Winning a weekend at the box office isn’t easy. It typically takes star power, a good trailer, an effective marketing campaign and sometimes strong reviews. Winning multiple weekends at the box office almost always requires word of mouth. After the first weekend, most people who were naturally predisposed to see the movie have already gone. That means to win again, you need some of those same people to return, and you need a whole bunch of people on the fence to commit.
The best way to get those commitments is through word of mouth. You need people going to see the movie, then running home and telling their friends and family they need to go too. If those recommendations are strong enough, you can pick up that second weekend. Now and again, however, the people originally on the fence, who were talked into going the second weekend, will love the movie enough to then tell their friends, and in that perfect storm, you can end up with a film that sits at the top of the box office for a month, sometimes even much longer, as more and more casuals make a rare trip to the theater.
So, let’s celebrate those movies that were able to build that momentum and win a ton of weekends at the box office. Just one quick note before we start, data wasn’t as publicly available until the last several decades, and studios weren’t really keeping track of who won which weekend until the early 1980s. So, movies prior to then have been excluded.
E.T. – 16 Weekends
You can’t sit at the top of the box office for four months, as E.T. did in 1982, without becoming a cultural phenomenon. The movie finished either first or second at the box office every weekend between mid-June and October and was so popular at its peak that it raised the fortunes of Hershey’s, which saw a massive increase in profits, thanks to Reese’s Pieces.
Titanic – 15 Weekends
Titanic was released Christmas Day in 1997 and was so popular for so long that it grossed more than a million dollars every single weekend until late June 1998. It ultimately rolled for 15 weeks and still holds all kinds of crazy records like biggest inflation adjusted Super Bowl Weekend, which is all the more outrageous given The Super Bowl happened almost a month after Titanic first hit theaters.
Beverly Hills Cop – 14 Weekends
It’s impossible to overstate how hot Eddie Murphy’s career was in the early 1980s. From being the biggest star on Saturday Night Live to dropping all-time stand-up specials to winning the box office fourteen weekends with an R-rated cop movie. Fun fact: despite being released on December 1, 1984, Beverly Hills Cop is still in the top twenty for inflation adjusted Christmas weekend box office numbers.
Tootsie – 14 Weekends
Barely 3% of Tootsie’s box office grosses came in its first weekend. Compared to some modern blockbusters that are well over 35%, that’s a pretty startling statistic. Thanks to great word of mouth and fantastic reviews, however, the cross-dressing comedy just kept building on its way to 14 wins at the weekend box office.
Home Alone – 12 Weekends
A lot of movies aimed at kids can have really good legs at the box office, but Home Alone was able to capture twelve weekends back in 1990 because it appealed to adults too. One of the all-time charismatic and lovable performances from a child actor certainly helped word of mouth too, as the film was still putting up million dollar weekends more than six months after its initial release.
Back To The Future – 11 Weekends
The ultimate crowd-pleaser movie, Back To The Future won eleven box office weekends during the summer and fall of 1985. It also launched two sequels which both won the box office for at least one weekend upon their debuts in 1989 and 1990 respectively. None touched the original, however, which remains a beloved classic.
Ghostbusters – 10 Weekends
There’s been a slew of Ghostbusters movies since the original film was released in 1984, but none have had the lasting cultural impact of the first one. Ghostbusters dominated the box office for months when it first came out, and when it was re-released to let audiences see it on the big screen again in 2014, more than fifteen hundred weekends after it first dropped, it made more than a million dollars.
Crocodile Dundee – 9 Weekends
You never quite know what’s going to be a hit with audiences. Movies that sound like sure-fire wins on paper sometimes don’t find the fans they’re looking for and a movie like Crocodile Dundee can unexpectedly win the box office for nine consecutive weekends upon its release in 1986. Fun fact: its much less popular sequel Crocodile Dundee II won three weekends at the box office too.
Good Morning, Vietnam – 9 Weekends
Robin Williams had a ton of huge hits in his career, but none had the box office longevity of Good Morning, Vietnam, which won nine consecutive weekends when it was released back in 1987 and finished in the top 10 every single weekend from January 15th to April 15th. The movie netted Williams an Oscar nomination and helped turn him into one of the most in-demand actors in Hollywood.
Fatal Attraction – 8 Weekends
There aren’t too many gritty psychological thrillers about extramarital affairs on this list, but thanks to its terrific acting performances and a script that just doesn’t let up, Fatal Attraction became a cultural touchpoint when it was released in 1987. It increased its growth weekend after weekend for the first month and ultimately won eight consecutive weekends.
Porky’s – 8 Weekends
One of the few movies on this list to get mostly negative reviews, Porky’s cleaned up at the box office during the spring of 1982 against relatively weak competition. Its naked sexuality and sophomoric humor were a major talking point and a hit with some, propelling the comedy to 8 box office wins, but it hasn’t had the cultural staying power of other ’80s comedies and its much less popular sequel didn’t win a single weekend at the box office.
Avatar – 7 Weekends
Avatar not only got people to come to the theater in droves during its run in late 2009 and early 2010, it got them to shell out for the more expensive 3D tickets. In fact, arguably as impressive as its seven weekend box office wins was its run of eleven consecutive weekends with more than $10,000,000 in grosses.
Avatar: Way Of The Water – 7 Weekends
In a bizarre twist of fate, Avatar’s sequel, which took more than a decade, somehow won the same number of box office weekends (7) as its predecessor. It too was praised for its stunning, ahead of its time visual effects and attracted millions of casual moviegoers to the theater to marvel at its futuristic visuals and stunning effects.
On Golden Pond – 7 Weekends
Movies about people in their 70s aren’t often thought of as likely box office winners, but On Golden Pond had huge stars (Henry Fonda, Katharine Hepburn and Jane Fonda) and over-the-top positive reviews. It was rolled out in limited release in December of 1981 and by the time it went wide in late January of ‘82, it had a slew of Oscar nominations and great word of mouth. It finished in the top ten every single week until mid-May.
Spider-Man: No Way Home – 6 Weekends
The third entry in the Tom Holland Spider-Man movies, No Way Home had a huge opening weekend of more than $250,000,000. It proved to have much better legs than many of its fellow Marvel movies, however, and won six of its first seven box office weekends, losing only to a debuting Scream. Fantastic reviews and great audience buzz certainly helped, as the film capitalized on surprise appearances and a great mix of nostalgia and forward progress.
Return Of The Jedi – 6 Weekends
The earlier Star Wars movies aren’t on this list because they were released prior to more organized data keeping, but like those entries, Return Of The Jedi had incredible legs. It was released in May of 1983 and remained in the top twenty-five until March of 1984. It ultimately won six weekends at the box office and would have won more, but it ran into sequels to Superman and later Jaws.
The Fugitive – 6 Weekends
An early example of a PG-13 movie that broadly appealed to both younger and older audiences, The Fugitive was an immediate hit upon its release in 1993. Its first five weekends all saw grosses between $14,000,000 and $24,000,000 and it ultimately won six weekends during an abbreviated eleven weekend run before it hit home entertainment.
Rain Man – 6 Weekends
Rain Man was in theaters between December ‘88 and June ‘89. During that entire run, it never finished a weekend worse than twelfth. If you throw out the last three weekends, it finished every single one in the top ten. Decades later, the film is still culturally relevant and plays well with new generations who are discovering it.
Rocky IV – 6 Weekends
Everyone knows Rocky IV is the best non-Creed sequel in the Rocky franchise, and audiences certainly agreed with that when it hit theaters in late 1985. It won its first six weekends and lost its seventh by less than a hundred thousand dollars, reinvigorating the stale boxing franchise and leading to a few more sequels that didn’t work quite so well.
Terms Of Endearment – 6 Weekends
Most of the entries on this list debuted in the number one spot and ran for a bunch of weeks without interruption. Not Terms Of Endearment. It won six box office weekends, but it actually lost four of its first five. A bunch of Oscar nominations, good reviews and buzzy word of mouth, however, eventually helped it increase its theater count and find a huge audience.
Black Panther – 5 Weekends
A lot of Marvel movies have made a significant amount of money, but like most of the other films on this list, Black Panther is here because its cultural impact gave it significantly longer staying power. It remained in the top ten for thirteen consecutive weekends and gave the MCU a powerful new direction to build toward.
Black Panther: Wakanda Forever – 5 Weekends
Black Panther 2 didn’t have quite the same staying power of cultural punch as its predecessor, but it still attracted a very big audience and dominated for its first five weeks of release. It later ran into Avatar 2 but not before selling millions of tickets and allowing fans to say goodbye to the first film’s star, Chadwick Boseman.
Forrest Gump – 5 Weekends
Forrest Gump blends nostalgia, comedy, social commentary and drama into an easily digestible package, which audiences fell in love with when it was released in July of 1994. Stiff summer competition from the likes of True Lies, The Mask, Clear And Present Danger and Natural Born Killers stopped it from winning more weekends, but it outlasted all those movies and had a top five finish as late as May of 1995.
The Sixth Sense – 5 Weekends
The Sixth Sense grossed more than twenty million dollars for five consecutive weekends upon its release in the summer of 1999, winning all of them. During that run, it became a huge topic of conversation among moviegoers and attracted a ton of casuals to the theater who were drawn in by talk of its big twist.
Mrs. Doubtfire – 5 Weekends
Mrs. Doubtfire may not sound like guaranteed box office gold, but Robin Williams was among the biggest stars in the world when the film was released in November of ‘93. Its blend of wild, over-the-top comedy and genuine emotion was a hit with audiences, and it ultimately spent fourteen weeks in the top ten, winning five of them.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day – 5 Weekends
The original Terminator was a nice little hit, winning two weekends at the box office and grossing almost eighty million worldwide. Its sequel, T2, seven years later grossed more than five hundred million dollars worldwide and charted highly for months, ultimately winning five weekends, including its first four.
Three Men And A Baby – 5 Weekends
Three Men And A Baby wasn’t particularly well-liked by audiences, but its easy, funny-on-the-surface premise and middling reviews helped it somehow outperform Planes, Trains And Automobiles, which was released the same weekend. It wound up winning five times at the box office in the ensuing months but hasn’t found the same long-term cultural relevance that Planes did.
Look Who’s Talking – 5 Weekends
There was definitely an audience for Look Who’s Talking when it was released in 1989. Its goofy premise of a talking baby, voiced by Bruce Willis, was an easy sell at the box office, especially with the star power of John Travolta. It won five weekends at the box office, but by the time its sequel rolled around a year later, fans weren’t that excited about returning and mostly didn’t.
The Silence Of The Lambs – 5 Weekends
February isn’t often thought of as a good month for box office or a good month for movies wanting Oscar nominations, but The Silence Of The Lambs defied the odds on both. It won five weekends, finished in the top ten fourteen times and swept every major Oscar category more than a year later when it was finally eligible. Had it not run into Ninja Turtles II, it would have won its first eight weekends.
Wayne’s World – 5 Weekends
By far the most successful and well-liked SNL sketch to movie of all-time, Wayne’s World won five weekends at the box office and turned many of its lead character’s catch phrases into references that are still well remembered decades later. Its sequel didn’t prove as popular, but it still won its debut weekend.
Basic Instinct – 5 Weekends
Thanks to its aggressive sexuality and over-the-top script, viewers were very divided on Basic Instinct when it was released in 1992. All that conversation convinced people to see the film for themselves, and it flourished at the box office. It won five weekends and were it not for a back-and-forth battle with White Men Can’t Jump, it could have easily won eight.
Tenet – 5 Weekends
The first major movie released during the pandemic, 2020’s Tenet won the weekend box office five times and was a huge lifeline for struggling movie theaters. It didn’t wind up making anywhere close to what it would have were the circumstances of its release different, but it still performed very well and was a major source of cultural conversation during a time when no one was talking about movies.
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Khushi Patel is a science fiction author who lives in Austin, Texas. She has published three novels, and her work has been praised for its originality and imagination. Khushi is a graduate of Rice University, and she has worked as a software engineer. She is a member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, and her books have been nominated for several awards.