Hollywood was founded on the idea of selling a narrative of glamor and glitz, but don’t be fooled: The film industry is barely recovering from a walk of shame.
Movie theater ticket sales have steadily declined since 2002, and last year saw a two percent dip in total revenue (that’s a lot when you’re dealing in the tens of billions). But thanks to the beauty of inflation and, more important, the abundance of blockbusters hitting cinemas this year, 2018’s box office totals are as towering as the ambition of its movies. Four different films crossed the vaunted $1 billion mark this year alone (2015 holds the all-time record with five), and we still have a select few expected moneymakers to come (not to mention several financial flops to rue).
While everyone from top Hollywood execs down to novice filmgoers knew that biggies like Avengers: Infinity War and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom were going to dominate box offices, no one could have predicted the history-making earnings of Bohemian Rhapsody or the magic trick Venom pulled off.
So without further ado, here are the 10 highest-grossing films of 2018.
10. Ready Player One
Studio: Warner Bros.
Budget: $175 million
Box Office Earnings: $582.2 million
Steven Spielberg is a legend, but even he isn’t immune to the occasional cold streak. The BFG (2016) was the worst commercial flop of his career, earning just $183 million worldwide against a $140 million budget. Last year’s The Post, meanwhile, sold the fewest tickets of any Spielberg-directed picture since his feature film debut.
But Ready Player One, based on the Ernest Cline novel of the same name, managed to earn a decent chunk of change despite mixed reviews. The self-referential pop-culture extravaganza is set in 2045, with the world on the brink of chaos and collapse. Its inhabitants have found salvation in the OASIS, an expansive virtual-reality universe created by the brilliant and eccentric James Halliday (Mark Rylance). Though Warner Bros. may have been hoping to make a tad more domestically ($137 million), Ready Player One did enough to land in the top 10.
9. Bohemian Rhapsody
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Budget: $52 million
Box Office Earnings: $608.7 million (as of this writing)
Despite its behind-the-scenes drama and the mixed-to-negative critical reactions (outside of universal praise for star Rami Malek, who plays Freddie Mercury), the Queen biopic has broken out to become a historic box-office smash. Bohemian Rhapsody is now the highest-grossing musical biopic of all time domestically, internationally and worldwide. As of this writing, the film has earned a massive $175.7 million in North America and $433 million overseas. If you don’t think all that box-office money is helping with Malek’s Oscar campaign, think again.
Though Fox will soon be swallowed up by Disney, we’re sure the 83-year-old studio is happy to go out on a high note. Still, we can’t help but wonder what Sacha Baron Cohen’s darker version of Bohemian Rhapsody might have looked like.
8. Ant-Man and the Wasp
Studio: Disney (Marvel)
Budget: $162 million
Box Office Earnings: $622.6 million
Ant-Man and the Wasp—which we very much enjoyed—hit theaters on July 6 and within one month, fans were calling it a rare misfire from Marvel Studios because of its somewhat slow start (at least compared to its MCU brethren). However, naysayers should have waited until after the buzzy superhero sequel, starring Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly, opened in China: Ant-Man and the Wasp earned an impressive $121 million in the Middle Kingdom. Overall, the film took in almost $40 million more domestically than the 2015 original, Ant-Man.
7. Deadpool 2
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Budget: $110 million
Box Office Earnings: $734.2 million
Deadpool 2 may not have been as purely profitable as its 2016 predecessor (which grossed a mammoth $783 million off a midsize budget of around $50 million), but it was still a hit by all accounts. Hell, 2006’s Superman Returns cost a hilariously ill-advised $270 million, so it’s not like the spending on Deadpool 2 was out of control. Add in the fact that it’s a raunchy R-rated family-unfriendly blockbuster and the film’s success is even more impressive.
Deadpool 2‘s $318.5 million makes it the fifth-highest-grossing film of the year domestically. Ryan Reynolds’ Merc with a Mouth has grown so popular that Disney CEO Bob Iger has promised that the character will remain R-rated once the Mouse House officially takes over Fox. It’s very likely that Deadpool will be the only X-Men character that Disney won’t recast for the MCU. Now that’s power.
6. Mission: Impossible—Fallout
Budget: $178 million
Box Office Earnings: $791 million
Listen, we don’t want to toot our own horn, but we had a strong feeling Mission: Impossible—Fallout would set a franchise record at the box office before it even hit theaters. As Observer’s own entertainment essayist Film Crit Hulk said, Fallout is a “master class in dramatic tension.” In addition, it boasts the single-best fight scene of any movie this year.
What’s most impressive about Fallout‘s box office run is how incredibly leggy it was. The movie opened to just north of $61 million, a strong showing that is overshadowed in an era of $200 million first weekends. From there, it hoofed it to more than $220 million in the U.S., good for an amazing 3.5x multiplier (which you get when you divide a film’s final domestic gross by its opening weekend). For comparison, Star Wars: The Last Jedi—2017’s biggest U.S. hit—boasted a multiplier of “just” 2.8x.
So basically, Ethan Hunt kicked Luke Skywalker’s butt.
Budget: $100 million
Box Office Earnings: $845.5 million (as of this writing)
OK, fair is fair. We wanted credit for predicting Fallout‘s box office success, so we’ll also confess to earmarking Venom as a potential box office bomb.
Everywhere you look, Venom has been outperforming expectations to a hilarious degree. It set an all-time October opening record, making $80 million in its first weekend; it has earned a truly stupefying $260.5 million in China; and, somehow, it has raked in more than $633 million overseas.
Venom fever is real, and not even crappy reviews or the fact that it isn’t part of the MCU can slow it down. Here’s to hoping the sequel can improve in a few key areas while not stealing Tom Holland’s Spider-Man away from Disney and Marvel.
4. Incredibles 2
Studio: Disney (Pixar)
Budget: $200 million
Box Office Earnings: $1.24 billion
The Incredibles (2004) may very well be the greatest superhero film ever, so it’s no surprise that its long-awaited sequel, which arrived at the peak of the superhero blockbuster era, would be a huge moneymaker. Incredibles 2 set a record for the biggest animated opening ever, pulling in $182.6 million.
Typically, Hollywood blockbusters earn roughly 35 percent of their total gross here in the U.S., with the other 65 percent coming from foreign sales. But Incredibles 2 performed just as incredibly (sorry) here as it did overseas, with a near 50/50 split: $608.5 million domestic; $632.5 million foreign.
3. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
Budget: $170 million
Box Office Earnings: $1.3 billion
We’re just going to be brutally honest: The Jurassic World movies are awful and don’t really deserve their annual perches on this list.
Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, we can praise Universal’s hustle, as both JW films have worked like gangbusters at the box office. Jurassic World (2015) scored a mouth-watering $1.67 billion worldwide, and Fallen Kingdom came quite close to matching that.
Anytime your movie tops $400 million domestic, you’re doing something very right. These flicks have a global appeal and a (pre)historic foundation thanks to Steven Spielberg. Universal deserves even more credit for consistently ranking among the top three studios at the box office without releasing any superhero franchises.
We may not have liked Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, but we respect those dinosaurs’ ability to pull in the big bucks.
2. Black Panther
Studio: Disney (Marvel)
Budget: $200 million
Box Office Earnings: $1.34 billion
Remember what we said about those 35/65 splits? Well, Black Panther laughs in the face of industry norms.
As the first-ever superhero blockbuster with a predominantly black cast, not to mention a black director (Ryan Coogler), Black Panther emerged as a touchstone of cultural representation in America. It enjoyed a $202 million opening, the sixth-biggest in Hollywood history. It then surged to an incredible $700 million domestic, the third-biggest U.S. gross ever behind Avatar ($760 million) and Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($936 million). Stateside, it earned north of $20 million more than the decade-in-the-making Avengers: Infinity War. That’s insane.
Overseas audiences didn’t embrace the film quite as enthusiastically as we did (it earned $647 million outside the U.S.), but Black Panther still surpassed fellow Marvel blockbusters such as Thor: Ragnarok ($539 million), Spider-Man: Homecoming ($546 million) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 ($474 million) in foreign sales.
1. Avengers: Infinity War
Studio: Disney (Marvel)
Budget: ~$300 million
Box Office Earnings: $2 billion
Contrary to popular belief, Avengers: Infinity War is apparently not the most expensive film ever made. Even if it is, the world-dominating blockbuster made more than enough to cover even its most indulgent costs. Infinity War opened to a mind-boggling $257.6 million back in April, breaking the record set by Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($247.9 million) just three years earlier. It earned more in its opening weekend than Justice League did in its entire domestic run (Happy 40th Anniversary to Superman though!), which is astonishing.
International audiences couldn’t get enough of the superhero bonanza either: Marvel raked in an additional $1.36 billion outside the U.S., the third-highest total in history. All told, Infinity War became just the fourth film ever to cross the magical $2 billion mark, and its upcoming sequel, Avengers: Endgame, will likely do the same. Fun fact: In 2018, Disney earned a whopping $7 billion worldwide.