Dark Knight Passes Star Wars

Dark Knight is about to pass Star Wars — which had two independent releases of what were arguably two different movies — to become the number two grossing movie of all time.  It still has a ways to go, though, to pass Titanic:

Rank Title(click to view) Studio Lifetime Gross Year
1 Titanic Par. $600,788,188 1997
2 Star Wars Fox $460,998,007 1977^
3 The Dark Knight WB $441,628,497 2008
4 Shrek 2 DW $441,226,247 2004
5 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial Uni. $435,110,554 1982^
6 Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace Fox $431,088,301 1999
7 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest BV $423,315,812 2006
8 Spider-Man Sony $403,706,375 2002
9 Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith Fox $380,270,577 2005
10 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King NL $377,027,325 2003
11 Spider-Man 2 Sony $373,585,825 2004
12 The Passion of the Christ NM $370,782,930 2004^
13 Jurassic Park Uni. $357,067,947 1993
14 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers NL $341,786,758 2002^
15 Finding Nemo BV $339,714,978 2003
16 Spider-Man 3 Sony $336,530,303 2007
17 Forrest Gump Par. $329,694,499 1994
18 The Lion King BV $328,541,776 1994^
19 Shrek the Third P/DW $322,719,944 2007
20 Transformers P/DW $319,246,193 2007
21 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone WB $317,575,550 2001
22 Iron Man Par. $316,468,817 2008
23 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring NL $314,776,170 2001^
24 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Par. $314,749,809 2008
25 Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones Fox $310,676,740 2002^

To be sure, “unadjusted gross” is a rather silly metric.  After all, ticket prices have skyrocketed in recent years.   That’s offset somewhat, however, by the fact that new movies are released to DVD within months (or available for download from various Torrent sites much sooner) and many of us choseto wait to watch them in the comfort of our own homes.

Hat tip to Jonathan Last, who has some other interesting movie ranking trivia.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Houston says:

    Hmmmm…. Look at the only R-rated movie on that list.

  2. Look at that list of movies.

    #1 is a chick flick writ large.

    #7 and #24 fall under the action/adventure genre.

    #12 is a Christian epic.

    #17 is a comedy.

    #2, #5, #6, #9, #13 and #25 are sci-fi

    #3, #8, #11, #16, #20, and #22 are comic books brought to the screen.

    #4, #10, #14, #19, #21 and #23 are fantasy films.

    #15 and #18 are harder to classify. Are they children morality tales or another form of fantasy film.

    So roughly 1/5 of the top grossing movies is something other than sci-fi/fantasy/comic book themed movies.

  3. Dan says:

    What does this list look like when the dollars are adjusted for inflation?

  4. Anderson says:

    Yah, if it ain’t inflation-adjusted, it’s worthless.

  5. Bryan says:

    Why is so much emphasis placed on the dollar amount when comparing a movie’s success? Doesn’t ANYONE out there realize that new movies are going to keep topping each other because the price of tickets keeps going up? Let’s review how many ticket sales it took to reach the 460 million dollars the original Star Wars earned, at roughly $2.00 per ticket, compared to the $10 ticket price of Dark Knight. C’mon people…there is NO comparison.