1. Avengers ($623 mil)
Well, now we know that the whole Avengers cycle thing really, really worked. At first it was just Iron Man, but then (and increasingly, in 2011) other members of the team got their own movies, and then they all came together, some of them wearing their mother's drapes, and Hulk in his third cinematic incarnation finally proved a wild success. And suddenly Joss Whedon is no longer just a cult sensation but responsible for one of the largest grossing movies in history. So naturally his cult fans wonder if this will translate to more Browncoat love.
2. The Dark Knight Rises ($448 mil)
Well, we all kinda knew already that audiences weren't going to flock to a Christopher Nolan movie just to see Heath Ledger's last performance, after Inception, so the success of this conclusion to his Batman trilogy was assured. Some fans were concerned that after the above movie's huge success, maybe the superhero thing was already taken at last summer's box office. Or believed it could make more money. And then Aurora happened. Chances are the shooting didn't have any real effect on the movie's success, but it did put a decidedly more negative spin on its release.
3. The Hunger Games ($408 mil)
Jennifer Lawrence had critics loving her at Winter's Bone. The books this movie franchise is based on were already hyped as the Twilight Saga for serious (young) readers. But the huge success of this movie was still a surprise, although slightly less so in hindsight. We're a franchise culture now, yo, and this is definitely the followup to the Twilight Saga obsession and has greater crossover appeal.
4. Skyfall ($299 mil)
Daniel Craig's James Bond returns! And Javier Bardem is hyped as the greatest villain in the 007 franchise in years!
5. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 ($290 mil)
The story of twinkly vampires and the women who love them concludes! I realize that I've been apparently dismissive about these movies, but really, they're not so bad, probably a case where if I say the movies are better than the books, book lovers won't protest too much.
6. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ($278 mil)
Not quite the huge success of the original Peter Jackson foray into Middle Earth, but then there are so many more franchises to choose from these days.
7. The Amazing Spider-Man ($262 mil)
The controversial reboot of a franchise begun a decade earlier found success much like the above movie in 2012, pretty respectable for having other franchises being slightly more immediately relevant.
8. Brave ($237 mil)
Pixar starts to seem a little less like Pixar with this one and a little more like Disney. Did the studio check that new contract closely?
9. Ted ($218 mil)
Seth MacFarlane has a whole franchise on TV, but chances are this is a one-off, making it only one of two movies not having anything to do with franchises in this top ten!
10. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted ($216 mil)
Seems like critics liked this one because as far as I can tell it's an animated version of a European film.
Other personal highlights:
13. Men in Black 3 ($179 mil)
20. Prometheus ($126 mil)
22. Django Unchained ($125 mil)
27. Argo ($111 mil)
30. Life of Pi ($94 mil)
37. John Carter ($73 mil)
41. Looper ($66 mil)
44. Mirror Mirror ($64 mil)
52. The Dictator ($59 mil)
53. Total Recall ($58 mil)
55. American Reunion ($57 mil)
57. This Means War ($54 mil)
64. The Grey ($51 mil)
70. Savages ($47 mil)
79. Silver Linings Playbook ($41 mil)
82. End of Watch ($40 mil)
85. Lawless ($37 mil)
98. Zero Dark Thirty ($29 mil)
100. The Five-Year Engagement ($28 mil)
101. Cloud Atlas ($27 mil)
109. Haywire ($18 mil)
111. A Thousand Words ($18 mil)
118. The Master ($16 mil)
120. The Man with the Iron Fists ($15 mil)
121. Seven Psychopaths ($15 mil)
122. Killing Them Softly ($14 mil)
133. Beasts of the Southern Wild ($11 mil)
141. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World ($7 mil)
224. Coriolanus ($700 thou)
263. Liberal Arts ($300 thou)
341. Iron Sky ($100 thou)
382. Deadfall ($60 thou)