Box Office Breakers: 15 Movies That Shattered Records
Fifteen films that made waves, became iconic, and quite literally, broke the bank.
1. Avatar (2009) – Box Office: 2.923 billion USD
Highest-grossing film of all time worldwide (until Avengers: Endgame briefly took over, but then Avatar reclaimed its spot with a re-release).
This is an all-timer, James Cameron's behemoth of a film. In Avatar, paraplegic former marine Jake Sully gets a unique chance. He can walk again, but not as himself. Instead, he can control an Avatar, a bioengineered body resembling the Na'vi people of Pandora.
Soon enough, Jake finds himself torn between the corporate-driven motives of humans and the Na'vi's desire to protect their homeland. The floating mountains, bioluminescent flora, and a forbidden love story – all these elements catapulted the film to unparalleled heights, making it a record-smasher.
2. Titanic (1997) – Box Office: 2.264 billion USD
Was the highest-grossing film of all time until Avatar took its place. First film to reach the billion-dollar mark.
Another James Cameron masterpiece. I mean, who hasn't tried yelling, "I'm the king of the world!"? We meet Jack and Rose aboard the ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic. While Jack is a free-spirited artist, Rose is a first-class passenger stuck in a loveless engagement. Their love story blossoms amidst class divides, but as we all sadly know, that iceberg had other plans. The heartbreaking climax and THAT door scene? Iconic. It's no wonder it ruled the box office for so long.
3. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) – Box Office: 2.071 billion USD
Highest-grossing film in North America (unadjusted for inflation). Fastest to reach $1 billion worldwide.
Light years away, in a galaxy far, far away, a new adventure unfolds. The First Order is on the rise, and they're after a map leading to Luke Skywalker, the last Jedi. Enter Rey, a scavenger from the desert planet Jakku, who stumbles upon the map. Joining forces with defecting stormtrooper Finn, they set out to deliver the map to the Resistance. But Kylo Ren and his dark forces won't make it easy. With old favorites and new characters alike, this movie made us all remember why we love Star Wars in the first place.
4. Jurassic Park (1993) – Box Office: 1.113 billion USD
Became the highest-grossing film at its time of release. First film to gross over $500 million worldwide.
Dinosaurs roaming in the modern world? Count me in! Billionaire John Hammond creates an amusement park on a remote island with real, live dinosaurs, thanks to some nifty genetic engineering. But when a security breach occurs, it's not just T-Rex who comes out to play. As the island plunges into chaos, a group of visitors, including two kids, must find a way to outwit the prehistoric predators and survive. That trembling water glass still gives me the chills.
5. The Avengers (2012) – Box Office: 1.520 billion USD
First Marvel movie to make over $1 billion. At its time, it was the third-highest-grossing film worldwide.
Imagine a team-up of your favorite superheroes. The stuff of dreams, right? Loki, Thor's mischievous brother, has plans to subjugate Earth. To counter the imminent alien invasion, S.H.I.E.L.D. director Nick Fury assembles Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye. City-leveling fights, snappy one-liners, and a scene-stealing Hulk made this a must-watch. Who wouldn't want to see a billionaire, a god, and a supersoldier team up?
6. Black Panther (2018) – Box Office: 1.349 billion USD
Highest-grossing film by a black director. Top-grossing film in North America of 2018.
Welcome to Wakanda! A technologically advanced African nation hidden from the world. After his father's death, T'Challa returns home to take his rightful place as king. But when a powerful enemy from his family's past re-emerges, T'Challa's mettle as king and Black Panther is tested. It's not just a superhero movie; it's a celebration of culture, legacy, and identity. The powerful Wakanda Forever salute resonated worldwide, propelling the film to box office stardom.
7. Frozen (2013) – Box Office: 1.284 billion USD
Highest-grossing animated film of all time until Frozen II took its place.
Do you wanna build a snowman? Elsa, the elder princess of Arendelle, has a secret – she can control ice and snow. But when her powers are revealed, she accidentally triggers an eternal winter and isolates herself in an ice palace. It's up to her fearless sister Anna, along with rugged iceman Kristoff, a loyal reindeer, and a comically naive snowman, Olaf, to thaw her icy heart and save the kingdom. The power of sisterhood shines in this chilly tale, melting many a heart.
8. The Lion King (1994) – Box Office: 968.5 million USD
Was the highest-grossing animated film for a long time until films like Finding Nemo and later Frozen surpassed it.
In the vast Pride Lands of Africa, a young lion prince named Simba is born. Destined to be king, his life takes a tragic turn when his envious uncle Scar orchestrates a plot that results in the death of Simba's father, Mufasa. Convinced he's to blame, Simba flees into exile. With the help of some eccentric friends, Simba grows up, and eventually, the circle of life calls him back to reclaim his kingdom.
9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011) – Box Office: 1.342 billion USD
Highest-grossing film of the Harry Potter series. Fastest film to reach $1 billion at that time.
The final showdown. Harry, Ron, and Hermione continue their quest to hunt down Voldemort's Horcruxes. But it all culminates at Hogwarts, where the Dark Lord launches a massive assault. As the battle rages on, secrets are revealed, sacrifices are made, and the trio faces challenges that test their bonds. With spells flying and emotions running high, the magical world's fate hangs in the balance. The epic conclusion had fans flocking to theaters, making it a monumental success.
10. Furious 7 (2015) – Box Office: 1.515 billion USD
Fastest Universal film to reach $1 billion. Seventh highest-grossing film of all time.
Rev your engines for high-octane action. After taking down Owen Shaw, Dominic Toretto and his crew are targeted by Shaw's brother, Deckard. From skydiving cars to skyscraper jumps in Abu Dhabi, the action never lets up. Amidst the chaos, the team's bond and the theme of family shine through. The poignant tribute to the late Paul Walker gave this installment an emotional weight, driving audiences to theaters.
11. The Incredibles (2004) – Box Office: 631.6 million USD
At its release, it had one of the highest opening weekends for an animated film.
Superheroes living undercover in the suburbs? Meet the Parr family. Once renowned superheroes, Bob and Helen Parr now live incognito, suppressing their powers. But Bob, missing his glory days, gets a secret assignment, leading to a face-off with a bitter former fan turned villain. It's a family affair when the whole Parr clan dons their super-suits to save the day. Packed with humor, action, and family dynamics, it's no wonder the film raced to the top.
12. Finding Nemo (2003) – Box Office: 941.6 million USD
Became the highest-grossing animated film at its time of release.
Dive deep into the ocean with Marlin, an overprotective clownfish. When his son Nemo is captured by divers, Marlin embarks on a quest to rescue him, joined by Dory, a forgetful blue tang. They dodge sharks, navigate jellyfish fields, and even surf with turtles. The vibrant coral reefs and diverse marine life brought the ocean world alive on screen, capturing viewers' imaginations.
13. Beauty and the Beast (1991) – Box Office: 424 million USD
First animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
In a secluded castle, a young woman named Belle becomes a prisoner of a Beast, a prince cursed for his arrogance. While the castle's enchanted inhabitants, like a talking clock and teapot, bring whimsy, it's Belle's kind heart that might break the curse. As the two grow closer, they learn to see past outer appearances. With memorable songs and dance numbers, this timeless tale waltzed its way into cinematic history.
14. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) – Box Office: 792.9 million USD
Surpassed Star Wars to become the highest-grossing film of all time until later films overtook it.
When a gentle alien gets stranded on Earth, he's discovered by a young boy named Elliott. Naming him E.T., the duo forms a special bond. From dressing him up for Halloween to that iconic bike flight across the moon, their adventures are heartwarming. But with government agents closing in, Elliott and his siblings race against time to help E.T. phone home. Spielberg's magic touch made this a touching classic that resonated with all ages.
15. Jaws (1975) – Box Office: 476.5 million USD
Often considered the first "blockbuster". Set box office records and was the highest-grossing film at its time.
Before there was the Megalodon, there was Jaws. The sleepy town of Amity Island is rocked by a series of deadly shark attacks. It's up to police chief Brody, marine biologist Hooper, and grizzled fisherman Quint to hunt down the massive great white shark. The suspense, that ominous music score, and the terror of the unknown depths struck fear into beachgoers everywhere. It wasn't just a film; it was a cultural phenomenon that set the standard for blockbuster films.