Highest grossing movie worldwide, annually 1915-2020

In 2019, Avengers: Endgame overtook 2009's Avatar as the highest grossing film of all time at the international Box Office. As of 2020, the difference between Endgame and Avatar's totals is fewer than ten million dollars, however this may change over the next few years as Avatar is likely to be shown again in theaters prior to midnight releases of it's four sequels (the first of which is due in 2022). Before Avatar, the record had been held by 1997's Titanic (both of which were directed by James Cameron). When adjusted for inflation, 1939's Gone With the Wind is the highest grossing film of all time, with some sources claiming that it has generated approximately 3.4 billion dollars in today's money***. The highest grossing film of 2020 was The Eight Hundred, which took over 460 million dollars worldwide; the first ever non-Hollywood production to feature on this list. The significant drop off in global revenues in 2020 was due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw the closure of thousands of movie theaters across the world; although the varying restrictions per country eventually saw Asian markets overtake North American and European markets as the largest worldwide, and five of the ten highest grossing films in 2020 were either Chinese or Japanese productions. Additionally, many major Hollywood releases have been delayed until 2021 or beyond, while a significant number of films had their theatrical release cancelled and were instead released via online streaming services; it remains to be seen what the long-term impact of the pandemic will be on the entertainment industry, or the extent of the economic damage caused to movie theaters around the world.

Recurring figures

Throughout the list, many of the same directors and actors appear in multiple films. Stephen Spielberg has directed more of these films than any other director, with six titles to his name. Cecil B. DeMille, a "founding father" of American Cinema, and Disney's Hamilton Luske, have each directed (or co-directed) five movies on this list. 2012's Frozen is the only film made by a female director; Jennifer Lee, and 2000's Mission: Impossible 2 is the only film made by a non-white director; John Woo. If we look to those in front of the camera, Harrison Ford, through his roles in the Star Wars and Indiana Jones films, has appeared in the highest number of films listed here; featuring in seven titles. His Star Wars co-star, Carrie Fisher, has appeared in five films listed here, more than any other actress. When looking at the companies behind the films featured on this list, we can see that Disney and Paramount Pictures (in all of their forms) have each produced and/or distributed 23 of the films on this list, at the time of their release.

Disney dominates

Since 1999, just three of the 22 highest grossing movies were not sequels or continuations of other franchises (although sequels for two of these films have subsequently been made or are in production), and seven of the ten most recent titles are Disney properties. After acquiring Marvel Entertainment in 2009 and Lucasfilm in 2012, in deals worth 4.24 billion and 4.05 billion dollars respectively, Disney built upon its position as the largest entertainment company in the world and has dominated the international box office over the last decade. With Marvel's Phase 4 launching in 2020 and plans for a fourth Star Wars trilogy in the works, as well as the multiple originals, sequels and live-action remakes already in production, it is likely that Disney films will feature at the top of this list for years to come.

International box office figures for the highest grossing movies each year*, from 1915 to 2020

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Sources

Release date

January 2021

Region

Worldwide

Survey time period

1915 to 2020

Supplementary notes

This data has been compiled using a list from Insider, with further information and updated totals gathered from IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes and the-numbers.com. Please note that pre-1975 data is based on box-office income, and not rental fees paid by distributors and theaters.

* This data is not confined to gross from the year of release, but also includes box-office income from theatrical re-releases in later years.
** Data for US box office only. (Like several other early entries, this may be due to the fact that these movies were not released outside of the US, however this is not clear).
*** The source gives figures in 2017 valued US dollars. It is unclear whether the data was calculated using figures relating to 1939 only, or whether the proportional figures from the appropriate years of re-release were also used.

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