$1bn movies – which is the best?

Holy box of­fice, Bat­man! As the Avengers pre­pare to con­quer cin­e­mas again, Graeme Virtue rates the best films to break $1bn

The Guardian - G2 - - News -


Juras­sic Park (1993)

Hold on to your butts. A movie pred­i­cated on ge­netic remix­ing re­quired an equally un­nat­u­ral nudge to get into the bil­lion­dol­lar club. If it wasn’t for a 20th an­niver­sary 3D re-re­lease that earned a sweet ex­tra $45m, Spiel­berg’s awe-in­spir­ing, heart-swelling thrill-ride might have missed the cut. But the orig­i­nal Juras­sic Park sprung into life at a mo­ment where the du­elling dis­ci­plines of CGI and prac­ti­cal ef­fects could still com­ple­ment rather than usurp each other and re­mains a mas­ter­class in sus­tained ten­sion, ac­tion and emo­tion, mak­ing it the ul­ti­mate bench­mark in bil­lion-dol­lar block­busters. To­tal world­wide box-of­fice gross: $1,029,153,882


Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) Credit the (mar­ket­ing) power of the Force, but the most di­vi­sive Star Wars movie in aeons still eas­ily cruised past the $1bn mark. And de­spite work­ing within a pre­sum­ably rigid cor­po­rate strait­jacket, writer/di­rec­tor Rian John­son crafted a fleet­footed epic that is funny, heartrend­ing, weird and en­thralling. $1,332,653,010


The Lord of the Rings: The Re­turn of the King (2003) There are now six Tolkien adap­ta­tions di­rected by Shire ge­nius Peter Jack­son but it feels in­struc­tive that Re­turn of the King has been by far the most suc­cess­ful. Many moan about the mul­ti­ple end­ings, but this is the grand­est of sword-clang­ing fi­nales. $1,119,929,521


Ti­tanic (1997) We’re gonna need a big­ger boat. James Cameron’s $200m-budget leviathan re­mains a touch­stone for old-school epic film-mak­ing, al­beit gar­landed with the best CGI money could buy in the mid-90s. Thanks to a 20th an­niver­sary rere­lease, Ti­tanic is one of only three movies to crack $2bn at the box of­fice (along­side Avatar and The Force Awak­ens), and re­mains a ro­man­tic epic to die for. $2,187,463,944


Black Pan­ther (2018)

Watch the throne: in record time, Wakan­dan war­rior-king T’Challa – in the form of coiled, thought­ful Chad­wick Bose­man – has staked his claim. Black Pan­ther now tow­ers over ev­ery non-Avengers Marvel movie at the box of­fice and it’s not hard to see why, since Creed di­rec­tor Ryan Coogler’s painterly and propul­sive afro-fu­tur­is­tic thriller con­tains mul­ti­tudes. $1,301,755,040


Toy Story 3 (2010) Per­haps not the best Pixar movie ever but (to date) the most suc­cess­ful, Toy Story 3 fea­tures the bonded gang of care­worn play­things get­ting un­wit­tingly do­nated to char­ity be­fore build­ing to­ward an in­sanely vol­canic cli­max, like an emo­tion­ally over­whelm­ing train­ing video de­signed to pre­pare kids for the end of Ter­mi­na­tor 2. $1,066,969,703


The Dark Knight (2008)

With 2005’s Bat­man Be­gins, di­rec­tor Christo­pher Nolan pa­tiently rekin­dled a franchise that had nose­dived into neon kitsch. With his moody, broody fol­low-up The Dark Knight – en­er­gised by Heath Ledger’s nervy, lip-smack­ing and ul­ti­mately Os­car-win­ning per­for­mance as the Joker – Nolan re­set Hol­ly­wood’s ex­pec­ta­tions of the su­per­hero movie, for good or ill. $1,004,558,444


Fast and Fu­ri­ous 7 (2015)

At first glance, the Fast and Fu­ri­ous fam­ily looks like the world’s most id­i­otic ac­tion franchise, some­how sprout­ing from il­le­gal LA street-rac­ing into Bon­desque glo­be­trot­ting es­pi­onage. But the cock­sure sev­enth in­stal­ment com­bined vir­tu­osic ac­tion se­quences with an un­equiv­o­cally mov­ing send-off for orig­i­nal star Paul Walker, who died dur­ing a break in film­ing. $1,516,045,911


Iron Man 3 (2013) Long be­fore James Gunn’s DayGlo romp Guardians of the Galaxy or Taika Waititi’s spaced-out turbo-spoof Thor: Rag­narok, one writer/ di­rec­tor man­aged to im­print his sen­si­bil­ity on to the un­stop­pable Marvel Cine­matic Uni­verse project. Shane Black’s typ­i­cally Christ­mas­themed Iron Man 3 con­spired to get Robert Downey Jr out of the metal stomp-suit to help cre­ate a jazzy, idio­syn­cratic tri­umph. $1,214,811,252


Sky­fall (2012) Bond-James-Bond ha­bit­u­ally Smersh-ed the box of­fice back in his 1960s pomp, but Daniel Craig’s mon­u­men­tal third out­ing, gor­geously ren­dered by cin­e­matog­ra­pher Roger Deakins, trans­formed a buried ori­gin story into some­thing so mythic it be­came the bull-headed se­cret agent big­gest – and best – hit. $1,108,561,013

Heath Ledger as

The Joker in The Dark Knight. Read the full list of 33 £1bn+ movies at the­guardian.com/film

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