Even if you’re not in the movie business, box office numbers can be fascinating. Just how much money does a really successful movie make, and how does it compare to other blockbusters of the past? Here are the biggest Hollywood money-makers of all time.
Note that these figures are not adjusted for inflation. A movie that came out in an era when tickets were a quarter will naturally make less than one that comes out when tickets are $10. If you factor in the effects of inflation, the box office champ is 1939’s Gone with the Wind, which has made $3.3 billion in constant dollars.
1) Avatar (2009): $2.78 billion. James Cameron’s science fantasy, with its awe-inspiring visuals, changed perceptions of CGI in movies and was wildly successful both in regular theaters and IMAX.
2) Titanic (1997): $2.18 billion. Another James Cameron movie, this love story story set against the fateful sinking in the North Atlantic made Leonardo DiCaprio a superstar and moved the hearts of romance fans in theaters worldwide.
3) The Avengers (2012): $1.45 billion. All of Marvel fans’ favorite superheroes — Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and more — together in one team to fight a cosmic menace. Still showing in theaters as of this writing.
4) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011): $1.32 billion. Final installment of the popular fantasy series, with Harry and his friends facing Lord Voldemort in a fight to the death.
5) Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011): $1.12 billion. Third in the series. The heroic Autobots and their Decepticon enemies battle for control of a powerful secret on Earth’s moon.
6) Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003): $1.11 billion. The end of Frodo’s quest to destroy the One Ring, and the battle of the Free People against the armies of Sauron.
7) Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006): $1.065 billion. Sequel to the original Pirates of the Caribbean (2003), in which Captain Jack Sparrow must find an enchanted chest to save himself from undeath at the hands of Davy Jones.
8) Toy Story 3 (2010): $1.062 billion. Buzz, Woody, and the rest of the CGI toy gang return for their first movie in over a decade, this time facing the prospect of being abandoned by their beloved Andy.
9) Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011): $1.04 billion. The fourth installment in the series sees Jack Sparrow and his allies searching for the legendary Fountain of Youth, in competition with the lethal Blackbeard.
10) Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999): $1.027 billion. Many long-time Star Wars fans were disappointed in this prequel, which began the story of the boy who would grow up to be Darth Vader. But it was still a huge box-office success.