*I really hate the use of the term “all time” without qualifiers, as though Time is officially coming to an end this Thursday and we can finally settle the score. Even worse, most of the time the use of the term “all time” is weighted incorrectly, as box office returns have been up until the publication of this list. You really can’t properly use the term “all time” on anything unless your name is Yahweh. It would really be much better if people put out definitive lists on those things that can actually be considered closed matters, like “best-selling books of the 1800s” and “most popular sandwiches of the 1990s.” These are things we can know. We can never know the best song, or top movie, or worst politician “of all time” because, as Sarah Palin showed us, just when you think you knew who the worst of all time was, another one comes along …
Anyway, the list holds several nice surprises, as well as vastly increases the diversity and timeline of the films that have ascended to the top. Not all of the top films are great classics, but many of them certainly struck a chord with their audiences and the ones at the top are, without exception, the kind of movies that people watch more than once, often routinely.
One of the biggest surprises in the list is that (when you adjust for inflation) the very top film, the aforementioned GWTW, “only” did $1.5B (all figures US$). This suggests that it might be possible for a film to top this someday (as the totals allow for re-releases), as the worldwide market continues to grow. You have to expect the Lord of the Rings films to move up the charts a bit when the inevitable re-release happens, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the Harry Potter movies are re-released one more time just before the final film unspools.
I was disappointed to see that E.T. did as well as it did. It’s almost certainly just me, but I have never liked the film, thought it very schmaltzy and better-suited to TV at the time, and the re-release and re-edit/re-visionism was just … an abomination. Even worse than the “Han Shot First” revisionism of the Star Wars re-releases.
The fact that the totals allow for re-releases is the main reason why Disney movies are so well-represented here. Snow White has made many times more money in re-release than it ever did originally. The highest-grossing movie of which I cannot find reference to any sort of theatrical re-release was 1956’s The Ten Commandments, which scored the #5 slot.
I was quite shocked to see that The Rocky Horror Picture Show limped in at a mere #70, a rating that can only mean that midnight screenings don’t count with the compilers of this list as a “theatrical re-release,” because I assure you that film has made way more than (just under) $400M. Heck, I am myself alone probably responsible for 1% of that (I’ve seen that movie many times, though I’m now fairly retired from watching it).
I would be interested to see an adjusted-for-inflation version of the worldwide gross boxoffice chart, rather than just domestic US, but this is a good start that will hopefully inspire a few people to check out some “old” movies.
Speaking of old movies, I note with interest that the all-time-so-far top-grossing B&W movie is the 1945 Bing Crosby film The Bells of St. Mary’s (#49). Other B&W films that made the list are The Best Years of Our Lives (1946, #72) and Sergeant York (1941, #95). I was kinda hoping that 1974’s Young Frankenstein would have made the list, but no such luck.