25 Highest-Grossing Movies of All Time

You might see the words “highest-grossing movies of all time” and immediately think of films like “Avatar” and “Avengers: Endgame.” While those are indeed two all-time box office champions, they don’t top the list when you account for inflation. Don’t forget that movie tickets used to cost a mere fraction of what they cost today. There were also billions fewer people on the planet, making the box office haul for certain retro classics all the more impressive. On the other hand, at least some of those classics didn’t have modern television or the rental market to contend with. Nit-picking aside, what are the highest-grossing films of all time? Let’s find out.

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highest-grossing filsm of all time

Why Does Inflation Matter?

You know how Grandpa keeps telling you that back in his day, a person could buy a cheeseburger for a quarter and fill up their gas tank for $5? Well, that’s because services and products generally cost much less in his day than they do today. As such, we need to take the inflated cost of goods into account when compiling the highest-grossing films of all time.

Highest-Grossing Films of All Time

It should come as no surprise that many of the highest-grossing movies ever made are also some of the best. These are the films that everyone just had to see in theatres and that hardcore fans went to see again…and again…and again. Some represented new modes of storytelling while others capitalised off of built-in anticipation. Then we have the all-time box office champions that cranked up every dial in terms of spectacle, story, and characterisation alike.

Here is a list of the 25 highest-grossing films of all time, adjusting for inflation.

1. Gone with the Wind (1939)

Follow Southern belle Scarlett O’Hara through the Civil War and Reconstructionist eras in this box office smash, which put the “sweeping” in sweeping saga. While anachronistic by today’s standards, it still makes for a visual feast and an emotionally draining one at that.

Original 1939 Worldwide Box Office: $400.2 million
Worldwide Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $3.7-3.8 billion
Release date: 1 May 1940 (Australia)
Director: Victor Fleming
Producer: David O. Selznick

2. Avatar (2009)

We might actually be colonising space by the time the sequels for this blockbuster arrive in theatres. Until then, the epic original will have to suffice. Call it “Dances with Smurfs” if you will, but you can’t deny the film’s innovative and immersive qualities.

Original 2009 Worldwide Box Office: $2.788 billion
Worldwide Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $3.2-3.3 billion
Release date: 17 December 2009 (Australia) Trending
Director: James Cameron
Film series: Avatar Series
Budget: 237 million USD (2009)

3. Titanic (1997)

No list of the highest box office movies is complete without this historical smash, in which two star-crossed lovers meet aboard the Titanic. Winner of a record-tying 11 Oscars, it turned star Leonardo DiCaprio and director James Cameron into “kings of the world.”

Original 1997 Worldwide Box Office: $2.187 billion
Worldwide Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $3-3.2 billion
Release date: 17 December 1997 (Australia)
Director: James Cameron
Featured song: My Heart Will Go On
Budget: 200 million USD

4. Star Wars (1977)

Cinema’s foremost space opera kicked off with this game-changing sci-fi adventure, which debuted as “Star Wars” and later became “Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope.” The story takes place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away and blah blah blah blah…you know where it goes from here. More than one of the highest-grossing films of all time, it kickstarted Hollywood’s most profitable franchise to date.

Original 1977 Worldwide Box Office: $775 million
Worldwide Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $3-3.1 billion
Release date: 27 October 1977 (Australia)
Director: George Lucas
Featured song: Binary Sunset
Budget: 11 million USD
Music composed by: John Williams

5. Avengers: Endgame (2019)

Remember when it was 2019 and the release of “Avengers: Endgame” was all anyone talked about for a good month or so? Ahhh, those were the days. Brimming with spectacle and emotion, the film gave Marvel fans their money’s worth and killed at the box office as a result. In fact, it passed the $2 billion mark after just two weeks. Damn.

Original 2019 Worldwide Box Office: $2.798 billion
Release date: 24 April 2019 (Australia)
Directors: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo
Box office: 2.798 billion USD
Budget: 356 million USD (2019)

6. The Sound of Music (1965)

The hills were alive with the sound of music and so too was the box office when this iconic musical hit theatres. Set during WWII, it tells the story of a cheerful governess, seven unruly children, and their disgruntled father. Amazing performances. Lush cinematography. Infectious songs. This film has it all. No wonder it was in theatres for four and a half years straight!

Original 1965 Worldwide Box Office: $286.2 million
Worldwide Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $2.5-2.6 billion
Release date: 17 April 1965 (Sydney)
Director: Robert Wise

7. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Steven Spielberg struck box office gold with this enduring family classic, about the symbiotic relationship between a young boy and a lovable alien. If you were growing up at the time, “E.T.” was essentially baked into your childhood and it continues to make new fans to this day. Now, who wants some Reese’s Pieces?!

Original 1982 Worldwide Box Office: $792.3 million
Worldwide Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $2.4-2.5 billion
Release date: 26 November 1982 (Australia)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Featured song: E.T.: The Flying Theme
Music composed by: John Williams

8. The Ten Commandments (1956)

Cecil B. DeMille’s final effort represents a high point for the historical epic sub-genre, which dominated Hollywood throughout the 1950s and early 1960s. Playing biblical hero Moses, Charlton Heston squares off against a tyrannical Pharaoh and leads the Jews out of Egypt. Despite the near four-hour runtime, audiences flocked in droves and helped make it one of the highest-grossing films of all time.

Original 1956 Worldwide Box Office: $122.7 million
Worldwide Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $2.3-2.4 billion
Initial release: 5 October 1956 (USA)
Director: Cecil B. DeMille
Budget: 13 million USD

9. Doctor Zhivago (1965)

Director David Lean brought his sweeping sensibilities to this tragi-romantic adaptation, set during and after the Russian Revolution. Some critics were hostile to Lean’s revisionist style, but that didn’t stop the film from achieving massive commercial success.

Original 1965 Worldwide Box Office: $245 million
Worldwide Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $2.2-2.3 billion
Director: David Lean
Featured song: Lara’s Theme
Music composed by: Maurice Jarre

10. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)

Rounding out the box office top 10 is the one “Star Wars” reboot that actually managed to appease most viewers. It comes to us from director J.J. Abrams, who played it safe by delivering a somewhat familiar plotline. Given the sheer ruthlessness of certain fans, who can blame him?

Original 2015 Worldwide Box Office: $2.068 billion
Worldwide Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $2.1-2.2 billion
Release date: 17 December 2015 (Australia)
Director: J.J. Abrams
Box office: 2.066 billion USD

11. Jaws (1975)

It might not make the box office top 10, but we’re still hailing “Jaws” as one of the top 10 movies of all time. What could’ve been an outright catastrophe became the first true summer blockbuster, which redefined theatrical rollouts and kept thousands of swimmers out of the water.

Original 1975 Worldwide Box Office: $470.6 million
Worldwide Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $2-2.1 billion
Release date: 27 November 1975 (Australia)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Music composed by: John Williams
Story by: Peter Benchley
Screenplay: Carl Gottlieb, Peter Benchley, Howard Sackler

12. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1938)

Walt Disney’s full-length animated debut was no sure thing during production, running way over budget. All was forgiven when the film became an instant critical and commercial smash. Its status as an all-time box office champion swelled thanks to theatrical re-releases.

Original Worldwide Box Office (Including Re-Releases): $418 million
Worldwide Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $2-2.1 billion
Release date: 2 June 1938 (Australia)
Directors: David Hand, Wilfred Jackson, Ben Sharpsteen, William Cottrell, Larry Morey, Perce Pearce

13. Jurassic Park (1993)

Spielberg is back again with another worldwide box office smash. Using newly developed digital technology, his team of wizards brought dinosaurs to life with jaw-dropping precision. A lucrative franchise was thus born.

Original 1993 Worldwide Box Office (Plus Re-Releases): $1.029 billion
Worldwide Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $2-2.1 billion
Release date: 2 September 1993 (Australia)
Director: Steven Spielberg
Featured song: Theme From Jurassic Park
Budget: 63 million USD

14. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

One of the highest box office movies is likewise high on everyone’s list of MCU fare, sitting alongside the first “Iron Man” and the last two Captain America movies. The first part of a two-part saga, it pits the mighty Avengers against the deadly Thanos. This was everything fans were hoping it would be.

Original 2018 Worldwide Box Office: $2.048 billion
Initial release: 23 April 2018 (Los Angeles)
Directors: Joe Russo, Anthony Russo
Release date: 23 April 2018
Budget: 316 million USD (2018)

15. The Exorcist (1973)

Early audience members reportedly fainted in the aisles during early screenings of this horror classic. Naturally, that made it the must-see film of the year (and one of the highest-grossing movies of all time). Modern viewers aren’t quite as sensitive to on-screen gore and demonic possessions, but don’t take that to mean the experience won’t make your gut churn or head spin.

Original 1973 Worldwide Box Office: $441.3 million
Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $1.8-1.9 billion
Director: William Friedkin
Story by: William Peter Blatty
Screenplay: William Peter Blatty

16. The Lion King (1994)

For your fix of this timeless tale, skip the live-action remake and go straight to the animated original. Released at the height of the Disney Rennaisance, it fires on every cylinder.

Original 1994 Worldwide Box Office: $968.5 million
Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $1.8-1.85 billion
Release date: 25 August 1994 (Australia)
Directors: Rob Minkoff, Roger Allers

17. Jurassic World (2015)

The original “Jurassic Park” franchise was going the way of the dinosaurs until this blockbuster reboot came along. Chris Pratt makes for a charming lead, but it’s the spectacle that steals the show.

Original 2015 Worldwide Box Office: $1.671 billion
Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $1.8 billion
Release date: 11 June 2015 (Australia)
Director: Colin Trevorrow
Budget: 150 million USD
Music composed by: Michael Giacchino

18. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999)

If you build it, they will come. So went the infamous “Star Wars” prequel trilogy, which kicked off with this oft-ridiculed episode. It divided audiences but dominated at the box office nonetheless.

Original 1999 Worldwide Box Office: $1.027 billion
Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $1.7-1.8 billion
Release date: 3 June 1999 (Australia)
Director: George Lucas
Featured song: Duel of the Fates
Budget: 115 million USD

19. Ben-Hur (1959)

A clear predecessor to films like “Gladiator,” this historical epic stars Charlton Heston in the avenging title role. It was the costliest production of its time with a budget that equates to about $130 million in today’s dollars. It’s also one of the highest-grossing films of all time so that was money well spent.

Original 1959 Worldwide Box Office: $146.9 million
Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $1.7-1.8 billion
Director: William Wyler
Budget: 15 million USD

20. The Avengers (2012)

Most of the MCU’s key superheroes first convened for this 2012 outing, in which Loki unleashes all sorts of mayhem. If you didn’t see its box office success coming from a mile away, then your eyes were closed.

Original 2012 Worldwide Box Office: $1.518 billion
Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $1.7 billion
Release date: 25 April 2012 (Australia)
Director: Joss Whedon
Featured song: Live to Rise
Budget: 220 million USD

21. Independence Day (1996)

Clever marketing and Will Smith’s rising star power helped build anticipation for this 1990s alien invasion flick. It’s one of the highest-grossing movies ever and also the rare modern blockbuster that didn’t kickstart a franchise. Given the lacklustre results of 2016’s “Independence Day: Resurgence,” that was probably for the best.

Original 1996 Worldwide Box Office: $1.518 billion
Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $1.6-1.7 billion
Release date: 29 August 1996 (Australia)
Director: Roland Emmerich
Budget: 75 million USD

22. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

Peter Jackson capped off his beloved “Lord of the Rings” trilogy in breathtaking fashion. A sprawling achievement in every sense, this was the second film in history to crack $1 billion at the box office and the third film to earn 11 Oscars.

Original 2003 Worldwide Box Office: $1.119 billion
Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $1.6-1.7 billion
Release date: 26 December 2003 (Australia)
Director: Peter Jackson
Budget: 94 million USD

23. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

Often touted as a fan favourite, “The Empire Strikes Back” contains one of the most famous reveals in movie history. We won’t spoil it here for the three people left on the planet who haven’t seen the film.

Original 1980 Worldwide Box Office: $538.4 million
Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $1.6-1.65 billion
Release date: 7 August 1980 (Australia)
Director: Irvin Kershner
Budget: 18 million USD
Screenplay: Lawrence Kasdan, Leigh Brackett

24. Furious 7 (2015)

The passing of Paul Walker helped turn this bittersweet instalment into the highest box office performer out of the entire franchise. It’s also one of the most acclaimed films in the series.

Original 2015 Worldwide Box Office: $1.516 billion
Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $1.6 billion
Release date: 2 April 2015 (Australia)
Director: James Wan
Featured song: Get Low
Budget: 190 million USD

25. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)

J.K. Rowling’s fantasy world leapt onto the big screen in 2001, introducing Daniel Radcliffe as the titular wizard. Counting spin-offs, the Harry Potter film franchise has made over $9 billion at the worldwide box office to date and that’s before we adjust for inflation.

Original 2001 Worldwide Box Office: $974.8 million
Box Office Adjusted for Inflation: $1.5-1.6 billion
Release date: 29 November 2001 (Australia)
Director: Chris Columbus
Film series: Harry Potter
Budget: 125 million USD

Highest Grossing Films Without Inflation

If you are just going to run a regular, old highest-grossing list, without taking inflation into account, a vast majority of the more recent hits still score strongly. Some of the older films that feature prominently above are no longer the high-earners, instead, the list of highest-grossing films is undeniably Marvel-skewed. Here is the list of the highest-grossing films of all time not adjusted for inflation.

  1. Avengers: Endgame (2019) – USD$2.797bn
  2. Avatar (2009) – USD$2.790bn
  3. Titanic (1997) – USD$2.194bn
  4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) – USD$2.068bn
  5. Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – USD$2.048bn
  6. Jurassic World (2015) – USD$1.671bn
  7. The Lion King (2019) – USD$1.656bn
  8. The Avengers (2012) – USD$1.518bn
  9. Furious 7 (2015) – USD$1.516bn
  10. Frozen II (2019) – USD$1.450bn
  11. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) – USD$1.402bn
  12. Black Panther (2018) – USD$1.346bn
  13. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011) – USD$1.341bn
  14. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) – USD$1.332bn
  15. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) – USD$1.309bn
  16. Frozen (2013) – USD$1.290bn
  17. Beauty and the Beast (2017) – USD$1.263bn
  18. Incredibles 2 (2018) – USD$1.242bn
  19. The Fate of the Furious (2017) – USD$1.238bn
  20. Iron Man 3 (2013) – USD$1.214bn
  21. Minions (2015) – USD$1.158bn
  22. Captain America: Civil War (2016) – USD$1.153bn
  23. Aquaman (2018) – USD$1.148bn
  24. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – USD$1.142bn
  25. Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) – USD$1.131bn

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General FAQ

What's the highest grossing movie of all time?

When adjusting for inflation, 'Gone with the Wind' remains the highest-grossing movie of all time. If we take inflation off the table, 'Avengers: Endgame' has grossed more than any other film.

What's the most expensive movie ever made?

With its overall reported budget of US$378.5 million, 2011's 'Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' is the most expensive movie ever made.

What's the most profitable movie of all time?

In terms of pure theatrical box office profit, 'Gone with the Wind' is reportedly the most profitable film of all time when adjusted for inflation. However, no film has spawned more overall profit than 1977's 'Star Wars.'