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James Cameron's Titanic displaces James Cameron's Avatar 2 in all-time box office

James Cameron + water = Box office gold, apparently

Avatar 2/Titanic
Image credit: Disney/Paramount

As if any further illustration was needed that this is James Cameron’s world, and the rest of us just go watch movies in it, this weekend’s global re-release of his 1998 movie Titanic — which returned to theaters to celebrate its 25th anniversary — has led to the classic displacing his own Avatar: The Way of Water to reclaim the title of the third most successful movie of all time.

Titanic grossed $22.3 million in the global box office this weekend, pushing the movie over the second Avatar in terms of both worldwide and domestic lifetime gross, although Avatar: The Way of Water has outperformed the movie outside of the U.S.

While both movies are of course massively successful, it should be pointed out that neither actually held the top spot in the U.S. box office this past weekend, with that honor going to Magic Mike’s Last Dance, the third installment in Channing Tatum’s ongoing 'what if Rocky was a stripper' series, once again directed by Steven Soderbergh. Does this mean that we should start clearing the way for Mike at the time of the all-time chart? (Let’s be honest, no.)

Despite the flip-flop in ranking order (something that is expected to reverse itself in coming weeks, as Avatar: The Way of Water continues to perform particularly well overseas) it’s worth noting that Cameron remains responsible for three of the four most successful movies in cinema history, no matter the order of their appearance. While it’s unlikely that either Titanic or Avatar 2 will displace the #2 most successful movie of all time anytime soon — that’s Avengers: Endgame, which has grossed roughly $500,000,000 more than either at this point in time — we should all be just a little bit curious how well the third Avatar is going to do… and maybe slightly grateful that Marvel hasn’t convinced James Cameron to make an Avengers movie to dominate the box office for all time, as well.

Both Avatar: The Way of Water and Titanic remain in general release at theaters; go and revisit either to help your particular favorite in the most unlikely horse race of all time.

But… what are the most successful movies of all time? And where would they rank if adjusted for inflation? Read on for the full worldwide box office top 10 — and pay attention to just how successful Titanic is in particular when adjusted for inflation. This really is James Cameron’s world: we just live in it. And pay for his movies in the process.

Ranking Title Box Office Box Office (Adjusted)
1 Avatar (2009) $2,923,706,026.00 $3,988,296,597.04
2 Avengers: Endgame (2019) $2,799,439,100.00 $3,204,566,469.18
3 Titanic (1997) $2,216,990,964 $4,042,451,654.64
4 Avatar: The Way of Water (2022) $2,213,093,090.00 $2,213,093,090.00
5 Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens (2015) $2,071,310,218.00 $2,557,535,079.12
6 Avengers: Infinity War (2018) $2,052,415,039.00 $2,392,006,289.11
7 Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021) $1,921,847,111.00 $2,075,647,364.17
8 Jurassic World (2015) $1,671,537,444.00 $2,063,918,582.52
9 The Lion King (2019) $1,663,075,401.00 $1,903,751,242.80
10 The Avengers (2012) $1,520,538,536 $1,938,174,365.41

After breaking the $2 billion barrier at the box office, it’s guaranteed we’re going to see more Avatar movies across the next few years.

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Graeme McMillan

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Popverse staff writer Graeme McMillan (he/him) has been writing about comics, culture, and comics culture on the internet for close to two decades at this point, which is terrifying to admit. He completely understands if you have problems understanding his accent.

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