapter in his Batman trilogy, also one of the best movie sequels ever made.
A success boosted by the fantastic and Oscar-winning performance of the late Heath Ledger and with a $158 million opening that broke Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man 3’s record, The Dark Knight is now hailed as the best comic-book adaptation to date. We won’t argue with that.
49. Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows Part 1 (2010)
Lifetime Gross: $977,043,483
The first part of the final Harry Potter film, released only a few months before the ultimate showdown, was the beginning of the end for billions of fans worldwide, which obviously meant that it broke records at the box office, resulting in an opening of $125 million.
These numbers were only bested by five films at the time – The Dark Knight, Spider-Man 3, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Dead Man’s Chest and Iron Man 2.
50. Despicable Me 2 (2013)
Lifetime Gross: $970,766,005
The second installment in the Despicable Me franchise didn’t do as well as the third one, but got far better reviews overall.
With 75% on Rotten Tomatoes, the new adventures of Grut and his “cute” minions racked up millions domestically and globally, making enough people laugh that it almost became Illumination Entertainment’s highest-grossing film that year.
Although this list will probably change drastically as years go by, every successful movie here will undoubtedly remain the stuff of legends for their huge and sometimes unexpected numbers at the box office.
From Disney reboots to beloved adventure franchises, these movies have all marked our imagination in one way or another, and we’ll definitely keep them close to our hearts forever.