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What the Top Movies of 2017 Should Mean for 2018

Disney live-action fare and female heroes dominated the box office last year.
Last Jedi
By  · Published on January 2nd, 2018

Disney live-action fare and female heroes dominated the box office last year.

The box office hits of 2017 looked a lot like the box office hits of the last two years. On the surface, at least.

For the third year in a row, an episode of the Star Wars franchise came in first place on the domestic chart. For the third year in a row, a live-action remake of a Disney animated classic showed up in the top 10. And other top slots were again mostly filled by superhero movies and animated features.

There were some significant differences with the highest-grossing movies of 2017, however. Such as how the top three movies all involve strong women protagonists. Also, how most of those superhero movies were better than usual (and the movies in general, as the top nine all have positive Rotten Tomatoes scores and half of the top 10 have scores above 90%).

Hollywood should take notice. And moviegoers should set their expectations for the future accordingly. For 2018, though, it’s going to just look like the same old stuff all over again.

Firstly, smack in the middle of the domestic top 10 for 2017 is a horror movie, a very good horror movie. But is It a fluke? Hopefully not, because the genre deserves to see more quality efforts that receive positive reviews and then also do well at the box office. Get Out not being far behind on the chart, in the top 20, is a good sign, too.

This year will see some highly anticipated horror movies arrive, including Luca Guadagnino’s Suspiria remake, but that one may be too arthouse and too long (at almost three hours) to be a smash. There’s also David Gordon Green and Danny McBride’s Halloween, but they don’t have a dependable track record these days.

The only thing we know for sure is that the sequel is going to be huge, likely taking a similar slot on the 2019 chart, but then it’s going to look more like a franchise win than a victory for horror movies. Maybe some other significant directors could also give true horror — as opposed to blockbuster action horror like The Mummy — a try and keep the genre’s success going.

Obviously, given that Star Wars: The Last Jedi just jumped to number one for the year, Disney is going to keep making those movies. Even when they aren’t quite as well-received, whether by critics or fans, they dominate. This year, though, due to its summer release date and heavy competition, Solo: A Star Wars Story might be the first Star Wars installment not to top the year since Attack the Clones came in third in 2002. It’ll be in the top five, at least.

Disney is also going to keep making live-action remakes of animated features, since Beauty and the Beast held the top spot for most of the year and is still the champion worldwide. But 2018 no longer has a recognizable adaptation, given that Mulan has been delayed to 2019. There’s a movie based on the Christopher Robin character from the Winnie the Pooh films but it’s not as easy a sell (and 2017’s Christopher Robin-focused biopic was dead on arrival). Close, though, is the Mary Poppins sequel, which ought to be gigantic.

You can also bet Disney isn’t done making superhero movies. All three of their Marvel Cinematic Universe titles this year — Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2Spider-Man: Homecoming, and Thor: Ragnarok — landed in the top 10, which is impressive. Disney is also getting its hands on the X-Men series, an installment from which also cracked the top 10: Logan.

In 2018, Marvel could have the same success with three films, Black PantherAnt-Man and the Wasp, and Avengers: Infinity War, the last of which could very well wind up the number one movie of the year. If there’s one of them that falls back and merely lands in the top 20, it’s the Ant-Man sequel since the first wasn’t one of the studio’s biggest.

There will also be an X-Men franchise installment among the chart toppers of the year with Deadpool 2. Two other releases in the series may also do pretty well. There’s X-Men: Dark Phoenix, which adapts a familiar storyline and also might bring the characters into cosmic territory. And there’s The New Mutants, which combines superheroes and horror, a formula that could be a winning one after what we saw in 2017.

One thing Disney didn’t have as much success with this year was animated movies, its longtime bread and butter. For the first time since 2007, the studio’s animated fare didn’t crack the top 10, with Coco being the closest at number 14. This year’s box office wasn’t as favoring of animation in general, though, with only Universal’s Despicable Me 3 finding a place in the top 10. And with its domestic gross being a franchise low.

Disney will do better in 2018 with two promising sequels on the way. Pixar’s Incredibles 2, helmed by the original’s Brad Bird, has the benefit of being a superhero movie, too — plus the first movie was in fifth place for its year. Wreck-It Ralph was number 12 for its year, but the follow-up, Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2, could do much better.

Warner Bros. and its DC superhero universe had the other two titles in the top 10, with Wonder Woman and Justice League. The former was much higher on the chart than DC’s two 2016 efforts, both of which also made the top 10 that year, but collectively the 2017 titles were slightly lower than 2016 with the series’ domestic totals. Still, the studio is going to look to the phenomenal success of Wonder Woman for its brand going forward.

This year, DC’s only movie is Aquaman, and it doesn’t have any of the appeal that have made their other movies such big hits — it’s not women-focused nor is Aquaman one of the proven favorites of the brand, a la Superman and Batman. Aquaman could even suffer due to the disappointment of Justice League. There’s a chance that the oceanic superhero’s first solo movie will be good enough to have legs, but it’ll be surprising if it breaks the top 10 for 2018.

One studio surprisingly lacking in the top 10 in 2017 was Universal. Last year it had two of the biggest animated features, both landing in the 2016 top 10, compared to this year just having Despicable Me 3 low on the chart. In 2015, the studio had Jurassic WorldFurious 7, and Minions. They were much more successful overseas this year, where The Fate of the Furious took second place for the year worldwide.

Universal will have a much better time at home in 2018. They’ve got Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom out this summer, for one thing. And for animation, they’re banking on moviegoers not caring that a new version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas is totally unnecessary. It’s a good bet. The studio’s other animated feature, First Man, should be pretty popular, too.

Below is the current top 10 domestic box office chart for 2017 (note: Jumanji: Welcome to the Junglis on track to knock Justice League off this chart very soon) followed by my prediction of what movies will be among the top 10 for 2018.


1. Star Wars: The Last Jedi  – $533M
2. Beauty and the Beast – $504M
3. Wonder Woman – $413M
4. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 – $390M
5. Spider-Man: Homecoming – $334M
6. It – $327M
7. Thor: Ragnarok – $311M
8. Despicable Me 3 – $265M
9. Logan – $226.3M
10. Justice League – $225.9M


1. Avengers: Infinity War 
2. Deadpool 2
3. Solo: A Star Wars Story
3. Black Panther 
4. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
5. Incredibles 2 
6. Mary Poppins Returns 
7. The Grinch
8. Ralph Breaks the Internet: Wreck-It Ralph 2
9. Aquaman
10. Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald

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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.