2012 Box Office in Review: A Look Back at the Highest Grossing Films of the Year and More

     January 1, 2013


It’s January 1, 2013, which means that 2012 is now officially in the rear-view mirror.  Quality-wise, it was a stellar year in film, and with over a month to go before the Oscars there’s still an exciting air of unpredictability surrounding the awards contenders.  2012 wasn’t so shabby box office-wise either, and we thought today would be a nice time to take a look back at the year’s highest grossing films, lowest grossing films, and everything in between.  This year saw a few comedy surprises, the highest grossing Steven Spielberg drama in a long time, a couple of superhero megahits, and the glorious disaster that was Oogieloves.  Hit the jump to take a look at 2012’s Box Office in Review.

the-avengers-team-imageThough there was some formidable competition this fall, nothing came close to touching the highest grossing film of the year: The Avengers.  Marvel’s superhero team-up closed out 2012 with $623.3 million domestically following its record-breaking opening weekend gross of $207.4 million.  The film now stands as the highest grossing Marvel film of all time, shattering Iron Man’s $318.4 million domestic total.

Coming in a distant second was Christopher Nolan’s trilogy closer The Dark Knight Rises with a $448.1 million total domestic gross.  Though nearly half a billion dollars is nothing to scoff at, the film failed to match The Dark Knight’s $534.8 million domestic total.  Rounding out the top three is the highest grossing non-sequel on the list, The Hunger Games.  The adaptation of the wildly popular book series netted $408 million domestically, which is an impressive feat when you factor in that this was an untested film property that didn’t enjoy the uptick of 3D prices.

the-hunger-games-jennifer-lawrenceMaybe not-so-coincidentally, the top three domestic grossers also hold the top three highest opening weekends of the year with $207.4 million, $160.8 million, and $152.5 million respectively for The Avengers, The Dark Knight Rises, and The Hunger Games.

At fourth place is Sam Mendes’ stellar entry in the James Bond franchise, Skyfall, with a $289.6 million domestic total.  The pic is the highest grossing James Bond film of all time and recently crossed the $1 billion mark worldwide.  Nipping at Skyfall’s heels is the final entry in the Twilight franchise, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2.  The teen vampire pic scored $286 million domestically, making it the third highest grossing Twilight film behind New Moon‘s $296.6 million and Eclipse‘s $300.5 million.

The rest of the domestic Top 10 is rounded out by two sequels (The Hobbit at #8 with $221.7 million and Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted at #10 with $216.3 million), one reboot (The Amazing Spider-Man at #6 with $262 million), and two original properties that feature animated elements (Brave at #7 with $237.2 million and Ted at #9 with $218.6 million).  In fact, in the entire Top 20, only four films aren’t based on any pre-existing material or people: BraveTed, Wreck-It Ralph, and Hotel Transylvania.

Here’s the full domestic Top 20 chart for films released theatrically in 2012:

Rank Movie Title Total Gross (Domestic)
1 The Avengers $623,357,910
2 The Dark Knight Rises $448,139,099
3 The Hunger Games $408,010,692
4 Skyfall $289,600,000
5 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 $286,433,000
6 The Amazing Spider-Man $262,030,663
7 Brave $237,259,580
8 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey $228,693,000
9 Ted $218,665,740
10 Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted $216,391,482
11 Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax $214,030,500
12 Men in Black 3 $179,020,854
13 Wreck-It Ralph $175,505,332
14 Ice Age: Continental Drift $161,130,056
15 Snow White and the Huntsman $155,136,755
16 Hotel Transylvania $143,923,820
17 Taken 2 $138,897,494
18 21 Jump Street $138,447,667
19 Lincoln $131,867,159
20 Prometheus $126,477,084


daniel-day-lewis-lincolnBefore we get into the worldwide box office, here’s a look at some highlights gleaned from the year’s full domestic box office chart:

  • The lowest grossing wide release of 2012 was Oogieloves in the Big Balloon Adventure, which grossed just $1.06 million in 2,160 theaters.
  • The highest grossing straight-drama of 2012 was Lincoln, which currently stands at a domestic box office total of $131.8 million.  That makes the film Steven Spielberg’s highest grossing drama of all time if you categorize Saving Private Ryan as a war film.
  • The highest grossing live-action comedy not starring aliens or animated teddy bears was 21 Jump Street with $138.4 million.
  • The highest grossing non-superhero, non-Hunger Games sci-fi film was Men in Black 3 with $179 million.
  • Sony has the most films in the Top 20 with 5 (21 Jump Street, Hotel Transylvania, Men in Black 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, and Skyfall).
  • 6 of the Top 20 highest grossing films are animated.
  • The highest grossing 3D re-release was Titanic with $57.8 million.
  • The total gross of 2012’s films combined is $10.7 billion with 655 movies released, up 6% over 2011’s $10.1 billion total gross when 601 movies were released.
  • The Avengers far outpaced 2011’s highest grossing film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2, which topped the 2011 list with $381 million domestically.

Mark-Wahlberg-Ted-movie-imageOkay, now on to the international box office.  It’s no secret that most studios make the majority of their money back through foreign box office, and this year a great number of films found success overseas.  The most notable surprises are the comedy Ted and the French drama The Intouchables. Though American live-action comedies don’t normally translate to big foreign box office, watching a foul-mouthed teddy bear smoke weed and get into shenanigans with Mark Wahlberg is apparently funny in any language.  Ted managed to drum up a worldwide total of $501.8 million, $283.1 million of which came from overseas box office.

The top two films worldwide are the same as the domestic list, as we have The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises sitting atop the chart.  However, The Hunger Games doesn’t come into play until #8, as the third highest grossing film worldwide is Skyfall with $1 billion.  Just behind the Bond pic is the animated sequel Ice Age: Continental Drift, which scored $875 million worldwide and lands at #4 on the list compared to its #14 position on the domestic list.

As I said in the beginning of this article, some of these numbers are likely to change (expect The Hobbit to continue to inch up the chart), but this provides a nice snapshot of where everything stands as we start a new year full of films.  It’s gonna be incredibly hard for 2013 to top 2012 in quality, but we’re hoping for the best.  If you missed it, check out our 2013 Blockbuster Preview right here.

Here’s a look at the full worldwide Top 20 chart for films released in 2012:

Rank Movie Title Total Gross (Worldwide)
1 The Avengers $1,511.8
2 The Dark Knight Rises $1,081.0
3 Skyfall $1,000.2
4 Ice Age: Continental Drift $875.2
5 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 $799.2
6 The Amazing Spider-Man $752.2
7 Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted $742.1
8 The Hunger Games $686.5
9 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey $685.7
10 Men in Black 3 $624.0
11 Brave $535.4
12 Ted $501.8
13 The Intouchables $420.8
14 Prometheus $402.5
15 Snow White and the Huntsman $396.4
16 Taken 2 $365.5
17 Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax $348.8
18 Titanic 3D $343.6
19 Journey 2: The Mysterious Island $325.9
20 Hotel Transylvania $311.0


*All information via Box Office Mojo.


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