What is the greatest movie ever made? Ask that in a roomful of cinephiles, and it will likely spark a heated debate. With over a century worth of great cinema to choose from, it’s not surprising that it’s difficult to agree on just one, especially since it’s largely subjective. However, numbers don’t lie, and sites like Box Office Mojo keep track of a film’s earnings. As ticket prices have increased drastically over the years and productions have become larger in scale, it’s not surprising that the highest-grossing films have all been released in the last 30 years. However, they also adjust ticket sales for inflation, and it’s interesting to see the films that comprise the top 30 on that more accurate list that is adjusted for inflation. Tour our photo gallery featuring the top 30 grossing movies, with box office adjusted for inflation.
It’s no surprise that a couple of names come up frequently on this adjusted list. Four Steven Spielberg films make it into the top 30, while James Cameron claims two spots, with each director breaking his own previous box office records throughout the years. Also unsurprising it the fact that there a few sequels on here, with five films from the “Star Wars” franchise appearing, with George Lucas acting as writer, director or both on four of them. Actor Harrison Ford appears in five of the films on the list, four from the “Star Wars” saga, as well as “Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
Another familiar name that pops up frequently is Walt Disney. There are four animated films on the list, and they all belong to Disney, with “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” maintaining a spot in the top 10 over 80 years after its initial release. Walt’s crowning live action achievement, “Mary Poppins,” is also a steady presence. Three of the four films on the list from the past decade are also part of the Disney family, as its distribution department now owns the rights to “Star Wars” and “The Avengers.”
The majority of these films were not only popular with audiences, but also received critical acclaim. In addition to box office dollars, there’s quite a few accolades accumulated among them, with seven of them declared Best Picture for their year at the Academy Awards. Two of the Best Picture champs also share the record for most Oscars won by a single film with 11: “Ben-Hur” and “Titanic” (shared with “The Lord of the Rings:The Return of the King”). “Titanic” also shares the record for most nominations received by a single film at 14 (the other films are “All About Eve” and “La La Land”).
Every decade from the 1930s forward is represented at least once, with the 1970s the most represented with six films. It was also during this decade that the term “blockbuster” became commonly used for a big hit film, most especially during the summer, with the massive production “Jaws” popularizing this term. Every genre is represented, from musicals like “The Sound of Music” and “Grease” to epics like “The Ten Commandments” to love stories like “Gone with the Wind.”
Despite some massive hits over the past couple of decades, when tickets are adjusted for inflation, the top 10 films on this list were all released before the year 2000. In fact, eight out of the top 10 were released before 1980. Of course, these films have been re-released many times over the years, but the fact that they still bring people to the theaters is testament to their popularity.
Many of these films have become such a part of our pop culture and consistently make “best movies” list, that it’s not unexpected at all to find them on the list of top box office successes. However, there were a few surprises on here (for me, at least). Keeping in mind that each film’s earnings have been adjusted for inflation, can you guess which film is the top money-maker of all time?
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