It is true that a film is not its box office. Some of the biggest films in the medium’s history weren’t hits; a few were outright career-killing bombs. And many times a film only finds its audience when it leaves the theaters and ends up on television, home video or streaming.
But it’s also true that massive financial success at the box office matters something. Scanning the list of the biggest box office hits in cinema history can tell us things; about what people love, about the films that resonated with huge numbers of people, and about the films that became more than films and became massive pop culture phenomena. If you presented the list below of the 25 highest-grossing movies of all time to any random person on the street, chances are they’ve seen most of them—and they’ve almost certainly heard of all by them.
This list presents the biggest hits worldwide, not just in the US (where the highest-grossing film in history is actually Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Avatar is only #4, behind both Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: No Way Home). It is does not adjusted for inflation; doing so would give you a completely different and in some ways equally enlightening list, topped off Gone With the Wind, Star Wars: A New Hope, The sound of music, ET: The extraterrestrialand Titanic. Also note that this list is constantly changing and will be updated. (You never know when James Cameron might release another one Avatar.) It is currently updated on January 16, 2022.
The biggest box-office hits in history (worldwide)
It is the highest-grossing film in cinema history.
Flops from 2022 that deserved better at the box office
These 2022 movies weren’t blockbusters – but they deserve to be seen by a much wider audience. But it’s not too late to change that.