Hollywood’s holy box office trinity

Hollywood certainly knows how to churn out a blockbuster or three. There are now nearly 50 movies that have generated over a billion dollars in revenue, and the vast majority of them were released in the last decade.

Even though there are still some box office bombs (Cats, for instance) that underperform and fail to break even, most movies released these go on to make a profit – some of the biggest ones can make several times their production budget. The three biggest movies of all time in terms of total gross are Titanic, Avatar and Avengers: Endgame.

Avengers: Endgame
With a worldwide gross of $2,797,800,564, Avengers: Endgame is the highest-grossing movie in the world. It was released in April 2019 and was the 22nd film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe series. It’s the fourth in the Avengers sub-series, following on from The Avengers (2012), Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015) and Avengers: Infinity War (2018), to which Avengers: Endgame is more of a direct sequel. The movie broke many box office records thanks to its massive amount of takings. It’s also listed as one of the most expensive movies ever made thanks to its hefty production budget of an estimated $356 million.

Not only was the film a commercial success, but it also went down very well with both critics and fans alike. It won a lot of praise for its action sequences and visual effects, as well as the directing and acting. What particularly pleased people was how the movie served as a sort of conclusion to the entire 22-film series, tying up a number of story arcs that had been established in different films and giving definitive endings to characters’ storylines.

So how come Avengers: Endgame ended up becoming the most financially successful movie of all time? The main reason why this film was so successful is that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has effectively been building up to it over many years and many movies. Each in every movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe series has been a success at the box office. Since the first in the series, Iron Man, came out in 2008, the series has gone from strength to strength, gaining fans, winning over audiences and getting more and more people involved in the stories of the superheroes.

In terms of box office gross, the four biggest movies in the series are the four Avengers offerings. Each one of these has generated at least $1.4 billion worldwide. Avengers: Endgame effectively has three billion-dollar sequels, so it should come as no surprise that the movie did so well at the box office, especially since anticipation was high (the previous instalment, Avengers: Infinity War, ends on a massive cliffhanger), and there was a huge amount of buzz about it. Once the movie was released, people went to see it in droves. Not only did they want to find out what happened after the previous movie, but they also wanted to see how this latest instalment would wrap things up for many beloved characters. While the film got off to a very good start at the box office – it broke Avengers: Infinity War’s entire gross in just 11 days – word of mouth and excellent reviews kept the momentum going until it became the world’s highest-grossing movie.

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Before Avengers: Infinity War becomes the biggest movie of all time, Avatar was. The sci-fi movie from James Cameron was released in 2009 and managed to hold the record for around nine-and-a-half years. Following its release, it went on to generate an unprecedented $2,790,439,000 at the worldwide box office.

What’s remarkable about Avatar is that it was a completely new IP (intellectual property). The movie wasn’t based on any sort of story or franchise that was familiar to viewers – it was entirely new. Very few movies are entirely original – most are adaptations of books, sequels/spin-offs of previous movies or remakes. For a movie launching a brand new IP with no previous content existing to do so well at the box office was unheard of.

So how come Avatar ended up becoming the biggest movie in the world for nearly a decade? The main reason was that it was made using an innovative 3D technology like nothing that had ever been seen before. Around the time the movie was released, 3D technology had been experimented with in movies, but Avatar took things to a whole new level. It promised viewers an immersive visual experience that no other movie had ever offered. Viewers would get to see the alien moon of Pandora in breathtaking, visually stunning 3D graphics that made them feel as if they were right there. The film was available at many cinemas in 2D, though it’s been reported that as many as 90% of the tickets sold were for 3D screenings.


Released in 1997, Titanic is another record-breaking movie directed by James Cameron. While Avatar enjoyed a reign of nearly a decade as the world’s highest-grossing movie, Titanic held that record for nearly 12 years after generating $2,194,439,542 at the worldwide box office. Based on the sinking of the RMS Titanic in 1912, the movie is based on real-life events, though it’s fictionalised in some respects.

So how did Titanic ended up becoming the world’s biggest movie and enjoyed a twelve-year run in the record books? Its status as both a disaster movie and a romance attracted a wide range of cinema-goers, as did its special effects, which were very advanced for the time. There’s also the fact that its two leads, Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio, were box office magnets – their performances in the movie were highly praised by many critics.

What’s particularly noteworthy about Titanic’s box office run is that it was the highest-grossing film in the US for a record-breaking fifteen consecutive weeks. Normally, a movie’s best week is its first week. For Titanic, however, its best week was actually its eighth, thanks to things like word of mouth, repeat viewings and a string of positive reviews praising the movie.

In today’s world where streaming is the preferred way of watching movies for many, there will always be demand for seeing new releases at the cinema. This is evidenced by the fact that many movies generate huge returns that smash all sorts of records. If you haven’t seen any of the movies on this list, go and watch them because they’re strongly recommended. Titanic and Avatar are standalone movies, so they can be watched at any time. However, before you watch Avengers: Endgame you should watch the previous 21 instalments in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so you know exactly what’s going on – quite the marathon viewing session indeed.