A 2010 report from the Motion Picture Association of America said that the movie industry loses billions of dollars every year to Internet piracy. The phenomenon is widespread in part because of file-sharing technology such as BitTorrent, which allows computer users to copy large files—like movies—from each other.
At the Australian International Movie Convention on Aug. 21, Kim Williams, CEO of the Australian media conglomerate News Limited, called file-sharing “scumbag theft.” He went on to say that illegally downloading content “is the equivalent of smashing a window and taking it.”
Ernesto Van Der Sar, founder of the file-sharing news website TorrentFreak.com, is skeptical of the belief that piracy is harmful to the studios’ profitability. “I think there is very little to no effect on the box office in the U.S.,” Van Der Sar said in an e-mail.
TorrentFreak.com, which has been cited in such news outlets as The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and CNN, released a list of the 10 most-pirated movies of all time, compiled from BitTorrent tracking data since 2006.
"We monitor and store data reported by public BitTorrent trackers," Van Der Sar said. "These trackers report the number of people who are sharing files, and we use this data to calculate the total number of downloads. Different downloads for the same titles are later grouped."
Some of the movies on the list are among the highest-grossing of all time, supporting Van Der Sar’s claim. However, others on the list did lousy business, and may have done better without competition from file-sharers.
Read ahead to see TorrentFreak.com’s list of the 10 most-pirated movies of all time. All box office data is from BoxOfficeMojo.com.
"Crime Inc: Hollywood Robbery" premieres Thursday, August 30th at 9p | 12a ET.
By Daniel Bukszpan
Posted 24 August 2012
Pirated 14 million times
“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End” is the third film in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise. It was released in 2007 and became the highest-grossing film of the year, with a worldwide box office gross of over $963 million.
The story of Captain Jack Sparrow and his seafaring brigands was hugely popular, as the box office numbers suggest. It was also popular with the illegal downloading community, which downloaded it illegally 14 million times.
Pirated 14 million times
“The Incredible Hulk” was the second movie about the enraged green monster in the franchise, following Ang Lee’s 2003 “Hulk,” which received poor reviews and disappointing box office receipts. The 2008 attempt was meant to reboot both the character and his commercial prospects.
“The Incredible Hulk” did only marginally better than its $245 million predecessor, earning a worldwide box office gross of over $263 million. Maybe moviegoers had Hulk fatigue, or maybe the 14 million copies that were illegally downloaded made people watch it at home, instead of “hulking out” at the multiplex.
Pirated 14 million times
The director Martin Scorsese has made many classic American films, such as “Taxi Driver” and “GoodFellas,” all of which brought him more critical raves than box office success. That changed in 2006 when he released “The Departed,” a crime saga that grossed $290 million at the worldwide box office, far outpacing any other of his films.
In addition to the relatively high box office take, it also netted the director his first Oscars—for Best Picture and Best Director. The film was illegally downloaded 14 million times.
Pirated 15 million times
“Kick-Ass” is a 2010 superhero comedy based on the comic book of the same name. Sixty-six other films beat its $48 million domestic box office take that year, including such commercial juggernauts as “Hot Tub Time Machine” and “Dinner for Schmucks,” and it only managed $96 million in ticket sales worldwide.
The piracy front was another story entirely, as the film was illegally downloaded 15 million times. The upside of the repeated piracy may be that the film has since become a cult favorite, and a sequel is now planned for 2013.
Pirated 16 million times
There are few franchises, televised, cinematic or otherwise, that have been rebooted as many times as “Star Trek.” Since its humble beginnings as a television series in 1966, it’s been used for six different TV shows, 10 movies with two different casts released between 1979 and 2002, and another cinematic makeover in 2009, courtesy of J.J. Abrams.
The 2009 version breathed new life into an ailing franchise and took in $386 million at the worldwide box office, earnings that hopelessly outpaced any other film in the series. It was illegally downloaded 16 million times.
Pirated 17 million times
The comedy “The Hangover” was the raunchy surprise hit of 2009. The tale of four men struggling to remember a bachelor party gone horribly wrong resonated with audiences and earned $467 million in worldwide ticket sales.
The movie was illegally downloaded 17 million times, allowing home viewers to watch it over and over again. After all, who wouldn’t want to have regular access to footage of disgraced former boxer Mike Tyson singing Phil Collins songs?
Pirated 18 million times
In 2010, director Christopher Nolan took a detour from his “Dark Knight” trilogy to make “Inception.” Part action movie, part heist caper and part science fiction thriller, the film was a huge commercial success, earning $825 million at the box office and solidifying Nolan’s status as a bravura filmmaker.
The film has been illegally downloaded 18 million times. While this is no doubt a sign of its immense popularity, it may also be indicative of home viewers wishing to watch the film over and over again in an effort to comprehend its extremely complicated story.
Pirated 19 million times
The science fiction film “Transformers” was released in 2007. It received a lukewarm critical reception, with The Chicago Reader calling it a “gigantic commercial for Hasbro.”
The movie was more warmly received at the worldwide box office, where it earned $710 million. It has gone on to spawn two sequels and has been illegally downloaded 19 million times.
Pirated 19 million times
“The Dark Knight” is the second film in director Nolan’s trilogy of “Batman” movies. A battle royale between the Caped Crusader and a sociopathic criminal known as the Joker, the movie featured one of the last performances of actor Heath Ledger, who died during post-production.
The film was released to critical raves and monstrous box office receipts, and went on to earn over $1 billion at the box office. It is currently the 12th-highest grossing film of all time, and it has been illegally downloaded 19 million times.
Pirated 21 million times
Twelve years after the release of “Titanic,” Oscar-winning director James Cameron returned to movie theaters with the science-fiction epic “Avatar.” Many people wondered if the new film could ever hope to match the success of “Titanic,” which at the time was the highest-grossing film ever made.
Amazingly, “Avatar” surpassed the worldwide box office receipts of its predecessor, raking in $2.8 billion and becoming the newest box-office king of the world. It also went on to become the king of the illegally downloaded films.
Hollywood Robbery Premieres Thursday, August 30th 9p | 12a ET.
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