Monday, May 11, 2009

American Theater

IMDB (Internet Movie Database) is a massive online tool for researching anything to do with movies, TV, actors, etc. On their website, they have a list of the all-time USA box office movies. Tell me if you noticed the same thing I did about the following list of the top 35 grossing movies of all-time in the USA.

Rank. Movie (Released) $Ticket Sales

1. Titanic (1997) $600,779,824
2. The Dark Knight (2008) $533,316,061
3. Star Wars (1977) $460,935,665
4. Shrek 2 (2004) $436,471,036
5. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) $434,949,459
6. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace (1999) $431,065,444
7. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) $423,032,628
8. Spider-Man (2002) $403,706,375
9. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005) $380,262,555
10. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) $377,019,252
11. Spider-Man 2 (2004) $373,377,893
12. The Passion of the Christ (2004)$370,270,943
13. Jurassic Park (1993) $356,784,000
14. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) $340,478,898
15. Finding Nemo (2003) $339,714,367
16. Spider-Man 3 (2007) $336,530,303
17. Forrest Gump (1994) $329,691,196
18. The Lion King (1994) $328,423,001
19. Shrek the Third (2007) $320,706,665
20. Transformers (2007) $318,759,914
21. Iron Man (2008) $318,298,180
22. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) $317,557,891
23. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) $317,011,114
24. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) $313,837,577
25. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones (2002) $310,675,583
26. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007) $309,404,152
27. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983) $309,125,409
28. Independence Day (1996) $306,124,059
29. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) $305,388,685
30. The Sixth Sense (1999) $293,501,675
31. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) $292,000,866
32. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) $291,709,845
33. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980) $290,158,751
34. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005) $289,994,397
35. Home Alone (1990) $285,761,243

(Taken directly from this IMDB web page)

Even after a cursory reading of this list, it's hard to not notice the prevailing theme. All but five of these movies (Titanic, Passion of the Christ, Forrest Gump, The Sixth Sense, and Home Alone) have strong plot elements of fantasy. (Some would argue that "Passion of the Christ" and "Sixth Sense" also have elements of fantasy, I disagree). Whether it's animation (Finding Nemo), magic (Harry Potter), supernatural curses (Pirates of the Caribbean), Sci-Fi (Star Wars), aliens (Independence Day), superheroes (The Dark Knight), or people and places from a whole new world (Lord of the Rings) 81% of the top 35 all-time grossing movies in America have strong non-natural elements. Fascinating, isn't it?

It could be that these movies do so well, because, broadly speaking, they are more "family" oriented. In other words, movies that are rated 'R' can't do as well in the theater because you can't bring the whole family along and, consequently, the movie doesn't earn as much money. These Top 35 movies may have simply had the better chance of grossing high, not because of their genre, but because of their PG-PG13 content.

It could also be, and I think this is closer to the truth, that these movies fill a whole in our lives much more than a "realistic" genre, such as Drama, ever could. We want to escape from the hum drum of everyday. We want to exercise our imaginations again like we did when we were kids. We want a safe world where black is black and white is white. We want a hero we can emulate, and a villain we can conquer. We want the satisfaction of withholding impending doom from an alien attack. We want a place where our creativity can maneuver unhindered by the harsh realities of life.

Whatever your interpretation of the Top 35 list, it certainly provokes thought, and, perhaps, helps us understand each other just a little bit better.

1 comment:

  1. That is a good thing to point out - and I always say, "I don't like fantasy or scifi", but I've seen & enjoy a lot of those movies - and I like Lost, which is not realistic at all. :)