Arguments can be made both for and against movie franchises. Once ‘Star Wars’ became a big hit, movie studios didn’t look back. One after the other we saw studios taking the short cut to earn easy money by making sequels after sequels. Superhero movies further made it easier for studios to just keep repeating the formula for success. By the last count, there were more than 100 movie franchises in existence; some super-successful, some massive failures. Irrespective of what you think about them, they are here to stay for a very, very long period of time.
Lest I be mistaken, I do not think it is necessarily a bad phenomenon. After all, won’t you consider even The Before Trilogy a movie franchise? Even something like The Dark Knight Trilogy is also a great example of why movie franchises should exist. But let’s not get too carried away and start producing sequels and reboots just for the sake of it.
With that said, today we are going to look at the top-grossing movie franchises at the box office. You won’t be surprised at all by the names at the top. Some at the bottom might surprise you though. Note that the rankings have been given according to the inflation-adjusted domestic box office collections
20. Toy Story (1995-2019) – $1.786B
Pixar Animation Studios’ ‘Toy Story’ franchise kicked off in 1995, and with the first film itself, the series set a benchmark for other animated films to follow. The brilliant writing and characters managed to garner a strong following not only in the country, but all over the world. The franchise has grossed $1.786 billion at the domestic and $$3.038 billion at the international box office during its run.
19. Transformers (1986-2018) – $1.863B
Though the ‘Transformers‘ film franchise is usually considered to have started with the 2007 film, ‘Transformers‘, it actually began with 1986’s ‘Transformers: The Movie’. The series has a total of seven films in its roster, and together they have grossed $1.863 billion at the domestic and box office and $4.846 billion at the international box office.
18. Pirates Of The Caribbean (2003-2017) – $1.912B
The Johnny Depp-starring franchise skyrocketed to worldwide popularity soon after the first film released in 2003. Depp’s antics, coupled with the great stories and amazing productions made PoC one of the most popular film series in the world. Its popularity is reflected in its insane box office collection of $1.912 billion in the domestic market and $4.498 billion in the international market.
17. Rocky (1976-2018) – $1.942B
The ‘Rocky‘ franchise starring Sylvester Stallone can easily be called the most popular sports franchise of all time. Stallone himself directed four of the films, with the remaining projects being helmed by other directors. The last two films of the franchise center around Apollo Creed’s son, and are directed by Ryan Coogler. The franchise has grossed a total of $1.942 billion at the domestic and $1.513 billion at the international box office.
16. Shrek (2001-2019) – $1.952B
Dreamworks Animations’ ‘Shrek’ franchise is based on the picture book ‘Shrek!’ by William Steig. The series is widely considered as one of the greatest animated film franchises of all time. The franchise’s collection of eight films spanning over a period of 18 years has helped it pocket $1.952 billion in the domestic and $3.547 billion in the international box office.
15. Fast and The Furious (2001-) – $1.987B
The most popular action film franchise of all time, ‘The Fast And The Furious‘, has been around for quite some time now. New people have joined in the cast, some have left, and Paul Walker sadly passed away. But the franchise’s popularity has never taken a hit. The total domestic box office collection of the series stands at $1.987 billion while its international box office collection stands at $5.882 billion.
14. Superman (1978-2016) – $2.004B
He is the ultimate superhero. Many have come and many more will join the league, but Superman shall always stand tall as the benchmark of what a superhero truly means. Films based on this legendary character have been entertaining audiences from 1978 when Christopher Reeves first took on the role. Superman films have till date earned $2.004 billion at the domestic and $2.389 at the international box office.
13. Indiana Jones (1981-) – $2.063B
Indiana Jones is the greatest adventurer in film history. With the cinematic genius of Steven Spielberg and the charisma of Harrison Ford being reflected on the character, he has now become the symbol of courage and adventure. Fans have loved witnessing the character’s many journeys into the unknown to find out remnants of the past and go to any extent to prevent these items from going into the hands of the wrong people. The franchise has managed to earn $2.063 billion at the domestic box office and $1.962 billion at the international box office.
12. DC Extended Universe (2013-) – $2.155B
The DC Extended Universe has not been as popular as its Marvel counterpart, but that does not mean the franchise does not have have a strong fan following. The films have not yet hit the mark in terms of what is expected from the DCEU, but once they start doing so, there is no doubt that we shall find this entry higher up the list. However, for now, the franchise has managed to pocket $2.155 billion at the domestic and $5.284 billion at the international box office.
11. Lord of The Rings (2001-2018) – $2.520B
Nobody believed a mega-budget franchise with unlimited special effects would ever manage to get equal amounts of critical and commercial acclaim. But it did happen with Peter Jackson‘s ‘Lord Of The Rings‘ films. The series has won numerous Oscars, and has also pocketed $2.520 billion at the domestic and $5.886 at the international box office.
10. Star Trek (1979-2016) – $2.594B
One of the most popular science fiction franchises of all time, ‘Star Trek’ began way back in the 1960s with a television series on NBC and then spread its wings far and wide. The franchise now boasts of 13 films in total, and together these films have managed to collect 42.594 billion at the domestic and $2.267 billion at the international box office.
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9. Jurassic Park (1993-) – $2.691B
Dinosaurs were firmly placed into the minds of children and adults alike with Steven Spielberg‘s ‘Jurassic Park‘ franchise. Spielberg created a unique cinematic world that we had never seen before. It was only right that the person who brought us ‘Jaws‘ would use the finances and technology available later to produce something as stunning as ‘Jurassic Park’. Interestingly, immediately after ‘Jurassic Park’, he did something as serious as ‘Schindler’s List‘, which released in the same year. The ‘Jurassic Park’ films have earned $2.691 billion in the domestic and $4.977 billion in the international markets.
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8. Avengers (2012-2019) – $2.746B
Though the ‘Avengers’ series is essentially a part of the MCU, here we are treating the four films where all the Marvel superheroes collaborate as a separate franchise. And these four films, as we can see, have collected more money than many other iconic franchises in film history. The domestic box office collection of the four ‘Avengers’ films stands at $2.746 billion, and their international box office collection stands at $7.764 billion.
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7. X-Men (2000-) – $2.878B
Since 2000, a total of 14 X-Men films have released so far. And together these films have created a unique legacy unto themselves. The X-Men films are separate from the MCU canon despite being a creation of Marvel Comics, and it remains to be seen how well they fare when they are brought into the MCU and share screen time with other popular characters from the universe. Till date, the X-Men films have managed to collect $2.878 billion at the domestic and $6.049 billion at the international box office.
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6. Spider-Man (2002-2019) – $2.881B
This franchise has had three lead actors, several changes in characteristics and appearances, and witnessed a constant battle between Sony and Disney about its rights. However, one thing that cannot be denied is the popularity of the character. No matter who plays the role, the teenage superhero will always find a place in our hearts. The franchise has till date managed to pocket $2.881 billion in the domestic and $5.986 billion in the international box office.
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5. Batman (1989-) – $3.371B
Another iconic superhero who has had several films made on his exploits, ‘Batman‘ has been around for a really long time. Here, we have taken into consideration not only the feature films, but also the several animated Batman films which have released over the years. The franchise has managed to collect a total of $3.371 billion at the domestic and $4.571 billion at the international box office.
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4. Harry Potter (2001-) – $3.638B
‘Harry Potter‘ is not just a franchise, it is a universe unto itself. Created by the genius writer J.K. Rowling, the world of Harry Potter and his friends has been something that a whole generation of children have grown up with. They’ve seen the famous trio of Harry, Ron, and Hermoine grow up both in the story and in real life as the actors Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson, who play them. Thus, whatever the franchise comes up with, there is always a section of the audience who cannot get enough. This craze has helped the franchise earn $3.638 billion at the domestic and $9.185 billion at the international box office.
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3. James Bond (1962-) – $5.758B
A total of 24 James Bond films have released to this day. The character has been portrayed by six actors (excluding David Niven who played the character in an unofficial version) since the first film ‘Dr. No’ released way back in 1962, but has never aged one bit. We still eagerly wait for the next installment of the franchise or the actor whom we shall see taking on the mantle next. With his good looks, Aston Martins, martinis and women, James Bond became an icon of the silver screen, always setting the benchmark for what is “cool”. His films have taken home a total of $5.758 billion from the domestic box office collections and $7.077 billion from the worldwide box office collection.
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2. Star Wars (1977-) – $7.524B
George Lucas realized soon after he made ‘Star Wars‘ that he’ll be able to live off this single project if he is able to meticulously guide its fate. And that is exactly what happened. The franchise garnered a strong and loyal fan following spanning generations of science fiction geeks. The characters of Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker have now entered pop culture folklore and are sure to stay there for a long, long time. The Star Wars films have grossed a total of $7.524 billion at the domestic and $9.307 billion at the international box office.
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1. Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008-) – $9.101B
MCU took off in 2008 with ‘Iron Man’ and soon skyrocketed to a worldwide phenomenon. The franchise then produced solo films of Avengers superheroes like Thor and Captain America before venturing into the ‘Avengers’ territory. With 2012’s ‘The Avengers’ shattering many box office records on its way to becoming a legendary film, it was pretty clear that this franchise will rewrite the history books. The subsequent films quickly established the franchise to not only be the most successful of recent times, but of cinema history. Since the first ‘Iron Man’ film released, MCU has grossed $9.101 billion in domestic and an unbelievable $22.551 billion in the international box office.
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