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The 20 Highest Grossing Historical Fiction Movies of All Time

By Dustin Rowles | Box Office Round-Ups | December 18, 2011 | Comments ()


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The weekend at the box office was not at all what studios were expecting, as two sequels that were expected to dominate the weekend dominated with less force than anticipated. Sherlock Holmes: The Game of Shadows did manage to open at number one with $40 million, but that's a punch in the gut after the $62 million opening of the first movie. Granted, I believe that the original opened on Christmas Day -- a bigger weekend -- but even still, Game of Shadows couldn't match the $44 million opening of Tron: Legacy over the same weekend last year.

What is up with that? Reviews were generally positive, the competition wasn't particularly fierce (though, it will be next weekend), and Robert Downey, Jr. doesn't seem to have lost his luster. Why did only boatloads show up instead of sh*tloads?

The other disappointing opening I don't feel so bad about: Alvin and the Chipmunks 3: Chipwrecked in Space opened with only $23.5 million, half of the sequel's opening weekend of $44.3 million. Why? I don't really care to explore it. Because the movie was terrible?

The lone bright spot on the weekend was the limited IMAX-only release of Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, which had the biggest limited release of all time (for a movie released in less than 600 theaters), besting Bridget Jones: Edge of Reason in that category. Ghost Protocol earned $13 million in only 425 theaters, although it did have the benefit of higher IMAX ticket prices. I actually went and saw it twice, although that was in part to see the The Dark Knight Rises prologue. Because I've been so adamant about avoiding spoilers, I have barely followed news coverage of the movie, and I thought the prologue would be playing before every IMAX screening of Ghost Protocol (it only played in 42 locations, and I hate those locations). Anyway, TK will have the review up of Ghost Protocol today at noon. I won't spoiler it, except to say that I completely agree.

In fourth and fifth were last week's top two movies, New Year's Day and The Sitter, both of which had fairly substantial falls (42 and 55 percent, respectively). Meanwhile, Jason Reitman's Young Adult expanded to 986 theaters but only mustered $3.65 million, which suggests a course closer to Thank You for Smoking than Juno or Up in the Air. That saddens me, not because I liked Young Adult (my opinion tracked that of Dan's) but because I always picture Jason Reitman as looking like Jason Ritter, and I love Jason Ritter, and I always want Jason Ritter to do well. But then I look up Jason Reitman and remember what he looks like, and I don't feel as bad, although I still think Reitman is a profoundly amazing director.

At any rate, the top movie this week, Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows is a historical fiction film, which gives me the opportunity to run down the 20 highest grossing historical fiction movies of all time. These numbers are adjusted for inflation, which allows us to see titles we do not typically see among the usual box-office record holders. It's also neat to see how certain more recent movies fare in an inflation adjusted list with some of the classics. For instance, I'd have expected the first Sherlock Holmes to break the top 20, but I'd never have thought that Robin Hood Prince of Thieves would. Yet, based on the inflation adjusted numbers, nearly three times more people must have seen Kevin Costner's film than Sherlock Holmes, which is a strange thing to consider, though I'll concede that my teenage self kind of loved Prince of Thieves. Clearly, Sherlock needed more Bryan Adams.

The 20 Highest Grossing Historical Fiction Movies of All Time

20. Platoon: $293 million

19. Casablanca: $303 million

18. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: $309 million

17. Dances with Wolves: $328 million

16. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: $348 million

15. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End: $354 million

14. The Caine Mutiny: $384 million

13. Fiddler on the Roof: $384 million

12. Indiana Jones and the Temple Doom: $411 million

11. How the West Was Won: $431 million

10. The Passion of the Christ: $471 million

9. Notorious (1946): $478 million

8. Grease: $564 million

7. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid: $568 million

6. My Fair Lady: $610 million

5. Forrest Gump: $633 million

4. The Sting: $711 million

3. Doctor Zhivago: $872 million

2. Titanic: $1.06 billion

1. Sound of Music: $1.275 billion

(Source: The Numbers)


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