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What’s the Highest Grossing Comedy Ever?

Highest Grossing Comedy Meet the FockersThe highest grossing comedy ever? According to a recent report, Jay Roach’s 2004 hit Meet the Fockers – starring Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Barbra Streisand, Dustin Hoffman, Blythe Danner, and Teri Polo – is supposed to hold that title. But is that true?
  • Is Meet the Fockers truly the highest grossing comedy – live action, that is – ever made? Well, that depends on how you measure a movie’s box office performance and on your very concept of “comedy.”
  • In other U.S. box office news, should there be more “family movies”?

Is Meet the Fockers truly the highest grossing comedy movie ever made?

Starring Ben Stiller, Robert De Niro, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, and Teri Polo, Universal/DreamWorks’ Jay Roach-directed blockbuster Meet the Fockers is now officially the highest grossing comedy – of the live-action variety – in history.

Really?

According to a Los Angeles Times report, the craphouse family – or rather, families – movie of the year (2004–05) has scored $498 million worldwide, $221 million of which outside the U.S. and Canada.

In this context, one should point out that as far as international box office figures are concerned, it surely doesn’t hurt that in the last couple of years the U.S. dollar has lost a lot of ground against most major currencies.

Something else worth highlighting: the Los Angeles Times apparently doesn’t consider Robert Zemeckis’ Academy Award-winning paean to idiocy and conformism, Forrest Gump, a comedy. Starring Best Actor winner Tom Hanks, Sally Field, and Robin Wright, the 1994 hit raked in $679 million (not adjusted for inflation) worldwide.

Meet the Fockers vs. Home Alone

Now, what about Home Alone?

Okay, so the Chris Columbus-directed 1990 Macaulay Culkin flick is as unfunny as Forrest Gump. But then again, how is either movie any less funny than Meet the Fockers?

Anyhow, according to Boxofficemojo.com, Home Alone collected $476.7 million worldwide in the early 1990s.

Minor detail: inflation is a reality today, much like it was a reality back in the late 20th century. Once that fact of life is factored in (to make things more manageable, without taking into account currency fluctuations), Home Alone would have scored around $725 million in 2004–05.

That would place the Columbus-Culkin sleeper blockbuster approximately $225 million ahead of the lamebrained Meet the Parents sequel.

So, should the Big Prize for the Highest Grossing Comedy (live action, worldwide) in history go to Meet the Fockers – or to Home Alone or Forrest Gump?

Just ignore the PR and do the math.

Inflation-adjusted ‘highest grossing comedy’

In truth, when it comes to live-action movies – and while taking inflation into account (as one always should) – the highest grossing comedy to date at the domestic box office is…

Well, that depends on what you find funny. Seriously.

James Cameron’s Titanic, Cecil B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments, and William Friedkin’s The Exorcist are all, however unintentionally, much funnier than Meet the Fockers, Forrest Gump, or Home Alone. Adjusted for inflation, each was more successful at the U.S. and Canada box office than each of the three nominal comedies.

If we’re talking only about the highest grossing comedy that was marketed as a comedy, then the top three comedies domestically are the following:

More box office news: Impressive domestic totals

In other domestic box office news, Dan Glickman, head of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), announced at this year’s ShoWest in Las Vegas that in 2004 U.S. and Canada ticket sales topped – for the third year in a row – $9 billion.

Although there was a slight drop in admissions – for the second consecutive year – these still surpassed the 1.5 billion mark for the third year in a row. That’s a feat not achieved since 1959.

Keeping things in perspective: Let’s not forget that there are about 130 million more people living in the U.S. and Canada today than in the late 1950s. That’s an approximate 60 percent increase.

Update: The number of movie tickets sold in 2004 has been revised downward to 1.48 billion. That means no early 21st-century three-year run above the 1.5 billion mark.

More ‘family films,’ please

Also in the domestic market, PG-rated films, open to all ages, grossed $2.3 billion in 2004; R-rated films, aimed at adults, took in $2.1 billion. That’s the first time in two decades that PG movies outperformed R-rated ones; as in previous years, many more R-rated movies were released last year.

John Fithian, head of the National Association of Theater Owners, took the opportunity to remark that Hollywood studios should make more “family films.”

And why not?

Children, after all, can’t go to the movies by themselves; that means at least one extra ticket sold to the accompanying adult. As a plus, kids are great consumers of food and beverages at movie theater concession stands.

Something else we shouldn’t forget: the family movie Meet the Fockers, which has become the highest grossing comedy ever and ever.


“What’s the Highest Grossing Comedy Ever?” endnotes

Ben Stiller, Barbra Streisand, Blythe Danner, Teri Polo, and Dustin Hoffman Meet the Fockers image: Universal Pictures.

“What’s the Highest Grossing Comedy Ever?” last updated in September 2021.

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