It was always you, Rhett

Posted by · 10:37 am · July 8th, 2009

Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in Gone With the WindChad’s excellent Sunday Cents columns have previously inspired discussion amongst readers about the rights and wrongs of adjusting box-office figures for inflation. I must say it’s always made perfect sense to me, and I’m even more in favor after reading this interesting Bloomberg chart, which lists the top grossers of all time after inflational adjustment.

Under these circumstances, “Gone With the Wind” handily see off all challengers with a gross of $1.45 billion — a satisfactory outcome for me, given that it’s my personal number-one film of all time too. Meanwhile, “Titanic” — the all-time champ on the unmodified chart — drops all the way to #6 when inflation enters the equation. Result.

Below is Bloomberg’s inflation-adjusted Top 10; after the cut, the equivalent ranking irrespective of inflation.


1. Gone with the Wind ($1,450.7)
2. Star Wars ($1,278.9)
3. The Sound of Music ($1,022.5)
4. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial ($1,018.5)
5. The Ten Commandments ($940.6)
6. Titanic ($921.5)
7. Jaws ($919.6)
8. Doctor Zhivago ($891.3)
9. The Exorcist ($793.9)
10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves ($782.6)


1. Titanic ($600.8)
2. The Dark Knight ($533.3)
3. Star Wars ($461.0)
4. Shrek 2 ($441.2)
5. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial ($435.1)
6. Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace ($431.1)
7. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest ($423.3)
8. Spider-Man ($403.7)
9. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith ($380.3)
10. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($377.0)

I know which one I prefer. More here.

→ 19 Comments Tags: , , | Filed in: Daily

19 responses so far

  • 1 7-08-2009 at 11:02 am

    AmericanRequiem said...

    I prefer the looks of the adjusted all time top 10, however I do find it unfair, there is so much competition in the market these days there is no way a movie could selll as many tickets, especially with illegal downloading, netflix and just the sheer amount of movies that come out these days you cant compare contemporary numbers to current ones, its apples and oranges

  • 2 7-08-2009 at 11:15 am

    The Dude said...

    Something is off with that list…on the linked site the movie “Fantasia” is ranked as the 20th highest grossing (on the “adjusted for inflation” list). But, according to what I’ve read about Fantasia and Walt Disney pistures in general, “Fantasia” was a commercial failure even in the era in which it was released (they had to rerelease it numerous times with different edits just to try and make a profit). I wonder if “Fantasia’s” numbers are taking into account all the rereleases (which happened over a span of decades)…

    Sorry to have a very specific complaint about the list, but a long time ago I did a paper for school on Disney’s animated empire, so this kinda stuck out like a sore thumb to me. Whether or not “Fantasia’s” numbers are accurate, I still find the list very interesting.

  • 3 7-08-2009 at 11:35 am

    Chad Hartigan said...

    It all evens out. People didn’t have Netflix back then but there were 131 million people living in the U.S. Now there’s close to 300 million.

    My personal philosophy is that comparing films from different eras is a bit futile but adjusting all four X-Men titles for comparison makes perfect sense.

  • 4 7-08-2009 at 11:36 am

    Chad Hartigan said...

    And Guy, I can’t believe Gone With the Wind is your all-time favorite film.

  • 5 7-08-2009 at 11:41 am

    Guy Lodge said...

    Neither can I sometimes, but there it is.

  • 6 7-08-2009 at 11:55 am

    Brando said...

    I think that Gone with the Wind is better then Citizen Kane and Casablanca, but not the best of all time. On the other hand, Doctor Zhivago really surprise me. And where is Cleopatra? Didn’t made it to top 10?

  • 7 7-08-2009 at 1:01 pm

    Jonathan Spuij said...

    Wasn’t Fantasia re-released over and over again?
    Star Wars cheated as well with the re-release right?

    I loved Gone With the Wind as well and there is nothing wrong with loving it as much as Guy does. Bold? Yes. Silly?By no means.

  • 8 7-08-2009 at 1:17 pm

    A.J said...

    If I am not mistaken, these lists adjust for inflation by dividing total gross by ticket prices when the film was released then multiplying that number by ticket prices of today. Which would mean the numbers are skewed for films with multiple releases.

  • 9 7-08-2009 at 1:36 pm

    entertainmenttoday.. said...

    The one film on that list that is really interesting is The Exorcist. If anyone has time go to You Tube and see reaction from people who walked out of the film at the time back in 1973. That movie was an incredible mass experience and a true talking point of its time. There has never been anything like it in its genre.


  • 10 7-08-2009 at 1:58 pm

    Mike said...

    I’m really interested in top 10 without re-releases. How does the Top 10 look then? Is The Sound of Music #1 ?

  • 11 7-08-2009 at 2:07 pm

    Damned Martian said...

    This list has been a common feature of Box Office Mojo for many many years.

    Copy/paste from there:

    “Adjusted to the estimated 2009 average ticket price of $7.18. Inflation-adjustment is mostly done by multiplying estimated admissions by the latest average ticket price. Where admissions are unavailable, adjustment is based on the average ticket price for when each movie was released (taking in to account re-releases where applicable).”

    More information about the way they adjust the numbers:

    Gone With the Wind, Star Wars, ET, The Exorcist and Snow White have all been re-released several times. Fantasía has also made most of its money by multiple releases, so it still makes sense that it was a failure at the time of its first release.

  • 12 7-08-2009 at 2:26 pm

    j said...

    I was calculating worldwide grosses adjusting for inflation for fun once, and I ended up with top 3, the multibillionaries:
    1939 Gone with the Wind: 2.9329
    1997 Titanic: 2.834 billion
    1977 Star Wars: 2.14 billion

    When people adjust for inflation domestically, they always think Titanic’s not as impressive, but they forget that Titanic made only one third of its money in the US, impressive given how much it made in the US.

  • 13 7-08-2009 at 2:44 pm

    Damned Martian said...

    That’s interesting, but kind of tricky, since there are no solid estimates of ticket price in foreign countries. And I guess every country has its own particular inflation behavior.

    For example, I’m from Spain. When I was a kid, back in 1989, one movie ticket costed 250 pesetas (1,50 euros). 20 years later, the average cost of movie tickets is about 6,50 or even 7 euros. That’s a 4,5 inflation factor. Comparatively, in the US movie tickets went from $3,97 to $7,18, a factor of 1,8 in the same time. So, calculating foreign grosses following the american criteria is not entirely valid.

  • 14 7-08-2009 at 4:38 pm

    JC said...

    Count me in the field that’s SHOCKED that Gone With The Wind is Guy’s all-time #1. Not that it’s a bad film or anything, but when all those “tragedies” start piling up towards the end of that film, it’s all I can do not to laugh out loud. I’m more than willing to embrace melodrama, but it would’ve been pretty much impossible for the film to telescope all the key plot points in the latter half of that book without coming across as way silly. Which, IMO, it does. But Gable’s pretty awesome in it, and Leigh’s perfectly cast as a whiny bitch. ;)

  • 15 7-08-2009 at 5:05 pm

    Guy Lodge said...

    What can I say? I fell hard for Gone With the Wind at an early age, and every time I rewatch it, I try to fall a little out of love with it, to objectively see the obvious tonal cracks and inconsistencies that so bother other, cooler people.

    But I can’t. All I see is an astonishing feat of narrative choreography — four hours of film in which, miraculously enough, something is always happening and the central relationship is constantly in motion. It hypnotises me. And Vivien Leigh gives the most immense, protean female performance in film history.

  • 16 7-09-2009 at 4:20 am

    Glenn said...

    “Gone with the Wind” is one of my favourites too. It’s the meaning of the word Epic. Transcends genre, time period, film length, acting style, everything. Just brilliant.

    I still don’t quite think inflation adjusted box office works though.

  • 17 7-09-2009 at 6:34 am

    John said...

    I was brought up on ‘Gone With the Wind’ in my household.

    I could practically say each bit of dialogue before it’s said.

    And because my whole house loved it, I loved it, too.

    It’s one of my all-time faves, and I firmly believe it’s because it was thrust upon me at an early age when I didn’t realize just how old or inconic it was.

    Love it, though; everything about it.

  • 18 7-09-2009 at 8:07 am

    Gustavo H.R. said...

    Two Spielberg flicks there. Ye-hee! ;)

  • 19 8-05-2009 at 9:29 am

    Zashkaser said...

    You think everything sounds like existentialism.