Paramount Pictures has enjoyed a stellar reputation in the film industry due to its status as one of the oldest film studios in the world. Founded way back in 1912, the studio was built on the premise that cinema belongs to the working-class. Over the years, it has produced masterpieces like Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Roman Polanski’s Rosemary’s Baby among many others.
“It’s an incredibly storied institution and one of the oldest studios. Some of the best movies ever made were made here. The chance to revive it is an exciting one,” said Paramount’s CEO Jim Gianopulos. “It’s surprising it got so bumpy here for a couple of years because all the elements are in place. There are only six companies that comprise all the elements of a major studio, and this is one of them. You want to see it achieve its full potential. There’s no reason why it shouldn’t be more successful than it’s been recently.”
He added, “We have people, money, resources, global distribution and the reach of almost four billion people that Viacom touches around the world. If you can’t make that work, something’s not right. There is a great executive team here and a lot of very talented and dedicated people who want to win and who, despite disappointments at the box office, have a great sense of purpose, direction and talent.”
On the 109th anniversary of its conception, we take a look at 10 of the most successful Paramount Pictures releases of all time in order to understand its impact on popular culture.
The 10 most successful Paramount Pictures movies:
10. Transformers (Michael Bay – 2007)
Michael Bay’s Transformers is a well-known work in the sci-fi genre due to its popularity in the mainstream consciousness. It features a massive war between two extraterrestrial factions as they fight to gain control of the AllSpark. The film grossed $709,709,780 worldwide.
Bay said, “I make my own movie, I don’t have someone tell me what to do. I’ve always been inspired by Steven. I was not a Transformers fan before I signed on to this movie. I think I was two years older when the toys came out, so I just discovered girls then instead of Optimus Prime. But I quickly became after I went to Hasbro, where you heard about that Transformers school?
“I really thought, ‘What the fuck am I going to Hasbro for Transformers school? I thought I was going to learn how to fold up robots, but I met with the CEO and I went through the whole Transformer lore. I’ve been offered a lot of superhero movies before and nothing’s really appealed to me and in the room, because I’ve been such a fan of Japanese Anime it just hit me that if I make this really real it could be something very new and different.”
9. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (Tom McGrath, Eric Darnell, Conrad Vernon – 2012)
The third film in the immensely popular Madagascar series, the beloved animated work features the cohort of zoo animals who end up in Europe while trying to get back to New York. Even though it was probably not the best film in the franchise, it was definitely the most successful one from a commercial perspective.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted grossed $746,921,274 worldwide and became the eighth-highest grossing film from 2012. The film also received several prestigious nominations including one for Best Animated Feature at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards.
8. Shrek Forever After (Mike Mitchell – 2010)
The fourth instalment in the iconic Shrek franchise, Mike Mitchell’s 2010 animated film portrays the titular character in a domesticated existence. In order to get out of his predicament, Shrek signs a sinister contract with Rumpelstiltskin. Shrek Forever After became the fifth-highest grossing film of the year and made $752,600,867 worldwide.
While making the film, the primary question that Mitchell grappled with was: “How do we give the audience what they know and love, but at the same time give it a fresh take, make it more beautiful?” He explained, “We’ve taken on the bittersweet challenge of wrapping up the story of Shrek. We know fans would want to see how it ends.”
7. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Steven Spielberg – 2008)
Many fans of the Indiana Jones series consider Kingdom of the Crystal Skull to be the worst addition to its legacy. It features an ageing Jones (played by Harrison Ford) in the search for ancient civilisations and a mysterious crystal skull. Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ended up making $786,636,033 on a global scale.
“I’m very happy with the movie. I always have been,” the director admitted. “I sympathise with people who didn’t like the MacGuffin because I never liked the MacGuffin. George [Lucas] and I had big arguments about the MacGuffin. I didn’t want these things to be either aliens or inter-dimensional beings. But I am loyal to my best friend.
“When he writes a story he believes in – even if I don’t believe in it – I’m going to shoot the movie the way George envisaged it. I’ll add my own touches, I’ll bring my own cast in, I’ll shoot the way I want to shoot it, but I will always defer to George as the storyteller of the Indy series. I will never fight him on that.”
6. Mission: Impossible – Fallout (Christopher McQuarrie – 2018)
Starring Tom Cruise as the famous Ethan Hunt, this 2018 spy thriller presents a hunt for plutonium as terrorists threaten to blow three cities. The wildly successful film made $220.2 million in North America alone and ended up with a total gross of $791.1 million worldwide.
“Mission is always a little bit of an underdog. This franchise doesn’t have the wind under its wings that something like Bond does. We always feel like we have something to prove. We never take that success for granted,” the director said. “There are a lot of franchises that are always looking to top themselves or take their movies to the next level but the secret to our success is we aren’t trying to top ourselves.”
5. Shrek the Third (Chris Miller – 2007)
Chris Miller’s 2007 animated film has to be one of the most commercially successful directorial debuts of all time. The third addition to the Shrek series, this version reveals Shrek’s doubts as he is hesitant to take the reigns of the kingdom as a ruler. The film grossed $813,367,380 worldwide.
“The way we look at the series is just sort of as a continuous story,” Miller elaborated. “We didn’t want to just sort of title it like it was just a sequel. [We wanted] something to make it stand on its own, give it its own personality and really try to treat it as a chapter in Shrek’s life. I quite like the name, because there were other iterations of it that just felt like the title for any sequel.”
4. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (Michael Bay – 2009)
Starring Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky, Revenge of the Fallen continues the story of its predecessor two years after the events of the first film. Bay faced a lot of problems during this particular production, especially his team going on strike. However, Revenge of the Fallen became a commercial success and earned $836,303,693 at the worldwide Box Office.
Bay said: “On the second movie we got burned. We had a writers strike, we had to agree on a story in three weeks, and then we knew they were going on strike. It was a fucked scenario all the way around, it wasn’t fair to the writer, it wasn’t fair to me, it wasn’t fair to anybody. It was still an entertaining movie, but I think we failed on certain aspects.”
3. Transformers: Age of Extinction (Michael Bay – 2014)
Michael Bay’s Transformers series is undoubtedly one of the highest-grossing film franchises. Age of Extinction is just another example of the influence of Transformers on popular culture, even though the film was poorly received by critics and considered to be sub-par. Age of Extinction made $1,104,054,072 worldwide.
While talking about the series, Michal Bay commented: “Movie franchises have to grow up a little bit. You start off kind of like fun, trying to figure out what it was, you know what I’m saying? That kind of setup. But I like it a little bit more grounded. Still fun, but grounded.”
2. Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Michael Bay – 2011)
The most financially successful instalment in the Transformers series, Dark of the Moon continues the war between the Autobots and Decepticons as they engage in a massive power struggle. The film earned Oscar bids for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Editing among others. Dark of the Moon ended up with a worldwide gross of $1.12 billion.
“We tried to learn from the second movie,” the filmmaker admitted. “What we did with this movie is I think we have a much better script, and we got back to basics. I think there’s some really cool action on this movie, there’s some very cool conspiracy, there’s great robot stuff in this that people were missing in the second one, you’ve got great robot conflict.”
1. Titanic (James Cameron – 1997)
It’s extremely impressive that Titanic has retained its status as the highest-grossing Paramount production both in North America as well as worldwide even after all these years. James Cameron’s famous romantic drama sits at the top of the list with a monumental worldwide gross of $2.18 billion.
Cameron reflected, “I had dark hours on Titanic as dire as Piranha II. We missed the iceberg by that much. But I’m at my best when I’m neck-deep in ice water trying to work out how we’re going to keep the lights turned on when the water hits the bulbs.”
Adding, “Titanic was conceived as a love story. If I could have done it without one effect, I would’ve been happy. It was definitely a goal to integrate a very personal, emotional style with spectacle – and try to make that not be chocolate syrup on a cheeseburger, you know. The cathartic experience is what made the film work.”