Box Office Top 10: One-Word Title Movies

One of the first tentpole films scheduled for release post-shutdown is Tenet, debuting starting August 26 overseas and September 3 domestically. That one-word title runs counter to the increasing 2010s trend of longer titles, from Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2.

Looking at the highest-grossing film domestically from each year of the 1980s, one had a single-word title: Batman in 1989. Two did in the 1990s: Aladdin in 1992 and Titanic in 1997. Two did again in the 2000s: Spider-Man in 2002 and Avatar in 2009. Yet none did in the 2010s.

As the summer movie season (such as it is) rolls on, Boxoffice Pro presents the 10 highest grossing films with one-word titles.

Note: this list is ordered by domestic revenue earned during a film’s original theatrical run. It does not take into account admissions, re-releases, or figures adjusted for inflation. 

#1: Avatar

James Cameron’s 2009 3-D science-fiction fantasy became the highest grossing film of all time both domestically and globally, a title that it held onto for decades. The film’s original run total of $749.7 million now ranks third domestically, behind Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Avengers: Endgame. Its $2.79 billion global total ranks second behind Endgame. An Avatar sequel is currently scheduled for release on December 21, 2022, along with three subsequent sequels slated for 2024, 2026, and 2028.

#2: Titanic

“I’m king of the world” indeed. James Cameron claims the top two slots on this list, as the writer/director’s 1997 historical epic earned $600.7 million during its original theatrical run. Like Avatar before it, Titanic became the highest grossing film of all time both domestically and globally at the time of release; it now ranks 10th and third, respectively. The film spent 15 weekends atop the box office and 26 weekends in the top 10, both marks unmatched by any release since. 

#3: Spider-Man

With the hyphen, it’s technically one word. There have now been eight official Spider-Man films, with an untitled ninth installment scheduled for release December 17, 2021. But it all started with 2002’s original. Webslinging to the first $100 million opening weekend in history, the movie earned $403.7 million domestic during its original theatrical run. Even without adjusting for ticket price inflation, that remains the top-grossing Spider-Man installment to this day. (The runner-up is 2019’s Spider-Man: Far From Home with $390.5 million.)

#4: Frozen

The movie that launched a billion parental admonitions of “If you play that soundtrack one more time…,” Disney’s 2013 animated musical was a massive smash. Its box office total was cool as ice with $400.7 million domestic, while its 16 weekends in the top 10 were the most of any film from the 2010s. Globally it took in $1.28 billion, edging out Iron Man 3 to become the year’s the top film worldwide. 2019 sequel Frozen II only improved upon its predecessor, with $477.3 million domestic and $1.45 billion globally.

#5: Deadpool

One of only two R-rated entries on this list, 2016’s profane superhero spoof earned $363.0 million. Parodying numerous tropes of the genre, the action comedy defied even the most optimistic expectations at the box office, becoming the sixth-biggest title of the year domestically. 2018’s Deadpool 2 kept the green coming with $318.4 million during its original run. 

#6: Aladdin [2019]

Disney’s live action musical rode a magic carpet to $355.5 million domestic, good for eighth place of 2019 and 11 weekends in the top 10. The movie also saw another wish granted with $1.05 billion globally, making it the year’s ninth-biggest title worldwide. If you’re wondering where 1992’s original animated Aladdin ranks on this list, while its $217.3 million domestic during its original run made it the top film of the year, rising ticket prices over subsequent decades relegate it to #33 on this dollars-based list.

#7: Zootopia

Taking place in a world where talking animals abound, from rabbits as police officers to sloths running the DMV, Disney’s animated original earned $341.2 million domestic to become the eighth-biggest film of the year. Globally it ranked even higher, taking in $1.02 billion as the year’s fourth-largest release. No sequel has been officially announced, a rarity for a Disney billion dollar property.

#8: Minions

The animated Despicable Me and Despicable Me 2 had already proven huge hits, albeit with multiple-word titles, when 2015’s spinoff Minions focused on the franchise’s barely-verbal yellow creatures. Earning $336.0 million domestic, it became the sixth-biggest release of the year. Globally it ranked slightly better, with $1.15 billion making it the year’s fifth-biggest title. The franchise’s fifth film and direct Minions sequel Minions: The Rise of Gru is currently scheduled for release on July 2, 2021.

#9: Joker

The other R-rated entry on this list, the gritty and bloody portrayal of Batman’s nemesis and his descent into madness wasn’t joking with $335.4 million. Nine films earned $1 billion globally in 2019, but Joker was by far the least likely as the only non-family-friendly entry among them, surprisingly out-grossing the likes of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker and Toy Story 4Joker earned a Best Actor Academy Award for Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of the title character. 

#10: Aquaman

Given the character’s relative lack of prior name recognition compared to other DC Comics characters, few could have predicted Aquaman would out-earn the likes of Man of SteelBatman v. Superman, or Justice League. Yet with $335.0 domestic, 2018’s superhero title starring Jason Momoa became the fifth-biggest film of the year. It was also the year’s fifth-biggest release globally, with $1.14 billion. An Aquaman sequel is currently scheduled for release December 16, 2022.

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