These days, movies have to make a killing within the first week or two of release in order to be considered a blockbuster. And with so many movies debuting week, this can be a tall order. When we factor in production costs and cast salaries compared to their box office totals, it’s easy to see how some releases can be considered flops — but there are plenty that bring in astronomical sums of cash. As we get ready to close the chapter on this decade, let’s review the 10 highest-grossing movies worldwide from the 2010s. Note that all ranking is based on international box office sales through early November 2019.
10. “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2”
Total box-office gross: $1.342 billion
A quick look at the top 10 list shows that franchises tend to be successful — especially if they’re based on books. This 2011 film was the final movie installment based on the original seven "Harry Potter" books written by famed novelist J.K. Rowling. In total there were eight Harry Potter movies and “Deathly Hallows — Part 2” was the highest-grossing movie in the franchise, closing out a monster of a series with a bang.
9. “Black Panther”
Total box-office gross: $1.347 billion
People love the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Most of the top-grossing movies in our list are individual installments from within Marvel’s "Infinity Saga" — a total of 21 movies that feature the Avengers and their cohorts working together and as individual superheroes to battle some of the universe’s worst villains. 2018's “Black Panther” was one of the later installments but was one of the most anticipated releases. It shattered expectations and proved a film with a primarily minority cast could be a worldwide box office draw.
8. “Avengers: Age of Ultron”
Box-office gross: $1.403 billion
Whereas most MCU films focus on one individual character, the "Avengers" movies see the core superheroes team up to save the world. The MCU superheroes unite to save the universe — and to also set up plot points for later movies. Released in 2015, “Age of Ultron” was the second "Avengers" movie that brought the main team members (Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, The Hulk, Black Widow, and Hawkeye) together for an intergalactic battle. In total there were four "Avengers" movies within the Infinity Saga.
7. “Furious 7”
Box-office gross: $1.516 billion
Love it or hate it, "The Fast and The Furious" is another movie that has spawned more spin-offs than we care to discuss (looking at you, “Tokyo Drift”). The movie series began in 2001 and since then has continued to amass fans — and money — with each new installment. In total, there are nine movies within the franchise, with the most recent being “Fast & the Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” in 2019. However, the series seems to have hit a peak (financially, at least), in 2015 with “Furious 7,” the only one to make it into the top 10 for the highest-grossing films of this decade.
6. “Marvel’s The Avengers”
Box-office gross: $1.519 billion
Yes, the Avengers, again. This time, though, we’re talking about where it started. Within the MCU, 2012's "Marvel's The Avengers" was the sixth movie to be released, but the first to unite all of the core team members for one action-packed adventure (see entry #8 for a character refresher). This time, the Avengers duke it out with Thor’s trickster brother Loki and deal with the ethical implications of the mysterious, all-powerful Tesseract.
5. “The Lion King”
Box-office gross: $1.656 billion (and counting)
This Disney reboot didn’t get the best reviews, but never underestimate the power of nostalgia. Adults who grew up watching the beloved 1994 cartoon version of “The Lion King” flocked to theaters to see this new-fangled retelling, and many of those adults brought their own children along, creating a whole new generation of fans. Released in July 2019, this version is still collecting a bit of money as of the time this article published, so it could end up rising on this list.
4. “Jurassic World”
Box-office gross: $1.67 billion
Who doesn’t love dinosaurs? “Jurassic World” is not so much of a reboot as a continuation of a story that began with Michael Crichton’s books and was brought to life by Steven Spielberg in 1993. “Jurassic World” picks up nearly two decades after John Hammond’s failed attempt at a dino theme park. This time, though, the theme park works — until it doesn’t. “Jurassic World” is fourth in the "Jurassic Park" series, but first in the “Jurassic World Trilogy.”
3. “Avengers: Infinity War”
Box-office gross: $2.048 billion
Yup, they’re back again. “Infinity War” was the third "Avengers" movie and served as the first half of the two-part plot line that would see everyone in the MCU literally battle for their lives as they chase after Thanos, the gauntlet, and the Infinity Stones.
2. “Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens”
Box-office gross: $2.068 billion
Speaking of franchises, this specific one is the only movie series that spans almost 50 years without any reboots. “Star Wars” first burst onto the big screen in 1977 with what is now known as “Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope.” In 2015, the epic saga continued for the first time since the early to mid-2000s prequel trilogy. "The Force Awakens" was a massive hit, breaking the record for highest box-office gross in North America, where it is the only film to date to surpass $900 million. The new crop of films is no longer helmed by their original creator, George Lucas. As is to be expected with a franchise full of devoted fans, every new release comes with speculation and intrigue.
1. “Avengers: Endgame”
Box-office gross: $2.798 billion
Yes, the highest-grossing movie of the 2010s is the final "Avengers" movie. This time, we get the conclusion to “Infinity War” as the remaining superheroes try to deal with the shocking aftermath of the previous entry. The MCU is a complex place, and to make it even more difficult, the movies weren’t released in chronological order. So if you want to see it chronologically, you need to watch them in this order. Just remember that the teasers at the end of the movies won’t always make sense.
Cover image credit: Hethers / Shutterstock