>For some reason, my dive into the top movies of 1981 got me wondering what the top grossing movies off all time were. So, I looked it up, and some of the things that came out of this exploration were quite interesting.

First off, here’s your Top 10 with the year and worldwide box office dollars.
1. Avatar (2009) $2,727,946,415
2. Titanic (1997) $1,835,300,000
3. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) $1,129,219,252
4. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) $1,060,332,628
5. The Dark Knight (2008) $1,001,921,825
6. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001) $ 968,657,891
7. Alice in Wonderland (2010) $ 960,357,949
8. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) $ 958,404,152
9. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) $ 937,000,866
10. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009) $ 933,956,980
As you can see, Avatar is far and away the top grossing movie of all time in strict dollars. Some would probably want to adjust for inflation and actual number of tickets sold. Quite frankly, I don’t care about that. What I find really interesting is that on this list, only 3 movies are sequel-less (so far): Avatar, Titanic and Alice in Wonderland. All of the rest of the movies are either sequels, or spawned a sequel. It got me thinking, what if we expanded the list?
In the Top 50, only 17 of the movies are not sequels or did not spawn sequels. In the Top 100, that number expands to 41. In other words 59% of the Top 100 movies of all time are either sequels or spawned a sequel, and 12 of those 41 are cartoons put out by Disney/Pixar.
So, basically, what does this tell us about society today?
1) Movies are important in today’s society. Yes, people make more money now than they did in the 1940’s, and it is more expensive to go to the movies today than it was back then, but movies play an important part in our culture. They always have, and I do not foresee a time when they will stop becoming relevant.
Lesson – Be connected to what is going on in society. If a movie is popular, it tells you something about society. Learn from it. I’m not suggesting that we watch whatever comes out, we have to be able to discern what is worth watching and what is not, but keep tabs on what is going on in culture because you never know how you may connect to people.
2) Originality is not the most important thing. We like sequels. If something is successful, we stick with the formula. If something is a box office bomb (a la The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Battlefield Earth, Gigli), we don’t see a sequel because there will not be one.
Lesson – Don’t be too concerned about being original. Be true to yourself, even if that means doing something that has been done before. Sometimes people aren’t true to themselves because they are afraid of being cliche. I’d rather be a cliche than irrelevant.
3) We like stories. In the same vein as the above, we like movies that show a progression in the characters. We like movies that tell a compelling story, and we don’t necessarily mind having to wait in order to get the next chapter in the story.
Lesson – Do you have a compelling story to tell? Do you show progress in your life? As a pastor, I’m all about stories. I love stories; I love epic journeys. In life we are all on a journey, and if we aren’t moving forward (and I define that by growth as a disciple of Jesus Christ), then we aren’t going anywhere.
4) Children & youth make important financial decisions. With so many of these movies being animated features (16 of the Top 100), and so many more being appropriate for the under 18 crowd, it shouldn’t surprise anybody that children and youth have more say than we think they do in today’s society. Listen to the younger generation, they are telling you what they want. Of course, as anybody with kids will tell you, what they want and what they need are sometimes two different things.
Lesson – Teach your children how to make good decisions, not just in the financial realm, but in all aspects of life because they are already making them, whether we like it or not.