These days, it’s beginning to feel like movie records are broken on a weekly basis. With a new year full of big films on the horizon, it’s a good time to get to know the movies that currently hold the record for the highest-grossing film for each month of the year. From recent blockbusters to decade-old favorites that refuse to be dethroned, the list of top-earning movies for each month holds a few surprises, as well as some films that are difficult to imagine ever being beaten at the box office.
How much will upcoming films need to earn to take the top spot for their respective months? Read on for a quick summary of the highest-grossing movies for each month. (Note: Films are ranked by domestic gross. All figures are courtesy of Box Office Mojo).
American Sniper (2014) – $350.1 million
Directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Jason Hall, this biographical war drama starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller is loosely based on the memoir American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History, written by Chris Kyle. Depicting the terrible effects of war and post-traumatic stress on soldiers and their families, it was a huge hit despite controversy over its portrayal of Kyle and the war in Iraq. The film, which also had the biggest opening weekend ever for a January release, received six Academy Award nominations, and won in the Best Sound Editing category. The next-closest films in line are 2016’s The Revenant ($183.6 million) and 2002’s A Beautiful Mind ($170.7 million).
Black Panther (2018) – $700 million
A film will have to draw serious crowds in February to knock this Marvel Comics superhero film from its throne. The movie absolutely obliterated historical figures for this month, almost doubling the gross of the next highest-grossing films for February: 2004’s The Passion of the Christ ($370.2 million) and 2016’s Deadpool ($363 million). To top it all off, Black Panther earned more than $1 billion at the international box office. With a star-studded cast including Chadwick Boseman, Michael B. Jordan, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira, Angela Bassett, and Forest Whitaker, it’s the first superhero film to feature a predominantly African-American cast and is also the ninth highest-grossing film of all time worldwide.
Beauty and the Beast (2017) – $504 million
Holding the record for the biggest opening weekend in March, in addition to being the month’s highest-grossing movie, this film is a live-action reimagining of the 1991 animated film by Disney, which itself is an adaptation of the 18th-century fairy tale by Jeanne-Marie Leprince de Beaumont. The film stars Emma Watson and Dan Stevens as the title characters, along with an impressive supporting cast that includes Stanley Tucci, Ian McKellen, and Emma Thompson. It was the perfect winter movie for first dates, romantic nights out, and to watch with the kids, and ended up beating 2012’s The Hunger Games ($408 million) to earn the month’s top spot. Upcoming March 2019 films Dumbo and Captain Marvel, however, could each challenge this movie for the March record.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018) – $678.8 million
Can the upcoming Avengers: Endgame, set for release in April 2019, surpass 2018’s Infinity War? This superhero film, which brought together all of the most popular Avengers characters, absolutely smoked the box office competition, coming close to doubling the total earnings of the second highest-grossing film for April, 2016’s The Jungle Book ($364 million). As a direct sequel, and a wrap of the MCU as we know it, fans will no doubt flock to theaters in droves to watch Endgame and discover the fates of their favorite superheroes.
Marvel’s The Avengers (2012) – $623.3 million
Just consider springtime Hollywood’s superhero time, as Avengers is yet another Marvel Universe film holding the record as the highest-grossing movie for its month. The 2012 film also scored the biggest opening weekend ever for May. For comparison’s sake, 2015’s Avengers: Age of Ultron was the second-highest-grossing film with a May release at $459 million. (Third was 2004’s Shrek with $441.2 million.) It will take some big crowds to knock The Avengers down a few pegs, but with John Wick: Chapter 3, Aladdin, Minecraft: The Movie, and Godzilla: King of Monsters all hitting theaters in May 2019, there’s a chance that we could get a new May champion.
Jurassic World (2015) – $652.3 million
The record for the biggest opening weekend ever for June is also held by Jurassic World, the fourth installment of the Jurassic Park franchise. Not only did it prove the franchise still has legs, but it also brought in massive box office numbers as fans watched to see how Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, and Vincent D’Onofrio fight off the film’s bigger and badder genetically engineered dinosaurs. The animated feature Incredibles 2 almost took the top spot from Jurassic World in 2018, making over $608 million, but if any upcoming film is going to overtake this one, it will probably be the highly anticipated Men in Black reboot, Men in Black International, debuting in June 2019.
The Dark Knight (2008) – $533.3 million
He passed away shortly before the film was released, but Heath Ledger provided a captivating performance as The Joker and helped catapult this film to massive box office success. No film has been able to take the crown for a July release in the 10 years since The Dark Knight hit theaters. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 (2011) had the highest-grossing opening weekend that month at $169.1 million, but it still didn’t make enough to surpass this superhero film. The third film in Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, sits at second with $448.1 million, while Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest sits in third with $423.3 million overall. Another superhero movie, Spider-Man: Far From Home, is set to debut in July 2019, along with Jon Favreau’s live-action take on The Lion King. Can either film take the top spot?
Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) – $333.1 million
Superhero films clearly have the biggest box office draw, and they dominate well into the summer. This one, based on the Marvel Comics superhero team of the same name, stars Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista, Vin Diesel, and Bradley Cooper as a team of misfits who take on a bevy of cosmic characters played by Michael Rooker, Djimon Hounsou, Glenn Close, and other Hollywood heavyweights. Guardians of the Galaxy made the most money overall for August, but 2016’s Suicide Squad actually had the highest-grossing opening weekend with $133.6 million. For the next in line among the month’s highest-grossing films, you have to go all the way back to 1999’s The Sixth Sense, which made $293.5 overall.
It (2017) – $327.4 million
It: Chapter 2 comes out in September 2019. Can the sequel do better than its predecessor, a supernatural horror film based on the Stephen King novel of the same name? It’s fitting that the first film, which follows seven children who are terrorized by a horrifying entity known as Pennywise the Dancing Clown, is set in the ‘80s. The next closest film as far as box-office numbers is 1986’s Crocodile Dundee ($174.8 million). Hotel Transylvania 2 from 2015 is third with $169.7 million.
Gravity (2013) – $274 million
Moviegoers flocked to theaters to see Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts stranded in space in this science-fiction thriller, which received 10 Academy Award nominations and won seven Oscars. Despite Gravity being the top-grossing October movie, it was 2018’s Venom that actually has the highest-grossing opening weekend for the month with $80.2 million. The Martian ($228.4 million) and this year’s A Star is Born ($197.9 million) were October successes, too, but don’t come close enough to take the top spot. With an animated version of the Addams Family movie, and a mysterious movie about the origins of Batman villain The Joker starring Joaquin Phoenix and Robert De Niro both set for release in October 2019, Gravity might be enjoying its final year at the top.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013) – $424.6 million
As the second installment in the dystopian science-fiction film franchise The Hunger Games, based on the novels by Suzanne Collins, this film starring Jennifer Lawrence topped the box office for November as fans returned en masse to follow the story of Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark (Josh Hutcherson). With a star-studded supporting cast that includes Liam Hemsworth, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Donald Sutherland, and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman, it will be a tough one to beat. But considering that 2013’s Frozen had a strong second-place showing at $400.7 million, Frozen 2, set for release next November, could very well take November’s top spot
Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015) – $936.6 million
Also enjoying the biggest opening weekend ever for December, this first installment of the Star Wars sequel trilogy produced, co-written, and directed by J.J. Abrams is the seventh overall installment in the epic sci-fi saga. The film introduces Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, Daisy Ridley, and other newcomers to the franchise, and it also brought back characters from the original trilogy, including Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill, and the late Carrie Fisher. Grossing almost $1 billion stateside, it’s Disney’s most successful film of all time in the U.S. and will be tough to top. However, with Star Wars: Episode IX due out in December 2019, there’s a chance the Christmas movie season’s torch will be passed to the upcoming installment.
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