What a heck of a year 2017 was for film. It broke box office records by having more movies cross the $500 million mark, topping the previous record, which was set one year prior in 2016. Let’s see if we can top it again this year! This is mainly a byproduct of the failing global economy, as inflation is getting higher and higher every year. In other words, the reason that more and more movies are grossing $500 million is not because more and more people are going to the movies (less and less are, in fact) – no, it’s because each year, $500 million is worth a little bit less. It’s sad. But not as sad as the revelation 2017 gave us that many of our cinematic heroes – Kevin Spacey, Harvey Weinstein, Louis C.K. – are sex offenders who abuse their power, and that many of our other cinematic heroes – Ben Affleck, Quentin Tarantino, Kevin Smith – knew about it and didn’t say anything. But hey, at least we’re moving forward. Movie studios are setting up initiatives to prevent stuff like that from ever happening again and it’s safe to say that all of these guys, who have been disgraced and shunned from the industry, have well and truly learned their lessons. 2017 gave us the highest grossing horror movie of all time by far and the divisive eighth chapter in the Star Wars saga. All in all, a heck of a year for movies. So, let’s take a look at the 15 that did the best business at the box office.
15. Kong: Skull Island – $566.7 million
Kong: Skull Island was sort of the underdog this year. It was released in the awkward spring season and was faced with the difficult task of handling the transition between the Godzilla reboot and the wider cinematic universe of giant monsters that they decided to build around it. And it pulls that off brilliantly by focusing on being a great movie in its own right and keeping the universe setup to a minimum. It also had a Kong that dwarfs the Kong of Peter Jackson’s remake and certainly dwarfs the Kong of the 1933 black and white original – it’s huge! In the end, Kong: Skull Island didn’t make the top 15 highest grossing movies of 2017 domestically. Dunkirk did, and that was about an Allied defeat in World War II that didn’t even involve American forces, and yet Kong: Skull Island didn’t. What’s not to love about a big budget spectacle where a gigantic gorilla fights other monsters and rips helicopters out of the sky? The only problem with Kong: Skull Island is that it revealed all the main scares and monsters in the trailer, but if anything, having all of that in the trailer should’ve made more people want to watch the movie. But still, it made the top 15 worldwide and made a grand profit, leading us seamlessly toward the Godzilla sequel and then the one where Godzilla will fight Kong, but that’s not until like 2020, so don’t get too excited.
14. Transformers: The Last Knight – $605.4 million
Transformers: The Last Knight was a massive disappointment. $600 million, are you kidding? That’s nothing! That’s pocket change for the gargantuan series of sure-fire hits that is the Transformers franchise. The first one grossed $709.7 million, the second grossed $836.3 million, and the third and fourth each grossed $1.1 billion. They kept going up. It didn’t look like the Transformers movies would ever die. And then the fifth one, the one that was supposed to usher in new trilogies and spinoffs and shared cinematic universes, only made $605 million! It was the lowest grossing entry in the entire franchise. People are finally realizing that these films simply aren’t that good. Good for people. They still voted for Trump, but well done to people for turning against Transformers.
13. Logan – $616.8 million
Logan was a beautiful and contemplative and intimate drama that had superhero action and big budget spectacle built around it. But at its core, what Logan is, fundamentally, is the story of a man who is getting older and realizing his limitations while taking care of a dear father figure as he slips into the grip of dementia. These characters just happen to be mutants. The one with dementia happens to have the greatest mind known to mankind. The one who’s getting weaker happens to have a scientifically enhanced skeleton that he was given to make him stronger. Logan is an astounding cinematic masterpiece that transcends the comic book genre and deserves every penny of that $616.8 million. Hell, it deserves the Academy Award for Best Picture.
12. Justice League – $652.0 million
The DC Extended Universe is in a lot of trouble. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice barely broke even, which wasn’t a good sign, but it did do relatively well at the box office, so Warner Bros. let the DCEU keep going and threw a lot of money at it. A lot of money. Justice League was one of the most expensive movies of all time, with a budget of approximately $300 million. That’s more expensive than any Star Wars movie, any Harry Potter movie, any Marvel movie. It’s ridiculous. And while it made this list with a box office haul of over $650 million worldwide, which might look impressive, it’s not that impressive. It’s more than double the production budget, but then there’s the marketing budget and all the back end payments that the cast and crew get, so in terms of profit, Justice League would have had to gross over $750 million. So, Warner Bros. have actually lost $100 million on Justice League, and there’s about 20 upcoming projects that were riding on it, so they’re going to have to do some serious thinking.
11. It – $698.8 million
Who the hell saw this coming? Make no mistake, It was always going to be successful, because everyone is terrified of clowns and everyone loves a good Stephen King horror story. But no one saw a nearly $700 million worldwide gross coming. Horror movies are usually lucky if they top $100 million, but $698.8 million?! That’s unheard of! Of course, a sequel is on the way that will adapt the second half of King’s massive 1,000-page tome, which sees the kids of Derry as a bunch of troubled and traumatized adults when Pennywise returns to haunt the town. Who knows how much that one will gross? It could be an even bigger hit than this one. We could be looking at Marvel numbers or Star Wars numbers.
10. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales – $794.9 million
All of those stories of domestic abuse are finally starting to catch up with Johnny Depp. I mean, Murder on the Orient Express still did great money and even uber liberal J.K. Rowling refused to fire him from the Fantastic Beasts franchise. But Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales doing a little worse at the box office than its predecessors is a sign that people are finally denouncing domestic abuse and not just ignoring it. Well, it was either that or the terrible reviews that turned people off. The Atlantic’s critic Christopher Orr even wrote, “During the finale, as Bardem’s Salazar makes a final, mortal approach, he bellows, “This is where the tale ends!” Please, please, please, let it be so.” That feeling reflects the opinion of many viewers.
9. Wonder Woman – $821.8 million
The top three movies at the domestic box office this year – Star Wars: The Last Jedi, Beauty and the Beast, and this – are all empowering stories about strong women. That speaks volumes about the way we’re moving towards gender equality. And what also speaks volumes is the fact that this is the only movie in the DC Extended Universe so far that’s been a resounding success, and it’s also the only one that’s been fronted by a woman and directed by a woman. Coincidence? Not a chance. The DCEU might totally implode and Batfleck and Suicide Squad and Jared Leto’s Joker will all get sucked into a black hole and forgotten about, and the only one that will still be standing and fighting strong is Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman.
8. Thor: Ragnarok – $849.0 million
The first two Thor movies did okay, but nothing that could rival Iron Man or Captain America. And then came Guardians of the Galaxy, where Marvel realized that self-deprecating humor and sly, self-aware wit were the way to go. The audience wanted these movies to be funny, and the brass at Marvel were determined to make that happen. So, they got Paul Rudd to play Ant-Man and Adam McKay of Anchorman to rewrite its script as a silly comedy, and they riddled the mystical Doctor Strange with dumb jokes. And then came the crowning achievement of Marvel’s post-Guardians of the Galaxy school of thought: Thor: Ragnarok. They got the guy who did What We Do in the Shadows to make it the most unabashedly funny Marvel movie yet, and while it wasn’t as effective as James Gunn’s tightrope walk between comedy and drama that he applies to the Guardians of the Galaxy movies, it nevertheless proved to be very popular.
7. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – $863.7 million
Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 didn’t feel as fresh and unique as the first one, but how could it? Ever since the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie was released, every Marvel movie has been shamelessly ripping off its style. Ant-Man, Doctor Strange – they’re all trying to be “the next Guardians of the Galaxy.” So, when the actual next Guardians of the Galaxy came out, its style of combining big budget spectacle with absurdist humor felt a little stale. Still, Vol. 2 was an exciting, funny, and surprisingly emotional movie that introduced us to some great new characters who will be fun to spend more time with when they join the Avengers this year in Infinity War. And people obviously still love Peter Quill, Gamora, Rocket Raccoon, Groot, and Drax, because they all came back to see them a second time around.
6. Wolf Warrior 2 – $870.3 million
Wolf Warrior 2 was a phenomenal success at the box office. It was the sequel to the 2015 original, which only grossed about $89 million at the box office, which isn’t a disappointment, but it’s certainly not the blockbuster its sequel would be. Wolf Warrior 2 smashed a bunch of box office records. It became the first non-Hollywood movie ever to crack the top 100 highest grossing films of all time. It was the fastest movie ever to pass $500 million mark and the first movie ever to gross more than $600 million at the Chinese box office (and it’s like, in for a penny, in for a pound, because it didn’t just gross more than $600 million – it grossed more than $800 million!) and the second highest grossing movie of all time in a single market behind only Star Wars: The Force Awakens. This is why Hollywood filmmakers are desperate to get a Chinese release for their films!
5. Spider-Man: Homecoming – $880.2 million
Spider-Man: Homecoming faces stiff competition from Spider-Man 2 for the title of greatest Spider-Man movie – the latter is certainly a more mature movie, but the debate is whether that means it’s a better one – but Tom Holland may just be the greatest Peter Parker. He definitely captures the nerdy awkwardness and the hectic nature of his double life. He’s also a really likable guy. With Holland as Spidey, you really root for him. Spider-Man: Homecoming swung its way to a worldwide gross of $880.2 million (with almost half of that – well, $334 million of it, to be exact – coming from the domestic market in the United States) by being fiercely entertaining, naturally funny, and having a much talked about plot twist near the end of the second act.
4. Despicable Me 3 – $1.033 billion
Of course. Anything with those darn minions in will make $1 billion or more at the box office. That has been decided. Even the spinoff Minions made that much, which confirmed that these little yellow weirdos are the entire draw for the Despicable Me franchise. That’s what gets this lucrative toddler market’s asses in those seats every time. It’s not Gru, it’s not the story, it’s not the emotional connection with the orphan girls – it’s these dastardly minions. Despicable Me lives and dies with them. And based on these numbers, if Universal get their way, it will never, ever die. Despicable Me 3 was not only the fourth highest grossing film of 2017, but also the fourth highest grossing animated film of all time and the 25th highest grossing film of all time, and it made Despicable Me the first animated franchise in history to have two movies gross $1 billion.
3. Star Wars: The Last Jedi – $1.103 billion
Star Wars: The Last Jedi is easily the most divisive Star Wars movie ever made. All of the rest have a general consensus about whether they are good or bad, but The Last Jedi has the fan base split right down the middle. Some are saying it’s the best Star Wars movie and others are saying it’s the worst. Sure, it has some flaws and it plays fast and loose with the rules of the Force (seriously, Leia flying through space like Peter Pan? Come on) and it also plays fast and loose with the character of Luke Skywalker, making him a grizzled curmudgeon who denounces the Jedi and it’s very heavy-handed with the religious allusions (even going as far as using the actual word “religion). But hey, at least it took some risks. Would it really have been better if it was a thinly veiled remake of The Empire Strikes Back in the same way that The Force Awakens was a thinly veiled remake of A New Hope? No! Rian Johnson should be commended for the fact that, for better or worse, he told an original story that we’ve never seen before. That made it a lot more exciting than the predictable Force Awakens. Speaking of The Force Awakens, that was the return of Luke, Han, and Leia to the big screen. It was expected to do tremendously at the box office, even expected to top Avatar as the highest grossing movie of all time. But in the end, it didn’t. It’s only the third highest grossing movie of all time and only made about half the money that Avatar did. Why? Because Star Wars is a very American phenomenon. The return of Luke, Han, and Leia to the big screen doesn’t have the same nostalgic value that it does in America in, say, China. So, that explains that, and it also explains why The Last Jedi hasn’t exactly broken the international box office – but why it’s also the number one movie in the USA with a domestic gross of $539 million.
2. The Fate of the Furious – $1.235 billion
The Fate of the Furious was a weird one. For starters, how many action movie franchises can say that the eighth one was much stronger at the box office and with critics than the first one? And secondly, The Fate of the Furious’ phenomenal box office gross of $1.2 billion came mostly from international markets. It only made $225 million domestically – that’s just a fraction of its overall gross. Worldwide, The Fate of the Furious was the second highest grossing movie of the year, but domestically, it didn’t even crack the top ten! How did that happen? The Fate of the Furious is a bombastic franchise action movie with huge brand recognition about American mercenaries driving fast cars and banging beautiful women! How did that not make the top ten domestically? It turns out Americans’ tastes are a little more sophisticated than we thought.
1. Beauty and the Beast – $1.263 billion
Disney are clearly onto something with these live action remakes of all their animated classics. It started with Cinderella, which wasn’t meant to start anything – it was just a movie. But it was a movie that grossed like half a billion dollars, so it got Disney thinking, Maybe we’re onto something here. So, they tested the waters again with a live action photorealistic The Jungle Book, which made a huge splash with a $900 million gross. Now, they’ve got live action movies based on all their animated favorites on the way. This year, we had Beauty and the Beast, which despite being banned from an Alabama theater for featuring a gay character, made $1 billion in no time and went on to become the highest grossing movie of the year.