The Most Popular Movie the Year You Were Born
These films were the biggest global box-office hits of each year. Did your favourites make the cut?
1930: Tom Sawyer
Mark Twain’s timeless novel about the adventures of a young boy gets film fame too. Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Joe Harper trick the town into thinking they’re dead, witness a murder, and more.
A scientist is obsessed with trying to make a dead corpse come to life, but has to live with the consequences when he succeeds in this film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s classic novel.
1932: Shanghai Express
In this romantic adventure film, a woman and her former lover reconnect on a train to Shanghai. It won the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.
1933: King Kong
People have been obsessing over this giant ape since he first travelled from Skull Island to New York City in the original 1933 movie King Kong. (Pay homage to the Big Apple’s cinematic history with this list of 15 must-see New York film locations.)
1934: It Happened One Night
When a spoiled socialite runs away from her father to join her husband, a story-hungry reporter blackmails her into letting him tag along.
1935: Mutiny on the Bounty
As HMS Bounty sets sail from England to Tahiti, Captain Bligh turns into a ruthless tyrant. Before they make their way home, first mate Fletcher Christian leads a mutiny so the crew can go back to paradise in Tahiti—until the captain comes back for revenge.
1936: San Francisco
A nightclub owner (Clark Gable) and a real estate magnate (Jack Holt) compete for the affections of an up-and-coming singer (Jeanette MacDonald) before the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroys the city.
1937: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Walt Disney made waves with the first feature-length, English-language animated film to be in colour. In it, Snow White must hide with dwarves when a jealous queen tries to kill her.
1938: You Can’t Take It with You
The eccentric family of Alice Sycamore (Jean Arthur) and mundane family of Tony Kirby (James Stewart) struggle to get along in this romantic comedy by Frank Capra.
1939: Gone with the Wind
Based on the book by Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind follows the romantic pursuits of a Georgia plantation owner’s daughter, Scarlett O’Hara, during and after the Civil War.
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A fairy grants a puppeteer’s wish for his marionette to come to life. With the help of Jiminy Cricket, the wooden Pinocchio tries to prove his honesty and bravery make him worthy of being a real boy.
1941: Sergeant York
Based on the true story of Sergeant Alvin York, this film follows the American’s journey from drafted pacifist to decorated war hero during World War I.
A curious young deer makes friends with his fellow forest creatures, including a peppy rabbit named Thumper, as he learns about courage and love. When hunters threaten his friends, Bambi must step up to lead the animals to safety.
1943: This Is the Army
In this wartime musical comedy, Jerry Jones’ dancing career is ruined when his leg is wounded on the battlefield during World War I. By the time World War II begins, he’s switched to producing, and his son Johnny reluctantly follows his father’s footsteps with an all-soldier show.
1944: Going My Way
Bing Crosby plays a laid-back young priest trying to mentor a gang of kids and take over the Manhattan parish’s finances for the aging Father Fitzgibbon, despite the older pastor’s disapproval. The film won seven Oscars, including Best Picture.
1945: The Bells of St. Mary’s
Newly-transferred Father O’Malley (Bing Crosby) and Sister Mary (Ingrid Bergman) fight to keep their Catholic inner city elementary school alive—and fall in love in the process.
1946: Song of the South
James Baskett plays live-action Uncle Remus, who tells stories of Br’er Rabbit, an animated bunny who tricks his enemies, Br’er Fox and Br’er Bear. The song “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” won an Academy Award, and Baskett’s honourary win made him the first black male actor to get an Oscar.
1947: Forever Amber
A poor 17th-century English girl decides to raise herself to nobility, but must choose between status and true love.
1948: The Snake Pit
A woman wakes up in an insane asylum without memory of how she got there in this film adaptation of Mary Jane Ward’s semi-autobiographical book. The movie jumps back in time to flashbacks from before her hospital admittance, and follows her journey through recovery.
1949: Samson and Delilah
This romantic epic is based on the biblical story of lust and betrayal. Delilah seduces Samson, the strongest man in his enslaved Israeli tribe, to discover the secret behind his strength.
The prince is throwing a ball to find a wife, but Cinderella’s wicked stepmother and stepsisters ruin her chance to go. Cinderella’s chance at finding love seems hopeless until her fairy godmother comes to the rescue.
1951: Quo Vadis
When a Roman commander falls in love with a Christian hostage, he begins to question the nature of his Emperor’s regime.
1952: The Greatest Show on Earth
Take a peek behind the circus curtain with Cecil B. DeMille’s high-flying classic. Apparently, a lot of drama goes into getting the greatest show on Earth as profitable as possible.
1953: Peter Pan
What better way to revisit your childhood on movie night than with a movie about the boy who never grows up? Take a trip to Neverland with Wendy, Peter and the Lost Boys with this Disney classic.
1954: White Christmas
Bing Crosby stars in this smash hit musical about four singers who stage a Christmas festival to raise money for a World War II commander in dire straits. Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney (George Clooney’s real-life aunt) co-star. (These are the 15 best Christmas movies of all time.)
1955: Lady and the Tramp
An animated film in which two dogs fall in love? Amazing. Plus, these pups’ spaghetti-and-meatballs kiss is nothing short of iconic.
1956: The Ten Commandments
A biblical epic based on the life of Moses and his receiving of the Ten Commandments.
1957: The Bridge on the River Kwai
This epic war film based on the novel Le Pont de la Rivière Kwai by Pierre Boulle follows the construction of the Burma Railway by British prisoners during World War II.
1958: South Pacific
Sail away into date night with this World War II musical romance featuring a young Navy nurse and a French planter. With a Rogers and Hammerstein score, you can’t go wrong.
This film, which follows the story of a Judah Ben-Hur, a well-to-do prince and merchant in Jerusalem in AD 26, had a budget of $15.175 million, the largest of its time. Thankfully, it generated $74.7 million in North American box office sales.
The rebellious gladiator Spartacus (Kirk Douglas)—born and raised as a slave—escapes his captors and leads thousands of other slaves in a legendary uprising against the Roman Empire.
1961: 101 Dalmatians
When the evil Cruella de Vil kidnaps a litter of puppies to make a dalmatian skin coat, Pongo and Perdita, the pups’ parents, must find a way to rescue them in time.
1962: Lawrence of Arabia
David Lean’s depiction of the Arab revolt against the Ottoman Empire during the First World War is one of the most famous epics of all time. The 70mm cinematography, glorious music and Peter O’Toole’s performance remain stunning to this day.
Elizabeth Taylor is a stunning Queen of the Nile in this historical flick about the triumphs and tragedies of Cleopatra.
The third installment in the James Bond franchise is an all-time classic—and inarguably Sean Connery’s greatest turn as the world-famous spy.
1965: The Sound of Music
Yes, the hills are alive with yet another popular classic starring Julie Andrews who plays a governess for the seven children of a wealthy Austrian widower, Captain Von Trapp whose heart has grown cold. Andrews will win over your heart in this fun, family film just like she did with the Von Trapp clan.
1966: The Bible
You’ll learn all about the Biblical book of Genesis which features the stories of Adam and Eve, Noah’s Ark, and Abraham and Isaac in The Bible: In the Beginning.
1967: The Jungle Book
Welcome to the jungle! In this Disney classic, young man-cub Mowgli learns with the help of his animal friends Bagheera and Baloo that the jungle is no place for a boy.
1968: 2001: A Space Odyssey
A ruthless computer, helpless astronauts and a mysterious black monolith take centre stage in Stanley Kubrick’s mind-bending journey through space, time and technology. 2001: A Space Odyssey is certainly the weirdest film to ever top the box office.
1969: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Paul Newman and Robert Redford play a dynamic duo in this four-time Oscar-winning film about two bank robbers who flee from the law and head for Bolivia.
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1970: Love Story
A poor baker’s daughter and rich boy become star-crossed lovers in this modern day Romeo and Juliet. Despite his family’s disapproval, the two get married and struggle to make ends meet. When circumstances finally start to look up for the pair, one of them is diagnosed with a terminal illness and their short-lived love story comes to an end.
1971: Diamonds Are Forever
Sean Connery’s final film as the world-famous spy is also the first to incorporate the campy tone that characterized almost every Bond film until the 21st century.
1972: The Godfather
Marlon Brando won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1973 for his brilliant performance as mob boss Vito Corleone. The Don tries to pass down his empire to his youngest son Michael, played by Al Pacino, but the young man is reluctant to take control of the powerful organized crime dynasty his father has created. (Don’t miss these mind-blowing facts about The Godfather.)
1973: The Exorcist
If you were born in ’73 and are also a horror fan, that’s fitting because it’s also the year the frighteningly successful psychological thriller about a young girl possessed by the devil hit theatres, infamously creepy 360-degree head spin and all. It racked up 10 Academy Award nominations, winning two. (This is the real reason you hate scary movies.)
1974: The Towering Inferno
A hellish fire breaks out in a state-of-the-art high-rise in San Francisco, and it’s up to Hollywood’s biggest stars to save the day. Starring Steve McQueen, Paul Newman and Faye Dunaway, The Towering Inferno is the godfather of disaster movies.
Beaches across America were probably a little emptier after the man-eating shark in this blockbuster hit from Steven Spielberg terrorized the big screen. It was deemed so iconic that the Library of Congress added it to the National Registry of Films in 2001, a list reserved only for those that are “culturally, historically, or aesthetically” significant.
Sylvester Stallone donned his boxing gloves (and removed his shirt) and took to the ring in this rags-to-riches story about an Italian-American amateur boxer who went from working the slums of Philadelphia to competing in the world heavyweight championship. The film spawned six sequels, with the third including a song now synonymous with the hardworking Rocky, “Eye of the Tiger” by the band Survivor.
1977: Star Wars: Episode IV—A New Hope
A long time ago, in [what now seems like] a galaxy far, far away, George Lucas’s epic space adventure began and fans were first introduced to characters now rooted in America’s cultural history—Luke Skywalker, Hans Solo, Princess Leia, Obi-Wan Kenobi, R2-D2, C-3PO, and of course, Darth Vader. Now 11 films into the franchise (with two more planned through 2020), the force is still going strong. (Don’t miss these Star Wars facts everyone gets wrong.)
While a young John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John fell in love on-screen as a pair of 1950s high school sweethearts in Grease, moviegoers were busy falling in love with this musical rom-com’s best-selling soundtrack.
Yes, this is the Bond film to feature a laser gun battle in space. But moviegoers in 1979 obviously enjoyed Moonraker‘s lighthearted tone—and Roger Moore’s effortless charm.
1980: Star Wars: Episode V—The Empire Strikes Back
George Lucas wasted no time debuting the second installment of his space saga, set three years after the original.
1981: Raiders of the Lost Ark
Harrison Ford got hearts racing as a ruggedly handsome archaeologist-turned-adventurer in the first of Steven Spielberg’s Indiana Jones action serial.
1982: E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
Steven Spielberg continued his blockbuster run with this science-fiction fantasy film about the unlikely friendship between a boy and his extraterrestrial friend, E.T., who was just trying to phone home.
1983: Star Wars: Episode VI—Return of the Jedi
The final piece of the original Star Wars trilogy was nominated for four Academy Awards but failed to pick up any little gold statues. (Here are 20 insightful Star Wars quotes every fan should know by heart.)
1984: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
In this prequel, Nazi-fighting archaeologist Indiana Jones turns his sights on an ancient cult in India dabbling in slavery and human sacrifice. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom‘s dark tone shocked audiences in 1984, but its thrilling action sequences helped propel it to box office glory.
1985: Back to the Future
Marty McFly and Doc Brown have a time-traveling DeLorean (Radical!). They use it to go to high school with Marty’s parents in the ‘50s (Laaaame). This pioneering sci-fi comedy has attained cult classic status for good reason.
1986: Top Gun
“Maverick,” “Goose,” and “Iceman” are fighter pilot trainees alternately making the skies safer and more dangerous in this military romance that made all filmgoers suddenly want their own codenames.
1987: Fatal Attraction
A hotshot lawyer (Michael Douglas) has a casual fling with a sexy book editor (Glenn Close), but their infidelity has dangerous consequences when Close’s character is revealed to be a violent psychotic.
1988: Rain Man
Sleazy Tom Cruise and autistic savant Dustin Hoffman take a road trip to escape a mental institution, cheat a Vegas casino, watch Judge Wapner, and other brotherly activities. Funny and heartfelt, Rain Man won four Oscars, including a Best Actor statue for Hoffman.
1989: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
Harrison Ford and Sean Connery join forces in the third film in the Indiana Jones franchise. This time, their adventure takes them on a quest to find the literal Holy Grail.
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When a banker (Patrick Swayze) is murdered by his best friend and business partner over a shady business deal, his ghost must seek the help of a psychic (Whoopi Goldberg) in order to protect his girlfriend Molly (Demi Moore) from certain death.
1991: Beauty and the Beast
Boy meets girl; boy repulses girl because he’s actually a frightful hybrid of like five different animals; boy transforms from beast into hunk and all is well in France. A monument to the Disney Renaissance of the ‘90s when animated movies became just as fun for parents as their kids, Beauty and the Beast is a tale as old as time for a very good reason.
A meet cute in the slums of Agrabah sends a handsome thief chasing after a strong-willed princess with swords, sorcery, and, eventually, the truth. One of Disney’s finest films, Aladdin deserves a place in the pantheon for nothing less than Robin Williams’s signature role as a fast-talking genie with whom everyone—still—wishes they could be friends. (Can you guess the Disney villain by their last words?)
1993: Jurassic Park
Dino DNA turns an ill-conceived theme park into a gauntlet of hungry velociraptors, stomping tyrannosaurs, and unhinged Jeff Goldblum laughter. Four films later (Jurassic World 2 is slated for 2018), who would’ve thought that a little mosquito would spawn one of the highest-grossing media franchises of all time?
1994: The Lion King
The Dane grows a mane in Disney’s all-singing, all-dancing, all-animal rendition of Hamlet. Beloved for its big and playful soundtrack, The Lion King earned Oscars for Elton John, Tim Rice and Hans Zimmer, spawned a perpetually popular Broadway musical, and—for better or worse—got “Hakuna Matata” stuck in millions of kid and parent craniums alike. No worries.
1995: Toy Story
This Disney movie was the first theatrical film produced by Pixar. Bringing a young boy’s toys to life, this film recounts the relationship of a cowboy, Woody, and an astronaut, Buzz Lightyear as they work to be reunited with their owner, Andy.
1996: Independence Day
This movie is a science fiction action film that focuses on a group of people in the aftermath of an attack by an existential race. It was directed and co-written by Roland Emmerich, who came up with the idea for the film after questioning his own belief in aliens.
Titanic shares the fictional love story of Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater, while outlining the true story of the sinking of the RMS Titanic. The budget for the film was a record-breaking $200 million, but the 11 Oscars that it won and over $2 billion it brought in worldwide made up for it. (Here are 10 things you didn’t know about the Titanic.)
When an asteroid threatens to destroy Earth, the only way to stop it is to drill into its surface and detonate a nuclear bomb. This leads NASA to contact renowned deep-sea oil driller Harry Stamper (Bruce Willis), who agrees to helm the dangerous space mission provided he can bring along his own ragtag crew.
1999: Star Wars: Episode I—The Phantom Menace
This film is the first installment in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, set 32 years before the original film. The premiere of the film was highly attended by the following that the Star Wars saga had created.
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2000: Mission: Impossible 2
Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) leads his team on a mission to capture a deadly virus before it’s released by a gang of international terrorists, one of them being a former IMF agent gone rogue. Directed by John Woo (Face/Off).
2001: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
Based off of the first book in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling, this film follows a young wizard, Harry Potter, through his adventures at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. (Here are 14 “magical” things in Harry Potter that are actually real.)
2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
The Two Towers is famous for two reasons: the 40-minute Helm’s Deep battle sequence and the addition of CGI character Gollum (Andy Serkis). More than 15 years later, the two achievements have yet to be surpassed!
2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
This movie was based off of J.R.R. Tolkien’s book and was produced, written, and directed by Peter Jackson. This acclaimed film won 11 Academy Awards and brought in over $1 billion worldwide. (Did you catch these hidden messages in the Lord of the Rings trilogy?)
2004: Shrek 2
Typically, sequels are never as good as the first movie, but Shrek 2 is definitely not ogre-rated. In this animated comedy, Shrek and Fiona continue their love story by going to meet Fiona’s parents in the Kingdom of Far Far Away.
2005: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Harry (Daniel Radcliffe), Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) return for their fourth year at Hogwarts. A tournament between the three schools of magic is underway, and Harry is forced to participate.
2006: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
Captain Jack Sparrow returns in the sequel to the first Pirates film, The Curse of the Black Pearl, as he and his swashbuckling friends search for the heart of Davy Jones—with the fate of their souls at stake. Talk about a lot to lose. Do you think Captain Jack ever used pirate jokes to ease the tension?
2007: Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End
Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) join forces with Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to free Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from Davy Jones.
2008: The Dark Knight
Consistently named one of the best superhero movies ever made, The Dark Knight takes viewers into the chaos of Gotham as Batman attempts to save his city from the Joker. Heath Ledger posthumously won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as the Joker. He is the only actor to ever receive this award after death.
James Cameron’s sci-fi fantasy takes place on the moon Pandora, where one man tries to stop his fellow humans from colonizing the planet and drive out the natives he has come to love. The film’s use of stereoscopy, essentially making 3D images look more real by adding depth, is considered a technological breakthrough for the industry.
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2010: Toy Story 3
Adventurous for young viewers, nostalgic for young-at-heart viewers, and tear-jerking for everyone. In the third film in this classic series, our small but mighty heroes once again must find their way home before their owner Andy leaves for college. It just goes to show that some toys were made to be more than toys.
2011: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2
The final installment of the Harry Potter series was a bittersweet moment for fans. Yes, the adventures of Harry, Ron, and Hermione reached an inevitable end, but at least it was a satisfying one, equal parts thrilling, visually stimulating, and touching. The only question that remains (and will never be unanimously answered) is whether the movies were better than the books.
2012: The Avengers
Marvel’s greatest heroes unite to defeat Loki and his evil alien army before they take over Earth and everyone on it. And when you put Iron Man, Captain America, the Hulk, Thor, Black Widow, and Hawkeye in a battle of epic proportions, you better believe it’s going to be as witty as it is action-packed.
The courageous Anna (Kristen Bell) joins forces with a mountaineer and his reindeer sidekick to find her sister, Snow Queen Elsa (Idina Menzel), and save their kingdom from winter’s deadly grip.
2014: Transformers: Age of Extinction
As Chicago lies in ruins, a new group of humans, led by Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg), helps Optimus Prime and the Autobots rise up to meet their most fearsome challenge yet: a worldwide war of good versus evil.
2015: Star Wars: The Force Awakens
Nearly 40 years after the original film, we return to a galaxy far, far away as newcomers Rey, Finn, and Poe join veteran rebels (yes, Han Solo and Chewbacca make a comeback) in the fight against Kylo Ren and his First Order. Clearly, the world was ready for more intergalactic action; currently, it’s the third-highest-grossing film of all time, raking in over $2 billion worldwide. But would it have done as well if someone other than J.J. Abrams had directed it? (These mind-blowing Star Wars facts make watching the films even more enjoyable!)
2016: Captain America: Civil War
When politicians move to install a new system of accountability for superheroes, the Avengers are split into two groups: one led by Captain America (Chris Evans), who believes superheroes should be free to defend humanity without interference, and the other led by Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.), who supports government oversight.
2017: Star Wars: The Last Jedi
The eighth installment in the main Star Wars franchise, The Last Jedi picks up where The Force Awakens left off: Rey (Daisy Ridley) develops her newly discovered abilities with the guidance of Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill), who is disturbed by the strength of her powers. Meanwhile, the Resistance prepares for battle with the First Order.
2018: Avengers: Infinity War
The Avengers have fought and destroyed otherworldly foes before, but nothing could have prepared them for Thanos (Josh Brolin): a seemingly unstoppable supervillain on the hunt for the most powerful objects in the universe, the Infinity Stones.
Next, check out every Oscar Best Picture winner ranked—from worst to best!