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Flashback: Highest Grossing Movies Throughout the Decades

Since the beginning of cinema in the late 1880s movies have grown in popularity and changed in remarkable ways both technologically and narratively. Looking back on the 70 years of LCPS it’s fun to consider what movies past students might have enjoyed. Box Office Data doesn’t exist before 1977, so before then it is estimated based on movie ticket sales on release year.

1950s – “The Ten Commandments”: LCHS opened in 1954, and only two years later “The Ten Commandments,” the highest grossing movie of the 1950s, aired. It was the most expensive movie at the time, and grossed an estimated $85,400,591 at the box office according to The movie covers the escape of the Jews from Egypt in the book of Exodus from the Bible.

1960s – “Sound of Music”: Released in 1964 in Los Angeles and Salzburg first as a limited roadshow theatrical release, the story is based on the true account, “The Story of the Trapp Family Singers,” by Maria Von Trapp. Set in Salzburg, Austria, the film follows the family’s fame and escape from Nazi rule. Despite a mixed critical response, it later had major commercial success. In November 1966 it held the title for highest grossing film and kept it for five years.

1970s – “Star Wars: A New Hope”:  When “Star Wars,” directed by George Lucas, first released in 1997, it only appeared to a small number of cinemas, but the movie was well received and released to cinemas nationwide, likely when students from LCHS would have seen it. It was received amazingly, leading to its popularity today. It ended up grossing $460,998,507, but after many reruns has garnered up to $775,398,507. It’s still one of the most popular movies to date.

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1980s – “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial”: “E.T.” directed by Steven Spielberg, was based on an imaginary friend created by Spielberg himself. The project was originally rejected by Columbia Pictures but was later picked up by Universal. It was released June 11, 1982, becoming a smash hit at the box office. It surpassed Star Wars, becoming the highest grossing film of all time and held that title for 11 years.

1990s – “Titanic”: As the first film to not just break, but shatter $1 billion at the box office, LCHS students during 1997 would probably have seen it. Director James Cameron was inspired to make this love story through fascination with shipwrecks. At its time it was the most expensive film ever made, and it shows through the great acting and incredible visual effects that makes “Titanic” so touching.

2000s – “Avatar”: James Cameron’s film was released in 2009 but development began in 1994. Filming was originally supposed to take place in 1997 after the completion of Cameron’s other film “Titanic.” Its original planned release date was 1999, but according to Cameron the technology to achieve his vision of the movie was not yet available. It was picked back up 2006 and given an initial budget of 237 million dollars because of the new groundbreaking visual technology and the use of new motion capture filming techniques. During its run it broke multiple box office records including becoming the highest grossing film of all time and held that title for ten years. 

2010s – “Avengers Endgame”: The Culmination of over a decade of some of the most popular movies in existence, “Avengers Endgame,” directed by Anthony and Joe Russo, is the finale of the first three phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It briefly surpassed Avatar as the highest grossing movie of all time by making $2,799,439,100. Its success displayed the modern popularity associated with cinema and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

2020s – “Avatar: The Way of Water”: As the second installment of the most popular movie ever, “Avatar: The Way of Water” directed by James Cameron, had a lot to live up to. So far it’s the highest grossing film of the 2020s and since the COVID pandemic by making over $2.3 Billion at the box office. It follows where “Avatar” left off, revisiting the main characters of the original film, but included better visual effects and a larger budget than the original.

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About the Contributors
Berek Harrison, staff writer
Dylan Keyes, staff writer
Dylan is a junior at Loudoun County High School and this is his first year working for the newspaper. He hopes to write about things that are not commonly seen in The County Chronicle.

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