Top 15 Films of 2017 (Based on their North American Box Office Returns)
With 2017 nearly in the rearview, it’s apparently been a “bad” year for the movie industry, as it’s had a lot of misses and under-performing sequels. It’s also coming after a record year for the industry, so keep that in mind, so the fact that it’s around 3% behind 2016’s numbers is actually pretty amazing. But, in today’s business climate, breaking even is considered a failure, so there’s definitely some worried millionaires out there who thought that they could just keep churning out franchise sequels and remakes. However, there were still some bright spots (Disney) in 2017 and it looks like 2018 could surpass 2016’s record year. So, let’s take a look at the top 15 movies at this year’s (North American) box office.
15. The Boss Baby ($175,003,033)
This movie had bomb written all over it. A movie about a baby that’s also some sort of wallstreet shark? Voiced by Alec Baldwin? All of the trailers/commercials were essentially cringeworthy and it legetimately looked like Dreamworks Animation had an expensive bomb on their hands. However, the movie actually had some built in demand as it was based on a picture book from 2010 that was relatively popular (which is why it was optioned for a movie). In addition to Baldwin, the film also had the voices of Steve Buscemi, Jimmy Kimmel, Lisa Kudrow and Spider-Man himself, Tobey McGuire. The crux is the film is that the Boss Baby was a secret agent who was caught in the middle of a war between babies and puppies (for attention). The film opened alongside the underperfoming Ghost in the Shell and The Zookeeper’s Wife and was projected to open around the $30 million mark (from 3,773 theaters) in it’s opening weekend. That amount was increased to $50 million after the numbers from Thursday night previews came in a lot higher than expected and the film ended up with a $50.2 million opening weekend. It did well enough to warrant a sequel, which was announced back in May (it will be released in 2021).
14. Get Out ($175,484,140)
It’s easy to say that Get Out was the smash hit of the year, while also being the biggest surprise hit of the year as well. Written and directed by sketch comedy legend Jordan Peele (in his first attempt at directing a film), Get Out was lauded by critics and easily outperformed any expectations that basically everyone associated with the film had expected. The budget for the film was $4.5 million, which makes its North American gross all the more amazing. Released back in February (alongside Collide and Rock Dog), it was expected to gross between $20 and $25 million dollars in it’s opening weekend (from 2,773 theaters). After clearing $1.8 million during Thursday night previews and $10.8 million it’s firt full day, the estimates increased. It ended up clearing $33 million in it’s opening weekend, finishing first at the box office and making eight-times it’s budget back in it’s opening weekend in North America. What’s even more amazing is that during it’s second weekend it’s box office receipts only dropped 15.4% (despite the fact that Logan opened that weekend) and it only fell 25% it’s third weekend for totals of $28.3 and $21.1 million dollars (respectively). Considering most films fall about 60% in their second weekends, that’s really saying something.
13. The LEGO Batman Movie ($175,750,384)
The LEGO Batman Movie had everything going for it. Following the widely successful LEGO Movie with Batman, a character that’s about as iconic as a character can be, seemed like a project destined for box office success. With the voices of Will Arnett (as Batman), Zach Galifianakis (as the Joker), Michael Cera (as Robin) and more A-listers onboard, it was thought that the film could end up outperforming the LEGO Movie itself. While that didn’t happen (as The LEGO Movie grossed almost $260 million in North America and had an opening of just under $70 million), The LEGO Batman movie proved that the LEGO universe had legs. It was projected to open around the $60 million dollar range, but ended up with a very respectable $53 million dollar opening weekend. Thanks to good word of mouth it also had similar legs to that of it’s predecessor, with small drops from weekend to weekend. Unfortunately those legs didn’t extend to the LEGO Ninjango movie, but you can’t win them all.
12. Dunkirk ($188,045,546)
Dunkirk is the most recent entry from visionary director Christopher Nolan and focuses on the evacuation of Dunkirk during World War II. Nolan is famous for relying on practical effects and that rang true on the set of Dunkirk, as they employed thousands of extras (instead of using CGI) and also used real boats and airplanes from the WWII era. A visual spectacle that bent space and time to show the fight on all three fronts (the ground, the sea and the air), Dunkirk was marketed as a film that people needed to see on the biggest screen(s) possible (as it was shot mostly with IMAX 65 mm and 65 mm large-format film stock). That helped it’s box office returns, as the film was originally estimated to make between $30 to $40 million dollars during it’s opening weekend but it easily outperformed those numbers by making over $50 million dollars it’s opening weekend (after a first day total of almost $20 million). With a relatively modest budget of $100 million, it ended up being extremely successful, grossing over $525 million worldwide, which makes it the highest grossing World War II film of all time (surpassing Saving Private Ryan, a film that grossed $481.8 million back in the late 90’s).
11. Justice League ($220,852,564)
While this list feels celebratory, it really depends on the context and expectations behind each of the films on this list. Justice League was supposed to be the DCEU’s answer to Marvel Studios’ The Avengers, but ended up really being the anti-Avengers as it is the lowest grossing DCEU film thus far (where as The Avengers was easily the highest grossing MCU film, so much so that it boosted the box office returns of every solo film connected to it afterwards). Warner Brothers and the DCEU brass haven’t said how much Justice League cost, but considering the extensive reshoots and the addition of The Avengers writer/director Joss Whedon at the last minute could’ve boosted the price tag to somewhere in the half a billion dollar range (before or after advertising costs)). As of the writing of this piece, Justice League has a North American box office tally of about $221 million dollars (and around an additional $416m worldwide for a total of about $637 million). It opened worldwide at $278 million, which was the 24th biggest opening of all-time, but again you have to consider the stakes here and the stakes couldn’t have been higher for the DCEU. The response to Justice League both critically and commercially has lead to a lot of changes at the DCEU, so it’ll be interesting to see how the rest of their “plan” works out now that people aren’t really aware of Cyborg or even the new Flash, because they didn’t see Justice League.
10. The Fate of the Furious ($225,764,765)
Another franchise tentpole that seems to be losing steam (thank god) is the Fast and the Furious franchise. The Fate of the Furious was the first film without leading man Paul Walker, who tragically died in a car explosion while they were filming the previous film (but not during filming). There was going to be some let down from that film, as the buzz around Paul Walker’s last film (both in the franchise and at all) and how they’d handle him leaving or dying in the film brought a ton of people to theaters. That film, Furious 7, opened with nearly $150 million dollars at the North American box office, which was a lot more than any other film in the franchise had previously opened to. The films had been building in popularity before that, as well, with each film opening to between $10 and $15 million more dollars each time. So, The Fate of the Furious’ $98 million dollar opening was actually not only in line with the pre-Furious 7 films’ numbers, it was the second highest opening the franchise had ever hit. The film eventually did make over $1.2 billion dollars at the box office, which was less than Furious 7 (by about $300 million), but still, that film was their Dark Knight, so what do you expect? Vin Diesel to die? That’s actually not a bad idea…
9. Logan ($226,277,068)
When Hugh Jackman announced on his Twitter that his next Wolverine film would be his last, people really didn’t know what to do or think. For the longest time, Jackman had said that he wanted to play Wolverine for the rest of his life, but apparently a conversation with Jerry Seinfeld (of all people) convinced Jackman to “go out on up”. He did just that with Logan, a very loose adaptation of the Old Man Logan comic series (the only similarities is that they’re old). Thanks to the success of the R-Rated Deadpool, we also finally got to see Wolverine be Wolverine. Those factors combined to create the most successful solo Wolverine movie ever, a film that outperformed every other X-Men movie as well (outside of Deadpool, of course). The original estimates for Logan’s opening weekend were in the $55 – $60 million dollar range, but after Logan basically broke Fandango and had a first day that put it third on the list of the biggest opening days for an R-Rated movie, those estimates changed but were still too low. Logan ended up grossing almost $90 million dollars it’s opening weekend. Almost 10% of that money came from Canada, which is where Logan is from and also means that basically every Canadian called into work and went to go see Logan. Good for Canada.
8. Star Wars: The Last Jedi ($261,820,146)
By the time you get to this part of the list, the list will be wrong. The most recent entry on this list, The Last Jedi, single handedly moved 2017 an entire percentage point closer to matching 2016’s record year in just one weekend! Now, unlike it’s predecessor (The Force Awakens), this film didn’t have the added wow-factor of seeing Han/Luke/Leia in a Star Wars movie in 2015. So, it was destined to make less money just based on the fact that The Force Awakens basically broke people’s brains. It did fair pretty well regardless, with the second largest opening weekend of all-time (in North America) at $220 million dollars (only 11% off of the number one opening weekend, The Force Awakens). It’ll be interesting to see what sort of legs this film has as there seems to be a small, but very vocal (and sneaky) group of (former) Star Wars fans who were basically appauled by the film. Some group(s) have even gone far enough to create a petition for the film to be removed from the canon of the story and for Disney/LucasFilms to remake the film. The main gripe, outside of the dud answers to the huge questions raised in JJ Abraham’s The Force Awakens, is the fact that Luke Skywalker, the bravest most optimistic Jedi ever, turned into a bitter old man who refused to basically do anything Jedi related. The Force Awakens ended up being the biggest movie of all-time (without adjustments for inflation) and a lot of that had to do with the fact that people were going to see the film multiple times. We’ll see if that’s the case with The Last Jedi, but so far it looks to be fairing relatively well.
7. Despicable Me 3 ($264,607,830)
After the movie Minions essentially overdid their promotion to the point that every person above the age of 5 hated Minions (or at least I hope), you would’ve thought that perhaps Despicable Me, the CGI cartoon about an Eastern European stereotype, would’ve lost some of it’s luster. So while that actually the case in North America (as this was the lowest grossing film in the Despicable Me franchise in the United States and Canada), it actually ended up being the highest grossing Despicable film thanks to a huge gross outside the US/Canada. This film introduced the twin brother of Gru (Steve Carell’s character), whose name is Dru. Together they fought a new villain named Balthazar Bratt, who was a child actor in the 80’s. It received a mixed response from critics but that didn’t matter as it ended up dominating the box office. Premiering on June 14th at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival and in the United States on June 30th, the film ended up grossing over $1 billion dollars worldwide (which made it the third highest grossing film of the year). Because of that it ended up being part of the first animated franchise (alongside Minions) to gross over $1 billion dollars twice… At least until Toy Story 4 is released.
6. Thor: Ragnarok ($307,566,331)
Marvel Studios’ Avengers was one of the largest films in recent memory and really of all-time in terms of basically… Everything. It changed the film industry by pulling off something no other studio had ever even attempted, by bringing together individual characters from different films into one team based film. It also, more importantly (for this article and the studio), grossed almost $1.7 billion dollars and made the likes of Hawkeye, Black Widow and Thor household names. It was such a massive hit that it basically doubled the box office grosses of the solo films that were released after it, including the second Thor movie which was titled Thor: The Dark World. That film is considered to be the worst film in the MCU, which doesn’t mean it’s horrible (it’s certified fresh by RottenTomatoes.com, for example), but it just wasn’t something that people really enjoyed and it really relegated Thor to the backseat in terms of popularity and even screen time (he had less than 20 minutes of screen time in the second Avengers movie, for example). Thor: Ragnarok, really, can be looked at as Thor’s Avengers. It was a huge smash and is still adding $ to it’s total as of the writing of this article but is and was also able to do something that some people thought was impossible and that was basically making Thor cool (so, really, it’s more like Thor’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Filled with humor and amazing visuals, Ragnarok had a lot of hype going into it after it released a ton of perfect trailers. It also showed how amazing a cinematic universe can be by including the Hulk (in only his fourth appearance in the MCU) and really taking a lot of visuals from another MCU “cosmic” property in The Guardians of the Galaxy.
5. It ($327,481,748)
It was perfectly situation to become a smash hit. Based on a book by Stephen King that many adults today read as a child and also the subsequent made for TV movie/mini-series from the early 90’s that a ton of adults watched, it essentially took advantage of the nostalgia factor better than any movie in recent history. Because the book is HUGE (which is why it was a mini-series on television) the film is actually the first part of a two part plan, which is actually pretty risky because it assumes that the first film will be successful enough to warrant a sequel. Luckily for the people behind it, it was massively successful. With a budget of only $35 million dollars, the film grossed a hair under $700 million dollars at the box office, with $327.5 of that coming from the United States and Canada. It had an opening day (in the US/Canada) of $50 million and an opening weekend of $123.1 million dollars, destroying all estimates and really reiterating that when it comes to sure things in Hollywood, horror is IT.
4. Spider-Man: Homecoming ($334,201,140)
Despite the hype and satisfaction that surrounded Spider-Man’s “return” to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there was some negative juju that also surrounded the character’s return and first movie in that universe. That negativity stemmed from the fact that Spider-Man: Homecoming was the second reboot of Spider-Man in the span of a few years. While Spider-Man is the most popular superhero in the world (based on name recognition and especially merchandise sales), really no property can handle that amount of mismanagement. People really didn’t want to see Peter Parker get bit by a radioactive spider a third time, or especially see Uncle Ben get gunned down yet again. So, Marvel did the right thing by skipping ahead of all that and showing a Spider-Man that was young and already powered. So, while you’d think that a Spider-Man film in the MCU would easily reach $1 billion dollars, the fact is that Homecoming came at the exact wrong time as people are rejecting remakes and reboots (and even sequels) left and right. Despite that, though, Homecoming did make a lot of money at the box office both in North America and the rest of the world. It’s US/Canada gross was well over the grosses for the Amazing Spider-Man films, which has to make Sony happy, and because the film was so well received you have to think that the next film will be the one to climb over $1 billion dollars.
3. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($389,813,101)
If you would’ve said a few years ago that 2017 would have three movies from the MCU and that those films were a Thor/Hulk team-up, the first film by Spider-Man in the MCU and a sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy people would’ve easily predicted that Guardians would be the least popular of the three while also asking… Who or what are the Guardians of the Galaxy?!? Despite that, 2014’s Guardians of the Galaxy was a smash hit for Marvel Studios and is considered on of the best films in their universe thus far (and that’s really saying something). So, it really shouldn’t surprise anyone that the sequel, Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 was the largest grossing MCU film this year (both in North America and the rest of the world).
2. Wonder Woman ($412,563,408)
Wonder Woman is one of the Trinity of heroes in the DC universe along with Batman and Superman. She is often thought of, though, as the least popular of those three based on merchandising sales and the fact that she hadn’t had her own movie while Batman and Superman have had multiple movies over the decades. Her first apperance in film came in 2015 in the critically maligned Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (notice how her name didn’t make it?), where she was basically considered to be the lone bright spot in a movie that felt slapped together. That positive feeling carried over to her solo movie, where she essentially became a hero for the DCEU as a business by bringing them a much needed win in terms of both finances and critical reception. Her film has one of the highest scores on RottenTomatoes.com of any superhero film ever and really any film this year, and while some of that is based on the low expectations that people have had for DCEU properties, the film is still objectively good and should’ve been the start of something special for the DCEU as they moved forward. Unfortunately, things reverted back to disjointed nonsense in Justice League, another film that featured Wonder Woman, which is pretty clear based on the fact that Wonder Woman outgrossed Justice League both in North America and globally.
1. Beauty and the Beast ($504,014,165)
Disney seemingly can’t lose at this point. They own the intellectual rights to The Muppets, Marvel Comics/Studios, Star Wars and now every Fox Studios franchise, and that’s just on the film side of things. Even with films like Spider-Man or The Last Jedi, Disney ended up making the most money (in 2017) off of a remake from their own personal library of films in Beauty and the Beast, the most successful live action remake thus far. Outside of Beauty, Disney has also made a killing with other live action remakes like The Jungle Book, Cinderella, Maleficent, Alice in Wonderland and the Tupac biopic All Eyez on Me. Okay, that last one was a joke, but no one at the few competitiors of Disney that are left… For now, as there’s a slate of amazing films coming out in the future under this banner as well. Most eyes are on the Aladdin and Lion King remakes which are both in production as of the writing of this article. They both have the potential to beat Beauty, as they were more popular in the early 90’s that Beauty (not by much) and should be able to really take advantage of the nostalgia factor that most young-ish adults with their own children will definitely feel. Either way, Disney is basically just printing their own money at this point so make sure to check out this list next year when all 15 entries are Disney films and the author is an employee of Disney.