The Most Popular Film The Year You Were Born

July 15, 2019

It’s funny to think that on the day you were born, the rest of the world was going about business as usual. People were applying to jobs, taking their morning run, and watching their favorite shows before bed. Media was shaping the world around you, and it’s always interesting to see what songs, TV shows, and movies were popular the year you were born.

The most popular movie the year you were born gives some cultural perspective to the era. If you were born in the ’70s, thrillers and massive blockbusters were likely the most famous film of the year you were born. If you, like many denizens of the internet, were born in the ’90s, chances are an animated Disney feature or an action movie with plenty of explosions rocked the year you were born.

It may be tempting to brush off these movies as nothing more than entertainment, but when you think about how much they’re quoted or referenced, it’s obvious that these films have left their mark.

These are the most popular films from the past 45 years, and they run the gamut in terms of genre, tone, and style. Does the most popular movie from the year you were born seem to fit with your personality?

Check out these films and discover which movie was the bees knees when you first entered the world.

2005: Harry Potter and The Goblet of Fire

The youngest of our readers were born the year the fourth Harry Potter movie came out, and by 2005, most of America was fully devoted to the franchise. Harry is mysteriously entered into the Triwizard Tournament, even though he is technically not old enough to participate.

The Boy Who Lived encounters more peril than he has in his previous adventures, and the battle with He Who Must Not Be Named becomes all too real.

2004: Shrek 2

It may be surprising, but the second Shrek movie outperformed all the other summer blockbusters when it was released, earning $108 million in its opening weekend alone.

The lovably disgusting green giant stole the hearts of moviegoers in the first film, so watchers showed up to see Shrek meet Princess Fiona’s parents — who aren’t ogres.

2003: The Lord of The Rings: Return of The King

Another blockbuster hit for The Lord of The Rings franchise, Return of The King made over a billion dollars in box offices around the world, earning it the spot of the most popular film of 2003.

This epic, three hour and twenty minute-long movie is the end of the trilogy, and it swept the Academy Awards.

2002: The Lord of The Rings: Two Towers

Fantasy defined the hit movies of the early 2000s, and 2002 is no exception. The Lord of The Rings: Two Towers nearly made a billion dollars during its theatrical run.

The second installment in the Lord of the Rings trilogy features a massive battle scene at Helm’s Deep so detailed and intense that Game of Thrones creators cited it as inspiration for battles during their own final season.

2001: Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone

The Boy Who Lived made his appearance on the big screen for the first time in 2001. When Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone premiered, it was already highly anticipated thanks to the popularity of the books.

Danielle Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson quickly became household names for their roles as Hogwarts heroes Harry, Ron, and Hermione in this popular film.

2000: Mission: Impossible II

The second installment in the spy thriller franchise features Agent Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and his team are working against the clock to get their hands on a highly contagious, genetically modified disease created by German terrorists.

Unfortunately, Hunt and his team are not the only ones after this deadly weapon.

1999: Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace

The Phantom Menace details what happened long before Anakin Skywalker fathered Luke Skywalker and became Darth Vader. Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor) is just a young apprentice under Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson) in this film, and it is his task to negotiate with The Trade Federation when they cut off routes to and from Naboo.

The film garnered mixed reviews and introduced the world to easily one of the most-hated characters in Star Wars canon, Jar Jar Binks.

1998: Armageddon

NASA learns that a massive asteroid is on course to the Earth in a matter of 18 days and will make the earth uninhabitable for humans. The Administration takes action by hiring a rag-tag group of oil drillers to insert a nuclear bomb into the asteroid.

Starring Bruce Willis, Liv Tyler, and Ben Affleck, this apocalyptic film was one of two asteroid-based films that came out in ’98, but it came out on top over Deep Impact. 

1997: Titanic

Jack Dawson and Rose DeWitt Bukater, played by Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet, sailed into the hearts of movie-goers around the world in 1997. Two young passengers from completely different worlds meet aboard the ship and fall hard for one another, only to have the disaster tear them apart.

The film is the third-largest grossing movie in film history. We’ll never let go, Jack.

1996: Independence Day

This is the year that Will Smith really started to get into the whole “world savior” action role. In Independence Day, aliens are on a mission to destroy all of humanity and take ove the planet.

Naturally, it happens on the Fourth of July, and after a rousing speech from the President (Bill Pullman), humans across the world band together to defeat the unwanted extra terrestrials.

1995: Die Hard: With a Vengeance

The third installment in the Die Hard series barely beat out Toy Story as the most popular movie of 1995. In this action film, John McClane (Bruce Willis) is tasked with stopping German terrorist Simon Gruber (Jeremy Irons) from robbing the Federal Reserve.

Gruber sends McClane a series of riddles and puzzles that he must solve before Gruber wreaks havoc on New York City.

1994: The Lion King

Although dramas and disaster films would soon take over the box office in the’ 90s, this family film stole the show the year it was released. The Lion King is one of the most beloved Disney movies of all time, and the Hamlet-inspired animation went on to inspire a myriad of books, sequels, and children’s toys.

Fans can expect to hear some of the favorite stars, including Donald Glover, Beyonce, and Seth Rogen, belt out their favorite Lion King jams in the 2019 live-action remake.

1993: Jurassic Park

How many times have you looked at a shaking piece of Jell-O and half-thought, I hope that’s not a T-Rex.? 1993 brought us the first of many Jurassic Park films, and frankly, nothing beats the original, most popular film.

After all, who can forget Dr. Ellie Sattler’s iconic, “Dinosaur eats man… woman inherents the Earth”? In addition to making a killing at the box office, this was the film that helped usher in the era of mixing computer animation with live-action filmmaking.

1992: Aladdin

We loved the live-action remake, but nothing beats the original when it comes to this animated Disney classic. While much of the cast and crew of Aladdin might be unfamiliar to those born the year it was released, the genie is one of the late Robin Williams’ most iconic roles.

Release in 2019, The newest Aladdin features in Will Smith in Robbins’ role, and thankfully, he took it in a new, unique direction.

1991: Terminator 2: Judgement Day

Arnold Schwarzenegger lived up to his promise of “I’ll be back” in this sequel to the original Terminator. Time travel, liquid-metal-shifting androids, and plenty of explosions was the recipe for success for this 1991 movie.

While Schwarzenegger played the villain in the first film, he comes back in the second installment as a protector of humans. Terminator 2 made an adjusted gross revenue of $913 million.

1990: Ghost

With Dirty Dancing’s Patrick Swayze as its lead, it really isn’t very surprising that Ghost was the most popular film the year it was released. Ghost made $506 million worldwide during its initial theatrical release, which could largely be attributed to Swayze’s popularity.

The actor rose to fame as a romantic lead and became something of a teenage heartthrob during his career. In 2009, Swayze passed away after a 20-month battle with an aggressive form of pancreatic cancer.

1989: Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade

With Harrison Ford and Sean Connery as leads and Steven Spielberg in the director’s chair, the third Indiana Jones felt like a sure thing. Bringing another heavy hitter into the cast of an already successful franchise was a smart move.

Sean Connery plays Indiana Jones’ father, who goes missing during his search for The Holy Grail. Not only does Harrison Ford pull off his rescue in this popular film, but he also stops some Nazis along the way.

1988: Rain Man

Rain Man is a movie about two very different brothers brought together by their father’s death. Charlie Babbit (Tom Cruise) inherits a fraction of his father’s fortune while the majority is left for the facility caring for his autistic brother, Raymond (Dustin Hoffman).

Charlie decides to take his brother out of the institution and be his caregiver in hopes of gaining access to the fortune. As the two enter a cross-country roadtrip, the two brothers learn more about each other and grow.

1987:  Fatal Attraction

A one-night stand goes terribly wrong in this popular film starring Glenn Close. When Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas) has an affair with book editor Alex Forest (Close), he thinks it is just a one-time mistake he will soon forget.

His lover has other plans, stalking him and his family. This film helped bring erotic thrillers into the mainstream and quickly became one of Close’s most memorable roles.

1986: Top Gun

This is the Tom Cruise we love, starring as an over-confident student at The Top Gun Naval Fighter Weapons School. There’s a love interest, the trauma of a father lost too soon, the competition of another brilliant classmate, and beach volleyball–what more could you want from an action movie?

Top Gun made a whopping $356 million worldwide and gave the world a slew of memorable quotes and catchphrases.

1985: Back to The Future

When Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) messes up the present with a time travel experiment, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox)  has to travel to the past to make sure his parents fall in love so he will be born.

This popular film from the ’80s made nearly $380 million worldwide, and Marty McFly became one of Michael J. Fox’s most iconic roles, which he recreated for two more Back to the Future films.

1984: Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom

The movie-goers of the 1980s sure did love their adventure films! Indiana Jones is back after his first film from three years prior, making the ’80s a killer decade for Steven Spielberg. The Temple of Doom is actually a prequel to the first popular film, and in this one, Harrison Ford isn’t fighting Nazis.

Instead, he faces a cult in India that is making human sacrifices while he hunts for a rare stone.

1983: Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of The Jedi

Return of the Jedi marked the end of the Star Wars films, at least for the foreseeable future. Episode VI shows our heroes taking on the Dark Side once again as Luke Skywalker grapples with the fact he is related to Darth Vader.

The final entry into the original Star Wars trilogy made around $23 million in its opening weekend alone, or about $60 million when adjusted for inflation today.

1982: E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial

Steven Spielberg ruled the late ’70s and early ’80s with his beloved characters, and the lovable E.T. is no exception. A young boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas) is having a hard time. He’s visited by an extra-terrestrial creature who becomes his friend.

With help from his sister, played by Drew Barrymore, he helps his new friend leave Earth and return to his home.

1981: Indiana Jones: Raiders of The Lost Ark

Fighting back against Nazis and searching for invaluable, ancient artifacts was a recipe for success for the first of the Indiana Jones franchise.  This movie is set in 1936 and introduced the world to the hunky, snake-fearing, archaeologist Dr. Jones, played by Harrison Ford.

This wasn’t the first of Steven Spielberg’s major blockbusters, either; he was also responsible for Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

1980: Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back

In the late ’70s and early ’80s, audiences were obsessed with the conflict between the Rebel Alliance and the Galactic Empire. No one was prepared for the epic plot twist at the end of the film when Luke Skywalker learns that his mortal enemy Darth Vader is his father.

The movie made more than the first entry of the Star Wars saga, raking in nearly $210 million worldwide at the time.

1979: Moonraker

The eleventh James Bond film takes 007 to space! Villain Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) attempts to highjack a space shuttle, but Bond (Roger Moore), has other plans.

Space travel, a love story, several space-dwelling villians–what more could you want from an action movie? Moonraker took off in theaters as ’79’s most popular film and took in roughly $210 million worldwide.

1978: Grease

When good girl Sandy, played by Olivia-Newton John, has a summer fling with bad boy Danny, played by John Travolta, they believe they were just having a bit of casual fun. When Rydell High goes back into session, Danny and Sandy discover they attend the same school–and belong to wildly different cliques.

The musical still has a legion of fans, and every now and then, there is a fun new revival of the classic star-crossed lovers tale.

1977: Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away…it’s a line nearly everyone is familiar with, even if they don’t realize it comes from George Lucas’s iconic first entry into the Star Wars franchise.

The world was instantly hooked to the popular film. People couldn’t get enough of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and the no-nonsense Princess Leia.

1976: Rocky

The ’70s were a great time for movies! A popular film that quickly became a part of the American canon, Rocky details the journey of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone), who is struggling to rise to the top in the boxing world.

When he has the chance to fight the current champion, Apollo Creed, he sees it as an opportunity to show the world what he is made of.

1975: Jaws

This move needs no introduction, as  it has become so ingrained in American culture. For those living under a rock, Jaws is the story of a beach town terrorized by a massive shark. The simple but goosebump-inducing theme song has been parodied and sampled countless times.

While there were several sequels to Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster, nothing quite compares to the original.

1974: Blazing Saddles

This controversial comedy stars Cleavon Little and Gene Wilder. The satire pokes fun at classic Western movies and dissects attitudes about race in the 1970s. When a railroad is planned to run through their town, the town must fight back.

Cleavon Little plays Bart, the first black Sherriff the be appointed in the town as he fights back against the proposed railroad.

1973: The Exorcist

Making $232 million in domestic box office sales, The Exorcist became a cult classic and is largely considered to be one of the scariest horror movies of all time. The plot of this popular film centers around a teenage girl possessed by a demonic force, her mother, and the two priests who attempt to cast out the demon.

The film was so terrifying when it was first released that people reportedly left the theater vomiting.

1972: The Godfather

Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather, now considered an American classic, almost didn’t get made. It stars Marlon Brando, who plays crime family patriarch Don Vito Corleone. Al Pacino stars as his son Michael, who would prefer to live a normal life with his wife.

Unfortunately for Michael, familial duties come first, and he is dragged into the deep underbelly of the American crime syndicate.

1971: Billy Jack

Billy Jack is an ex-Green Beret with who is being drawn to explore his Navajo heritage. He spends his time protecting the students of a freedom school on the reservation where he lives.

Billy Jack strives to lead a non-violent life, but when local authorities begin to target the school, he becomes conflicted. This movie reflected the anti-establishment sentiment of the time.

1970: Love Story

Oliver and Jenny are two students from very different worlds but when they meet, they fall hard for one another. Because she is middle class and he’s from a wealthy, connected family, their marriage stirs up controversy in his family.

Tragically, Oliver learns he is terminally ill, and the movie tracks their relationship throughout their struggle.

Have you seen the most popular film released the year you were born?