I'd been waiting since 2002 for another Star Trek movie. It finally happened in 2009!
1. Avatar ($749 mil)
The massive success of this latest James Cameron spectacle is still a little hard to process. On the one hand, it was one of the earliest beneficiaries of the new 3D surge. On the other it was very much a spectacle, the way The Avengers was in 2012, something many people subsequently said they'd seen before. But not like this. I almost feel bad for Cameron, though, working on the sequels. This may not be a popular success that will hold up subsequent entries to mass popularity. I could be wrong. Maybe the next few stories will have Star Wars kind of scope, game-changing elements that will solidify the mythology. Or it could be like the Matrix trilogy, where further stories past the popular first one will contradict expectations and thus infuriate the geek response. Well, we'll see.
2. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen ($402 mil)
Massive success, for instance, can work both ways, as numerous films in this survey have proven. This one, for instance, is considered the worst of Michael Bay's efforts in this franchise. Yet clearly it made a pretty penny. Oh how I love reactive thought. First lots of people see something because lots of people are seeing something. Then because lots of people are seeing something, some of them either decide that lots of people are seeing something because it's good, or simply because lots of people are seeing something. And the latter will always conclude that something lots of people are seeing is by definition not worth seeing. It totally makes sense, somehow...
3. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ($301 mil)
The sixth film in this series is also the final before the two-part finale. Grosses have started to go up again, momentum is building, and the very thing I'm wondering about Avatar above and what helped make Revenge of the Fallen a massive success starts to take over. This era is all about franchises, being able to say you've experienced the series that seems like it's defining the era. Anyway, this is probably the Harry Potter most like Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings films.
4. The Twilight Saga: New Moon ($296 mil)
Well, see? Greater success for this franchise once everyone realizes it's a popular franchise.
5. Up ($293 mil)
Everyone talks about the opening sequence for this Pixar effort. Otherwise what's there to distinguish it, beyond the collar that translates what the dog thinks?
6. The Hangover ($277 mil)
A modern comedy milestone is reached and new stars are born. Some still question making more of these, but I say it's a good thing. It's a good formula, good cast, and makes for consistently good films.
7. Star Trek ($257 mil)
Not the first time a Star Trek has landed in the top ten box office successes for a given year, but still by far the biggest gross in the series, thanks to a reboot some fans always dreaded but that turned out really well. Interestingly, I was always going to appreciate the casting of the villain. Originally Nero was offered to Russell Crowe. Instead Eric Bana played him. The rest of the cast is dynamite as well, including that dude who plays the older Spock. What's his name again?
8. The Blind Side ($255 mil)
Sandra Bullock becomes massively popular, more popular than she's ever been, and totally, totally deserves it. This one's about football.
9. Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel ($219 mil)
Cringe-inducing title. But clearly kids love it.
10. Sherlock Holmes ($209 mil)
Robert Downey, Jr. in his other current franchise. Although Iron Man is bigger. What I like about this one is that it gives Jude Law, albeit in a supporting role, something popular to appear in. Finally!
Other personal highlights:
13. X-Men Origins: Wolverine ($179 mil)
15. 2012 ($166 mil)
16. The Proposal ($163 mil)
17. Fast and Furious ($155 mil)
18. G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra ($150 mil)
19. Paul Blart: Mall Cop ($146 mil)
20. Taken ($145 mil)
21. A Christmas Carol ($137 mil)
22. Angels & Demons ($133 mil)
23. Terminator Salvation ($125 mil)
25. Inglourious Basterds ($120 mil)
27. District 9 ($115 mil)
31. Watchmen ($107 mil)
35. He's Just Not That Into You ($93 mil)
37. The Ugly Truth ($88 mil)
38. Up in the Air ($83 mil)
41. Where the Wild Things Are ($77 mil)
42. Zombieland ($75 mil)
43. Coraline ($75 mil)
44. Law Abiding Citizen ($73 mil)
47. I Love You, Man ($71 mil)
49. Race to Witch Mountain ($67 mil)
54. The Time Traveler's Wife ($63 mil)
59. Funny People ($51 mil)
63. Land of the Lost ($49 mil)
66. Underworld: Rise of the Lycans ($45 mil)
75. Crazy Heart ($39 mil)
76. Surrogates ($38 mil)
77. Ninja Assassin ($38 mil)
78. Invictus ($37 mil)
79. State of Play ($37 mil)
81. The Pink Panther 2 ($35 mil)
86. The Men Who Stare at Goats ($32 mil)
87. (500) Days of Summer ($32 mil)
91. The Soloist ($31 mil)
100. The Fourth Kind ($25 mil)
107. Fantastic Mr. Fox ($21 mil)
116. The Hurt Locker ($17 mil)
122. A Perfect Getaway ($15 mil)
137. Extract ($10 mil)
146. Everybody's Fine ($9 mil)
151. Pirate Radio ($8 mil)
153. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus ($7 mil)
161. Moon ($5 mil)
168. Two Lovers ($3 mil)
181. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans ($1 mil)
193. Me and Orson Welles ($1 mil)
227. Red Cliff ($600 thou)
316. Bronson ($100 thou)
377. The Slammin' Salmon ($40 thou)
432. Killshot ($10 thou)
Source: Box Office Mojo
A special bonus! Here are my predictions for key categories in this year's Oscars, based on yesterday's announcement of the nominees: