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Only one of the Harry Potter movies (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II (2011), sitting at number 13) received a big enough cash flow to make Paste Magazine’s list of the “top 20 highest-grossing movies of all time worldwide”.
Surprising, since it is the only franchise that seems to follow me everywhere I go. Although, that could just be multiple algorithms all over social media doing their thing.
Not surprising, perhaps, is that the biggest box office movies are part of a franchise, bar Titanic and two Disney films that are on the list.
This includes Avengers, Frozen, The Fast and the Furious, Jurassic World and Star Wars.
James Cameron (cosying above with three of his creatures) directed two very different movies, one a historical romance drama (Titanic) and the other a sci-fi action/adventure (Avatar), which at each point during their release became the biggest box-office hits of all time.
Quite an impressive feat, that’s for sure.
It must be noted that the movies on the list are skewed by rising ticket prices and increases in population and are chosen based on gross dollar receipts, which refers to the sum of all payments that the movie directly received during a period with no costs deducted.
Anyway, here are the top five highest-grossing movies, in descending order.
5. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Avengers: Infinity War seems to have really risen to the challenge of translating a comic book to the big screen, focusing on the viewers’ experience with awesome results.
The audience was prepped by previous films in the franchise, along with diverse character interactions and emotional beats, so that when the maddening fight scenes happened in Avengers: Infinity War, they could fully enjoy the experience.
4. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
The Force Awakens might be the most perfect movie in the Star Wars franchise, because of the balance between practical and special effects.
This is following on from budget and technology constraints that helped the first three films and an overabundance that hurt the next three.
Then, of course, the casting didn’t hurt either:
Daisy Ridley, John Boyega and Adam Driver are all solid, and Oscar Isaac brings a palpable vigor to his role. Ultimately, The Force Awakens just feels right in ways the Prequels never did.
3. Titanic (1997)
James Cameron’s blockbuster epic is still very much a part of pop and film culture, with folks still out there mimicking the famed Kate-and-Leo opened arm move at the edge of the ship whenever there’s an opportunity, or bellowing out Celine Dion’s ‘I Will Go On’ in karaoke.
We love this movie because it is an all-in Hollywood spectacle:
Cameron’s ear for dialogue may be woefully leaden, but he’s a shrewd storyteller, plunking a Romeo-and-Juliet redux aboard the doomed ocean liner and flanking the fictional romance with historical details, groundbreaking special effects and jaw-dropping visuals.
2. Avengers: Endgame (2019)
This marks the second movie from the Avengers franchise on this list.
With 21 films over 11 years in the Avengers franchise, MCU hasn’t once settled for average in terms of casting, which has been crucial in ensuring the thematic and emotional payoff for viewers.
And the three-hour finale is no different:
...[in Avengers: Endgame] the audience cares about not just what the surviving heroes are going to do, but how they are doing in general. It gives the film an emotional resonance that’s unusual not only in pulpier genre offerings but in films in general.
This connection makes the quiet moments as valuable to the viewer as the spectacle, and for all the fireworks in the third act, Avengers: Endgame is very much a film of quiet moments and small yet potent emotional payoffs.
1. Avatar (2009)
Avatar is modern mythmaking at its most foundational with 3D technology that goes beyond imagination and storytelling:
Cameron still seems to believe that “the movies” can give audiences a transformative experience, so every sinew of his film bears the Herculean effort of truly genius worldbuilding…
Cameron wants us to care about this world as much as Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), and by extension James Cameron, does, crafting flora and fauna with borderline sociopathic obsessiveness, at the time pushing 3-D technology to its brink to bring his inhuman imagination alive.
There are more Avatar movies in the works, but the diehard fans will know that already.
For the full list, head here.
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