It is true that a movie is not its box office grosses. Some of the greatest films in the history of the medium were not hits; a few were outright career-killing bombs. And many times a movie only finds its audience after it leaves theaters and winds up on television, home video, or streaming.

But it is also true that massive financial success at the box office means something. Scanning the list of the biggest box-office hits in the history of cinema can tell us things; about what people love, about the films that resonated with huge amounts of people, and about the movies that became more than movies and turned into massive pop culture phenomena. If you presented the list below of the 25 top-grossing movies of all time to any random person on the street, the odds are they have seen most of them — and they almost certainly have heard of all of them.

This list presents the biggest hits worldwide, not just in the United States (where the top-grossing film in history is actually Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Avatar is only #4, behind both Avengers: Endgame and Spider-Man: No Way Home). It’s also not adjusted for inflation; doing so would give you a whole other and in some ways just as illuminating list, topped by Gone With the WindStar Wars: A New HopeThe Sound of MusicE.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, and Titanic. Also note that this list is perpetually in flux and will be updated. (You never know when James Cameron might release another Avatar.) It’s currently up to date as of January 16, 2022.

The Biggest Box-Office Hits in History (Worldwide)

These are the highest grossing films in the history of cinema.

2022 Flops That Deserved Better at the Box Office

These 2022 movies were not blockbusters — but they deserve to be seen by much wider audiences. But it’s not too late to change that.
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