The 30 Biggest Box Office Hits of the Last 30 Years

Money talks in Hollywood, and for all the movie awards and critical acclaim, there's still only one way to judge a blockbuster: the box office takings.

And in general, films that fill the most seats in cinemas are the movies that cost the most money to make.

Newsweek reveals the 30 biggest U.S. box office hits from the past three decades—including several surprising entries tucked-in amongst the big-budget blockbusters.

2020: Bad Boys For Life ($204,417,855)

The Bad Boys Mike Lowrey (Will Smith) and Marcus Burnett (Martin Lawrence) return together for one final ride.

2020: Bad Boys For Life
Bad Boys For Life is the popular installment in the film franchise Columbia Pictures

2019: Avengers: Endgame ($858,373,000)

The end of the Marvel Cinematic Universe era was too much for just one movie. And while its Infinity War predecessor is a pretty action-packed adventure, Avengers: Endgame was both a critical and commercial one-off.

Avengers: Endgame
Avengers: Endgame is widely recognised as the most epic of superhero movies Marvel

2018: Marvel's Avengers: Infinity War ($652,501,497)

This lead-up to the game-changing second part (see above) finds the Avengers battling to stop Thanos (Josh Brolin), an intergalactic warlord, from obtaining all the Infinity Stones.

Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War
Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War sees the team attempt to stop stop intergalactic warlor Thanos Marvel Studios

2017: Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($633,905,189)

This Force Awakens sequel has been described as a phenomenal and exciting piece of blockbuster filmmaking.

Star Wars: The Last Jedi
The Last Jedi—also known as Star Wars: Episode VIII—finds Rey developing her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker Lucasfilm

2016: Finding Dory ($486,295,561)

An all-star cast features in this Walt Disney Pictures animated film, where amnesiac blue tang fish, Dory, sets off in search of her long-lost parents with the help of clownfish Marlin and his son Nemo.

Finding Dory
Finding Nemo sequel Finding Dory made a splah at the box office Disney Pixar

2015: Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($936,662,225)

The Force Awakens not only tops this chart, but Director J.J. Abrams was praised by fans for successfully creating a brand-new Star Wars franchise without George Lucas' direct involvement.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Star Wars: The Force Awakens finds a new order threatening to destroy the New Republic Lucasfilm Ltd.

2014: American Sniper ($350,126,372)

Clint Eastwood directed Bradley Cooper as a U.S. Navy Seal sniper, who, even after returning home from the Iraq war, cannot let go of the horrors he has experienced.

American Sniper
Biographical war drama American Sniper was popular with both critics and in the box office Warner Bros.

2013: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire ($424,668,047)

This movie sequel starring Jennifer Lawrence was widely praised as one of the best and thoughtful blockbusters of the last few years – as well as a resounding commercial success at the box office.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire proved to be a gripping sequel Lionsgate Films

2012: The Avengers ($692,699,612)

Writer/director Joss Whedon achieved a tricky brief here, crafting an ensemble superhero film that is as satisfying and entertaining as any standalone story.

The Avengers superhero team features Marvel's Iron Man, the Incredible Hulk, Thor, Captain America, Hawkeye and Black Widow Marvel Studios

2011: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows II ($381,011,219)

Director David Yates positively created an emotional climax that makes good on Harry's arc and satisfyingly concludes a number of J.K. Rowling's character stories.

Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows II
Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows II is the second movie installment of J.K Rowling's final book Warner Bros.

2010: Toy Story 3 ($415,004,880)

This movie fittingly brings the franchise to an emotional conclusion (until 2019's Toy Story 4) that plays into the age of those who first fell for the film franchise.

Toy Story 3
Toy Story 3 sees Andy's toys accidentally delivered to a day care centre Disney Pixar

2009: Avatar ($693,770,000)

The movie helped revolutionise how directors approach CGI-characters, and director James Cameron concocted were extraordinarily detailed.

Epic CGI sci-fi movie Avatar was directed, written and produced by James Cameron and starred Sam Worthington 20th Century Studios

2008: The Dark Knight ($533,345,358)

Christopher Nolan's magnum opus was universally praised as a masterpiece and his Batman sequel is arguably the best superhero movie ever made.

The Dark Knight
The Dark Knight features the superhero take-on Heather Ledger's Joker DC Comics, Warner Bros.

2007: Spider-Man 3 ($336,530,303)

Tobey Maguire's Peter Parker becomes one with a symbiotic alien that bolsters his Spider-Man avatar and affects his psyche.

Spider-Man 3
Spider-Man 3 finds Peter Parker merge with an alien Marvel Studios

2006: Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest ($526,105,109)

The movie doubles-down on the story of Curse of the Black Pearl and follows the characters of Johnny Depp's Jack, Keira Knightley's Elizabeth, and Orlando Bloom's Will, as their arcs become increasingly complex.

Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest finds Captain Jack Sparrow search for mythical pirate Davy Jones Walt Disney Pictures

2005: Star Wars: Ep. III – Revenge Of The Sith ($380,270,577)

Despite poor performances and an over-reliance on CGI, this movie is considered the pick of the Star Wars prequels.

Star Wars: – Revenge Of the sith
Star Wars: Ep. III – Revenge Of The Sith sees Anakin work with Obi-Wan Lucasfilm

2004: Shrek 2 ($436,721,703)

Wrapped up inside its fairytale aesthetics was a surprisingly edgy plot featuring plenty of pop culture references and rather risqué humour.

Shrek 2
Shrek 2 sees the characters travel to the Kingdom of Far Far Away DreamWorks Pictures

2003: Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($377,027,325)

Director Peter Jackson's Labour of love to the Lord of the Rings franchise cemented this as one of the all time-best movie trilogies.

Lord of the Rings: The Return of
Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King finds the Fellowship prepare for the final battle New Line Cinema

2002: Spider-Man ($403,706,375)

Sam Raimi's original Spider-Man is widely considered responsible for the superhero genre as it stands today.

Spider-Man begins the franchise and sees Peter Parker use his powers to help people Marvel Studios

2001: Harry Potter And The Sorcerer's Stone ($317,575,550)

Sorcerer's Stone captures Harry's introduction to the world of magic with a perfectly-blacked blend of awe and disbelief.

Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone
Harry Potter And The Sorcerer’s Stone was the first of the epic movie franchise Warner Bros.

2000: Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas ($363,000,000)

Director Ron Howard's adaptation of the beloved Dr. Seuss book features Jim Carrey as the titular character.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
Ron Howard directed Jim Carey in the child-friendly Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas Universal Pictures

1999: Star Wars: Episode I – Phantom Menace ($474,544,677)

Despite plenty of plot holes and a lack of character complexity, the Phantom Menace performed well at the box office.

Star Wars: Episode I – Phantom Menace
Star Wars: Episode I – Phantom Menace proved popular—despite a confusing plot Lucasfilm Ltd.

1998: Saving Private Ryan ($216,173,322)

This Oscar-sinning American epic war film directed by Steven Spielberg finds Captain John Miller (Tom Hanks) assigned the task of searching for Private James Ryan (Matt Damon).

Saving Private Ryan
Saving Private Ryan involves the events following World War II's Normany Landings Paramount Pictures

1997: Titanic ($2,195,000,000)

A seventeen-year-old aristocrat (Kate Winslet) falls in love with a kind but poor artist (Leonardo DiCaprio) aboard the ill-fated R.M.S. Titanic.

Titanic was a stunning three and a half hour epic 20th Century Studios, Paramount Pictures

1996: Independence Day ($306,169,255)

This saw a geek, (Jeff Goldblum), a pilot Will Smith) and the US President (Bill Pullman) battle an alien race as it destroys the world's major cities with their advanced weapons.

Independence Day
Mankind takes on invading aliens in box office smash hit Independence Day 20th Century Studios

1995: Toy Story ($191,780,865)

The first instalment in the Toy Story franchise was the first entirely computer-animated feature film.

Toy Story
Animated buddy-adventure Toy Story was a smash hit Disney Pixar

1994: Forrest Gump ($330,252,182)

Forrest (Tom Hanks), a man with a low IQ, recounts his extraordinary life when he found himself in the middle of key historical events.

Forrest Gump
Beloved blockbuster Forrest Gump starred Tom Hanks at his commerical peak Paramount

1993: Jurassic Park ($402,453,882)

This science fiction action film directed by Steven Spielberg centred on a disastrous attempt to create a theme park of dinosaurs.

Jurassic Park
Jurassic Park featured a wildlife park containing cloned dinosaurs Universal Pictures

1992: Aladdin ($217,345,685)

A common thief falls in love with Princess Jasmine, but cannot marry her as he is not a prince. This Walt Disney animation, most notable for Robin Williams' genie, was successfully reimagined almost 30 years later.

Street urchin Aladdin frees a genie from a lamp and an adventure ensues Disney

1991: Terminator 2: Judgment Day ($520,900,00)

A terminator is set on a mission to kill Sarah Connor's (Linda Hamilton) son, John. However, another cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger) who was once after Sarah's life, has now been assigned to protect him.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Terminator 2: Judgment Day sees a cyborg assasin sent on a mission to kill Sarah Connor TriStar Pictures, Carcolo Pictures, Canal+