Special Report

35 Top Grossing Movie Franchises of All Time

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Hollywood seems more risk averse these days. Filmmakers are increasingly using proven characters and stories instead of original screenplays. These time-tested, big-budget films are rarely in the running for best picture, yet they can be a sure way for investors to get a return on their investment.

Box office reporting service and IMDb subsidiary Box Office Mojo tracks revenue and other data for thousands of films, and a total of 184 franchises. 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 35 franchises with the highest inflation-adjusted revenue. All 35 brought in $1 billion or more.

The most successful franchise of all time is Star Wars with revenue of nearly $6.5 billion over the course of nine releases as well as eight additional special releases and reissues. James Bond and the Marvel Cinematic Universe follow with $5.7 billion and $4.5 billion respectively.

Click here to see the most successful movie franchises of all time.

Because filmmakers overlap universes and reuse characters to help guarantee a large audience, many films can be a part of two or more franchises. This has been especially true for superhero movies which continue to create seemingly endless permutations of plots and characters. For example, Iron Man films exist both as an independent franchise, and as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe film franchise.

While sequels seem more common than ever, the concept of cashing in on a successful franchise is far from new. The first James Bond film “Dr. No” was released well over 50 years ago. To date, 25 James Bond films have been released, the most of any franchise on this list. Despite 25 stories with the same character, audience interest has not waned. “Skyfall,” released only a few years ago, is the third highest grossing film of the series when adjusted for inflation.

Many of these box-office hits, most notably the action-packed CGI-intensive movies, are often extremely expensive to make. Spider-Man and Marvel Cinematic Universe films, especially recent franchise additions, generally cost hundreds of millions of dollars to make. While production costs dwarf that of older movies and rank among the highest of all time, these films nonetheless generate enormous profits.

Confidence in some of these franchises is so high that investors are frequently willing to commit to several films in advance. The $2 billion Spider-Man franchise has six movies planned, and the Marvel Cinematic Universe has at least 13 movies either in production or planned. Some of these films have not even been named before committing to a release time period.

To determine the most successful movie franchises of all time, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the highest inflation adjusted gross revenue figures for the 184 franchises with data from Box Office Mojo. Movie counts per franchise, highest grossing films, and individual film revenue figures were also from Box Office Mojo. Franchises include special editions such as remastered and updated films, and reissues.

These are the most successful movie franchises of all time.

Source: www.flickr.com/photos/bagogames/

35. Bourne

> Franchise adj. gross: $1.00 Billion
> No. of films: 5
> Top grossing film: The Bourne Ultimatum
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $286.0 Million

 

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Source: anarchosyn / Wikimedia Commons

34. Home Alone
> Franchise adj. gross: $1.01 Billion
> No. of films: 3
> Top grossing film: Home Alone
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $585.9 Million

 

Source: Miss Kass at English Wikipedia / Wikimedia Commons

33. Lethal Weapon
> Franchise adj. gross: $1.01 Billion
> No. of films: 4
> Top grossing film: Lethal Weapon 2
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $320.8 Million

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

32. Beverly Hills Cop

> Franchise adj. gross: $1.01 Billion
> No. of films: 3
> Top grossing film: Beverly Hills Cop
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $580.8 Million

 

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

31. The Godfather
> Franchise adj. gross: $1.04 Billion
> No. of films: 3
> Top grossing film: The Godfather
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $680.3 Million

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

30. Despicable Me

> Franchise adj. gross: $1.04 Billion
> No. of films: 3
> Top grossing film: Despicable Me 2
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $405.6 Million

 

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29. Avengers
> Franchise adj. gross: $1.13 Billion
> No. of films: 2
> Top grossing film: Marvel’s The Avengers
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $665.0 Million

 

28. Iron Man
> Franchise adj. gross: $1.15 Billion
> No. of films: 3
> Top grossing film: Iron Man 3
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $422.2 Million

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

27. Planet of the Apes

> Franchise adj. gross: $1.17 Billion
> No. of films: 8
> Top grossing film: Planet of the Apes (2001)
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $275.1 Million

 

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26. The Exorcist
> Franchise adj. gross: $1.19 Billion
> No. of films: 5
> Top grossing film: The Exorcist
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $892.8 Million


25. Toy Story

> Franchise adj. gross: $1.28 Billion
> No. of films: 4
> Top grossing film: Toy Story 3
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $451.5 Million

 

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

24. Mission: Impossible
> Franchise adj. gross: $1.31 Billion
> No. of films: 5
> Top grossing film: Mission: Impossible
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $354.2 Million

 

23. The Dark Knight Trilogy
> Franchise adj. gross: $1.42 Billion
> No. of films: 3
> Top grossing film: The Dark Knight
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $642.4 Million

Source: Courtesy of Lionsgate Films

22. The Hunger Games

> Franchise adj. gross: $1.51 Billion
> No. of films: 4
> Top grossing film: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $442.1 Million

 

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Source: nicolas genin / Wikimedia Commons

21. Twilight
> Franchise adj. gross: $1.52 Billion
> No. of films: 5
> Top grossing film: The Twilight Saga: New Moon
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $336.6 Million


20. Transformers

> Franchise adj. gross: $1.53 Billion
> No. of films: 5
> Top grossing film: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $466.2 Million

 

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19. Jaws
> Franchise adj. gross: $1.58 Billion
> No. of films: 4
> Top grossing film: Jaws
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $1.12 Billion

 

18. The Fast and the Furious
> Franchise adj. gross: $1.61 Billion
> No. of films: 8
> Top grossing film: Furious 7
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $354.9 Million

Source: Purpleoperator / Wikimedia Commons

17. The Lord of the Rings

> Franchise adj. gross: $1.61 Billion
> No. of films: 4
> Top grossing film: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $532.3 Million

 

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Source: Eric RiItchey / Wikimedia Commons

16. Pirates of the Caribbean
> Franchise adj. gross: $1.65 Billion
> No. of films: 4
> Top grossing film: Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $559.0 Million

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/skinnylawyer/

15. Rocky

> Franchise adj. gross: $1.73 Billion
> No. of films: 7
> Top grossing film: Rocky
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $476.1 Million

 

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Source: Courtesy of DreamWorks Distribution

14. Shrek
> Franchise adj. gross: $1.85 Billion
> No. of films: 5
> Top grossing film: Shrek 2
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $614.6 Million

 

13. Superman
> Franchise adj. gross: $1.93 Billion
> No. of films: 7
> Top grossing film: Superman
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $496.1 Million

Source: John Griffiths / Wikimedia Commons

12. Indiana Jones

> Franchise adj. gross: $2.03 Billion
> No. of films: 4
> Top grossing film: Raiders of the Lost Ark
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $668.1 Million

 

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11. Spider-Man
> Franchise adj. gross: $2.05 Billion
> No. of films: 5
> Top grossing film: Spider-Man
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $601.0 Million

Source: fireatwillrva / Flickr

10. Jurassic Park

> Franchise adj. gross: $2.14 Billion
> No. of films: 4
> Top grossing film: Jurassic Park
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $745.7 Million

 

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Source: https://vimeo.com/96746139

9. X-Men
> Franchise adj. gross: $2.37 Billion
> No. of films: 10
> Top grossing film: Deadpool
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $365.8 Million

 

Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/59263516@N08/

8. Middle Earth
> Franchise adj. gross: $2.37 Billion
> No. of films: 6
> Top grossing film: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $532.3 Million


7. Star Trek

> Franchise adj. gross: $2.45 Billion
> No. of films: 13
> Top grossing film: Star Trek
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $298.8 Million

 

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Source: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mbecerra/

6. Harry Potter
> Franchise adj. gross: $3.06 Billion
> No. of films: 9
> Top grossing film: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $483.6 Million


5. J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World

> Franchise adj. gross: $3.30 Billion
> No. of films: 10
> Top grossing film: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $483.6 Million

 

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4. Batman
> Franchise adj. gross: $3.39 Billion
> No. of films: 11
> Top grossing film: The Dark Knight
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $642.4 Million

 

3. Marvel Cinematic Universe
> Franchise adj. gross: $4.49 Billion
> No. of films: 14
> Top grossing film: Marvel’s The Avengers
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $665.0 Million


2. James Bond

> Franchise adj. gross: $5.65 Billion
> No. of films: 25
> Top grossing film: Thunderball
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $647.0 Million

 

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Source: www.flickr.com/photos/stevetroughton

1. Star Wars
> Franchise adj. gross: $6.46 Billion
> No. of films: 9
> Top grossing film: Star Wars
> Adjusted revenue, top grossing film: $1.23 Billion

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