American movie theaters are experiencing a customer boom, all movies released at the beginning of 2017 earning more than the studios predicted with the total domestic box office revenue reaching a jaw-dropping 2.14 billion in only three months. With Logan and Beauty and the Beast earning more than producers ever dreamed of, and blockbuster hits like Thor: Ragnarok, Justice League, and Star Wars: The Last Jedi coming to the big screen at the end of the year, it’s going to be a productive year for the entertainment industry.
Nonetheless, will any of the newcomers be able to sell more tickets than the highest-grossing movies of all time? Only time – and domestic audiences – will tell. Before we start cheering for the Last Jedi or hold our breaths while Aquaman joins Batman and Wonder Woman on the big screen, let us take a look at timeless cinematic masterpieces that earned a fortune at the box office.
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Directed: William Cottrell, David Hand
Starring: Adriana Caselotti, Harry Stockwell, Lucille La Verne
Disney’s first animated feature tells the tale of Snow White – a princess robbed of her throne by her evil stepmother who is also a beauty-obsessed witch. With the aid of the seven dwarves, Snow White manages to learn the values of hard work, find true love in the shape of a Prince Charming that happened to roam the woods while the dwarves were holding a funeral for the princess, and teach children never to accept fruit from strange-looking old ladies.
A merrier twist on the Grimm fairy tale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarves was extremely well-received by audiences worldwide, helping Disney become the massive empire it is today.
Directed: William Friedkin
Starring: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair
The Exorcist is, and most probably will remain, the most profitable horror movie ever made. Following the story of Regan, a teenage girl who started showing all basic symptoms of possession – complete with levitation, speaking in tongues, and the ability to twist her head at 360 degrees – and her atheist mother’s attempt to find a reasonable explanation for her daughter’s deteriorating condition. As the movie progresses, things become darker, highly-sensitive topics are explored, and, as with every Hollywood production, good prevails, but it does so at a high cost.
Regan’s story – masterfully portrayed by Linda Blair – started a new trend in horror movies, bringing a Catholic well-guarded secret practice into the spotlight. While dozens of other movies inspired by real events have tried to reach the standard imposed by The Exorcist, none have prevailed.
Directed: David Lean
Starring: Omar Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin
Adapted from the titular novel written by Boris Pasternak, the movie follows the story of Yury Zhivago, master of both poetry and medicine. The Russian poet-physician is a happily married man until the day he meets – and madly falls in love with – the wife of a controversial political activist.
Following a heart-wreaking tour of the hardships of the War to End all Wars and the subsequent October Revolution, Doctor Zhivago tells a profoundly Russian tale that Dostoyevsky himself would have been proud of all plot twists, realistic imagery, and overall heartache.
Directed: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Roy Scheider, Robert Shaw, Richard Dreyfuss
In 1975, Steven Spielberg managed to kickstart a national hysteria, birthing a new wide-spread phobia as people left cinemas flirting with the idea of never leaving mainland again in their lives. Although shark attacks kill about five individuals per year, Jaws birthed a new best-selling Hollywood monster as the fish became the international symbol for the perils that lie beyond the shore.
The plot is simple as far as horror movies go – a beautiful young woman goes skinny dipping only to end up the lunch of a great white shark. Following the incident, the film’s protagonist begs the mayor to close the town’s beaches, but profit prevails causing other to lose their lives in the jaws of the great white shark.
As in the story of the killer white whale, the main character embarks on a perilous journey, his mind set on killing the vicious animal. Harpoons, gnarled captains, and supernatural animal intelligence and strength are all paraded – the scene where the shark takes a big bite from the boat remaining an iconic image that sold millions worth of movie-related merchandise. The conflict between man and nature ends in favor of the first, proving that Spielberg loved his Melville in middle-school.
The Ten Commandments
Directed: Cecil B. DeMille
Starring: Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Edward G. Robinson
As the name suggests, the movie depicts the life of Moses who, during his adulthood, discovers his Hebrew origins, embarking on a quest to find God and learn about his mission on Earth. Moses then relinquishes all the privileges that came with the favors of Egypt’s pharaoh and risks his life while liberating his people from horrendous slavery, crossing the Red Sea with the help of divine powers that release a plague on their oppressors.
In the end, the man manages to spread the word of God, but not before having to overcome false idolatry, and other sins that were then explicitly banned by the Ten Commandments that Moses receives from God himself on the top of Mount Sinai.
Directed: James Cameron
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Winslet, Billy Zane
Possibly the saddest and shortest love story in the world, Titanic managed to attract millions of people to the movie theaters, all leaving the screening with big tears dripping down their faces. A movie that features them all – from the story of a talented boy departing for a better life, a loveless arranged marriage, opulent jewelry, the contrast between luxury and extreme poverty, rich people dining with seven kinds of forks vs. poor people dancing with beer mugs in their hands, a steamy sex-scene, and a gut-wrecking finale, few are those who don’t tear up at the sound of the penny whistle solo from My Heart Will Go On.
Directed: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote
Yet another hit from Steven Spielberg makes it to the list. This time, the director relinquishes his love for middle-school buildungsromans, and directs a kid movie that quickly became an adult favorite. Spielberg’s talent for creating for history-writing shots can be seen again as there is no millennial or baby boomer who can’t recognize the image featuring Elliot riding his bike, ET in the basket, full moon in the background.
For those of you who cannot remember the plot – as it is inconceivable to think that there are still people in the country who have not seen this tear-jerking masterpiece – E.T. is the story of a friendly extraterrestrial who crashed on Earth only to discover the power of friendship.
The Sound of Music
Directed: Robert Wise
Starring: Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer, Eleanor Parker
The hills are alive, with the sound of muuusic [Admit it, Julie Andrew’s voice is now echoing in your mind].
The story of the Von Trapp children, their whimsical ex-nun babysitter, and the widowed profoundly Austrian ex-military family head takes viewers into a heartfelt musical journey with a bitter end. While the most of the movie is colorful, joyful, and filled with elated songs about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, the end turns very dark, very soon. The public is reminded that Captain Von Trapp is a hard-headed Austrian who never fails to show pride is his country of origin even though Germany’s newly-elected Chancellor imposes different views on nationalism.
As credits roll while the Von Trapps flee towards the mountains with the aid of Maria’s friends, one cannot stop but wonder at the nature of perils the family had to face before reaching Switzerland, especially with an army of Nazis hunting them down.
Directed: George Lucas
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
Long ago, in a galaxy far far away, when Star Wars first reached the big screens, George Lucas was thrilled that his sci-fi movie was gaining popularity fast. Little did he know that forty years later, Luke, Leia, Han, and Darth Vader would still have a cult following, people officially declaring themselves members of the Jedi religion, merchandise selling like crazy, and all sequels ranking higher and higher at the box office.
Any attempt to retell the plot of Star Wars would be futile as one knows that the universe has become so intricate that it now has a life of its own. All in all, Han shot first!
Gone with the Wind
Directed: Victor Fleming
Starring: Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable, Leslie Howard
Probably the only touching movie dealing with the events of the Civil War as experienced by the Southern aristocracy, Gone with the Wind will remain the most heartbreaking love story of all times.
Adapted from the titular novel written by Margaret Mitchell, the movie managed to stay faithful to the book only through Vivien Leigh’s struggles, the actress carrying a copy of the book on set, arguing with the director, and doing everything in her power bring Scarlett O’Hara to life exactly as Mitchell created her.
A powerful, beautiful, feisty Southern woman torn apart between her love for bad-boy Rhett Buttler and perfect – yet married – Ashley Wilkes, Scarlett is tested against all odds, seeing her family plantation in ruins, losing both her child and the love of her life, and ultimately having to figure out how to survive all on her own.
As the three-part movie comes to a close, audiences are left to ponder on Scarlett’s words of wisdom, a sentence that has been echoing in the heart and mind of all outworn individuals ever since the novel was first published in 1936. A call to arms to both the characters who were now facing the aftermath of the Civil War and the audience who was preparing for WW2, Scarlett’s final words are now a mantra repeated by those who cling to hope, rising from their own ashes.
After all, tomorrow is another day.
Image Source: Wikipedia