Steven Spielberg’s Top 10 Box Office Successes

Universal Pictures/Courtesy Neal Peters Collection
'Jaws'

As 'Jaws' 40th anniversary approaches, a look back at the director's greatest moneymaking triumphs.

Steven Spielberg may not have directed Jurassic World, but he still has plenty to celebrate in the movie's record-breaking opening over the June 12-14 weekend. Spielberg has an executive producing credit on the fourth installment, while his company, Amblin Entertainment, has top billing. Many say nostalgia has a huge part to play in the success of Jurassic World, in that consumers wanted to repeat the magic they felt when watching Spielberg's Jurassic Park, which hit theaters 22 years ago. Spielberg's a busy man these day; he's currently in Vancouver shooting family film The BFG, while his Cold War thriller Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks, opens in theaters Oct. 16. Here's a look at his top 10 box-office hauls, ranked in ascending order.
 
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10. The Adventures of Tintin (Dec. 21, 2011)
• Domestic: $77,591,831
• Foreign: $296,402,120
Total gross: $373,993,951
 
Spielberg had been obsessed with making a movie adaptation of Belgian cartoonist Herge’s comic series. After numerous starts and stops, he and Peter Jackson agreed to make several installments, with Spielberg directing the first and Jackson the second (a sequel still hasn’t materialized). Jackson’s WETA Digital provided animation for the film, which did far better overseas than in the U.S., where the character Tintin isn’t as popular. It won a Golden Globe for best-animated film.
 
9. Raiders of the Lost Ark (June 12, 1981)
• Domestic: $248,159,971
• Foreign: $141,766,000
• Total gross: $389,925,971
 
Philip Kaufman — who had been fascinated by the tale of the Ark since childhood— was initially set to direct the movie for producer George Lucas, but Lucas was forced to look elsewhere when Kaufman chose another film. Spielberg stepped in. At first, Spielberg worried that Harrison was too famous for the role because of Star Wars, but Lucas insisted Ford was the right guy. But there was a bigger concern: Most studios were loath to approve the $20 million project so refused to sign on. Paramount finally came forward and history was made.
 
8. Jaws (June 20, 1975)
• Domestic: $260,000,000
• Foreign: $210,653,000
• Total gross: $470,653,000
 
If you hate Hollywood’s obsession with summer tentpoles, blame Jaws. The movie forever changed the way big movies are released and marketed. Before Jaws, only movies that were a quick burn, or of dubious quality, would open across the nation. There were some exceptions, but generally speaking, a film would play in select cities before slowly expanding, and could last in theaters for month. Jaws, however, accompanied by an unprecedented television campaign, debuted on nearly 500 screens. In the week leading up to Jaws’ debut, 30-second television spots ran every night on network television, a first for a movie.
 
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7. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (May 24, 1989)
• Domestic: $197,171,806
• Foreign: $277,000,000
• Total gross: $474,171,806
 
Talk about a comeback. The threequel, returning Harrison Ford in the title role and starring Sean Connery as Indiana Jones’ father, was a big hit with audiences after sequel Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom failed to impress. Spielberg and producer George Lucas had always intended to make a trilogy, but five years lapsed between Temple of Doom and the release of Last Crusade so that they could get it right. Spielberg even had to pass on Big.
 
6. Saving Private Ryan (July 24, 1998)
• Domestic: $216,540,909
• Foreign: $265,300,000
• Total gross: $481,840,909
 
The World War II film, featuring an ensemble cast that included Tom Hanks, became an instant classic and earned Spielberg his second Academy Award for best directing after Schindler's List. It was also the top grossing war themed movie of all time until American Sniper topped out at $547.1 million this year. And the world was stunned when Saving Private Ryan, nominated for 11 Oscars, lost the best picture crown to Shakespeare in Love in one of the biggest upsets in Academy history. In 2014, the Library of Congress selected the movie for preservation in the National Film Registry.
 
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5. The Lost World: Jurassic Park (May 23, 1997)
• Domestic: $229,086,679
• Foreign: $389,552,320
• Total gross: $618,638,999
 
Opening four years after Jurassic Park, the anticipation was so great for the sequel that it scored $92.6 million over Memorial Day weekend, including $72 million for the three days — the biggest weekend of all time. It also became the fastest film to reach $100 million, achieving the milestone in just six days. Ultimately, however, it came in well behind the first Jurassic Park after earning decidedly mixed reviews. Spielberg later confessed he grew disheartened during production, saying, “sometimes I got the feeling I was just making this big silent-roar movie.” He didn’t return to direct Jurassic Park III, or Jurassic World.
 
4. War of the Worlds (June 29, 2005)
• Domestic: $234,280,354
• Foreign: $357,465,186
• Total gross: $591,745,540
 
The adaptation of H. G. Well’s classic alien novel, The War of the Worlds, was an ambitious effort that reteamed Spielberg with his Minority Report star, Tom Cruise. The movie was considered a moderate box office success but divided audiences, who gave it an okay B+ CinemaScore. Critics, usually tougher on a film that regular moviegoers, liked it far more (the film sports a 75 percent fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes). War of the Worlds proved Spielberg’s continuing obsession with aliens after Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. 
 
3. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (May 22, 2008)
• Domestic: $317,101,119
• Foreign: $469,534,914
• Total gross: $786,636,033
 
On paper, the fourth installment in the action-adventure franchise looked like it did okay, but it never reached blockbuster status. Opening nearly two decades after threequel Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the movie received the worst reviews of any film in the franchise after making its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. It didn’t help matters when star Shia LaBeouf, speaking at a press conference at Cannes, told the media he blamed himself and Spielberg for “dropping the ball.”
 
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2. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (June 11, 1982)
• Domestic: $435,110,554
• Foreign: $357,800,000
• Total gross: $792,910,554
 
To cope with his parents’ divorce in 1980, Spielberg, then a teenager, created an imaginary friend. His imagination paid off, with his pal becoming the basis of the character in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Opening in theaters on June 11, 1982, the movie went on to become the highest-grossing film of all time, trumping Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. It retained the record until…
 
1. Jurassic Park (June 10, 1993)
• Domestic: $402,453,882
• Foreign: $626,700,000
Total gross: $1,029,153,882
 
Spielberg pounced on the film rights to Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name even before the book was published. Like Spielberg’s Jaws, Jurassic Park became a mascot for the quintessential summer popcorn tentpole. Spielberg had to supervise post-production work on the movie from Poland, where he was in the midst of filming Schindler’s List (as a condition of making Schindler’s List, Universal mandated that Spielberg shoot Jurassic Park first). As history would prove, it was a small price to pay.
 
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