I received an email the other day from an AskDeb reader who wanted to know, “What are the most popular movies ever?”. In this article, I’ll attempt to answer that question.
When it comes to deciding what are the most popular movies ever, I feel a little uncomfortable simply giving my own personal opinion. Therefore, I thought I would provide two lists to help you make your own decision.
The first list shows the 20 most popular movies ever based on worldwide box-office performance. The second list answers “What are the most popular movies ever?” by looking at the 20 top-ranked movies according to the vast membership of the Internet Movie Database.
Between these two lists, you should have no trouble deciding what are the most popular movies ever. You should also get some pretty good ideas on what movie to watch this weekend.
Most Popular Movies By Box-Office Performance
Based on worldwide box-office results, these are the all-time most popular movies. In ten years, expect this list to look radically different, as 16 of the 20 entries were made in the last decade.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – Made $1,129,219,252. The final film in the blockbuster trilogy.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) – Made $1,060,332,628 worldwide. The second movie in this Johnny Depp trilogy.
- The Dark Knight (2008) – $996,356,746. Heath Ledger shines in his role as The Joker.
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) – $968,657,891. Just like the novels, the Harry Potter movie franchise rakes in the cash.
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) – $958,404,152. The finale of the series makes big money for Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley and company.
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) – $937,000,866. Another huge performance from the kids at Hogwarts.
- Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) – $922,379,000. Featured an awful script, but nobody seemed to care. George Lucas hits another homerun.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) – $921,600,000. Huge battles, talking trees and Christopher Lee. What more could you want?
- Jurassic Park (1993) – $919,700,000. Before he was a major star, Samuel L. Jackson gets eaten by dinosaurs.
- Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) – $892,194,397. J.K. Rowling must sleep on a mountain of cash at night.
- Spider-Man 3 (2007) – $885,430,303. The weakest film of the franchise, but anticipation was at an all-time high.
- Shrek 2 (2004) – $880,871,036. Mike Myers scores a big hit in this animated story about a loveable ogre. Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz also lend their voices.
- Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002) – $866,300,000. Something is turning the students to stone, and it’s up to Harry to solve the mystery.
- Finding Nemo (2003) – $865,000,000. A Marlin braves the ocean to find his lost son in this Pixar film.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) – $860,700,000. Peter Jackson’s epic adaptation of Tolkien’s novels begins here. Orlando Bloom has never looked prettier.
- Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005) – $848,462,555. Everything falls apart, and we get a first-hand look at the creation of Darth Vader.
- Independence Day (1996) – $811,200,000. An all-star cast gathers together to rid the world of invading aliens.
- Spider-Man (2002) – $806,700,000. A wall-crawling, record-breaking movie which launched a franchise. Features one of the best kisses in movie history.
- Star Wars (1977) – The movie which forever changed science fiction, it made Luke Skywalker, Han Solo and company household names.
Most Popular Movies According To Internet Movie Database
One of the features of the Internet Movie Database allows members to select their favorite movies and rate them on a scale of 1 through 10. The list changes from time to time, but the top 20 remains fairly static.
- The Shawshank Redemption (1994) – Tim Robbins is sent to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Over the years, he befriends Morgan Freeman and plots his eventual escape. Based on a story by Stephen King.
- The Godfather (1972) – The original features strong performances from Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and James Caan. Influenced generations of filmmakers and hip-hop artists.
- The Godfather: Part II (1974) – Pacino takes over the family’s criminal empire, while Robert DeNiro adds depth in a series of flashbacks.
- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) – As The Man with No Name, Clint Eastwood shoots his way across the Old West in search of buried gold.
- The Dark Knight (2008) -Christian Bale speaks in a raspy voice and gets upstaged by Heath Ledger.
- Pulp Fiction (1994) – Quentin Tarantino’s bloody classic returned John Travolta to leading man status.
- Schindler’s List (1993) – Based on a true story, this Spielberg film details a German businessman’s efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust.
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) – Jack Nicholson is committed to an asylum and immediately butts heads with the repressive staff.
- 12 Angry Men (1957) – Henry Fonda and 11 others must decide the fate of a man’s life.
- Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) – The darkest film of the original trilogy. Boba Fett debuts and Billy Dee Williams looks really slick in a cape.
- Casablanca (1942) – A classic film of romance and intrigue, Casablanca had a huge influence on generations of filmmakers.
- Star Wars (1977) – An epic space opera which can be enjoyed by kids and adults alike.
- Seven Samurai (1954) – Inspired countless remakes and even an American western.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) – While it takes forever to wrap up the endings, the film still offers a satisfying conclusion to the sprawling fantasy trilogy.
- Goodfellas (1990) – DeNiro and Ray Liotta are great, but Joe Pesci steals the show as a loveable psychopath.
- Rear Window (1954) – A cat and mouse game develops between the wheelchair-bound Jimmy Stewart and the murderous Raymond Burr. Grace Kelly never looked better.
- City of God (2002) – An epic tale of life on the Brazilian streets. Reminiscent of Goodfellas in its structure.
- Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) – The greatest pure adventure movie ever made. Who doesn’t love that theme music and the bullwhip?
- Once Upon the Time in the West (1968) – Charles Bronson is a harmonica-playing gunfighter out for revenge. Henry Fonda plays against type as the heavy.
- The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) – The trilogy which introduced a whole new generation to Gandalf, Frodo and Aragorn.