Despite competition from TV, video games, and online streaming services, the American film industry is bigger than ever. Every year, Americans spend billions of dollars on the latest big-budget blockbusters, resulting in domestic intakes that are a sight to behold. Despite higher ticket prices, moviegoers spare no expense to see their movies in 3D and IMAX, getting an experience more akin to an amusement park ride than just a trip to the cinema.
As it turns out, while streaming movies on a phone, tablet, or laptop might be convenient, it's nothing compared to seeing it on a giant screen with kick-ass surround sound and the latest in projection standards. Here are the 10 highest grossing films in the American box office, arranged from worst to best.
10 Avatar (2009) Domestic Gross: $760,507,625
Currently the highest grossing movie of all time, Avatar crushed box office records with a nearly $3 billion intake. While the story and characters might not be the strongest, no one can deny the impact the movie had on the industry. Avatar started Hollywood's love affair with 3D, and soon after its release, the format witnessed a renaissance, wherein every blockbuster under the sun received a mandatory 3D treatment.
Despite this, Avatar is often regarded as one of the most overrated movies of all time. Though, to be fair, the same has been said about roughly half the movies on this list.
9 Marvel's The Avengers (2012) Domestic Gross: $623,357,910
As of the time of this writing, the first Avengers movie is about to be overtaken by its forth successor, Endgame. In fact, by the time this article is published, Endgame would have likely overtaken the movie's total box office intake.
The movie that kicked the Marvel Cinematic Universe into overdrive, The Avengers was the highest grossing movie of 2012, and was seen as an important achievement in the superhero genre as a whole.
8 Incredibles 2 (2018) Domestic Gross: $608,581,744
Currently the 10th highest grossing domestic film, the second Incredibles movie was a long time coming. Fans of the original Pixar classic had to wait over a decade for a sequel to be produced, and when it was finally released, it was almost hard to believe it was happening.
The family flick out-grossed its predecessor and then some, topping a billion worldwide. Here's hoping fans don't have to wait so long for the third.
7 Avengers: Infinity War (2018) Domestic Gross: $678,815,482
Even the most optimistic of viewers probably didn't expect the third Avengers movie, Infinity War, to be as much of a hit as it was. The movie shattered box office records upon its release and was the highest grossing movie of last year.
Loved by critics and fans alike, it featured a radical departure from the basic Marvel formula. It was heartbreaking for fans to see their favorite characters disintegrate before their eyes, leading many to rightfully expect that the deaths in the next movie would be more permanent next time around.
6 Avengers: Endgame (2019) Domestic Gross (as of 5/6/2019): $631,987,456
The forth Avengers movie, Endgame, made over a billion in its first weekend and beat Titanic to become the second-highest grossing movie of all time. The movie is on track to unseat the number-one film, Avatar, as well. Disney finally learned to let go and actually do away with famous characters, who would probably never return to the series next time around.
Now that those characters' actors are free from Marvel's grasp, they can finally focus on more serious material that was not afforded to them over the last decade. Or not. Considering how much they made off of these movies, they probably never have to work a day in their lives from now on.
5 Jurassic World (2015) Domestic Gross: $652,270,625
When Jurassic World came out almost fifteen years after its predecessor, Jurassic Park III, no one really knew how well it would perform. Jurassic Park III didn't do very well when it was released, and many wrote Jurassic World off as an inevitable failure. Boy, were they wrong!
Jurassic World devoured the box office, smashing records left and right and becoming the highest-grossing film in the franchise thus far. While the movie was lambasted by critics, most people would agree that it was a fun, action-packed joy-ride that reignited the charm of the original and brought the franchise back from extinction.
4 Titanic (1997) Domestic Gross: $659,363,944
While it has become popular to bash James Cameron's epic, Titanic, in recent years, it's still pretty amazing that, twenty-two years later, it's still one of the highest-grossing movies in American history.
Part of this is due to the fact that the movie stayed in theaters for almost a year, and that it was subsequently re-released to strong box office returns. At one point, it was even the highest-grossing movie of all time, a record it held until Avatar broke it in 2009.
3 Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017) Domestic Gross: $620,181,382
While not as successful as its predecessor in terms of box office returns, The Last Jedi was still the highest-grossing movie of 2017 and the second-highest-grossing in the Star Wars franchise.
Besides, a quick look at previous Star Wars movies reveals that almost every sequel made less than the first episode of their respective trilogies. That's just the nature of the beast. The Last Jedi received strong reviews upon its release and is often regarded by critics as one of the best in the series.
2 Black Panther (2018) Domestic Gross: $700,059,566
Black Panther was a historic win for diversity in Hollywood. The third highest grossing movie domestically, Black Panther won over critics and fans with its fresh, bold take on the superhero genre. With a stellar cast of black actors, paired with a hard, heavy hitting message about the plight of racial minorities, the movie blew all expectations out of the water.
It even became the first superhero movie to get nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, a feat that was at one point seen as impossible. It still stands as one of the highest rated Marvel movies thus far.
1 Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) Domestic Gross: $936,662,225
The seventh Star Wars film, The Force Awakens, came within a hair of making a billion stateside, and in doing so, it became the highest-grossing domestic movie of all time. There's really no way to imagine the hype and anticipation that surrounded the movie up to its release. The movie wasn't just a fantastic blockbuster that brought the franchise out of the dark—it was a cultural phenomenon, the likes of which only come once in a generation.
Critics hailed it as one of the greatest science-fiction movies of all time, and fans were blown away by Disney's vision of the Star Wars universe. Most of all, though, it showed that, despite later setbacks, the franchise was in good hands, surrounded by a group of creatives who loved and cherished the series and weren't about to let it fall into obscurity.