The Highest-Grossing Movie the Year You Were Born

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Lights! Camera! Box Office!

"Spider-Man: No Way Home" recently became the first pandemic-era movie to rake in $1 billion worldwide, which is no small feat after COVID-19 brought many theaters to the brink of bankruptcy. In honor of that success, let's embrace our inner movie buff and take a deep dive into the most popular films from 1940 to 2000. Along the way, keep an eye out for the rise and fall of musicals, the arrival of the summer blockbuster, and the emergence of various franchises (think “Star Wars,” Indiana Jones, and superheroes — well before the Marvel Universe arrived). Our figures are from calculations made by The Numbers and Box Office Mojo for gross domestic box office for the life of a film. (Those numbers become more complete — if not more accurate — beginning in 1977, when more detailed box office information began to be kept.) Get some popcorn, dim the lights and enjoy.

Related: 29 Small-Budget Films That Went on to Win Oscars


1940: ‘Pinocchio’

$52 million

Disney’s second animated feature film (following 1937’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” $14.4 million), wasn’t an immediate hit but became successful through re-releases. The story of a puppet who wants to become a real boy took home Academy Awards for Best Music, Original Score, and Original Song, “When You Wish Upon a Star,” which remains a Disney signature.

Runner-up: “Fantasia,” $10.5 million 

Another Disney film, this one split into segments including Mickey Mouse as “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.”

Also popular that year: “Boom Town” ($9.2 million); Best Picture winner “Rebecca” ($6 million); and “Road to Singapore” ($3.2 million)

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1941: ‘Sergeant York’
Wikimedia Commons

1941: ‘Sergeant York’

$16 million

Gary Cooper won a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Alvin York, a highly decorated World War I soldier. Based on information from York’s diary, the film was a critical and commercial success. It was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry in 2008.

Runner-up: “Suspicion,” $4.5 million 

Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller features Cary Grant and Joan Fontaine. 

Also popular that year: “A Yank in the R.A.F.” ($4 million); “Buck Privates” ($4 million); and “Honky Tonk” ($3 million).


1942: ‘Bambi’

$77.8 million

Disney scored another hit with this beautifully crafted animated film about Bambi and his forest friends. Its box office totals reflect its re-release in theaters six times before hitting store shelves as a VHS in 1989. The American Film Institute ranked it the third-best animated film of all time in 2008.

Runner-up: “Mrs. Miniver,” $13.5 million

This romantic war drama with Greer Garson and Walter Pidgeon won six Academy Awards including Best Picture.

Also popular that year: “Yankee Doodle Dandy” ($11.8 million); “Woman of the Year” ($6 million); and “Once Upon a Honeymoon” ($5.2 million).

Related: 25 Ways Disney Revolutionized Entertainment

This is the Army 1943

1943: ‘This Is the Army’

$19.5 million

This MGM musical about staging a musical is filled with Irving Berlin songs like “This Is the Army, Mr. Jones,” “O, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning,” and “God Bless America.” It features Lt. Ronald Reagan and Sgt. Joe Louis as well as Kate Smith.

Runner-up: “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” $17.8 million 

War was also the theme for this film starring Gary Cooper and Ingrid Bergman based on the Ernest Hemingway novel.

Also popular that year: “The Song of Bernadette” ($12.5 million); Best Picture winner “Casablanca,” ($10.5 million); and “A Guy Named Joe” ($5.4 million).

Going My Way 1944
Wikimedia Commons

1944: ‘Going My Way’

$16.3 million

The film won seven Academy Awards including Best Picture. Bing Crosby also picked up an Oscar for his role as a young priest. But the film’s appeal was no doubt rooted in Crosby’s renditions of “Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ral” and “Swinging on a Star,” among other songs.

Runner-up: “Meet Me in St. Louis,” $12.8 million 

Featuring Judy Garland, this musical was released for the holidays by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with Garland singing “The Trolley Song” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

Also popular that year: “Two Girls and a Sailor” ($3.5 million); “Bathing Beauty” ($3.5 million); and “Wilson” ($2 million).

The Bells of St. Mary’s

1945: ‘The Bells of St. Mary’s’

$21.3 million

This sequel to the successful “Going My Way” again featured Bing Crosby, this time opposite Ingrid Bergman. Though the songs in this one weren’t as notable as the original, Crosby was nominated for a second Oscar.

Runner-up: “Mom and Dad,” $16 million 

If you’ve never heard of this one — a cautionary tale about a high school girl who gets pregnant — you’re not alone. But it did big box office in the 1940s. 

Also popular that year: “Leave Her to Heaven” ($13.8 million); Best Picture winner “The Lost Weekend” ($11 million); and “State Fair” ($10 million).

Song of the South

1946: ‘Song of the South’

$49.5 million

Maybe best remembered for the Oscar-winning song “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah,” the film hasn’t aged well. Let’s leave it at that.

Runner-up: “Notorious,” $24.5 million  

Alfred Hitchcock’s spy film noir paired Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman in a story about smuggled uranium. 

Also popular that year: Best Picture winner “The Best Years of Our Lives” ($23.6 million); “Duel in the Sun” ($20 million); and “The Jolson Story” ($19 million).

Forever Amber

1947: ‘Forever Amber’

$16 million

Otto Preminger’s period drama from the book of the same name opened to big box office numbers as well as controversy for its racy content. It commanded the hefty ticket price of $1.20 — above the norm at that time.

Runner-up: “Welcome Stranger,” $15.3 million 

This film paired the popular Bing Crosby with his “Going My Way” co-star Barry Fitzgerald — with a few songs tossed in for good measure, of course.

Also popular that year: “Mother Wore Tights” ($10 million); “The Hucksters” ($8.8 million); and “The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer” ($8.7 million).

The Snake Pit

1948: ‘The Snake Pit’

$10 million

Olivia de Havilland portrays a woman in a mental institution based on Mary Jane Ward’s semi-autobiographical novel. Not only was the film a critical and commercial success with six Academy Award nominations, it also influenced reforms at mental hospitals in several states.

Runner-up: “Red River,” $9 million

John Wayne and Montgomery Clift drive cattle along the Chisholm Trail in what’s considered one of the top 10 westerns of all time by the American Film Institute.

Also popular that year: “Key Largo” ($8.1 million); “The Three Musketeers” ($8 million); and “Easter Parade” ($6.8 million).

Samson and Delilah
Wikimedia Commons

1949: ‘Samson and Delilah’

$28.8 million

Cecil B. DeMille’s epic biblical drama with Hedy Lamarr and Victor Mature in the title roles was the highest-grossing film of 1950 after being released at the end of 1949. 

Runner-up“Pinky,” $8.4 million

The story of a light-skinned Black woman who passes for white overcame controversy to garner Academy Award nominations for Jeanne Crain, Ethel Barrymore, and Ethel Waters.

Also popular that year: “Come to the Stable” ($8 million); “Sands of Iwo Jima” ($7.8 million); and “I Was a Male War Bride” ($7.8 million).


1950: ‘Cinderella’

$52.4 million

Disney’s animated fantasy based on the fairy tale featured lots of music including “The Work Song” and “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo.” It was re-released domestically four times between 1950 and 2013.

Runner-up: “King Solomon’s Mines,” $11.2 million 

Deborah Kerr, Stewart Granger, and Richard Carlson star in this adaptation of the 1885 novel of the same name about treasure hunters. Variety called it “a socko piece of escapist entertainment.” Audiences agreed.

Also popular that year: “Father of the Bride” ($10.1 million); Best Picture winner “All About Eve” ($8.4 million); and “Annie Get Your Gun” ($8 million).

Quo Vadis
Wikimedia Commons

1951: ‘Quo Vadis’

$30 million

This historical drama set in the time of the Roman Empire features Robert Taylor and Deborah Kerr as love interests and Peter Ustinov as Emperor Nero. It was nominated for eight Academy Awards but went home empty-handed.

Runner-up: “David and Bathsheba,” $14 million

Gregory Peck plays King David with Susan Heyward as Bathsheba in this historical drama based on the Bible. It received five Academy Award nominations but no statuettes.

Also popular that year: “Show Boat” ($11 million); “The African Queen” ($10.7 million); and “A Streetcar Named Desire” ($8 million).

The Greatest Show on Earth
Wikimedia Commons

1952: ‘The Greatest Show on Earth’

$36 million

Variety called Cecil B. DeMille’s lavish drama set in the Ringling Bros.-Barnum & Bailey Circus a “sawdust extravaganza,” with Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, and Charlton Heston on board for this 2½-hour ride. It took home the Oscar for Best Picture.

Runner-up: “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” $12.9 million 

Gregory Peck, Susan Hayward, and Ava Gardner star in this drama based on the short story by Ernest Hemingway.

Also popular that year: “High Noon” ($8 million); “The Quiet Man” ($7.6 million); and “Singin’ in the Rain” ($7.1 million).

Related: The Best Drive-In Movie Theaters in America

Peter Pan 1953

1953: ‘Peter Pan’

$60 million

The adventures of the boy who wouldn’t grow up and his friends in Neverland delighted audiences young and old, but the figure for this film is certainly influenced by multiple re-releases over the years. Box Office Mojo puts that number at $87.4 million.

Runner-up: “The Robe,” $36 million 

This biblical epic centered around the crucifixion of Jesus stars Richard Burton, Jean Simmons, and Victor Mature.

Also popular that year: Best Picture winner “From Here to Eternity” ($30.5 million); “House of Wax” ($23.8 million); and “Shane” ($20 million).

White Christmas (1954)
United Archives / Contributor/ Getty Images

1954: ‘White Christmas’

$30 million

This musical features a star-studded cast led by Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney with music by Irving Berlin — including the title number (from an earlier film), “Heat Wave,” and “Sisters.”

Runner-up: “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea,” $28.2 million  

Disney’s live-action adaptation of Jules Verne’s novel starring Kirk Douglas and James Mason was hailed by critics as a technical marvel and earned Oscars for art direction and special effects. Who can forget the fight with the giant squid?

Also popular that year: “Demetrius and the Gladiators” ($26 million); “Rear Window” ($22.9 million); and “The Caine Mutiny” ($21.8 million).

Related: Classic Holiday Movies That Still Hold Up

Lady and the Tramp

1955: ‘Lady and the Tramp’

$66.4 million

Disney scored another success with this animated musical about the adventures of two dogs in an unlikely romance. Variety said it was “a delight for the juveniles and a joy for adults,” but other critics weren’t as kind. The film’s box office numbers have benefitted from multiple re-releases.

Runner-up: “Mister Roberts,” $21.2 million

This World War II comedy starring Henry Fonda, James Cagney, and Jack Lemmon was adapted from a novel and subsequent Broadway play. Lemmon won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role as Ensign Pulver — but didn’t play him in the sequel.

Also popular that year: “The Sea Chase” ($12 million); “The Tall Men” ($12 million); and “Galapagos” ($11.5 million).

The Ten Commandments
Wikimedia Commons

1956: ‘The Ten Commandments’

$85.4 million

Did Cecil B. DeMille ever make an intimate little picture? This biblical drama featuring Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, and Edward G. Robinson was nominated for seven Academy Awards. You can still catch this classic on television around Easter.

Runner-up: “Around the World in 80 Days,” $42 million

The epic adventure film inspired by the Jules Verne novel features David Niven and Cantinflas as intrepid travelers on a race around the world to win a bet. It took home the Best Picture Oscar.

Also popular that year: “Giant” ($30.1 million); “The King and I” ($21.3 million); and “Trapeze” ($14.4 million)

Related: 17 Beloved Classic TV Shows You Can Still Watch

The Bridge on the River Kwai
Wikimedia Commons

1957: ‘The Bridge on the River Kwai’

$33.3 million

Viewers flocked to theaters to see this film about British prisoners of war forced to build a bridge for their Japanese captors. Featuring William Holden and Alec Guinness, it won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor for Guinness.

Runner-up: “Sayonara,” $26.3 million

Marlon Brando deals with cultural taboos in this film adapted from the James Michener novel.

Also popular that year: “Peyton Place” ($25.6 million); “Gunfight at the O.K. Corral” ($11.8 million); and “A Farewell to Arms” ($11 million).

South Pacific

1958: ‘South Pacific’

$36.8 million

The big-screen adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s popular Broadway musical starring Rossano Brazzi and Mitzi Gaynor was nominated for three Academy Awards.

Runner-up: “Auntie Mame,” $23.3 million

An adaptation of the novel and play of the same name, this non-musical version of the story stars Rosalind Russell and Forrest Tucker.

Also popular that year: “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” ($17.6 million); “The Big Country” ($10 million); and “The Inn of the Sixth Happiness” ($9 million).

Wikimedia Commons

1959: ‘Ben-Hur’

$73 million

The religious epic starring Charlton Heston — and, quite literally, a cast of thousands — took advantage of a huge budget to dominate the box office and win 11 Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Heston and Best Picture. Don’t miss the chariot race.

Runner-up: “The Shaggy Dog,” $29 million 

Disney’s comedy featuring Fred MacMurray, Tommy Kirk, and Annette Funicello about a boy who’s transformed into a dog launched several sequels and remakes. 

Also popular that year: “Some Like it Hot” ($25 million); “Operation Petticoat” ($23.3 million); and “Pillow Talk” ($18.8 million).

Swiss Family Robinson

1960: ‘Swiss Family Robinson’

$40.4 million

Disney’s tale of a shipwrecked family living in a treehouse was a remake of a 1940 film. A re-release in 1969 boosted its box office totals.

Runner-up: “Psycho,” $32 million 

Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller based on the Robert Bloch novel featured Anthony Perkins and Vera Miles and was nominated for four Academy Awards. 

Also popular that year: “Spartacus” ($28.7 million); “Exodus” ($21.8 million); and Best Picture winner “The Apartment” ($18.6 million)


1961: ‘One Hundred and One Dalmatians’

$102.4 million

The animated story of a litter of Dalmatian puppies abducted by the evil Cruella de Vil was a hit for Disney and led to subsequent adaptations and sequels — including “Cruella” in 2021. Re-releases boosted the originals box office totals.

Runner-up: “West Side Story,” 43.7 million 

This adaptation of the popular Broadway musical won 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture. 

Also popular that year: “The Guns of Navarone” ($28.9 million); “El Cid” ($26.6 million); and “The Absent Minded Professor” ($23.4 million).

The Longest Day

1962: ‘The Longest Day’

$39.1 million

This nearly three-hour film about the D-Day landings at Normandy in World War II features a star-studded cast including John Wayne, Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, and Red Buttons. It was nominated for five Academy Awards.

Runner-up“Lawrence of Arabia,” $33.2 million  

Peter O’Toole, Alec Guinness, and Anthony Quinn star in this 3-hour and 48-minute epic that won the Best Picture Oscar.

Also popular that year: “In Search of Castaways” ($18.4 million); “That Touch of Mink” ($17.6 million); and “The Music Man” ($14.9 million).

Wikimedia Commons

1963: ‘Cleopatra’

$57 million

This lavish (and long at 4 hours and 3 minutes) historical drama about the legendary Egyptian queen featuring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, Rex Harrison, and Roddy McDowall was nominated for nine Academy Awards. says the film actually lost money due to massive budget overruns.

Runner-up“How the West Was Won,” $46.5 million 

This sprawling Western adventure with a huge ensemble cast was added to the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1997.

Also popular that year: “It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World” ($46 million); Best Picture winner “Tom Jones” ($37.6 million); and “Irma La Douce” ($25.2 million).

Mary Poppins

1964: ‘Mary Poppins’

$102.3 million

Musicals ruled the box office, led by one of the most beloved and enduring Disney films featuring Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke. The movie was nominated for 13 Academy Awards, winning four, including Best Actress for Andrews and Best Song for “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” Two re-releases have boosted its original box office totals.

Runner-up: “My Fair Lady,” $72 million 

The popular musical scored Oscars for Best Picture, Best Director (George Cukor), and Best Actor (Rex Harrison, though probably not for his singing).

Also popular that year: “Goldfinger” ($51.1 million); “The Carpetbaggers” ($28.4 million); and “From Russia With Love” ($24.8 million).

The Sound of Music Von Trapp family
Silver Screen Collection/Contributor/Moviepix/Getty Images

1965: ‘The Sound of Music’

$163.2 million

Julie Andrews didn’t have to wait long for her next big success, paired in this film adaptation of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical with Christopher Plummer. The winner of the Best Picture Oscar, it was the first film to make $100 million at the box office without a re-release and continued to be shown in theaters until Labor Day weekend 1969.

Runner-up“Doctor Zhivago,” $111.7 million says this bittersweet tale of love during the Russian Revolution — along with a reissue of “Gone With the Wind” — saved MGM from bankruptcy in the mid-’60s.

Also popular that year: “Thunderball” ($63.6 million); “Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines” ($31.1 million); and “That Darn Cat!” ($28 million).

Related: The Von Trapp Costumes and More of the Most Expensive Clothing Items Ever Auctioned

The Bible: In the Beginning
Wikimedia Commons

1966: ‘The Bible: In the Beginning’

$34.9 million

John Houston directed this sprawling Dino De Laurentis production that covers the first part of the book of Genesis.

Runner-up: “Hawaii,” $34.6 million 

Julie Andrews, Max von Sydow, Richard Harris, and Gene Hackman star in the film adaptation of James Michener’s best-selling novel, which was nominated for seven Academy Awards.

Also popular that year: “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?” ($33.7 million); “The Sand Pebbles” ($30 million); and Best Picture winner “A Man for All Seasons” ($28.4 million).

The Graduate

1967: ‘The Graduate’

$104.3 million

This Mike Nichols film has everything — comedy, drama, romance, Dustin Hoffman’s breakout role, Simon and Garfunkel songs, and some fine advice for new college graduates in 1967: Plastics. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards but only won for Best Director.

Runner-up: “The Jungle Book,” $98.4 million 

Re-releases in 1984 and 1990 likely boosted this total for Disney’s musical jungle romp.

Also popular that year: “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” ($56.7 million); “Bonnie and Clyde” ($50.7 million); and “The Dirty Dozen” ($45.3 million).

Related: 50 Iconic Movie Locations Around the World

Funny Girl

1968: ‘Funny Girl’

$58.5 million

Barbra Streisand won the Best Actress Oscar for her big-screen debut as real-life comedienne and Ziegfeld Follies star Fanny Brice. She reprised the role in 1975’s “Funny Lady” opposite James Caan.

Runner-up: “2001: A Space Odyssey,” $56.7 million 

Maybe the most ambitious and enthralling science fiction film ever at the time it was released. We’re still trying to figure out the ending.

Also popular that year: “The Odd Couple” ($44.5 million); “Bullitt” ($43,3 million); and “Romeo and Juliet” ($38.9 million).

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

1969: ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’

$102.3 million

This George Roy Hill adventure about lovable outlaws was the first of two films to pair Paul Newman and Robert Redford. It won four Academy Awards including Original Score for Burt Bacharach and Original Song, “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” by Bacharach and lyricist Hal David.

Runner-up: “The Love Bug,” $50.6 million 

The first in a series of Disney films about Herbie, a Volkswagen Beetle with a mind of its own.

Also popular that year: Best Picture Oscar winner “Midnight Cowboy” ($44.8 million); “Easy Rider” ($41.7 million); and “Hello, Dolly” ($33.2 million).

Love Story

1970: ‘Love Story’

$106.4 million

The bittersweet romantic drama starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O’Neal gave us the quote “Love means never having to say you’re sorry” and a beautiful score by Francis Lai. Have a hanky or two ready.

Runner-up: “Airport,” $100.5 million

This film version of the Arthur Hailey novel, with an all-star cast led by Burt Lancaster and Dean Martin, set the table for a run of disaster films to follow in the 1970s. 

Also popular that year: “M*A*S*H” ($81.6 million); “Patton” ($62.5 million); and “The Aristocats” ($41.2 million).

Billy Jack

1971: ‘Billy Jack’

$98 million

Tom Laughlin stars as a mixed-race former Green Beret who hates violence but has no problem kicking a few butts to save a threatened school for runaways. It’s actually a sequel to 1967’s “Born Losers,” and was followed by “The Trial of Billy Jack” in 1974, and “Billy Jack Goes to Washington” in 1977.

Runner-up: “Fiddler on the Roof,” $78.7 million  

Norman Jewison’s adaptation of the popular Broadway musical follows the life of a poor milkman in pre-revolutionary Russia.

Also popular that year: “Diamonds Are Forever” ($43.8 million); Best Picture winner “The French Connection” ($41.2 million); and “The Summer of ’42” ($32 million)

'The Godfather'
Best Buy

1972: ‘The Godfather’

$133.7 million

This Best Picture winner and modern gangster classic was the top box office draw for 23 straight weeks. says Francis Ford Coppola only agreed to direct the film because he needed the money — literally a deal he couldn’t refuse.

Runner-up: “The Poseidon Adventure,” $93.3 million  

Producer Irwin Allen’s all-star disaster movie tells the tale of survivors of a capsized ocean liner fighting their way to the bottom of the vessel to be rescued. Not the way you want to spend New Year’s Eve.

Also popular that year: “What’s Up, Doc?” ($57.1 million); “Deliverance” ($46.1 million); and “Jeremiah Johnson” ($44.7 million)

Related: 30 Best Restaurant Scenes In Classic Movies And TV Shows

The Exorcist (1973)

1973: ‘The Exorcist’

$193 million

Thrill-seeking moviegoers flocked to theaters to see the shocking battle between demonically possessed Regan (Linda Blair) and the young priest (Jason Miller) trying to save her. The controversial film was nominated for 13 Academy Awards and spawned several sequels.

Runner-up: “The Sting,” $159.6 million 

Paul Newman and Robert Redford returned in this Best Picture winner as grifters with hearts of gold during the Great Depression who spring a complicated con on an unsuspecting mob boss (Robert Shaw).

Also popular that year: “American Graffiti” ($115 million); “Papilion” ($53.3 million); and “The Way We Were” ($49.9 million).

Related: The Scariest Horror Films — If Your Heart Can Take It

Blazing Saddles

1974: ‘Blazing Saddles’

$119.5 million

The Los Angeles Times called it “irreverent, outrageous, improbable” and often “blithely tasteless,” but Mel Brooks clearly struck a chord with this dark sendup of Westerns featuring Cleavon Little as an unlikely sheriff and Gene Wilder as his washed-up gunslinger sidekick.

Runner-up“Towering Inferno,” $116 million

Steve McQueen, Paul Newman, William Holden, and Faye Dunaway lead an ensemble cast in this Irwin Allen production that was nominated for eight Academy Awards.

Also popular that year: “The Trial of Billy Jack” ($89 million); “Young Frankenstein” ($86.3 million); and “Earthquake” ($79.7 million).

1975 'Jaws' Movie Poster

1975: ‘Jaws’

$260 million

Steven Spielberg’s thriller about a great white shark feeding in the waters off of a summer resort town became the model for subsequent summer blockbusters as well as a blueprint for many horror films. While audiences barely saw the shark on the screen, an ominous John Williams score helped keep them on edge.

Runner-up: "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest," $109 million 

The Best Picture winner featured inspired performances by Jack Nicholson (Best Actor) and Louise Fletcher (Best Actress). 

Also popular that year: “Shampoo” ($49.4 million); “Dog Day Afternoon” ($46.7 million); and “The Return of the Pink Panther” ($41.8 million).

Related: This Was the Scariest Movie the Year You Were Born

Rocky Film 1976

1976: ‘Rocky’

$117.2 million

Little-known actor Sylvester Stallone became a household name after writing and starring in this Best Picture drama about a hard-working boxer who gets the biggest break of his life. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards and launched a franchise with seven sequels (with another expected in 2022).

Runner-up: “A Star is Born,” $63.1 million

The second remake of the 1937 film starred Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson.

Also popular that year: “King Kong” ($52.6 million); “Silver Streak” ($51 million); and “All the President’s Men” ($51 million)

Related: The "Rocky" Steps and Other Iconic Staircases Around the World

Star Wars Ep. IV

1977: ‘Star Wars Ep. IV: A New Hope’

$461 million

When it was released — long before anyone expected sequels, much less prequels — it was just known as “Star Wars” and quickly built a legion of loyal sci-fi fans. It ruled the box office for 20 weeks in 1977 and continued to cash in through multiple re-releases.

Runner-up: “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” $169.1 million 

In a big year for science fiction films, Steven Spielberg’s entry had everyone talking about UFOs — and looking at mashed potatoes in a new way.

Also popular that year: “Saturday Night Fever” ($139.5 million); “Smokey and the Bandit” ($126.7 million); and “The Goodbye Girl” ($83.7 million)


1978: ‘Grease’

$181.8 million

This adaptation of the stage musical featured a huge ensemble cast led by charismatic performances from John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. Audiences didn’t care that it was largely panned by critics and the movie remains a guilty pleasure for many today with frequent television rotation.

Runner-up: “National Lampoon’s Animal House,” $141.6 million 

The misadventures of members of Faber College’s Delta Tau Chi fraternity are legendary comedy fare, featuring John Belushi in his breakout film role.

Also popular that year: “Superman” ($134.2 million); “Every Which Way But Loose” ($104.3 million); and “Jaw 2” ($102.9 million).

Kramer vs. Kramer

1979: ‘Kramer vs. Kramer’

$106.2 million

Oscar buzz and three big Academy Awards including Best Picture helped propel this touching drama about divorce and parenthood. Dustin Hoffman (Best Actor) and Meryl Streep (Best Actress) were exceptional.

Runner-up: “The Amityville Horror,” $86.4 million 

This supernatural horror film starring James Brolin and Margot Kidder was a summer box-office success for independent studio American Pictures International.

Also popular that year: “Rocky II” ($85.2 million); “Apocalypse Now” ($83.5 million); and “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” ($82.3 million)

Related: 21 Horror Movie Locations You Need to Visit

The Empire Strikes Back

1980: ‘Star Wars Ep. V: The Empire Strikes Back’

$291.7 million

Considered by some to be the best of the original “Star Wars” trilogy, it also benefited from repeated releases over the years. 

Runner-up: “Nine to Five,” $103.3 million

Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin, Dolly Parton, and Dabney Coleman star in this comedy about an office in need of a good HR director.

Also popular that year: “Stir Crazy” ($101.3 million); Airplane! ($83.5 million); and “Any Which Way You Can” ($70.7 million).

Related: 13 Destinations Every 'Star Wars' Fan Should Visit

Raiders of the Lost Ark

1981: ‘Raiders of the Lost Ark’

$225.7 million 

The bankable Harrison Ford launched a second film franchise with this action adventure about the coolest archeologist anyone’s ever heard of.

Runner-up: “On Golden Pond,” $119.3 million

Henry Fonda won his first Best Actor Oscar for the final film in his storied career.

Also popular that year: “Superman II: ($108.2 million; “Stripes” ($85.3 million); and “Arthur” ($81.5 million)

Related: Harrison Ford and Other Celebrities Who Were Kicked Out of School

ET: The Extra-Terrestrial

1982: ‘ET: The Extra-Terrestrial’

$435.1 million 

Steven Spielberg’s enduring science fiction adventure about a boy and a wayward alien was nominated for nine Oscars, including Best Picture. But summer blockbusters are rarely rewarded for their artistry. John Williams landed his fourth statuette for the film score.

Runner-up: “Tootsie,” $177.2 million

Sydney Pollack’s romantic comedy with Dustin Hoffman in the title role was nominated for 10 Academy Awards. Only Jessica Lang won for Best Supporting Actress.

Also popular that year: “An Officer and a Gentleman” ($129.8 million); “Rocky III” ($125 million); and “Porky’s” ($109.5 million).

return of the jedi

1983: ‘Star Wars Ep. VI: Return of the Jedi’

$309.2 million

The highly anticipated end of the George Lucas trilogy got generally good reviews despite gripes from some fans about the cuddly Ewoks. 

Runner-up“Terms of Endearment,” $108.4

This drama starring Debra Winger, Shirley MacLaine, and Jack Nicholson cleaned up at the Oscars, winning five including Best Picture.

Also popular that year: “Flashdance” ($90.5 million); “Trading Places” ($90.4 million); and “WarGames” ($74.4 million).


1984: ‘Ghostbusters’

$242.2 million

Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis answered the musical question “Who you gonna’ call?” in this summer blockbuster comedy that spawned sequels, an animated television series, and a reboot in 2016. says “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” is slated for release in November.

Runner-up: “Beverly Hills Cop,” $234.7 million 

Eddie Murphy’s first turn as Detroit cop Axel Foley was the box office king for 13 weeks after its release.

Also popular that year: “Indiana Jones and Temple of Doom” ($179.9 million); “Gremlins” ($148.2 million); and “The Karate Kid” ($90.8 million).

Related: Historic Firehouses Across America (Including the One From "Ghostbusters")

Back To The Future

1985: ‘Back to the Future’

$212.3 million

Another summer blockbuster kicks off another three-movie science-fiction franchise featuring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, and a highly modified DeLorean. The sequels “Back to the Future Part II” and “Back to the Future Part III” followed in 1989 and 1990. A stage musical is in the works? Great Scott!

Runner-up: “Rambo: First Blood Part II,” $150.4 million 

The sequel to 1982’s “First Blood” finds Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo character searching for prisoners of war in Vietnam.

Also popular that year: “Rocky IV” ($105 million); “The Color Purple” ($93.6 million); and Best Picture winner “Out of Africa” ($79 million).

Related: 25 Most Iconic Movie and TV Cars

Top Gun

1986: ‘Top Gun’

$180 million

Tom Cruise’s need for speed fueled this high-testosterone action film from producers Don Simpson and Jerry Bruckheimer. The flying sequences are amazing and the soundtrack featuring music by Harold Faltermeyer and Kenny Loggins was popular as well. A sequel, “Top Gun: Maverick” is waiting in the wings, so to speak.

Runner-up: “Crocodile Dundee,” $129.6 million

This charming action-comedy featuring Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski was a surprise hit. Two sequels followed, neither of which fared as well as the original.

Also popular that year: Best Picture winner “Platoon” ($138 million); “The Karate Kid Part II” ($115.1 million); and “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home” ($109.7 million).

Three Men and a Baby

1987: ‘Three Men and a Baby’

$167.8 million

This comedy, directed by Leonard Nimoy, features Tom Selleck, Steve Guttenberg, and Ted Danson as bachelors attempting to determine the parentage of a baby left at their door.

Runner-up“Fatal Attraction,” $156.6 million  

Glenn Close refuses to be ignored by Michael Douglas when he tries to end their affair in this sexy thriller. Say, what’s that on the stove?

Also popular that year: “Beverly Hills Cop II” ($153.7 million); “Good Morning Vietnam” ($123.9 million); and “Moonstruck” ($80.6 million)

Rain Man

1988: ‘Rain Man’

$172.8 million

Director Barry Levinson’s poignant film features strong performances from Tom Cruise and Dustin Hoffman as reunited brothers who bond on a cross-country road trip. It won the Best Picture Oscar and a Best Actor statuette for Hoffman.

Runner-up: “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?,” $154.1 million 

This energetic live-action and animated comedy feature starred Bob Hoskins and Christopher Lloyd in a mystery involving interactions between humans and cartoon characters.

Also popular that year: “Coming to America” ($128.1 million); “Big” ($115 million); and “Twins” ($111.9 million)


1989: ‘Batman’

$251.2 million

 Tim Burton’s film launched another superhero franchise despite the controversial casting of Michael Keaton in the title role. Jack Nicholson steals scene after scene as the Joker. Three sequels followed with Keaton replaced after the second film by Val Kilmer and then George Clooney.

Runner-up: “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade,” $197.2 million  

The third installment in Steven Spielberg’s series paired Harrison Ford with Sean Connery, as Indiana’s dad.

Also popular that year: “Lethal Weapon 2” ($147.3 million); “Look Who’s Talking” ($140 million); and “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” ($130.7 million)

Related: 20 Crazy-Expensive Cars Destroyed by Hollywood

Home Alone (1990)

1990: ‘Home Alone’

$285.8 million

 This John Hughes film about a young boy (Macaulay Culkin) defending his home from a pair of bumbling burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) became an instant Christmas classic. The gang got back together in 1992 for “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.”

Runner-up“Ghost,” $217.6 million

This romantic thriller features Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, but Whoopie Goldberg stole the show and won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.

Also popular that year: Best Picture winner “Dances with Wolves” ($184.2 million); “Pretty Woman” ($178.4 million); and “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” ($135.3 million).

Beauty and the Beast

1991: ‘Beauty and the Beast’

$206.3 million

Disney’s animated musical of a tale as old as time follows the romance of a cursed prince and the young woman who must save him. It won two Oscars (Best Original Score and Best Original Song) and was re-released three times between 2002 and 2012.

Runner-up“Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” $201.9 million

Director James Cameron brings Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton back for the second installment of the science-fiction franchise.

Also popular that year: “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves” ($165.5); Best Picture winner “The Silence of the Lambs” ($130.7 million); and “City Slickers” ($124 million).


1992: ‘Aladdin’

$217.4 million

Aladdin may be the title character, but it was the genie — famously ad-libbed by Robin Williams — who steals the show in this Disney animated musical. The performance is seen as the turning point where A-list actors began voicing more and more animated films.

Runner-up“Home Alone 2: Lost in New York”  

The sequel to 1990’s hit shifts the action from Chicago to New York.

Also popular that year: “Batman Returns” ($162.8 million); “Lethal Weapon 3” ($144.7 million); and “A Few Good Men” ($141.3 million).

Jurassic Park

1993: ‘Jurassic Park’

$402.5 million

Steven Spielberg launches another summer blockbuster with this film based on Michael Crichton’s novel about an unusual wildlife park. The film was re-released four times including 3D and IMAX versions. Four sequels followed and a fifth, “Jurassic World: Dominion,” is expected in 2022.

Runner-up“Mrs. Doubtfire,” $219.2 million  

Robin Williams does his thing — this time in a dress — and hilarity ensues. It scored an Oscar for Best Makeup, of course.

Also popular that year: “The Fugitive” ($183.9 million); “The Firm” ($158.3 million); and “Sleepless in Seattle” ($126.7 million)

Related: The Top Summer Movies of the Past 25 Years

The Lion King DVD and Blu-Ray

1994: ‘The Lion King’

$421.8 million

 The critically-acclaimed Disney musical — with songs written by Elton John and Tim Rice and a score by Hans Zimmer — captivated audiences and also made the Top 10 lists of dozens of critics. A Broadway musical version followed — there’s a switch — as well as a “live-action” CGI reboot in 2019.

Runner-up: “Forrest Gump,” $330.2 million 

Robert Zemeckis’ modern fable featuring Tom Hanks in the title role scored Oscars for Best Picture and Best Actor (Hanks). The popular soundtrack album featured songs that spanned four decades of rock and roll.

Also popular that year: “True Lies” ($146.3 million); “The Santa Clause” ($145.5 million); and “The Flintstones” ($130.5 million).


1995: ‘Toy Story’

$192.5 million

The first feature film from Pixar Animation Studios featured the voices of Tom Hanks (Woody) and Tim Allen (Buzz Lightyear) in a new brand of digital animation coupled with a heartwarming story that touched audiences and launched a franchise. 

Runner-up“Batman Forever,” $184 million 

Val Kilmer takes over for Michael Keaton as the Caped Crusader and Chris O’Donnell is introduced as Robin in this third installment of the Warner Bros. series.

Also popular that year: “Apollo 13” ($173.8 million); “Pocahontas” ($141.6 million); and “Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls” ($108.4 million). 

Independence Day

1996: ‘Independence Day’

$306.2 million

Will Smith, Jeff Goldblum, and Bill Pullman repulse an alien invasion in this action-heavy science-fiction thriller that leans on references from classic films to advance its thin storyline.

Runner-up: “Twister,” $241.7 million 

Helen Hunt and Bill Paxton chase tornados in this disaster adventure film.

Also popular that year: “Mission: Impossible” ($181 million); “Jerry Maguire” ($153.9 million); and “Ransom” ($136.2 million).


1997: ‘Titanic’

$659.4 million

James Cameron’s CGI classic was released right before Christmas and dominated the box office for 15 consecutive weeks. It was nominated for 14 Academy Awards and won 11 including Best Picture and Best Director.

Runner-up: “Men in Black,” $250.7 million  

Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith are featured in this summer blockbuster sci-fi comedy about aliens living among us and the men who keep them in line.

Also popular that year: “The Lost World: Jurassic Park” ($229.1 million); “Liar Liar” ($181.4 million); and “Air Force One” ($172.9 million).

Saving Private Ryan

1998: ‘Saving Private Ryan’

$216.3 million

Steven Spielberg’s war epic featuring Tom Hanks doesn’t pull many punches, especially during its graphic depiction of the storming of Omaha Beach during the D-Day landings. It was nominated for 11 Academy Awards and won five including Best Director.

Runner-up: “Armageddon,” $201.6 million. Bruce Willis leads an ensemble cast in Michael Bay’s science fiction adventure about a team of miners trying to blow up an asteroid before it hits Earth.

Also popular that year: “There’s Something About Mary” ($176.5 million); “A Bug’s Life” ($162.8 million); “The Waterboy” ($161.5 million).

Phantom Menace

1999: ‘Star Wars Ep. I: The Phantom Menace’

$44.5 million

The fourth Star Wars release becomes the first episode in the series and the first film in the second (prequel) trilogy. Confused? Wait until Jar Jar Binks hits the screen. Reviews were all over the place, but after years of hype, expectations may have been a little unreasonable.

Runner-up: “The Sixth Sense,” $293.5 million 

M. Night Shyamalan’s supernatural thriller featuring Bruce Willis and Haley Joel Osment keeps you guessing until the final plot twist is revealed — and then you’ll wonder why you didn’t see it coming.

Also popular that year: “Toy Story 2” ($245.8 million); “Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me” ($206 million); and “The Matrix” ($173.4 million).

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

2000: ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’

$260.3 million

Jim Carrey brings the animated seasonal Dr. Seuss classic to life in this film directed by Ron Howard. Critics generally praised Carrey’s performance. The rest of the movie? Not so much.

Runner-up: “Cast Away,” $233.6 million  

Despite the fact that there are stretches of this film where no one speaks, Tom Hanks holds this drama from director Robert Zemeckis together. 

Also popular that year: “Mission: Impossible 2” ($215.4 million); “Gladiator” ($187.7 million); and “What Women Want” ($182.8 million).

Related: 10 Holiday Movies for People Who Hate Holiday Movies