The Biggest Box-Office Hit the Year You Were Born
These films were the biggest global box-office hits of each year. Did your favourites make the cut?
The Highest Grossing Movie From Every Year
2022: Avatar: The Way of Water
Global box office: $2.32 billion
You’ll see director James Cameron pop up several times on our highest grossing movie list—and you’re likely to see him again in future updates, given the runaway success of this second installment in his Avatar franchise. The long-awaited follow-up to the 2009 original only had one serious competitor in terms of global box office earnings, but even Tom Cruise’s Top Gun: Maverick proved no match for the Na’vi, lagging behind The Way of Water by nearly a billion dollars.
2021: Spider-Man: No Way Home
Global box office: $1.89 billion
Tom Holland may be the third Spider-Man we’ve had in the past 20 years, but audiences simply can’t get enough of the web-slinging superhero. Back in 2019, the franchise reached a new high, with Spider-Man: Far From Home bringing in a cool $1.2 billion. Last year, that franchise record was smashed with No Way Home, which pairs Holland’s wide-eyed Peter Parker with Benedict Cumberbatch’s Doctor Strange for maximum MCU mayhem.
2020: The Eight Hundred
Global box office: $461 million
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020’s top-grossing film is measured not in the billions, but in the millions. The Eight Hundred is a Chinese military drama set in Shanghai in 1937. A group of 800 Chinese soldiers are fighting a last-ditch battle against the Japanese army, who have them completely surrounded in a warehouse. Box office take aside, The Eight Hundred is also noteworthy for being the first non-Hollywood, non-English language film to come in #1 at the box office.
Check out the best drama movies on Netflix right now.
2019: Avengers: Endgame
Global box office: $2.8 billion
With half of the universe wiped out, the remaining Avengers take one final stand against the supervillain Thanos in the grand conclusion to Marvel Studios’ 22-film franchise.
2018: Avengers: Infinity War
Global box office: $2 billion
The Avengers have fought and destroyed otherworldly foes before, but nothing could have prepared them for Thanos (Josh Brolin): a seemingly unstoppable supervillain on the hunt for the most powerful objects in the universe, the Infinity Stones.
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2017: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Global box office: $1.3 billion
The eighth installment in the main Star Wars franchise, The Last Jedi picks up where The Force Awakens left off: Rey (Daisy Ridley) develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is disturbed by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares for battle with the First Order.
Every Star Wars fan should know these inspiring Star Wars quotes by heart!
2016: Captain America: Civil War
Global box office: $1.15 billion
When politicians move to install a new system of accountability for superheroes, the Avengers are split into two groups: one led by Captain America (Chris Evans), who believes superheroes should be free to defend humanity without interference, and the other led by Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), who supports government oversight.
Check out these inspiring Marvel movie quotes to live by.
2015: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Global box office: $2.07 billion
Nearly 40 years after the original film, we return to a galaxy far, far away as newcomers Rey, Finn, and Poe join veteran rebels (yes, Han Solo and Chewbacca make a comeback) in the fight against Kylo Ren and his First Order. Clearly, the world was ready for more intergalactic action!
2014: Transformers: Age of Extinction
Global box office: $1.1 billion
As Chicago lies in ruins, a new group of humans, led by Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), helps Optimus Prime and the Autobots rise up to meet their most fearsome challenge yet: a worldwide war of good versus evil.
Global box office: $1.28 billion
The courageous Anna (Kristen Bell) joins forces with a mountaineer and his reindeer sidekick to find her sister, Snow Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel), and save their kingdom from winter’s deadly grip.
Check out the best things to watch on Disney Plus right now.
2012: The Avengers
Global box office: $1.52 billion
Marvel’s greatest heroes unite to defeat Loki and his evil alien army before they take over Earth and everyone on it. And when you put Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye in a battle of epic proportions, you better believe it’s going to be as witty as it is action-packed.
2011: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows—Part 2
Global box office: $1.34 billion
The final installment of the Harry Potter series was a bittersweet moment for fans. Yes, the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione reached an inevitable end, but at least it was a satisfying one, equal parts thrilling, visually stimulating, and touching. The only question that remains (and will never be unanimously answered) is whether the movies were better than the books.
This is the best Harry Potter movie, according to Rotten Tomatoes.
2010: Toy Story 3
Global box office: $1.06 billion
Adventurous for young viewers, nostalgic for young-at-heart viewers, and tear-jerking for everyone. In the third film in this classic series, our small but mighty heroes once again must find their way home before their owner Andy leaves for college. It just goes to show that some toys were made to be more than toys.
Global box office: $2.78 billion
James Cameron’s sci-fi fantasy takes place on the moon Pandora, where one man tries to stop his fellow humans from colonizing the planet and drive out the natives he has come to love. The film’s use of stereoscopy—making 3D images look more real by adding depth—is considered a technological breakthrough for the industry. It certainly proved popular with audiences: Avatar remains the highest grossing movie of all time.
2008: The Dark Knight
Global box office: $1 billion
Consistently named one of the best superhero movies ever made, The Dark Knight takes viewers into the chaos of Gotham as Batman attempts to save his city from the Joker. Heath Ledger posthumously won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as the Joker. (He is the second actor to ever receive this award after death.)
2007: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Global box office: $963 million
Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) join forces with Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to free Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from Davy Jones.
2006: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Global box office: $1.07 billion
Captain Jack Sparrow returns in the sequel to the first Pirates film, The Curse of the Black Pearl, as he and his swashbuckling friends search for the heart of Davy Jones—with the fate of their souls at stake. Talk about a lot to lose. Do you think Captain Jack ever used pirate jokes to ease the tension?
2005: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Global box office: $897 million
Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) return for their fourth year at Hogwarts. A tournament between the three schools of magic is underway, and Harry is forced to participate.
Here are 20+ hilarious Harry Potter jokes every muggle should know.
2004: Shrek 2
Global box office: $920 million
Typically, sequels are never as good as the first movie, but Shrek 2 is definitely not ogre-rated. In this animated comedy, Shrek and Fiona continue their love story by going to meet Fiona’s parents in the Kingdom of Far Far Away.
These are the best comedies on Netflix Canada right now.
2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Global box office: $1.12 billion
This movie was based off of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book and was produced, written, and directed by Peter Jackson. This acclaimed film won 11 Academy Awards and brought in over $1 billion worldwide.
2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Global box office: $923 million
The Two Towers is famous for two reasons: the 40-minute Helm’s Deep battle sequence and the addition of CGI character Gollum (Andy Serkis). Nearly 20 years later, the two achievements have yet to be surpassed!
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2001: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
Global box office: $975 million
Based off of the first book in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, this film follows a young wizard, Harry Potter, through his adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.
2000: Mission: Impossible 2
Global box office: $546 million
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) leads his team on a mission to capture a deadly virus before it’s released by a gang of international terrorists, one of them being a former IMF agent gone rogue. Directed by John Woo (Face/Off).
1999: Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace
Global box office: $984 million
This film is the first installment in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, set 32 years before the original film. The premiere of the film was highly attended by the following that the Star Wars saga had created.
Global box office: $554 million
When an asteroid threatens to destroy Earth, the only way to stop it is to drill into its surface and detonate a nuclear bomb. This leads NASA to contact renowned deep-sea oil driller Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis), who agrees to helm the dangerous space mission provided he can bring along his own ragtag crew.
Global box office: $2.13 billion
Titanic shares the fictional love story of Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater, while outlining the true story of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The budget for the James Cameron film was a record-breaking $200 million, but the 11 Oscars that it won and over $2 billion it brought in worldwide made up for it.
Don’t miss these mind-blowing facts about the real Titanic.
1996: Independence Day
Global box office: $817 million
This movie is a science fiction action film that focuses on a group of people in the aftermath of an attack by an extraterrestrial race. It was directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich, who came up with the idea for the film after questioning his own belief in aliens.
1995: Die Hard with a Vengeance
Global box office: $366 million
A mysterious terrorist is threatening to detonate bombs across New York City, and it’s up to John McClane (Bruce Willis)—now a full-fledged alcoholic recently suspended from the NYPD—to stop him. His partner-in-crime? An unwitting Harlem store owner (Samuel L. Jackson).
Love pulse-pounding action? These great spy movies are worth rewatching.
1994: The Lion King
Global box office: $988 million
The Dane grows a mane in Disney’s all-singing, all-dancing, all-animal rendition of Hamlet. Beloved for its big and playful soundtrack, The Lion King earned Oscars for Elton John, Tim Rice and Hans Zimmer, spawned a perpetually popular Broadway musical, and—for better or worse—got “Hakuna Matata” stuck in millions of kid and parent craniums alike. No worries.
1993: Jurassic Park
Global box office: $1.03 billion
Dino DNA turns an ill-conceived theme park into a gauntlet of hungry velociraptors, stomping tyrannosaurs, and unhinged Jeff Goldblum laughter. Four films later, who would’ve thought that a little mosquito would spawn one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time?
Global box office: $504 million
A meet cute in the slums of Agrabah sends a handsome thief chasing after a strong-willed princess with swords, sorcery, and, eventually, the truth. One of Disney’s finest films, Aladdin deserves a place in the pantheon for nothing less than Robin Williams’s signature role as a fast-talking genie with whom everyone—still—wishes they could be friends.
1991: Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Global box office: $520 million
After wreaking havoc across Los Angeles in search of Sarah Conner (Linda Hamilton) in the original film, the Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) returns as… a good guy? Terminator 2: Judgment Day was a watershed moment in the world of action movies and visual effects—and it’s rarely been equalled.
Global box office: $506 million
When a banker (Patrick Swayze) is murdered by his best friend and business partner over a shady business deal, his ghost must seek the help of a psychic (Whoopi Goldberg) in order to protect his girlfriend Molly (Demi Moore) from certain death.
1989: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Global box office: $474 million
Harrison Ford and Sean Connery join forces in the third film in the Indiana Jones franchise. This time, their adventure takes them on a quest to find the literal Holy Grail.
1988: Rain Man
Global box office: $355 million
Sleazy Tom Cruise and autistic savant Dustin Hoffman take a road trip to escape a mental institution, cheat a Vegas casino, watch Judge Wapner, and other brotherly activities. Funny and heartfelt, Rain Man won four Oscars, including a Best Actor statue for Hoffman.
1987: Fatal Attraction
Global box office: $320 million
A hotshot lawyer (Michael Douglas) has a casual fling with a sexy book editor (Glenn Close), but their infidelity has dangerous consequences when Close’s character is revealed to be a violent psychotic.
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1986: Top Gun
Global box office: $357 million
“Maverick,” “Goose,” and “Iceman” are fighter pilot trainees alternately making the skies safer and more dangerous in this military romance that made all filmgoers suddenly want their own codenames.
Test your knowledge of aviation terms with our Word Power challenge!
1985: Back to the Future
Global box office: $389.1 million
Marty McFly and Doc Brown have a time-traveling DeLorean (Radical!). They use it to go to high school with Marty’s parents in the ’50s (Laaaame). This pioneering sci-fi comedy has attained cult classic status for good reason.
1984: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Global box office: $333 million
In this prequel, Nazi-fighting archaeologist Indiana Jones turns his sights on an ancient cult in India dabbling in slavery and human sacrifice. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom‘s dark tone shocked audiences in 1984, but its thrilling action sequences helped propel it to box office glory.
Check out the best action movies on Netflix Canada right now.
1983: Star Wars: Episode VI—Return of the Jedi
Global box office: $475 million
The final piece of the original Star Wars trilogy was nominated for four Academy Awards but failed to pick up any little gold statues.
These corny Star Wars jokes are sure to make you smile.
1982: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Global box office: $793 million
Steven Spielberg continued his blockbuster run with this science-fiction fantasy film about the unlikely friendship between a boy and his extraterrestrial friend, E.T., who was just trying to phone home.
1981: Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark
Global box office: $390 million
Harrison Ford got hearts racing as a ruggedly handsome archaeologist-turned-adventurer in the first of Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones action serial.
1980: Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back
Global box office: $538 million
George Lucas wasted no time debuting the second installment of his space saga, set three years after the original.
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Global box office: $210 million
Yes, this is the Bond film to feature a laser gun battle in space. But moviegoers in 1979 obviously enjoyed Moonraker‘s lighthearted tone—and Roger Moore’s effortless charm.
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Global box office: $395 million
While a young John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John fell in love on-screen as a pair of 1950s high school sweethearts in Grease, moviegoers were busy falling in love with this musical rom-com’s best-selling soundtrack.
1977: Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope
Global box office: $775 million
A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas’s epic space adventure began and fans were first introduced to characters now rooted in pop culture history—Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo, Princess Leia, Obi-Wan Kenobi, R2-D2, C-3PO, and of course, Darth Vader.
Global box office: $225 million
Sylvester Stallone donned his boxing gloves (and removed his shirt) and took to the ring in this rags-to-riches story about an Italian-American amateur boxer who went from working the slums of Philadelphia to competing in the world heavyweight championship. The film spawned six sequels, with the third including a song now synonymous with the hardworking Rocky, “Eye of the Tiger” by the band Survivor.
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Global box office: $471 million
Beaches across America were probably a little emptier after the man-eating shark in this blockbuster hit from Steven Spielberg terrorized the big screen. It was deemed so iconic that the Library of Congress added it to the National Registry of Films in 2001, a list reserved only for those that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically” significant.
1974: Blazing Saddles
Box office: $119.5 million
Mel Brooks’ satire of the Old West is widely regarded as his crowning achievement. Gene Wilder and Cleavon Little justifiably steal the show, but Blazing Saddles is chock-full of perfectly-cast supporting turns too!
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1973: The Exorcist
Box office: $232.9 million
If you were born in ’73 and are also a horror fan, that’s fitting because it’s also the year the frighteningly successful psychological thriller about a young girl possessed by the devil hit theatres, infamously creepy 360-degree head spin and all. It racked up 10 Academy Award nominations, winning two.
Here are the best scary movies on Netflix right now.
1972: The Godfather
Box office: $134.9 million
Marlon Brando won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1973 for his brilliant performance as mob boss Vito Corleone. The Don tries to pass down his empire to his youngest son Michael, played by Al Pacino, but the young man is reluctant to take control of the powerful organized crime dynasty his father has created.
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1971: Fiddler on the Roof
Box office: $75.6 million
Adapted from the 1964 Broadway smash of the same name, Fiddler on the Roof tells the story of a poor Jewish milkman in the Ukraine and his attempts to raise his daughters in the Jewish tradition. Future Star Wars composer John Williams won an Oscar for his work on this film!
1970: Love Story
Box office: $106.3 million
A poor baker’s daughter and rich boy become star-crossed lovers in this modern day Romeo and Juliet. Despite his family’s disapproval, the two get married and struggle to make ends meet. When circumstances finally start to look up for the pair, one of them is diagnosed with a terminal illness and their short-lived love story comes to an end.
1969: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Box office: $102.3 million
Paul Newman and Robert Redford play a dynamic duo in this four-time Oscar-winning film about two bank robbers who flee from the law and head for Bolivia.
1968: 2001: A Space Odyssey
Box office: $56.7 million
The discovery of weapons, a series of black monoliths, an evil computer, a journey through a Technicolor vortex—50 years later, 2001: A Space Odyssey is still one of the most mysterious and spectacular movies you’ll ever come across.
Discover the best sci-fi movies on Netflix Canada.
1966: The Bible: In the Beginning
Box office: $34.9 million
You’ll learn all about the Biblical book of Genesis which features the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, and Abraham and Isaac in The Bible: In the Beginning.
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1965: The Sound of Music
Box office: $158.6 million
Yes, the hills are alive with yet another popular classic starring Julie Andrews who plays a governess for the seven children of a wealthy Austrian widower, Captain Von Trapp whose heart has grown cold. Andrews will win over your heart in this fun, family film just like she did with the Von Trapp clan.
Box office: $57.7 million
Elizabeth Taylor is a stunning Queen of the Nile in this historical flick about the triumphs and tragedies of Cleopatra.
1962: Lawrence of Arabia
Box office: $44 million
David Lean’s depiction of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War is one of the most famous epics of all time. The 70mm cinematography, glorious music and Peter O’Toole’s performance remain stunning to this day.
1960: Swiss Family Robinson
Box office: $40.3 million
This adaptation of the famous 1812 novel by Johann David Wyss was the first widescreen film shot by Walt Disney Pictures. It grossed over $40 million against a modest $4 million budget!
Box office: $74 million
This film, which follows the story of a Judah Ben-Hur, a well-to-do prince and merchant in Jerusalem in AD 26, had a budget of $15.175 million, the largest of its time. Thankfully, it generated $74.7 million in North American box office sales.
1958: South Pacific
Box office: $36.8 million
Sail away into date night with this World War II musical romance featuring a young Navy nurse and a French planter. With a Rogers and Hammerstein score, you can’t go wrong.
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1957: The Bridge on the River Kwai
Box office: $27.2 million
This epic war film based on the novel Le Pont de la Rivière Kwai by Pierre Boulle follows the construction of the Burma Railway by British prisoners during World War II.
1956: The Ten Commandments
Box office: $65.5 million
A biblical epic based on the life of Moses and his receiving of the Ten Commandments.
For more ’50s classics, take a look back at the 10 best Marilyn Monroe movies.
1954: White Christmas
Box office: $30 million
Bing Crosby stars in this smash hit musical about four singers who stage a Christmas festival to raise money for a World War II commander in dire straits. Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney (George Clooney’s real-life aunt) co-star.
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1953: Peter Pan
Box office: $40.7 million
What better way to revisit your childhood on movie night than with a movie about the boy who never grows up? Take a trip to Neverland with Wendy, Peter and the Lost Boys with this Disney classic.
1951: Quo Vadis
Box office: $30 million
When a Roman commander falls in love with a Christian hostage, he begins to question the nature of his Emperor’s regime.
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Box office: $10 million
The prince is throwing a ball to find a wife, but Cinderella’s wicked stepmother and stepsisters ruin her chance to go. Cinderella’s chance at finding love seems hopeless until her fairy godmother comes to the rescue.
1949: Samson and Delilah
Box office: $28.8 million
This romantic epic is based on the biblical story of lust and betrayal. Delilah seduces Samson, the strongest man in his enslaved Israeli tribe, to discover the secret behind his strength.
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1948: The Snake Pit
Box office: $10 million
A woman wakes up in an insane asylum without memory of how she got there in this film adaptation of Mary Jane Ward’s semi-autobiographical book. The movie jumps back in time to flashbacks from before her hospital admittance, and follows her journey through recovery.
1947: Forever Amber
Box office: $16 million
A poor 17th-century English girl decides to raise herself to nobility, but must choose between status and true love.
1946: Song of the South
Box office: $65 million
James Baskett plays live-action Uncle Remus, who tells stories of Br’er Rabbit, an animated bunny who tricks his enemies, Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear. The song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” won an Academy Award, and Baskett’s honourary win made him the first black male actor to get an Oscar.
1945: The Bells of St. Mary’s
Box office: $21.3 million
Newly-transferred Father O’Malley (Bing Crosby) and Sister Mary (Ingrid Bergman) fight to keep their Catholic inner city elementary school alive—and fall in love in the process.
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1944: Going My Way
Box office: $16.3 million
Bing Crosby plays a laid-back young priest trying to mentor a gang of kids and take over the Manhattan parish’s finances for the aging Father Fitzgibbon, despite the older pastor’s disapproval. The film won seven Oscars, including Best Picture.
1943: This Is the Army
Box office: $19.5 million
In this wartime musical comedy, Jerry Jones’ dancing career is ruined when his leg is wounded on the battlefield during World War I. By the time World War II begins, he’s switched to producing, and his son Johnny reluctantly follows his father’s footsteps with an all-soldier show.
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Box office: $103 million
A curious young deer makes friends with his fellow forest creatures, including a peppy rabbit named Thumper, as he learns about courage and love. When hunters threaten his friends, Bambi must step up to lead the animals to safety.
1941: Sergeant York
Box office: $16.4 million
Based on the true story of Sergeant Alvin York, this film follows the American’s journey from drafted pacifist to decorated war hero during World War I.
1939: Gone with the Wind
Box office: $198 million
Based on the book by Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind follows the romantic pursuits of a Georgia plantation owner’s daughter, Scarlett O’Hara, during and after the Civil War.
1938: Alexander’s Ragtime Band
Box office: $4 million
In this box-office hit, a forward-thinking bandleader (Tyrone Power) fights the powers-that-be to make ragtime music respectable. Alexander’s Ragtime Band takes its name from the 1911 Irving Berlin song.
1936: San Francisco
Box office: $5.27 million
A nightclub owner (Clark Gable) and a real estate magnate (Jack Holt) compete for the affections of an up-and-coming singer (Jeanette MacDonald) before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroys the city.
1935: Mutiny on the Bounty
Box office: $4.4 million
As HMS Bounty sets sail from England to Tahiti, Captain Bligh turns into a ruthless tyrant. Before they make their way home, first mate Fletcher Christian leads a mutiny so the crew can go back to paradise in Tahiti—until the captain comes back for revenge.
1934: It Happened One Night
Box office: $2.5 million
When a spoiled socialite runs away from her father to join her husband, a story-hungry reporter blackmails her into letting him tag along.
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1933: King Kong
Box office: $10 million
People have been obsessing over this giant ape since he first travelled from Skull Island to New York City in the original 1933 movie King Kong.
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1932: Shanghai Express
Box office: $3.7 million
In this romantic adventure film, a woman and her former lover reconnect on a train to Shanghai. It won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.
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Box office: $12 million
A scientist is obsessed with trying to create life from bits and pieces cobbled together from corpses, but has to live with the consequences when he succeeds in this film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic novel.
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1930: Tom Sawyer
Box office: $11 million
Mark Twain’s timeless novel about the adventures of a young boy gets film fame too. Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Joe Harper trick the town into thinking they’re dead, witness a murder, and more.
Now that you know the highest grossing movie from every year, check out every Oscar Best Picture winner, ranked!