From Batman to Bond, familiar faces made welcome returns to the big screen in 2012, a year in which superhero flicks, teen romances and animated extravaganzas continued to dominate. It wasn't just new films that we flocked to, as classics such as Beauty and the Beast, Titanic and Raiders of the Last Ark were all re-released in 3D. At the time of writing 56 films have banked more than $100m at the global box office, and included below is a roundup of the 10 highest-grossing films worldwide this year.
1 - Marvel's The Avengers
Director: Joss Whedon
Studio: Marvel Studios / Disney
Worldwide Gross: $1.5bn (£938m)
The culmination of Marvel Studios' maverick idea to bring their shared comic-book universe to the screen, The Avengers (pointlessly renamed 'Avengers Assemble' in the UK), was the runaway hit of 2012.
That's not to say its triumph at the box office was expected, indeed for many it seemed a risky gamble. The Likes of Iron Man and Thor don't hold the same attraction as Batman and Spider-Man, and whilst the appointment of Joss Whedon as writer and director was ecstatically welcomed by fans, the only previous time he'd helmed a feature film was 2005's box office flop Serenity.
Perhaps Avengers proves that sometimes the fans are right, and that in Hollywood you can be rewarded for trying something new. The two Iron Man films, Thor and Captain America all served as warm-up pictures for the main event, the appearance of all these characters on screen at the same time, an idea that had never been tried before. It also helped that the film was ridiculously fun from first to last, with all characters from the Hulk to Hawkeye given their chance to shine. A sequel is currently slated for 2015, and I for one can't wait for the Avengers to reassemble.
2 - The Dark Knight Rises
Director: Christopher Nolan
Studio: Warner Bros. / Legendary Pictures
Worldwide Gross: $1.08bn (£671m)
After The Dark Knight banked over a billion at the box office in 2008, expectations were pretty high for Christian Bale's third outing as Batman in which, we were promised, 'the legend ends'.
Rather than Heath Ledger's tempestuous Joker, we had to put up with Tom Hardy's inaudible and outlandish Bane, as well as a small turn from Anne Hathaway as Catwoman. Eschewing 3D for shooting over an hour of the film in IMAX format, scenes such as the mid-air plane heist at the beginning looked absolutely breathtaking on the big screen.
Whilst the film sometimes collapses under its own bombastic operatic grandeur, it's a fitting finale for a trilogy that has come to define the serious superhero film.
3 - Skyfall
Director: Sam Mendes
Studio: MGM / Columbia
Worldwide Gross: $974m (£605m)
You'd think after 23 films people would grow tired of James Bond, but Skyfall proved there's still life in 007 as the movie broke records to become the most successful Bond film of all time. Released 50 years after the first Bond picture, Dr No in 1962, Skyfall was a thrilling action film and fitting tribute to the series' history.
From the return of Q to the appearance of the Aston martin DB5, the movie revelled in nostalgia for the famous secret agent. Sam Mendes, a director more known for character dramas such as American Beauty and Revolutionary Road, imbued a much deeper look at Bond and his maternal superior M. With the film almost certain to pass a billion at the box office, James Bond will most definitely return.
4 - Ice Age 4: Continental Drift
Director: Steve Martino / Mark Thurmeier
Studio: Fox / Blue Sky Studios
Worldwide Gross: $875m (£543m)
The fourth Ice Age film was, wait for it, a mammoth hit at the box office, becoming the biggest animated film of 2012 and the sixth highest-grossing animated film of all time.
Continuing the adventures of Manny the mammoth (Ray Romano), Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) and Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary), the film also featured celebrity voice spots from musicians Jennifer Lopez, Drake and Nicki Minaj.
But many critics were left cold by the film, accusing writers Michael Berg and Lori Forte of recycling elements from previous movies in the series. Despite these criticisms, the series' continued global success means this ice age won't thaw anytime soon.
5 - The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2
Director: Bill Condon
Studio: Lionsgate / Summit Entertainment
Worldwide Gross: $796m (£494m)
The fifth and final chapter of the unfathomably popular Twilight saga is well on course to become the biggest film in the franchise to date.
Starring ghostly pale leads Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson as vampires, the two now have to protect their CGI baby Renesmee from vampire royalty the Volturi.
The film received mixed reviews from the critics, with The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw saying that Breaking Dawn Part 2 "drives the final stake into this heavily bleeding franchise".
An adaptation of sci-fi novel The Host, another of Stephanie Meyer's works, is set to be released next year.
6 - The Amazing Spider-Man
Director: Marc Webb
Studio: Columbia / Marvel Studios
Worldwide Gross: $752m (£467m)
Perhaps the best example of Hollywood running out of ideas, this re-boot of the Spider-Man franchise came out only five years since the web-slinger's last outing, 2007's Spider-Man 3.
Anything but amazing, a better title for the boring blockbuster would have been 'The Insipid Spider-Man' or 'The Completely Unnecessary Spider-Man'. That didn't stop the public lapping up the teen-romance between Peter Parker (Andrew Garfield) and Gwen Stacy (Emma Stone), with The Daily Telegraph's Robbie Collin calling the movie the "superhero film for the Twilight generation".
7 - Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
Director: Eric Darnell / Tom McGrath / Conrad Vernon
Studio: Paramount / Dreamworks
Worldwide Gross: $742m (£460m)
Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett-Smith and David Schwimmer all lent their voices once more for the third film in the incredibly popular Madagascar franchise.
Swapping the African savannah for the streets of Rome and London, zoo animals Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe and Gloria the hippo continued their dogged attempt to make their way back to their New York home.
Defying the usual trend of the sequels struggling to match the success of the original, the extremely entertaining extravaganza was rapturously received by critics as the best in the series to date, enjoyable for kids and adults alike.
8 - The Hunger Games
Director: Gary Ross
Worldwide Gross: $687m (£426m)
Ravenous fans readily ate up the adaption of beloved book The Hunger Games, especially in the US, where it became the first film since Avatar to spend four consecutive weeks at the top of the box office.
With Jennifer Lawrence, recently voted the most desirable woman in the world for 2012, playing lead character Katniss Everdeen, critics praised the film as a weightier and more intelligent version of Battle Royale.
With both the Harry Potter and Twilight franchises now completed, sequels Catching Fire and Mockingjay are likely to be massive future hits amongst teenage audiences.
9 - Men In Black 3
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Worldwide Gross: $624m (£387m)
After a four-year absence from cinema screens, in the third instalment of the Men In Black series Will Smith proved he's still a big draw at the box office.
Featuring a humorous time-travel storyline whereby Josh Brolin gets to impersonate Tommy Lee Jones as a young Agent K, the film went some way towards making up for the disastrous Men in Black 2. The only thing that's lacking is a Will Smith rap at the end.
10 - Brave
Director: Mark Andrews / Brenda Chapman
Studio: Disney / Pixar
Worldwide Gross: $535m (£332m)
The third animated film on the list, Pixar's latest offering was well-received but didn't catch public attention in the same way as Finding Nemo or Wall-E. That's because having a female lead for the first time, as well as the fairy-tale princess setting, probably played better with girls than boys.
The film continues Pixar's incredible run since 2000 of all their films grossing more than $500m worldwide. Expect Monsters University, their upcoming prequel to 2001's Monster Inc., to score even higher at the box office next year.
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