HOLLYWOOD, CALIFORNIA - APRIL 12: Actors Chris Evans (Front L) and Robert Downey Jr. (Front R) with cast and crew attend The World Premiere of Marvel's "Captain America: Civil War" at Dolby Theatre on April 12, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Disney)

Movies are such an important aspect of our society and over the course of cinema history, we’ve seen some massive releases on the big screen.

From the classic hits like Lord of The Rings and Harry Potter to the hits that carried my generation like those coming from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Every year has a heavy hitter both in terms of popularity and revenue.

So in the 21st century, what were the top hits from each? Below is the top movie of each year from 2023 all the way to 2001. Based solely on the film’s total worldwide box office gross as reported by Boxofficemojo.

When looking at the statistics we learn just what films people love each year, like how five of the twenty-three total listed is a Marvel movies, or how 70% of the top films from the century are action films.

Though the highest grossing doesn’t always mean the highest quality film. Of course, that’s matter of opinion, but I will be taking note of what the “second place” film was and seeing if it was better in my and the public’s opinion and the than the highest grossing.

Sadly for some zero of these films are horror and we will not be counting films that did not have a theatrical release. With that, all wrapped up which of these films is you’re favorite?

  • 2023 - The Super Mario Bros Movie

    In just a little over a week, The Super Mario Bros. movie has almost surpassed Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania. This isn’t surprising as not only is this Nintendo’s first time getting directly involved in an animated film of this caliber. But the Mario movie is actually really decent. It blew past my expectations which were pretty high. The film featured decent acting, amazing references, and an enjoyable cast, while still leaving some room for improvement. So unless one of the upcoming major titles breaks the box office. I think the Mario Movie will stay at the top for a little bit.

  • 2022 - Avatar: The Way of Water

    Now here is a heavy hitter, as this film made cinematic history when it became the third highest-grossing movie in the history of film. I’m not sure how I feel about the announcement of three other movies!

    I certainly don’t think they’ll do as well as the first two, but that form of thinking can’t really be justified seeing as both films are the first and third highest-grossing films respectively. I like Avatar 2, not as much as its predecessor which we’ll discuss later, but visually the movie is stunning.

  • 2021 - Spider-Man: No Way Home

    I loved no way home, and spoiler warning here. Not only did it provide the perfect amount of nostalgia combined with new elements.

    I loved the clash between Dr. Strange and Peter Parker as Strange tries to upkeep balance and Peter tries to do what he feels is right. It’s a good clash of ideals paired with tons of action and a great cast. What’s not to love? Well, one thing is for sure it brought in $1.9 billion, so I expect the upcoming Spiderman to hit just as hard.

  • 2020 - The Eight Hundred

    Now this film was kinda out of pocket as it is the only film on the list that came from overseas. More interestingly it only brought in under half a million dollars so, that certainly says a lot about the film industry at that point.

    I mean naturally, it was hard for anyone to do anything as this was the start of the recently ended COVID Pandemic. I can’t fairly judge the film as I haven’t seen it, though the reviews are mostly positive and I do love a good war drama. I think personally film of the year goes to Sonic The Hedgehog or Demon Slayer, though I won’t get into that longwinded tangent right now.

  • 2019 - Avengers: Endgame

    Now here’s the Marvel movie that brought generations to tears. Avengers: Endgame is the second-highest-grossing film in the world and the highest-grossing marvel movie. Simply put there will never be a Marvel movie with this level of suspense action and tragedy.

    At least not anytime soon and even when one does come, we will remember those we lost because of Thanos. Though it’s kind of a shame when you look at the numbers because 2019 had nine films that reached over one billion dollars.

    Which is the highest ever recorded so any one of them could have been here if it weren’t for Endgame. Critics loved it, the public loved it and I loved it. Fun fact, 2019 was Disney’s year as they were part of eight of the top ten films for that year. With the exception of the sixth and tenth-place spots.

  • 2018 - Avengers: Infinity War

    Now the Marvel movie was the beginning of the end. By this point, all the prior movies and groundwork had been laid and we saw real consequences as some of our favorite heroes perished. I mean nobody saw it coming as the bad guy actually won. As for contenders the next closest film to match it was Black Panther which is still one of my favorite Marvel movies to date.

  • 2017 - Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi

    Now this is a film I think brought on the most hate to the new trilogy. Some of it is well deserved as it is a lot wrong with Star Wars: Episode VIII: The Last Jedi. However, I think the people who say this is the worst thing to ever happen in the franchise and it’s ruining Star Wars. Are taking it a bit too far, it’s just okay, I dislike a lot of things about this movie, but the cast tried their best and we do get some decent scenes. It got a 91% on Rotten Tomatoes so it can’t be all bad.

  • 2016 - Captain America: Civil War

    Now this might be a bit controversial, but I could not care any less about Captain America: Civil War. I am not saying it’s a bad movie. I understand it has some very amazing scenes and the clash of ideals between Teams Ironman and Captain America is fantastic. There are also amazing scenes between characters we hadn’t seen interact before, but I just don’t care.

  • 2015 - Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens

    Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, I feel is a pretty good passing of the torch movie. There are some aspects I don’t like and I wish some scenes had been left in, but overall it isn’t a bad movie. I mean the scene with Han Solo dying is by far one of the most emotional scenes in the mainline movies. So overall I think it deserved more credit than it got.

  • 2014 - Transformers: Age of Extinction

    Now this is one of the only films on this list that I haven’t seen. But the name Transformers speaks volumes to my generation. I mean come on it’s a movie about giant alien robots that transform into different vehicles. In Transformers: Age of Extinction they even turn into dinosaurs! That paired with Michael Bay means there’s always explosions and action and explosions for the explosions. Since I haven’t seen it, I can’t justly compare it to other films from that year. But I will say I did really enjoy the Lego Movie as well as a few other films so I would probably put those above this film.

  • 2013 - Frozen

    Now onto the movie that had everyone singing songs like ‘Let It go’. Frozen deserves some major props as it’s one of the few animated movies on this list and I’ll admit it. I love the movie, it’s got humor, great characters and even makes fun of some classic troupes.

    Like falling in love at first sight, speaking of that can we talk about the whole planned murder subplot from the main antagonist?!? Talk about dark, I mean the dude went in there and actually left Anna for dead, and then when she lived he tried to do it himself. Unlike other Disney films where it’s “Oh I’m going to keep you locked away in a tower or turn you into a frog.” he had a plan and was gonna see it through wild stuff.

  • 2012 - The Avengers

    Avengers Assemble! I wasn’t even in high school when the first Avengers film came out. Now look where we are thousand-plus movies later. In all seriousness this movie is still in the top ten despite being pushed further and further down the rankings.

    So for the first time in its lifetime if any movie surpasses 1.5 billion dollars. The Avengers will be pushed out of the top ten. Looking at other films for that year as well it really had some top-tier films.

    From Hunger Games all the way to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The cherry on top is that the public loved it, for the first time we were seeing all these characters with core beliefs clash.

  • 2011 - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2

    The last film is about the boy who lived, I mean it’s Harry Potter who doesn’t love the franchise. I’m very curious to see what happens with the news about a follow-up series. I know both Daniel Radcliff and Emma Watson have rejected the current proposal. But Harry Potter at this point to me is just one of those “Oh it’s on, sure why not” types of films.

    We’ve all seen them hundreds of times so I can only sit through so many Avada Kedavra. That being said there isn’t really any other film from 2011 that I think is better than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 so that must mean it holds up in some regard.

  • 2010 - Toy Story 3

    Now while I do love a good Toy Story film, I have some generational biases, because I grew up on the first two films so I will always think they are better. Though they are mid to late 90’s films so we won’t see them on this list.

    I don’t want people to think Toy Story 3 is bad. It’s actually really funny and I believe it was the perfect movie to wrap up the story we had known up until that point. I mean seeing Woody say goodbye to Andy was heartbreaking and made me tear up a bit as a kid.

  • 2009 - Avatar

    The king of cinema is Avatar, nobody thought that this 2009 action sci-fi would still be the number one highest-earning movie in the world. It did actually take back its crown in 2021 from Avengers: Endgame.

    So while it may not have been a consistent record it is the closest to breaking the $3 billion milestone than any film ever has. I also believe it revolutionized the film world, as no film had such amazing CGI at that point, so it really set the bar high as apparent by the reviews.

  • 2008 - The Dark Knight

    This by far is one of my favorite live-action DC films ever. It has my personal favorite Joker performance rest in peace, Heath Ledger. But it has some amazing unscripted and totally scripted scenes. I mean the hospital scene where it looks like a problem occurred and Joker is repeatedly playing with the trigger. It just screams perfect.

  • 2007 - Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End

    I am a big Pirates of the Caribbean fan so when I watched At World’s End I was skeptical since the prior films were not well received. It was better at least compared to other films in the franchise, but had it’s own set of issues. It’s been a while since I’ve actually sat down and watched the Pirates franchise so maybe it’s grown on me.

    Reviews agree with me and say the film was actually better than the prior sequels, with pretty good CGI and some fixes to plot holes I will have to give it another watch. To be fair I was a kid when I watched it.

  • 2006: Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest

    A lot of critics and some of the general public say Pirates of The Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest is a bad movie. I disagree there are some notable plot holes and things that seemed a bit too convenient, but I loved the references to its predecessor, all while it added its own flair to the movie.

    I’ll always love the character of Davy Jones and of course Captain Jack Sparrow. The only other film from that year that I would say contests this is Night at the Museum.

  • 2005 - Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

    This is by far my favorite Harry Potter film in the franchise. Not only is it the first film where we get to really see ‘He who shall not be named’, but the emotional backlash from Cedric’s death in the film speaks volumes. I mean I feel it was this scene that was the mic drop for the entire series. It’s got some good parts and is fairly criticized the pacing could be better, but overall I love it.

  • 2004 - Shrek 2

    Shrek 2 is a perfect follow-up to the classic hit Shrek. I have zero complaints about this movie, it’s not too fast and the slow parts don’t drag on too long. The musical score is a massive win and I still listen to their version of ‘Holding Out for a Hero’.

    With the recent rumors of Shrek 5 I am worried as I don’t love the third or fourth film. That being said the team has gained some favor with the recent Puss In Boots film. So I’m willing to give it a shot.

  • 2003 - The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

    The continuation of one of the best franchises in fantasy The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, doubles down on beautifully captured scenes and of course epic music. I mean the bonfire lighting scene has to be one of the best in cinema as it captures the audience’s eyes. I really do wonder what would happen if they tried to remake this franchise using modern technology.

  • 2002 - The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers

    I honestly believe that The Lord of The Rings: The Two Towers as well as the franchise in generally is just the textbook example of a great film. Not only do you have amazing CGI for the time period with the role of Gollum, but paired with beautiful music and a great cast how do you hate on it? Speaking of the cast I gotta mention that most of the main group were injured during parts of the movie the most well known is Aragorn who broke two toes during the now iconic helmet kicking scene.

  • 2001 - Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

    When I watched Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, I didn’t really appreciate it. I mean it is the first film in the franchise so it does carry that magic with it. But now looking back I think it was an awesome movie. For the time nothing like this had ever really been explored. For our generation, it made it “Cool” to like wizards and houses and all that.

    This movie also set up the stage for not only the other mainline movies but also I feel it helped push the industry forward in a positive way. However, 2001 also had Spirited Away so that for me was the best movie of the year, as it made a much bigger impact than some realize.

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