Oppenheimer Passes Guardians 3 To Enter The Top 3 At The Global Box Office For 2023

Another week, another milestone for "Oppenheimer." The latest film from acclaimed director Christopher Nolan continued to rake in the dough over Labor Day weekend, adding another $5.75 million in its seventh weekend domestically, staying in the top five on the charts. That, coupled with another big frame overseas actually put it in the top three worldwide for 2023 overall. Most amazing? Nolan's Robert J. Oppenheimer biopic actually overtook Marvel's "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" to enter the global top three for the year.

According to The Numbers, "Oppenheimer" has now earned $853.5 million to date, including $310.6 million domestically and $542.8 million internationally. That puts it just past director James Gunn's finale to his "Guardians" trilogy, which pulled in $844.3 million worldwide during its run earlier this year. To be clear, both movies are massive success stories but the fact that Universal Pictures has managed to release an R-rated, adult-skewing biopic that made more money than a superhero movie within a beloved, established franchise is amazing.

To say that Christopher Nolan's "Oppenheimer" is having a Cinderella run would be an understatement at this point. Not that Nolan — the man who gave us "The Dark Knight" and "Inception" — is any sort of underdog, but selling a 3-hour biopic about the man who invented the A-bomb to the masses on this level is another thing entirely. That it has now overtaken what looked to be a possible lock for the highest-grossing movie of the year back in January is staggering.

As far as the top two spots for 2023 go? It's "The Super Mario Bros. Movie" ($1.359 billion) and "Barbie" ($1.384 billion) reigning supreme. Warner Bros.' "Barbie" finally claimed the top spot over the weekend. Nolan is in good company.

Oppenheimer is having a super-heroic run

There is much to be said about the success of "Oppenheimer" right now. For one, Universal Pictures comes out looking brilliant here, as Nolan left Warner Bros. following the release of "Tenet" in 2020 and that proved to be Universal's gain. They now have a $100 million movie that will make at least nine times its production budget and will absolutely be a top contender come awards season. Make no mistake, they will write Nolan a blank check for whatever he wants to do next. Warner Bros. may want him back but it is probably too little, too late.

Beyond that, we can also take a moment to evaluate the state of superhero cinema. In particular, the era of presumed dominance when it comes to comic book movies appears to be behind us. "Guardians 3" is the top earner in the superhero realm this year and, aside from "Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse," it's been a mixed bag. "Shazam! Fury of The Gods" and "The Flash" bombed spectacularly, with "Blue Beetle" currently struggling. "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania collapsed after its first weekend. Things are changing. Superheroes alone no longer guarantee success like they did even a couple of years ago.

Meanwhile, for the first time since 2001 (!) there are no sequels in the top three movies at the box office this year. It's been that long since new franchises or non-franchise films reigned supreme in an uncontested way.

Looking ahead, I'm not saying it will happen but given its continued legs and assured Oscar run, "Oppenheimer" has an outside shot at hitting $1 billion worldwide before all's said and done. If that happens, I would peg it as the most unlikely movie ever to top $1 billion. If it never makes another penny, it's still a wild success beyond anyone's most optimistic expectations.

"Oppenheimer" is in theaters now.