What does Blockbuster mean?

A movie that makes a lot of money

A blockbuster is a term frequently used by film lovers and critics alike, referring to movies that are extremely successful at the box office. These are the films that rake in a lot of money, often in line with their high production costs.

Despite its common application to cinema, the term ‘blockbuster’ can also be used to categorize other forms of successful artwork such as books, plays, or video games. The key factor here is that, while these works must be financially successful, they don’t necessarily have to be critically acclaimed.

Some blockbuster movies include hits like Inception, Finding Nemo, and Lord of the Rings, as well as less critically acclaimed films like Transformers. The term ‘blockbuster’ has even been applied to popular franchises like the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) or Star Wars (SW).

The origin of this slang term dates back to World War II, when ‘blockbuster bombs’ were used, powerful enough to destroy an entire city block. By the mid-1940s, theater enthusiasts started using the term to describe movies that ‘busted’ the box office by selling a significant number of tickets.

The popularity of the term skyrocketed in the 1970s, cementing its place in everyday language. ‘Blockbuster’ also lent its name to the once thriving, but now closed, movie and game rental chain.

Interestingly, ‘blockbuster’ is also used outside of arts and entertainment. For example, a significant trade involving top-tier NFL players could be described as a ‘blockbuster trade’. Likewise, a crucial political agreement that prevents the national debt ceiling from being hit might be referred to as a ‘blockbuster deal’.

Example for using ‘Blockbuster’ in a conversation

Hey, have you seen the new superhero movie?

Yeah, it’s a total blockbuster! Made millions at the box office.

But is it any good?

Not really, critics didn’t like it much. But it’s still a blockbuster because people love superhero movies.