A pile of American dollar bills.
Unsplash | Giorgio Trovato

Movies We Never Realized Made Over A Billion Dollars

Did you know that, out of the countless movies that have ever hit theaters, only 48 of them have grossed over a billion dollars as of June, 2022? Some of them, like Avatar (2009) make perfect sense. But there are others that seem a little unexpected.

Maybe these movies were a little forgettable. Maybe they weren't well received. Whatever the reason, they did way better at the box office than most of us would have ever expected.

Frozen II (2019) - $1,450,026,933.

It's no surprise that 2013's Frozen is in the billion dollar club. But its less-than-stellar follow-up actually ended up grossing more worldwide. I guess when it came to the sequel, people really couldn't "let it go."

Alice in Wonderland (2010) - $1,025,468,216

What makes this so unexpected is the fact that this movie wasn't very well received. But I guess hearing Tim Burton and Alice in Wonderland together in a sentence was enough to get people to turn out to theaters.

Joker (2019) - $1,074,445,730.

Superhero movies generally do well in the box office. But a standalone movie about a supervillain? I can't imagine there were a lot of people expecting Joker to pull in the numbers it did, especially with its R rating.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) - $1,123,794,079.

2007's Transformers was a bit of a cultural reset back in the day. Sure, the Michael Bay action flick based off the titular robots wasn't a revolution in storytelling, but the fact that the third movie in the series was the first to hit over $1 billion just shows that people like Transformers and that's all there is to it.

Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014) - $1,104,054,072.

One movie in Michael Bay's Transformers series grossing over $1 billion is surprising enough, but two of them, in fact, got to do it. What makes this even more surprising is the fact that it was a critical failure. But that didn't matter to audiences, apparently.

Beauty and the Beast (2017) - $1,273,576,220.

I think it's fair to say that the 2017 live action remake of Beauty and the Beast doesn't hold a candelabra to the original 1991 animated version. But it was just one of the growing trend of Disney remaking their animated movies into live action features, and it was at least good enough to draw a huge audience upon release.

Skyfall (2012) - $1,108,569,499.

Daniel Craig's third outing as Bond was incredibly successful. In fact, it's the most successful James Bond movie of all time, and the only one to crack a billion dollars in the box office. I guess people had a lot of faith in this film, despite the fact that the previous James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace (2008), wasn't nearly as good.

Jurassic Park (1993) - $1,033,928,303.

Releasing nearly three decades ago now, Jurassic Park is the oldest movie to ever gross more than a billion dollars. Though, it didn't reach that point until after its 2013 theatrical re-release (which, fun fact, was when I saw it for the first time).

Despicable Me 3 (2017) - $1,034,800,131.

Any good kids movie can rake in a lot of cash at the box office, so any movie with minions in it shouldn't be a surprise. But what's the most unexpected is the fact that it took three movies before the Despicable Me series could crack a billion. Maybe because it was riding on the success of 2015's Minions spinoff.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011) - $1,045,713,802.

Maybe people were just really excited that Penelope Cruz was set to join the Pirates cast, but this movie had a massive draw. Which is a really good thing, considering it's the most expensive movie ever made.

Aladdin (2019) - $1,050,693,953.

Another live-action adaptation that ended up doing super well, despite some issues that people ended up having with production. Still, the end product was still quite fun, and it did enough to draw a big crowd into theater seats.

Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (1999) - $1,027,044,677

At the time, it makes perfect sense that the prequel to one of the most beloved space movies of all time did super well during its theatrical run. But thinking about it more than two decades later, it honestly feels unreal. Mostly because it wasn't very well received.

Zootopia (2016) - $1,023,784,195.

In all honesty, this one shouldn't be nearly as surprising as it is. Zootopia won a bunch of awards, including the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film. Also, it was, like, really good. But it feels like a movie that no one talks about anymore.

The Fate of the Furious (2017) - $1,236,005,118

The Fast & Furious franchise gained steady popularity and success since its first entry in 2001. While Furious 7 (2015) is the highest grossing entry to date, the 2017 sequel did really well too, especially since it was the first of the series to not have Paul Walker.

Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) - $1,066,179,747

On Stranger Tides wasn't the only Pirates of the Caribbean film to gross more than $1 billion in the box office. This earlier entry is the second in the franchise, which probably benefited from the massive popularity of the first film.

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) - $1,146,436,214

The success of The Lord of the Rings trilogy showed the being a geek is actually pretty cool. Sure, the last of the trilogy was the only one to surpass that sweet, sweet one billion mark, but that just shows how many people were waiting for the thrilling conclusion.

Captain Marvel (2019) - $1,128,274,794.

I guess these days, it should be more surprising if an MCU movie doesn't make at least a billion dollars in the box office. While this film wasn't as strong as others in the franchise, it still managed to draw in quite the crowd.

Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom (2018) - $1,309,484,461

2015's Jurassic World being a billion dollar hitter is believable. 2018's Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, on the other hand, kind of doesn't. But I guess it's just another lukewarm sci-fi action movie that people still really wanted to see for some reason.

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) - $1,081,142,612.

I think, for me, it's mostly the fact that 2008's The Dark Knight is so memorable, that it kind of overshadows its own sequel. Not quite enough to keep it from doing amazingly in the box office, though.

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) - $1,056,057,273

What's so surreal about the success of this movie is the fact that it had such a tumultuous production. It went through extensive reshoots which drastically changed the tone of the film. For the better, it seems.