What an amazing 2018 it was at the domestic and global box office, and 2019 is looking to be even bigger, just going by what’s on the table for the last year of the troublesome ‘10s.
To give you a general idea how big 2018 was at the box office, James Cameron’s Titanic was the highest-grossing movie ever with $659 million from 1997 until 2009 when his next movie, Avatar, surpassed it. In 2018, two movies surpassed that amount, both from Marvel Studios, as Black Panther hit $700 million and a few months later, Avengers: Infinity War, came very close to that same amount. Disney’s other partners at Pixar Animation Studios released the anticipated animated sequel Incredibles 2, which also grossed more than $600 million.
Considering that less than ten movies have surpassed that milestone, yet three movies did so in 2018, gives you some idea how much pressure there is on 2019 to surpass it.
We’ll also have to see if any of the biggest movies of 2019 can surpass Infinity War’s opening weekend record of $257.7 million, because there are a number of movies that stand a good chance of opening with $200 million or more. (Note: I decided to list the movies in each section chronologically by when they’re being released during the year. That’s partially because it will be hard to tell how much some of the later-in-the-year movies will make without much marketing released so far.)
The Bonafide Sure-Thing Blockbusters
There are probably a half-dozen movies this year considered anticipated sequels to huge blockbuster hits, or in one case, a remake, and the following four movies are the ones likely to achieve the $400 million plus range domestically this year.
Avengers: Endgame (Marvel Studios/Disney – April 26) – Even though Avengers: Infinity War wasn’t the highest grossing movie of 2018 domestically — that was Black Panther — it was the only movie of the year to hit $2 billion worldwide, and I can’t think of a single person who watched Infinity War who won’t be in line to see its sequel after such a jaw-dropping cliffhanger. Even though last year’s Avengers movie set a new opening weekend record of $257.7 million that might be hard to beat, there’s so much anticipation to see what happens next that few will rest on their laurels to see how the Avengers finally take down Josh Brolin’s seemingly-undefeatable Thanos.
The Lion King (Disney – July 19) – Maybe it wasn’t too much of a stretch for director Jon Favreau to follow his hit The Jungle Book with another live-action remake of a Disney animated classic. Disney’s 1994 blockbuster holds a special place in the company’s history as one of the top four animated movies of all time. Its $422.8 million domestic gross held a record for an animated feature for ten years before DreamWorks’ Shrek 2 came along, but it remains a touchstone for Disney, having been brought to Broadway as an equally-popular stage musical. Favreau’s The Lion King will use some of the same CG technology mastered on The Jungle Book, and considering how well 2017’s Beauty and the Beast did compared to its animated movie, one should probably expect this to set or break many new records as well. (The Lion King grossed almost twice domestically what the animated Beauty and the Beast made three years earlier.)
Frozen 2 (Disney – Nov. 22) – Disney has ably dominated the Thanksgiving weekend date for more than a decade with a few exceptions, but few of their holiday releases have had quite the impact on kids’ culture than the animated fairy tale Frozen, which grossed $400 million in North America and double that overseas. Released six years to the date of the original, there are probably few movies that will generate more excitement this year than a sequel to the beloved modern-day classic which will reunite most of everyone’s favorite characters. I would be shocked if this didn’t set a new Thanksgiving weekend record… a record currently held by Frozen, which $93.6 million in its five-day opening.
Star Wars: Episode IX (Lucasfilm/Disney – Dec. 20) – After skipping this past December with a Star Wars release, Lucasfilm is looking to wrap up the franchise’s third trilogy with J.J. Abrams back in the driver’s seat and ready to take on the all-time domestic gross record of $936 million set by his earlier movie Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It’s not likely to best it, especially with the backlash to 2017’s The Last Jedi and last year’s Solo, but Star Wars is still easy money and the fans should be out in Force over the holidays once again. All three of the December Star Wars releases have grossed over $500 million domestically and the yet-to-be-titled ninth episode should join them.
Likely to Make $300 Million or More
Also likely to do very well are these four sequels to popular movies that grossed over $300 million domestically.
The Secret Life of Pets 2 (Universal – June 7) – Opening a few weekends earlier is Illumination Studios’ sequel to its 2016 blockbuster, which grossed $368 and has just as easy-to-sell kid-friendly premise of pets. The original movie opened with $104 million, which isn’t bad at all for a non-sequel, and one expects that the pet humor will continue to bring old and young pet lovers alike… this one is wisely opening before the Pixar movie, unlike its predecessor.
Toy Story 4 (Disney•Pixar – June 21) – Released nine years after the threequel which grossed $400 million domestically and over a billion worldwide (as well as winning the Oscar for animated feature), it’s somewhat worrisome audiences might have lost interest in Buzz Lightyear and Woody, especially since Toy Story 3 ended in a pretty good place. The introduction of a mysterious new character named “Forky” might not do much to build excitement, but the super kid-friendly premise and Pixar namebrand should help this be another hit for the studio, even if it doesn’t quite hit $400 million or get the attention that Frozen 2 will get.
Spider-Man: Far From Home (Sony – July 5) – There are a lot of questions about this second MCU movie made in conjunction with Sony, most notably where Spider-Man will be after Avengers: Endgame, but 2017’s Spider-Man: Homecoming was a welcome blockbuster for Sony, grossing $880 million worldwide. Fans seem to like Tom Holland as the webbed wonder enough to check out its sequel with an added bonus of Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio, so look for this to be the fourth Spider-Man movie to open with more than $100 million.
Jumanji Sequel (Sony – Dec. 13) – Even though it hasn’t begun production yet, this sequel to Sony’s surprise 2017 hit Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle brings together all of the elements that made the remake so popular among holiday moviegoing audiences, with the movie playing well into 2018. It was a rare movie that was only #1 in its third, fourth and fifth weekends, and if the sequel, reuniting Dwayne Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black and Karen Gillan, can recreate some of that magic, it should be another holiday hit this year.
The Potential $200 Million (or Slightly More) Club
It’s still considered fairly decent for a blockbuster to cross the $200 million mark domestically. Besides the films mentioned above, the seven movies below stand the best chance of ending up in that range.
The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part (Warner Bros. – Feb. 8) – The second major blockbuster of the year is likely to be this sequel to the 2014 animated movie, which grossed $469 million worldwide, $258 million of that in North America. Kids still love LEGO as much as they did five years ago, and now the LEGO sequel has the benefits of having characters that kids know from the first movie and toys. It’s often tough for animated sequels to do as well as their predecessors – Pixar seems to be the major exception, but so is Hotel Transylvania. Not helping the LEGO sequel’s long-term legs is another animated sequel.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (DreamWorks Animation – Feb. 22) – One of DreamWorks Animation’s surprise hit franchises has been boosted by the animated series to fill in the gaps between feature films. It has been five years since How to Train Your Dragon 2, and this will be the first in the franchise distributed by Universal, but the characters have found enough young fans that this finale could at least match the amount made by the previous films.
Captain Marvel (Marvel/Disney – March 8) – At this point, it’s not smart to bet against Marvel Studios with twenty movies that have grossed close to $7 billion domestically in ten years. Not every movie has grossed $300 million or more and the “intro” movies for some of the satellite characters (like Ant-Man and Doctor Strange) opened more moderately, with Black Panther being a huge outlier. Last summer’s Ant-Man and The Wasp wasn’t helped much by the sequel factor or following Avengers: Infinity War, but this movie could have a serious impact on what happens in May’s Avengers: Endgame even if it’s meant as a stand-alone movie set in the ’90s. The thing is that Captain Marvel isn’t as well known or loved as Wonder Woman, but this feels like it should be able to do in the vein of Doctor Strange with women wanting to support Marvel’s first solo female superhero movie.
Dumbo (Disney – March 29) – Testing the waters for The Lion King over the summer, Disney reunites with Tim Burton (Frankenweenie, Alice in Wonderland) for a live-action version of one of the studio’s beloved animated classics. There hasn’t been a ton of promotion on the movie as of yet, but it’s opening in a plum late March weekend to take advantage of school spring break with no other family film hitting things until the end of April.
Godzilla: King of the Monsters (Legendary/Warner Bros. – May 31) – One of the few shared cinematic universes that seems to be working on par with Marvel Studios’ MCU is Legendary’s monster movies that began with 2014’s Godzilla, which grossed $200 million domestically, followed by 2017’s Kong: Skull Island ($168 million). Before those two monsters face off in 2020, Godzilla will get a sequel, which has him facing popular faves like Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan. Although some had issues with Gareth Edwards’ movie, the sequel is directed by Michael Dougherty (Krampus), who has brought on the likes of Millie Bobby Brown from Stranger Things, Vera Farmiga and Charles Dance to make sure the humans are as interesting as the monsters.
Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw (Universal – Aug. 2) – Ever since Dwayne Johnson joined the Fast and Furious franchise with 2011’s Fast Five, each movie has grossed more than $200 million, peaking with the James Wan-directed Furious 7 in 2015. That grossed $353 million domestically and $1.5 billion worldwide, plus it also introduced Jason Statham’s Deckard Shaw (other than an end-cameo in the sixth movie.) With the success of The Meg last summer, Statham is proving himself to be as big a draw as Johnson (whose summer 2018 action movie Skyscraper didn’t do nearly as well). Wisely, Universal are teaming Johnson and Statham for this spin-off, which should do quite well kicking off the last month of summer and filling the gap before the ninth Fast and Furious movie.
IT Chapter Two (New Line – Sept. 6) – The first chapter of this Stephen King horror film was a huge shocker of a hit with a $123 million opening weekend, $327 million domestic total, and a little more than that amount overseas. It was generally well-received, as should be the sequel, which focuses on the adult versions of the kids facing the return of Pennywise the clown with Jessica Chastain, James McAvoy, Bill Hader and more playing them.
Joker (Warner Bros. – Oct. 4) – This dark movie based on the Batman villain, starring Joaquin Phoenix and directed by Todd Philips (The Hangover), is one of two Batman spin-off movies in production. (The Birds of Prey movie currently in production won’t be out until early 2020.) There may be interest in this Batman prequel featuring the fifth actor to play him in a live-action movie, and even with a fraction of what the last few Christopher Nolan movies grossed, this one should be good for $200 million, as one of the first “Batman spin-off” films since 2004’s Catwoman. (2018’s Venom may be the best barometer for this film which is getting a similar early Oct. release.)
$100 Million Movies… or Maybe Not?
Roughly 21 movies in 2018 made between $100 and 200 million, with Aquaman heading to cross the $200 million mark in the next week. The 11 movies below are the most likely to do the same.
Glass (Universal – Jan. 18) – What’s being set-up as the first big hit of 2019 is the latest from M. Night Shyamalan, which acts as a sequel to 2016’s Split ($138 million domestic gross) as well as 2000’s Unbreakable ($95 million). The latter certainly has found more fans in the nearly 20 years since its release, and putting Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson back in a movie together should help this do very well over Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.
Us (Universal – March 15) – Jordan Peele’s follow-up to his Oscar-winning horror hit Get Out made waves over the Christmas break as a harrowing trailer premiered, finally giving people some idea what to expect. Jordan Peele has created his own brand to the point where it might not even matter if the reviews for Us are on par with Get Out, as that movie has enough fans they’ll see anything Peele does.
Shazam! (Warner Bros. – April 5) – Obviously, I’m not as bullish about this DCEU movie starring Zachary Levi from the Thor movies and directed by David F. Sandberg (Lights Out), mainly because Shazam (or DC’s Captain Marvel if you’re old school) just doesn’t have the same awareness or fanbase as other DC Comics-based movies. The early April release (vs. the summer) isn’t so worrisome, but the glut of superhero movies can’t last forever, and it will be tough for this one to make a mark with Infinity War coming out just three weeks later.
Pokemon Detective Pikachu (Warner Bros. – May 10) – It’s going to be almost 20 years since a Pokemon movie made significant box office money with 1999’s Pokemon: The First Movie, which grossed $85.7 domestically with a November opening and about $77 million overseas. Its 2000 sequel made about half the domestic gross of the original but twice as much overseas. The card and video games have continued to do well even as the animation has petered away, so here’s a live-action CG hybrid with Ryan Reynolds voicing the title character which hopes to reboot the franchise for a new generation of kids.
Aladdin (Disney – May 24) – In any other year, a Disney live-action movie based on a beloved animated classic starring box office superstar Will Smith would be listed in one of the categories above, and I do love me some Guy Ritchie, but something about this movie makes it feel like one of Disney’s weaker releases. It certainly won’t help by opening it over Memorial Day, since that’s the same weekend the studio released the video game-based bomb Prince of Persia. I guess this one has four and a half months to prove me wrong, but it’s going to have to do better than the most recent teaser.
Dark Phoenix (20th Century Fox – June 7) – Maybe this isn’t as much of a sure thing considering how poorly X-Men: Apocalypse did compared to X-Men: Days of Future Past (both domestically and overseas), but Dark Phoenix is a classic X-Men story that many are hoping will be handled better than in Brett Ratner’s X-Men: The Last Stand. Unfortunately, the way the movie has been moved around the release schedule has been worrisome, but this should still do okay business.
Men in Black: International (Sony – June 14) – We’ve already seen the first trailer for this new reboot of a venerable Sony franchise starring Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson from Thor: Ragnarok and Liam Neeson. The last Will Smith movie in the series MIBIII grossed $624 million worldwide but only $179 million domestically, so this one, directed by Fate of the Furious’ F. Gary Gray, could be on the bubble of being even bigger.
The New Mutants (20th Century Fox – Aug. 2) – Even more worrisome and more likely to end up bombing ala the last Fantastic Four movie is the studio’s second (and final?) X-Men movie based on the younger mutant team, redesigned as a horror film. Getting delayed for over a year makes it even more worrisome.
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (Sony – Aug. 9) – It’s not uncommon for Quentin Tarantino’s sporadic offerings to cross the $100 million mark, which was the case both for 2009’s Inglourious Basterds and 2012’s Django Unchained. His last movie, The Hateful Eight, didn’t do nearly as well, but his movie about the Tate murders stars both Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio, two of the most reliable box office stars in the world. This will also be Tarantino’s first release through a non-Weinstein company, so it will be interesting to see how Sony fares with the reclusive filmmaker.
The Angry Birds Movie 2 (Sony – Aug. 16) – The original 2016 movie just hit the $100 million mark domestically (it did better overseas), but Sony Pictures Animation is giving the popular smartphone/tablet game a second chance, and the sequel will try to thwart the trend of animated sequels not doing as well as their predecessors. (The mid-August release is a little worrisome since schools will be back in session soon after.)
Cats (Universal – Dec. 20) – With a star-studded cast, Oscar winner Tom Hooper (The King’s Speech)is bringing the popular long-running Broadway musical to the big screen in hopes of finding a similar success as Les Miserables. The popularity of musicals and the success Universal has had with Les Mis and Mamma Mia is a good sign they can do the same for Cats.
Of course, every year there are surprises, movies that no one saw coming months in advance, such as last year’s Crazy Rich Asians or A Star is Born, both that did much better than others.
Let us know what you think of our thoughts on the biggest movies of 2019 in the comments!