Many will argue that the quality of a movie isn’t measured in how much money it generates. We completely agree what with changing times, global climates, and various socio-economic factors substantially affecting box office profits. With the advent of the Internet, Netflix, and movie piracy, traditional cinema has to work harder to compete with the online market. Still, it’s interesting to note which movies have raked in the most revenues worldwide. We present to you the top 10 most commercially successful films of all time, adjusted for inflation. You’ll be surprised- many of these blockbusters date back as far as the 1930s!
10) Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
If you thought Gone With The Wind would be the oldest film on here, think again! The 10th spot for highest grossing film adjusted for inflation goes to a movie all the way from 1937. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs made adjusted earnings of $1,746,100,000. The film itself marks many firsts- the first full length animated feature film, the first of many Walt Disney Animated Classics, and the first American feature film produced in full color. It seems the National Film registry enjoys musicals, as this film was also added to be preserved in 1989. We challenge you to watch this without winding up whistling along to the songs at the end of the movie!
Dun dun. Dun dun. Spielberg’s second film to make it to this list is the 1975 thriller Jaws. Today’s generation may not fully understand the hair-raising, scream-inducing feelings one gets when watching Jaws, what with the high resolution graphics of modern films. The suspenseful soundtrack and animatronics were revolutionary for its time, evidenced by how Jaws succeeded in scaring us out of our seats. Not only that, it raked in $1,945,100,000 in adjusted box office earnings, earning the 9th spot in highest adjusted gross of all time, and propelling Steven Spielberg to super-director status.
8) Doctor Zhivago
Set against the backdrop of World War I and the Russian Revolution, Doctor Zhivago is an epic drama starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie. A classic, the 1965 film has made $1,988,600,000 in adjusted box office earnings. That’s no paltry sum, bagging the 8th spot in highest grossing films of all time for Doctor Zhivago. Based on Boris Pasternak’s novel of the same name, both novel and film caused great controversy and served as symbol of resistance to Soviet communism. Much like Gone with the Wind, the film paints a dramatic love story amidst a deeply historic period. It seems like many movie goers are history buffs and romantics at heart. They’re definitely willing to pay to see a good movie!
7) The Ten Commandments
Waiting for a superhero movie on this list? We’ve got the closest thing to a superhero for you- Moses! That’s right, the 1956 film featuring the Biblical character’s quest for the Ten Commandments pulls in 7th highest adjusted gross earnings. The Ten Commandments was an American religious epic featuring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter and a host of other big names. Boasting big names, big sets, and a big story, this film had even bigger profits. With adjusted box office earnings of $2,098,600,000, Moses beats Superman, Iron Man, and Batman right out of the ball park.
Like James Cameron, Steven Spielberg has produced 2 films that have made it to this list. His 1982 film E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial bags the 6th spot with adjusted earnings of $2,216,800,000. All ages enjoyed this entertaining by-product of the imaginary friend Spielberg came up with as a child. The E.T. puppet was astonishingly ugly, extremely awkward by today’s graphics standards, and perfect for Spielberg. He used it to revolutionise prosthetics and visual effects in cinema. While E.T. set the stage for today’s films, if something as clunky as that puppet was released in today’s theaters, the audience would probably shout “E.T. go home!” instead of “E.T. phone home!”
5) The Sound of Music
The hills are alive with the sound of profit! The Sound of Music is the 5th highest grossing film of all time adjusted for inflation, making $2,269,800,000 in box office profits. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1965 musical film is based on the Broadway musical of the same name, and details the story of the family von Trapp and their singing governess, Maria. In case Armageddon arrives or aliens invade anytime soon, The Sound of Music has been preserved in the National Film Registry. They’ll look back at our time, picture us singing Do-Re-Mi and My Favorite Things, and know that we weren’t all heartless beings!
A modern Shakespearean tragedy of epic proportions, the James Cameron (again) film Titanic bags the No. 4 spot for highest grossing films of all time. Detailing the tragic romance of Jack and Rose, the 1997 film raked in an adjusted box office profit of $2,413,800,000. Winning 11 Academy Awards and serving as Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet’s breakout film, Cameron’s obsession with shipwrecks put both actors as well as himself on the map with its worldwide success. The iconic “I’m flying” scene where Jack (DiCaprio) holds Rose (Winslet) as she stands on the Titanic’s railing has been imitated by anyone who has gone on a ship cruise. If you didn’t, you know you wanted to!
3) Star Wars
Without the 1977 epic space opera Star Wars, we wouldn’t be blowing our pay check on cool space-y merchandise, or dressing up as small green aliens for Halloween. Also, George Lucas would be fortune-less, and modern movies would largely be live action. Star Wars was the game changer of 1977 not just because of its sheer scale in space fantasy, or the fact that it raked in $2,710,800,000 in adjusted box office profits. The franchise pushed the audio and visual effects industry front like never before, leading to massive developments in CGI. Next time you pretend to be an asthmatic scuba diver-ahem- Darth Vader, thank George Lucas for simultaneously making movies more awesome with the 3rd highest grossing film of all time!
James Cameron’s Avatar features an entirely different world called Pandora, replete with alien life and human avatars (mind of a human, body of an alien) who can interact with the environment as tangibly as possible. Doesn’t sound worthy of the No. 2 spot, you say? The box office success of Avatar was not just because of its interesting story, but the immersive motion capture filming technique it utilized. Cameron’s filming innovation was the first of its kind, making the 3D experience perhaps just as immersive as the avatars featured in the film. Released in 2009 after 15 years of development, the film raked in $2,782,300,000 in the box office. Cameron must be proud, since Avatar is the only film from the 21st century to make it on this list!
1) Gone with the Wind
Painting an epic love story during the American Civil War, the 1939 film Gone WithThe Wind stars the talented Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh. They portray the roller coaster love story of a Southern belle and a charming black sheep, and have done so well enough to turn the story of Rhett Butler and Scarlett O’Hara into a classic. The numbers attest to their success in the box office, as Gone WithThe Wind has raked in an adjusted figure of $3,301,400,000. As such, it’s the highest grossing film of all time adjusted for inflation. If any other film wants to dislodge it from the No. 1 spot, well, tomorrow is another day!