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10 Most popular domestic box office weekends of all time

BY Alice Gawthrop

21st Jul 2023 Film & TV

10 Most popular domestic box office weekends of all time

In the height of blockbuster season, new research has revealed some of the most popular domestic box office weekends of all time, including iconic films such as Pulp Fiction and Gone Girl

With two new blockbusters on cinema screens today (are you seeing Barbie or Oppenheimer first?), we look back at the most popular domestic box office opening weekends of all time, revealed in research by Betway

Popularity was measured by a unique index score—figures were generated from Box Office Mojo, Rotten Tomatoes and Rating Graph, with the lower the overall index score, the higher the ranking. Here are the ten winning weekends! 

10. American Beauty (1999)

Sam Mendes’ black comedy about a man in a midlife crisis who becomes infatuated with his teenage daughter’s best friend takes tenth place. Considered to be a satire of the American middle class’s perceptions of beauty and personal satisfaction, it achieved widespread critical acclaim and was the second-best-reviewed film of 1999, right behind Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich.

9. The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)

Directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, The Wolf of Wall Street is based on Jordan Belfort’s memoir of the same name. It traces his career as a stockbroker in New York City as he navigates and engages in corruption and fraud, ultimately resulting in his arrest. The film stars Barbie herself, Margot Robbie, in her breakthrough role as Belfort’s second wife. 

8. Django Unchained (2012)

Quentin Tarantino’s entry to the top ten box office weekends is Django Unchained, a revisionist Western that follows Django Freeman (Jamie Foxx), an enslaved Black man who trains with a German bounty hunter and ultimately aims to be reunited with his wife Broomhilda (Kerry Washington). Like many Tarantino films, it was not without controversy. Some commentators felt that the heavy use of the n-word was inappropriate and undermined by a lack of accuracy in the film’s depiction of slavery. In an interview with Vibe, filmmaker Spike Lee called the film “disrespectful to my ancestors”. 

7. Gone Girl (2014)

Another book adaptation directed by David Fincher, Gone Girl comes in at number seven. It stars Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, who becomes the prime suspect in the disappearance of his wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike. Pike’s performance was critically acclaimed, earning her nominations for an Academy Award, a BAFTA and a Golden Globe for Best Actress, while Gillian Flynn’s adapted screenplay won a Critics’ Choice Award. 

6. It (2017)

The first of a two-part adaptation of Stephen King’s It, this horror introduces viewers to 12-year-old Bill Denbrough (Jaeden Lieberher) and his friends as they face up to supernatural forces in their small Maine town after the disappearance of Bill’s little brother. As is the case in much of Stephen King’s work, It balances dark and often horrific themes with a sense of kids having an adventure, creating a film that is both scary and charming. Unadjusted for inflation, it became the highest growing horror film of all time, and received positive reviews across the board.

5. The Godfather (1972)

Francis Ford Coppola’s epic crime film The Godfather features a star-studded cast including Marlon Brando, Al Pacino and Diane Keaton. It is the first instalment in The Godfather trilogy, which follows the Corleone family from 1945 to 1955 as the youngest Corleone son Michael (Pacino) becomes a ruthless mafia boss. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest films ever made and was selected for preservation in the US National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 1990, having been deemed “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant”. 

4. Pulp Fiction (1994)

The first of three joint second places is Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction. Featuring Tarantino’s signature mix of strong violence and fast-paced, humorous dialogue, the film follows four interconnected crime stories. Another cast full of gems—John Travolta, Samuel L Jackson, Bruce Willis and Uma Thurman all have starring roles. It has come to be regarded as one of the most influential films of its era.

3. Fight Club (1999)

Yet another entry from David Fincher, 1999’s Fight Club follows an unnamed narrator (Edward Norton) who is unhappy with his job and forms a “fight club” with soap salesman Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt). Reactions to the film were divided, and it was ranked as one of the most controversial and talked-about films of the 1990s. It has since gained its status as one of the defining cult films of our time

2. Se7en (1995)

Starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Gwyneth Paltrow and John C McGinley, this iconic crime thriller follows two detectives (Pitt and Freeman) as they attempt to stop a serial killer before he completes a series of murders based on the seven deadly sins. The film performed poorly with test audiences but it was an unexpected hit, becoming the seventh highest-grossing film of the year. 

1. The Departed (2006)

Martin Scorsese’s 2006 epic crime thriller The Departed takes the crown at number one. It is a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs and follows Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon), a spy for the Irish mob in the Massachusetts State Police, and Billy Costigan (Leonardo DiCaprio), an undercover state trooper assigned to infiltrate the mob. The film was highly acclaimed and won four Oscars, including Best Director—to date, Scorsese’s first and only personal Oscar win. 

Cover image © 2006 Warner Bros Entertainment Inc

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