The most pirated movies of the year, from 'Black Widow' to 'Godzilla vs. Kong'

The most pirated movies of the year, from 'Black Widow' to 'Godzilla vs. Kong'
·8 min read
Scarlett Johansson Black Widow
"Black Widow." Marvel Studios
  • Nearly all of the most pirated movies of the year so far were available online in some form.

  • It shows the risks for studios when releasing a movie on streaming services and in theaters simultaneously.

  • Theater owners have criticized the strategy, arguing it increases piracy and eats at a movie's box office.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

During the pandemic, Hollywood studios have released some of their biggest movies simultaneously to theaters and streaming services. Theater owners generally hate it and have escalated their criticism of the strategy since the release of "Black Widow," which Disney debuted in theaters and on Disney+ for an additional $30 fee on the same day.

A major part of their argument is that it leads to more piracy, which can hurt a movie's box office.

"When a movie is released simultaneously to a streaming service, a pristine copy of that movie is made available day one that it's in cinemas," John Fithian, the CEO of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO), told Insider.

"Black Widow" is the biggest movie at the US box office so far this year with $182 million. But NATO believes it would have made more money, and not had such a dramatic drop at the domestic box office from it first to second weekend, if it had been exclusive to theaters.

Fithian argued that "Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings," another Marvel movie released over the weekend with a record $90 million during the four-day holiday, will have stronger legs at the box office because it's not streaming - and therefore not being pirated as much.

Early piracy data suggests that could be the case. After "Black Widow" debuted on Disney+, it quickly shot to the top of piracy news website TorrentFreak's weekly list of most pirated movies. "Shang-Chi," in contrast, debuted at No. 5 on this week's list.

An analysis of TorrentFreak's weekly lists throughout the year show the risks of the simultaneous release strategy. While some of the movies that topped the lists were successful at the box office given the circumstances of the pandemic, theater owners would argue that they lost money from piracy.

Nearly all of the movies that topped the lists each week were online in some form, either on streaming services or available to rent on premium video-on-demand (PVOD) platforms after their theatrical runs (only one week so far this year had a movie top the list that was only in theaters at the time: "A Quiet Place Part II").

Warner Bros. releases made up the majority of movies that topped the weekly lists, as the studio is releasing all of its 2021 films simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max. Of the 36 weeks so far this year that TorrentFreak has tracked the most pirated movies for, a movie that was streaming on HBO Max topped 16 of them.

Here's how that broke down by platform:

  • HBO Max - 16 weeks

  • PVOD - 9

  • Disney+ - 6

  • Paramount+ - 2

  • Amazon Prime Video - 1

  • Netflix - 1

  • Only in theaters - 1

Movies that appeared most frequently (the ones that topped the lists more than two weeks in a row) were released simultaneously to theaters and on streaming services:

  • "Mortal Kombat" - Four weeks in a row; was released in theaters and on HBO Max

  • "Godzilla vs. Kong" - Three weeks in a row; was released in theaters and on HBO Max

  • "Black Widow" - Three weeks in a row; was released in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access (additional $30 fee required for subscribers to watch)

Below is each movie that has topped TorrentFreak's weekly list of most pirated movies this year, along with the weeks they were No. 1 and how they performed at the box office (if they weren't exclusively streaming). The dates noted for each movie are the days that TorrentFreak updated its rankings, and it reflects the previous seven days.

"Wonder Woman 1984" (Warner Bros.) - January 4 and January 11

wonder woman 1984 diana prince 8
Gal Gadot as Wonder Woman in "Wonder Woman 1984." Clay Enos/DC Comics/Warner Bros.

Was it online at the time? Streaming on HBO Max (and in theaters)

US release date: December 25, 2020

Opening weekend box office (domestic): $16.7 million

Total domestic box office: $46.5 million

Total global box office: $166.5 million

"News of the World" (Universal) - January 18 and January 25

Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel News of the World 2
Tom Hanks and Helena Zengel star in Paul Greengrass' "News of the World." Universal Pictures/Netflix

Was it online at the time? Available on premium video-on-demand platforms starting January 15

US release date: December 25, 2020

Opening weekend box office (domestic): $2.25 million

Total domestic box office: $12.7 million

Total global box office: $12.7 million (distributed by Netflix internationally in February)

"The Little Things" (Warner Bros.) -February 1 and February 15

The Little Things Nicola Goode Warner Bros
Jared Leto in "The Little Things." Nicola Goode/Warner Bros.

Was it online at the time? Streaming on HBO Max (and in theaters)

US release date: January 29, 2021

Opening weekend box office (domestic): $4.7 million

Total domestic box office: $15.2 million

Total global box office: $29.8 million

"Bliss" (Amazon Studios) - February 8

bliss movie prime video
Owen Wilson and Salma Hayek in "Bliss." Prime Video

Was it online at the time? Streaming on Amazon Prime Video

US release date: February 5, 2021

"Monster Hunter" (Sony) - February 22 and March 1

monster hunter
Sony

Was it online at the time? Available on premium video-on-demand platforms starting February 16

US release date: December 18, 2020

Opening weekend box office (domestic): $2.2 million

Total domestic box office: $15.2 million

Total global box office: $42.1 million

"Raya and the Last Dragon" (Disney) - March 8 and March 15

raya and the last dragon
Walt Disney Animation

Was it online at the time? Streaming on Disney+ Premier Access (and in theaters)

US release date: March 5, 2021

Opening weekend box office (domestic): $8.5 million

Total domestic box office: $54.7 million

Total global box office: $122.7 million

"Zack Snyder's Justice League" (HBO Max) - March 22 and March 29

zack snyders justice league
HBO Max

Was it online at the time? Streaming on HBO Max

Release date: March 18, 2021

"Godzilla vs. Kong" (Warner Bros.) - April 5, April 12, and April 19

godzilla vs kong
"Godzilla vs. Kong" Warner Bros.

Was it online at the time? Streaming on HBO Max (and in theaters)

US release date: March 31, 2021

Opening weekend box office (domestic): $31.6 million

Total domestic box office: $100.5 million

Total global box office: $467.9 million

"Mortal Kombat" (Warner Bros.) - April 26, May 3, May 10, and May 17

mortal kombat 2021
Warner Bros.

Was it online at the time? Streaming on HBO Max (and in theaters)

US release date: April 23, 2021

Opening weekend box office (domestic): $23.3 million

Total domestic box office: $42.2 million

Total global box office: $83.6 million

"Army of the Dead" (Netflix) - May 24

army of the dead
Dave Bautista in "Army of the Dead." Netflix

Was it online at the time? Streaming on Netflix

Release date: May 21, 2021

"Wrath of Man" (MGM) - May 31

wrath of man
MGM

Was it online at the time? Available on premium video-on-demand platforms starting May 25

US release date: May 7, 2021

Opening weekend box office (domestic): $8.3 million

Total domestic box office: $27.5 million

Total global box office: $104 million

"The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It" (Warner Bros.) - June 7

the conjuring the devil made me do it warner bros
Warner Bros.

Was it online at the time? Streaming on HBO Max (and in theaters)

US release date: June 4, 2021

Opening weekend box office (domestic): $24.1 million

Total domestic box office: $65.6 million

Total global box office: $202 million

"Infinite" (Paramount) - June 14 and June 21

infinite paramount movie
Mark Wahlberg in "Infinite." Paramount

Was it online at the time? Streaming on Paramount+

Release date: June 10

"Luca" (Disney) - June 28

Luca Pixar
Pixar

Was it online at the time? Streaming on Disney+ at no additional cost

Release date: June 18, 2021

"A Quiet Place Part II" (Paramount) - July 5

a quiet place part 2
"A Quiet Place Part II" Paramount

Was it online at the time? No, only in theaters (came to Paramount+ and PVOD platforms on July 13)

US release date: May 28, 2021

Opening weekend box office (domestic): $47.5 million

Total domestic box office: $160 million

Total global box office: $297.3 million

"Black Widow" (Disney) - July 12, July 19, and July 26

Black Widow Florence Pugh Scarlett Johansson 2
Florence Pugh and Scarlett Johansson in "Black Widow." Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Was it online at the time? Streaming on Disney+ Premier Access (and in theaters)

US release date: July 9, 2021

Opening weekend box office (domestic): $80.3 million

Total domestic box office: $182.7 million

Total global box office: $372.3 million

"F9: The Fast Saga" (Universal) - August 2

f9 universal
Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel in "F9." Universal

Was it online at the time? Available on premium video-on-demand platforms starting July 30

US release date: June 25, 2021

Opening weekend box office (domestic): $70 million

Total domestic box office: $172.9 million

Total global box office: $710.9 million

"The Suicide Squad" (Warner Bros.) - August 9 and August 16

Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in The Suicide Squad
Margot Robbie as Harley Quinn in "The Suicide Squad" Warner Bros.

Was it online at the time? Streaming on HBO Max (and in theaters)

US release date: August 6, 2021

Opening weekend box office (domestic): $26.2 million

Total domestic box office: $54.7 million

Total global box office: $162.5 million

"Snake Eyes" (Paramount) - August 23 and August 30

snake eyes
Henry Golding in "Snake Eyes." Paramount

Was it online at the time? Available on premium video-on-demand platforms starting August 17

US release date: July 23, 2021

Opening weekend box office (domestic): $13.3 million

Total domestic box office: $28.3 million

Total global box office: $37 million

"Don't Breathe 2" (Sony) - September 6

don't breathe 2
Sony

Was it online at the time? Available on premium video-on-demand platforms starting September 3

US release date: August 13, 2021

Opening weekend box office (domestic): $10.6 million

Total domestic box office: $28.6 million

Total global box office: $41.4 million

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