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List of highest-grossing films in the United Kingdom

 

List of highest-grossing films in the United Kingdom

The theatrical poster for Gone with the Wind.
Gone with the Wind has generated the most admissions at cinemas in the United Kingdom

This list charts the most successful films at cinemas in the United Kingdom by box office sales, in pounds sterling and admissions. An overview of the top-earning films and record-holders is provided, as well as the highest-grossing British productions, the most successful non-English language films and the sound films that have generated the most admissions. A summary of the most popular films over the course of the last century is also included.

American productions dominate, with all films earning over £50 million at the box office either completely or partly produced by Hollywood studios. British film is well represented, with about half the films on the list qualifying as British productions; although due to the globalization of the film industry, most successful British productions since the start of the twenty-first century have been co-produced with other countries. There is no universally accepted definition of a film's nationality, so the criteria used by the sources supplying the data are applied where it is given.

Film series feature heavily, with eight James Bond films, eight Harry Potter instalments and four Tolkien adaptations included on the list. The 2012 James Bond film, Skyfall, is the top-earner and the only film to gross over £100 million. The effects of inflation are a significant contributing factor to recent films surpassing the box-office records of older films, so when considering the number of admissions Gone with the Wind (1940) is the most successful film, although this was achieved over several release cycles prior to the home video era.

Highest-grossing films by box-office revenue

Top earning films

The highest earners at the box-office are mostly American films and UK-US co-productions. Film series dominate—accounting for seventeen of the twenty-one films that have earned in excess of £50 million—including five Harry Potter instalments, Peter Jackson's first four Tolkien adaptations and the three Daniel Craig James Bond films. The most recent Bond production, Skyfall, is the highest-grossing film at the UK box office. Eleven entries are British co-productions, while fifteen are based on stories and characters created by British writers. This table only charts films released since 1989, but due to inflation it is unlikely anything released prior to then will surpass the films on the list in nominal terms.[1]

Films with earnings over £50 million since 1989[2]
Rank Title Gross
(£ million)
Year
01 * Skyfall 102.9 2012
02 Avatar 94.0 2009
03 Titanic 80.1 1998
04 Toy Story 3 74.0 2010
05 * Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 73.1 2011
06 * Mamma Mia! 68.5 2008
07 * Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone 66.1 2001
08 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 63.0 2001
09 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 61.1 2003
10 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 57.6 2002
11 Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 56.4 1999
12 * The Dark Knight Rises 56.3 2012
13 * Casino Royale 55.6 2006
14 * Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 54.8 2002
15 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest 52.5 2006
16 * Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1 52.5 2010
17 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey 52.3 2012
18 * The Full Monty 52.2 1997
19 Marvel Avengers Assemble 51.9 2012
20 * Quantum of Solace 51.2 2008
21 * Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince 50.7[3][4] 2009
Films marked as * are classified as British co-productions by the BFI.
film currently playing indicates the film's gross has increased since 23 February 2014.

Record-holders

Since 1975, eleven films may have set the record as the "highest-grossing" film. Regular tracking of box-office performance only started in 1975, so it is only possible to chart the transition of the record with any serious degree of accuracy within this period. Prior to then, The Sound of Music is accepted to be the record-holder, assuming the record from another musical, South Pacific, in 1966 and going on to treble the earnings of that film.[5][6] It is possible that some of the earlier films in the chart did not surpass the box office of The Sound of Music, and it may have retained the record until the release of E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.[nb 1] Skyfall, the twenty-third James Bond film in the long-running Eon series, is now the highest-grossing film and also the first film to gross over £100 million in setting a new record at the box-office.[10] All the record-holders since tracking began have been either partially or fully produced by Americans, although The Full Monty, Mamma Mia! and Skyfall were UK-US collaborations. Only the grosses that set records are included in the timeline; earnings from subsequent re-releases after the film conceded the record are omitted.

Timeline of the highest-grossing film record since 1975[11]
Year of
record
Title Record setting gross
(£ million)
1976 Jaws 11.8
1978 Star Wars 14.4
1978 Grease 14.7
1983 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 21.7
1990 Ghost 23.3
1993 Jurassic Park 47.9
1997 * The Full Monty 52.2
1998 Titanic 69.0
2008 * Mamma Mia![nb 2] 68.5/69.2
2010 Avatar 94.0
2012 * Skyfall 102.9[2]
Films marked as * are classified as British co-productions by the BFI.

British productions

The most successful British productions in the modern marketplace generally have American investment, with The King's Speech and The Inbetweeners Movie the only fully British films to have earned in excess of £40 million. Film series still dominate, with Harry Potter, James Bond and Batman films occupying thirteen of the top fifteen positions in the chart. The remaining films mostly comprise adaptations of popular novels, stage musicals, television series and biographical films based on renowned historical British figures. The King's Speech replaces Skyfall as the most successful British production if the criteria is restricted to solely British-produced films.

Non-English language films

Chinese and Spanish films have achieved the most success at the box-office in the twenty-first century, with three entries apiece among the top ten non-English language performers. The Passion of the Christ, directed by Mel Gibson, is the top performer and Gibson also has another entry in fourth place with Apocalypto; both films feature dead languages. Only the top two films were competitive with the top British films.

Top ten non-English language films of the twenty-first century[16]
Rank Title Language Gross
(£ million)
Year
01 The Passion of the Christ Aramaic/Latin/Hebrew 11.08 2004
02 Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon Mandarin 9.37 2001
03 Amélie French/Russian 5.01 2001
04 Apocalypto Mayan 4.11 2007
05 Hero Mandarin 3.82 2004
06 House of Flying Daggers Mandarin 3.78 2004
07 Volver Spanish 2.88 2006
08 The Motorcycle Diaries Spanish 2.75 2004
09 Pan's Labyrinth Spanish 2.72 2006
10 Dhoom 3 Hindi 2.71 2013

Highest-grossing films by box-office admissions

Up to and including 2003, the British Film Institute (BFI) estimate fifty-two sound films have generated over 10 million admissions. The European Audiovisual Observatory (LUMIERE) have been tracking UK admissions since 1996, and they estimate that twenty films have generated over 10 million admissions in that period. Due to conflicting estimates, both sets of figures are presented together here in chronological order. While the two datasets are generally consistent with each other, the estimates from LUMIERE are on average slightly lower than those from the BFI, leading to Bridget Jones's Diary being included in the BFI dataset but excluded from the LUMIERE one. The largest discrepancy is in the estimates for Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone; there is a difference of 5 million admissions, but LUMIERE do not include any UK data for 2002 while they do for other countries, which may explain the shortfall. Re-releases also exacerbate the differences in some cases: both Star Wars Episode I and Titanic were successfully re-released in 2012, and while the LUMIERE dataset includes admissions from the reissues the BFI chart does not. While The Lion King did not generate 10 million admissions during its original release, it may have accumulated 10 million admissions due to a re-release: according to the BFI it had generated over 8 million admissions during its first run in 1994, and LUMIERE estimate it generated another 2 million with its 2011 reissue. If Bridget Jones and The Lion King are included, sixty-three sound films in total have generated over 10 million admissions at UK cinemas.

Sound films with over 10 million admissions
Year Title BFI LUMIERE Ref(s)
Admissions (millions)
1938 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 28.00 [# 1]
1940 Gone with the Wind 35.00 [# 2]
1942 Mrs. Miniver 10.20 [# 3]
1943 Random Harvest 12.00 [# 4]
1944 Fanny by Gaslight 11.70 [# 5]
1945 The Wicked Lady 18.40 [# 6]
The Seventh Veil 17.90 [# 7]
I Live in Grosvenor Square 10.30 [# 8]
1946 The Bells of St. Mary's 15.20 [# 9]
Piccadilly Incident 11.50 [# 10]
1947 The Best Years of Our Lives 20.40 [# 11]
The Courtneys of Curzon Street 15.90 [# 12]
The Jolson Story 11.60 [# 13]
1948 Spring in Park Lane 20.50 [# 14]
1949 The Third Man 14.00 [# 15]
1950 The Blue Lamp 13.30 [# 16]
1951 The Great Caruso 12.40 [# 17]
1952 The Greatest Show on Earth 13.00 [# 18]
1954 Doctor in the House 12.20 [# 19]
1956 The Ten Commandments 15.00 [# 20]
1957 * The Bridge on the River Kwai 12.60 [# 21]
1958 South Pacific 16.50 [# 22]
1959 Ben Hur 13.20 [# 23]
Carry On Nurse 10.40 [# 24]
1961 * The Guns of Navarone 11.40 [# 25]
1964 Mary Poppins 14.00 [# 26]
Goldfinger 13.90 [# 27]
1965 The Sound of Music 30.00 [# 28]
Thunderball 15.60 [# 29]
1966 * Doctor Zhivago 11.20 [# 30]
1968 The Jungle Book 19.80 [# 31]
1972 The Godfather 11.00 [# 32]
1974 The Sting 11.08 [# 33]
1975 Jaws 16.20 [# 34]
The Towering Inferno 11.78 [# 35]
1977 The Spy Who Loved Me 12.46 [# 36]
1978 Star Wars 20.76 [# 37]
Grease 17.20 [# 38]
Superman 10.19 [# 39]
1982 E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial 13.13 [# 40]
1993 Jurassic Park 16.10 [# 41]
1994 The Lion King 8.08 (1994) 2.14 (2011) [# 42][# 43]
1996 Independence Day 10.79 10.58 [# 44][# 45]
1997 (*) The Full Monty 14.19 11.10 [# 46][# 47]
1998 Titanic 18.91 18.92 [# 48][# 49]
1999 Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace 13.59 12.84 [# 50][# 51]
2000 Toy Story 2 12.18 10.32 [# 52][# 53]
2001 * Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone 17.56 12.40 [# 54][# 55]
The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 15.98 15.30 [# 56][# 57]
* Bridget Jones's Diary 10.15 9.72 [# 58][# 59]
2002 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 14.40 12.35 [# 60][# 61]
* Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 14.18 12.18 [# 62][# 63]
2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 15.22 11.60 [# 64][# 65]
2004 Shrek 2 10.71 [# 66]
* Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban 10.26 [# 67]
2005 * Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire 10.41 [# 68]
2006 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest 10.78 [# 69]
* Casino Royale 10.42 [# 70]
2008 * Mamma Mia! 13.35 [# 71]
2009 * Avatar 16.51 [# 72]
2010 Toy Story 3 12.64 [# 73]
2011 * Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 12.06 [# 74]
2012 * Skyfall 15.95 [# 75]
Films marked as are classified as British films by the accompanying source.
Films marked as * are classified as British co-productions.

Most popular films

Most successful films

Highest-grossing

  • Film – Skyfall
  • British co-production – Skyfall
  • British film – The King's Speech
  • Non-British – Avatar[nb 3] or Titanic
  • Non-English language – The Passion of the Christ

Admissions

  • Film – Gone with the Wind
  • British – The Battle of the Somme or Spring in Park Lane

Overview of the twentieth century

In 2004, the British Film Institute published a list charting sound films that generated the most admissions at cinemas in the United Kingdom.[17] The list is reproduced here ranking the top fifty films released in the UK throughout the twentieth century, defined as covering the period from 1 January 1901 until 31 December 2000. The later films that appear on the BFI list—2001 onwards—are omitted from this chart for the purpose of providing an overview of the century. The second table ranks British sound productions from the twentieth century, five of which are co-productions with other countries.

Market conditions, industry practices, demographic and cultural shifts have all impacted on cinema attendance throughout the century. Cinemagoing steadily rose during the 1930s with the arrival of sound and peaked in the 1940s, with 1946 setting a record of over 1,635 million annual admissions; roughly equivalent to thirty visits to the cinema per capita. Attendance dropped off after the Second World War, mainly due to the rising popularity of television. The decline of the cinema was compounded by the rise of home video in the 1980s and reached an all-time low of 54 million admissions in 1984.[18] With declining attendance came the closure of many cinemas; a trend that was not reversed until the birth of the multiplex in the late 1980s, with annual cinema admissions climbing back up to around 176 million in 2002.[18][19] As expected, the 1940s—when cinema attendance was at an all-time high—is the most represented decade on the chart accounting for nearly a third of all entries, while the 1980s—when attendance was at its lowest—is the least represented post-war decade.[17] However, the disparity between the two extremes is not as great as the overall attendance figures suggest due to the fact that vastly more titles were distributed in the 1940s.[19]

When comparing the films in the chart, several trends emerge. British films comprise half the entries during the 1940s—as opposed to just one entry in the last twenty years of the century—due in part to the British government imposing quota caps on foreign features, as well as the inherent difficulties in importing films during the Second World War.[17] With so many men away on National service, films that performed well were also heavily skewed toward female audiences, exemplified by no fewer than four films headlined by Anna Neagle during this period.[18][19] Prior to the 1980s when home video became popular, there was also a lot more repeat viewing, with some films during the 1950s and 60s enjoying extended runs—sometimes lasting up to several years—as roadshows.[17][19] A film's content can also have a prohibitive effect on its success: most films in the chart are either family or children's films, with only two films (The Godfather and A Clockwork Orange) carrying an X rating or its replacement, the 18 certificate, denying entry to people below the age of eighteen years-old.[20]

Overall, Gone with the Wind has generated the most admissions at the UK box office with 35 million and Spring in Park Lane is the most successful British sound film with 20 million, while 1938's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is the oldest film in the chart with 28 million admissions. While the chart does not take into account silent films, 1916's The Battle of the Somme is generally regarded to be the most successful film of the silent era, with over 20 million admissions.[20]

Overview of the twenty-first century

Since the British Film Institute does not regularly track admissions, the only complete metric available for assessing a film's success is the box office revenue. Over a period of time, inflation of the currency becomes a key factor when comparing the relative success of films.[1] Prices rose rapidly at the beginning of the twenty-first century, with the cost of the average ticket increasing by over 50 per cent between 2001 and 2012.[22] To this end it is useful to adjust the box office gross for inflation and rank films by the real value of their earnings, as opposed to the nominal chart that is commonly reported. After recalculating the grosses using the HM Treasury UK GDP deflator, Skyfall remains the most successful film of the twenty-first century. The Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings series are particularly well represented, with three entries apiece in the top ten. Five films are British co-productions, while The Lord of the Rings is based on British source material and Avatar was partially funded by Ingenious Media, a British media investment conglomerate.

Top ten films of the twenty-first century adjusted for inflation[23]
Rank Title Adjusted gross
(£ million)
Year
01 * Skyfall 104.7 2012
02 Avatar 102.3 2009
03 * Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone 87.2 2001
04 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 83.1 2001
05 Toy Story 3 79.0 2010
06 * Mamma Mia! 77.3 2008
07 * Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 76.1 2011
08 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 75.9 2003
09 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 73.7 2002
10 * Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 70.1 2002
Films marked as * are classified as British co-productions by the BFI.

References

Notes
  1. ^ It is not known exactly how much The Sound of Music grossed at the box office, since accurate records were not maintained at the time. Hall and Neale (2010) states that the "foreign" rentals (the distributor's share of the box office outside of the US market after deducting the exhibitor's cut) were as high as $50 million, with approximately half coming from Britain alone.[6] The film was the top money-maker of the year for four consecutive years between 1965 and 1968,[5] during which time the US dollar to Pound sterling exchange rate was approximately $2.68 to £1 averaged over the four years,[7] meaning $25 million would translate to roughly £9.3 million. This estimate is consistent with Roger Manvell's (the first director of the British Film Academy), who estimated its earnings as of 1968 at over £7 million.[8] In post-war Britain, the rental rate—the percentage of the gross paid to the distributor by the exhibitor—for feature films stood at approximately 45 per cent,[9] so rentals of £7–9 million would be equivalent to an exhibition gross of £15–20 million in the typical case.
  2. ^ According to earlier BFI Yearbooks Mamma Mia! earned £69.2 million, beating the £69.0 million earned by Titanic; however, the 2013 edition (2014) revised the gross for Mamma Mia! to £68.5 million.[2] If the revised estimate is correct and the original gross for Titanic is not subject to any revision then Mamma Mia! would not have assumed the record.
  3. ^ The British Film Institute and the European Audiovisual Observatory disagree over classifying Avatar as a British co-production
  4. ^ The twentieth century is defined to be the period from 1 January 1901 up to 31 December 2000. However, the common perception is that the century ended on 31 December 1999—coinciding with the millennium celebrations—and if Toy Story 2 is discounted on this basis, then One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1976) would occupy the fiftieth place in the chart with 9.65 million admissions.
Sources
  1. ^ a b BFI Statistical Yearbook 2014, p. 29.
  2. ^ a b c BFI Statistical Yearbook 2014, p. 30.
  3. ^ BFI Statistical Yearbook 2012, p. 27.
  4. ^ Films that have grossed over £50 million since 2012
  5. ^ a b Hall, Sheldon (2006). "The Sound of Music". In Williams, Linda Ruth; Hammond, Michael. Contemporary American Cinema.  
  6. ^ a b Hall, Sheldon; Neale, Stephen (2010). Epics, spectacles, and blockbusters: a Hollywood history.  
  7. ^ Officer, Lawrence H. "Dollar-Pound Exchange Rate From 1791: 1965–1968".  
  8. ^  
  9. ^ Segrave, Kerry (1997). American Films Abroad: Hollywood's Domination of the World's Movie Screens from the 1890s to the Present.  
  10. ^ BFI Statistical Yearbook 2013, p. 32.
  11. ^ BFI Statistical Yearbook 2013, p. 22.
  12. ^ BFI Statistical Yearbook 2014, p. 32.
  13. ^ BFI Statistical Yearbook 2014, p. 33.
  14. ^ "UK weekend box office report" (XLS).  
  15. ^ "UK weekend box office report" (XLS).  
  16. ^ BFI Statistical Yearbook 2014, p. 56.
  17. ^ a b c d "The Ultimate Film: Researching the Chart".  
  18. ^ a b c "The Ultimate Film: Cinemagoing in Britain".  
  19. ^ a b c d James, Nick (November 2004). "Everything you knew about cinema is probably wrong".  
  20. ^ a b "The Ultimate Film: Interesting Facts".  
  21. ^ a b "The Ultimate Chart: 1–100".  
  22. ^ "UK cinema – average ticket prices 2000–2013".  
  23. ^ BFI Statistical Yearbook 2014, p. 31.
Admissions data
  1. ^ "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs".  
  2. ^ "Gone with the Wind".  
  3. ^ "Mrs. Miniver".  
  4. ^ "Random Harvest".  
  5. ^ "Fanny by Gaslight".  
  6. ^ "The Wicked lady".  
  7. ^ "The Seventh Veil".  
  8. ^ "I Live in Grosvenor Square".  
  9. ^ "The Bells of St. Mary's".  
  10. ^ "Piccadilly Incident".  
  11. ^ "The Best Years of Our Lives".  
  12. ^ "The Courtneys of Curzon Street".  
  13. ^ "The Jolson Story".  
  14. ^ "Spring in Park Lane".  
  15. ^ "The Third Man".  
  16. ^ "The Blue Lamp".  
  17. ^ "The Great Caruso".  
  18. ^ "The Greatest Show on Earth".  
  19. ^ "Doctor in the House".  
  20. ^ "The Ten Commandments".  
  21. ^ "The Bridge on the River Kwai".  
  22. ^ "South Pacific".  
  23. ^ "Ben Hur".  
  24. ^ "Carry On Nurse".  
  25. ^ "The Guns of Navarone".  
  26. ^ "Mary Poppins".  
  27. ^ "Goldfinger".  
  28. ^ "The Sound of Music".  
  29. ^ "Thunderball".  
  30. ^ "Doctor Zhivago".  
  31. ^ "The Jungle Book".  
  32. ^ "The Godfather".  
  33. ^ "The Sting".  
  34. ^ "Jaws".  
  35. ^ "The Towering Inferno".  
  36. ^ "The Spy Who Loved Me".  
  37. ^ "Star Wars".  
  38. ^ "Grease".  
  39. ^ "Superman".  
  40. ^ "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial".  
  41. ^ "Jurassic Park".  
  42. ^ "The Lion King".  
  43. ^ "The Lion King". LUMIERE.  
  44. ^ "Independence Day".  
  45. ^ "Independence Day". LUMIERE.  
  46. ^ "The Full Monty".  
  47. ^ "The Full Monty". LUMIERE.  
  48. ^ "Titanic".  
  49. ^ "Titanic". LUMIERE.  
  50. ^ "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace".  
  51. ^ "Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace". LUMIERE.  
  52. ^ "Toy Story 2".  
  53. ^ "Toy Story 2". LUMIERE.  
  54. ^ "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone".  
  55. ^ "Harry Potter and the Philosopher's". LUMIERE.  
  56. ^ "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring".  
  57. ^ "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring". LUMIERE.  
  58. ^ "Bridget Jones's Diary".  
  59. ^ "Bridget Jones's Diary". LUMIERE.  
  60. ^ "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers".  
  61. ^ "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers". LUMIERE.  
  62. ^ "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets".  
  63. ^ "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets". LUMIERE.  
  64. ^ "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King".  
  65. ^ "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King". LUMIERE.  
  66. ^ "Shrek 2". LUMIERE.  
  67. ^ "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban". LUMIERE.  
  68. ^ "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire". LUMIERE.  
  69. ^ "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest". LUMIERE.  
  70. ^ "Casino Royale". LUMIERE.  
  71. ^ "Mamma Mia!". LUMIERE.  
  72. ^ "Avatar". LUMIERE.  
  73. ^ "Toy Story 3". LUMIERE.  
  74. ^ "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2". LUMIERE.  
  75. ^ "Skyfall". LUMIERE.  
Bibliography
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