This 1939 Classic Remains Highest Grossing Movie of All Time

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

The movie industry is in a shambles. Theater owner AMC Entertainment disclosed it could run out of money around the end of the year. Several films that are expected to bring in hundreds of millions of dollars have been delayed, the most recent of which is the new James Bond installment, “No Time to Die,” which has been delayed until next April.

Until the COVID-19 pandemic, movies were making more money at the box office than ever before. It’s not uncommon for blockbuster films to now gross over $100 million domestically, with some bringing in nearly $1 billion. Last year delivered numerous box office winners, including “Avengers: Endgame,” which had the most successful opening weekend ever at the domestic box office.

When adjusting for the rising price of movie tickets, however, “Avengers: Endgame” doesn’t even crack the top 10 top-grossing movies of all time. Hollywood has a long history of producing hugely entertaining (and successful) movies that draw audiences to theaters nationwide. That has been true for a century.

Many of the highest-grossing movies belong to franchises that audiences flock to, including Star Wars, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Lord of the Rings and James Bond. Others, like “Forrest Gump” and “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” were one-off phenomena that simply captured the hearts and minds of the movie-going public.

To find the top-grossing movie of all time, 24/7 Tempo first identified the top 100 grossing movies ever based on domestic box office data provided by reporting service Box Office Mojo. In some cases, movies have had more than one theatrical release, which contributed to their total gross. All dollar amounts have been adjusted for inflation for a fairer comparison. Domestic gross includes both the United States and Canada. Estimated ticket sales also come from Box Office Mojo, while data regarding actors came from Box Office Mojo’s parent site, the Internet Movie Database.

The top of the list is occupied with what has become one of the most controversial films ever, primarily because of its depiction of Black Americans. The film has been appropriately savaged for its deep racism. It was even taken off streaming service HBO Max in June. The movie was put back online two weeks later with comments about its legacy, some of which were highly critical.

“Gone With the Wind” was released in 1939. Its domestic gross adjusted for 2019 is $2,971,442,929. Worldwide based on the same calculation, the number jumps to $5,840,651,173. Its adjusted production budget is $59,479,568.

The movies featured some of the greatest film stars of all time, notably Clark Gable, Olivia de Havilland and Vivien Leigh. “Gone With the Wind” is the only movie to sell more than 200 million tickets throughout its multiple domestic releases. It is often considered to be among the most definitive of Hollywood films and is based on Margaret Mitchell’s novel about the antebellum South. It won eight Oscars, including Best Picture. Before de Havilland died in July at age 104, she was the last surviving star of the film — these 25 actors all lived to be over 100.

The controversies about the film will never fade. However, neither will its place as the highest-grossing movie ever to hit the big screen — these are the 100 top grossing movies of all time.