Biggest box office winners of all time

May 23, 2022
Twentieth Century Fox

Biggest box office winners of all time

The explosion of streaming services has allowed people to peruse the full history of film from their couches, whether to relish in nostalgic favorites or explore movies they’ve never seen before.

The advent of COVID-19 fueled our attachments to movie nights on the couch more than ever before, with more than 100 years’ worth of movie history to choose from. One could go back as far as the silent era to find big-budget spectacle, in movies such as Buster Keaton’s “The General” or Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis.” Each decade that followed delivered its own version of pure movie magic, cranking big productions and big effects out of big budgets. Then there are the little movies that could: mid-budget films that captured the zeitgeist and rode to the top of the box office as a result.

Stacker compiled a list of the 50 biggest box office winners of all time, using data from Box Office Mojo (last updated May 2022). Rankings rely purely on domestic box office gross, with earnings adjusted for ticket price inflation. While the list is predictably chock-full of musicals, historical epics, comic book adaptations, and franchises, it also features the occasional heart-wrenching drama, classic comedy, or head-spinning horror. Here are the biggest box office winners of all time.

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1 / 50
Universal Pictures

#50. Airport (1970)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $619.5 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 66.1 million

This high-profile drama helped kick off the disaster movie craze of the 1970s. It chronicles the lives of airport and airline personnel, as they grapple with everything from a snowstorm to a bomber. A string of sequels followed, as did the groundbreaking 1980 parody “Airplane!”

2 / 50
Pixar Animation Studios

#49. Incredibles 2 (2018)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $621.2 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 66.3 million

The sequel to the popular 2004 hero movie, “Incredibles 2” continues the story of the crime-fighting family. This time around, they must return from domestic life to stop a supervillain.

3 / 50
Eon Productions

#48. Goldfinger (1964)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $621.2 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 66.3 million

While not the first James Bond movie, “Goldfinger” defined the franchise for decades to come. Equipped with nifty gadgets and unmistakable charm, Agent 007 (Sean Connery) squares off against one of his greatest adversaries. Any list of the best Bond movies will feature this one in a top position.

4 / 50
Paramount Pictures

#47. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $629.2 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 67.2 million

Powered by Eddie Murphy’s singular persona, this 1984 action-comedy opened to packed theaters and fairly solid reviews. He takes on the role of Detroit cop Axel Foley, who heads to Beverly Hills to investigate a murder.

5 / 50
Twentieth Century Fox

#46. Cleopatra (1963)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $629.5 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 67.2 million

This 1963 historical epic has some epic history of its own, being one of the most expensive films ever made. What began as a budget of around $5 million ballooned to an estimated $44 million, which is about $350 million in today’s dollars. Despite an impressive box office haul during its initial run, the film wouldn’t make its money back until years later.

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6 / 50
Walt Disney Animation Studios

#45. Pinocchio (1940)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $631.6 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 67.4 million

Like a number of 1940s Disney movies, this one initially underperformed at the box office. That was in large part due to the outbreak of WWII and its disruption to the international market. After several rereleases, “Pinocchio” recouped its losses and became a perennial family favorite.

7 / 50
Walt Disney Pictures

#44. Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi (2017)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $633.4 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 67.6 million

A young woman named Rey (Daisy Ridley) with strong powers trains with Luke Skywalker while the Dark Side launches another attack on the Resistance forces. Carrie Fisher died just a few months after she finished working on the 2017 “Star Wars” movie.

8 / 50
Hughes Entertainment

#43. Home Alone (1990)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $634.7 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 67.7 million

Depicting the misadventures of Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin), this holiday classic was #1 at the box office for 12 weeks straight. It would eventually become the highest-grossing domestic live-action comedy of all time, holding on to that record for 27 years.

9 / 50
Twentieth Century Fox

#42. Independence Day (1996)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $649 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 69.3 million

Alien forces arrive on Earth to destroy it during America’s Fourth of July weekend. Will Smith stars as a Marine captain leading the charge to save the world.

10 / 50
Paramount Pictures

#41. Love Story (1970)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $656 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 70 million

Author Erich Segal adapted his own bestselling novel when writing the screenplay for this romantic tearjerker. It stars Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal as two lovers from different backgrounds, who must overcome various obstacles. Today’s audiences might find the execution sappy, but viewers in 1970 couldn’t get enough of it.

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11 / 50
Campanile Productions

#40. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $661.1 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 70.6 million

The wisecracks fly and so do the bullets in this unconventional Western, which is loosely based on actual events. Robert Redford and Paul Newman bring a pitch-perfect screenplay to life and pave the way for future buddy comedies. It was the highest-grossing film in 1969.

12 / 50
Columbia Pictures Corporation

#39. Spider-Man (2002)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $661.8 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 70.6 million

Peter Parker discovers his superhero powers in this 2002 adaption of the comic book series. Tobey Maguire stars as Spider-Man in a battle against Norman Osborn, played by Willem Dafoe.

13 / 50
DreamWorks

#38. Shrek 2 (2004)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $665.7 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 71.1 million

Shrek goes on an adventure with his new wife, Princess Fiona, to visit her parents, who did not expect their daughter to marry an ogre. Mike Myers voices Shrek, while Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz return as Donkey and Fiona.

14 / 50
Columbia Pictures

#37. Ghostbusters (1984)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $667.9 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 71.3 million

A movie that needs no introduction, “Ghostbusters” was both a cultural sensation and the second-highest-grossing film of 1984. No amount of sequels, cartoons, video games, attractions, or reboots have captured the magic of the original.

15 / 50
Marvel Studios

#36. Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $678.6 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 72.4 million

When the evil Thanos arrives to reshape the universe, the Avengers must team up with characters throughout the Marvel comic book world to fight back. Robert Downey Jr., Benedict Cumberbatch, Chris Pratt, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Chadwick Boseman, and Chris Evans star.

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16 / 50
Walt Disney Animation Studios

#35. Sleeping Beauty (1959)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $681 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 72.7 million

The production of this animated fantasy took four years and ended up costing Disney Studios an exorbitant $6 million. Now considered a family classic, it was a critical and commercial disappointment upon its initial release. Time and rereleases have healed all wounds.

17 / 50
Walt Disney Pictures

#34. The Jungle Book (1967)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $690.4 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 73.7 million

“The Jungle Book” tells the story of Mowgli, a boy raised in the jungle but cast out when a tiger sees the child as a threat. A more recent computer-generated adaptation featured voice work from Scarlett Johansson, Idris Elba, Bill Murray, and Ben Kingsley.

18 / 50
Warner Bros.

#33. The Dark Knight (2008)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $697.7 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 74.5 million

Christian Bale returns to play Batman in the second installment of the “Batman” trilogy. This time, Batman must stop The Joker from ripping Gotham apart with a plan that tests the hero’s morality. The movie is famous for Heath Ledger’s chilling portrayal of The Joker.

19 / 50
Eon Productions

#32. Thunderball (1965)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $700.9 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 74.8 million

James Bond (Sean Connery) chases after dangerous women and nuclear warheads in the franchise’s fourth installment. While not quite as thrilling as its predecessor, the movie still delivers plenty of spectacles. It was such a rousing success that several theaters remained open 24 hours a day to accommodate audience demand.

20 / 50
Marvel Studios

#31. Black Panther (2018)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $715 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 76.3 million

Newly crowned king of Wakanda, T’Challa, is faced with a deadly new power threatening his people. As Black Panther, he is forced to risk it all to protect his home. The movie had the biggest opening in history for a solo-superhero movie.

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21 / 50
Universal Pictures

#30. Jurassic World (2015)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $719.5 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 76.8 million

Chris Pratt stars as Owen, an animal expert who must save tourists at the Jurassic World theme park when a genetically modified dinosaur begins terrorizing the island. This was the first in a reboot of the 1990s “Jurassic” series.

22 / 50
Mavel Studios

#29. The Avengers (2012)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $720.4 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 76.9 million

Superheroes from across the universe must team up to stop an alien invasion bent on enslaving the human race in this 2012 superhero movie. Many of the actors and actresses starred in their own individual superhero movies, such as Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, and Chris Hemsworth.

23 / 50
Paramount Pictures

#28. Grease (1978)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $722.4 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 77.1 million

The highest-grossing musical of the 20th century features unforgettable songs and a surprising range of adult themes. Its adjoining soundtrack was likewise a smash hit, with more than 8 million copies sold. In the film, greaser Danny Zuko (John Travolta) and good girl Sandy Olsson (Olivia Newton-John) try to keep their summer love alive.

24 / 50
Walt Disney Productions

#27. Mary Poppins (1964)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $732.6 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 78.2 million

Winner of five Academy Awards, this live-action Disney musical introduces the Banks family to a magical nanny (Julie Andrews). Its most notable songs have endured in the public consciousness for decades. A sequel earned $347 million worldwide on a shooting budget of approximately $130 million.

25 / 50
Paramount Pictures

#26. Forrest Gump (1994)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $736.8 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 78.6 million

A simpleton named Forrest Gump (Tom Hanks) reflects upon his extraordinary life in this epic drama from Robert Zemeckis. Despite its technological wizardry and historical scope, the movie never loses sight of a humanistic core.

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26 / 50
Paramount Pictures

#25. The Godfather (1972)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $739.5 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 78.9 million

One of the greatest movies ever made was also the highest-grossing film of its time. Chronicling the Corleone crime family saga, it raised the bar on virtually every aspect of American cinema.

27 / 50
Walt Disney Productions

#24. Fantasia (1941)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $778.1 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 83 million

Walt Disney’s most ambitious film was a critical and commercial failure upon its initial release. Featuring stunning animation and a classical score, it veered too far off-brand and left early audiences feeling cold or confused. In the 1960s, the movie’s perceived faults were reappraised as strengths and it’s been regarded as a trailblazer ever since.

28 / 50
Lawrence Truman Productions

#23. The Graduate (1967)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $801.9 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 85.6 million

It represented a cultural tide shift when this 1967 dramedy took the country by storm. Dustin Hoffman stars as a young college graduate, who gets romantically involved with both an older woman (Anne Bancroft) and her daughter. Director Mike Nichols took home the movie’s sole Oscar win.

29 / 50
Paramount Pictures

#22. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $829.7 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 88.5 million

Fearless archaeologist Indiana Jones struck an immediate chord among audiences when this adventure film debuted in 1981. It opened at #1 and went on to become the year’s highest-grossing movie by a sizable margin.

30 / 50
Zanuck/Brown Productions

#21. The Sting (1973)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $835.3 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 89.1 million

Reuniting Robert Redford and Paul Newman, this high-stakes caper follows two grifters as they pull off the ultimate con. With its snappy writing and top-notch performances, the film set a high bar and early template for the con-artist subgenre. It scored big at the box office and eventually took home seven Academy Awards.

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31 / 50
Walt Disney Pictures

#20. The Lion King (1994)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $835.3 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 89.1 million

Disney’s once-animated hit comes to life by way of photorealistic computer technology and a talented cast. While most critics felt the execution left something to be desired, audiences still flocked in droves. It earned a whopping $1.65 billion at the worldwide box office.

32 / 50
Lucasfilm

#19. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $846.2 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 90.3 million

“Star Wars Ep. I - The Phantom Menace” is the first of the prequel trilogy of “Star Wars” movies. Two Jedis find Anakin Skywalker, whom they believe could be the key to winning a long-fought battle against the galaxy’s forces of evil.

33 / 50
Universal Pictures

#18. Jurassic Park (1993)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $860.2 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 91.8 million

Scientists discover a way to clone dinosaurs, but their theme park turns disastrous and visitors must flee for survival. The 1993 film is based on the book by Michael Crichton and stars Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum.

34 / 50
Lucasfilm

#17. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $881.3 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 94.1 million

The original “Star Wars” trilogy concluded with a final showdown between the Empire and the resistance. Reviews were mixed, but that didn’t stop fans from churning out in droves. It was released twice in the 1980s and once again as a “Special Edition” in 1997.

35 / 50
Marvel Studios

#16. Avengers: Endgame (2019)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $892.7 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 95.3 million

Thanos has all the powers of the universe at his disposal and only the Avengers can stop him in this three-hour epic. Chock-full of spectacle and tragedy, it closed out Phase Three of the MCU in a sprawling fashion. This was the fastest film to reach $2 billion at the worldwide box office.

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36 / 50
Twentieth Century Fox

#15. Avatar (2009)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $911.8 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 97.3 million

A human living in an alien world through a hybrid being, called an Avatar, turns against his former comrades to protect the world of Pandora from invasion. The 2009 film used advanced 3D technology to create mesmerizing scenes.

37 / 50
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

#14. Ben-Hur (1959)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $918.7 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 98 million

Clocking in at over three-and-a-half hours, this religious epic remains synonymous with the genre at large. Set in the Roman era, it follows a Jewish prince (Charlton Heston) as he seeks revenge on those who betrayed him. A critical and commercial smash, it won 11 Academy Awards out of 12 nominations.

38 / 50
Lucasfilm

#13. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $920.8 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 98.3 million

Even after all the spinoffs and sequels, this 1980 chapter in the “Star Wars” saga remains a fan favorite. From its opening sequence on the planet Hoth to its stunning climax, the film delivers endless adventure and is one of the most famous reveals in cinematic history. Its box office tally is an accumulation of multiple rereleases, including the 1997 “Special Edition.”

39 / 50
Walt Disney Productions

#12. One Hundred and One Dalmatians (1961)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $936.2 million
- Estimated tickets sold: 99.9 million

The immediate success of this beloved Disney film lifted the studio out of a financial slump. Its bottom line was also helped by a budget-friendly animation style, which used Xerox photocopy technology. A 1996 live-action remake was likewise successful, raking in over $320 million (not adjusted for inflation) at the worldwide box office.

40 / 50
Lucasfilm

#11. Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens (2015)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $1.01 billion
- Estimated tickets sold: 108.1 million

Mark Hamill returns in his star role as Luke Skywalker to fight a new force of evil in the galaxy 30 years after defeating Darth Vader. However, Skywalker must team up with a new generation of fighters to have a chance.

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41 / 50
Walt Disney Productions

#10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $1.02 billion
- Estimated tickets sold: 109 million

Walt Disney bet the future of his company on this groundbreaking animated feature, about a runaway princess and seven dwarves. It opened in the midst of the Great Depression and became an instant smash, making more than any other film of its time. Disney Studios established a tradition of rereleasing the movie once every few years between 1944 and 1993.

42 / 50
Warner Bros.

#9. The Exorcist (1973)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $1.04 billion
- Estimated tickets sold: 110.6 million

Reports of intense audience reactions only fueled interest in this controversial horror film. Infusing religious themes with graphic visuals, it was quite unlike anything that had ever come before it. Linda Blair plays a 12-year-old girl named Regan, who’s been possessed by an ancient demonic entity.

43 / 50
Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

#8. Doctor Zhivago (1965)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $1.16 billion
- Estimated tickets sold: 124.1 million

A love story for the ages, David Lean’s masterful adaptation spans WWI and the Russian Revolution. Against a backdrop of constant turmoil, a Russian doctor (Omar Sharif) reunites with an old flame (Julie Christie). The film won five Academy Awards, including Best Adapted Screenplay.

44 / 50
Zanuck/Brown Productions

#7. Jaws (1975)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $1.2 billion
- Estimated tickets sold: 128.2 million

Spielberg’s breakthrough smash represented the first film with a wide release, landing in every theater at once. It soared past $100 million at the domestic box office in record time and created the summer blockbuster concept. Sequels, rip-offs, video games, merchandise, and theme park attractions would follow.

45 / 50
Motion Picture Associates (II)

#6. The Ten Commandments (1956)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $1.23 billion
- Estimated tickets sold: 131 million

The story of Moses burst onto the big screen in vivid Technicolor with this 1956 adaptation. Charlton Heston plays the biblical figure, who returns to Egypt to free the Jews. It was the second time director Cecil B. DeMille explored this particular subject, having previously helmed a silent movie of the same name.

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46 / 50
Twentieth Century Fox

#5. Titanic (1997)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $1.27 billion
- Estimated tickets sold: 135.5 million

A poor young man falls in love with an aristocrat aboard the RMS Titanic. Their fight for survival on the sinking ship follows their love story in this 1997 movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet.

47 / 50
Universal Pictures

#4. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $1.33 billion
- Estimated tickets sold: 141.9 million

An alien stranded on Earth becomes friends with a young boy who decides to help the newcomer return home. To do so, the two must thwart parents, the community, and the government. Fun fact: the movie was inspired by a Neil Diamond song.

48 / 50
Robert Wise Productions

#3. The Sound of Music (1965)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $1.34 billion
- Estimated tickets sold: 142.5 million

Shortly after playing Mary Poppins, Julie Andrews tackled the role of Maria von Trapp in this massively popular musical. Its lush European setting and slew of catchy songs made it a must-see theater experience. Not only was it #1 at the box office for over half of 1965, but its first theatrical run lasted four-and-a-half years.

49 / 50
Lucasfilm

#2. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $1.67 billion
- Estimated tickets sold: 178.1 million

Luke Skywalker and Han Solo team up to save Princess Leia from the Imperial Forces in the first installment of the Star Wars series. The cast launched the careers of its stars Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and James Earl Jones.

50 / 50
Selznick International Pictures

#1. Gone with the Wind (1939)

- Inflation-adjusted lifetime domestic gross: $1.9 billion
- Estimated tickets sold: 202.3 million

Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) experiences romance and hardship during the Civil War and Reconstructionist eras in this sprawling masterpiece. Its premiere in Atlanta was such a big deal that Georgia’s governor declared a state holiday. When adjusted for inflation, its worldwide box office haul comes out to roughly $3.4 billion.

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