A movie’s greatness can be measured against a variety of standards. Did it win the praise of critics? Win any gilded statues during awards season? Did it star a shirtless Ryan Gosling? In general, a good unit for measurement is the amount of money that the movie brought in.
Using data sourced from Box Office Mojo, here are the biggest opening weekend box office winners of all time. Based on this data, it seems the best chance to have a big opening weekend is to release a sequel in a franchise. Of the 50 films on this list, only eight were individual films or the first film in a franchise. Of those eight, none of them are original screenplays: all are based on literary or illustrated characters. Did your favorite make the list?
Opening weekend gross: $127,945,100
Share of total revenue: 26.2%
Opening theaters: 4,028
Release date: June 18, 2010
The third installment of this childhood favorite is the only film of the “Toy Story” franchise to appear on this list. Theaters were filled, and tissue boxes emptied, as movie-goers watched what happened after Andy gets ready for college while all but one of his toys get handed off to a daycare center. Buzz Lightyear would be proud: box office-wise, this film definitely went to infinity and beyond.
Opening weekend gross: $128,202,000
Share of total revenue: 34.5%
Opening theaters: 4,301
Release date: July 10, 2015
Following “Despicable Me 2” but preceding “Despicable Me 3” is “Minions”—the spin-off that capitalized on the hilarious, eponymous sidekicks in the first movies. The movie functions as a prequel, following the Minions as they attempt to find an evil villain to serve. This opening weekend shows that well-shaped periphery characters can bring in the bucks.
Opening weekend gross: $129,686,000
Share of total revenue: 39.8%
Opening theaters: 3,741
Release date: May 2, 2003
The second of 11 films in the X-Men franchise so far (including “Deadpool” and “Deadpool 2”), “X2: X-Men United” brought the X-Men together to fight a mutant assassin. The result? Almost $130 million in one weekend, and the promise of a long career for Hugh Jackman’s signature Wolverine abs.
Opening weekend gross: $129,750,100
Share of total revenue: 23.6%
Opening theaters: 4,152
Release date: June 30, 2004
The second film in the Spider-Man franchise, “Spider-Man 2” had a tremendous opening weekend in 2004. Peter Parker battles scientist-turned-villain Doc Ock—ranked his “biggest opponent” by IGN.
Opening weekend gross: $133,479,700
Share of total revenue: 34.7%
Opening theaters: 3,728
Release date: March 5, 2010
One of the few films on this list that isn’t a part of a franchise, “Alice in Wonderland” follows 19-year-old Alice as she journeys back down the rabbit hole. It was the most profitable of many successful collaborations between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, and garnered widespread acclaim for its fantastical costumes.
Opening weekend gross: $133,505,600
Share of total revenue: 27.1%
Opening theaters: 4,234
Release date: June 24, 2009
The second film in Michael Bay’s “Transformers” franchise, “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” was nominated for a barrage of “Sequels that Should Never Have Been Made” and “Worst Movie of the Year” awards, despite an impressive opening weekend. The movie sees Optimus Prime and Bumblebee protecting Sam from the Decepticons. Prime and Bee should have been protecting the film from being panned by critics, as none of the other “Transformer” films would ever open this well again.
Opening weekend gross: $134,234,300
Share of total revenue: 36.1%
Opening theaters: 4,151
Release date: Nov. 21, 2014
The first installment of the third Hunger Games book, “Mockingjay - Part 1” follows Katniss as she leads a rebellion in District 13 and sets off to rescue Peeta. No saving was necessary at the box office, as “Mockingjay: Part 1” grossed a worldwide cumulative $755 million. Who wouldn’t volunteer for that?
Opening weekend gross: $137,890,900
Share of total revenue: 37.5%
Opening theaters: 3,855
Release date: June 4, 2004
The third installment in the franchise, “Prisoner of Azkaban” took the film's scary themes to a new level with Dementors. In this blockbuster, escaped convict Sirius Black is after Harry, who learns more about his own past. It was the only film in the series directed by Alfonso Cuarón.
Opening weekend gross: $138,999,600
Share of total revenue: 33.9%
Opening theaters: 3,682
Release date: Nov. 15, 2002
Following the immense success of the first movie, “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets” finds Harry solving the mystery of whispering walls and petrified Hogwarts residents. Fan favorites Dobby and Moaning Myrtle appear in this film—a big draw for fans of the series.
Opening weekend gross: $139,107,500
Share of total revenue: 32.6%
Opening theaters: 3,603
Release date: May 15, 2003
In this sequel to “The Matrix,” Neo has 72 hours to save Zion from 250,000 machine probes that are coming to destroy it. It took less than 72 hours for “The Matrix Reloaded” to make $139 million. One-part Keanu Reeves and one-part time constraints is a great recipe for a blockbuster film.
Opening weekend gross: $141,078,400
Share of total revenue: 36.5%
Opening theaters: 3,558
Release date: Feb. 12, 2016
Wade Wilson develops super-human healing powers, and becomes alter ego Deadpool. Ryan Reynolds plays the smart-mouthed superhero who tracks down the man responsible for disfiguring him. Deadpool’s dark, twisted sense of humor turned out to be a crowd-pleaser. This is arguably one of the more NSFW films on this list.
Opening weekend gross: $141,403,300
Share of total revenue: 27.5%
Opening theaters: 4,305
Release date: June 17, 2016
This sequel to “Finding Nemo” follows the forgetful Dory as she goes on a quest to find her family. Thank goodness it had such a tremendous opening weekend, as the film’s budget was $200 million.
Opening weekend gross: $142,654,000
Share of total revenue: 42.2%
Opening theaters: 4,125
Release date: November 19, 2010
Harry attempts to destroy Voldemort’s remaining Horcruxes, and discover the Deathly Hallows; three legendary objects in the wizarding world that will lead to the Dark Lord’s permanent defeat. The film made nearly $143 million in its opening weekend.
Opening weekend gross: $143,380,300
Share of total revenue: 43.8%
Opening theaters: 3,690
Release date: May 26, 2006
The third film in the X-Men franchise, “The Last Stand,” had the best opening weekend of any in the series. A divisive cure to mutations has been found, and Jean Grey returns with other-worldly powers.
Opening weekend gross: $143,578,800
Share of total revenue: 41.1%
Opening theaters: 4,255
Release date: Aug. 5, 2016
The apocalypse is coming—and only a team of super-villains can fight it. Enter: "The Suicide Squad." Based on the DC comic book of the same name, this movie made 41% of its total revenue in the first weekend.
Opening weekend gross: $143,637,000
Share of total revenue: 31.5%
Opening theaters: 3,281
Release date: May 23, 1997
“The Lost World” brings Ian Malcolm back to study dinosaurs on an island near the original park, while an engineering firm attempts to smuggle dinosaurs off of the island. This sequel was nowhere near as well-received as the original film; but $143 million in an opening weekend isn’t exactly a wash.
Opening weekend gross: $144,237,200
Share of total revenue: 34.4%
Opening theaters: 4,475
Release date: June 22, 2018
As the fifth and final installment of the franchise (so far), “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” picks up where “Jurassic World” left off. The threat of a volcano sends Owen and Claire to the abandoned island to rescue the remaining dinosaurs—namely Blue, Owen’s favorite raptor. While there, they uncover much more than dinosaurs.
Opening weekend gross: $145,811,500
Share of total revenue: 28.5%
Opening theaters: 3,672
Release date: November 16, 2001
Though it did not have the most impressive opening weekend in the film series, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” satisfied book and film-lovers alike. Harry finds himself studying to be a wizard at Hogwarts while learning that the evil Lord Voldemort who once tried to kill him still lives.
Opening weekend gross: $146,419,600
Share of total revenue: 35.5%
Opening theaters: 3,858
Release date: Nov. 18, 2005
The fourth installment in the franchise, “Goblet of Fire” had the second-most impressive opening weekend at the box office. Harry competes in a wizardry competition for students while plagued by nightmares of the Dark Lord and his henchman. No spoiler alert here: Lucius Malfoy is totally a bad dude.
Opening weekend gross: $148,609,100
Share of total revenue: 41.0%
Opening theaters: 4,380
Release date: May 7, 2010
Tony Stark has been outed as Iron Man and has two battles left to fight: one for his own health, and one against the vindictive Ivan Vanko. Don’t you just hate it when your rival copies your technology and uses it against you?
Opening weekend gross: $149,620,400
Share of total revenue: 37.6%
Opening theaters: 4,347
Release date: May 5, 2017
This is the only “Guardians of the Galaxy” film to appear on this list. As Star Lord (Chris Pratt) uncovers the truth about his past, the Guardians must stick together to defeat a new foe.
Opening weekend gross: $152,421,200
Share of total revenue: 37.1%
Opening theaters: 4,362
Release date: May 25, 2007
The third installment of the series, “At World’s End” brings back fan favorite Captain Barbossa. Barbossa, Will and Elizabeth must rescue Jack Sparrow and band together with pirates from all corners of the world to fight for their freedom. Complicated plot—easy money!
Opening weekend gross: $154,618,300
Share of total revenue: 28.5%
Opening theaters: 3,661
Release date: May 19, 2005
“Revenge of the Sith” is the sixth movie in the Star Wars franchise, and the third episode overall (we’re not here to explain George Lucas’ math). This film leads up to the highly anticipated moment when Anakin Skywalker finally falls to the dark side and becomes one of the most famous film villains of all time.
Opening weekend gross: $156,247,300
Share of total revenue: 41.7%
Opening theaters: 4,004
Release date: April 3, 2015
“Furious 7” had the biggest opening weekend of the “Fast and the Furious” franchise, which was attributed least in part to the untimely death of actor Paul Walker. A movie about Deckard Shaw seeking revenge against Dominic Toretto may have brought in the audiences, but fan love for Walker undoubtedly helped.
Opening weekend gross: $159,012,300
Share of total revenue: 24.5%
Opening theaters: 4,163
Release date: May 19, 2004
Shrek and Fiona have gotten married and return to Far Far Away to meet her parents. Tensions arise, and problems ensue. One problem “Shrek 2” didn’t have: Getting people to the theater.
Opening weekend gross: $160,168,700
Share of total revenue: 48.2%
Opening theaters: 4,070
Release date: Nov. 16, 2012
“Breaking Dawn Part 2” explores new vampire Bella’s life and motherhood. Vampire family clans must join together an effort to help protect Bella’s child.
Opening weekend gross: $161,230,800
Share of total revenue: 49.1%
Opening theaters: 4,061
Release date: Nov. 18, 2011
“Breaking Dawn Part 1” begins the Twilight Saga’s final installment. Bella’s pregnancy is dangerous for her, made worse by the wolf pack’s pursuit. This film opened less than $100,000 above its final installment.
Opening weekend gross: $161,256,700
Share of total revenue: 29.2%
Opening theaters: 4,157
Release date: Dec. 16, 2016
A rogue movie in its own right, “Rogue One” breaks from the “Star Wars” formula without breaking from the mythology. Unlikely heroes set out to steal secret plans to the Death Star, and the future of the galaxy lays in the balance. "Rogue One" may be a one-off from the other “Star Wars” films, but they all shared one major thing in common: a huge opening weekend.
Opening weekend gross: $161,583,100
Share of total revenue: 37.7%
Opening theaters: 4,122
Release date: May 18, 2007
When Fiona’s father dies, Shrek grudgingly inherits the throne. He and his friends set off to find the rightful heir while Prince Charming plots to overthrow the monarchy. “Shrek the Third” is one of very few children’s movies in these top-50 weekend openers.
Opening weekend gross: $171,557,100
Share of total revenue: 48.2%
Opening theaters: 4,024
Release date: November 20, 2009
“New Moon” is the second film of the Twilight Saga franchise, but comes in first of the series as highest-grossing opening weekend. When Edward leaves Bella, she finds herself in the arms of werewolf Jacob. Superfans of the films showed which side they were on in 2009 by wearing “Team Edward” and “Team Jacob” T-shirts.
Opening weekend gross: $173,029,800
Share of total revenue: 37.0%
Opening theaters: 4,163
Release date: Nov. 22, 2013
Catching Fire” is the second film in the “Hunger Games” series and was voted the “freshest” of all of the films by fans and critics alike. The film follows Katniss and Peeta on their “victory” propaganda tour in the Districts of Panem, where they become targets of the Capitol. The films grossed a worldwide cumulative $865 million and caused their star, Jennifer Lawrence, to shoot to super-celebrity status.
Opening weekend gross: $176,032,400
Share of total revenue: 37.9%
Opening theaters: 4,137
Release date: March 23, 2012
This first installment of the “Hunger Games” franchise had the biggest opening weekend of all four films. Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself as a “tribute” in her society’s Hunger Games—a battle of children to the death—and struggles to prevail.
Opening weekend gross: $176,842,300
Share of total revenue: 50.6%
Opening theaters: 4,242
Release date: March 25, 2016
“Batman v Superman” is a story about the struggle of good versus... better? This film has the highest share of total revenue on opening weekend in this list—more than 50% of the money that the movie brought in was made in the first weekend. It was panned by critics, but that didn’t stop viewers from pouring into theaters.
Opening weekend gross: $178,013,600
Share of total revenue: 29.4%
Opening theaters: 4,410
Release date: June 15, 2018
“Incredibles 2” has the largest time gap between an original movie and its sequel on this list. No love was lost in those 13 years, as the sequel opened even more successfully than the original. In fact, “Incredibles” is not in this top 50 at all. In the sequel, the movie finds Mr. Incredible taking on domestic duties while Elastigirl goes off to save the world.
Opening weekend gross: $180,667,000
Share of total revenue: 28.4%
Opening theaters: 3,615
Release date: May 3, 2002
A spider bites an awkward, high-school boy who becomes a superhero with spider-like powers. He uses said powers to fight evil (and kiss girls upside-down in the rain). The movie contains more of the former than the latter, but had an amazing opening weekend either way.
Opening weekend gross: $180,681,100
Share of total revenue: 34.8%
Opening theaters: 4,210
Release date: March 17, 2017
This live-action “Beauty and the Beast” stars Harry Potter star Emma Watson as the bookish Belle, who is captured and eventually befriended by a prince-turned-beast who needs to break a witch’s spell.
Opening weekend gross: $187,552,300
Share of total revenue: 43.9%
Opening theaters: 4,226
Release date: May 6, 2016
“Captain America: Civil War,” contains all your favorite Marvel Universe superheroes from the Avengers franchise. Unlike the other films, however, they are not all working together. The story follows a division in the team over government interference.
Opening weekend gross: $189,011,600
Share of total revenue: 35.9%
Opening theaters: 4,404
Release date: July 20, 2012
“The Dark Knight Rises” represents the third and final installment in the Christopher Nolan-directed Batman trilogy. Opening at $189 million, “The Dark Knight Rises” proved to be a smash hit—understandable, considering it delivered Bane and Catwoman in one film.
Opening weekend gross: $189,267,100
Share of total revenue: 32.0%
Opening theaters: 4,133
Release date: July 7, 2006
In the second of five (yes, there are five) films in the franchise, Jack Sparrow finds that he owes a debt to Davy Jones and must recover Jones’ heart in order to avoid being enslaved. Johnny Depp’s performance gained enough traction to earn the franchise the 12th-highest grossing box office weekend in history.
Opening weekend gross: $189,938,100
Share of total revenue: 42.5%
Opening theaters: 4,253
Release date: May 3, 2013
While this was the first movie in the franchise not directed by Jon Favreau, it had the highest opening weekend gross of the three "Iron Man" films. This installment shows Tony Stark tested beyond all measure by a terrorist known as The Mandarin.
Opening weekend gross: $194,759,600
Share of total revenue: 44.4%
Opening theaters: 4,375
Release date: July 15, 2011
The final film in the “Harry Potter” series portrays the final showdown between Harry Potter and Lord Voldemort as an epic battle consumes Hogwarts. Rated highly by critics and fans alike, “The Deathly Hallows Part 2” put a satisfying finish on the beloved franchise, bringing in a whopping $1.3 billion in worldwide cumulative gross receipts. Now that is magic!
Opening weekend gross: $200,756,500
Share of total revenue: 44.9%
Opening theaters: 4,252
Release date: May 4, 2007
“Spider-Man 3” introduces new villains for Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) to battle. The biggest fight is against himself, as darkness permeates more than just his suit. In contrast, none of Andrew Garfield’s Spider-Man films broke the top-50 opening weekends.
Opening weekend gross: $201,562,900
Share of total revenue: 28.9%
Opening theaters: 4,020
Release date: February 16, 2018
T’Challa must balance his new role as king with his destiny as superhero Blank Panther. This film broke record after record. It was the biggest solo superhero launch of all time, the highest-grossing movie from an African-American director, and the highest-grossing movie featuring a predominantly African-American cast. Wakanda forever!
Opening weekend gross: $201,654,700
Share of total revenue: 29.7%
Opening theaters: 4,366
Release date: July 18, 2008
The tragic death of Heath Ledger preceded the release of this film. It’s thought that this sequel to Christopher Nolan’s first Batman film out-earned it at every turn, owing to Ledger’s passing. No matter the reason, Batman facing down The Joker did not disappoint audiences, and did not disappoint at the box office.
Opening weekend gross: $203,045,100
Share of total revenue: 41.5%
Opening theaters: 4,276
Release date: May 1, 2015
One of the three “Avengers” movies to break the top-10 in this list, the “Age of Ultron” is the second time audiences witnessed this collaboration of superheroes. Tony Stark creates the Ultron Program to keep peace in the world, but the program goes awry and the Avengers must come together to save humanity once more.
Opening weekend gross: $219,050,900
Share of total revenue: 35.5%
Opening theaters: 4,232
Release date: Dec. 15, 2017
Those who can’t do, teach. Cue “Star Wars: The Last Jedi,” as a clandestine Luke Skywalker teaches Rey how to harness her powers while General Leia Organa leads the Resistance against the First Order. “The Last Jedi” would ultimately bring in more than $1.3 billion in cumulative worldwide gross earnings. The force was certainly with them.
Opening weekend gross: $231,332,000
Share of total revenue: 32.0%
Opening theaters: 4,274
Release date: June 12, 2015
The fourth-place slot for the highest opening weekend may surprise you. After two sequels that were not critically well-received, this fourth installment in the Jurassic Park franchise cracked $231 million in its opening weekend, blowing every other movie in the franchise out of the water. This film returned to the format of the original, as a dinosaur theme park proves to be more of a liability than it may be worth.
Opening weekend gross: $233,496,300
Share of total revenue: 33.2%
Opening theaters: 4,349
Release date: May 4, 2012
There is no “I” in team… or Avengers. The first film in this Marvel franchise, which dominated box office sales, tells the story of superheroes teaming up to prevent the evil god Loki from enslaving the world.
Opening weekend gross: $251,104,600
Share of total revenue: 37.9%
Opening theaters: 4,474
Release date: April 27, 2018
Holding both the #2 and #3 spots on the list, this franchise has proven to be an enduring fan favorite. Then again, packing a bunch of superheroes into one film is a surefire way to bring in the big bucks. In “Infinity War,” the Avengers must band together to stop Thanos from ending the world.
Opening weekend gross: $260,507,500
Share of total revenue: 26.4%
Opening theaters: 4,134
Release date: Dec. 18, 2015
With the return of Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker from the original three “Star Wars” films, this movie brought in nearly $261 million on opening weekend. The search for Jedi legend Luke Skywalker is on, while the Resistance battles the legions of the First Order. Good-versus-evil and old-meets-new are two winning formulas that thrust this film into a record-breaking opening weekend.