With the calendar about to turn to 2020, it’s time to start looking at what movies are coming next year. Part of getting hyped for next year’s biggest titles is trying to guess how they will fare at the box office and which ones will separate themselves from the pack to become the highest-grossing movies of 2020. Although 2019 was a huge year and one that will likely prove bigger overall, the 2020 box office battle is shaping up to be far more intriguing.
There is no mega-event next year in the vein of Avengers: Endgame or Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, and Avatar 2 doesn’t arrive until 2021. Still, next year has new entries in established franchises, hotly anticipated sequels, the start of the MCU’s Phase 4, a strong animation slate and lots of original films with obvious box office potential. Plus, you never know when an international movie like Ne Zha or Wolf Warrior 2 will break out and wind up in the top 10 without ever really playing domestically.
This all makes the 2020 box office highly interesting, but also incredibly difficult to predict. Box office predictions are an inexact science, relying on historical precedent and quantifiable metrics, as well as gut feelings and conjecture. So let’s dive into the realm of educated guesswork to predict the 10 highest-grossing movies of next year at the worldwide box office, ranked from the 10th highest-grossing film to the number one highest-grossing film of 2020.
We don’t know much about Christopher Nolan’s new movie Tenet. We know that it has an incredibly talented cast that includes John David Washington, Elizabeth Debicki and Robert Pattinson. We also know than it is an action epic that seemingly involves international espionage and some kind of time manipulation. And frankly, that’s enough, because the hype for the internet’s favorite director’s next movie is real.
It’s entirely possible that I’m being too bullish on this one, but having finally seen the intriguing first teaser trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Tenet, I think it has real potential to replicate the success of Inception, which made $829.8 million worldwide. It’s been a while since Christopher Nolan has made a movie like this, and if the somewhat experimental Dunkirk can make $526.9 million worldwide, an action movie like Tenet could really break out in a competitive July.
9. Venom 2
The plot for Venom 2 is still a mystery, but I think we can presume that the sequel to 2018’s Venom will follow Tom Hardy’s Eddie Brock as he and the symbiote Venom face off with a host of new villains, including Woody Harrelson’s Carnage. Venom was a surprise smash hit at the box office, making $856 million worldwide despite terrible critical reviews. The real question for Venom 2 is whether or not audiences will be as interested this time around.
Audiences seemed to like Venom far more than critics, and with some new creative talent, like Andy Serkis stepping in as director, plus the inclusion of Carnage, I don’t expect too much of a sequel slump for Venom 2, if any. Even if domestic enthusiasm drops, the first film made $269.1 million in China alone. That market is only growing, which bodes well for Venom 2.
Director Pete Docter’s Soul is about a musician, voiced by Jamie Foxx, who has lost his passion for music and is transported out of his body. He is then forced to find his way back with the help of a new young soul named 22, voiced by Tina Fey. Soul's director, Pixar Chief Creative Officer Pete Docter, is also responsible for Monsters, Inc., Up and Inside Out, which made $632.3 million, $735 million and $857.6 million worldwide, respectively.
Soul also benefits from the traditional June Pixar release month, which has hosted recent movies like Toy Story 4 and Incredibles 2, both of which made over $1 billion worldwide. Those were sequels with built-in audiences, but it’s clear that the original film Soul is being positioned for success and the story has the makings of another moving and meaningful Pixar classic. I don’t know if it will make $1 billion, but $750+ million doesn’t seem too crazy.
7. The Eternals
The Eternals follows the eponymous race of immortal, super-powered beings that have shaped the Earth’s history over millennia. This is a hard movie to gauge because we haven’t seen much from it yet and it features an entirely new cast of characters that audiences aren't invested in yet. However, it would be foolish not to expect an MCU movie to be one of the year's highest-grossing films at the box office, even if it is an unknown quantity. Like Guardians of the Galaxy before it, which made $772.7 million worldwide, the Marvel branding should carry The Eternals to global success.
I expect the cosmic elements of this story to propel The Eternals to success at the international box office, which thrives on spectacle. There will be pent-up demand for a new MCU movie by November, and you could make the argument that The Eternals, not the prequel Black Widow, is the proper start of Phase 4. Plus the cast of The Eternals is arguably Marvel’s most incredible yet. Anything from collecting $700 million to over $1 billion seems possible.
6. Minions: The Rise Of Gru
Minions: The Rise of Gru continues the adventures of the Minions, who are always in search of a tyrannical leader to follow. Illumination’s Despicable Me/Minions franchise has grown remarkably since the first film, Despicable Me, made $543.1 million worldwide in 2010. The first spinoff, 2015's Minions, brought in $1.15 billion. The popularity of this franchise is undeniable, and even though Despicable Me 3 dropped a bit to $1.03 billion in 2017, a three-year gap between entries should theoretically have the little ones hyped to drive Minions: The Rise of Gru to success.
Some are wondering if this fifth entry in the franchise will drop off like Illumination’s The Secret Life of Pets 2, but that wasn’t an established franchise, and we simply don’t know if Minions fever has died down or is still growing. Minions 2 comes out two weeks after Soul, but this franchise skews slightly younger and it does the majority of its business internationally. I don’t know if another $1 billion is in the cards, but Minions 2 should do very well.
5. No Time To Die
No Time To Die finds James Bond retired when Felix Leiter turns up asking for his help. This leads 007 to the trail of a mysterious villain, who is in possession of dangerous new technology. The hype should be intense for Daniel Craig’s Bond swan song, especially since it will have been nearly five full years since Spectre's release by the time it arrives. The first trailer was also encouraging, giving us exactly what we want from Bond.
Despite receiving mixed reviews, Spectre made $880.6 million worldwide, proving the power and global appeal of the franchise. I don’t know if No Time To Die can reach Skyfall’s $1.1 billion, which had the perfect storm of glowing reviews and the franchise’s 50th anniversary, but it might slot somewhere in between the last two entries. It’s also releasing early in a pretty empty April, which should give it plenty of room to work. The only concern is if all of the delays and production troubles result in a disappointing film that could mute the box office.
4. Wonder Woman 1984
Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman 1984 sees the titular Amazonian in the 1980s, where she is inexplicably reunited with Steve Trevor and faces off with Maxwell Lord and The Cheetah. The sequel was originally supposed to come out in 2019, and that delay has only made fans more hyped to see Gal Gadot back in action. Wonder Woman 1984 is the most anticipated movie of 2020, according to Fandango users, and if we were predicting the top-10 highest-grossing movies at the domestic box office, this might be number one. Nevertheless, it should still make the top five worldwide.
Wonder Woman made $821.8 million worldwide, with $412.5 million domestic and $409.2 million internationally. That split indicates Wonder Woman 1984 may have more of a ceiling internationally than something like Aquaman. But DC is on a creative roll, and that should give audiences confidence in WW84, which should also benefit from a nostalgic 80s setting and a villain played by The Mandalorian’s Pedro Pascal. I think Wonder Woman 1984 will at least match its predecessor at the box office.
3. Fast & Furious 9
After a three-year break, the main Fast & Furious film series returns with Fast & Furious 9. The plot of this series’ ninth entry is still under wraps, but we know that Jordana Brewster’s Mia Toretto will return, as will Helen Mirren's Magdalene Shaw and Charlize Theron's Cipher, and they will be joined by franchise newcomer John Cena. This franchise may have peaked with Furious 7, but it is still huge, and audiences, especially those internationally, will be eager to live life a quarter-mile at a time come May 2020.
The last of the main films, 2017’s The Fate of the Furious, made $1.23 billion worldwide, with $1 billion of that coming internationally. Director Justin Lin’s return to the franchise will not have The Rock or Jason Statham’s characters in it, so we will have to see how that impacts box office performance. But I think that Vin Diesel is still the face of the franchise, and Fast & Furious 9 will blow past Hobbs & Shaw’s $758.9 million to enter the three-comma club.
2. Black Widow
Black Widow reunites audiences with Scarlett Johansson’s dearly departed Natasha Romanoff for a prequel set between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War that finds her confronting her past. Although the character is dead after the events of Avengers: Endgame, and this film is arguably coming too late, none of that seems to have diminished interest for Black Widow. Fans are eagerly awaiting the start of Phase 4, and the first trailer for Cate Shortland’s Black Widow knocked it out of the park to get the hype train rolling.
Audiences love Black Widow and have wanted to see her get a solo film for some time. Add in the potential cameos of MCU vets like Robert Downey Jr. and a killer cast that includes David Harbour and 2019 breakout Florence Pugh, and Black Widow can be huge. The first solo female-led MCU film, Captain Marvel, made $1.12 billion worldwide. Black Widow won’t have the cosmic elements that film did, but it will have a more established character and proven box office draw in Scarlett Johansson leading it. Black Widow is also opening around the same time that Avengers: Endgame and Avengers: Infinity War found such success.
Mulan is a remake of Disney’s 1998 animated classic, which itself is based on the Chinese legend of Hua Mulan. It tells the story of a young Chinese woman who disguises herself as a man in order to take her father’s place in the war against the Huns. Of all the films coming out in 2020, Mulan seems to have the most potential to become the highest-grossing movie at the worldwide box office. That is in large part because of its potential in China, which, according to The Hollywood Reporter, is expected to finally surpass the United States as the biggest market for movies in the world in 2020.
Mulan is a classic Chinese story and the film features a cast of Chinese actors led by a popular Chinese actress. That may not guarantee success in the Middle Kingdom, and this pick may be the result of an overly simplistic understanding of the Chinese marketplace, but you simply cannot ignore those factors. The original Mulan made $304.3 million worldwide in 1998 dollars, and the live-action remake is poised to do well domestically, as well as in China.
I don’t think that any of the various controversies surrounding Mulan, like the comments by actress Liu Yifei about Hong Kong or the film’s cultural inaccuracies will do anything to dull its box office. Mulan is just the latest in Disney’s highly successful live-action remakes.
This year’s The Lion King made $1.65 billion worldwide while other remakes like Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast have also proven to be huge hits, making $1.05 billion and $1.26 billion, respectively. Mulan may not be a musical like those films, but it looks stunning and domestic audiences love the original, so this has major nostalgia going for it. I see Mulan also crossing that $1 billion mark and becoming the highest-grossing movie of 2020.
This is just a sampling of the huge movies on tap for 2020, and as you can see, on paper there is a lot of parity among next year’s contenders. There aren’t many permutations of this top 10 that I would be surprised by, and honorable mentions like Onward, Birds of Prey, Jungle Cruise, Raya and the Last Dragon, Godzilla vs. Kong and (wishful thinking) Dune could easily make their way to 2020’s top 10.
Unlike in 2019, no 2020 film seems absolutely guaranteed to hit $1 billion. In the absence of Star Wars or a Marvel team-up film, the competition for the box office throne is wide open and the crown could actually go to a studio that isn’t Disney. Although in the end, I expect that the king will stay the king and Disney’s Mulan will be the highest-grossing movie of 2020.
Check out all of next year’s biggest movies in our 2020 Release Schedule and let us know in the poll below what you think will be the highest-grossing movie of 2020 worldwide.
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Nick grew up in Maryland has degrees in Film Studies and Communications. His life goal is to walk the earth, meet people and get into adventures. He’s also still looking for The Adventures of Pete and Pete season 3 on DVD if anyone has a lead.