'Spider-Man: No Way Home' and nine other record-breaking box office openings

Latest superhero outing records second-highest opening weekend in the US, an astonishing feat considering Covid-19 restrictions

Tom Holland returns as a superhero in 'Spider-Man: No Way Home'. Photo: Sony Pictures

Peter Parker was back to his amazing best at the weekend as the latest instalment in The Amazing Spider-Man series – Spider-Man: No Way Home – smashed box office records in the US and abroad.

By Monday evening UAE time, as the final tallies came in from North American cinemas, studio Sony was upgrading its assessment of the film’s opening weekend gross to $260 million, overtaking Avengers: Infinity War to record the second-highest domestic opening weekend ever, behind only Avengers: Endgame’s eye-watering $357.1m home debut.

Globally, No Way Home has taken a further $341m, a figure that could still rise as late results are reported, and one that is all the more impressive considering that the film has not yet opened in China, the world’s second-biggest market. On top of that, many parts of the world are still subject to restrictions on cinema capacity owing to the pandemic, or simple audience caution where official restrictions may not be in place, making the haul even more astonishing.

Tom Holland in 'Spider-Man: No Way Home'. Photo: Sony Pictures

Spider-Man joins some exalted company in the top 10 highest-grossing opening weekend charts globally. Unsurprisingly, several of his Marvel colleagues feature, alongside a smattering of DC superheroes, and of course, some Jedi competition. How many of your favourites make the top 10?

All global opening weekend figures are courtesy of Box Office Mojo, and include takings from a film’s opening previews until the end of the first Sunday of release.

Here are the top 10 films with the highest-grossing opening weekends:

10. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016, $422m)

9. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017, $450m)

8. Captain Marvel (2019, $456m)

7. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 (2011, $483m)

6. Jurassic World (2015, $525m)

5. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015, $528m)

4. Fate of the Furious (2017, $541m)

3. Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021, $601m as of Monday)

2. Avengers: Infinity War (2018, $640m)

1. Avengers: Endgame (2019, $1.2 billion)

10. 'Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice' (2016, $422 million)

The second film in the then-DC Extended Universe brought the comic book giant’s two most famous characters together and was intended to be the moment DC started to win back the position of most successful comic book publisher on screen that it had held prior to the MCU’s launch with 2008’s Iron Man. Critics were unconvinced, however, resulting in a 28 per cent score on Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences weren’t quite so harsh, and following its impressive opening weekend, the film went on to pull in a respectable $874m worldwide in total.

9. 'Star Wars: The Last Jedi' (2017, $450 million)

The second film in the Star Wars sequel trilogy, and eighth in the Skywalker Saga, finds Rey on Ahch-To trying to convince the hermit Luke Skywalker to rejoin the rebellion against the First Order and teach her the ways of The Force. It doesn’t go entirely smoothly, but eventually Luke is reunited with Leia, Chewie, R2-D2 et al, and faces off against the evil Kylo Ren. Critics loved it, resulting in a 91 per cent Rotten Tomatoes rating, though Star Wars fans would no doubt have turned out in droves even if the critics had given it a zero per cent mauling. The film went on to gross $1.3bn globally.

8. 'Captain Marvel' (2019, $456 million)

An impressive performance for one of Marvel’s less well-known characters, who sits at number eight on the chart. The film’s success was perhaps in part given a helping hand by its catching the zeitgeist of the #metoo campaign and growing frustration at the lack of strong female roles in Hollywood.

That said, this ability to catch the prevailing mood may also have worked against it – online trolls “review bombing” in response to star Brie Larson’s perceived feminism were blamed for the film garnering only a 33 per cent Rotten Tomatoes audience rating from 58,000 reviews by 8am on the day of release. That’s more reviews than Avengers: Infinity War accrued in its entire theatrical run, and led to the website making wholesale changes to how audience opinions are collected.

7. 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2' (2011, $483 million)

The final instalment in the Harry Potter franchise was also the highest grossing – doubtless helped in part by being the only Harry Potter film to release in 3D. Indeed, on release in 2011, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 claimed the record for highest-grossing opening weekend at the time.

It also went on to become, at the time, the third-highest-grossing film of all time with a total global haul of $1.34bn over the course of its theatrical run. All the old favourites, including Potter himself, Hermione and Ron returned for this final chapter in which – spoiler alert – the former child wizard, now aged 17, defeats the evil Voldemort and brings peace to the world.

6. 'Jurassic World' (2015, $525 million)

The fourth film in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park franchise brings us into the rarefied air of films that have cleared the half-billion-dollar mark on their opening weekend. Spielberg actually came up with the script for a fourth film back in 2001, when Jurassic Park III was still in production, but the film remained in development limbo for almost 15 years before finally hitting the big screen.

The film introduced us to new heroes in the form of Chris Pratt's and Bryce Dallas Howard’s park employees Owen and Claire, a new director in Colin Trevorrow, plenty of the same old dinosaurs audiences know and love, and a brand new, giant, mutant dinosaur, the Indominus Rex, to keep things fresh.

5. 'Star Wars: The Force Awakens' (2015, $528 million)

The first part of JJ Abrams' Star Wars sequel trilogy was surely one of the most eagerly anticipated events in all of cinema history, coming as it did a full decade after George Lucas had brought his prequel trilogy to a close with 2005’s Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.

Abrams had a lot to live up to following the lukewarm reception to all three of Lucas’s own attempts to reinvigorate the series in the nineties and noughties, and although The Force Awakens wasn’t perfect, with brand new cast joining the old favourites and plenty of fanboy nods, it largely set out to do what it intended.

The film has a 93 per cent critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, set numerous box office records on release, including the then-highest opening weekend of the time, and remains one of only five films to have grossed over $2bn in total worldwide.

4. 'The Fate of the Furious' (2017, $541 million)

The eighth instalment of the Vin Diesel-fronted car caper is, intriguingly, the only film to make this top 10 in which neither heroes nor villains feature any form of magic, mutation, or superpower. That doesn’t necessarily make the automotive antics of the gang any more believable, but it may explain the enduring success of the franchise.

The Fast and the Furious team have firmly believed in offering strong, positive characters from across the spectrum of gender and ethnicity since long before “diversity” was a Hollywood watchword. Audiences seem to appreciate the effort – the franchise has pulled in a total of $5.9bn globally to date, making it the seventh-highest-grossing.

3. 'Spider-Man: No Way Home' (2021, $601 million as of Monday December 20)

It’s no surprise that the all-conquering comic book behemoth that is Marvel makes up the whole of the top three in our chart, and No Way Home is the highest-opening film that doesn’t make up a part of the official MCU. Tracking had suggested that the latest Spider-Man adventure would set box offices alight on release at the weekend, but given the circumstances in which the Sony-produced film opened, its unrelenting march to the top three is incredible.

It would probably be fair to describe the film, on current evidence, as having finally revived the post-Covid box office where the likes of James Bond: No Time to Die, The Eternals and Godzilla vs Kong have, at best, achieved moderate success. A drastic second-week drop off could put paid to that theory, but things certainly look promising.

2. 'Avengers: Infinity War' (2018, $640 million)

The 19th film in the MCU, and essentially the direct precursor to 2019’s all-conquering Avengers: Endgame, although Marvel squeezed both Captain Marvel and Ant-Man and the Wasp on to our screens between the two. In Infinity War, the whole gang, including the Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Shield united to try and prevent the Titan warlord Thanos from collecting all six Infinity Stones and ending half of all life in the universe. It’s probably a safe assumption that, unless you live in one of the more obscure corners of the universe Thanos is seeking to annihilate, you know how that turned out, but we won’t spoil it just in case.

1. 'Avengers: Endgame' (2019, $1.2 billion)

Everyone knew that Avengers: Endgame was going to be a success, but surely even the most optimistic of Marvel and Disney’s executives couldn’t have predicted quite how much of a success. Its opening weekend takings dwarf those of second-placed Infinity War, almost doubling its haul, and it’s hard to see anything overtaking it until inflation has made some major increases to ticket prices several years down the line.

The film also went on to become the highest-grossing of all time over the course of its theatrical run, with a massive take exceeding $2.7bn. Avatar has since retaken that crown thanks to some tactical rereleases in selected markets, but with only £50m keeping Endgame back in second place, a quick Director’s Cut or commemorative rerelease could easily see it taking back top spot.

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Updated: December 23rd 2021, 7:10 AM