Chris Hicks: The most popular movie of all time? Sorry, it's not 'Avatar'

Published: Thursday, Dec. 19 2013 3:55 p.m. MST

And only “Titanic” is outside the fantasy/superhero realm. Which is the answer to the oft-asked question, “Why does Hollywood churn out so many sequels and movie series?” Because they make more money than anything else.

The worldwide list:

1. “Avatar”

2. “Titanic”

3. “Marvel’s The Avengers”

4. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2” (2011)

5. “Iron Man 3” (2013)

6. “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” (2011)

7. “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” (2003)

8. “Skyfall” (2012)

9. “The Dark Knight Rises”

10. “Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest”

Note that the worldwide list is similar to the domestic list — in fact, the first three are the same. But outside America the final “Harry Potter” and “Lord of the Rings” films, along with the most recent “Iron Man” and James Bond movies, knocked such U.S. favorites as “Star Wars” and “E.T.” off the charts. And though many of the titles are different, once again, all but “Titanic” are franchise films.

And the adjusted list (based on domestic ticket sales):

1. “Gone With the Wind” (1939)

2. “Star Wars”

3. “The Sound of Music” (1965)

4. “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial”

5. “Titanic”

6. “The Ten Commandments” (1956)

7. “Jaws” (1975)

8. “Doctor Zhivago” (1965)

9. “The Exorcist” (1973)

10. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” (1937)

Most of these movies have led the adjusted list forever, with occasional jockeying for position. But perhaps the most interesting difference from the other two lists is that their No. 1 film, “Avatar,” is absent, falling to the 14th spot.

Here’s the rest of the top 20 adjusted list:

11. “101 Dalmatians” (1961)

12. “The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)

13. “Ben-Hur” (1959)

14. “Avatar”

15. “Return of the Jedi” (1983)

16. “Jurassic Park” (1993)

17. “Star Wars: Episode 1 — The Phantom Menace”

18. “The Lion King” (1994)

19. “The Sting” (1973)

20. “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981).

Some footnotes: Each of the top seven films in the adjusted list has earned the equivalent of more than $1 billion.

“The Exorcist” is the only R-rated movie among all these titles.

And while most of the titles have risen or dropped on the chart, “Gone With the Wind” has been in the No. 1 spot for 74 years.

So what’s the most popular movie of all time? “Gone With the Wind.” And by a fairly wide margin.

Chris Hicks is the author of "Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings." His website is www.hicksflicks.com

Email: hicks@deseretnews.com

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