Trending: Who's really in the billion dollar club?

Avengers Assemble has become one of the biggest-grossing films of all time. Or has it? Guy Adams examines the numbers

Call me old-fashioned, but when I heard that Disney was developing a movie version of The Avengers, my mind immediately turned to Joanna Lumley with a pudding-bowl haircut, legs up to her armpits, and a highly improbable day job which involved saving modern civilisation from a series of comically evil geniuses intent on world domination.

Fortunately, for Hollywood, at least, today's filmgoers have forgotten all about Lumley, and are instead flocking to cinemas, in truly extraordinary numbers, to witness the recent movie debut of an entirely different group of Avengers, drawn from the superhero stable of Marvel Comics.

In the fortnight since it opened, Marvel Avengers Assemble, to use the flick's full name, has made more than a billion dollars at the global box office, breaking a slew of records on the way. It is already the 11th most lucrative film ever made, has been the fastest to accumulate $300m and $350m, had the highest eight-, nine- and 10-day grosses of all time, along with the biggest first and second weekends in cinema history. The movie now sits atop the charts in the UK, across Europe, and every major region except Japan – where it has yet to open. Kerching!

With a following wind, the action-packed tale of Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Thor and their jump-suited chums will now return enough dough to beat the final Harry Potter movie out of third position in the all-time blockbusters. To a film industry desperate for a good summer, after a mixed start to 2012, that's manna from heaven (or perhaps from the Tesseract). But what, exactly, has Avengers got so right?

Some will argue that it's simply a brilliant movie which got the success it deserves; critics have almost all admired it. Director Joss Whedon (he of Buffy fame) did an admirable job adapting the popular comic series for the big screen, ably supported by a stellar cast, who helped launch the film to universally laudatory reviews. Talk of Oscars may be premature (the Academy tends, in any case, to be sniffy about Studio "tentpoles") but it deserves at least a pat on the back come awards season.

Whedon also carefully exploited his product's pedigree. The principal characters in Avengers were already known quantities to filmgoers thanks to such recent films as Iron Man, Thor and Captain America.

This helped Disney sell it as a classic "four quadrant" movie which could maintain credibility among "fanboys" while also appealing to civilians. Fifty per cent of viewers have duly been over 25 years old, while women made up roughly 40 per cent of audiences so far, far higher proportions than for a normal superhero flick.

But artistic merit has never been a reliable measure of blockbuster status. Judging by the first of our accompanying league tables, listing the top 10 films of all time based on box office returns, it is perfectly possible for a mediocre movie to return historic piles of cash. Consider Avatar, by some distance the most lucrative movie in history. Or Titanic, number two in the league. Or, for that matter, any of the other titles. Good films, some of them. But works of genius? Surely not. (It's worth noting that many of the top 10 coincide with the advent of 3D, and accompanying cinema-ticket price hikes)

A far better yardstick of cinematic greatness is, instead, box office returns adjusted for inflation. To this end, consider our second top 10 (using figures compiled by the wonderful website Boxofficemojo). It is entirely bereft of movies produced in the past decade, and contains only two titles produced in the past 30 years. On this chart, Avengers Assemble sits at a mere 105th. A good performance, certainly. But it's no Gone With the Wind.



1. Avatar $2,782.3

2. Titanic $2183.4

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt 2 $1,328.1

4. Transformers: Dark of the Moon $1,123.7

5. The Lord of the Rings: the Return of the King $1,119.9

6. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest $1,066.2

7. Toy Story 3 $1,063.2

8. Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides $1,043.9

9. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace £1,026.3

10. Alice in Wonderland $1,024.3



1. Gone with the Wind $1,600.2

2. Star Wars $1,410.7

3. The Sound of Music $1,127.9

4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial $1,123.4

5. Titanic $1,074.1

6. The Ten Commandments $1,037.5

7. Jaws $1,014.3

8. Doctor Zhivago $983.1

9. The Exorcist $875.9

10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs $863.3


Figures in millions

(Source: boxofficemojo)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift won Best International Solo Female (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Shining star: Maika Monroe, with Jake Weary, in ‘It Follows’
film review
Arts and Entertainment

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith arrives at the Brit Awards (Getty)

Brits 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn's beheading in BBC Two's Wolf Hall

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Follow every rainbow: Julie Andrews in 'The Sound of Music'
film Elizabeth Von Trapp reveals why the musical is so timeless
Arts and Entertainment
Bytes, camera, action: Leehom Wang in ‘Blackhat’
Arts and Entertainment
The Libertines will headline this year's festival
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Dean Anderson in the original TV series, which ran for seven seasons from 1985-1992
Arts and Entertainment
Muscling in: Noah Stewart and Julia Bullock in 'The Indian Queen'

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn