Project X posterThe top 10 pirated movies of 2012, published by, show Project X as the most pirated movie of last year, topping the likes of The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers. Interestingly, Project X grossed the least of the 10, only $100,931,865, only just over half of the next least grossing movie: 21 Jump Street.

Whether these unauthorized downloads are a serious threat to box office revenues is unclear. Earlier this year researchers found no evidence that BitTorrent piracy hurts US box office returns. There is a link between downloads and revenues internationally, which the researchers attributed to long release windows.

says Ernesto, Editor in Chief of But there seems to be a clear negative correlation between the worldwide gross and download statistics here.

The eagle-eyed among you would have noticed that Skyfall, the top-grossing UK movie of all time, is not on the pirated movies list. This clearly suggests there is some correlation between the number of box office viewers and the number of pirate viewers.

Perhaps the piracy popularity of Project X is due to its audience. The films protagonists, for want of a better word, are celebrating a 17th birthday, clearly attracting viewers of a similar age, if not younger. The film holds an 18 certificate due to sexual references, drug use and very strong language. This seems silly given that few adults are likely to want to watch a film about drunken teenagers, further explaining the piracy popularity of Project X.

Most Downloaded Movies on BitTorrent, 2012
rank movie est. downloads worldwide grosses
1 Project X 8,720,000 $100,931,865
2 Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol 8,500,000 $694,713,380
3 The Dark Knight Rises 8,230,000 $1,081,041,287
4 The Avengers 8,110,000 $1,511,757,910
5 Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows 7,850,000 $543,848,418
6 21 Jump Street 7,590,000 $201,585,328
7 The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo 7,420,000 $232,617,430
8 The Dictator 7,330,000 $177,547,352
9 Ice Age: Continental Drift 6,960,000 $875,093,094
10 The Twilight Saga Breaking Dawn Part 1 6,740,000 $712,171,856

  • Kenji Lloyd

    Really surprised that Project X topped the list.
    I guess the timing is an issue – Project X was a March release in the US, so it had a two-month head start on The Avengers, and four and a half on The Dark Knight Rises.

    Very good point about the targeted age range, though. On average, I’d imagine younger audiences probably download more than people into their adulthood.

    Mostly just surprised because I don’t think, to the best of my knowledge, I know a single person who’s ever seen it!
    Quite looking forward to seeing if 21 & Over does as well at the box office this year.

    Skyfall-wise, I think it could just be that, since it came out in the UK in late October, and the US in early November, it’s done had enough time to accrue these kinds of numbers.
    This time next year, it will probably be like Mission: Impossible / Sherlock Holmes (both released in late 2011), and be pretty far up the list for 2013.

  • Sophie Coop

    I think you’re probably right there. What I thought was particularly interesting was the correlation between box office sales and downloads, specifically with Project X and Skyfall. I don’t know anyone who’s seen Project X either, and I’m only 21! Perhaps it’s very very much a teen film.