American Sniper is Now America’s Biggest Movie of Last Year

By  · Published on March 9th, 2015

Warner Bros. Entertainment

Although it was barely in theaters before the new year, American Sniper is officially a 2014 release, and now it’s actually the biggest 2014 release in the US. Over the weekend, the Clint Eastwood-helmed Best Picture nominee overcame The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 as the highest-grossing domestic picture of last year, with $337m and that’s noteworthy for a few reasons. It’s the first box office champ that’s not in the fantasy genre since 1998, when Saving Private Ryan was number one. And it’s the first non-franchise title since 2000’s The Grinch (or since 2009’s Avatar if you want to be a stickler about that not having sequels out yet). Of course, it does have a very minor link to the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Another interesting part of the success of American Sniper, though this isn’t something part of this weekend’s milestone, is how the top 5 movies in the US from last year all involve Marvel, American Sniper star Bradley Cooper (who also voices a character in Guardians of the Galaxy), Chris Pratt (star of Guardians and voice of the main character in The LEGO Movie) and/or Elizabeth Banks (co-star of The Hunger Games and voice of a main character in The LEGO Movie). I think this goes to show that Banks has to appear in Guardians of the Galaxy 2 so that fans can be assured it will be the most popular release of 2017.

The difference between the domestic and global hits of last year is also notable. American Sniper may be tops in America, but worldwide it’s only the 16th biggest moneymaker of 2014. Our 16th biggest, meanwhile, is Interstellar, which cracked the top 10 for global box office. Everything in that global top 10, the champion of which is Transformers: Age of Extinction, is also fantasy/sci-fi and pretty much all franchise titles (provided they make a Maleficent 2 or eventually make a Disney villain crossover movie starring Angelina Jolie, Cinderella’s Cate Blanchett and Beauty and the Beast’s Luke Evans). Still, American Sniper has done really well on the worldwide chart with $500m and the highest-placing non-genre movie. But it’s not surprising that it’s not a big hit in a lot of other countries.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.