Fortune decided to take a look at the 3 highest-grossing science-fiction movies of all time, using data from Box Office Mojo and adjusting for inflation.
3. Avatar (2009)
In terms of raw dollars, James Cameron’s “Avatar” is the highest-grossing movie of all time, at $761 million. After adjusting for inflation, its total is $829 million, thereby leaving the movie two slots shy of the top prize. But don’t worry; they’re going to make three sequels anyway.
In the unlikely event that you haven’t seen this 3-D epic, it’s an intergalactic take on “Dances With Wolves,” with the blue indigenous people of the planet Pandora standing in for the Lakota. It’s also the reason that every major event movie released since then has been in 3-D, a phenomenon of which even Cameron has said he’s had enough.
2. ET: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
In 1982, Steven Spielberg was already the star director of such blockbuster fare as “Jaws” and “Raiders of the Lost Ark.” But when “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial” was unleashed upon the masses that summer, he became abona fide cultural phenomenon, the rare director who can get mainstream movie fans into theaters simply because his name is on the poster.
The story of a lovable alien stranded on earth, the movie was an immediate hit, and it earned $435 million at the domestic box office, the equivalent of $1 billion today. Spielberg has since gone on to win a reputation as one of the greatest directors in history, but “ET” is most likely to remain his most beloved film.
1. Star Wars (1977)
The original “Star Wars” tops our list, with a $461 million domestic box office take that translates to $1.8 billion in 2015. Not bad for a movie that faced a huge uphill battle simply to get made. Such major studios as United Artists, Universal and Disney DIS -1.15% all passed on George Lucas’ peculiar little science fiction project, and finally it was 20th Century Fox that grudgingly said yes.
It turned out to be a good decision, as well as a good lesson on the importance of getting in on the ground floor. Walt Disney, one of the original naysayers, bought George Lucas’ production company, Lucasfilm, in 2012 for over $4 billion, considerably more than they would have had to pay if they had just said yes to the first movie, whose budget was $11 million. Their first order of business is a new trilogy of sequels, which starts in December 2015 with “Star Wars: Episode VII — The Force Awakens.”
Of course, if they had just said “yes” to the first movie, they would have had a ground floor opportunity to own the whole enchilada, but hey — better six episodes late than never.