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This Chinese War Movie Just Became The Highest Grossing Film Of 2021

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was usually a safe bet to assume that an English-language movie from America would be the top annual earner at the worldwide box office. In 2019, "Avengers: Endgame" raked in almost $2.2 billion globally (via Box Office Mojo). The year before that, "Avengers: Infinity War" took in more than $2 billion (via Box Office Mojo). Before that, the top earner was "Star Wars Episode IX: The Last Jedi," which raked in more than $1.3 billion (via Box Office Mojo). In fact, the top position at the global box office has never been held by a non-English-language movie, going all the way back to 1915 (via Statista). 

But 2021 might be the year that breaks the streak. Thanks to COVID, the last two years have resulted in unusual box office returns in both the domestic and international markets. Overall, the 2021 box office is 81% lower than it was in 2019, the last pre-pandemic year (via Variety).

This has opened the door for international movies to potentially take the top spot. And today, a Chinese-language movie did just that, becoming the highest grossing movie of the year so far — taking the place of another Chinese-language movie.

The Battle at Lake Changjin is about a major battle in the Korean War

As reported by Variety, "The Battle of Lake Changjin" nabbed the top spot by raking in $845 million in 29 days since its premiere. That bumps the Chinese-language comedy "Hi, Mom!" down a spot, after it earned $822 million (via Box Office Mojo).

"The Battle of Lake Changjin" is a war epic about the pivotal Battle of Chosin Reservoir from the Korean War–or as it's called in China, "the War to Resist U.S. Aggression and Aid Korea." The battle took place between November and December 1950. During the battle, the Chinese army defeated the American 1st Marine Division in extreme weather conditions, driving them out of North Korea (via Britannica). The movie tells the story of the battle from the perspective of Wu Qianli (Wu Jing), a Chinese company commander, and his younger brother, army officer Wu Wanli (Jackson Yee). 

To be fair, comparing "The Battle of Lake Changjin" with some of this year's other top earners, like "F9: The Fast Saga" ($721 million) or "No Time to Die" ($529 million) (via Box Office Mojo), is a bit of an apples and oranges situation. The three-hour war epic was commissioned by the Chinese Communist Party's propaganda division in honor of the 100th Anniversary of the party's founding (via The Diplomat). According to Variety, the Chinese government required groups of employees to attend screenings.

But the top spot is the top spot, and "The Battle of Lake Changjin" has already done well enough to warrant a sequel. That film, "Water Gate Bridge," will tell the story of the Chinese Army's attempts to blow up the bridge the Marines used to escape. No word on when it might hit theaters.