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2023 in movies: The most popular films in theaters of 2023 were pink, playful, and in one case, both pre- and post-atomic

Barbie, Oppenheimer and Mario ruled the cinematic roost both in the US and abroad last year

2023 Movies
Image credit: Universal Pictures/Warner Bros. Pictures

Despite the real-life drama of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes, 2023 was a pretty good year at the box office with domestic grosses passing $9 billion for the first time since the onset of COVID — although that’s still down on the $11.4 billion in domestic box office from 2019. Internationally, the box office gross jumped 30.5% to reach $33.9 billion, suggesting that audiences were ready for what the year’s movies had in store for them. But which movies did the best?

In December, we shared our favorite movies from the year — a list that included Barbie, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem, and heartbreaking romance Past Lives — as well as asking for your favorites, dear readers. That latter request unveiled a surprising fandom for Good Burger 2, as well as Oppenheimer, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and Five Nights at Freddy’s.

The most popular movies in the U.S. 2023

Barbie and her allies
Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

To some extent, all of our tastes were reflected in the U.S. box office; here’s the top 10 movies in the United States during 2023.

No, your eyes aren’t deceiving you: the second Avatar movie outgrossed all but six movies in 2023, despite having been released the year before. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: you should never bet against James Cameron.

The most popular Movies internationally 2023

Let’s turn our attention outside of the U.S. for a second, and look at the international box office for a year, which features a few interesting differences from the domestic chart:

  • Barbie (Warner Bros., $1,445,630,472)
  • The Super Mario Bros. Movie (Universal Pictures, $1,361,942,422)
  • Oppenheimer (Universal Pictures, $952,039,920)
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios, $845,555,777)
  • Fast X (Universal Pictures, $704,875,015)
  • Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse (Columbia Pictures, $690,516,673)
  • The Little Mermaid (Walt Disney Studios, $569,626,289)
  • Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning Part One/a> (Paramount Pictures, $567,535,383)
  • Elemental (Pixar/Walt Disney Studios, $496,382,801)
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (Marvel Studios/Walt Disney Studios, $476,071,180)

Note the superior performance of both Fast X and the latest Mission: Impossible movie internationally, as well as Pixar’s Elemental breaking into the chart, as well. Also, it’s just outside the top 10 — literally at #11 on the list — but Warner Bros.’ Wonka made a surprisingly strong showing internationally given its brief release window before the end of the year; could that end up being the Avatar 2 of 2024? We have 12 months before we find out…

A note on our methodology: The figures given above are previously reported box office grosses.

As the year wind downs, it's time to look back and all you've read and watched. Popverse has picked the best movies, best comics, and best TV shows of the year.

But who really cares about what we think? This year, we had you vote for your best movies, best comics, and best TV shows of the year too. Check the lists and mix and see if you agree with our (and your) top choices of the year!

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