Is your all-time favourite movie on your watchlist of the best movies ever made? If you are not certain, we have put one together, which includes the highest-grossing films of all time.
But before we get to that, one certainly wonders what makes for some of the highest-grossing movies. From the plot and the genre to cinematography and powerful performances, many factors contribute to making a film a hit, drawing earnest cine-goers to the theatres to watch the drama unfold on the big screen.
Additionally, such is the craze around some renowned franchises, such as The Avengers or Star Wars, that all superhero and sci-fi movie enthusiasts flock to the cinemas to get every little detail of their fictional heroes, resulting in record-making opening weekends.
Taking a cue from this, we have outlined some of the top box office earners of all time, including films from various genres such as sci-fi, romance and action.
All figures as per Box Office Mojo as on 21 February 2023.
Here are the 12 highest-grossing films of all time
Worldwide box office gross: USD 2,923,706,026
Directed and written by Academy Award-winner James Cameron, this sci-fi fantasy is the highest-grossing film of all time. The story follows Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a paraplegic ex-Marine, who is deployed on Pandora, an alien planet filled with exotic and evolved Na’vi beings.
During his tenure as an ‘avatar’, a human mind in an alien body, he falls in love with one of the Na’vi women, Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña). However, Jake is conflicted about following orders given to him by his seniors and protecting Pandora and its indigenous people.
Avatar also stars Sigourney Weaver and Stephen Lang in prominent roles. Cameron, who has also co-produced the movie along with Jon Landau, wrote the first draft of the film’s screenplay in 1994, according to ABC News.
Avengers: Endgame (2019)
Worldwide box office gross: USD 2,799,439,100
Avengers: Endgame is said to be the finale of 22 interconnected movies of Infinity Saga (2008-2019) in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In its previous instalment, Avengers: Infinity War, evil demigod Titan Thanos (Josh Brolin) misuses his powers to ruin the earth and the universe. The repercussions of the wreckage continue in Avengers: Endgame, where even the Avengers come together to undo the damage done by Thanos.
To fight one of the biggest battles of all time against Thanos, Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), Captain America (Chris Evans), Spider-Man (Tom Holland) and the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo) join forces along with allies like Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), Doctor Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch), Black Panther (late Chadwick Boseman) and Captain Marvel (Brie Larson).
This second highest-grossing movie is directed by the famous Russo brothers, Anthony and Joe.
Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)
Worldwide box office gross: USD 2,244,856,991
Cameron returned to direct the sequel to Avatar, which follows Jake (Worthington) and Neytiri (Saldaña) more than 15 years after the events of the first film. The two characters now have their children and are trying to live peacefully as a family, despite the continued threat of invading humans. However, when the situation takes a dangerous turn, Jake and Neytiri are forced to seek refuge with a clan of the Na’vi people that shares a bond with Pandora’s oceans.
Besides Worthington and Saldaña, returning cast members in major roles in the sequel include Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang and CCH Pounder. Prominent new characters are played by Kate Winslet, Cliff Curtis and Edie Falco.
The sequel was released on 16 December 2022, having been delayed an entire year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It will be followed by Avatar 3, Avatar 4 and Avatar 5 in December 2024, December 2026, and December 2028, respectively.
Worldwide box office gross: USD 2,243,314,099
Another masterpiece by Cameron, Titanic follows Rose DeWitt Bukater, a centenarian, who shares her experience of being onboard the ‘unsinkable” R.M.S Titanic on 10 April 1912, with her granddaughter and the crew of the scientific research vessel, Keldysh.
When nineteen-year-old Rose (Kate Winslet) boards the ill-fated ship with her mother, fiancé and other aristocrats, she meets a drifter and artist named Jack Dawson (Leonardo DiCaprio), who wins third-class tickets to the luxury liner and boards with his best friend.
Through their journey, Rose gets close to Jack and learns to let loose. They eventually fall in love, but their feelings for each other are tested by the unprecedented collision of the Titanic with an iceberg in the North Atlantic.
The romantic film also stars Gloria Stuart as older Rose, Billy Zane as Cal Hockley (young Rose’s fiancé), Kathy Bates as Molly Brown and Bernard Hill as Captain Smith, among others.
Interestingly, it took about USD 200 million to make the classic film, which has etched its name among the greatest movies of all time.
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)
Worldwide box office gross: USD 2,071,310,218
The epic space opera movie portrays how a group of unlikely heroes come together to prevent a new threat from Kylo Ren, the grandson of Darth Vader.
Rey (Daisy Ridley), a desert scavenger, and Finn (John Boyega), a rogue stormtrooper, join hands with members of the Resistance to restore peace. To do so, they must find the legendary Jedi Master, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), with the help of a droid, which carries the whereabouts of his location.
Directed by J.J. Abrams, the film’s cast also includes Harrison Ford as Han Solo, Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren.
Since the first film released in 1977, Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope (later amended from its original title Star Wars), there have been 12 movies released in the franchise.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Worldwide box office gross: USD 2,052,415,039
Another Marvel movie that amassed huge box office receipts, Avengers: Infinity War brings together superheroes Iron Man, Thor, the Hulk, Captain America, Black Widow, Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Spider-Man to defeat their common enemy — the mighty Thanos.
On the other hand, Thanos is determined to collect all six Infinity Stones to realise his twisted goal. The planet’s fate lies in the hands of the Avengers, who must stop Thanos from implementing his evil plan.
Directed by the Russo brothers, the film casts Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo and other actors in prominent roles. It is the 19th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the seventh instalment of Phase Three.
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
Worldwide box office gross: USD 1,921,847,111
With his identity exposed as Spider-Man, Peter Parker (Tom Holland) asks Doctor Strange to help him restore his secret with an arcane ritual. However, when a spell goes awry due to Peter’s repeated interference, it rips the multiverse open.
Peter then encounters villains from other Spider-Man movies like Dr Otto Octavius/Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), Max Dillon/Electro (Jamie Foxx) and Norman Osborn/Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe), who are not only a threat to his future but also the multiverse.
Directed by Jon Watts, Spider-Man: No Way Home stars Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield, reprising their versions of the Spidey, along with Zendaya as MJ, Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, Jacob Batalon as Ned Leeds and Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan.
Jurassic World (2015)
Worldwide box office gross: USD 1,671,537,444
This thrilling sci-fi action movie revolves around Jurassic World, a dinosaur theme park, that shelters many genetically engineered hybrid dinosaurs, such as the ferocious yet intelligent Indominus Rex.
One day, the dinosaur escapes its containment, causing the other creatures to cut loose and join the killing spree. What follows is how dinosaur trainer Owen Grady (Chris Pratt) and the park’s operations manager Claire Dearing (Bryce Dallas Howard) race to save the tourists from a complete, prehistoric assault. The cast also includes Irrfan Khan as Simon Masrani and Vincent D’Onofrio as Vic Hoskins.
Jurassic World is directed by Colin Trevorrow. According to Hollywood Reporter, in 2015, he stated that the T-Rex featured in the film is the same as the one that appeared in the original Jurassic Park (1993).
The Lion King (2019)
Worldwide box office gross: USD 1,663,075,401
The remake of the original 1994 movie of the same name, The Lion King (2019) received mixed reviews from audiences, especially those who had seen the earlier animated film.
The film follows Simba (voiced by Donald Glover), a young lion prince of the African Savanna, who is born to rule. But a conspiracy planned by his uncle Scar (voiced by Chiwetel Ejiofor) to take over the kingdom forces Simba to flee.
Simba finds new friends Pumbaa (voiced by Seth Rogen) and Timon (voiced by Billy Eichner) and learns about the desolate state of his formerly thriving kingdom in a chance encounter with a grown-up Nala (voiced by Beyoncé). He then decides to take back what is legitimately his.
Alfre Woodard, John Oliver, Florence Kasumba, Eric André, John Kani, Keegan-Michael Key, JD McCrary, Shahadi Wright Joseph and James Earl Jones have also lent their voices to various characters in the film directed by Jon Favreau.
A sequel titled Mufasa: The Lion King has been planned by the makers and is slated for a release in 2024. The film will be helmed by Berry Jenkins and will mark the return of the cast members Rogen and Eichner.
The Avengers (2012)
Worldwide box office gross: USD 1,520,538,536
The movie brings together Iron Man, the Hulk, Captain America, Thor, Hawkeye and Black Widow, who join forces to prevent the notorious Loki (Tom Hiddleston) and his alien army from an invasion of Earth.
Directed by Joss Whedon, this fantastic sci-fi action movie includes Robert Downey Jr., Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth and Chris Evans in pivotal roles. Interestingly, The Avengers is the first MCU film to go past the USD 1 billion mark.
Furious 7 (2015)
Worldwide box office gross: USD 1,515,341,399
Hoping to return to their normal lives, Dominic Toretto (Vin Diesel), Brian O’Conner (Paul Walker) and the rest of the crew dispersed after defeating international terrorist Owen Shaw (Luke Evans). Meanwhile, Owen’s elder brother, Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), vows to settle scores with Dominic and his family in order to avenge his brother.
Facing threats from faraway Abu Dhabi and at home in Los Angeles, the gang reunites to protect their families. They are offered help by a government agent in exchange for rescuing a kidnapped hacker who has developed a powerful surveillance programme.
Starring Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Tyrese Gibson and Ludacris, among others, Furious 7 is directed by James Wan. The film was the last time fans saw Paul Walker on the big screen before his death.
Top Gun Maverick (2022)
Worldwide box office gross: USD 1,488,732,821
This Joseph Kosinski directorial revolves around the story of Capt. Pete ‘Maverick’ Mitchell (Tom Cruise), a top naval aviator. The story picks up from where it was left in the 1986 film, Top Gun. Capt. Pete is in charge of training Top Gun’s elite graduates for an important mission.
The movie, which was released in May 2022, received good reviews for being a well-made entertainer. A strong recall value also helped the film do good business at the box office.
Besides Cruise, the film stars Jennifer Connelly and Miles Teller in lead roles. Val Kilmer reprises his role as ‘Iceman’ and portrays the character of Adm. Tom Kazansky.
(Feature and Hero Image Credit: IMDb)