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Top Grossing films of 2021

Page updated December 28, 2021

Cinematic Money in 2021

The year of 2021 started off in a mess, in the sense of box office numbers, with many a person predicting that the age of in-theater movie-watching could be drawing to a close in America, clubbed to death by two indomitable opponents: a worldwide pandemic and the rise of streaming TV.

Instead, the year 2021 ends in a much tidier fashion, with the predictable massive success of a "proven" superhero property (Spider-Man No Way Home) cleaning up like a champ, something which gives the indication that the dismal numbers of 2020 and 2021 are just speed-bumps in the difficult life of movie showmanship.

That said, there's still plenty of worry out there because 2021 at best looks like a manageable disaster for the big releasing companies that suffered huge blows to "tentpole" movies that got slaughtered by low attendance and low interest in general amid the ups-and-downs of the pandemic, while a few other known properties continued to prosper (for example, King Kong vs Godzilla).

2021 disappointments

It was a lot easier to cast off the lousy performance of, say, Wonder Woman 84 coming into 2021 from a Christmas 2020 release as another casualty of the pandemic, but films that would have easily turned profits in 2019, like Black Widow and Shang-Chi, instead struggled (or are still struggling) to hit that break-even mark while working within a much improved environment. And don't even try to parse The Suicide Squad, hyped hard across the media ("James Gunn is a genius" gushed the paid-promos) and the film was utilizing a combination of classic Hollywood sales gimmicks: it was both a sequel to a huge earner (David Ayer's highly profitable Suicide Squad of 2016) and it was titled like a reboot/remake, and it was gifted with a highly touted director/writer who is a darling in many a circle of fandom and criticdom. On top of that, it was rated R in a way to try and compete with other big superhero earners like Deadpool and Joker, but instead the film crashed like it was the cheesy third sequel in the series, which I guess it is if looked at within the usual tragic Hollywood triad: Suicide Squad (2016) made a lot of money, Birds of Prey disappointed, and Gunn's entry flopped.

At least money is flowing again

But, with all that said, even with losses at the theaters, at least money, whether from a bomb or a hit, is flowing towards the corporate production companies after the sheer agony of closed up movie theaters showing literally nothing. They've had to deal with an environment that could not be anticipated years back when the keel for many of these films that came out in 2021 were first being laid, a now vanished world where superhero films could expect to make unprecedented piles of money in a Thursday-night preview-to-Sunday night opening weekend, with only the end-of-the-year Spider-Man No Way Home performing in that now old-fashioned style.

However it has come about, this is really an old story, certainly not helped with Covid running rampant with a new mutation variety, but nonetheless not completely unfamiliar. Hollywood has many, many times profited off of a genre, then over-relied upon it, making epic films bigger and bigger until it drove all the customers away with the sheer sameness of it all.

Can 2022 be different?

Will 2022 have a more nimble industry dodging the mistakes of 2020-2021? Or will 2022 see a continued decline in overall earnings? Can the March release of The Batman revive the hopes of DC Comics' properties and whoever it is that owns Bruce Wayne these days?

Top 15 earning films 2021 domestic market

1 Spider-Man No Way Home Dec 17, 2021 Sony
$470,356,855 Domestic earnings
Worldwide: $1,057,456,855

2 Shang-Chi Sep 3, 2021 Disney
Wordlwide: $432,230,054

3 Venom: Let There be Carnage Oct 1, 2021 Sony
Worldwide: $498,118,307

4 Black Widow Jul 9, 2021 Disney
Worldwide: $379,631,351

5 F9: The Fast Saga Jun 25, 2021 Universal
Worldwide: $726,229,501

6 Eternals Nov 5, 2021 Disney
Worldwide: $399,794,222

7 No Time to Die Oct 8, 2021 United Artists
Worldwide: $774,034,007

8 A Quiet Place: Part II May 28, 2021 Paramount
Worldwide: $297,372,261

9 Free Guy Aug 13, 2021 20th Century Fox
Worldwide: $331,503,757

10 Ghostbusters: Afterlife Nov 19, 2021 Sony Pictures Comedy $117,263,847 12,801,730
Worldwide: $173,663,847

11 Jungle Cruise Jul 30, 2021 Disney
Worldwide: $220,889,446

12 Dune Oct 22, 2021 Warner
Worldwide: $393,477,357

13 Godzilla vs. Kong Mar 31, 2021 Warner
Worldwide: $467,863,133

14 Halloween Kills Oct 15, 2021 Universal
Worldwide: $131,647,155

15 Cruella May 28, 2021 Disney
Worldwide: $233,274,812

And some other highlights

22 The Suicide Squad Aug 6, 2021 Warner
Worldwide: $167,400,219

27 Tom and Jerry Feb 26, 2021 Warner
Worldwide: $132,841,123

33 The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard Jun 16, 2021 Lionsgate $38,014,727
Wordlwide: $70,060,492

36 Snake Eyes: G.I. Joe Origins Jul 23, 2021 Paramount
Worldwide: $40,064,325

45 Wonder Woman 1984 Dec 25, 2020 Warner
Worldwide: $166,534,027

47 The Green Knight Jul 30, 2021 A24
Worldwide: $18,873,029

Total Gross of All Movies $4,003,217,697
Total Tickets Sold 437,032,302

Worldwide 2021 top earning films:

  1. Spider-Man: No Way Home $1,057,456,855
  2. The Battle at Lake Changjin $902,477,724
  3. Hi, Mom $822,009,764
  4. No Time to Die $774,034,007
  5. F9: The Fast Saga $726,229,501
  6. Detective Chinatown 3 $686,257,563
  7. Venom: Let There Be Carnage $498,118,307
  8. Godzilla vs. Kong $467,863,133
  9. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings $432,230,054
  10. Eternals $399,794,222

Sources: The Numbers and Box Office Mojo

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Last Update June 25, 2021