Will Any Movie Ever Outgross The Force Awakens Domestically?

Star Wars: The Force Awakens..L to R: BB-8, Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley)..Photo: David James.. ©2016 Lucas Film Ltd. All Rights Reserved.
Star Wars: The Force Awakens..L to R: BB-8, Finn (John Boyega) and Rey (Daisy Ridley)..Photo: David James.. ©2016 Lucas Film Ltd. All Rights Reserved. /

In 2025, Star Wars: The Force Awakens will turn ten years old. That anniversary won’t just be a momentous occasion for that specific Lucasfilm title. It’ll mean (barring some 2024 film coming out of nowhere at the box office) ten years since the last movie to top the all-time domestic box office (unadjusted for inflation). The theatrical run of The Force Awakens amassed $936.6 million, enough to dethrone the previous domestic box office champion, the $760 million haul of 2009's Avatar, by a considerable margin. For nearly a decade, The Force Awakens has stood firmly as the biggest motion picture in history domestically. Only the $858.3 million gross of Avengers: Endgame has come within $80 million of toppling that feature in the last ten years.

With this anniversary coming up, it’s time to ask ourselves…can anything in the near future topple The Force Awakens? Will we ever see a motion picture exceed $936.6 million domestically? Or is the theatrical landscape evolving to a point where nothing will ever exceed the box office gross of The Force Awakens?

That query concerns a title that’s only been passed around to a handful of movies in modern history. In 1977, Star Wars became the highest-grossing motion picture in history domestically. Since then, only four further movies (including Star Wars sequel The Force Awakens!) have grabbed the title of biggest movie in history domestically. Those other three titles, for the record, are (in chronological order) E.T., Titanic, and Avatar. Since 1977, E.T. has held onto the record for the longest time with a 14-year stint at the top of the domestic box office. pushed that George Lucas movie past E.T. and back into the number one all-time domestic spot once more. It’d hold onto that title for just one year, while Titanic would seize that record for a whopping 12 years!

The scarcity of titles from 1977 onward claiming this record makes it understandable there hasn’t been a deluge of titles dethroning The Force Awakens since 2015. Still, one of the longest gaps of time between the torch getting passed between holders of this record approaches. Star Wars clinched this title for only six years, ditto Avatar. The impending tenth anniversary of The Force Awakens would mean it’s been the biggest movie in history domestically for just two fewer years than Avatar. Even E.T.’s 14-year haul at the top of the North American box office is in sight.

A big reason why more challengers haven’t come close to The Force Awakens is, of course, COVID-19. Many especially dreary months since March 2020 (like February 2024 or September 2022) have been about keeping the lights on at movie theaters. Launching movies that could become new reigning champions over the entire domestic marketplace is a tall order to do under any circumstances. With the theatrical cinema landscape in its current state, that concept becomes even more challenging.

But now, let’s get to the fun stuff. What upcoming movies could potentially dethrone The Force Awakens? Clearly, the 2024 remake of The Crow is a big contender. Everyone’s excited about this totally necessary update of the classic Brandon Lee movie. Trailers have not been met with resounding boo’s in movie theaters. The director of the original Crow has certainly not spent years trying to ensure a remake never see's the light of day. That’s a recipe for a $936+ million grosser!

In all seriousness, 2025’s robust slate of franchises and tentpoles could give some potential contenders for new all-time domestic box office champs, though they’d have to vastly overperform expectations to get there. A Bohemian Rhapsody-style documentary about Michael Jackson, for instance, sounds like an incredibly cursed proposition artistically. We’re getting just that in the April 2025 blockbuster Michael. When considering the box office potential of that title, it’s worth remembering Jackson was arguably the biggest musician of all time. If a Freddie Mercury movie hit $200+ million in North America, who knows how big a movie about the “Thriller” singer goes?

Next April sees the launch of Minecraft, a property never before translated to the big screen. Given the enduring popularity of this game, this could be for moviegoers/gaming geeks under 18 what Spider-Man was for nostalgic comic book nerds in 2002. Five Nights at Freddy's also provided a lucrative reminder that games aimed at modern youngsters can yield big box office results. Still, Freddy's tapped out at $137 million domestically after a record-smashing opening weekend (albeit a simultaneous Peacock bow kept it from going higher in the long run), so Minecraft would really have to do seven times that domestic figure to exceed The Force Awakens. Fellow 2025 family movie blockbuster How to Train Your Dragon, meanwhile, would have to vastly exceed the biggest live-action Disney remakes (let alone leave the North American hauls of the animated Dragon movies in the dust) to get anywhere near The Force Awakens.

Could one of next year's superhero movies potentially blast past expectations and secure a $936+ million haul? Maybe but unlikely. Projects like The Fantastic Four and Superman are based on properties everyone has known for decades. They've also been improperly adapted throughout the 21st century. If these productions get good reviews and get these characters "right," maybe they take off financially. However, only two non-Avengers superhero movies (Black Panther and Spider-Man: No Way Home) have blasted past $700 million domestically. It’d take some real box office magnitude to get 2025’s superhero films past $936 million. Depending on how the first Wicked does, maybe part two in November 2025 gets a massive boost propelling it past The Force Awakens.

If December 2025's Avatar 3, potentially landing in a more theatrical-friendly environment than its 2022 predecessor (and running off the more immediate goodwill of The Way of Water), could have a shot at this record. However, that would require making a little over $260 million more domestically than The Way of Water. Never count out James Cameron, but even that might be too much for him. Looking to 2026, a pair of new Star Wars movies are scheduled for theatrical release. One of them is The Mandalorian & Grogu, which continues the exploits of The Mandalorian. Another untitled Star Wars title is set for December 2026, with many presuming it's an announced new entry involving Daisy Ridley's Rey helmed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. It would be quite fitting for new Star Wars films to take the domestic box office crown from The Force Awakens. After all, two previous entries in the franchise have clutched this box office record. "It's like poetry, they rhyme," as a wise man once said.

However, that 2015 film got to $936 million by being the first Star Wars movie in over 10 years. Mandalorian & Grogu, meanwhile, will be following up on a TV show that last aired new episodes just three years before its release. That right there crystallizes the biggest issue facing the idea of The Force Awakens finally getting dethroned. That film was built on 32 years of nostalgia that began brewing once the credits started rolling on Return of the Jedi. With Hollywood exploiting nearly every possible nostalgia property in the last decade, there’s really no other potential sequel on the horizon with that kind of pent-up demand.

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