Russell Crowe's Biblical epic Noah has taken the North American box office by storm, grossing $44 million (£27.5 million) in its opening weekend to sail to number one.

The Darren Aronofsky film appeared to benefit from becoming a hot topic over the director's loose adaptation of the religious tale.

Actor Crowe has also been heavily defending the movie from religious conservatives, who have harshly criticised the film without even seeing it, branding them "absolutely stupid" for making assumptions about the project.

The extra attention helped to propel the ark to the top of the box office, toppling Divergent, which fell to second place with $26.5 million (£16.6 million).

The Muppets Most Wanted was a new entry at three with $11.4 million (£7.13 million), while animated children's film Mr. Peabody & Sherman and The Grand Budapest Hotel rounded out the new top five at fourth and fifth place, respectively.