Top Gun: Maverick Is About To Lose A Box-Office Record To Avatar: The Way Of Water

Tom Cruise as Pete Mitchell in Top Gun: Maverick
(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

It’s always a feather in the cap of a major studio executive if one of their movies was able to be the highest-grossing movie of the year. And for a while, it looked like Joseph Kosinki’s Top Gun: Maverick was going to take that top spot, and earn a major win for Paramount. However, once James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water joined the list of new movie releases dropped in 2022, the race was on to see which film would emerge victorious… and it’s sounding like Pandora is going to prevail. 

Just to clarify, we are talking about international box-office grosses, but even still, the fact that Avatar: The Way of Water will top Tom Cruise’s legacy sequel is beyond impressive because it reached the tally in just under a month. Variety reported that the new Avatar movie has crossed $1.1 billion in total worldwide tickets sold. But when you remove domestic totals, Avatar: The Way of Water currently stands at $762.8 million in international figures. Top Gun: Maverick opened in May but topped out internationally at $770 million. It won’t have another push, yet Avatar 2 shows no signs of slowing down

As mentioned, it’s the short amount of time that Avatar: The Way of Water needed in order to race to that figure that impresses the most. One of the reasons for this likely comes down to James Cameron’s stories being more appealing to a global audience, while Tom Cruise’s Top Gun franchise is distinctly American. We don’t even know the country that Cruise and his fellow pilots are attacking in the sequel, and though the Top Gun: Maverick ending is celebratory, the details of the victory are kept vague.

This isn’t to say that Top Gun: Maverick has lost all of its 2022 box-office trophies. The blockbuster sequel remains the highest-grossing film of 2022 when you combine domestic and international grosses, bringing it to $1.5 billion. As mentioned, Avatar: The Way of Water has made $1.1 billion, and Cameron’s sequel has a very good chance of making it to $1.5B. Others wonder if Avatar 2 can cross $2 billion, but that number seems optimistic, even with a distinct lack of competition at the box office until Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania opens in February.

This past year only saw three movies cross the $1B mark because foreign territories remained diminished. The third film joining Top Gun: Maverick and Avatar: The Way of Water was Colin Trevorrow’s Jurassic World: Dominion, which capped off the Jurassic World trilogy and overcame bad reviews to lure massive crowds. It goes to show that Hollywood prefers proven IP, and even with a 13-year gap, audiences still wanted to see what was happening in Pandora… and should follow Cameron to Avatar 3, whatever it will be subtitled.

We’re excited to see which movies that are opening in 2023 compete for the box-office crown. 

Sean O'Connell
Managing Editor

Sean O’Connell is a journalist and CinemaBlend’s Managing Editor. Having been with the site since 2011, Sean interviewed myriad directors, actors and producers, and created ReelBlend, which he proudly cohosts with Jake Hamilton and Kevin McCarthy. And he's the author of RELEASE THE SNYDER CUT, the Spider-Man history book WITH GREAT POWER, and an upcoming book about Bruce Willis.