The solid global business of Steven Spielberg’s Ready Player One has pushed his global career total to upwards of $10 billion. That gross is adjusted for inflation, which in this case means quite a great deal. To wit, Spielberg’s domestic total for his 32-film career is currently $4.647b in raw figures, but a whopping $10.4b when adjusted for inflation. Of note, of the 27 movies that earned notable overseas releases (so The Twilight Zone, The Sugarland Express, Empire of the Sun, The Color Purple and Amistad aren’t included), Spielberg’s movies have earned well over $10.0095b. If you include those five films’ domestic gross, the new total is $10.212b worldwide.
Thanks to a very long career making very popular movies, Spielberg’s lifetime total is way above any of his competitors. His peers, such as Peter Jackson ($6.5 billion over six Middle Earth movies and three other flicks), Michael Bay ($6.45b over 13 movies), James Cameron ($6.1b over nine movies, with $4.9b coming from Avatar and Titanic alone), David Yates ($5.3b over six J.K. Rowling flicks plus Legend of Tarzan), got their hauls almost entirely from a given franchise. The likes of Chris Nolan ($4.75 billion over nine movies), Robert Zemeckis ($4.24b over 16 movies), Chris Columbus ($4.1b over 15 movies), Tim Burton ($4.1b over 18 movies), Ron Howard ($4b over 24 movies) and Gore Verbinski ($3.755b over ten movies) aren’t even halfway to Spielberg’s total. George Lucas, Zack Snyder, Sam Raimi, Jon Favreau, Bryan Singer and M. Night Shyalaman all hover around $3b.
The Russo Bros. may end up pretty high on the list if their next two Avengers movies both hit major paydirt. They’ve got $1.99 billion thus far, and a $2.6b showing for the next two Avengers flicks puts them over Nolan’s $4.75b cume, at least until Nolan decides on a next project. This is obviously all colored by domestic inflation, overseas expansion and the rise of the mega-bucks global blockbuster. While the Russos deserve credit for their popular and well-liked MCU movies, it’s not like general audiences flock to them specifically because they are Russo Bros. flicks. And as you can guess, many of the (mostly white male) filmmakers on this list make the cut because of their connection to a popular franchise. That’s partially what separates Spielberg and, I would argue, M. Night Shyamalan and (now) Chris Nolan, from the pack.
Most of Shyamalan’s big hits succeeded precisely because they were original movies from M. Night Shyamalan. And even the franchise flicks helmed by Spielberg or Burton were hits partially because of who was directing them. Ready Player One has earned $475 million worldwide thus far. Of the 32 Spielberg releases, just four (The Lost World and the three Indiana Jones sequels) are sequels. Sure, many of them are based on books or on well-known historical events, but being able to plug Steven Spielberg as the director made many of them, including Ready Player One, bigger hits than they otherwise would have been. Forty-four years after The Sugarland Express, not only can Spielberg still craft financially successful would-be blockbusters, but he can still craft big movies that are bigger because he made them.