Lessons We Can Learn From 2012's Most-Pirated Films

Good news, everyone! 2012 has been a pretty great year for the film industry. Ticket sales were up worldwide by 5% over 2011, and a record box office haul of $10 billion means plenty of celebrating at studio holiday parties. Of course, Biggie wasn't lying when he preached the harsh truth that with mo' money comes mo' problems, and so it is that while bootleg film watching didn't quite rival ticket sales, with hundreds of millions of illegal downloads piracy is nothing to sneeze at.

TorrentFreak has helpfully compiled a list of the year's most frequently stolen films, and while it contains few surprises – is anyone shocked that the year's biggest films would also be among the most pirated? - we can learn a lot from what it is people are actually pirating.

Here are the films you were most likely to steal in 2012:

1. Project X
2. Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
3. The Dark Knight Rises
4. The Avengers

5. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

6. 21 Jump Street
7. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
8. The Dictator
9. Ice Age: Continental Drift
10. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn, Part 1

So what can we learn from this? For starters, Robert Downey Jr. clearly needs to invest in an illegal file sharing operation. No, we definitely do not condone piracy, but the pirates have spoken, and they're firmly on team RDL. He might as well cash in on their adoration.

Also noteworthy is the fact that the single most pirated film was Project X, which also has the distinction of being the lowest-grossing film on the list. It's probably rational to think the film's R-rating led to a lot of underage downloads from people who might otherwise be its target audience. But while some might suggest this only means teen comedies should be tamed down for a PG-13 rating, we think there's a more obvious solution: eliminate the ratings system entirely. We look forward to a G-rated Machete sequel with plenty of nudity.

Finally, this list conclusively proves that pirates have zero interest in prestige films. Every single one of these movies was a giant hit aimed at a wide audience. Now some might argue that movies with broad appeal are going to be more sought-after targets than those that play for a few weeks in an arthouse theater in Pasadena, but it seems just as likely pirates simply don't like film snobs. The obvious take away: all tentpole movies should debut at Sundance and TriBeCa.

[Source: Screen Crush]


  • John says:

    I agree that the rating system is broken. In Australia, we have two additional ratings (M & MA) before you get to R. This gives us scope to include a wide array of films, with themes that would normally attract a R rating in the US. From memory Project X was rated MA, which meant that anyone over the age of 15 was allowed to see this film and that anyone under 15 had to go with either a Parent or Guardian.
    To give you a broader sense all these films were rated MA instead of R - Nightmare on Elm Street, The Final Destination movies, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Dictator, Piranha 3DD, 21 Jump Street & All the American Pies.

    • Kurt says:

      The US has (non-legally binding) ratings from the MPAA: The range in the middle is the PG-13 which allows those 13, and R, which allows those at least 17, or with an adult, if younger. There are localities that have made the MPAA classification law, though that is still contested.

      What isn't contested is the right to show films without prior approval from the government, like in Australia. Even a DVD in Australia (and NZ) requires a tax stamp that says the government allows it to be sold because it isn't objectionable. You have to pay to be allowed to show your film. No public performance or sale is allowed without government screening, and the appropriate payment for the pleasure given.

      In practice, the US version works similarly, but without the governments input. If the MPAA gives a rating that might scare off cinemas, then the producers will make the appropriate cuts. For big-budget films, this means they will concede to every demand of the quasi-censors. Those spending $100m on a film want to be sure that everyone possible can get in, because they need every sale. Though not always, films rated "R" today are mostly "low" budget.

      In short, it is all about ticket sales within the market structure. It is often silly. In Australia, you can't even show a film wihtout government approval, which is worse. Most controversial films end up in art houses, and in the US, you don't need a rating. In Australia they can refuse to rate it, and thus ban it. That is worse.

  • Tara says:

    Pirates just don't want to waste money on franchises or movies that are a given to make a lot of money, that's the trend shown in the list. They are all popular movies that did fairly well.

  • Antipirate says:

    I wish that people that pirated movies would all fall down and die.

  • MrDerp says:

    The most amazing part of this article is that naybody purposely wants to see PROJECT X.

  • 1) How did the Twilight movie make this list.. not only would I not pay to see it, but just giving up the space on my hard drive that could be occupied by a better film makes no sense to me.
    2) Allot of times you go see a movie in the theater, drop $40-$50 and want to see it again, but you don't want to pay the same amount, or wait till the studio decides its worth issuing on Bluray so downloading makes a decent option, This doesn't mean you are stealing it so much as borrowing until available to own. Dark Knight Rises is a good example of this. its something you want to own in true hi-def with features if you have a nice system.

  • Chris Kaiser says:

    I think if Hollywood wants people to stop pirating movies they should try a bit harder. I can find a pirated copy of most movies out in theaters on the first two pages of any major search engines... I don't download any pirated movie, I sure in the hell do stream some. Why? Because instead of quality, we have a quantity of crappy movies that just aren't worth spending 12 dollars to see at the cinema... and you know what if the movie is good enough, I will go out and buy the dvd/blu-ray... I do support Hollywood and they do get a lot of my money. Out of the hundreds of major movie releases in 2012, I'd say about five movies where worth seeing at the theater. I saw about a dozen, who's stealing who's money really?

  • Qontella Johnson says:

    I've never heard of any of these kiddie movies!

  • Sara says:

    Let me tell you something. I download most movies BEFORE I got to see them in the theater to see if they are WORTHY of me going to the theater to see them. I can tell you that for some of the movies of 2012, I feel like the studios should have PAID ME for downloading them as they were god awful! I went to see Avengers in the theater and downloaded it to watch it again. However, I have downloaded some duds that have left me scratching my head in disgust! So if I pay to see a movie and it is awful, does anyone in Hollywood give me my money back (/* cough, cough */ Dark Water)? EXACTLY! So if I can't get my money back for seeing a crappy movie, then I'm going to download FIRST to make sure a movie is worthy of my theater time. Period!

  • Nick says:

    90% of movies are horrible now. If they made more movies worth seeing in the theater, people wouldn't download as much. Until then, they'll DL for free rather than waste their money and walk out disappointed and $25 poorer ($12 ticket, $5 popcorn, $5 drink, $3 candy bar).

  • Someone says:

    Many of the people who download are those that have no access to cinemas. I live in Southeast Asia. Many of Hollywood's movies come through here, but not in English...and damned few of them. If I want to watch them, it's only possible through a download.

    I've no idea of the percentage of those who download are in the same boat, but the movie industry isn't losing one penny from those that are. We wouldn't be buying a ticket (no tickets to buy) if the took away the ability to download.

    So get over yourselves, Hollywood. Like you don't make enough money, already.

  • forex says:

    Fuck you all Forex bustards