Top Gun: Maverick almost finished 2022 as the top-grossing movie of the year, but James Cameron's Avatar: The Way of Water snatched that title near the finish line. The Avatar sequel is on pace to pass Maverick as the highest-grossing movie of the year internationally after it quickly flew past the $1.1 billion mark. It is one of only three movies to reach the $1 billion mark in 2022, with Jurassic World: Dominion also joining the club.
Maverick finished its run with $770 million from markets outside North America. It has taken Avatar 2 less than two weeks to hit $768.8 million after adding $70.4 million on Wednesday, reports Variety. Avatar 2 should pass Maverick's entire international total by Thursday.
Tom Cruise's new fighter pilot epic could still hold onto the title of highest-grossing 2022 film domestically though. Maverick finished with $718.8 million in the U.S., where the Top Gun name brings back nostalgic memories of the original 1986 film. Avatar 2 is at $337.8 million domestically as of Wednesday, so it has a long way to go to catch up.
Avatar 2's success internationally comes as Hollywood movies are struggling outside the U.S. Its movies are not being released in Russia due to the country's invasion of Ukraine earlier this year. China has also decreased the number of international titles allowed to screen there. Avatar 2 also took less than two weeks to reach $1 billion globally, while Maverick took 31 days to reach that benchmark. Jurassic World: Dominion took over four months to gross $1 billion.
Billion-dollar movies have become rare after the pandemic hit. Spider-Man: No Way Home was the only movie from 2021 to reach that benchmark. During 2019, the last full year before the pandemic, nine movies hit $1 billion at the global box office. Cameron's original 2009 Avatar is still the highest-grossing movie ever made, with $2.9 billion globally. His Titanic (1997) is third with $2.2 billion.
Cameron spent 13 years putting Avatar 2 together, and it reportedly cost between $350 million and $460 million to make. The director has said it needs to reach $2 billion globally to be profitable. "You have to be the third or fourth highest-grossing film in history [to be profitable]. That's your threshold," he told GQ in November. "That's your break even."