Celebrating Great Films

Monday, January 09, 2006

Box office musings

I've just been browsing through IMDb's list of films that grossed the most money in worldwide box offices. It makes for interesting reading.

The big three are represented right at the top, as you would expect: Star Wars: Episode I comes in at number four with $922,379,000 of box office receipts. That in itself is incredible - it's 15 cents for every single person alive.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone enjoys the number three spot with $968,600,000 - which approaches the GDP of Belize. Number two goes to The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King with an astronomical $1,129,219,252. That's more than all three Indiana Jones films put together.

And guess how much the number one grossed. Nope, guess again. A little more... You're getting warmer...

Titanic stands alone with $1,835,300,000.

That's incredible. There are fewer than 40 films that have ever grossed more than half a billion, and then there's Titanic, which grossed nearly two billion. Look, I've put it on a graph so you can see how ridiculous it is:

Titanic spike

A Titanic spike indeed.

Adjust for inflation, however, and there's a different story. Titanic drops to sixth, according to Box Office Mojo's list. The number one, thanks to 67 years of inflation and a re-release or two, is Gone with the Wind.

Interestingly, there is almost no correlation between the films with that grossed the highest at the box office and the films that were ranked as best by IMDb users. In other words, no correlation between popularity and quality:

Popularity versus quality


  1. That's pretty neat -- the graphs and, especially, the numbers themselves put in some sort of perspective. It's amazing how much money a film can make. Then again, every Hollywood film makes some amount of money -- even Waterworld -- so it's not a matter of making money, but making BIG money. And to think the Hollywood'ers want us to feel sorry for the state of their industry.

  2. Believe it or not, even though the revenue generated is huge, most Hollywood films don't break even at the box office.

    Waterworld, for example, is one of the top 200 highest grossing films ever, but it cost more to make than the entire Mars Pathfinder mission. That does not equate to a great deal of profit.

    The profit usually comes in later with DVD sales, merchandising, etc.

    Check out this site to see how much some of the biggest films cost to make.