If you think today’s mega box office hits that rake in millions worldwide knock the socks off of old films of yore when it comes to the highest grossing films of all time, think again. When we adjust the classics for inflation, they still beat out today’s best by a huge margin. Even oldies but goodies like Gone With the Wind and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, almost irritatingly tame by today’s standards, trounce the top grossing films of today by many millions.
Total earnings: $982,090,000 The Walt Disney classic is the oldest film as well as the only animated one to make the top ten. Originally considered “Disney’s Folly” because critics felt nobody would want to sit and watch a cartoon based on a fairytale for 90 minutes, three years and 570 artists later, a classic was born that still sets the standards for hand-drawn animation to this day. Famous line: “Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?” Fun Fact:Disney held Adriana Caselotti, the voice of Snow White, to a very strict contract to keep the character’s singing voice as a one-off sound only associated with the film. Apart from a very small part in The Wizard of Oz two years later, her classically-trained voice was never heard in any film ever again.
Total earnings: $996,498,500 This breakthrough horror film proved itself to be a real head turner at the box office. It was the first in its genre to receive a Best Picture nomination at the Oscars. Although it lost to The Sting that year, it certainly wins in terms of box office earnings and is still considered to be among the scariest films of all time. Famous line: “The Power of Christ compels you!” Fun Fact: The voice of the demon, actress Mercedes McCambridge, altered her voice through chain-smoking and gulping down raw eggs. She also insisted on drinking whiskey, in spite of past problems with alcohol abuse, because she knew it would further distort her voice and enhance her character’s crazed state of mind. During the time she was giving up her sobriety for the part, she insisted on having her priest stay with her for guidance.
Total earnings: $1,118,460,500 Although it was banned in the country where it was set, Russia, until 1994, this epic romantic drama still managed to make the top ten with its ten-figure earnings from US audiences. Famous line: “You lay life on a table and cut out all the tumors of injustice. Marvelous.” Fun Fact: Every day of filming, Omar Sharif had to go through a painstaking process to hide his Egyptian features, which included taping up his eyes and straightening his hair.
Total earnings: $1,153,990,200 Audiences really sank their teeth into this shark saga when it was released in the summer of 1975. The film scared 67 million American moviegoers away from the water and into the cinemas, making it the first ever summer “blockbuster”. Famous line: “You’re gonna need a bigger boat.” Fun Fact: The shark was named “Bruce”, after director Steven Spielberg’s lawyer.
Total earnings: $1,180,310,000 Thou shalt be impressed that Cecil B. DeMille’s epic film still takes the number six spot in top grossing films. With a four hour running time, that’s a feat of biblical proportions and quite the testament to its durability. Famous line: “You will be king of Egypt, and I will be your footstool!” Fun Fact: There’s an old urban legend that Cecil B. DeMille changed the name of the character Nefertiti to Nefretiri because he feared people would make boob jokes.
Total earnings: $1,221,303,800 This movie was “King of the World” at the time of its release, launching a thousand Leo fans into cinemas across the world every day. After anchoring director James Cameron’s career with an Oscar win for Best Director, it’s safe to say this one was no sinking ship. Famous line: “I’m King of the World!” Fun Fact:When Kate Winslet found out she would appear naked in front of co-star Leonardo DiCaprio, she flashed him when she first met him, just to break the ice.
Total earnings: $1,278,107,600 The amount earned from ticket sales from the fourth highest grossing movie of all time will definitely buy you a lot of Reese’s Pieces. Famous line: “E.T. phone home.” Fun Fact: E.T.’s voice was performed by Pat Welsh, an elderly woman who smoked two packs a day.
Total earnings: $1,283,791,300 The hills are alive with the sound of cold hard cash piling up, apparently. This musical won five Oscars, and to this day still takes third place in the rankings. Famous line: “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” Fun Fact: Julie Andrews’ co-star, Christopher Plummer, despised making the film so much that he nicknamed it “S&M” and “The Sound of Mucus”, and described working with Julie Andrews as like “being hit over the head with a big Valentine’s Day card, every day.”
Total earnings: $1,635,137,900 The very first installment of George Lucas’s smash-hit space opera saga still steals the top spot in the Star Wars universe to this day. Famous line: “The Force will be with you, always.” Fun Fact: George Lucas was so convinced his film would flop that he vacationed in Hawaii with Steven Spielberg instead of attending the premiere.
Total earnings: $1,822,598,200 Victor Fleming’s film adaptation of Margaret Mitchell’s Civil War epic is still top dog for box office dollars eighty years after its release. Frankly, my dear, that’s pretty amazing. Famous line: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Fun Fact: Hattie McDaniel, who played “Mammy”, was the first African-American to be both nominated for, and win, an Academy Award.
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