Who are the most powerful people at the multiplex? Your kids. Family and superhero movies took the top 10 spots in the list of this year’s highest grossing films. It’s a trend that’s been on the rise since the turn of the millennium—around the time Harry Potter, Shrek, Pixar, and Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man started to make their presence known. Kids’ movies and comic book adaptations tend to be the biggest moneymakers because they’re films moviegoers tend to see in groups, they feature familiar characters, they’re widely anticipated, generate lots of buzz, and are more likely to get repeat viewings compared to other genres. All this equals ticket sales.
Here are the 10 highest-grossing films of 2016 to date (according to Box Office Mojo):
1. Captain America: Civil War ($1,153 Billion)
This is what happens when a movie franchise is created with a long-view. The story of how The Avengers turn on each other—while not turning on their friendships—could only build authentically over the course of many films. This is a conceit we saw all summer: superhero vs superhero played out in Captain America: Civil War, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Batman Vs Superman … but Marvel executed this storyline best and deserves the top spot.
2. Finding Dory ($1,028 Billion)
In a year of sequels no one asked for, this is the rare sequel everyone couldn’t wait to see. Some of the reason’s it was such a hit include:
- Finding Nemo (2003) tops many people’s favorite film list and has stayed relevant, creating a growing number of fans who wanted another story about Dory, Marlin, and Nemo.
- Dory is one of Pixar’s most beloved sidekicks and she has become a touchstone for the special needs community.
- Dory is voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, America’s national treasure, who used her talk show to promote and generate excitement for the film.
- Unlike most of 2016’s other sequels, Finding Dory is superb and satisfying.
3. Zootopia ($1,024 Billion)
Zootopia is sophisticated and clever—but as those who have seen it know, it’s not “clever as a fox.” It’s an animated crime thriller that tackles tough social issues including racism, terrorism, affirmative action, the “n” word, gender inequality, and organized crime. It avoids controversy, though, by addressing these topics subtly, metaphorically, and with adorable, fuzzy animals so you never see it coming. Younger kids won’t pick up on all these complexities—they just think Zootopia is a movie about a bullied bunny who overcomes obstacles to achieve her dream.
4. The Jungle Book ($967 Million)
Clearly, there’s an appetite for Disney’s live-action remakes: all five since Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010) have ranked among the top films of that year. But The Jungle Book had something else going for it:
- It’s a remake of a nostalgic animated classic that still holds up. The film’s audience wasn’t limited to families with children.
- It’s not a princess story; it’s a coming of age story about a boy who becomes lord of the jungle so it appealed to boys, men, and female moviegoers.
- It has a surprise ending.
- It stars voice-over talent that excites audiences, including Bill Murray as Baloo, Idris Elba as Shere Khan, and Scarlett Johannsson as Kaa.
- The CGI creatures are so astonishingly realistic that critics and moviegoers alike were thrilled — and spread the word.
5. The Secret Life of Pets ($875 Million)
This film starts with a question that intrigues many kids and adults alike: what do our pets do when we’re not there? It was good, silly fun that allowed audiences to revel and laugh at the furry companions who warm our hearts. Additionally, ticket buyers were drawn to Kevin Hart’s voice performance as vengeful bunny Snowball, who will go down in cinematic history as the most adorably psychotic villain ever.
6. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice ($873 Million)
What happens when the two most iconic, popular and beloved superheroes of all time go head to head? That is an irresistible premise to comic book fans—one that raked in nearly $900 million. However, this film had the potential to go far beyond $1 billion and be the highest-grossing movie of all time. The dark execution that included portraying our kids’ heroes as narcissistic bad guys trying to kill each other left excited audiences dumbfounded. Negative word of mouth was rampant.
7. Deadpool ($783 Million)
Deadpool is the freshest, funniest, and raunchiest superhero movie to date, and if we’re all honest with ourselves, it was the best movie of 2016. The reason it’s at No. 7 makes me respect it even more: 20th Century Fox forewent the more profitable PG-13 rating, sticking to Deadpool’s core character. The resulting R-rated film may have lost the studio money, but in doing so made it clear that Deadpool was NOT a movie for kids.
8. Suicide Squad ($746 Million)
Comic book movie concepts were turned upside down this year, especially when the villains went to work for the good guys. It’s such a brilliant idea and exactly what the genre needed to stay fresh. Superhero films tend to appeal more to guys, but Margot Robbie’s Harley Quinn made girls just as eager to see this film.
9. Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them ($718 Million)
How could a Harry Potter prequel NOT do well? The Harry Potter franchise is second only to the Marvel Cinematic Universe when it comes to box office success. Therefore, it’s not unexpected that fans both dedicated and passive headed to the theater to see if J.K. Rowling could continue the magic with new characters in a different era. The question is … will they show up for the Fantastic Beasts second film? And the fifth?
10. Doctor Strange ($653 Million)
Ant-Man, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Deadpool proved audiences don’t need to be familiar with a superhero to enjoy the film. However, Marvel upped the ante again, creating an Avengers film best described as The Matrix meets Inception … without any of those famous Avengers making an appearance. Doctor Strange is the superhero film you didn’t know you wanted so much!
Social Moms Entertainment Correspondent Tara McNamara discussed The Biggest Films of 2016 on The Insider on Dec. 27. Check out the video!