The Billion-Dollar Club: The World’s Highest-Grossing Films, Ranked from Worst to Best

22 May

As of last Friday, Iron Man 3 has become the latest film to gross more than $1 billion at the worldwide box office. It has become only the 16th film in history to do so (at least, not adjusted for ticket price inflation), and did so in only 22 days. Now, Shane Black has become the most unlikely of candidates to have directed a billion-dollar flick.

It’s a club that’s becoming slightly less prestigious with every passing year. Foreign markets are becoming even bigger box office draws to the studios than the domestic one, and greater advertising pushes, bigger and more bloated sequels, and effects-heavy action (not to mention rising ticket prices) are leading to bigger and more top-heavy opening weekends. And it’s becoming more common: Four of these films (a full quarter of the list) were released in 2012.

Here are the 16 films that make up the Billion-Dollar Club, from the lowest- to highest-ranked on Flickchart:

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

  • Worldwide Gross: $1,123,746,996
  • Box Office Rank: #5
  • Global Flickchart Rank: #4947
  • Win Percentage: 37%

The general consensus is that Dark of the Moon was much better than its predecessor, Revenge of the Fallen. The general consensus is also that this was not a very difficult thing to accomplish. One thing this movie does prove: Giant robots beating each other senseless and Oscar-nominated visual effects sell.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

  • Worldwide Gross: $1,043,871,802
  • Box Office Rank: #12
  • Global Flickchart Rank: #4399
  • Win Percentage: 39%

This is the first and lowest-ranked of three films on this list starring Johnny Depp. On Stranger Tides resurrected the theme-park ride-based Pirates of the Caribbean franchise after audiences were left cold enough by the underwhelming At World’s End to make sure it didn’t make this list. This fourth film is currently the lowest-ranked Pirates movie, but the fact that it played in 3D (only five films on this list never have) gave it an edge over the third installment at the box office.

Alice in Wonderland (2010)

  • Worldwide Gross: $1,024,299,904
  • Box Office Rank: #14
  • Global Flickchart Rank: #4222
  • Win Percentage: 33%

Alice  is, curiously, one of only three non-sequels (or prequels) on this list. It is, however, based on a very well-known property. It benefited from higher-priced 3D ticket sales, and coasted on the star power of Depp. Only a little over half of the Flickcharters who have come across Alice in a ranking have admitted to seeing it, and they don’t really like it, if that 33% win ratio is any indication. Certainly, though, enough people saw it in the theaters.

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)

  • Worldwide Gross: $1,027,044,677
  • Box Office Rank: #13
  • Global Flickchart Rank: #1852
  • Win Percentage: 34%

It almost seems odd that The Phantom Menace would be the only Star Wars film to have grossed more than $1 billion at the global box office. This, of course, is due to its theatrical re-release in 3D in February 2012, and the fact that the 3D re-releases of Episodes II and III were put off after LucasFilm was acquired by Disney is probably the only reason Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith aren’t here as well. Menace has a very similar win percentage to Alice in Wonderland, but a whopping 85% of Flickcharters have ranked it, so it is disliked by a larger portion of the online community.

Iron Man 3 (2013)

  • Worldwide Gross: $1,073,273,000 (and climbing)
  • Box Office Rank: #9
  • Global Flickchart Rank: #1767 (and climbing)
  • Win Percentage: 60%

Iron Man 3 is playing at the box office more like a sequel to The Avengers than the third installment in its own trilogy. (Iron Man 2 topped out at a worldwide gross of $624 million.) Since it’s still in theaters, its global ranking on Flickchart is going to fluctuate for a while. Given that the movie’s percentage of wins has dropped from 79% after its opening weekend overseas to its current 60%, it should probably settle just within the Top 1000 and remain one of the more average-ranked billion-dollar movies on Flickchart.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006)

  • Worldwide Gross: $1,066,179,725
  • Box Office Rank: #10
  • Global Flickchart Rank: #1683
  • Win Percentage: 39%

Dead Man’s Chest rode on a wave of goodwill from the phenomenal reception to Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl and Johnny Depp’s unforgettable performance as Captain Jack Sparrow. Audiences discovered this second installment had a silly plot and a bloated run time, but they still propelled it over the $1 billion mark. It was the third film, At World’s End, which made the deadly mistake of removing Depp’s Sparrow and the visual-effects marvel that debuted in this film, Davy Jones (Bill Nighy), from a good chunk of its runtime, and thus suffered by not managing to cross the big box office threshold. Interestingly, this film now marks a shift in quality among the highest-grossing films, as the rest of the movies on this list rank within the global Top 1000 on Flickchart…

Titanic (1997)

  • Worldwide Gross: $2,185,372,302
  • Box Office Rank: #2
  • Global Flickchart Rank: #750
  • Win Percentage: 44%

This is where it all started. The first film in history to hit the $1 billion mark (not adjusted for inflation), Titanic was the only film to do so until The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King came along. And it remained the highest-grossing film of all time until director James Cameron returned to outdo himself with Avatar in 2009. Titanic and Avatar’s incredible runs in theaters are almost unprecedented in modern movies, proving that Cameron has found some special magic to tap into that “certain something” that appeals to everyone. It was a 3D re-release in 2012 that pushed Titanic past the $2 billion threshold, thus ensuring that the self-proclaimed “King of the World” would continue to hold the two top box office slots of all time.

Avatar (2009)

  • Worldwide Gross: $2,782,275,172
  • Box Office Rank: #1
  • Global Flickchart Rank: #694
  • Win Percentage: 55%

Why doesn’t the biggest money maker of all time rank higher on Flickchart? Maybe it’s backlash against the film’s familiar plotting. Maybe it’s backlash against the film’s success. It doesn’t matter. Placing within the global Top 1000 in Flickchart’s database of 44,000+ titles is no small achievement, and Avatar is one of only four films on this list to be nominated for a Best Picture Oscar. Avatar is, if nothing else, a visual marvel. They may be 12 years apart, but James Cameron directed the two highest-grossing films of all time back-to-back. One wonders how the currently-developing Avatar sequels will fare…

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011)

  • Worldwide Gross: $1,341,511,219
  • Box Office Rank: #4
  • Global Flickchart Rank: #612
  • Win Percentage: 64%

Such was the furor created by Pottermania, and such was the anticipation for this final chapter in one of the most successful film franchises in history, that once 3D ticket pricing was thrown in, this movie was pretty much a lock to cross the $1 billion threshold. What seems odd is that it was the only Harry Potter film to do so. Fittingly, Deathly Hallows: Part 2 is the highest-ranked Potter film on Flickchart. Fun fact: The next biggest Potter film was the first, which is the highest-grossing film to not earn $1 billion. The gross for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone sits at $974.7 million.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)

  • Worldwide Gross: $1,017,003,568
  • Box Office Rank: 15
  • Global Flickchart Rank: #486
  • Win Percentage: 61%

Coming nine long years after The Return of the King closed out the Lord of the Rings trilogy, audiences were clamoring for more Middle-earth, and The Hobbit was virtually guaranteed billion-dollar status. It may seem odd to have turned such a slight book into three films, and there was a definite backlash against the use of HFR (High Frame Rate) technology, but with Peter Jackson at the helm and Martin Freeman and Ian McKellen leading a stellar cast, The Hobbit was, for many, still like the return of a long-lost old friend.

Toy Story 3 (2010)

  • Worldwide Gross: $1,063,171,911
  • Box Office Rank: #11
  • Global Flickchart Rank: #386
  • Win Percentage: 68%

The only one on this list, Toy Story 3 is the highest-grossing animated film of all time (a record it took away from Shrek 2.) Critics and audiences alike ate the film up, many calling it the best of Pixar’s trilogy (though it still ranks behind the other two on Flickchart). Toy Story 3 was a lock for the Best Animated Feature Oscar, and is only the third animated film ever to be nominated for Best Picture. Though it may have seemed like the perfect capper to the story, rumors of a Toy Story 4 are unavoidable.

Skyfall (2012)

  • Worldwide Gross: $1,108,561,013
  • Box Office Rank: #7
  • Global Flickchart Rank: #324
  • Win Percentage: 65%

It surpassed even the more heavily-anticipated The Dark Knight Rises at the box office, and is very well-liked on Flickchart. Boasting big action and a gritty performance from Daniel Craig, a slam-bang finale and some of the best reviews of 007’s career, Skyfall made a splash in a big way. (It helped that it heralded the 50th anniversary of the James Bond franchise.) Flickcharters agree that this is Bond’s best outing; it is currently ranked the #1 film of the franchise.

The Avengers (2012)

  • Worldwide Gross: $1,511,757,910
  • Box Office Rank: #3
  • Global Flickchart Rank: #191
  • Win Percentage: 72%

Never underestimate the power of putting all your superheroes in one basket, apparently. With fan-favorite Joss Whedon pulling the strings (and that appropriately epic finale), this movie became something much more than the sum of its parts, to a tune that even Marvel Studios didn’t quite expect. With an advantage in 3D pricing, The Avengers beat out Christopher Nolan’s Batman finale at the box office (it currently holds the record for highest-grossing domestic opening weekend of all time, at is also the film to hit $1 billion the fastest, in just 10 days), but couldn’t quite beat it on Flickchart, ranking just behind The Dark Knight Rises at #3 for 2012.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

  • Worldwide Gross: $1,084,439,099
  • Box Office Rank: #8
  • Global Flickchart Rank: #187
  • Win Percentage: 70%

Christopher Nolan‘s trilogy-capper was voted the Most Anticipated Film of 2012 at our inaugural Flickcharter’s Choice Awards. Then it was downgraded to Biggest Disappointment of 2012 at our 2nd Annual Flickcharter’s Awards. No matter. It’s still the second-highest ranked film of last year (after Django Unchained), and sits comfortably within the global Top 200. And a billion-dollar revenue for a non-3D film is nothing to sneeze at.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)

  • Worldwide Gross: $1,119,929,521
  • Box Office Rank: #6
  • Global Flickchart Rank: #80
  • Win Percentage: 69%

The Academy saved all the Oscars for this third installment of Peter Jackson’s mega-successful Lord of the Rings trilogy, and audiences came out in droves. The first fantasy film to win the Best Picture Oscar, Return of the King was also the first film “completed” after winning the award, with a few minor shots made to complete the Extended Edition DVD. This film broke ground in a lot of ways, paving the way for the glut of big-budget, effects-laden adventures that grace the screen today.

The Dark Knight (2008)

  • Worldwide Gross: $1,004,558,444
  • Box Office Rank: #16
  • Global Rank: #35
  • Win Percentage: 80%

The lowest-grossing film on this list is the highest-ranked on Flickchart. And with good reason; look at that win percentage. 8 out of 10 times that The Dark Knight comes up against another film, it wins. Even Star Wars, the #1 film on the site, only boasts only a 77% win ratio. It’s clear that Flickcharters love Christopher Nolan’s Bat-films. Bolstered by the late Heath Ledger’s brilliant turn as the diabolical Joker, The Dark Knight didn’t make its billion with fancy 3D or an over-dependence on CGI…just simply great filmmaking.

Box office figures via Wikipedia.

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