23 thoughts on “Top Grossing Films”

  1. I’ve never seen Gone with the Wind or the Exorcist.

    I probably should have seen them… my ex-wife’s family and friends nick names her Scarlett.

  2. The whole idea of determining the top film by how much money it has taken in, without considering inflation, is ludicrous. I also like the idea mentioned in the comments there of taking into consideration population growth and number of theater outlets. Without those considerations 50-100 years from now a descendant of Alan Sandler could have a move that out grosses GWTW.

  3. This list makes good sense to me, though I was under the impression that Avatar had already grossed more than $1 billion domestically.

    BTW, you should see “Jaws vs. the Exorcist.” REALLY scary…

  4. Adjusting for inflation is the way to go. The analysis is still incomplete, though, because those are domestic-only numbers. Big movies nowadays can make twice as much in the rest of the world as they do in the States. Older movies usually had smaller numbers outside of the US. Gone With the Wind “only” matched its total in the States, and Star Wars made less abroad than in the US. I have not and will never see “Avatar”, and find most of Hollywood’s current output unwatchable dreck, but in fairness to modern movies it makes sense to include foreign ticket sales.

  5. Snow White And The Seven Dwarves was the first movie I ever saw in the theater. My grandmother took me to see it when I was five. I don’t think I’ve seen it since.

    I’ve never seen ET: The Extraterrestrial, and have no plans too, even though I’m a science fiction fan. But I’m kind of weird that way — I don’t like a lot of science fiction films and series that other people glom onto and say are the greatest thing ever. I loved the original Star Trek, but as much as I tried to get into the new ones starting with The Next Generation they never captured my imagination. I loved Star Wars, and then the next two movies somewhat less, but the “prequels” that came out later left me cold. I loved the original Battlestar Galactica — yes, the cheesy early 80s series — but I think by that time I was just really jonesing for some tv scifi hard. (Seventies tv was mostly sitcoms set in dreary urban neighborhoods and crime dramas…. set in dreary urban neighborhoods.) I love Doctor Who old and new — but all of the other scifi series that are out now don’t interest me — including the revamped Battlestar Galactica.

    I saw The Exorcist against my will — my sister and I were sharing a hotel room one year on a vacation trip and she wanted to watch it. I thought it was stupid, not scary. Maybe it would have helped if I’d been raised Catholic (all my Catholic friends thought it was the scariest movie ever), but I wasn’t. I’ve never been able to sit through a viewing of The Godfather — the mafia and criminals in general don’t interest me. I saw Titanic without wanting to — it was the movie playing on the plane when I went to Los Angeles from Miami one year. Yes, I know — I’m just glad they didn’t play Airport ’79.

  6. I forgot to mention I’ve never seen Jaws — sharks eating people, ugh. Then many years later a friend dragged me to see Deep Blue Sea, which was about a mutant super shark that ate almost everyone in the cast. I can’t win.

  7. Wait, WHAT!?!?!?!


    I would put it as one of the best films of all time! You never saw the exorcist? I need beer and therapy, or rather, you do, and you need to netflix it most rick and tick.

  8. I’m glad to see that The Sting is up there. Wonderful movie, seriously underappreciated these days. And Raiders remains the most cinematic of the whole list – the shootout in Marian’s Nepalese bar should be required viewing before any director is allowed to film another shootout.

    On a slight tangent, I sympathize with Andrea’s comments about filmed SF: I grew up reading the masters of the Golden Age of SF and the immediately following New Wave (Heinlein, Asimov, Ellison, Leiber, Miller, Niven, Pournelle, van Vogt, Herbert, RA Wilson, Bob Shea, Sheckley, etc); filmed SF couldn’t come anywhere close. The original Star Trek? Half-a-dozen good episodes, another half dozen entertaining ones, and the rest drek. TNG? Self-important twaddle. Same with DS9. Voyager was slightly redeemed by the superb Kate Mulgrew and some better-than-average scripts, but still couldn’t match my memories.

  9. Wait, WHAT!?!?!?!


    I would put it as one of the best films of all time!

    I have never heard, or read anything about The Exorcist that has ever resulted in a desire on my part to see it. Including your comment.

    And I read the book.

  10. There are six movies on that list I haven’t seen (just not a Charleton Heston fan, I guess), including Avatar. Maybe I’ll get around to watching The Sting one day though.

    I didn’t like The Exorcist.

    I think Gone With The Wind, Star Wars and the like are permanently on that list. Nothing will ever come close – because too many people are going to wait for the DVD (or Blu-Ray, or streaming iTunes video, or whatever the next technology is). The days before VHS were the Golden Age of the local movie theater, and that Age is gone.

  11. Brock,

    About that Golden Age of the local movie theater – I’m curious, did you grow up in a small town (more than 60 minutes away from a large town), or a large town / small town relatively close to a large town? I ask because of the phenomenon that every person I know, who grew up in a small town not close to a large town, remembers from the ’60s and ’70s: small towns got the movies, when they got them at all, literally months after the large towns. Even in 1977, it was three months after its release before Star Wars came to my town; my friends and I were completely unsuccessful in getting our parents to drive us somewhere else that it was showing. Many movies never made it at all, at least until the one-screen Main Street theater got competition from a new two-screen on the edge of town (the sole drive-in wasn’t really competition except for Disney flicks like The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes). I learned my lesson: when Raiders opened in 1981, my SO and I drove to the big city and saw it only a week after it opened.

    On the plus side, when the new theater opened, I was twelve, and it brought in a bunch of older movies as an opening celebration – so I got to watch both Gone With the Wind (the horror! the horror!) and 2001: A Space Odyssey on the big screen well after their initial releases.

  12. Do not expect much with Avatar and make sure that you see it in 3D. Otherwise it is not woth seeing.

  13. ::Warning spoiler alert::

    Well I just watched Avatar last night and can certainly say the visuals were stunning. I do agree quite a bit with the 70 minute Star Wars review guy on a lot of things with this movie. Particularly, the Navi are just too perfect to be taken seriously. They have a long single braid of hair coming off the back of their head with a flower looking bundle at the tip. This soul flower acts like an Ipod interface for your brain. It can be hooked into all other living things on the planet because everything has these glowing braids hanging off them somewhere. In fact all the life on the planet is interconnected in a giant neural network through these glowing tendrils. On the surface, that idea is intriguing it terms of what can be accomplished from a story telling perspective. But a pragmatic view makes one wonder what is the benefit of an entire planet’s ecosystem from taking this evolutionary path. The near infinite variety of diverse paths that individual species would take, in my mind, makes the idea of a large global neural net unlikely. So, there is little substance to the fantasy of the Navi being so perfectly in tune with their animal companions. Still though, I like a good action flick and I have to admit that I am a sucker for clean highly detailed CG animation. I’d say that if you approach Avatar like you are watching a Japanese Anime then it comes off as actually being pretty good. In other words it’s a serious movie that shouldn’t be taken seriously if you really wish to enjoy it.

  14. If you lead only with your head (e.g. like Mike Griffin comparing himself to Spock) you might have an excuse for skipping Avatar.

    If you have any _heart_ however (gee… like Charlie Bolden showed recently?) you MUST go see it.

    There, I hope I’ve shamed all the New Spacers who’ve been holding back.

    Now for my heart: It’s a masterpiece. The immersion (whether or not 3D) in what _appears_ to be a wholly realized and detailed ecosystem is astounding. How can you possibly compare this to anime!! The graphics are 1000’s of times better, the convincing qualities the same.

    OK so the story is standard issue, but it’s also touching and uplifting: inclusive of the classic one where those who’ve lost their humanity in search of power and control getting their comeuppance.

    Let’s be honest here folks. I’ve seen a lot of mainstream (NOT media linked) written sf that does worse. I mean talk about having to suspend disbelief, Niven making humans the descendents of the Pak rather than Earth-based life! Yet one can suspend disbelief because the whole is done so well.

    If you can do it for Larry, you can do it for Avatar. Go – You won’t regret it.

  15. You do a disservice to Japanese Anime. There are a several story lines of Anime that are highly rendered and totally immersive worlds in their own right. Sure, the level of detail in Avatar has been taken to a whole other level. I think that is pretty much all James Cameron really set out to do here is to show off his movie making technology. The plot is fairly basic in that he used the same formula for tugging at your heart strings like he used in Titanic and applied that to his new movie shooting technology and technics.

  16. There, I hope I’ve shamed all the New Spacers who’ve been holding back.

    Not even a little bit.

  17. I’m certainly not going to see Avatar and I’m not the slightest bit shamed. The plot sounds like Ferngully 2, no amount of special effects can make up for something so manipulative. Put me in the Spock camp of people who “lead with their heads.”

  18. Agree with Waterhouse. Not a chance of dragging me to see Avatar, 3d or 2d, for a 1d and anti-human plot. The snips I’ve seen look too cheesy to suspend disbelief, and the soldiers-with-guns-vs-superior-aliens bit I found boring after the first half of “Aliens”; I vote Niven over Cameron 7 days a week and twice on Sundays. Fancy CG is a waste of money on me without a decent story; take away their damn computers, give ’em some black and white film, and invest in a plot, and you’ve got my business…

    Andrea, I’ll agree with you on Godfather. Mafia movies (miniseries, novels, etc.) bore me to tears. The Godfather is one of only two movies I’ve walked out on, the other being Cuppola’s The Conversation.

    Otherwise, haven’t seen Lion King, Phantom Menace, or Ben Hur. Hope to see the last of those sometime soon.

  19. If you can do it for Larry, you can do it for Avatar. Go – You won’t regret it.

    Sorry, but Avatar is puerile dreck. It’s like a Star Wars prequel without the fine acting or romantic chemistry. *cough*

  20. As the last sentence of the first paragraph of that story mentioned, if it wasn’t for the $2-5 premium per-ticket to see it in 3D, or the additional significant premium to see it in IMAX, Avatar would not have made it to the top of that chart.

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