ALL-TIME BOX OFFICE (by dollars)

The charts below show the top ten movies of  All-Time Box Office, as they would have been calculated at the end of each calendar year.

The dollar amounts are for domestic gross only. (U.S. and Canada) Many high-ranking films have been released multiple times over the past century, and the dollar amounts reflect that.

Dollar amounts for many earlier films are estimated due to missing or inexact data.

Follow this link to see the adjusted all-time box office record tables.

Ten different films have held the #1 spot:

The Birth of a Nation (1919-1939)
Gone with the Wind (1940-1955; 1967-1975)
The Ten Commandments (1956-1964)
The Sound of Music (1965-1966)
Jaws (1975-1977)
Star Wars (1978-1981; 1997)
E.T. (1982-1996)
Titanic (1998-2009)
Avatar (2010-2015)
The Force Awakens (2016-Present)

Best Selling Movies of All Time thumbnail

ALL-TIME BOX OFFICE RECORDS (by ticket sales)

The charts below show the top ten movies of all-time box office records, as they would have been calculated at the end of each calendar year. The amounts shown are the estimated number of tickets sold domestically. (U.S. and Canada)

Many high-ranking films have been released multiple times over the past century, and the ticket amounts reflect that. Several films, such as Avatar and The Birth of a Nation, sold tickets at premium prices. Their ticket sale numbers may be lower than would be expected from looking at their total gross.

Follow this link to see the all-time box office records tables in raw gross.

Five different films have held the #1 spot:

Mickey (1919-1937)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938-1946)
Gone with the Wind (1947-1957; 1967-Present)
The Ten Commandments (1958-1964; 1966)
The Sound of Music (1965)

Each curated list at FilmsRanked.com takes into account genre acclaim, prestige, popularity, and awards. They can serve as an introduction to a genre while also challenging film buffs who are looking to round out their knowledge.

ELECTION MOVIES TOP 10

FANTASY TOP 10

HORROR TOP 10

MUSICALS TOP 10

WESTERNS TOP 10

SUPERHERO FILMS TOP 10

SILENT TOP 10

INVESTIGATION: Just what *are* Arendelle’s major exports?

Like many parents of young children, I’ve spent a lot of this time of quarantine watching Disney +. A lot of time.

There are a lot of questions to puzzle over in the Frozen franchise. Was Anna included in Elsa’s seclusion or not? She sings as though she’s never been outside the castle, and yet she has a horse and seems to know her way around the kingdom. Why would she be included? And who enforced that rule after her parents’ deaths? For that matter, Elsa’s delayed coronation implies a period of regency, yet no one in Frozen or Frozen II appears to have played that role. There are no advisers or ministers to manage the kingdom while Elsa and Anna go off on their adventures — the royal siblings appoint outsiders Prince Hans of the Southern Isles and Grandpa Troll to watch over Arendelle.

But the biggest mystery in the world of Arendelle is the economy.

The Duke of Wesleton calls Arendelle his “most mysterious trade partner.” What is so mysterious? What goods does Wesleton trade with Arendelle? What are the “riches” Wesleton plans to exploit?

Arendelle is based on the nation of Norway in the early 19th Century. The Disney Wiki uses information from the short sequel Frozen Fever to narrow the setting down to an exact month:

The time period for Frozen is set in July 1839. In the upper left-hand corner of the geographical map shown in Frozen Fever, it is suggested by a set of Roman numerals that the year in which Anna turned nineteen was 1840. (MDCCCXL is the exact numeral order.)

Map from Frozen Fever
The Economic History Association article on the Economic History of Norway
 tells us more about this era:

During the last decades of the eighteenth century the Norwegian economy bloomed along with a first era of liberalism. Foreign trade of fish and timber had already been important for the Norwegian economy for centuries, and now the merchant fleet was growing rapidly. Bergen, located at the west coast, was the major city, with a Hanseatic office and one of the Nordic countries’ largest ports for domestic and foreign trade.

When Norway gained its independence from Denmark in 1814, after a tight union covering 417 years, it was a typical egalitarian country with a high degree of self-supply from agriculture, fisheries and hunting.

Norway’s economy didn’t really take off until 1842, just after the events of Frozen. This was due to trade liberalization and the decision by farmers to switch from arable land to livestock production. Exports of timber, fish, and ships also skyrocketed.

But real-world Norwegian economic history isn’t reflected in what we see in the film.

When Wesleton sees Prince Hans handing out blankets, he angrily confronts him saying:

“Are we just expected to sit here and freeze while you give away all of Arendelle’s tradeable goods?”

Blankets? Blankets are Arendelle’s main export?

No way.

An article at The Fandomentals concludes ice is Arendelle’s primary export:

From the get-go, ice is established as an important industry. And for good reason. As our main man Frederic Tudor showed us around the turn of the 19th century, ice can be quite a valuable commodity. Before the establishment of the ice trade, it was only an item for the aristocracy. But harvesting and storing it in a large quantity allows for the preservation of foods throughout the year without an over reliance on salt, which also in-turn reduces dependency on expensive spices that were used to balance a meal’s flavor-profile.

As strange as it seems, Frozen very much presents ice as the center of Arendelle’s economy.

This presents a disturbing possibility. King Agnarr sequesters his daughter Elsa and tells her not to use her powers. He says this is because he wants to protect his other daughter, Anna. This rationale never really makes sense to most viewers. And why erase Anna’s memory as well? That hardly seems necessary.

But these actions *do* make sense if King Agnarr is trying to protect his country’s economy.

Imagine you’re Prime Minister of Kuwait. Your economy is heavily dependent on exporting oil. Then one day, a girl is born who starts running around, creating oil out of thin air. And not just a little bit of oil — she can generate enough oil to fill a palace ballroom in less than a minute.

If you let her, she’ll give free oil to everyone. Prices will plummet. Your nation’s businesses will collapse, and unemployment will skyrocket. People like Kristoff will starve to death. Within months, your subjects will be brandishing pitchforks at the palace door.

So you lock her up.

One day, when she’s older and can understand, you’ll let her use her power. An inexhaustible supply of oil can bring your nation great riches, as long as it’s properly managed.

In the meantime, you’ll go on a secret voyage to learn more about exactly how the girl got her powers. Obviously, no one else can be trusted with this knowledge — you and your spouse will have to go yourselves.

Hopefully, the boat is waterproof.

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Lillian Gish and Richard Barthelmes in Broken Blossoms

 Broken Blossoms Lillian Gish Richard Barthelmes

 

Broken Blossoms (1919) – dir. D.W. Griffith

In 1915, D. W. Griffith made The Birth of a Nation, and spent the rest of his life trying to prove he wasn’t racist. The passage of time allows us to view Griffith’s racism from a distance that we don’t have with contemporary white liberal filmmakers.  He honestly seemed to believe that Birth of a Nation – in which the Ku Klux Klan saves a white woman from being raped by a man in blackface – wasn’t racist.  To prove his point, he made Intolerance in 1916 and Broken Blossoms or The Yellow Man and the Girl in 1919.

Broken Blossoms seems to be a genuine attempt to show sympathy for Chinese immigrants.  Cheng Haun, played by Richard Barthelmess, is a peaceful man who rescues Lillian Gish from her abusive father.

Unfortunately, Griffith was too blind to his own prejudice to realize that his use of condescending stereotypes and “yellowface” actor might be offensive.

Richard Brookhiser popularized the term “numinous negro” in a National Review article in 2001.  Brookhiser and other commentators describe the “numinous negro” as a black person who is treated as “spiritually elevated” and saintly by white people.  He or she is de-Africanized, feminized and made “safe.” The character is portrayed as a selfless, uncomplaining servant who exists for the purpose of helping the white character and promoting racial harmony.  He asks for nothing in return from the main, white protagonist.

Nearly all of which applies to Huan, in Broken Blossoms.  He is not de-Chineseized, but his ethnicity is exoticized instead.  As Roger Ebert notes, Huan is totally de-sexualized.

 Broken Blossoms Title Card

And in “Broken Blossoms” he told perhaps the first interracial love story in the movies–even though, to be sure, it’s an idealized love with no touching.

In our pop culture history, D. W. Griffith is the iconic example of the defensive, failing reaction that white Americans often give when accused of racism.

Even if you’re not interesting in studying stereotypes, Broken Blossoms might still be worth seeing.  It’s a classic of melodrama and Lillian Gish gives perhaps the best silent performances by an actress I’ve seen.  Her smile will break your heart.

It’s available for free at The Internet Archive although the quality there isn’t as high as on DVD or on Netflix where it’s currently available for streaming.