Most Loved Films in the World and the States: Real-Life Filming Locations

There’s something about film that takes us back in time, makes us focus on the present, and allows us to think of the future all at the same time. Thinking of the past, cinema has come a long way. From the late 1800s all the way into 2023, films have evolved from the first projected movie screen and the first feature-length film with synchronized sound to 3D effects and IMAX high-definition theaters.

It’s interesting to think about the evolution of movies drastically changing throughout time, but film still has the same effect on us as it’s always had. Movies have always been able to evoke emotion. They’ve been able to inspire, provoke thought, and stimulate our social and intellectual needs.

What We Did analyzed film ratings from reputable film sites to identify the most loved films, the top-grossing films in the world and the U.S., the top films with the largest cult-following, and real-life filming locations you can still visit.

Key Findings

  • Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings have the largest subreddit cult-following. Combined, these subreddits have over 4 million members.
  • Films like Spider-Man: No Way Home, The Lion King, and Titanic are on the top 10 list of lifetime grossing movies worldwide. Combined, all 10 box office numbers add up to $21,208,862,461!
  • The most visited frequented film festivals of the world are Toronto International Film Festival and the Berlin International Film Festival — with over 810,000 audience and ticket holders combined.

2009’s Avatar: A Magical Triumph in the Box Office Worldwide

Avatar was the beginning of a transformative era of movies. Although it has mixed reviews from critics and audiences alike, it tops off the top 10 lifetime-grossing movies in the entire world at $2,923,706,026.

Sequels and trilogy-type movies seem to be a reoccurring theme in the top worldwide grossing movies. Both Avatars are on the list with a box office average of $2,621,978,154. Following Avatar, we have most of the Avengers series (3 in total.) The average grossing box office of all 3 Avengers flicks is $2,124,130,892.

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It is important to note that, although these are the top grossing, they might not necessarily be the most-loved. Most-loved films tend to be those that are reviewed and rated highly among critics and audience members. Top-grossing is just what people spent their money on more than others.

The Force Awakened the United States’ Box Office at $9,36,662,225

Star Wars is a time-old favorite movie among many and has not only made it onto the list of highest-grossing films in the United States, but it’s also one saga with the largest cult following. In fact, Star Wars alone has a subreddit with 2.9 million members – which is within the top 1% in size.

Two Avengers movies and both Avatar movies make the top-grossing movies in the United States as well, but other popular box office trophies are other classics like Titanic at $674,292,608 along with more modern films like Top Gun: Maverick at $718,732,821.

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Although we have different and unique movies on this list, there is a hefty coincidence with several films within the top 10. Marvel Comics seems to be a popular movie experience. If you take and add the lifetime grossing of Marvel movies in the U.S. to this list, you’d come up with $3,051,730,118. If you added up the total of all top 10 grossing movies in the States, you’d come up with $7,504,121,813... that’s a pretty spectacular sum.

New York City is Home to the Most Loved Film

An iconic film like The Godfather has risen to the top of the most loved film according to Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb. This flick is iconic in every way from its illustrious scenery of New York and Sicily to its unforgettable quotes.

We compared the top 10 films in accordance to their Rotten Tomatoes Critic Rating, the Rotten Tomatoes Audience Rating, the IMDb Overall Rating, and the Gross Revenue in U.S. & Canada. From these numbers, we gave them an overall score.

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While The Godfather had the highest rating score, it didn’t necessarily have the highest gross revenue. Technically, Casablanca and Top Gun: Maverick are at the top of the revenue chain in the most loved movies. Since Casablanca is an older film, it only had a grossing revenue of $3,700,000 at the time. Comparing it to current-day dollars, however, it’s the same equivalent to $49,000,000!

Other honorable mentions are: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (also filmed in New York), The Big Lebowski (filmed in L.A.), and The Graduate (also filmed in L.A. and the California Coast.)

The Star Wars Fan Base Wins A Golden Medal: Cult Classics & How to Visit Real-Life Locations

The word “cult” has the power to mean several different things, especially when it comes to films. We are going to define it as a film that may not be widely known but has the utmost devoted fans. Star Wars, while one of the more widely-known films on this list, has risen to the top with an extremely large cult following. Fans go all-out for this saga series and there is even a large dedicated subreddit to these films.

Following Star Wars, Harry Potter has the second largest subreddit following with 1.8 million members and The Lord of the Rings has the third largest following with 219K members. Among the lesser-known films, Evil Dead has the largest cult following with a subreddit community of 22.9K members, followed by The Dark Crystal with 17.4K members, and Monty Python with 36.9K members.

When you are a devoted fan, there’s nothing better than visiting real-life filming locations where your favorite flick was created or visiting an attraction or museum dedicated to the experience and feeling that the movie gives you.

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England is home to several cult-classic films. West Wycombe Park was where Jennifer Connelly was seen reciting lines from her Labyrinth book. Oakley Court is the castle where the Rocky Horror Picture Show comes to life. Leadenhall Market and King’s Cross Station is where Harry Potter was seen walking in Diagon Alley and running into Platform 9 3/4.

Of course, we can’t forget the filming location in the States to some of these favorites like California, Oregon, and Tennessee. You can also visit attractions dedicated to these films like Disneyland/DisneyWorld, Universal Studios, and the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta.

Real-life filming locations aren’t the only thing that movie lovers travel for. Film festivals are a common and favored pastime that movie fanatics and industry professionals have in common. While some film festivals are more exclusive, others provide public access for all.

The Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and the Berlin International Film Festival (Berlinale) are the top largest publicly attended film festivals in the world. TIFF is known to bring over 480,000 people on average each year while Berlinale typically sells over 330,000 tickets each year.

While TIFF and Berlinale might be the most publicly attended, the Venice Film Festival holds the gold medal for the longest-running and oldest film festival in the entire world. The Venice Film Festival started in 1932 and sells over 60,000 tickets to the public on average each year.

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Then you have a well-known festival like the Cannes Film Festival. While Cannes Film Festival isn’t the world’s most publicly attended film festival, it definitely wins a trophy for the most exclusive and most expensive festival. It also brings over 200,000 people to the city of Cannes – 3x its normal population. Cannes Film Festival is specialized for industry professionals and costs anywhere from $3,000 to $25,000 per ticket!

Staying in the States? SXSW is the Most Frequented Film Festival in America

We’ve heard of the traditionally favorite film festivals like Tribeca and Sundance, but SXSW has continuously been growing since 1987. This film, music, and interactive media festival is one of the largest events in the Austin area, and brings close to 300,000 people year over year.

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Sundance, of course, is the second most frequented festival with over 200,000 tickets redeemed year over year, followed by Palm Springs International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, and the Tribeca Festival. If you were to combine the top 10 film festivals in the States, the ticket count is over 1 million!

When it comes to watching film, there’s no other experience quite like it. Film inspires us to travel and reignites our curiosity. History has proven it again and again. Grab some popcorn, watch your favorite movie, book a flight to these movie and festival locations, and soak up every minute of it.

Methodology & Sources sifted through IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes ratings to accurately identify the most loved films online. Then, we analyzed box office data from various box office resources for the top-grossing films in the world and states. For the cult classics, we researched the top talked-about cult classics on Google and Reddit (along with the Reddit communities with the most following per film). Finally, we added the final touch of film festivals by sifting through each festival and gathering the data from their own websites.

Updated August 2023