Throughout the world, Hollywood is synonymous with blockbusters.
Taking note of the staggering box office earnings made all across the globe, I began to wonder what a list of the highest-grossing films in America would look like. What were the most profitable films at the box office and, more importantly, what does that say about us?
For this list, I chose to go with data that took into account ticket price inflation, as a list of the top-grossing American films without it had too many Camerons, Nolans, and Lucases in it to be interesting. The data I used came from the Domestic box-office records that include Canada, so, sorry Canada; you’re in on this too.
Here it is. I now present the six top-grossing films (in descending order) in American and Canadian history (based on box-office admissions) and what that says about us as people:
1. The Ten Commandments
What it appears to say: God-fearing people
What it really says: Sex-deprived people.
... and cut! Well, that's a wrap for today.
Face it, we’re just too busy! If Cecil D. DeMille’s sprawling biblical epic taught us anything, it’s that if we can’t get it out of the movies we want it in the movies. Since 1956, Americans (and Canadians) have spent big box office money to see it a little scantier, a little wetter, with more side-boob, chiseled abs and then mash them all together a few times. So what if the historical figure of Moses probably had a stutter and was Hebrew? Americans want Heston in all his deep voiced, shirtless wonder. We never did and never will want anything less.
“Let my people go!” Alright, but we’re keeping you!
What it appears to say: We love a good love story.
What it really says: We are obsessed with disaster.
And perhaps a little something for the folks at home?
The sinking of the Titanic in 1912 was a tragedy that was always destined to become one of the top-grossing movies of all time. Americans (and Canadians) love BIG things; big cars, big buildings, big triumphs, big conquests and big falls. While the historical Titanic disaster was one of the most unsettling and unnerving moments of the 20th Century, James Cameron’s recreation managed to tell a deeply personal story complete with a little car sex, a little class warfare and a little love triangle all while forcing the viewer to wonder, “What would I have done to survive?”
“God himself could not sink this ship.” But James Cameron could … and did.
3. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
What it appears to say: We believe profound connection is deeper than simply how we look or where we come from.
What it really says: Aliens exist and everyone knows it.
I want to believe.
E.T. is a wonderful story of a boy who befriends an extra-terrestrial visitor and helps him get home despite all the odds. But, beyond the story lies a deep seeded search for truth that has captivated the human condition since the dawn of time. Humans, especially Americans (and Bigfoot loving Canadians) truly believe aliens exist, even when they say they don’t. People may decry extra-terrestrials as pure science fiction until they are blue in the face; but they are real and even the blue-faced skeptics know it. The popularity of E.T. is undeniable proof that aliens are real and that we undeniably believe that aliens are real.
End of story.
“ET phone home.” We hear you loud and clear pal!
4. The Sound of Music
What it appears to say: We like a story of human triumph set to music.
What it really says: We have a realistic and crippling fear of our own mortality and the insignificant place we hold in the universe.
The hills are alive with the sound of music; but they remain merely a pleasant distraction on the long, unnoticed march we are all making towards our own demise.
While The Sound of Music did fantastic at the box office, don’t let the catchy music and humorous, family appeal of the film blind you to the stark realities it poses to us as human beings. We find ourselves utterly alone, merely specks of dust in the winds of time making a temporary path that will ultimately lay overgrown with weeds and forgotten. We are not Maria nor the Von Trapp family, no, we are nothing. We are but spectators at our own funeral.
“Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.” Finally, I understand.
5. Star Wars: A New Hope
What it appears to say: We believe that in the epic battle between the universally good and universally evil, good will prevail.
What it really says: Alderaan had it coming.
Yes, Alderaan might be peaceful but they also should have paid their taxes.
A New Hope, underneath it all, bubbles with the writhing spirit that made America and Canada the great countries they are. So, while kids everywhere were cheering for Luke to join the rebels and take on the evil Empire, all the parents in the theater were knowingly nodding along with everything Grand Moff Tarkin had to say. There are rules for a reason and while the rebels have good spirit, they don’t keep the intergalactic trade routes moving.
“The force is strong with this one.” It’s a Rolling Stone kind of thing.
6. Gone With the Wind
What it appears to say: We believe drama is good, no matter what the time period.
What it really says: We have a deeply engrained Oedipus Complex.
It's just like Freud said.
The year 1939, aside from the being the year that the film Gone With the Wind was released, was also the year we lost the great psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. Many in the field of psychology feel that Freud’s ideas should have died with him. Too bad, Gone With the Wind didn’t let them! Does the movie reveal that we have deep, repressed feelings for certain parents that we seek in a mate? Constantly seeking to gratify and love one, while holding jealousy for the other? I don’t know! But the fact that so many people went to see it must make everything I said true.
“Great balls of fire. Don't bother me anymore, and don't call me sugar.” You sound like my father.
The movies have been and always will be, the clearest indicator of who we truly are.