2015 has been a big year for Hollywood's box office returns, with high-profile blockbuster releases like Avengers: Age of Ultron, Jurassic World, Furious 7, and Star Wars: The Force Awakens all crossing 1 billion dollars globally. Despite these big numbers, this has also been a banner year for movie piracy. 2015 has seen a serious uptick in illegal downloads compared to 2014.
Online piracy has only increased year by year, with 2015 not only seeing an increase in pirated movie downloads but also high-profile award screener leaks. As for the most pirated movies of 2015, there are few surprises but the top spot is a big release from 2014.
According to Variety (via Screen Crush), Christopher Nolan's 2014 sci-fi epic Interstellar is the most pirated movie of the year with over 46 million downloads. The other top downloads are major studio blockbusters like Furious 7, Age of Ultron, Jurassic World, and Mad Max: Fury Road, with another somewhat surprising outlier in another 2014 release: Clint Eastwood's American Sniper.
Here is the full list of the top ten pirated films of 2015:
- Interstellar (2014): 46,762,310
- Furious 7 (2015): 44,794,877
- Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015): 41,594,159
- Jurassic World (2015): 36,881,763
- Mad Max: Fury Road (2015): 36,443,244
- American Sniper (2014): 33,953,737
- Fifty Shades of Grey (2015): 32,126,827
- The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014): 31,574,872
- Terminator: Genisys (2015): 31,001,480
- Kingsman: The Secret Service (2015): 30,922,987
It is not a shock to see some of the biggest blockbusters in recent memory on this list, nor exactly is the presence of Fifty Shades of Grey, given that the movie is essentially the latest sexploitation flick to capture the public consciousness. The main point of concern here is the rise in downloads. Martin Scorcese's The Wolf of Wall Street was the most pirated film of 2014, with roughly 30 million downloads. Interstellar's download total is almost 17 million more, which is a 55% increase.
The 2015 holiday season has seen a rash of ripped DVD screener leaks as well, with pirated versions of major holiday releases like The Hateful Eight, Creed, The Revenant, Concussion, Steve Jobs and Spectre turning up online. Given that each download means lost revenue and -- perhaps secondary to the studios but no less important -- the widespread dilution of copyright laws, this increase in piracy has the studios involved alarmed. The Hateful Eight producers, The Weinstein Company, pushed the FBI to track the leak of the screener and have sent Google takedown notices for over a thousand links across nearly two hundred domains (according to TorrentFreak).
These pirated downloads affect every aspect of the film industry, with distributors hiking ticket prices for "premium" screening experiences to combat increasingly sophisticated home theater options and the VOD offerings from streaming outlets like Netflix and Hulu. To some degree, the studios' reluctance to embrace the popularity of streaming has fueled the increase in piracy, but people will always take things for free if they can -- especially if they consider that particular item to be overpriced.
So far, pirates have been able to stay a few steps ahead of the authorities on this issue, but given the serious uptick in lost revenue, expect the studios to apply more pressure to stop it than ever before.