20 Blockbusters in 20 Years

Ah, the movies, everybody’s favourite go-to, a place where you can eat as much popcorn as your stomach (or wallet) will allow, a place where many first dates have ensured there was never to be a second. Countless potential marriages and families have been dashed by the over-eager yawn-and-stretch manoeuvre but hey, everyone still loves the movies.

Because we love it so much, we’re willing to throw hundreds, no thousands, no millions of dollars at it. If you’re feeling really fancy, you can sparkle up a date with some high-flying tickets in the posh seats, or if you’re an adrenaline junkie you can get into the 4D seats that spin you round, splash water on your face, and set you on fire (small disclaimer, I’m not sure that actually happens). My point is, if you’ve got money to spend, the movies is a thrilling sinkhole readily available for you.

Ever wondered which movies have earned the most money? We now have a lot of information regarding box office sales, ticket sales, and merchandise sales, I mean, it’ all readily available online. It’s even broadcast on short-length ad breaks on the likes of Sky Box Office. But those segments highlight the biggest movies this month or this week, this article will look at the highest grossing movies in the last 2 decades.


20. Titanic (1998) Grossed $443,319,081

Titanic Movie Poster

The Titanic was resurrected 86 years after its demise by James Cameron and hit the Box Office like a, well like a big ship might hit a frozen obstacle. It absolutely rocketed through the charts and made huge waves (I know, sorry) with the audience. All puns aside, Titanic was a behemoth movie and changed the way blockbusters were made. James Cameron spent an absolute boatload of money making Titanic, from gigantic sets to groundbreaking graphics. But despite the brilliant direction, it was the romance between Rose and Jack that brought the audiences in. A tragic love story that was a juxtaposition to the metaphor around the Titanic, their romance was a small but unlikely ship that grew to be much more than that, but unfortunately, just like the Titanic, it ultimately sank. Of course, a huge movie, with even greater expectations, needs to be fronted by a handsome man and gorgeous lady, cue Leo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet, a tandem that captured the hearts of all who watched. Well, most of them anyway, I always thought she looked old enough to be his mother.

19. Star Wars Ep. I: The Phantom Menace (1999) Grossed $430,443,350

Star Wars Ep I: The Phantom Menace movie poster

Star Wars is a gold-plated phenom, a surefire money-maker that has fans flocking and throwing cash before you can say lightsaber. It also provided the world with a real ‘geek culture’ and managed to make it cool. Before the release of Episode I, fans had waited 16 years for a new instalment, and boy were they chomping at the bit. Episode I raked in $64,820,970 on its opening weekend in the US alone. Over time it would continue to haul in dollar upon dollar and reinvigorated the Lucas brand. There aren’t many franchises that can have such a huge impact, in fact, I’m not sure there are any that can have this type of impact.

18. Mission: Impossible 2 (2000) Grossed $546,388,105


Mission: Impossible is a TV to Movie franchise that works. Headed by blockbuster icon Tom Cruise, it has continued to go from strength-to-strength, with the rare blip here and there. MI 2, however, represented a change in tone for the movie franchise. MI I was a sleek spy thriller that moved slowly but surely to a rapturous crescendo, spycraft was key. MI II though was a little different, I mean yes, it did still have some undercover, double-agent-style shenanigans, but it relied a lot more on Cruise’s ability to be an absolute badass, and damn did he do it well. That front brake fuelled turn whilst shooting? Gold, absolute gold. they also introduced the lifelike masks that confused the hell out of audiences, a and they delivered it with aplomb.

17. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) Grossed $974,755,371


This was the first movie adaptation of the books written by an unemployed woman on a train from London to Manchester. To think of where it is now, it’s unbelievable. JK Rowling dealt with multiple rejection letters before Bloomsbury eventually took a gamble on her and her creation. Wow, to say it paid off would be like saying Voldemort’s report card read “well-adjusted young man with a sensitivity to his classmates’ feelings”.

16. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) Grossed $926,349,708


Lord of the Rings was a well-known, much-loved novel by master-of-fantasy J. R. R. Tolkien. Published in 1954 and written by a former Army Lieutenant with ties to C. S. Lewis, LOTR was the standard when it came to fantasy novels. When it was put into New Zealand Director Peter Jackson’s hands, no one was sure as to how well it would do. The result? One of the most successful film franchises of all time. The films blended a good mix of actors, from silver screen stalwarts like Ian McKellen and Cate Blanchett, to relatively unknown actors such as Viggo Mortensen and Sean Astin. And as we can see, it hit the right spot.

15. The Lord of the Ring: Return of the King (2003) Grossed $1,120,237,002


See above, LOTR dominates theatres. The Final Instalment was the piece de resistance of the trilogy, everything was on a bigger scale. Frodo’s journey came to its end and Sauron was to be beaten, finally. The scale of the movie was perhaps the most fascinating feature, it was huge. I mean, the sets, CGI, and the unbelievable costumes were setting a new high. But it actually only cost $94 million to make. Not a bad return eh?

14. Shrek 2 (2004) Grossed $919,838,758


”Get outta mah swaaamp”, children and adults alike fell in love with the green swamp-dwelling ogre. His friendship with Donkey was a real feature of the movies. Eddie Murphy brought his comedic qualities to the characters and, coupled with the versatility of Mike Myers, ensured that the Shrek dynasty was to live on. The merch was also a big factor here, it went off.

13. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) Grossed $896,911,078


The fourth instalment of Harry Potter was perhaps not the best received by critics, but it brought Voldemort into the fold, and people loved it. There was a real darkness to the Wizarding World and it represented a turn in tone for the movie franchise. Long gone were the happy Christmas jaunts and the warming butter beer, Voldemort was back, and he wanted blood. The film did relatively well, I mean, nearly $900 million is a good return I’d say. D’ya think we’ll see more Potte Ron this list? Bet your bottom dollar we will.

12. Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) Grossed $1,066,179,725


Ah, Johnny Depp revitalised, sort of. Depp brought out a new side to his acting, he showed a versatility while creating an almost charicature of Keith Richards as a pirate. The most ironic thing? The majority of those that flocked to the theatres to watch him, didn’t even know who Keith Richards was! Still, it did ok, this, the second film in the POTC franchise, killed it. Fun Fact: The films were actually inspired by the theme park ride based in Anaheim, California. Maybe people know that maybe they don’t. Still, fun!

11. Pirates of the Carribean: At World’s End (2007) Grossed $963,420,425


Aaand here we are again, joining Jack Sparrow as he is held prisoner in Davy Jones’ Locker. His crew sail to find him and bring him home. At the time, At World’s End was the most expensive movie ever made, coming in at a cost of around $300 million. Madness. But it all seemed to be worth it. The film raked in over 300% return on its budget and it paved the way to 2 more POTC films. As well as themed lunchboxes, cool pirate hats, and fake moustaches. Not bad.

10. The Dark Knight (2008) Grossed $1,004,558,444


Christian Bale’s gravel-voiced anti-hero set a new standard for superhero films. Long gone were the fun-filled Spider-Man films or the Superman films backed by jolly soundtracks; the public had spoken. and what they said was “we want it gritty, we want it dark” and boy did Nolan deliver. Nolan’s concept was stripped back, and it focussed on Wayne’s character as a misadjusted adult with a traumatic past, and what that would look like. Gone were the gaudy neon-clad Burton renditions, here we had a real anti-hero, one that lived in a complex and ever-changing world. There was also another feature of the movie; The Joker. Here we saw the rise (and tragically early fall) of Heath Ledger, an actor know more for his had more features and roles in rom-coms than any kind of character acting (no, don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about Brokeback Mountain). But he blew up this movie. His rendition of The Joker was unparalleled- yes Nicholson was good, but he wasn’t this good – and it had people flocking to see the movie. Ledger was fully deserving of his Oscar, and Nolan is a man to be admired.

9. Avatar (2009) Grossed $2,787,965,087


James Cameron has a real knack for revolutionising movies (see Terminator) but this was on a whole different scale. It’s mad to think that Avatar was conceived decades before it was made, because the technology hadn’t caught up with Cameron’s vision. I mean, come on, that’s what we need more of! Avatar’s story was…meh, but coupled with the effects, the world (Pandora) created by Cameron, it was lighting in a bottle. This was truly groundbreaking cinema, and the bank balance reflected it. Nearly $3 billion. $3 BILLION. Let that sink in. The good news is there’s more to come, with Cameron at the helm for another 3 movies; Avatar 2 is expected in 2020. Only 2 more years to wait!

8. Toy Story 3 (2010) Grossed $1,066,969,703


You’ve got a friend in me. Beautiful, beautiful cinema. Nobody does it like Disney (/Pixar). Toy Story 3 was released 11 years after Toy Story 2, and fans were clamouring for more from Andy’s toy box. Kids love the silliness, adults love the themes of friendship and realism. everything just worked. Not to mention the killer sod tracks, golden voices of Tim Allen and Tom Hanks, and the sheer adventure throughout the franchise, pure excellence.

7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011) Grossed $1,341,511,219


The final one. This was where it all ended. Harry versus Voldemort, darkness v light, who would win?! Well, anyone really Potter fan would have known, but still, it didn’t matter. People wanted Voldemort’s demise. The film hit all the right notes, from the tears shed to the courage found (see Neville Longbottom’s speech and stand) to fight Voldemort. The only things that didn’t really work? The makeup in the final scene. Daniel Radcliffe looked like a love child between a satanic goat from the 1800’s, and Vidal Sassoon’s worst nightmare, oh no. People flocked in their droves to take in the final Potter movie, it made an absolute killing!

6. The Avengers (2012) Grossed $1,518,812,988


What’s better than one superhero? Two superheroes.What’s better than two superheroes? All the superheroes. The Avengers saw Iron Man tea up with Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, and many others, as they teamed up to stop the destruction of the world. Now obviously the plot was not original, but the chemistry was. Every part of this movie worked. Even those heroes that weren’t so super (sorry Jeremy) were given valuable screen time and added to the movie. Loki was badass, Thor was funny (and badass) and the rest were just sheer awesome. Audiences thought so too, they paid a ton of money to see their favourite heroes sit in a room together and battle as a team (kind of) to save the world.

5. Frozen (2013) Grossed $1,290,000,000


The most famous thing about this movie? Ameena Habib, or, if you’re not John Travolta, Idina Menzel (sorry, I just couldn’t let that one go) and that song. This wasn’t just advice for kids, this was a movie for everyone. The lead song from the movie charted in 18 countries, sold 11 million copies in 2014 and won an Academy Award and a Grammy. This wasn’t your average Disney movie, this was hysteria. Elsa and Anna can be seen a droned on the walls of children worldwide, and it’s still Godin. It wasn’t released as a Christmas movie but you can bet your house that it’ll be the first one many go to when festive season arrives.

4. Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) Grossed $1,104,039,076


What do critics know eh? It received seven nominations at the Golden Raspberry awards but mate over $1 billion. I know which figure I’d be caring more for. Age of Extinction was a new direction for the Transformers franchise, as Shia Labeouf was away live-streaming himself watching his own movies and delivering (not so) motivational speeches, Wahlberg was bringing the muscle and the attitude to an ailing franchise. There was more of an appeal to older audiences, not just through Wahlberg, but through the darker tone of the voices. Yeah Bay’s golden hour was still on show and his penchant for screen flare had people dazzled, but it was action-filled, fun, and well-worth a watch. Unless you’re a critic, in which case, go and re-watch The Artist for the 17th time.

3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) Grossed $2,068,223,624


THe Force had more than awoken, it had gotten up, washed three tabs of Adderall down with double-caffeine esperesso and jumped into its Ferrari. To say it did well would be just damn rude, this did weeeeelll. Any Star Wars film was bound to do ok, after alll, there’s a massive fan base waiting for anything force-related to swoop down and head to the cinema three times over. But this was different, it managed to almost match Avatar in the gross stakes, and had 6 less years to do it. Fans clearly wanted more from A Galaxay Far, Far Away. Even if it was headed by JJ Abrams and came from Disney – whom many ‘die hard’ Star Wars fans thought was preposterous.

2. Captain America: Civil War (2016) Grossed $1,153,304,495


What’s better that one superh.. wait, i’ve Already done that ‘bit’. I can tell you what does work though; having your favours sueprheroes pummelling each other. Evernote if it os over a jealous friendship triangle or because Startk didn’t ‘like’ Cap’s Facebook post. The overarching theme here was loyalty. And who could argue with Cap’s? He’s loyal to a fault, oh, I get it now. Good move Russo Bros. Captain America was readily built to make a charge as the highest grossing superhero movie of all time as fans appetites had been whetted by multiple movies prior to this. Maybe you assumed it would do well, but we all know what ‘assume’ means, don’t we?

1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) Grossed $1,332,539,889


2017  was the year of Star Wars, the second instalment of the newest trilogy of the space opera was here. Solo was dead but the franchise was far from it. To say that, even thought The Force Awakens took some heat, The Last Jedi did pretty well. And when I say ‘pretty well’, I mean extremely well. The huge factor around the numbers for TLJ was the ‘mystery’, and the return of Luke Skywalker, there was no bigger draw. Disney’s Star Wars will always draw criticism from the purists but hey’re still buying and they’re still watching.

And now…

Avengers: Infinity War (current gross)  $2,031,176,386


And here we are in 2018. A new era has begun, well no, in actual fact, it hasn’t, because there’s still a superhero movie topping the charts, But on one cares, because they’re awesome! And what’s better, Guardians of the Galaxy et al are now involved as well. And what’s even better? There’s going to be Infinity War Part 2! Buckle up viewers, this party’s only getting started.


Daniel C

Daniel C


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