This past year, many movies have not had as large domestic openings as they may have had otherwise, partly because fewer people are attending movies theaters as a result of the ongoing pandemic, which also led to some studios opting for a simultaneous theater and streaming releases.
Nevertheless, based on the reports from Box Office Mojo, many films performed exceptionally well at the box office. Specifically, the domestic opening weekend numbers for some of the biggest movies have been solid, contributing to these being some of the highest-grossing movies of the year.
Updated on January 17th, 2022, by Jake Koran: With the final weekend of the year having passed, the movies with the best-performing opening weekends of 2021 have been solidified. From highly-anticipated sequels to original titles that connected heavily with audiences, this past year provided some incredible movies.
15 Encanto – $27,206,494
Disney is known for its exceptional animated productions, and with Encanto, the company gave audiences one of the best musicals of 2021. The film is exciting, funny, and full of heart. It follows the character of Mirabel Madrigal, who is a part of a family that has magical powers, though she has none herself.
With talented voice actors, a fascinating story, and excellent original songs by Lin-Manuel Miranda, Encanto has proven to be another major success for Disney and will likely be among many fans’ favorite animated musicals for years to come.
14 Free Guy – $28,365,416
Though the movie was somewhat polarizing, Free Guy proved to be successful, earning over $330,000,000 worldwide. Its unique premise follows a character named Guy, who learns he is an NPC in a video game.
Much of the success of this film can be credited to this fascinating plot and the draw of Ryan Reynolds as the lead character. The rest of the cast excellently fills out the movie, giving audiences many reasons to watch the film.
13 Godzilla Vs. Kong – $31,625,971
As the fourth installment of the MonsterVerse, Godzilla vs. Kong set the stage for one of the biggest rivalries on the big screen. This monster film was released simultaneously in theaters and for a limited time on HBO Max.
Even under these circumstances, Godzilla Vs. Kong made almost $32 million during its opening weekend. It was also the number 1 movie for four consecutive weeks, and the film’s success brought hope to the movie industry.
12 Jungle Cruise – $35,018,731
Based on the Disney attraction, Jungle Cruise was one of the biggest action films of the year. Like many others, this Disney movie also had a simultaneous release in theaters and Disney+ Premier Access.
Starring Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, Jungle Cruise took the number 1 spot for a week and made $35 million during its opening weekend. Of course, it was one of the first live-action films with its target audience being families, so it did well enough for a sequel to be in development.
11 Dune – $40,100,000
The sci-fi epic Dune was one of the most anticipated movies of 2021. It is the second theatrical adaptation of Frank Herbert’s novel that many fans hoped would improve from David Lynch’s 1984 version. So far, it has! The film features some incredible visual effects, storylines, and characters that pleased many fans of the source material.
Although many critics and fans describe it as a faithful rendition, Denis Villeneuve’s epic is only a Part 1, and the fate of Part 2 relied on the box office numbers and performance on HBO Max, with good news coming that the sequel was greenlit. Despite the simultaneous release on HBO Max, Dune racked up $40 million, projecting much better than expected.
10 Ghostbusters: Afterlife – $44,008,406
Ghostbusters: Afterlife connected with audiences for its use of nostalgia and a fun story that many were happy to come along for the ride on. Starring actors like Finn Wolfhard, Mckenna Grace, and Paul Rudd in leading roles, the film features excellent chemistry between the cast and genuinely funny and heartfelt moments.
Grossing over $176 million worldwide, Ghostbusters: Afterlife proved to be massively successful, pleasing many longtime fans of the franchise with elements that heavily reference the originals.
9 A Quiet Place Part II – $47,547,231
The horror A Quiet Place Part II was one of the first films delayed by the pandemic. Even so, the sequel performed exceedingly well, releasing as one of the first summer flicks of the year. The film increased the scope of its chaotic world, and its different directions were well-received by the audience. Many people even believe that the sequel is better than the first film.
Part II made over $47 million during its opening weekend and benefited from the Memorial Day long weekend. The sequel was a success, and a potential Part III is in development.
8 Halloween Kills – $49,404,980
The Halloween series is one of the most popular horror franchises in history, and the success of 2018’s Halloween led to the green light of its sequel, Halloween Kills. The mixed reviews and criticism of its plot did not stop its momentum at the box office. Halloween Kills made $49 million during its opening weekend since it was released during the spooky month of October.
7 No Time To Die – $55,225,007
Serving as Daniel Craig’s last outing as James Bond, No Time to Die was one of the most awaited movies in 2020 until the pandemic forced the film to undergo several delays. Finally, the film was released in October 2021 and made over $55 million during its opening weekend.
Despite having one of the best opening weekend numbers in 2021, No Time to Die had an underwhelming domestic performance, given the film’s scope. Many believe that its weak domestic box office is due to the pandemic causing the franchise’s target audience, older crowds, to remain at home. Nevertheless, No Time to Die was number 1 for two straight weeks and performed well with the international market.
6 F9 – $70,043,165
A franchise about racing cars and family, F9 continued its high-speed adventures with a new threat – Dom Toretto’s younger brother. The Fast & Furious series has been one of the most profitable franchises, so its release during the pandemic did not slow down the film’s momentum at the box office.
The film made $70 million during its opening weekend. It was also the number 1 movie for three straight weeks and performed exceedingly well with the international markets. Although the film could not break a billion dollars like several of its predecessors, it is still one of the highest-grossing films of the year so far, as reported by Box Office Mojo.
5 Eternals – $71,297,219
Released in early November 2021, Eternals debuted a handful of new superpowered characters, crafting a millennia-spanning story. While it has its detractors, the film gives audiences a different type of plot than they may be used to in the MCU, which many fans appreciated.
Marvel movies, in recent years, have become essentially guaranteed successes, but Eternals also excels on its own as a compelling glimpse at an aspect of the franchise’s universe that audiences have not seen up until this point. Fans can get excited for more upcoming appearances from many of the major characters.
4 Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings – $75,388,688
Marvel’s Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings introduced a new superhero to the MCU. This standalone film received universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike, who found the film to be a refreshing story with brilliantly choreographed martial arts, a top-tier villain, and respectful cultural representations.
Therefore, it is not surprising that Shang-Chi had one of the best opening weekends, making over $75 million. The film was released in the usually quiet month of September, and it dominated as the number 1 movie for five straight weeks, doing exceedingly well and getting the world ready for more adventures with a new fan-favorite hero.
3 Black Widow – $80,366,312
The highly anticipated Black Widow marked Scarlett Johansson’s final portrayal of the titular character. The movie was supposed to release in May 2020, but it was delayed several times due to the pandemic.
The superhero film was released in both theaters and Disney+ Premier Access in July 2021. It made over $80 million during its opening weekend, one of the best this year. Unfortunately, the summer competition and streaming release likely resulted in the film losing its number 1 spot the following week. The box office numbers continued to decline, and Johansson filed a lawsuit against Disney – but it has since been resolved.
2 Venom: Let There Be Carnage – $90,033,210
Many critics and fans found Venom: Let There Be Carnage a significant improvement from its first film as it was both fun and silly. Of course, its word of mouth about the shocking post-credit scene has everyone still talking about the movie.
Venom: Let There Be Carnage is one of the biggest opening weekend movies of 2021 with a massive $90 million. Despite the October competition with films like No Time to Die and Halloween Kills, Let There Be Carnage performed well and made over $500 million worldwide during its theatrical run.
1 Spider-Man: No Way Home – $260,138,569
Spider-Man: No Way Home was perhaps the most anticipated release of 2021, and its domestic opening weekend box office performance proves that. The film has already grossed $1 billion worldwide. Featuring the return of some fan-favorite villains from previous Spider-Man franchises like Alfred Molina’s Doctor Octopus and Willem Dafoe’s Green Goblin, No Way Home was sure to connect with audiences.
This success is propelled further by the fact that Spider-Man is one of the most beloved superheroes of all time, and Tom Holland’s portrayal has garnered him universal acclaim.
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