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By Jennifer Martin
/ CBS NEWS
Which movie was No. 1 the year you were born?
Compiling data from The Numbers, which tracks movie-release dates and box office performance, we found the top-grossing movies from 1950 to 2010.
The figures have not been adjusted for inflation, and we’re only including domestic box office dollars. Detailed box-office numbers weren’t available until 1977, so numerical figures before then are estimates of the box office total, and some films include theatrical re-releases in those totals as well.
After 1977, only the gross earnings for the single year are counted.
Some of these movies are now classics — “Titanic” among them — while others have been largely forgotten.
Disney’s animated classic was released in North America Feb. 15, 1950. It grossed around $52.4 million domestically.
The film is based on the classic fairy tale: A servant girl, living with her wicked stepmother and stepsisters, catches the eye of a prince intent on marrying.
“Quo Vadis?” was released on Feb. 23, 1951 and grossed $30 million domestically. The film’s box-office success reportedly saved MGM from failure.
The movie follows the persecution of early Christians in the Roman Empire.
Released Jan. 10, 1952, “The Greatest Show on Earth” took home $36 million at the domestic box office. It also won a best picture Oscar.
The drama about the lives of circus performers featured real acts from both the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circuses.
This Disney animated film, released Feb. 5, 1953, raked in nearly $60.1 million at the domestic box office.
It was based on J. M. Barrie’s book “Peter Pan; or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.”
Released domestically on April 27, 1954, “White Christmas” went on to earn $30 million at the box office.
The film, named for the song written by Irving Berlin (which was a signature hit for the film’s star, Bing Crosby, after it was featured in the movie “Holiday Inn”) follows the story of performers making it big after World War II.
Released on June 22, 1955, this Disney animation went on to earn about $66.4 million at the box office.
The inspiration for the film about dog romance came from a Cosmopolitan magazine story called “Happy Dan, The Cynical Dog.”
“The Ten Commandments” was released domestically on Oct. 5, 1956, and went on to earn about $85.4 million.
This religious epic, starring Charlton Heston in the lead role as Moses, was based on the book of Exodus as well as other novels based on biblical stories.
Released on Dec. 18, 1957, “The Bridge on the River Kwai” grossed $33.3 million domestically.
The epic war film is based on a book set during the 1940s construction of the Burma Railway between Thailand and Myanmar.
This romantic musical was released on March 19, 1958 and ended up making $36.8 million at the domestic box office.
It was adapted from the hit Broadway musical, which was in turn based on the short-story collection “Tales of the South Pacific” by James A. Michener.
“Ben-Hur” was released on Nov. 18, 1959, and grossed $73 million at the domestic box office. It became the second highest-grossing movie ever at the time, just behind “Gone with the Wind.”
The budget for the movie, and its famous chariot race scene, was $15.2 million — the largest at the time. The film won what was then a record number of Academy Awards.
Disney’s live-action adventure film was released on Dec. 21, 1960, and grossed $40.4 million domestically.
The story about a family who builds a home on a deserted island was based on a novel of the same name.
Released on Jan. 25, 1961, “101 Dalmatians” would earn about $102.4 million domestically.
The animated caper about the spotted dog breed was based the book “The Hundred and One Dalmatians” by Dodie Smith.
The war film was released on Oct. 4, 1962 and grossed $39.1 million at the domestic box office.
The black-and-white movie was based on Cornelius Ryan’s nonfiction book of the same name, about the D-Day landings at Normandy during World War II.
“Cleopatra” was released on June 12, 1963, and went on to gross $57 million domestically.
The film initially lost money, but eventually, it was successful.
The musical was released on Aug. 26, 1964. It would eventually go on to earn around $102.3 million total at the domestic box office.
At the time, the film broke records for Academy Award nominations by a single Disney movie: 13 in total.
Released on March 2, 1965, “The Sound of Music” has grossed about $163.2 million at the domestic box office. When adjusted for inflation, it is the highest-grossing musical of all time.
The movie, adapted from the Broadway musical of the same name, was loosely based on the real-life story of Maria Von Trapp. She was a nun who married a widower with seven children and later formed a family singing group before moving to the U.S. to escape Nazi incursion.
The religious epic was released on Sept. 28, 1966. The gross earnings were about $34.9 million at the domestic box office.
The film depicts events from the first 22 chapters of the Book of Genesis. It was originally envisioned as a series retelling the entire Old Testament, but subsequent movies were never made.
“The Graduate” was released on Dec. 21, 1967. It would go on to eventually earn $104.3 million at the box office.
The movie, about a love triangle involving a mother, daughter and an aimless college graduate, is based on a novel of the same name by Charles Webb.
“Funny Girl” was released on Sept. 19, 1968, and grossed $58.5 million total.
The story is loosely based on the life of Fanny Brice and her turbulent relationship with gambler Nicky Arnstein. Barbra Streisand made her film debut to reprise her role from the Broadway musical of the same name.
This Western was released on Oct. 24, 1969, and earned about $102.3 million at the domestic box office.
The film is loosely based on the lives of real-life outlaws Robert LeRoy Parker, also known as Butch Cassidy, and Harry “The Sundance Kid” Longabaugh.
“Love Story” earned nearly $106.4 million at the box office. Its release date was Dec. 16, 1970.
Author Erich Segal wrote the film adaptation and the novel on which it was based. The romantic drama’s plot centers on a couple from different walks of life and a tragedy that separates them.
Action flick “Billy Jack” was released Jan. 1, 1971. It went on to gross $98 million domestically.
The film is the second of a series about a Vietnam War veteran and hapkido master.
The first installation of “The Godfather” was released March 15, 1972. It grossed around $133.7 million at the domestic box office.
A still-influential mob movie, the film was based on a novel of the same name by Mario Puzo, who also co-wrote the script with director Francis Ford Coppola.
“The Exorcist” had domestic gross earnings of $193 million. Its release date was Dec. 26, 1973.
The story about a demon-possessed girl was based on a novel by William Peter Blatty, who also wrote the screenplay. It was the first horror film to be nominated for a best picture Oscar.
Released on Feb. 7, 1974, “Blazing Saddles” grossed $119.5 million at the domestic box office.
The raunchy Mel Brooks comedy follows the tale of a Black sheriff in the Wild West.
This thriller, released on June 20, 1975, grossed $260 million domestically.
The success of this film, about a man-eating great white shark, defined the summer blockbuster.
The movie was released Nov. 21, 1976, and went on to gross around $117.2 million at the domestic box office.
Widely considered one of the greatest sports movies ever made, the film follows a Philadelphia boxer as he trains for a fight against professional fighter Apollo Creed.
This movie was released on May 25, 1977, and would go on to earn around $195.7 million at the box office.
The wildly successful space opera would spawn a still-ongoing series and is the fourth highest-grossing movie of all time when adjusted for inflation.
The musical earned around $153.1 million at the domestic box office. Its release date was June 16, 1978.
The tale of two teens falling in love in 1950s remains popular to this day.
Starting in 1977, The Numbers considers the “highest-grossing” movie to be whatever film earned the most during that year, regardless of release date.
Which is why The Numbers counts “Superman” as its top-grossing 1979 film, despite its Dec. 15, 1978 release date.
Earning nearly $93.3 million during its run, the superhero movie had the highest budget ever for a film at the time — $55 million.
The second installment of the “Star Wars” saga was released on May 21, 1980, and grossed nearly $181.4 million domestically.
The space sequel was a critical and commercial success and is often cited as the best film in the “Star Wars” series.
The action-adventure was released on June 12, 1981, and ended up grossing about $168.4 million at the domestic box office.
The first of the Indiana Jones movies was directed by Steven Spielberg.
Released June 11, 1982, “ET: The Extra-Terrestrial” went on to gross $321.8 million domestically.
The film’s plot, about an alien accidentally left on Earth, was based on an imaginary friend that director Steven Spielberg created after his parents’ divorce.
The third installment of the original “Star Wars” trilogy was released on May 25, 1983. It grossed $249.3 million at the domestic box office.
“Return of the Jedi” concludes the original space epic saga.
“Ghostbusters” had gross earnings of around $220.7 million at the domestic box office. Its release date was June 8, 1984.
The supernatural comedy was created by Dan Aykroyd, who also co-wrote and starred in the film, inspired by his own fascination with spirituality and the paranormal.
This science fiction comedy was released on July 3, 1985, and went on to make around $193.1 million in domestic gross earnings at the box office.
The movie is about a time-traveling high school student and his eccentric scientist friend.
Released on May 16, 1986, this action film grossed about $171.8 million domestically.
The long-awaited sequel “Top Gun: Maverick” was a top-grossing movie for 2022.
Earning a gross of nearly $153.7 million at the domestic box office, this buddy-cop sequel was released on May 20, 1987.
Eddie Murphy reprised his role as Detective Axel Foley to star with Judge Reinhold as they solve crimes in Beverly Hills.
Released on June 22, 1988, the live-action/animated comedy grossed nearly $151.7 million domestically.
The ambitious movie, in which cartoon characters are real, is loosely based on Gary K. Wolf’s novel “Who Censored Roger Rabbit?”
“Batman” was released to theaters on June 23, 1989. It grossed about $251.2 million at the domestic box office.
The DC Comics superhero flick was the first installment as released by Warner Bros., and featured Jack Nicholson as the Joker and Michael Keaton as Batman.
With a domestic gross total of around $217.6 million, “Ghost” was the top movie of 1990. It was released on July 13 of that year.
A woman’s boyfriend comes back as a ghost — with the help of a spiritual medium — to protect her from his murderer.
The second “Terminator” movie was released July 2, 1991. It grossed nearly $201.9 million at the domestic box office.
“Terminator 2: Judgment Day” is now considered by many film historians and fans as one of the best sequels ever made.
The sequel to 1989’s “Batman” was released on June 18, 1992. The film went on to gross $162.8 million.
The film featured Danny DeVito as Oswald “Penguin” Cobblepot and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman. Michael Keaton reprised his role as Batman.
This sci-fi action movie grossed $338.7 million in 1993. It was released on June 11 of that year.
Based on the novel “Jurassic Park” by Michael Crichton, the film is about an ill-fated park where dinosaurs have been brought back to life. It is now a major franchise with movies still being released today.
This animated classic was released on June 15, 1994, and grossed nearly $300.4 million domestically.
A young lion deals with a tragic loss and ultimately finds himself.
It was the highest-grossing animated film ever until its record was beaten by “Finding Nemo.”
The third installment of the initial “Batman” series from Warner Bros. was released on June 16, 1995. It grossed over $184 million in domestic box office sales.
Val Kilmer replaced Michael Keaton in “Batman Forever,” which featured the characters of Robin, The Riddler (played by Jim Carrey, seen here) and Two-Face.
Fittingly released on July 2, 1996, the sci-fi action flick earned around $306.2 million in domestic sales at the box office.
The film, about a team of people fighting back against an alien attack, was an instant hit, thanks in part to its visual effects.
Will Smith was part of another alien movie in 1997 — this time, action-comedy “Men in Black,” which also starred Tommy Lee Jones. The two portrayed secret agents dealing with extraterrestrial life.
The movie was released on July 1, and earned nearly $250.7 million in gross domestic box office earnings.
“Titanic” was released on Dec. 19, 1997, and easily dominated the box office for all of 1998. It grossed $443.3 million, but that’s only counting for domestic totals. It would be the first film to surpass $1 billion worldwide.
The movie is a fictionalized retelling of the events of the famous Titanic shipwreck.
The first installment of the planned “Star Wars” prequel trilogy was released on May 19, 1999. It grossed about $430.4 million domestically.
This film dives into the lives of major characters before the events of the original “Star Wars” trilogy, and employed many groundbreaking CGI scenes.
The family comedy grossed nearly $253.4 million at the domestic box office. It was released on Nov. 17, 2000.
The film, based on Dr. Seuss’ famous book, was a live-action take on the Christmas tale. It took hours for star Jim Carrey to get into makeup and costume.
The first installment of the “Harry Potter” series came out on Nov. 16, 2001, and ended up grossing around $300.4 million.
J. K. Rowling’s wildly popular book series is about a boy wizard.
“Spider-Man” came in swinging when it was released on May 3, 2002. It grossed around $403.7 million.
There have now been three separate “Spider-Man” film franchise series based on the Marvel comic book character, but the original one, seen here, starred Tobey Maguire in the titular role and was directed by Sam Raimi.
The computer-animated “Finding Nemo” was released on May 30, 2003, and would go on to earn about $339.7 million that year.
The heartwarming Pixar film was the highest-grossing G-rated film of all time before “Toy Story 3” overtook it.
The sequel to “Shrek” grossed around $441.2 million after it was released on May 19, 2004.
The computed-animated fairy tale parody is the most successful film ever released by DreamWorks.
The final film in the prequel trilogy, “Revenge of the Sith,” earned about $380.3 million after its release date on May 19, 2005.
The movie’s plot sets the story in motion before the events of the original trilogy, ending with the births of Luke Skywalker and Leia Skywalker Organa.
The second installment of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” film series was released on July 7, 2006, and grossed around $423.3 million at the domestic box office.
The “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies were based on the ride of the same name at Disney theme parks.
The third of Raimi’s “Spider-Man” movies ended up grossing a little over $336.5 million domestically. Its release date was May 4, 2007.
Despite mixed reviews, the movie topped box office charts. At the time of its release, it was the most expensive movie ever made.
The second of Christopher Nolan’s “Batman” franchise came out on July 18, 2008. It made around $531 million at the box office.
The film was notable for featuring Heath Ledger in the role of the Joker. Ledger had died from an accidental drug overdose only six months before the movie’s release.
The sequel to 2007’s “Transformers” movie was released on June 24, 2009, and had a domestic gross of about $402.1 million at the box office.
Based on the popular children’s toy line, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” received negative reviews, but that didn’t seem to make much of a financial impact.
“Toy Story 3” was released on June 18, 2010. The gross domestic box office totals of the “Toy Story” third installment were around $415 million.
The sentimental tear-jerker from Pixar ultimately became the first animated movie to earn $1 billion at the box office worldwide.
First published on November 22, 2022 / 2:18 PM
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