James Cameron's Avatar is the highest-grossing film in the history of movies, but though millions of people flocked to the flick in theaters (many of them multiple times), millions more opted to pirate it. In fact, so many people opted to watch Avatar illegally that it's now the most pirated movie in Hollywood history.
According to a new study by TorrentFreak, the megablockbuster has been pirated 21 million times since its release in 2009. But it's far from alone at the top of the list. Two other incredibly profitable films—The Dark Knight and Transformers—have racked up 19 million pirates apiece since their releases, and Inception has racked up 18 million since its release just 15 months ago.
It seems like these movies might have made enough money despite the pirates, but studio execs argue that the real damage from pirating is felt in DVD sales and TV licensing. If you've got a torrent on a flash drive, you're probably not going to want that special-edition Blu-ray with a free digital copy.
What's more, the numbers seem to be knocking James Cameron's own theory that 3-D cinema—which he tirelessly champions—will reduce pirating simply because you can't capture the 3-D experience in an illegal download. Though Avatar certainly made more than its fair share of 3-D cash, that doesn't seem to be the case across the board.
Check out TorrentFreak's list of the top 10 most pirated flicks below and ponder how long it will take before Cameron tries to counter pirating with something like Taste-O-Vision.
Avatar (21 million downloads)
The Dark Knight (19 million)
Transformers (19 million)
Inception (18 million)
The Hangover (17 million)
Star Trek (16 million)
Kick-Ass (15 million)
The Departed (14 million)
The Incredible Hulk (14 million)
Pirates of the Carribean: At World's End (14 million)
(via The Hollywood Reporter)