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.
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.