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Top Box Office Movies of 2013

Box Office Movies Sandra Bullock The HeatTop box office movies of 2013: If you make original, quality films... (image: Sandra Bullock has two movies among the top 15 box office hits of 2013; Bullock is seen here in 'The Heat,' with Melissa McCarthy)

(See previous post: "2013 Box Office Record? History is Remade If a Few 'Minor Details' Ignored.") As further evidence that moviegoers want original, quality entertainment, below you'll find a list of the top 15 movies at the domestic box office in 2013 – nine of which are sequels or reboots (ten if you include Oz the Great and Powerful), and more than half of which are 3D releases.

Disney and Warner Bros. were the two top studios in 2013. Disney has five movies among the top 15; Warners has three. With the exception of the sleeper blockbuster Gravity, which, however dumbed down, targeted a more mature audience, every single one of the titles below were aimed either at teenagers/very, very young adults or little children.

Also worth noting, only five titles – including the animated Frozen and The Croods – featuring key female characters.

And then the usual Outraged Ones wonder why studios produce male-centered movies. Or why there are so many sequels and reboots. Or why most big-studio movies are braindead on arrival.

As an aside: two of 2013's female-centered hits starred Sandra Bullock (Gravity, The Heat); Bullock, in fact, is the only star with two titles among the top 15 movies at the domestic box office. (As a commenter points out in the comments section below, Benedict Cumberbatch also has two movies among the top 15; Cumberbatch, however, isn't the star of either Star Trek Into Darkness or The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.)

Without further ado, here's the list (via Box Office Mojo). And make sure to keep scrolling down a bit more, so you can become acquainted with the domestic box office's real record-holding year – and its top movies and stars.

Top 15 box office movies of 2013

  • Shane Black's Iron Man 3, with Robert Downey Jr, Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Ben Kingsley, Guy Pearce;
  • Francis Lawrence's The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, with Jennifer Lawrence, Liam Hemsworth, Josh Hutcherson, Sam Claflin;
  • Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud's Despicable Me 2, featuring the voices of Steve Carell, Kristen Wiig, Benjamin Bratt, Russell Brand;
  • Zack Snyder's Man of Steel, with Henry Cavill, Amy Adams, Michael Shannon, Kevin Costner, Diane Lane;
  • Dan Scanlon's Monsters University, featuring the voices of Billy Crystal, John Goodman, Helen Mirren;
  • Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity, with Sandra Bullock, George Clooney;
  • Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee's Frozen, featuring the voices of Kristen Bell, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad;
  • Justin Lin's Fast & Furious 6, with Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Dwayne Johnson, Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster;
  • Sam Raimi's Oz The Great and Powerful, with James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachel Weisz, Michelle Williams;
  • J.J. Abrams' Star Trek Into Darkness, with Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Benedict Cumberbatch, Karl Urban, Zoe Saldana;
  • Alan Taylor's Thor: The Dark World, with Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins;
  • Marc Forster's World War Z, with Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, David Morse;
  • Peter Jackson's The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, with Martin Freeman, Ian McKellen, Cate Blanchett;
  • Kirk De Micco and Chris Sanders' The Croods, featuring the voices of Nicolas Cage, Emma Stone, Ryan Reynolds, Catherine Keener, Cloris Leachman;
  • Paul Feig's The Heat, with Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy.

Note: As a result of awards-season buzz and the upcoming Oscar nominations, David O. Russell's mostly male-centered, "adult-oriented" American Hustle, starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, and Jennifer Lawrence, may ultimately end up among the top 15 box office movies released in 2013. If so, the female-centered The Heat will be gone from the list, which means Sandra Bullock will have only one movie among 2013's top 15 hits – while Jennifer Lawrence will have two (though Lawrence isn't actually the lead in American Hustle.)

The Real box office record-breaking year

Before I wrap this up, I should add a couple of things.

  • a) Besides box office grosses (domestic and international; the latter is reportedly up about 5 percent this year, though currency fluctuations must be taken into account), there are ancillary revenues, including television, VOD, DVD, and merchandising sales. These represent the bulk of the studios' revenues.
  • b) If you truly want a record-breaking year at the domestic box office, look no further than ... 1946. According to the Motion Picture Association of America, 4.067 billion tickets were sold in a year that – instead of super-heroes, hobbits, CGI, and 3D – offered Jennifer Jones, Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Larry Parks, Evelyn Keyes, Jane Wyman, Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains, Alan Ladd, Tyrone Power, Gene Tierney, Jeanne Crain, Robert Walker, Dana Andrews, Teresa Wright, Joan Caulfield, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Judy Garland, Jane Russell, Esther Williams, Van Johnson, Rita Hayworth, Charles Coburn, Glenn Ford, Lana Turner, June Allyson, Irene Dunne, William Powell, Olivia de Havilland, Kathryn Grayson, Alexis Smith, Rex Harrison, John Garfield, Danny Kaye, Virginia Mayo, Fred MacMurray, Anne Baxter, and Joseph Cotten in popular comedies, musicals, and/or melodramas – plus a couple of risqué Westerns (!) – such as Duel in the Sun, Margie, Gilda, The Outlaw, The Razor's Edge, Blue Skies, Till the Clouds Roll By, The Jolson Story, Easy to Wed, The Harvey Girls, The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Best Years of Our Lives, Two Years Before the Mast, Notorious, The Green Years, Two Sisters from Boston, The Kid from Brooklyn, Night and Day, The Yearling, Smoky, To Each His Own, Ziegfeld Follies, Anna and the King of Siam, and Road to Utopia.

Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy The Heat photo: 20th Century Fox.

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5 Comments to Top Box Office Movies of 2013

  1. I was told that most films are made for 15 year old boys in Taiwan. There were a few films for adults , though several of them were "small" films: Philomena, Nebraska, Labor Day (saw in a screening, has not yet been released), 12 Years a Slave, August: Osage County, and Blue Jasmine. A big studio may distribute these films, but they won't produce anything but a blockbuster, and they're considered flops if they make under $400 million. I'll just add, I do love Benedict Cumberbatch and while the Julian Assange film wasn't the greatest, he was excellent.

  2. Editor

    The author of the post felt "The Croods" was more of an ensemble, male/female piece than "Gravity" and "The Heat," or even "Catching Fire" and "Frozen." But the text has been amended a bit to include five films with key female characters.

  3. Emil

    The Hunger Games, Frozen, Gravity, The Croods (If you've seen the movie Emma Stone's character was the main character in that movie), The Heat. I'm counting five movies, focused on female characters!

  4. Editor


    True, but he wasn't THE star in either one.

  5. Tash

    Benedict Cumberbatch was also in two of those top 15 movies - Star Trek and The Hobbit.


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