Highest Grossing Movies Adjusted for Inflation

Inflation Adjusted Movie Film GrossTraditionally, war films, musicals and historical dramas have been the most popular genres and Gone With the Wind held the record of highest-grossing film for 25 years but doesn’t even make it into the top fifty in the modern market. But purchasing power varies widely over the time period since Gone With the Wind was first released in 1939. But the true key to determining how revenues really compare is when you adjust them for inflation.

Highest-grossing films (Nominal)

First we will look at nominal gross box office revenues. That is the actual number of dollars (not adjusted for inflation) earned strictly in the box office. Modern films have an advantage because in addition to box office revenues there are home video sales, pay-per-view sales, and merchandising sales. These revenues can dwarf box office revenues such was the case with Pixar’s movie Cars which was only moderately successful in the theater grossing $461 million but it generated almost $10 Billion in merchandise sales. In addition, box office receipts are almost purely profit while merchandise has additional production and distribution costs.

Highest-grossing Films of All Time (not adjusted for Inflation) 
Rank Title Worldwide gross Year
1 Avatar $2,782,275,172 2009
2 Titanic $2,185,372,302 1997
3 Marvel’s The Avengers $1,511,757,910 2012
4 Harry Potter and the Deathly   Hallows – Part 2 $1,341,511,219 2011
5 Transformers: Dark of the Moon $1,123,746,996 2011
6 The Lord of the Rings: The   Return of the King $1,119,929,521 2003
7 Skyfall $1,108,561,013 2012
8 The Dark Knight Rises $1,084,439,099 2012
9 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead   Man’s Chest $1,066,179,725 2006
10 Toy Story 3 $1,063,171,911 2010
11 Pirates of the Caribbean: On   Stranger Tides $1,043,871,802 2011
12 Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom   Menace $1,027,044,677 1999
13 Alice in Wonderland $1,024,299,904 2010
14 The Hobbit: An Unexpected   Journey $1,017,003,568 2012
15 The Dark Knight $1,004,558,444 2008
16 Harry Potter and the   Philosopher’s Stone $974,755,371 2001
17 Jurassic Park $967,386,857 1993
18 Pirates of the Caribbean: At   World’s End $963,420,425 2007
19 Harry Potter and the Deathly   Hallows – Part 1 $960,283,305 2010
20 The Lion King $951,583,777 1994
21 Harry Potter and the Order of   the Phoenix $939,885,929 2007
22 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince $934,416,487 2009
23 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers $926,047,111 2002
24 Finding Nemo $921,743,261 2003
25 Shrek 2 $919,838,758 2004
26 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire $896,911,078 2005
27 Spider-Man 3 $890,871,626 2007
28 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs $886,686,817 2009
29 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets $878,979,634 2002
30 Ice Age: Continental Drift $877,244,782 2012
31 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring $871,530,324 2001
32 Star Wars Episode III: Revenge   of the Sith $848,754,768 2005
33 Transformers: Revenge of the   Fallen $836,303,693 2009
34 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn   – Part 2 $829,685,377 2012
35 Inception $825,532,764 2010
36 Spider-Man $821,708,551 2002
37 Independence Day $817,400,891 1996
38 Shrek the Third $798,958,162 2007
39 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of   Azkaban $796,688,549 2004
40 Iron Man 3 $795,578,000 2013
41 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial $792,910,554 1982
42 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of   the Crystal Skull $786,636,033 2008
43 Spider-Man 2 $783,766,341 2004
44 Star Wars $775,398,007 1977
45 2012 $769,679,473 2009
46 The Da Vinci Code $758,239,851 2006
47 Shrek Forever After $752,600,867 2010
48 The Amazing Spider-Man $752,216,557 2012
49 The Chronicles of Narnia: The   Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe $745,013,115 2005
50 The Matrix Reloaded $742,128,461 2003

 

Modern films also have an advantage in non-inflation adjusted terms because each dollar is worth less than the dollars in an earlier era. Remember back when Gone With the Wind was released you could buy an ounce of gold for $35! Now you can barely get a movie for two with popcorn and drinks for that. Also with modern world wide distribution and the increase in world population, modern films have a wider audience than early films, so we would expect to see more modern films in the list than early films. So it is doubly impressive when we see early films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs still on the list.

Highest Grossing Movies by Year

Due to release schedules—especially in the case of films released towards the end of the year—and different release patterns across the world, many films can do business in two or more calendar years; therefore the grosses are not limited to just the year of release. Grosses are not limited to original theatrical runs either, with many older films (especially Disney) often being re-released periodically so the figures represent all the business a film has done since its original release. This will skew the inflation adjusted total since not all of the revenue was actually earned during the initial year.  Since 1967, at least one film every year has generated $100 million in gross revenue at the box office, and from 2008 each year has succeeded in producing a billion dollar grossing film.

Year Title Worldwide gross   (Millions) Worldwide Gross   In Inflation Adjusted 2013 Dollars (Millions)
1915 The Birth of a Nation $20+ $460.9
1916 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea $8.0 $170.8
1917 Cleopatra $2.0 $36.4
1918 Mickey $8.0 $123.3
1919 The Miracle Man $3.0 $40.4
1920 Way Down East $5.0 $58.2
1921 The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse $5.0 $65.0
1922 Robin Hood $2.5 $34.6
1923 The Covered Wagon $5.0 $68.0
1924 The Sea Hawk $3.0 $40.8
1925 The Big Parade $18.0 $239.4
Ben-Hur $9.4 $125.0
1926 Aloma of the South Seas $3.0 $39.4
For Heaven’s Sake $2.6 $34.2
What Price Glory? $2.4 $31.6
1927 Wings $3.6 $48.2
1928 The Singing Fool $5.9 $80.3
1929 The Broadway Melody $4.8 $65.3
Sunny Side Up $3.5 $47.6
1930 All Quiet on the Western Front $3.0 $41.8
Whoopee! $2.7 $37.6
1931 Frankenstein $12.0 $183.8
City Lights $5.0 $76.6
1932 The Kid from Spain $2.6 $44.2
Grand Hotel $2.6 $44.2
1933 King Kong $5.3 $94.9
I’m No Angel $3.25+ $58.2
Cavalcade $4.0 $71.6
She Done Him Wrong $3.0 $53.7
1934 The Merry Widow $2.6 $45.2
It Happened One Night $1.0 $17.4
1935 Mutiny on the Bounty $4.5 $76.5
1936 San Francisco $6.0 $100.5
1937 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs $416.3 $6,729.0
1938 You Can’t Take It With You $5.0 $82.5
1939 Gone with the Wind $393.4 $6,588.0
1940 Pinocchio $84.3 $1,401.6
Boom Town $4.6 $76.5
1941 Sergeant York $7.8 $123.5
1942 Bambi $268.0 $3,827.2
Mrs. Miniver $8.9 $127.1
1943 For Whom the Bell Tolls $11.0 $148.0
This Is the Army $9.6 $129.2
1944 Going My Way $6.5 $86.0
1945 Mom and Dad $22.0 $284.5
The Bells of St. Mary’s $11.2 $144.8
1946 Song of the South $65.0 $775.9
The Best Years of Our Lives $14.8 $176.7
Duel in the Sun $10.0 $119.4
1947 Forever Amber $8.0 $83.5
Unconquered $7.5 $78.3
1948 Easter Parade $6.8 $65.7
The Red Shoes $5.0 $48.3
The Snake Pit $4.1 $39.6
1949 Samson and Delilah $14.2 $138.9
1950 Cinderella $85.0 $821.0
King Solomon’s Mines $10.1 $97.6
1951 Quo Vadis $21.0 $188.0
1952 This Is Cinerama $50.0 $439.2
The Greatest Show on Earth $18.4 $161.6
1953 Peter Pan $145.0 $1,264.1
The Robe $26.1 $227.5
1954 Rear Window $36.8 $318.4
White Christmas $30.0 $259.6
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea $28.2 $244.0
1955 Lady and the Tramp $93.6 $813.0
Cinerama Holiday $21.0 $182.4
Mister Roberts $9.9 $86.0
1956 The Ten Commandments $60.0 $513.5
1957 The Bridge on the River Kwai $30.6 $253.5
1958 South Pacific $30.0 $241.6
1959 Ben-Hur $90.0 $719.9
1960 Swiss Family Robinson $30.0 $235.9
Spartacus $60.0 $471.8
Psycho $50+ $393.2
1961 One Hundred and One Dalmatians $215.0 $1,673.8
West Side Story $30.0 $233.6
1962 Lawrence of Arabia $77.3 $595.8
How the West Was Won $35.0 $269.8
The Longest Day $33.2 $255.9
1963 Cleopatra $38.0 $289.1
From Russia With Love $29.4 $223.6
1964 My Fair Lady $55.0 $413.0
Goldfinger $124.9 $937.9
Mary Poppins $50.0 $375.4
1965 The Sound of Music $286.2 $2,114.9
1966 The Bible: In the Beginning $25.3 $181.8
Hawaii $34.6 $248.6
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? $33.7 $242.1
1967 The Jungle Book $205.8 $1,434.3
The Graduate $85.0 $592.4
1968 2001: A Space Odyssey $190.0 $1,270.9
Funny Girl $100.0 $668.9
1969 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid $96.0 $608.9
1970 Love Story $80.0 $479.9
Airport $75.0 $450.0
1971 Diamonds Are Forever $116.0 $666.7
1972 The Godfather $286.0 $1,592.7
1973 The Exorcist $402.7 $2,111.2
The Sting $115.0 $602.9
1974 The Towering Inferno $88.7 $418.8
Blazing Saddles $80+ $377.7
1975 Jaws $470.7 $2,036.6
1976 Rocky $225.0 $920.5
1977 Star Wars $775.4 $2,978.4
1978 Grease $387.5 $1,383.4
1979 Moonraker $210.3 $674.3
Rocky II $200.2 $641.9
1980 The Empire Strikes Back $538.4 $1,520.9
1981 Raiders of the Lost Ark $389.9 $998.4
1982 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial $792.9 $1,912.6
1983 Return of the Jedi $475.1 $1,110.4
1984 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom $333.1 $746.3
1985 Back to the Future $383.9 $830.5
1986 Top Gun $356.8 $759.8
1987 Fatal Attraction $320.1 $655.9
1988 Rain Man $412.8 $812.3
1989 Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade $474.2 $890.2
1990 Ghost $517.6 $921.8
1991 Terminator 2: Judgment Day $519.8 $888.4
1992 Aladdin $504.1 $836.4
1993 Jurassic Park $967.4 $1,558.4
1994 The Lion King $951.6 $1,494.7
1995 Die Hard with a Vengeance $366.1 $559.2
1996 Independence Day $817.4 $1,212.7
1997 Titanic $2,185.4 $3,169.5
1998 Armageddon $554.6 $792.0
1999 Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace $1,027.0 $1,434.9
2000 Mission: Impossible II $546.4 $738.6
2001 Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone $974.8 $1,281.2
2002 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers $926.0 $1,198.2
2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King $1,119.9 $1,416.8
2004 Shrek 2 $919.8 $1,133.4
2005 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire $896.9 $1,069.0
2006 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest $1,066.2 $1,231.1
2007 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End $963.4 $1,081.6
2008 The Dark Knight $1,004.6 $1,086.1
2009 Avatar $2,782.3 $3,018.8
2010 Toy Story 3 $1,063.2 $1,135.0
2011 Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows – Pt. 2 $1,341.5 $1,388.2
2012 Marvel’s The Avengers $1,511.8 $1,532.7
2013 Iron Man 3 $795.6 $795.6

In an effort to look at just first run revenues and avoid the skewing, this table includes only  first run revenues and the inflation adjustment. Also note that during the first run Gone with the Wind actually lost money because it cost so much to produce. Eventually it went on to be one of the top grossing films but only after it went into world-wide distribution.

Inflation Adjusted First Run Movie Gross

Title First-run gross   (Millions) First-run gross   In 2013 Dollars (Millions) Budget Net Gain (First   run)
Avatar $2,749.1 $2,982.8 $237,000,000 $2,512,064,328
Titanic $1,843.2 $2,673.2 $200,000,000 $1,643,201,268
Star Wars $530.0 $2,035.8 $11,293,151 $518,706,849
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial $619.0 $1,493.1 $10,500,000 $608,500,000
Jurassic Park $914.7 $1,473.5 $63,000,000 $851,691,118
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King $1,119.1 $1,415.7 $94,000,000 $1,025,110,941
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace $924.3 $1,291.4 $115,000,000 $809,317,558
Grease $341.0 $1,217.4 $6,000,000 $335,000,000
The Lion King $768.2 $1,206.6 $45,000,000 $723,155,561
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers $921.8 $1,192.7 $94,000,000 $827,780,457
The Empire Strikes Back $413.6 $1,168.4 $23,000,000 $390,562,607
The Dark Knight $997.0 $1,077.9 $185,000,000 $812,039,412
Raiders of the Lost Ark $354.0 $906.5 $20,000,000 $333,988,025
Return of the Jedi $385.8 $901.6 $32,500,000 $353,345,197
Jaws $193.7 $838.1 $9,000,000 $184,700,000
The Sound of Music $112.5 $831.3 $8,100,000 $104,381,000
Top Gun $353.8 $819.4 $15,000,000 $338,781,728
The Godfather $142.0 $790.8 $6,200,000 $135,800,000
The Exorcist $110.0 $576.7 $10,000,000 $100,000,000
Lawrence of Arabia $70.0 $545.0 $13,800,000 $56,195,385
Ben-Hur $66.1 $528.7 $15,900,000 $50,200,000
Goldfinger $46.0 $345.4 $3,000,000 $43,000,000
Diamonds Are Forever $45.7 $262.7 $7,200,000 $38,500,000
2001: A Space Odyssey $31.9 $213.4 $10,500,000 $21,400,000
Spartacus $22.1 $173.8 $10,284,014 $11,821,211
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs $8.5 $137.4 $1,488,423 $7,011,577
The Birth of a Nation $5.20 $119.8 $110,000 $5,090,000
Hawaii $15.6 $112.1 $15,000,000 $600,000
Psycho $14.0 $110.1 $800,000 $13,200,000
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? $14.5 $104.2 $7,613,000 $6,887,000
White Christmas $12.0 $103.8 $3,800,000 $8,200,000
From Russia With Love $12.5 $95.1 $2,000,000 $10,500,000
San Francisco $5.3 $88.8 $1,300,000 $3,973,000
The Big Parade $6.1 $81.1 $382,000 $5,749,000
Cinderella $7.8 $75.3 $2,900,000 $4,900,000
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea $6.8 $58.8 $5,000,000 $1,800,000
Lady and the Tramp $6.5 $56.5 $4,000,000 $2,500,000
Pinocchio $3.3 $54.9 $2,600,000 $690,000
Gone with the Wind $3.2 $53.6 $3,850,000 -$650,000
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse $4.0 $52.0 $800,000 $3,200,000
Bambi $3.4 $48.6 $2,000,000 $1,449,353
Way Down East $4 $46.6 $800,000 $3,200,000
Rear Window $5.3 $46.2 $1,000,000 $4,300,000
Song of the South $3.3 $39.4 $2,125,000 $1,175,000
King Kong $1.9 $34.0 $672,255.75 $1,183,744
Frankenstein $1.4 $21.4 $250,000 $1,150,000

Top Movies Based on Inflation Adjusted World Wide Gross

Note: World Wide Gross revenues are estimates and can vary based on the source of the estimates so this list may not match other lists exactly. Also note that the top three movies were released several times over a long period so the inflation adjustment will be skewed higher because some of the later dollars will actually be worth less than the original dollars on an inflation adjusted basis.

Title Worldwide gross   (Millions) Worldwide Gross   In Inflation Adjusted 2013 Dollars (Millions)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs $416.3 $6,729.0
Gone with the Wind $393.4 $6,588.0
Bambi $268.0 $3,827.2
Titanic $2,185.4 $3,169.5
Avatar $2,782.3 $3,018.8
Star Wars $775.4 $2,978.4
The Sound of Music $286.2 $2,114.9
The Exorcist $402.7 $2,111.2
Jaws $470.7 $2,036.6
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial $792.9 $1,912.6
One Hundred and One Dalmatians $215.0 $1,673.8
The Godfather $286.0 $1,592.7
Jurassic Park $967.4 $1,558.4
Marvel’s The Avengers $1,511.8 $1,532.7
The Empire Strikes Back $538.4 $1,520.9
The Lion King $951.6 $1,494.7
Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace $1,027.0 $1,434.9
The Jungle Book $205.8 $1,434.3
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the   King $1,119.9 $1,416.8
Pinocchio $84.3 $1,401.6
Harry Potter: Deathly Hallows – Pt. 2 $1,341.5 $1,388.2
Grease $387.5 $1,383.4
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone $974.8 $1,281.2
2001: A Space Odyssey $190.0 $1,270.9
Peter Pan $145.0 $1,264.1
Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest $1,066.2 $1,231.1
Independence Day $817.4 $1,212.7
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers $926.0 $1,198.2
Toy Story 3 $1,063.2 $1,135.0
Shrek 2 $919.8 $1,133.4
Return of the Jedi $475.1 $1,110.4
The Dark Knight $1,004.6 $1,086.1
Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End $963.4 $1,081.6
Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire $896.9 $1,069.0
Raiders of the Lost Ark $389.9 $998.4
Goldfinger $124.9 $937.9
Ghost $517.6 $921.8
Rocky $225.0 $920.5
Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade $474.2 $890.2
Terminator 2: Judgment Day $519.8 $888.4
Aladdin $504.1 $836.4
Back to the Future $383.9 $830.5
Cinderella $85.0 $821.0
Lady and the Tramp $93.6 $813.0
Rain Man $412.8 $812.3
Iron Man 3 $795.6 $795.6
Armageddon $554.6 $792.0
Song of the South $65.0 $775.9
Top Gun $356.8 $759.8
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom $333.1 $746.3
Mission: Impossible II $546.4 $738.6
Ben-Hur $90.0 $719.9
Moonraker $210.3 $674.3
Funny Girl $100.0 $668.9
Diamonds Are Forever $116.0 $666.7
Fatal Attraction $320.1 $655.9
Rocky II $200.2 $641.9
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid $96.0 $608.9
The Sting $115.0 $602.9
Lawrence of Arabia $77.3 $595.8
The Graduate $85.0 $592.4
Die Hard with a Vengeance $366.1 $559.2
The Ten Commandments $60.0 $513.5
Love Story $80.0 $479.9
Spartacus $60.0 $471.8
The Birth of a Nation $20+ $460.9
Airport $75.0 $450.0
This Is Cinerama $50.0 $439.2
The Towering Inferno $88.7 $418.8
My Fair Lady $55.0 $413.0
Psycho $50+ $393.2
Blazing Saddles $80+ $377.7
Mary Poppins $50.0 $375.4
Rear Window $36.8 $318.4
Cleopatra $38.0 $289.1
Mom and Dad $22.0 $284.5
How the West Was Won $35.0 $269.8
White Christmas $30.0 $259.6
The Longest Day $33.2 $255.9
The Bridge on the River Kwai $30.6 $253.5
Hawaii $34.6 $248.6
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea $28.2 $244.0
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? $33.7 $242.1
South Pacific $30.0 $241.6
The Big Parade $18.0 $239.4
Swiss Family Robinson $30.0 $235.9
West Side Story $30.0 $233.6
The Robe $26.1 $227.5
From Russia With Love $29.4 $223.6
Quo Vadis $21.0 $188.0
Frankenstein $12.0 $183.8
Cinerama Holiday $21.0 $182.4
The Bible: In the Beginning $25.3 $181.8
The Best Years of Our Lives $14.8 $176.7
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea $8.0 $170.8
The Greatest Show on Earth $18.4 $161.6
For Whom the Bell Tolls $11.0 $148.0
The Bells of St. Mary’s $11.2 $144.8
Samson and Delilah $14.2 $138.9
This Is the Army $9.6 $129.2
Mrs. Miniver $8.9 $127.1
Ben-Hur $9.4 $125.0
Sergeant York $7.8 $123.5
Mickey $8.0 $123.3
Duel in the Sun $10.0 $119.4
San Francisco $6.0 $100.5
King Solomon’s Mines $10.1 $97.6
King Kong $5.3 $94.9
Mister Roberts $9.9 $86.0
Going My Way $6.5 $86.0
Forever Amber $8.0 $83.5
You Can’t Take It With You $5.0 $82.5
The Singing Fool $5.9 $80.3
Unconquered $7.5 $78.3
City Lights $5.0 $76.6
Boom Town $4.6 $76.5
Mutiny on the Bounty $4.5 $76.5
Cavalcade $4.0 $71.6
The Covered Wagon $5.0 $68.0
Easter Parade $6.8 $65.7
The Broadway Melody $4.8 $65.3
The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse $5.0 $65.0
Way Down East $5.0 $58.2
I’m No Angel $3.25+ $58.2
She Done Him Wrong $3.0 $53.7
The Red Shoes $5.0 $48.3
Wings $3.6 $48.2
Sunny Side Up $3.5 $47.6
The Merry Widow $2.6 $45.2
The Kid from Spain $2.6 $44.2
Grand Hotel $2.6 $44.2
All Quiet on the Western Front $3.0 $41.8
The Sea Hawk $3.0 $40.8
The Miracle Man $3.0 $40.4
The Snake Pit $4.1 $39.6
Aloma of the South Seas $3.0 $39.4
Whoopee! $2.7 $37.6
Cleopatra $2.0 $36.4
Robin Hood $2.5 $34.6
For Heaven’s Sake $2.6 $34.2
What Price Glory? $2.4 $31.6
It Happened One Night $1.0 $17.4

Image courtesy of Digital Art / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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