Movies That Sold More Tickets Than Avengers: Endgame


Avengers: Endgame has made more money than
any movie ever, but it hasn’t sold the most tickets — in fact, it isn’t even in the
top 15. From romantic epics to horror hits, here’s
a look at all the blockbusters from years past whose crowd sizes would have impressed
even Thanos. “Impossible.” The first film on our list is Ben-Hur. No, we aren’t talking about the infamous 2016
bomb that lost Paramount a mind-numbing $120 million. Younger filmgoers may not have known it, but
that recent Ben-Hur was based on a 1959 multimillion-dollar epic that was one of the biggest hits of all
time. The film starred Charlton Heston, one of Hollywood’s
most popular and successful actors. Still, with a then-astronomical budget of
$15 million, Ben-Hur was a massive gamble by MGM, which was hoping that the movie could
pull it out of impending bankruptcy. If Ben-Hur was their last hope, it answered
all their prayers. Fortunately for the studio, the epic made
$74 million domestically, which is $883 million in today’s money. All told, the blockbuster saved MGM from bankruptcy
and became acknowledged as a classic that’s still being talked about today. In 1977, the original Star Wars, also known
as A New Hope, more than conquered the box office. It forever changed the movie landscape and
popular culture, in general. “You know, sometimes I amaze even myself.” Naturally, its first sequel was highly anticipated
— so much so that 1980’s The Empire Strikes Back opened to nearly $5 million in just 126
theaters during its initial limited run, and $10 million once it expanded to 823 theaters. Even today, with our multiplex culture, those
numbers would be impressive, but when adjusted for inflation, they would be earth-shaking. All told, Empire’s initial run earned more
than $209 million, but it wasn’t finished. The film was re-released several more times. In today’s numbers, its total domestic gross
stands at $884 million, beating out Avengers: Endgame by $30 million. “Guess what, Cap? We lost.” Everyone loves dogs, Disney, and cartoons,
so it’s no surprise that 1961’s 101 Dalmatians, which combines all three, was a huge moneymaker. The film is a classic from the tail end of
Disney’s golden era, with a quirky story, some catchy tunes, and an iconic villain in
Cruella de Vil. It was a big hit in its initial run but the
film made most of its money in subsequent re-releases. In fact, the 1991 re-release, celebrating
the movie’s 30th anniversary, made $60 million. Clearly, the spotted pups had more staying
power than its initial release would have suggested. All told, 101 Dalmatians has made $144 million
domestically, or just over $900 million when adjusted for inflation. And we know… we’re dropping a lot of numbers
on you but when it comes to this classic movie, there’s only one number that really matters. “Let’s see now, that’s 84, add 15 plus 2…
a hundred and one!” “A hundred and one?” The Force Awakens is the seventh film in the
extremely popular Star Wars franchise, and the first sequel to the original series in
more than 30 years, bringing Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill back to the
roles that made them famous. Even for a Star Wars movie, expectations were
extremely high. “People are counting on us. The galaxy is counting on us.” The Force Awakens was the first Star Wars
film to open during the holiday season and it turned out to be a stroke of genius. While it had a record-breaking first weekend,
if you look closely at the numbers, the movie’s true accomplishment came in the months that
followed. After opening like a summer blockbuster, it
played like a holiday hit, continuing to earn millions week after week. By the end of its explosive run, The Force
Awakens had earned $936 million domestically. Adjusted for inflation, that’s $974 million
today. Disney has enjoyed a remarkable run of box
office success in the 21st century, but its all-time biggest ticket-seller didn’t come
from Marvel, Lucasfilm, or Pixar. No, their biggest hit comes from the golden
age of animation. In fact, it’s their oldest movie — the animated
classic Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Hollywood thought Walt Disney was nuts when
he set out to release a feature-length animated film. Less than a decade after Mickey Mouse debuted
in “Steamboat Willie,” cartoons were strictly the domain of shorts that played before the
main feature. Disney changed all that — and the movie
business too — with Snow White. The animated classic earned impressive numbers
during its initial release in 1937, becoming the top-grossing film that year. Snow White was re-released eight times, culminating
in a total domestic gross of more than $184 million, which would add up to $982 million
today. From an animated, family-friendly classic
to a Satanic horror film in which an innocent young girl turns into a head-spinning, bile-spewing,
demonic little monster. Well, at least you can say American moviegoers
have eclectic tastes. One of the most influential horror films ever,
The Exorcist is still shocking and terrifying today — but in 1973, its shock factor was
near scandalous. And all that scandal helped The Exorcist scare
up a ton of cash. Combining its initial run and a later re-release,
The Exorcist has now made more than $230 million domestically, which rises up to $996 million
when adjusted for inflation, making it the all-time top ticket-seller among R-rated movies. The Exorcist isn’t the highest-grossing, however. The R-rated film with that honor, ironically
enough, is The Passion of the Christ. Doctor Zhivago is the very definition of an
epic historical romance, a genre that doesn’t get a lot of love from movie studios anymore. Why’s that? Well, for one they’re incredibly expensive. They’re also very risky. Most problematic, you can’t turn them into
a franchise. That said, when they hit, they hit big. Doctor Zhivago definitely qualifies. It features stunning visuals, captivating
melodrama, and beautiful leads playing lovers whose doomed romance is torn asunder by the
winds of history. Based on Russian novelist Boris Pasternak’s
book, and directed by the king of the epic, David Lean, Doctor Zhivago stars Omar Sharif
and Julie Christie as people in love with each other, but married to others, during
the Russian Revolution. It proved a significantly bigger hit than
Lean’s other epics, earning $111 million — or an adjusted gross of over $1 billion. Incredibly, it wasn’t even the biggest hit
of 1965… but more on that later. For now, it’s safe to say that Doctor Zhivago
was the Titanic of its time, full of romance and tragedy… just without any unfortunate
catch phrases. “I’m king of the world!” When Jaws popped up in 1975, it practically
invented the summer movie season, breaking box office records — and frightening people
away from beaches, lakes, ponds, and even a few pools. Based on Peter Benchley’s novel of the same
name, the problem-plagued production nearly ended relative newcomer Steven Spielberg’s
career, but ultimately, all the technical snafus forced the young director to get inventive. By creating a theater of the mind, he made
movie history, delivering suspenseful moments that were far more effective because he was
forced to keep his toothy antagonist offscreen for much of the film. Spielberg’s improvisation worked: Jaws opened
on June 20, 1975 and quickly blew up to an inflation-adjusted gross of $1.153 billion. By any measure, calling that a boatload of
cash would be an understatement. “You’re going to need a bigger boat.” Director Cecil B. DeMille’s name is practically
synonymous with “epic,” as his lavish productions achieved a scope and grandeur that will simply
never be matched by the CGI pumping up today’s blockbusters. He was also a risk-taker, and The Ten Commandments
is proof. Who else but DeMille would remake one of the
biggest movies of all time, especially when he was the one who directed the original version
in 1923? More than thirty years later, the film industry
was facing stiff competition from TV and movies had to get bigger to compete. And thanks to DeMille, The Ten Commandments
is as big as it gets. It opened on October 5, 1956, and earned $85
million by the end of its run, easily becoming the highest-grossing film of the year and
one of the most enduring biblical portraits in the history of cinema. When you think of Moses on film, you think
of DeMille’s The Ten Commandments. Well… you might also think of this… “Lord Jehovah has given unto you, these fifteen…
oy… these ten, ten commandments!” If you were alive in the late 1990s, you’ll
always remember Titanic. Costing a record-breaking $200 million to
produce, the film was viewed by many as a career-sinking folly for director James Cameron
— and those predictions seemed to be confirmed when it opened to an unimpressive $28 million
on December 19th, 1997. But then something strange happened: Titanic
didn’t sink… well, the movie didn’t. The next weekend, the film made 24 percent
more than the weekend before — and it just kept on selling tickets, as millions of people
would tackle the 194-minute runtime to see it again and again. By the time it was all said and done, Titanic
made what was then an unfathomable $600 million domestically. The film was later re-released in 3D and a
20th anniversary reissue followed in 2017. While Titanic’s box office ship has sailed,
its total haul now stands at $659 million, or $1.221 billion when adjusted for inflation. Film buffs will argue over Steven Spielberg’s
defining masterpiece for decades to come. What isn’t up for debate is his biggest hit
— E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. In a career full of box office glory, including
one record-breaking mega-hit after another, the fact that E.T. is Spielberg’s biggest
blockbuster says a lot. It opened to $11 million on June 11th, 1982,
and much like Titanic, kept making money. It holds the record for most non-consecutive
weekends at No. 1 and fluctuated between the first and second positions on the box office
charts for five solid months. By the end of its first theatrical run, E.T.
had earned $359 million, passing Star Wars as the highest-grossing film ever. E.T. earned another $70 million in re-releases,
bringing its total to $435 million, or $1.278 billion adjusted for inflation—which is
something you’d definitely want to phone home about. “E.T. phone home.” “E.T. phone home.” “E.T. phone home.” The 1960s are remembered as an era of rebellion,
experimentation, and free love. But when it came to movies, the biggest hits
were the ones you could watch with your parents and that was never more true than in 1965. Doctor Zhivago was enormously successful with
its mix of history and romance…but it was beat out by The Sound of Music, the most successful
movie musical of all time. The film is based on Rodgers and Hammerstein’s
classic 1959 play, and while it took six years to go from Broadway to the big screen, the
movie’s producers were not disappointed. The Sound of Music was a blockbuster, opening
wide on March 2nd, 1965 and ultimately earning approximately $159 million through all of
its releases for a total of $1.283 billion in today’s dough-re-mi. Star Wars is arguably the most popular franchise
ever. It’s second only to the Marvel Cinematic Universe
in total box office numbers. As mentioned previously, the phenomenon began
in 1977 with Star Wars: A New Hope. Initially, only a handful of theaters ordered
the movie. In fact, it opened in only 43 venues on the
same weekend as a surefire summer hit, Smokey and the Bandit. Fox was convinced that their sci-fi swashbuckler
would be crushed by the competition. History had other ideas. Star Wars earned $1.5 million in its opening
weekend. Fox broadened its release to meet demand,
which kept growing…. and growing. During its first 18-month run, the film stayed
on target to make a mind-boggling $307 million, which grew with five re-releases over the
course of 20 years. All told, Star Wars earned $460 million, and
after we adjust that for inflation, it equals $1.604 billion dollars. “If money is all that you love, then that
is what you’ll receive.” There can be only one winner, and it’s hard
to fathom that any movie will ever sell more tickets than Gone with the Wind. Based on Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling novel
of the same name, with a pretty substantial budget of $3.9 million, and starring the King
of Hollywood himself, Clark Gable, everybody knew Gone with the Wind was going to be a
hit… it was just a matter of how big. MGM got its answer when 300,000 people arrived
for the premiere in Atlanta on December 15, 1939. Its initial run earned mammoth numbers, inspiring
multiple re-releases through several decades. All told, the movie has earned $200 million. That’s more than most releases today, but
it’s truly mind-boggling considering its adjusted gross would be $1.822 billion… which should
be extremely impressive to anyone. “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Looper videos about your favorite
blockbuster films are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
bell so you don’t miss a single one.

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