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10 biggest action movie hits ever, ranked by adjusted box office

Ever wondered how an older movie’s box office would stack up to today’s hits when adjusted for inflation? Well, thanks to Box Office Mojo, fans can see exactly how their favorite movies’ box office numbers translate to the current dollar value.

Since some of the most notable action movies came out decades ago, their listed gross numbers can be misleading. Inflation has drastically affected what a single dollar can purchase over the vast decades that Hollywood has operated, so comparing a movie’s adjusted box office can shed light on just how influential a movie was at its time of release.

The biggest domestic action hits of all time, adjusted by box-office gross, are mostly big franchises, from superheroes to dinosaurs. Here are the top 10 action hits of all time when adjusted for inflation based on the 2022 ticket price.

10. Avengers: Infinity War (2018): $678,572,589

Black Panther, Captain America, and Black Widow from Avengers: Infinity War.
Marvel Studios

There will be a lot of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on this list, starting with 2018’s Avengers: Infinity War. The third installment to the Avengers team-up films sees the world’s mightiest heroes take on their biggest threat yet. The movie is essentially a massive war movie spanning lightyears, from desolate planets in the far reaches of space to the dark streets of Edinburgh.

Infinity War serves as a part one conclusion to the Infinity Saga of the MCU, which sees the mad titan Thanos in an all-out war for the six Infinity Stones. After retrieving the first two stones off-screen, Thanos sets his sights on the other four infinity stones that are scattered throughout the universe. To stop the ultra-powerful villain from decimating half of all living life in the universe, the Avengers must team up once again to make one final stand. Avengers: Infinity War is a massive film and one of the most consequential movies in the entire MCU; the collective cultural experience of seeing Infinity War for the first time is not to be forgotten.

9. The Dark Knight (2008): $697,722,995

Batman stands in a cloud of ash and rubble in a poster for The Dark Knight.
Warner Bros. Pictures / Warner Bros. Pictures

It’s not exaggerating to say that Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy changed Hollywood forever. Following his successful Batman origin story Batman Begins, Nolan delivered one of the greatest superhero movies ever made in 2008’s The Dark Knight. Widely remembered for the outstanding performance of Heath Ledger as the Joker, The Dark Knight is as much a crime and gangster movie as it is a superhero movie. The action is epic, and the filmmaking is remarkable.

Now firmly established as Gotham’s vigilante savior, the movie follows Batman (Christian Bale) as he fights a vile new criminal who calls himself the Joker. The Joker throws the entire town into chaos, taking on the entire criminal underworld and questioning how much of a hero Batman is. Now, with the help of allies Lt. Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and DA Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), the caped Crusader walks a fine line between heroism, vigilantism, and outright villainy.

8. Thunderball (1965): $700,876,000

Sean Connery's James Bond uses his jetpack in Thunderball.
United Artists

Everyone’s favorite spy makes his only appearance on this list with 1965’s Thunderball. Sean Connery’s version of James Bond is often cited as the best, and Thunderball is one of his most fun outings. Amazing set pieces and a wonderful Connery performance make Thunderball a big, outrageous Bond adventure.

The movie sees Agent 007 take on SPECTRE, the terrorist group led by one-eyed evil mastermind Emilio Largo (Adolfo Celi). When SPECTRE hijacks two warheads from a NATO plane and threatens widespread nuclear destruction, James Bond is sent to recover the warheads from the heart of Largo’s lair in the Bahamas. Featuring underwater shark attacks and jet-pack shenanigans, Thunderball is a wacky, action-packed adventure outfitted with all of the classic Bond tropes.

7. Black Panther (2018): $715,038,755

Chadwick Boseman as Black Panther returns to Wakanda
Marvel Studios

Black Panther is a movie as financially successful as it is influential. The movie, which was nominated for Best Picture at the 2019 Oscars, firmly proved that superhero movies can be as critically beloved as a weighty drama. Featuring countless powerful images of Afro-futurism, Black Panther merged the world of superheroes with the political upheaval of our times. Chadwick Boseman and director Ryan Coogler turn this MCU film into a beautiful, fun time at the movies.

The film follows Boseman’s character of T’Challa, the heir to the hidden but advanced African nation of Wakanda. The nation hides in the shadows, hiding its vast wealth and technological brilliance. Thanks to its vast resources of Vibranium, Wakanda is the most powerful nation on Earth — even though very few people even know about it. It also holds the mysterious heart-shaped herb, a plant that, when consumed, grants a person the powers of the Black Panther. After a challenger from the country’s past returns to take Wakanda’s throne, T’Challa must step forward to lead his people into a new future.

6. Jurassic World (2015): $719,633,803

Chris Pine and Bryce Dallas Howard stand in front of a dinosaur in Jurassic World
Universal Pictures / Universal Pictures

In 2015, Jurassic World showed audiences what a fully realized dinosaur theme park might look like, terror and death included. Starring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard, Jurassic World brought the wonder of dinosaurs to a new generation. While Jurassic World may not be the most traditional action film, it still includes a great number of tense action sequences. In fact, it is also one of the highest-grossing science fiction movies when adjusted for inflation.

Much like the original Jurassic Park, the 2015 reprise follows the mishaps of a dinosaur theme park on Isla Nublar. Now, though, the park is finally open. Thanks to the park’s constant search for improvement, a group of Jurassic World scientists create a genetically modified hybrid dinosaur named the Indominus Rex, which escapes containment and goes on a killing spree. With hundreds of tourists dead, it’s up to Pratt’s Owen Grady and Howard’s Claire Dearing to restore order.

5. The Avengers (2012): $720,376,844

The Avengers assembling on a dilapidated street in 2012's The Avengers.
Marvel Studios

The first time Earth’s Mightiest Heroes teamed up on the big screen was, pardon the pun, a marvel. The Avengers, released in 2012, did something Hollywood had never seen. The sheer scale of a movie like The Avengers completely altered the course of Hollywood, formally kicking off the superhero craze that would consume the next decade-plus of moviemaking.

After Thor’s evil brother, Loki (Tom Hiddleston), steals a mysteriously powerful cube called the Tesseract, Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), director of S.H.I.E.L.D., initiates a superhero recruitment effort to defeat the unprecedented threat to Earth. The team that we all know was then assembled: Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), Captain America (Chris Evans), the Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner). Together, the superhero team goes to war against Loki and his alien forces, saving the world from complete annihilation.

4. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): $829,651,658

Indiana Jones staring at a golden idol in "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
Paramount Pictures / Image via LucasFilm

Steven Spielberg kicked off one of the most successful action-adventure franchises ever seen with 1981’s Raiders of the Lost Ark. Even though the film is now over 40 years old, not one second of it feels dated. Spielberg’s deft hand at action storytelling creates a compelling and ultra-fun adventure through deserts, university classrooms, and jungles. Harrison Ford’s fedora-wearing hero is a Hollywood icon, and Raiders of the Lost Ark is his best on-screen outing as Indiana Jones.

The epic tale follows intrepid archaeologist Indiana Jones as he races a band of evil Nazis to a unique religious relic: the lost ark of the covenant. The ark, which supposedly holds the 10 commandments given to Moses on Mount Sinai, holds an immense power that the Nazis intend to weaponize for world domination. Now, Indiana has to team up with friends and a vengeful ex-girlfriend to stop the Nazis from tapping into the ark’s immense power.

3. Jurassic Park (1993): $860,163,189

Dr. Grant distracts the T-Rex in Jurassic Park.
Universal Pictures / Universal Pictures

Jurassic Park, yet another influential and wildly successful Steven Spielberg movie, is a classic in all senses of the word. The movie is a terrifying yet delightful showcase of Spielberg’s impressive direction and storytelling chops, and it walks an impressive line between childlike wonder and utter terror.

When paleontologists Alan Grant (Sam Neill), Ellie Sattler (Laura Dern), and mathematician Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) tour an island theme park populated by dinosaurs created from prehistoric DNA, things take a turn for the worst. With the park shut down, the scientists have to fight through treacherous terrain and hungry dinosaurs to survive. While some may think it’s not a good movie, most audiences believe Jurassic Park is among the finest pieces of blockbuster American cinema, and its action chops are more than hard cuts and intense shootouts. Instead, Spielberg creates a survivalist action sci-fi hit that will always be remembered.

2. Avengers: Endgame (2019): $892,669,593

Marvel's heroes charge into battle in Avengers: Endgame.
Marvel Studios

After over 10 years of storytelling, the MCU’s Infinity Saga concluded with the monumental three-hour epic Avengers: Endgame. The film is as much an experience as it is a singular film. In all of Hollywood’s history, there has never been a film as immense as Endgame, a movie that brings together 21 other movies for one epic conclusion. The movie is a cultural icon.

Picking up where Infinity War left off, Avengers: Endgame is set five years after Thanos eradicated half of all living life in the universe with just the snap of his fingers. Now, only a few of our heroes remain, and the entire universe is in ruin. All hope is lost. That is, until Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) returns from the Quantum Realm after being trapped for five years. His return causes Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) to unravel the mystery of time travel, granting the remaining Avengers one last chance to bring back everyone they lost.

1. Avatar (2009): $911,790,952

Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana fall in love on Pandora.
20th Century Studios

The highest-grossing movie of all time is also, unsurprisingly, the highest-grossing action movie ever made. James Cameron’s Avatar, released in 2009, is as large as a singular movie can get. Adorned with mind-blowing visuals and dense themes, Avatar is the biggest movie ever made — and its action is undeniable. From high-flying set pieces to sneaky jungle warfare, Avatar is a war film with the heart of a love story.

Set in the future on a lush planet called Pandora, the movie follows paralyzed former marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) as his entire life is turned upside down when he encounters the planet’s native people, the Na’vi. Jake, who inhabits a Na’vi body to allow for free movement on Pandora, learns about and comes to care deeply about the highly evolved species. His human counterparts, though, only desire conquest. As Jake’s bond with the Na’vi, particularly Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), grows, he is drawn into a battle for the survival of Pandora.

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Carson Burton
Carson Burton is an writer, entertainment fanatic, and a proud Crocs owner that loves everything from Spider-Man: Into the…
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