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Content Warning: The following article contains discussions/depictions of sexual misconduct.
Minions: The Rise of Gru was recently released in theaters, taking the box office by storm thanks to the lovability of the Minions. It’s shaping up to be one of Illumination’s most successful films, which is no small feat considering its release was hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic and the amount of money the studio’s projects have reaped over the years.
More often than not, a film’s opening box office can dictate just how profitable a film will turn out, and Illumination has certainly had its share of astonishing opening weekends over the years, putting up staggering numbers for some of its best.
10 Hop (2011) – $37.5 Million
Illumination’s only foray into any sort of live-action was its second-ever film, Hop. The film combines live-action and computer animation to tell the story of a young rabbit running away to Hollywood to avoid his responsibilities of taking over the role of Easter Bunny from his father.
While the film managed a better opening than either of the Sing movies, it still ultimately ranks as both the lowest-rated and lowest-grossing overall film that Illumination has made to date.
9 The Secret Life Of Pets 2 (2019) – $46.6 Million
The Secrets Life of Pets 2 had a dark cloud hanging over it before ever even being released, having to recast the first film’s lead voice actor Louis C.K. for the revelation of his acts of sexual misconduct.
Patton Oswalt replaced him in the sequel, being joined by other new voice actors Tiffany Haddish and Harrison Ford, while the rest of the original cast reprised their roles. The film ended up opening at less than half of what the original film did, a trend that continued to its overall gross.
8 Despicable Me (2010) – $56.3 Million
The film that started the entire Despicable Me franchise is actually the lowest opening film of the entire series. The first film starring Gru, voiced by Steve Carell in what Letterboxd considers one of his best movies, follows the supervillain adopting three little girls and facing off with his rival Vector.
Although the lowest performing of the series, it’s no surprise that Illumination’s first-ever film spawned a franchise, as Despicable Me both made a pretty penny at the box office and received strong reviews, and is still Illumination’s highest-rated film to this day.
7 Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch (2018) – $67.5 Million
Illumination took a crack at adapting the story of who many believe to be the best Christmas movie villain, retelling the story of The Grinch.
Much like the 2000 live-action adaptation starring Jim Carrey, Illumination’s The Grinch explores the Grinch’s backstory and what exactly made him hate Christmas so much. The film featured a stellar voice cast, including MCU star Benedict Cumberbatch in the lead role, something which helped the movie become one of the ten most profitable films of 2018.
6 The Lorax (2012) – $70.2 Million
Illumination’s first adaptation of a Dr. Seuss work actually opened slightly bigger, even if its overall gross would be smaller. Part of the reason The Lorax might have been able to achieve this is actually tied to one of its biggest controversies.
While the film’s numerous cross-promotions and advertisements surely put eyes on the film and lead to more people making their way to the theater on opening weekend, they also completely went against one of the prominent themes of the original 1971 book, which is its critique of greed and capitalism.
5 Despicable Me 3 (2017) – $72.4 Million
Despicable Me 3 introduced Gru’s villainous yet foolish brother, Dru, and the supervillain franchise’s third film opened up plenty of possible directions for Despicable Me to take next. It was yet another massive success for the series, becoming the second film in the franchise (and the second ever Illumination film period) to hit a billion dollars for its worldwide gross.
While much of that success can be owed to its impressive opening weekend, it still isn’t near Illumination’s best opening, meaning the film had fantastic legs to make as much money as it did.
4 Despicable Me 2 (2013) – $83.5 Million
Despicable Me 2 easily has the biggest opening in the mainline series. The film follows Gru battling the villain El Macho and introduced several characters that would become permeant fixtures in the Despicable Me franchise. Among them was Kristin Wiig’s Lucy Wilde, an Anti-Villain League superspy and Gru’s eventual love interest.
The film was a smash hit, grossing over $400 million dollars more than its predecessor worldwide, and recently made headlines for being the first film acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino ever showed his son, according to Variety.
3 The Secret Life Of Pets (2016) – $104.3 Million
The first film of the franchise detailing what everyone’s pets get up to when their owners aren’t around, The Secret Life Of Pets had an absolutely massive opening at the box office, earning over $100 million during its first weekend.
The film was everywhere, opening in over 4,000 theaters to become the seventh-widest release in the history of cinema. While the film’s comparisons to Toy Story were often in a critical light, they also might have bolstered the film’s success, considering just how successful the Toy Story franchise has been throughout the years.
2 Minions: The Rise Of Gru (2022) – $107.0 Million
Not merely just a case of families flocking in to see the newest Minions film, Minions: The Rise of Gru also received the box office boost of the somewhat controversial #GentleMinions trend, which saw thousands of teenagers dress up in formal attire and attend screenings of the film.
The Gru origin story, which had been delayed since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, showed that patience was a virtue, becoming what many consider the best Illumination movie.
1 Minions (2015) – $115.7 Million
The Rise of Gru couldn’t topple the grand opening of the original Minions film. The first spin-off film to Despicable Me, Minions showcased what the lives of the titular creatures were like before they met Gru, specifically their origins and what other villainous masters they have served in the past.
It was one of the most successful animated films of all time, becoming the first Illumination film to ever crack $1 billion worldwide. To this day, Minions and Despicable Me 3 are the only two non-Disney films to achieve such a thing.
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