Star Wars Day 2024: Breaking Down Star Wars’ Box Office Performance and More by the Numbers

May the force be with you as you venture with FinanceBuzz to a galaxy far, far away to explore all things Star Wars.

Updated May 13, 2024
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A long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away, George Lucas released A New Hope (then titled Star Wars). He thought it would only survive as a stand-alone release. Instead, Star Wars became a pop culture phenomenon that has produced many more beloved movies and TV shows over the last 45 years.

Since its Disney acquisition in 2012, the Star Wars galaxy has expanded faster than ever. To celebrate May the 4th and the continually growing Star Wars franchise, FinanceBuzz examined box office performance and how much total Star Wars content exists as movies and TV shows.

Key findings

  • Episode IV – A New Hope made a 2,396% profit based on its inflation-adjusted budget and box office gross. That’s the most of any Star Wars movie.
  • In total, there are more than 14,000 minutes, or 234 hours, of Star Wars content on Disney+. Movies account for only 13% of the total Star Wars content.
  • The most highly acclaimed Star Wars movie is Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (95% on Rotten Tomatoes). The lowest-scoring movie is Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (51%).
  • Only one Star Wars movie, 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, has failed to turn a profit at the box office.
  • Two Star Wars films, Episode IV – A New Hope and Episode VIIThe Force Awakens, top the billion-dollar mark for box office gross when adjusted for inflation.
  • 85% of all Star Wars movies and TV shows have been produced since 2010.

Star Wars at the box office

The Star Wars franchise has been a hit from the very beginning, with the first movie taking the title of highest-grossing movie of all time from Jaws and holding the record for years afterwards. With almost no exceptions, subsequent Star Wars movies have been major hits at the box office.

A chart showing how much money Star Wars movies have made at the box office (adjusted for inflation), as well as the Rotten Tomatoes Critic's Score for each.

Despite the success of the newer installments in the franchise, the very first Star Wars movie is still the highest-grossing film in the series (when adjusted for inflation). Between A New Hope’s initial 1977 release, a 1982 re-release, and the 1997 special edition release, the movie has brought in over $460 million at the box office. That equates to over $1.9 billion in 2024 dollars.

While both Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back and Episode VI – Return of the Jedi got close to topping the billion-dollar mark across multiple releases, only 2015’s Episode VII – The Force Awakens actually achieved billion-dollar status at the box office. The film grossed over $900 million at the time of release (nearly $1.2 billion in today’s dollars).

The Force Awakens marks the first movie released after Disney purchased the Star Wars franchise from George Lucas.

Comparing Star Wars’ critical reception and box office performance

While Star Wars movies have been consistent winners in terms of ticket sales, the critical reception of the franchise has been a bit more mixed.

A bar chart showing how Rotten Tomatoes Critic's Scores have varied for each Star Wars movie. The highest-rated Star Wars film is Episode IV - A New Hope. The lowest rated is Solo.

While certain entries in the series are far more beloved among critics than others, even the lowest-rated Star Wars movies have earned scores of over 50% from critics on Rotten Tomatoes, an impressive feat for a franchise with so many entries. There is also some relationship between how well-reviewed a Star Wars movie is and how much money it makes. The four movies with Rotten Tomatoes scores over 90% have earned an inflation-adjusted $4.8 billion, which accounts for 52% of the $9.3 billion the entire Star Wars franchise has made at the box office. Those movies are:
  • Episode IV – A New Hope
  • Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back
  • Episode VII – The Force Awakens
  • Episode VIII – The Last Jedi

These four movies have averaged a little more than $1.2 billion in sales at the box office, while the remaining seven movies with lower ratings from critics have averaged “just” $639 million in inflation-adjusted ticket sales.

Box office vs. budget

Given the consistent box office success of Star Wars movies, it isn’t surprising to find out that the franchise has been incredibly profitable, with (almost) every entry earning back its budget and then some.

A chart showing how the budget for each Star Wars film compares to box office revenue and profits (all adjusted for inflation).

To see exactly how profitable each Star Wars movie actually is, we need to factor in the amount of money it cost to make each movie.

Once again, A New Hope shines here. Even after factoring in the money spent to make the 1997 special edition, and adjusting for inflation, A New Hope still has the lowest budget of any Star Wars film at $76.5 million. With an inflation-adjusted $1.9 billion earned at the box office, that means A New Hope earned a profit of $1.8 billion for LucasFilm. That’s equivalent to 2,397% of the movie’s budget.

Even though budgets for the new Disney-produced movies balloon into the hundreds of millions of dollars, every Star Wars film except one has made at least $280 million in profit at the box office.

The only film that failed to hit the mark is also the only one that failed to turn a profit of any kind. 2018’s Solo: A Star Wars Story had an inflation-adjusted budget of $341 million but made just $265 million upon release, a loss of nearly $76 million.

How much Star Wars content is currently available?

Thanks to Disney+ it’s easier than ever to watch Star Wars content. But how much time would it take fans to watch every single minute of TV and film content in the Star Wars franchise?

A chart graphic designed to look like the Death Star space station from Star Wars. The chart shows how many minutes of Star Wars content exist, including run times for all movies and TV shows.

For the cost of Disney+ ($7.99 per month or $13.99 without ads), a subscriber has access to over 14,000 minutes of Star Wars TV and movies. That means it would take over 234 hours, or nearly ten full days, to watch every single minute of Star Wars content.

Recent Star Wars content includes TV shows set in the Star Wars galaxy. For every minute of Star Wars film content that exists, there are nearly seven minutes of TV content.

In fact, the Clone Wars series, which ran for seven seasons and 133 episodes, accounts for 3,000 minutes of content by itself. That’s more than twice as much as the 1,493 minutes that comprise the 11 theatrically released Star Wars movies.

The Clone Wars show shows a few different trends in the expansion of the Star Wars franchise. The show was first released in 2008 but the majority of its episodes were released in the 2010s before the show was revived in the 2020s.

That makes it a notable part of the trend of new Star Wars content being released in the last 15 years. As of this writing, more than 12,600 minutes of content — 84% of all official Star Wars content ever produced — has been released since 2010. That must be mind-blowing to fans who had to wait 16 years without any Star Wars content at all between the releases of Return of the Jedi and Episode I – The Phantom Menace.

The Clone Wars is also an animated production, which is common for Star Wars content at this point. While the franchise’s headliners are the live-action movies, 70% of all Star Wars content is animated. This includes shows such as The Bad Batch, Rebels, and Resistance joining Clone Wars as animated shows with multiple seasons and hundreds of minutes worth of stories set in the Star Wars galaxy.

How to save money, even in a galaxy far, far away

Here are some more ideas for how to get the most Star Wars bang for your buck:

Methodology

The overall amount of content was sourced from the runtimes for shows and movies as listed on IMDB. Box office totals and data on the number of domestic releases for each film were found via Box Office Mojo. The Bureau of Labor Statistics' CPI inflation calculator was used to calculate for inflation throughout. Critic scores were pulled from Rotten Tomatoes. All run times, ratings, and earnings data was collected in April 2024.

Author Details

Josh Koebert

Josh Koebert is an experienced content marketer that loves exploring how personal finance overlaps with topics such as sports, food, pop culture, and more. His work has been featured on sites such as CNN, ESPN, Business Insider, and Lifehacker.