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August 22, 2019

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The Big 50: Hollywood’s top-grossing movies of all time

Gone with the Wind

Turner Classic Movies / AP

This image released by Turner Classic Movies shows Clark Gable, left, and Vivien Leigh in a scene from “Gone with the Wind.” On Thursday, the TCM Classic Film Festival will open its 10th annual edition in Los Angeles with “When Harry Met Sally…” To mark its anniversary, TCM will on Sunday again air “Gone With the Wind,” the film that it first transmitted on April 14, 1994.

Every year it seems a new movie beats an old box office record. But have you ever wondered which films reign supreme when their earnings are adjusted for inflation? These 50 films are it. According to Box Office Mojo, they have withstood the test of time to capture a permanent place in movie history. If you’re familiar with them, reminisce, rewatch and quote along. If there are a few you haven’t experienced yet, grab some popcorn and get on board with the hype.

1. Gone with the Wind (1939). Victor Fleming’s adaptation of this Civil War epic brought in more than $200 million. Adjusted to today’s standards, it would earn $1.8 billion.

2. Star Wars (1977). The first film of the runaway hit franchise earned about $461 million, adjusted to about $1.6 billion today.

3. The Sound of Music (1965). The film earned $159 million, which would equal about $1.3 billion today.

4. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982). Steven Spielberg’s film earned $435.11 million. That’s close to $1.3 billion in 2019 dollars.

5. Titanic (1997). James Cameron’s blockbuster netted $659 million. Today, that’s about $1.2 billion.

6. The Ten Commandments (1956)

7. Jaws (1975)

Anecdotes from the classics

• Paul Shrader wrote "Taxi Driver" from an ex-girlfriend’s place in two weeks.

• "Jurassic Park’s" raptor sounds were actually sourced recording of tortoises mating.

• During filming of "The Wizard of Oz," the Munchkins made $50 a week, while the dog playing Toto earned $125 per week.

• "Jaws’" most famous line “you’re gonna need a bigger boat” was entirely improvised by actor Roy Scheider.

• Tom Hanks was not paid for his role in "Forrest Gump." He took a percentage of the film’s earnings instead, which totaled about $40 million.

• In "The Dark Knight," Heath Ledger hid away solo in a motel to fully develop the Joker’s persona and nail down his voice and laugh.

8. Doctor Zhivago (1965)

9. The Exorcist (1973)

10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

11. Star Wars: Episode VII—The Force Awakens (2015). Multiple Star Wars films live on this chart, with this one earning $936.66 million in 2015, adjusted to $976 million today.

12. 101 Dalmatians (1961)

13. Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

14. Ben-Hur (1959)

15. Avatar (2009). Titanic’s James Cameron is responsible for multiple films on this list, with Avatar bringing in more than $760 million.

16. Return of the Jedi (1983)

17. Jurassic Park (1993). Steven Spielberg’s $403 million hit was filmed on the Hawaiian island of Kaua‘i. Today, its adjusted total would equal about $828 million.

18. Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace (1999)

19. The Lion King (1994)

Disney stories

As the maker of some of the top-grossing films ever, Disney has some interesting stories behind its beloved classics.

1. After the 2007 film Ratatouille showed a cute, lovable, cuisine-crafting chef, sales of rats in many pet stores jumped 50 percent.

2. The same is true after Finding Nemo’s cast of clownfish took the big screen. Demand for from pet stores was so great, it caused a 50 percent drop in the Australian reef’s clownfish population.

3. The animators from the movie Up created every single balloon, totaling 20,622.

4. The words sung at the beginning of the Lion King are Zulu for “Here comes a lion, father,” and “Oh yes, it’s a lion.”

5. Frozen was the first animated Disney film to be directed by a woman.

6. At $260 million, Tangled was more expensive to produce than Avatar by some $23 million.

20. The Sting (1973)

21. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

22. The Graduate (1967)

23. Fantasia (1941)

24. Jurassic World (2015)

25. The Godfather (1972)

26. Forrest Gump (1994)

27. Mary Poppins (1964)

28. Grease (1978)

29. Marvel’s The Avengers (2012)

30. Black Panther (2018). Ryan Coogler’s film was the top-grossing superhero film of all time in the U.S., not accounting for inflation, earning $202 million in its opening weekend alone.

31. Thunderball (1965)

32. The Dark Knight (2008)

33. The Jungle Book (1967)

34. Sleeping Beauty (1959)

35. Avengers: Infinity War (2018). The fourth superhero movie on this list also debuted in 2018, featuring a star-studded cast. It earned about $679 million. Adjusted for inflation its total actually decreases to about $654 million today.

36. Ghostbusters (1984)

37. Shrek 2 (2004)

38. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)

39. Love Story (1970)

40. Spider-Man (2002)

Wild about Harry?

While the Harry Potter films didn’t make the top 50, the franchise as a whole has earned more than $25 billion worldwide.

41. Independence Day (1996)

42. Home Alone (1990)

43. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

44. Pinocchio (1940)

45. Cleopatra (1963)

46. Beverly Hills Cop (1984)

47. Goldfinger (1964)

48. Incredibles 2 (2018)

49. Airport (1970)

50. American Graffiti (1973)