1939’s ‘Gone With the Wind’ Remains the Top-Grossing Movie of All Time

Source: Public Domain / Wikimedia Commons

“Gone With the Wind,” the lavish romantic movie about the Civil War and the years just afterward, based on a best-selling novel, remains the top-grossing movie of all time. On an inflation-adjusted basis, the 1939 film had ticket sales of $1.823 billion, which puts it well ahead of any other ever made, according to Box Office Mojo. Measured on this basis, the current blockbuster, “Avengers: Endgame,” has no chance to catch it, with its domestic ticket sales of about $620 million, as of the latest data.

Without an adjustment for inflation, “Gone With the Wind” still posted a remarkable number when it was released, at $201 million. That would put it on par with the first movie in the Toy Story animated film franchise, which was released in 1995. “Gone With the Wind” cost $3.9 million to make. “Toy Story,” however, is not among the 25 top grossing films of all time.

“Gone With the Wind” had several advantages when it was released. The movie was based on a novel of the same name by Margaret Mitchell. Released in 1936, it was the best-selling book in America in 1937 and 1938. Mitchell received the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction for the novel in 1937. It was the only book she ever wrote. More than 30 million copies have been printed since its release.

The other critical advantage “Gone With the Wind” had was that it starred some of the greatest and most famous movie actors of all time. Clark Gable, Vivien Leigh, Leslie Howard and Olivia de Havilland were household names in the late 1930s and 1940s. Gable remains among the most famous actors of all time. His nickname was the “King of Hollywood.”

“Gone With the Wind” also has among its legacies being one of the most awarded movies of all time. It won the Academy Awards for best picture, best director, best actress, best supporting actress and best adapted screenplay. Gable was nominated as best actor but did not win. It is ranked sixth on the American Film Institute’s Greatest American Movies of All Time list. However, it was excluded from at least one list of the 100 best movies of all time.

“Gone With the Wind” has one other major distinction. It was among the longest famous movies ever made, with a running time of three hours and 58 minutes. Coincidentally, “Avengers: Endgame” is also extremely long for a feature film, coming in at three hours and two minutes.

With its inflation-adjusted gross of $1.83 billion, there is a very real chance “Gone With the Wind” will never be eclipsed for the distinction of top-grossing American film ever.