The Most Pirated Movies of 2008

Movies and Piracy

How much of an effect does piracy have on movies?

Some feared that Wolverine‘s box office would suffer as a result of a test print being leaked last month.

However, it would appear that piracy didn’t have that much of an effect because it earned over $80 million this weekend.

My feeling is that blockbusters are largely immune to piracy because they are so heavily marketed and aimed at such a wide audience.

In Wolverine’s case a rumoured $50 million or more was spent on TV, radio, online and outdoor advertising.

Plus, films like this open on an insane number of screens with multiple screenings throughout the day – in some cases double what other releases are doing.

In short, that they have to be catastrophically bad to flop. 

With Wolverine, the film did get mixed reviews and, I suspect, iffy word-of-mouth but that won’t stop it earning a blockbuster sized gross.

The whole leaking affair probably helped get word out about the film and whilst it will probably be hit hard in the next two weeks by Star Trek and Angels and Demons, I don’t think anyone will be bleating about piracy deflating admissions until, er, the next high profile leak.

Today I came across this image on Flickr of a chart about the most pirated movies of 2008 compared to the highest grossing movies. 

I’m not sure about the exact quality of the research from TorrentFreak but – even if only partly accurate – it still makes for interesting reading. 

N.B. These figures were taken in January 2009


  1. The Dark Knight (7,030,000 downloads)
  2. The Incredible Hulk (5,840,000 downloads)
  3. The Bank Job (5,410,000 downloads)
  4. You Don’t Mess With The Zohan (5,280,000 downloads)
  5. National Treasure: Book of Secrets (5,240,000 downloads)
  6. Juno (5,190,000 downloads)
  7. Tropic Thunder (4,900,000 downloads)
  8. I Am Legend (4,870,000 downloads)
  9. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (4,400,000 downloads)
  10. Horton Hears A Who! (4,360,000 downloads)

Now, let’s compare this with…


  1. The Dark Knight ($996,910,887)  
  2. Indiana Jones & the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull ($786,558,759)  
  3. Kung Fu Panda ($631,869,621)  
  4. Hancock ($624,386,746)  
  5. Iron Man ($581,931,630)  
  6. Mamma Mia! ($572,082,632)  
  7. Quantum of Solace ($537,133,451)  
  8. WALL-E Disney ($502,723,636)  
  9. Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa ($460,215,180)  
  10. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian ($419,646,109)

The most surprising aspect is how well The Bank Job and You Don’t Mess With The Zohan did in the piracy chart and it raises some interesting questions. 

Does this mean that people wanted to see those films but were not that keen on actually paying at the cinema or on DVD? (There is of course the added factor that downloading it illegally could lead to a later sale).

Does online buzz spread in a different way to traditional media ads?

What valuable lessons can studios learn from patterns of piracy?

There are also some stats on how pirated films compare to music and software.

  • $4.5 billion of music downloads
  • $5.4 billion in movies downloads 
  • $47 billion in software downloads

Plus, there are some figures on which filesharing sites are used.

Piracy Sites

My take is that piracy isn’t going to go away anytime soon. 

The idea that big media companies should lobby governments to introduce draconian laws that force ISPs to punish users is a dead duck in the short and long term.

The main reason it won’t work is because:

  1. Telecoms companies should not be agents of large media companies.
  2. Users who really want to pirate content will usually be a step ahead of any attempt to stop them.
  3. Suing your customers (as the RIAA found out) is likely to inflame the situation.
  4. It deflects from the pressing need for better legal download services.

One can only hope that the film industry learns from the disastrous errors the music industry made a few years ago.

Like terrorism and drugs, piracy will never be defeated but there can be ways of reducing its impact.

> CNN story on movie piracy
> Torrent Freak

News Technology

Wolverine leaks on to the web

Wolverine Piracy

A decent work print of Wolverine has been leaked and is now doing the rounds on various file sharing sites.

For those not familiar with the film, it is a prequel to the X-Men trilogy, focusing on the mutant Wolverine (Hugh Jackman), is directed by Gavin Hood and due for worldwide release on May 1st.

Part of me thought that this was some kind of April Fool’s Joke but if you go to one of the most (in)famous torrent sites – you know, the one from Sweden – then you will see that the most popular torrent is indeed the new X-Men prequel.

Here is a screen grab of what happens when you do a search:


Drew McWeeny at Hitfix reports:

20th Century Fox is about to have an interesting practical test on one of their biggest summer films. 

 “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” leaked online today in what appears to be a near-finished DVD quality rip, marred only by a few unfinished FX shots. 

As soon as files go up, they’re coming right back down as Fox legal chases pirates around the web, but that toothpaste is out of the tube, gentlemen.   

He also got this statement from 20th Century Fox:

“Last night, a stolen, incomplete and early version of X-Men Origins: Wolverine was posted illegally on a website.

It was without many effects, had missing and unedited scenes and temporary sound and music.

We immediately contacted the appropriate legal authorities and had it removed.

We forensically mark our content so we can identify sources that make it available or download it.

The source of the initial leak and any subsequent postings will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law – the courts have handed down significant criminal sentences for such acts in the past.

The FBI and the MPAA also are actively investigating this crime.

We are encouraged by the support of fansites condemning this illegal posting and pointing out that such theft undermines the enormous efforts of the filmmakers and actors, and above all, hurts the fans of the film.”

There is no doubt that this is a big deal. 

Although there have been leaks before on films like Hostel 2 and Sicko, whilst those films opened at cinemas, I can’t really remember a summer blockbuster leaking like this online. 

One can only assume that it came from someone who had access to a digital copy of the whole film.

Someone at an organisation involved in post production? Maybe a disgruntled employee somewhere in the production food chain? Perhaps a superhacker who got access to a secure FTP site?

Given the high profile nature of the production I imagine Tom Rothman and Jim Gianopulos will be paying a lot of time and money to get to the bottom of it.

Obviously, it is an embarrassing security issue for a major studio on a tent-pole production but they will also be concerned about how it impacts the opening box office.

I may be wrong, but I don’t think it will have as much of an impact as some think.

For a film like this, with millions spent on marketing before it opens on thousands of screens around the globe, a big opening is essentially guarenteed.

DVD screeners of Oscar season movies have been pirated for several years now and the box office impact of that is debatable.

However, this episode certainly gives Fox a good excuse if Wolverine doesn’t have a good opening.

But what if it doesn’t? What exactly does a high profile torrent leak actually mean in practical terms? And can we really reach a conclusion based on one film? 

My gut feeling is that torrent sites are a bit too fiddly and complicated for the mass online audience. 

But then again, maybe it will have an impact.

Time will tell.

> Wolverine at the IMDb
> More about filesharing and the X-Men series at Wikipedia
> A wacky conspiracy theory over at Hollywood Elsewhere

Interesting Technology

Slate on AXXo and BitTorrent

Josh Levin of Slate has written an interesting article on movie piracy and the web’s most famous BitTorrent filesharer aXXo.

> Read the full article at Slate
> Find out more about how BitTorrent works at Wikipedia
> Read two conflicting PDF reports about movie piracy from the MPAA and the IPI

Amusing Posters

Posters spoofing those annoying anti-piracy adverts

These two posters accurately reflect the frustration of anyone who has legally bought a DVD and put it in the player only to be confronted with a patronising advert (that you can’t skip!) which informs you that piracy (the very thing you just haven’t done) is both bad and wrong.

[Posters via Broken TV]

> Read more posts on piracy at Broken TV
> Spoof anti-piracy mashup from The IT Crowd