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Cinema industry trends
Top 100 documentaries of all time

ranked by total reported gross Australian box office as at February 2017

Next update March 2018
 

There are five Australian-made IMAX titles in the all-time top 20 to April 2016: Antarctica, Africa’s Elephant Kingdom, Australia: Land Beyond Time, Hidden Universe 3D and Sydney: Story of a City. The most successful non-IMAX Australian documentary is That Sugar Film, which has grossed $1,708,908 since its release in March 2015.

Four new titles entered the top 100: The Beatles Live: Eight Days A Week - The Touring Years (29), Sherpa (56), Embrace (61) and Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie (75).

Australian films highlighted and in bold.

 

Rank Title Distributor Release date Box office ($)1
1 Michael Jackson’s This is It Sony 29 Oct 09 9,633,256
2 Fahrenheit 9/11 Hopscotch 29 Jul 04 8,404,378
3 Everest IMAX 18 Mar 98 6,334,124
4 Titanic 3D: Ghosts of the Abyss IMAX 04 Sep 03 5,615,673
5 Space Station 3D IMAX 06 Jun 02 5,503,067
6 Deep Sea 3D IMAX 06 Apr 06 5,189,744
7 Antarctica IMAX 26 Sep 96 5,183,908
8 Extreme IMAX 18 Mar 99 5,166,219
9 Shackleton’s Antarctic Adventure IMAX 01 Nov 01 5,050,035
10 Bowling for Columbine Hopscotch 26 Dec 02 4,852,301
11 Mysteries of Egypt IMAX 21 Jan 99 4,552,689
12 March of the Penguins Roadshow 30 Mar 06 4,345,437
13 An Inconvenient Truth UIP 14 Sep 06 4,190,159
14 Encounter in the 3rd Dimension IMAX 20 May 99 3,601,728
15 Under the Sea 3D IMAX 12 Mar 09 3,556,495
16 Wild Safari 3D IMAX 09 Jun 05 3,523,133
17 Africa’s Elephant Kingdom IMAX 21 May 98 3,491,995
18 Africa: The Serengeti IMAX 20 Mar 97 3,391,716
19 The Living Sea IMAX 26 Sep 96 3,078,803
20 One Direction: This Is Us Sony 19 Sep 13 2,963,910
21 Bugs in 3D IMAX 02 Jul 12 02 2,951,847
22 Katy Perry: Part of Me Paramount 02 Jul 12 2,937,915
23 Super Size Me Dendy 03 Jun 04 2,907,204
24 Galapagos IMAX 11 Nov 99 2,820,078
25 Dinosaurs 3D – Giants of Patagonia IMAX 07 Jun 07 2,654,501
26 Travelling Birds Hopscotch 19 Jun 03 2,564,215
27 Hubble 3D IMAX 13 Aug 10 2,565,792
28 Monty Python Live at Hollywood Bowl Greater Union 01 Jan 82 2,351,000
29 The Beatles Live: Eight Days A Week -  The Touring Years Studiocanal 16 Sep 16 2,270,920
30 In Bed with Madonna CTS 13 Jun 91 2,241,064
31 Ocean Wonderland 3D IMAX 14 Feb 04 2,206,130
32 Amazon IMAX 11 Dec 97 2,072,236
33 Glee Live 3D Concert Movie Fox 11 Aug 11 2,040,230
34 The Human Body IMAX 07 Feb 02 2,009,070
35 Wild Oceans 3D IMAX 19 Jun 08 1,891,712
36 Thrill Ride: The Science of Fun IMAX 21 Jul 97 1,851,622
37 Special Effects IMAX 26 Sep 96 1,816,905
38 Born to Be Wild 3D IMAX 08 Apr 11 1,770,936
39 Alaska IMAX 03 Sep 98 1,731,065
40 That Sugar Film Madman 1 Mar 15 1,708,908
41 Amy eOne 2 Jul 15 1,705,641
42 Bra Boys Hopscotch 15 Mar 07 1,698,976
43 Buena Vista Social Club Dendy 23 Dec 99 1,696,381
44 Sharks 3D IMAX 05 May 05 1,583,140
45 The September Issue Madman 20 Aug 09 1,581,639
46 U2 3D Roadshow 10 Apr 08 1,575,376
47 Into the Deep IMAX 07 May 98 1,538,043
48 Dolphins IMAX 06 Apr 00 1,526,728
49 The Real Cancun Roadshow 10 Jul 03 1,480,393
50 Senna Universal 11 Aug 11 1,444,591
51 Sea Monsters 3D – A Prehistoric Adventure IMAX 27 Sep 07 1,428,030
52 Microcosmos New Vision 04 Jun 97 1,421,834
53 What the Bleep Do We Know?! Hopscotch 14 Apr 05 1,356,679
54 The Weeping Camel Dendy 30 Sep 04 1,338,989
55 Forces of Nature IMAX 11 Oct 04 1,322,998
56 Sherpa Transmission 31 Mar 16 1,275,413
57 African Adventure 3D IMAX 14 Feb 08 1,272,003
58 Dinosaurs Alive 3D IMAX 03 Sep 09 1,232,575
59 Mrs Carey’s Concert Music Films 28 Apr 11 1,164,548
60 Divine Madness Warner Bros 27 Nov 80 1,147,000
61 Embrace Transmission 4 Aug 16 1,109,528
62 Blue Planet IMAX 29 Jan 98 1,105,839
63 Australia: Land Beyond Time IMAX 06 Mar 03 1,085,672
64 Spellbound Hopscotch 13 Nov 03 1,069,322
65 Woodstock Warner Bros 01 Aug 70 1,068,000
66 Dolphins and Whales 3D IMAX 13 Mar 08 1,054,457
67 To Be and To Have Palace 29 Apr 04 1,053,219
68 When We Were Kings Polygram 10 Apr 97 1,013,186
69 Great White Shark 3D IMAX 30 Dec 13 1,010,609
70 Sicko Roadshow 09 Aug 07 972,853
71 Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D IMAX 20 Oct 05 966,145
72 Samsara eOne 26 Dec 12 944,615
73 Searching for Sugar Man Madman 04 Oct 12 937,783
74 Shine a Light Fox 29 May 08 930,801
75 Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie Madman 8 Sep 16 916,582
76 Hidden Universe 3D IMAX 05 Sep 13 916,278
77 Mission to Mir IMAX 09 Jun 97 897,805
78 Egypt 3D: Secrets of the Mummies IMAX 20 Aug 09 893,560
79 Aliens of the Deep IMAX 10 Mar 05 832,314
80 Michael Jordan to the Max IMAX 14 Sep 00 830,554
81 Adrenaline Rush: The Science of Risk IMAX 08 May 03 805,009
82 42 Up Dendy 01 Jul 99 790,000
83 Love the Beast Madman 12 Mar 09 777,351
84 Nitro Circus: The Movie Universal 15 Nov 12 734,209
85 Sydney: Story of a City IMAX 18 Aug 99 725,545
86 Tornado Alley 3D IMAX 29 Sep 11 719,837
87 To the Artic 3D IMAX 31 May 12 718,706
88 Stories We Tell Palace 26 Sep 13 702,753
89 Exit Through the Gift Shop Madman 03 Jun 10 681,087
90 Storm Surfers 3D: The Movie Madman 14 Aug 12 676,001
91 TT3D: Closer to the Edge Icon 20 Oct 11 660,850
92 Deep Blue Hopscotch 09 Dec 04 654,791
93 Exotica New Vision 26 Oct 95 639,861
94 U2 Rattle and Hum UIP 03 Nov 88 634,254
95 Walking the Camino: Six Ways to Santiago Umbrella Ent. 4 Jun 15 628,301
96 Nascar 3D IMAX 02 Sep 04 621,655
97 Flight of the Butterflies IMAX 21 Mar 13 618,785
98 Dior and I Madman 26 Mar 15 615,291
99 Cane Toads: An Unnatural History Ronin 29 Feb 88 613,910
100 Inside Job Sony 17 Feb 11 609,040

Source: Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia (MPDAA), Nielsen EDI (Australia) and Ronin; compiled by Screen Australia.

Notes:
Australian films are those under Australian creative control, including domestic productions, official co-productions and other productions involving shared creative control, i.e. with a mix of Australians in key creative positions.
World Safari 2: Adventure Bound (released 1984) is not included as national box office figures are unavailable.
1. Earnings are in current dollars (i.e. not adjusted for inflation). Cumulative box office, as reported on 3 February 2017 in the MPDAA master report. These figures are updated on an ongoing basis therefore there may be discrepancies with previously published data.

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