Mental Floss

The 20 Highest-Grossing Movies of All Time


Hundreds of movies come out every year, but very few are hits. We've written about some of the lowest-grossing movies of all time; here are America's highest-grossing ones, adjusted for inflation, according to Box Office Mojo.

1. Gone With the Wind (1939)

Released in 1939, Victor Fleming’s adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War epic is one of the world’s first genuine blockbusters—and still holds the top spot for box office dollars, with a grand total of $1,640,602,400.

2. Star Wars (1977)

The George Lucas space opera that launched a thousand action figures (and almost as many sequels and prequels) still reigns supreme in the Star Wars universe, with a total take of $1,446,331,100.

3. The Sound of Music (1965)

The hills are alive … with the sound of $1,156,412,900 in domestic ticket sales.

4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

The biggest movie of 1982 is also the fourth biggest movie of all time, with a grand total of $1,151,857,200. That’s a lot of Reese’s Pieces.

5.  Titanic (1997)

James Cameron may have gotten some flak after declaring himself “King of the World” when he scooped up the award for Best Director at the 1998 Oscars, but he wasn’t too far off. Between Avatar (more on that later) and Titanic, which took in $1,100,052,700 during its theatrical run, Cameron holds the top two spots on the highest-grossing films worldwide.

6. The Ten Commandments (1956)

Cecil B. DeMille’s Biblical epic managed to conjure up $1,063,720,000 at the box office, even with a near-four-hour running time.

7. Jaws (1975)

The film that made Steven Spielberg a household name may have scared audiences away from the water, but it brought them to the cinema in droves, as evidenced by its $1,040,000,000 in ticket sales.

8. Doctor Zhivago (1965)

Despite being banned in Russia—the country in which it is set—until 1994, David Lean’s epic drama-romance still managed to drum up more than a billion dollars ($1,007,979,900 to be exact) with U.S. audiences.

9. The Exorcist (1973)

William Friedkin’s groundbreaking horror film is the genre’s first to score a Best Picture Oscar nomination. Though it ultimately lost to The Sting, it won as far as the box office was concerned, with a grand total of $898,065,200.

10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Rounding out the top 10 is the oldest film on this list; the Walt Disney classic generated $885,080,000 at the box office.

11. 101 Dalmatians (1961)

Yet another Disney classic, the original 101 Dalmatians barked up $811,328,100 between its original 1961 release and four re-releases (in 1969, 1979, 1985, and 1991).

12. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

The second film released in the Star Wars franchise is also its second highest grossing, with $797,226,800 in adjusted domestic ticket sales.

13. Ben-Hur (1959)

William Wyler’s sword and sandal spectacular was a hit with audiences, generating $795,760,000 in ticket sales.

14. Avatar (2009)

James Cameron's eco-minded sci-fi film is the newest entry into this list—and the director's second in the top 20 highest-grossing films, with $789,712,800.

15. Return of the Jedi (1983)

Another Star Wars movie, another entry on this list. The franchise’s third release made an impressive $763,762,400.

16. Jurassic Park (1993)

While Jurassic World, the fourth installment in the Jurassic Park series, continues to make its way up the all-time box office list (with a current total of $602,974,000 at press time, it’s currently in the number 30 spot), it’s still got far to go before matching the original’s $746,406,300 in box office grosses.

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

George Lucas. Again. This time with The Phantom Menace, which took in $733,334,000.

18. The Lion King (1994)

The beloved animated classic roared its way into the all-time top 20 with $723,868,900.

19. The Sting (1973)

The Best Picture of 1973 also happened to be its highest grossing, generating $723,840,000 in ticket sales.

20. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Nearly 35 years after introducing audiences to Indiana Jones, Raiders of the Lost Ark still rounds out the top 20 highest-grossing films of all time, whipping up $718,837,500 in receipts.