Avatar, James Cameron's sci-fi blockbuster, was the most pirated movie of 2010 with 16,580,000 illegal downloads from BitTorrent alone.
"Never before have we seen this many downloads of a movie in a single year," declared TorrentFreak, a website dedicated to following developments in the BitTorrent world.
Avatar's popularity among pirates eclipsed the previous record holder - the 2009 version of Star Trek (with 10,960,000 downloads).
Following Avatar on the most-pirated list were the super hero send up Kick-Ass (11,400,000 downloads), Inception (9,720,000), Shutter Island (9,490,000) and Iron Man 2 (8,810,000).
Last year's Academy Award winner for best picture, the Iraqi war drama Hurt Locker, scraped into the top ten at number nine with 6,850,000 downloads. The film's online popularity, compared to its very modest box office draw of $48.6 million, didn't sit well with makers of the movie. They sued thousands of BitTorrent users last spring. "Despite the looming threat of legal action, the downloads continued pretty much undeterred," TorrentFreak noted.
Two of the best grossing pictures of the year, Toy Story 3 and Alice in Wonderland, didn't appear in the top ten at all. But box office receipts and download popularity don't go hand in hand, as TorrentFreak's list clearly indicates. Granted, Avatar topped the list and had a whopping box office draw of $2.8 billion. Second place finisher Kick-Ass, though, grossed only $96.2 million and the movie in the seven slot, Green Zone, made $94.9 million. By contrast, Salt, starring Angelina Jolie, finished 10th and grossed $175.2 million.
Ironically, Avatar's director Cameron has argued that more movies should be shot in 3D because it's a good deterrent against piracy. It doesn't seem to have been much of a deterrent, however, to the 16 million pirates who downloaded the movie from BitTorrent.