Statistically speaking it was a near certainty when Avengers: Endgame became the highest grossing movie of all time that it would be nominated for some Oscars. Every other movie before it that has achieved that landmark title has gone on to get love from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, it was just a matter of "which awards" and "how many." Well the ceremony was last night and Avengers: Endgame was only nominated for one award, which it lost. As pointed out by Fandom, this marks the first time ever that a film has become the "highest grossing film of all time" and failed to win an Oscar.
Below we run down the history of the films that have taken the title back and forth from one another, as you can see, the title of "highest grossing film of all time" has surprisingly only come down to ten movies with a bit of a game of tag throughout the decades.
It's worth noting that since the title of "Highest Grossing Movie of All Time" has started to change hands with frequency in the 1970s, and has been beaten out by a new movie on average about every six or seven years. The longest time in-between a new movie was twelve years with the shortest time being two years. As a result we could perhaps expect the next movie to take the title by 2025, which is coincidentally when Avatar 4 is scheduled to be released.
Gone With the Wind
Released in 1939, Gone With the Wind would hold the title of "highest grossing film of all time" for 37 years (taking it back again briefly in 1971 when it was re-released), and the film cleaned up, winning eight Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Writing, Best Actress in a Leading Role, Best Actress in a Supporting Role, Best Cinematography (color), Best Art Direction, and Best Film Editing.
The film was also nominated for five more awards, including Best Actor in a Leading Role for Clark Gable, and also won two special Oscars with a Technical Achievement Award and an Honorary Award. Adjusted for inflation, Gone With the Wind is still technically the highest grossing film of all time with its ticket sales valued in 2019 dollars at $3.7 billion.
The Sound of Music
In 1966 the title of Highest Grossing Movie of All Time was taken from Gone with the Wind very briefly by The Sound of Music. The 1966 musical (which when adjusted for inflation sits at $2.5 billion worldwide) went on to nab ten Academy Award nominations, winning five including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Music.
Gone With the Wind would reclaim its "Highest Grossing Movie of All Time" status from The Sound of Music in 1971 thanks to a re-release, but the very next year another contender emerged with Paramount Pictures' The Godfather which eclipsed both movies. Francis Ford Coppola's American epic took home just three Oscars after eleven total nominations, winning Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Actor in a Leading Role for Marlon Brando.
The Godfather would only wear the "Highest Grossing Movie of All Time" crown for four years as Steven Spielberg's Jaws emerged in 1976 and quickly gobbled up the competition. Jaws not only began the trend of "summer blockbusters" with its success and release strategy, but would also in a way set the standard for how those movies would be treated by The Academy when awards season came around.
Jaws was nominated for just four Academy Awards, winning three including Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Score (John Williams). The film was nominated for Best Picture, but lost to the Jack Nicholson-starring One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
The Empire would strike just two years later with George Lucas' Star Wars (release with just the two word title and no "episode" subtitle at the time) which opened in 1978 and became the new "Highest Grossing Movie of All Time" at the time.
Star Wars would go on to became a cultural phenomena and was nominated for ten Academy Awards, winning Best Art Direction, Best Costume Design, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Score, and earning a special achievement award for its sound effects.
The film would love the Oscars for Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actor (Alec Guinness), Best Director, and Best Picture. Star Wars lost both the Best Director and Best Picture Oscars to Woody Allen's Annie Hall.
Though Star Wars would cement its lead as the "Highest Grossing Movie of All Time" with a re-release in 1982, Steven Spielberg would take back the title with hits 1983 film E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. It would go on to be nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning four of them including Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Original Score.
Spielberg would once again lost the Best Director and Best Picture Oscars, with the winner having a special tie to the filmmaker but more on that later. The family/sci-fi movie remains one of the highest grossing movies of all time too, when adjusted for inflation its totals reach $2.493 billion worldwide.
Ten years later, Spielberg would keep the crown, but just slide it over to a new project after the release of Jurassic Park in 1993. The film was only nominated for three Academy Awards, but took home all of them including Best Sound, Best Sound Effects Editing, and Best Visual Effects. Spielberg would win the Best Picture Oscar for that year, but for his other 1993 release, Schindler's List, beating out films like The Fugitive and The PIano.
Fun fact, Spielberg's E.T. lost Best Picture and Best Director to Richard Attenborough ten years earlier, Spielberg went on to hire the filmmaker to play a role in Jurassic Park.
Five years after Jurassic Park, James Cameron's Titanic would become king of the world and take the "Highest Grossing Movie of All Time" title. The film by the prolific director would go on to set Oscar records as well, currently tied for the most nominations of all time at 14 (which it shares with All About Eve & La La Land) and most wins at 11 (which it shares with 1959's Ben-Hur and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King).
Titanic's wins at the Oscars include Best Picture, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, Best Sound Effects Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Original Score, and Best Original Song. The only categories where Titanic lost are Best Actress in a Leading Role (Kate Winslet), Best Actress in a Supporting Role (Gloria Stuart), and Best Makeup.
Like Spielberg before him, Cameron would take the title from himself with his new film, the long-gestating Avatar from 2009. Avatar would go on to be nominated for nine Academy Awards, winning three including Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, and Best Art Direction
The film would go home empty handed in Best Sound Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Original Score, Best Editing, and Best Director. Cameron would also lose the Best Picture Oscar to his ex-wife's film, Kathryn Bigelow's The Hurt Locker.
After taking the title from Avatar just ten years later, Avengers: Endgame would go on to receive the lowest amount of Oscar nominations for the new "Highest Grossing Movie of All Time," only being nominated for Best Achievement in Visual Effects. The film would lose the award to 1917.
It's surprising to see Avengers: Endgame get shut out at the Academy Awards not only because of its new status at the top of the food chain, but because of Marvel's success at the Oscars just last year where Black Panther was nominated for seven Oscars. That film would go on to nab three total Oscars, the most of any superhero movie to date; but with Avengers: Endgame The Academy went back to their usual tactic of simply nominating the latest Marvel movie for Best Visual Effects and then awarding something else with the title.