These Are The Most Pirated Movies

Although it’s tough for bean counters to take much joy in their product being massively pirated, there’s little question that popularity with the freeloaders translates to success with paying customers. That’s why it’s not much of a surprise that Avatar, the all-time highest-grossing film, is also the most pirated.

According to TorrentFreak, Avatar tops BitTorrent’s list of the top 10 most pirated movies, racking up 21 million allegedly illegal downloads.The Dark Knight follows with 19 million, and Transformers, Inception and The Hangover round out the top five.

The question is whether the expanded word-of-mouth publicity a massively pirated movie receives makes up for the amount lost in potential profit. Judging from their anti-piracy efforts, movie studios firmly believe that illegal downloading has a negative effect. But the assumption that those who download movies for free would pay for them if they couldn’t access them illegally could be quite a leap of faith.

Top 10 Most Pirated Movies of All Time [TorrentFreak]


Edit Your Comment

  1. Lethe says:

    Avatar made ridiculous amounts of money. Does anyone actually think it would have made an extra billion if torrents didn’t exist?

    • Big Cheese Make Hair Go Boom says:

      Well, as stated in the article, it is a HUGE assumption that a pirated movie = a lost sale. Sure, perhaps they lost a few bucks, but their is no way that there would have been 21 million more purchases if torrenting was not an option.

      That is the problem with all these RIAA and MPAA shakedown lawsuits. Sure, I will concede that pirating is theft. But it is not the same as me walking into Best Buy and actually stealing a physical disc copy of Avatar.

      The other thing that is impossible to quantify is how many people went out and purchased the movie(s) after downloading them and how many people downloaded the movie after purchasing it so they could have a portable copy…just think about it.

      • powdered beefmeat says:

        stealing is stealing. I don’t care how one justifies it.

        • mister_roboto says:

          It’s copyright infringement, not stealing. It’s against the law, but don’t call it what it’s not.

          Side note: did you know you’re allowed to make 1 additional copy of any DVD you buy for personal use?

          • powdered beefmeat says:

            isn’t taking money from the pockets of other people stealing?

            • Phineas says:

              Yes, taking money from someone’s pockets is stealing. Because it includes the act of conversion, where an item can no longer be used by the rightful owner (i.e. money taken out of my pocket can be spent by the person now holding the money but not by me…)

              Downloading a movie does not reduce the number of movies out there. The 525 bajillion copies of The Hangover that aren’t already sitting in someone’s freshman dorm room are still available for the corporations to sell to frat boys the world over. No item was ever converted from one person to another. A protected item was copied, but the original copy is still in the hands of the original owner. This breaks the laws against copyright infringement.

              But if you totally don’t understand the basics of the legal system, your analogy is applicable.

            • LanMan04 says:

              Yes it is. Care to explain what that has to do with copyright infringement?

            • shepd says:

              Do pirated movies come with other people’s money in your reality?

            • DariusC says:

              Theft involves taking the original. Piracy makes a copy, thus piracy is not theft. Also, after buying the Duke Nukem Forever Balls of Steel edition (at full price, not the $30 it dropped to within a month) and playing it (and reading reviews), I actually regret buying it because that was the type of game that you pirate and then pay for if it turns out good (which it didn’t).

        • ktetch says:

          It’s NOT stealing tho. Would you like Supreme Court rulings stating JUST THAT?

          Amazingly enough, last month I worked on a piece detailing just that.

          (I’m TorrentFreak’s researcher+comment mod)

  2. agent 47 says:

    Transformers isn’t worth watching even for free.

    • TheMansfieldMauler says:

      Avatar was barely worth the $1.08 I gave Redbox to rent it, and most of that value was in finally knowing what people were talking about.

  3. PercyChuggs Was Found At JFK Airport says:

    Waiting for comments to justify piracy in 3…2…1…

    • Thassodar says:

      I am justifying piracy. Deal with it.

    • pop top says:

      I used to pirate music when Napster was around, but it was mostly because I liked a lot of stuff I couldn’t find in America. I ended up buying stuff from bands I would’ve never heard of otherwise, so they did make money from me. I personally don’t mind music piracy because of that.

      But with movies and TV shows, most people only watch them once (as opposed to listening to music, which people will do multiple times), so they are actually losing out on revenue. What I don’t like is having to deal with unskippable FBI warnings and “YOU WOULDN’T STEAL A BABY WOULD YOU” PSAs when I legally bought the product.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      Completely justify? Probably not. But at the same time I refuse to call it theft and download the occasional torrent in addition to the many movies I buy or rent.

    • dolemite says:

      I’m really sick of seeing people justify piracy, particularly relating to games. “Well, the game wasn’t that great anyhow.. They should be honored I bothered to pirate it, play it for 2 weeks, beat it, then give it a 4 on Metacritic.”

      Some of them justify it because no demo was released. But even when there is a demo, they pirate the games anyhow.

      • xscarfaceloux says:

        Heres some justification… I know someone who pirated a game…. they told 3 of their friends to try the game out… They didn’t have the ability to try pirated copies so one of them bought it… played it… and reassured the other 2 that it was worth it for online multiplayer… th e other 2 bought it… 3 people bought legit copies of the game because of the opinion of one person who pirated it. Now, let me say this… that person said that if they weren’t able to play a pirated copy, they would most likely never bothered playing the game in the first place… so it might be theft… but it also was the reason they made 3 more sales on the game.

        • dolemite says:

          I’m surprised he didn’t just send his buddy to the crack site he went to.

          • Thassodar says:

            Most cracks still don’t allow you to play online. Pirated games usually involve complicated steps to get online and even then most of the time you’re playing with other pirates, not legitimate users.

      • Ihmhi says:

        Part of it is spite. Oh look, I can’t install this game I legitimately borrowed from a friend because of a limit of X activations. Yay, if I want to play this used PS3 game I need to fork over $10 for an activation code. Awesome, my friend’s son’s “happy birthday” video got taken down for copyright infringement.

        Let ’em whine and complain. They’ve been depriving public domain and raping the first sale doctrine, not to mention using the DMCA to attack people for modifying things they already own.

    • MutantMonkey says:

      It’s not a justification, but if developers and studios created content that generally half-assed, I believe piracy would drop as people would trust those entities more and not feel like they have to test out their content before handing over money.

      It’s not right, but I understand where people are coming from. For movies, Wolverine was a perfect example where a lack of trust caused a lot of people to check out the leak and this was seen in feedback based on that leak. After years of creating crappy comic book movies, people took the opportunity to see if this one would be worth spending money to see. Turns out it wasn’t.

      For games, particularly PC, there has been a horrifying trend of badly porting console games to the PC where they end up running like crap due to poor optimization and having console UIs that don’t work well with mouse and keyboard. There are a lot of examples here but a very good one is GTA IV. To this day this game still runs like hell and Rockstar refuses to do anything about it.

      If these studios really cared about their consumer base, it would show in the final product. When that consistently doesn’t happen, it makes it easier for people to justify to themselves that “testing” a product first is a good way to go.

      • MutantMonkey says:

        “It’s not a justification, but if developers and studios created content that –>wasn’t

        Would love to have edited that. Any word on an edit button?

      • JoeDawson says:

        I have the same complaint about GTA IV terrible Texture tearing… and since the game is 3 years old, Rockstar will never do anything about it… All the fan tweaks on the internet, and I still can’t get this game to run in a manner where i don’t cringe every time i swing the camera around and watch the delayed textures pop in,.

      • powdered beefmeat says:

        it’s called stealing, even if the product sucks.

        • MutantMonkey says:

          Not arguing that point.

        • shepd says:

          It sure is, if it isn’t called piracy. In my world, you obtain a movie without paying through theft generally by shoplifting. Of course, then the movie isn’t pirated. It’s just stolen.

          I suppose someone could shoplift a counterfeit movie. Could you show me such a case to justify your point?

    • Coffee says:

      I was waiting for Percy’s comment to preempt the comments that justify stealing. Unfortunately, I was late to the party and it had already posted…

    • smo0 says:

      Ok… Ok…. I’m reading these comments and I found something fantastic and fool-proof.

      If I want to test out a product, I purchase it, I don’t steal it.
      If I don’t like it… I return it, I get my money back.
      (inb4 – I show hesitation on products with iffy return policies, especially if I’m taking a chance with said product.)

      Tell me, CHILDREN, what happens if I don’t like the movie – or didn’t live up to the hype…

      I don’t know about you, but I have yet to receive my refund….


  4. Cat says:

    The only content I ever torrent is stuff that is unobtainable through rental or purchase – for example, Song of the South, and out-of-print music.

    If I want something enough to keep a copy, I will find a way to buy it cheaply. IIRC, I got the DVD/B-R combo of Avatar for about $15, and I don’t even have a BluRay player yet.

    • Zeke_D says:

      When your DVR is recording an episode of house, and it gets preempted by news of some inane item that does not matter, you have to get the torrent to see what you missed. The same goes for sports preemption, sun spots, and unreliable transmit equipment. As for movies, you are straight up stealing, unless you have purchased the movie. (when your children scratch the heck out of your Toy Story disc, go ahead and download it.)

      • PercyChuggs Was Found At JFK Airport says:

        When your children scratch the hell out of your new 42 inch HD TV’s screen, do you just go steal another one?

        • Megalomania says:

          If TVs had $0 in marginal costs, I’m pretty sure everyone would. Since they don’t, you’re being an ass with a strawman argument you either a) know is stupid or b) are far too stupid yourself to even be capable of understanding the term ‘strawman’.

          • Cornflakes says:

            People inherently understand that downloading something ethereal is different than holding something physical, but somehow when they get it in their heads that downloading = theft that distinction gets thrown out the window. I’ll never get it.

            • George4478 says:

              You have a better term for “taking something that isn’t yours”?

              • ballistic90 says:

                Fact: You don’t buy a DVD for the privilege of having a physical disc in your hands, you purchase it for the rights to use the content on the disc. You are allowed by law to make an archival copy of said disc, as well. ‘Copyright protection’ prevents the user from doing this. Are movie companies or content producing companies punished for this behavior? No.

                Is it stealing to download a product you have secured the rights for private use? No.

                • Cornflakes says:

                  I agree. According to the MPAA you don’t own the disc (“you can’t copy that, it isn’t yours, it’s a license!”) and you don’t own a license (“if you break your disc you can’t get a copy for free, it’s a disc!”) They really want it both ways. To me, I’ll only buy their assertion that I’m buying a license if I only have to buy that license once. If I need to buy it again then they sold me a disc. And if I own a physical disc then it’s none of their business whether I make a physical copy.

                  Remember when they released instructions to make legal copies of DVDs? Those instructions said to point a camera at your TV while you played the disc. Funny people, those. Would be funnier if they weren’t suing people left and right.

              • Cornflakes says:

                I didn’t say it wasn’t stealing. I said there is an inherent and obvious difference between copying a file and stealing a tv, yet people use comparisons like that all the time… completely invalid comparisons that are absolutely a straw man for what usually ends up a very weak point they’re trying to make.

                “You wouldn’t steal a car…” is obviously wrong when you write it as “You wouldn’t download a car…” but they don’t seem to get it, even if the actual use of/purchase of those same things is clearly different for them, once they change over to “piracy is wrong” mode, they no longer think that way.

              • ktetch says:

                It isn’t ‘theirs’ either.

                Their claim to it is a government granted RIGHT (it’s not property, it’s a monopoly right).

                Here’s how to prove it’s not property and thus can’t be stolen.

                When you ‘buy the movie’, you don’t actually buy anything except a piece of lexan, some foil and a case. The movie, you LICENSE. Don’t believe me? Check the unskippable bit at the start of a DVD. You’ve licensed a copy only for private performances. You aint bought jack.

                Not property = not theft.

                Besides, While the copyright industry likes to claim it’s theft, they’ve lobbied (bribed) congress for decades for it to NOT be dealt with AS THEFT.
                Were it treated as theft, Jammie Thomas would have faced, at most, $200 fine and 3 months probation, rather than a $1,920,000 damages award. And that’s only if found guilty, which she wouldn’t have because the evidence just isn’t there for a criminal conviction.

          • comatose says:

            +1 on the ass comment

  5. AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

    What is Avatar? At first I thought they meant the DiCaprio movie Aviator.

    • Wasp is like Requiem for a Dream without the cheery bits says:

      Have you never seen Avatar or are you being snarky? I thought I was the only one, who hasn’t seen it.

      • AstroPig7 says:

        If it helps, I’ve also never seen it, but I rarely watch movies.

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        It was gorgeous in the cinema (3d + imax) but it wasn’t worth watching more than once. We paid for the experience, but it was predictable and contrived.

      • NarcolepticGirl says:

        I havent seen it and don’t plan to.
        But I don’t like 95% of movies.

      • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

        Okay okay, did see it in the movies, more for the “ride” than the story. Visually it was interesting, but ran very long.

        The problem is, James Cameron directed 2 of my top 5 favorite movies (Aliens & Terminator 2), but I found Avatar to have just completely missed the mark. IMO, what he thought was, “Girls loved Titanic. Guys loved Aliens. What if I combined the two?” So he made a movie with a boring romance with boring aliens.

        • Wasp is like Requiem for a Dream without the cheery bits says:

          I didn’t even know what it was about, but I like that plot summery. It’s a movie and it’s your money, is my philosophy when it comes to people seeing/buying movies or music. For a director that you like I can understand shelling out money to see something like that.

      • edicius is an acquired taste says:

        I never saw it either. BESTIES!

      • regis-s says:

        I’ve seen the first hour twice. Does that count?

    • drizzt380 says:

      Avatar is a Nickelodeon cartoon show. Its about Aang, the last of the air benders, who must become the avatar(able to wield all the forces of nature) and bring balance to the world.

      Or its about giant smurfs. I’m not quite sure.

      • AlteredBeast (blaming the OP one article at a time.) says:

        Ohhhh! I saw the live action one available on Netflix watch instantly. Directed by that guy who did all those really good movies with the twist endings. I’ll have to chedk it out! Made so much money, it’s gotta be good.

  6. deathbecomesme says:

    I would have never gone to the movies to see The Hangover if my buddy hadn’t pirated it and told me how awesome the movie was

  7. agent 47 says:

    I came here to see how many people would post open admissions to committing a federal crime.

  8. andyg8180 says:

    people are gonna pirate… its not a justification, its just a fact since about 300BC…. Can we bring back the term Plunder? its more fun….

    But yea, between Redbox, netflix WI and all the free promo credits i get to Amazon VOD, ive lost interest in torrenting… If you can be patient and wait till the end of the season for TV shows, most of them end up on Netflix Watch Instant anyways… They should do a metric of whether or not piracy has dropped or increased…

    • Cat says:

      Also, “Pillage”.

      “Avast, ye wench. Prepare to be boarded!”

    • angienessyo says:

      Yeah, now that so many legal alternatives are out there, I gave up on pirating movies/tv/anime. Now I watch it all legally or go purchase it because DVDs are so insanely cheap now thanks to Bluray.

  9. lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

    I haven’t seen one of these, legally or illegally. I would like to see The Departed, so I think I’ll put it on my Netflix queue.

    • nishioka says:

      Infernal Affairs (the movie The Departed was a remake of) was better if you ask me. Glad Scorsese finally got his Oscar, but still. If you can find it on Netflix I’d recommend checking that one out too.

      • deathbecomesme says:

        Was “Infernal Affairs” a typo? That totally sounds like a porn movie title lol

      • lovemypets00 - You'll need to forgive me, my social filter has cracked. says:

        Thanks for the tip! I’d much rather watch movies at home than spend so much money to go to the theater.

      • jake.valentine says:

        Infernal Affairs was a really good Hong Kong movie. Not sure if that was the one you were referring to, but its worth checking out. I believe they made 3 of them.

  10. French_Toast says:

    You could have watched most of those movies for $1 with redbox, so I would use that as the metric for losses.

    Even if the studios got that whole dollar, I don’t think it’s worth suing computer illiterate grandpa, single mom, college student, war widow, etc. for the ‘losses’.

  11. raydee wandered off on a tangent and got lost says:

    I know people who would purchase a DVD but still torrent it because it’s easier to activate a file on the computer and watch it right away than look for the DVD, pull it out of the case, make sure it is not scratched, put it into the machine, and close the tray.

    And then once the disc starts up, you have to sit through 5000 updates while the blu-ray player verifies that it’s a legitimate disc and then calls home to make sure there isn’t any additional bonus content that we won’t watch anyway, and then five unskippable trailers and advertisements for soda, soundtracks, and crappy “based on the movie” video games.

    • AustinTXProgrammer says:

      Indeed. But ripping a DVD is so much safer than torrenting. The chances of getting caught are slim to none.

      • ballistic90 says:

        The copyright protection is a b*tch to get around sometimes. I’m glad I can’t use this product the way I want to after I purchase it.

    • Big Cheese Make Hair Go Boom says:

      You should feel privileged that we are allowed to watch those 25 minutes of unskipable trailers!

  12. Mike says:

    I agree with the last sentence of the article. It rarely gets mentioned when talking about piracy but I think in most cases, if people couldn’t download it illegally they just wouldn’t see it. People have finite budgets.

  13. Ashman says:

    If there is a way to get something for free, People will continue to do it.

    Unfortunately they will have a hard time stopping piracy.

    We have all seen the argument that the digital format costs the studios nothing to produce. But they did still actually produce the film. I think they should make them available for digital download for a small fee direct from the source or through Itunes like system. Would probably cut down on the piracy quite a bit

  14. techstar25 says:

    If each movie download is a loss of $1 (the amount it would have cost to rent at Redbox), and The Dark Knight was downloaded 19 million times, that’s $19 million lost. It made $1 billion worldwide at the box office, and that doesn’t include revenue from DVD and VOD. Even if we exclude DVD revenue, the $19 million lost is only 1.9 percent of the total revenue.
    It appears that piracy results in about a 2% loss in revenue. But it’s probably much, much less because many people who downloaded the movie wouldn’t have bothered to rent it or buy it anyway.
    So it might be less than 1% of revenue lost due to piracy. Not trying to justify it, because $20 million is a lot of money, but I’m certainly not going to cry myself to sleep tonight over their losses.

    • powdered beefmeat says:

      it’s STILL called stealing.

      • LanMan04 says:

        Nope, it’s called copyright infringement. Deal with it. Stealing means you TOOK SOMETHING. Copyright infringement is as much stealing as taking a picture of someone is kidnapping.

      • Phineas says:

        Except when it isn’t.

      • shepd says:

        In that case, show me on the books the reported loss due to shrinkage.

        None on the books? But why not? It’s free tax money. So easy to claim. It’s right there. The government WANTS to give the studios millions of dollars of tax money to help them out with their losses. They really, really, really WANT to. And the studios have great accountants that would would be more than happy to mark such a huge expense on the books. Think of all the job security that gives them! Nobody would fire an account that saved them millions of dollars (well, unless the accountant wants to be paid millions of dollars). And we’re talking, what, 1 line item? 30 seconds of work to have a job for life. And you’d be the first person doing this! You’d be a hero in the world of CPAs!

        Why don’t the studios claim the money? Is it because *gasp* nothing was actually stolen? Or is the law of parsimony really just a theory? :^)

  15. Power Imbalance says:

    With Netflix, what’s the point of downloading it… I can’t even remember the last movie I bought.

  16. Mr. Fix-It says: "Canadian Bacon is best bacon!" says:

    Avatar… Avatar…

    Oh, that furry blue people movie?

  17. shibotu says:

    I loved The Departed but assume I don’t even want to know what Kick-Ass refers to.

  18. shibotu says:

    I loved The Departed but assume I don’t even want to know what Kick-Ass refers to.

  19. deathbecomesme says:

    Was “Infernal Affairs” a typo? That totally sounds like a porn movie title lol

    • shibotu says:

      It certainly is “Infernal Affairs.”

      When we watched “The Departed” we replayed the credits because there was a rather mediocre movie called “Internal Affairs” that we couldn’t believe Scorsese could have used.

  20. ponycyndi says:

    Some movies aren’t even worth watching for free. Avatar is one. That’s 3 hours of my life I’ll never get back.

  21. powdered beefmeat says:

    Here is my theory, the people who write more than three sentences explaining how much money the studios make are the ones stealing (oh, sorry using torrents).

    • Baphomet73 says:

      Here’s my theory: the people who repeatedly write only one sentence explaining that “copyright infringement = physical theft” have no idea what they are talking about.

      You’re a fool if you think the studios are being forced into the poorhouse because of piracy.

  22. The Twilight Clone says:

    Proud to say that I haven’t watched a single one of the movies on the list.

  23. XianZomby says:

    I don’t think “popularity with the freeloaders translates into success with paying customers.” That suggests piracy is driving sales. Unlikely.

    What’s more likely is that movie pirates and movie buyers are both driven by the popularity of a film. So one is an indicator of the other, but they don’t affect each other.

  24. powdered beefmeat says:

    According to Cinematic Forecasting and Investment Assurance only 25% of all movies in the last 10 years have been profitable at the box office. This leaves DVD and Blu-Ray sales their means to make a profit. Piracy significantly reduces possible future profits. Ten years ago torrents became available on the internet. Coincidence?

    • MutantMonkey says:

      Yes, it is. When I was in college, we went over various case studies that involved various mediums and there was a very common trend found among them.

      Less than 10% of the population that “pirated” would have actually purchased the product if they could not have gotten it for free, which means that a majority of the people “pirating” would have never been a purchaser in the first place which means that in those instances, the studios/labels were losing nothing.

      What was also seen is that the transfer of digital media actually caused a rise in purchases for products that were deemed “quality”.

    • levelone says:

      Yes, it is a coincidence. The two are unrelated.

      Studios lose money because:
      a) they produce inferior product
      b) we’re in the middle of an economic crisis.

      If a copyright infringer never intended to pay for the media at all, then there was never a theater ticket, dvd, blu-ray or cd sale to be lost in the first place.

      Copyright infringement isn’t the same as theft, regardless of your constant need to spam every comment. They’re different by law and by punishment, so accept it and move on.

  25. Lisse24 says:

    I find it ironic that I’m reading this discussion while simultaneously listening to a radio program about how Public Domain is smaller than it ever has been in history and how congress is removing things from Public Domain and placing them back under copyright.
    Perhaps the two things are related, hrm? Not directly, but indirectly, through the opposing attitudes of providers and consumers.

  26. diagoro says:

    In the case of Avatar, releasing numerous versions on dvd/BR at different times created more than a few excuses. That was nothing but a money grab by the studio…..

  27. shthar says:

    Apparently pirates aren’t very discerning movie fans.

  28. [censored] says:

    I love how Avatar is this gigantic money maker yet you are hard pressed here to find one person to admit to actually liking it (I did). In fact I saw it multiple times, the plot wasn’t anything special I will grant you but visually the movie was a treat.

    Also I find it funny how many people stand up and proudly declare they are against piracy.

    You know what? Good for you. Try not to bruise your back as your pat yourself there so vigorously.