10 Highest-Grossing Movie Franchises of All Time
Months before Avengers: Infinity War even opened, box office analysts were predicting big things from the super-sized Marvel team-up. But even the most enthusiastic prognosticators seemed to underestimate the film, which managed to smash all previous global opening weekend records with its massive $630 million haul.
While it’s still got a ways to go to make more than the original The Avengers film earned in 2012, this latest film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe will only ensure the franchise's dominance over all other film series well into 2018 and beyond. (Yes, Star Wars included.) Here are the 10 highest-grossing movie franchises of all time, based on worldwide box office stats, courtesy of The Numbers.
1. MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE
Worldwide Gross: $15,482,764,918
Though it seems a bit unfair, the whole of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—including The Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America, and Guardians of the Galaxy movies—is officially a single franchise in Hollywood's eyes. Which makes it a tough one to beat, with 19 films (and counting) in the past 10 years, led (financially-speaking) by The Avengers ($1,519,479,547), Avengers: Age of Ultron ($1,408,218,722), and Black Panther ($1,333,109,489). Ant-Man and the Wasp will hit theaters in July, followed by Captain Marvel in early 2019.
2. STAR WARS
Worldwide Gross: $8,926,772,232
Though it's been more than 40 years since the original Star Wars film hit theaters and entranced moviegoers, since Disney purchased the franchise in 2012, they've been making up for lost time with new entries in the original space opera, plus a bunch of standalone series—including a recently announced new one courtesy of Game of Thrones creators David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. While it may take the Mouse House a couple of years to match Marvel's quantity of films, at the rate they're cranking them out, we probably won't have too long to wait. Solo: A Star Wars Story arrives in theaters on May 25, 2018.
3. HARRY POTTER
Worldwide Gross: $8,532,684,345
The big-screen incarnation of J. K. Rowling’s boy wizard has proven to be just as profitable as the book version. Since 2001, nine movie adaptations have been released, beginning with Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. While nearly all of them—including 2016's Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them—have approached the $1 billion mark, 2011's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part II brought in the biggest profit, with a worldwide take of $1,341,511,219. With two more Fantastic Beasts movies on the way in the next two years—Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald drops on November 16, 2018—his box office behemoth shows no signs of slowing down.
4. JAMES BOND
Worldwide Gross: $7,077,929,291
While "Who will play the next James Bond?" is a question as old as this movie franchise itself, one thing that's never in question is 007's ability to attract an audience—and he only seems to be getting better with age. Bond's Daniel Craig era has seen some of its most critically acclaimed, and profitable, entries in the series, which kicked off in 1963 with Dr. No. But the franchise’s high position on this list is largely thanks to 2012’s Skyfall, which earned $1,110,526,981 around the world.
5. THE LORD OF THE RINGS
Worldwide Gross: $5,895,804,182
First, it’s important to note that Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth franchise includes not just The Lord of the Rings trilogy, but all three of The Hobbit movies as well. While the former series might be the more critically acclaimed of the two, when all is said and done, both series contributed to the franchise’s position here: Among the six films, 2003’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($1,141,403,341) and 2012’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey ($1,017,003,568) are the two biggest moneymakers.
6. FAST AND THE FURIOUS
Worldwide Gross: $5,139,434,105
It’s possible that even the producers of the Fast and the Furious series themselves are a little surprised by just how popular the franchise has become, with eight adrenaline-fueled films that seem to grow more popular with each entry. While the first film in the series, 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, made a respectable $206,512,310, 2017's The Fate of the Furious made nearly six times that amount—a grand total of $1,237,466,026. So it should come as no surprise that two more are already in the works.
Worldwide Gross: $5,016,911,347
Though the X-Men are a Marvel creation, they're treated as their very own (mutant) entity in the box office world. Which is particularly impressive when you consider that the franchise's 10 films will be have generated enough dough on their own to compete at the same level as their cinematic parent. While 2017's Logan made an impressive $615,577,068 at the box office—and managed to be that rare comic book movie that scored an Oscar nomination for its script—it's Ryan Reynolds's Deadpool that's leading this series in box office dollars, with a worldwide gross of $801,029,249 on the first movie. Given the excitement that's already surrounding May's sequel, expect that number to climb even higher. And quickly.
Worldwide Gross: $4,858,774,307
Sam Raimi’s 2002 Spider-Man kicked off a new era in comic book moviemaking with its audience-friendly mix of action, humor, and just a little camp. His final film for the series, Spider-Man 3, earned the most money of the bunch, with a box office total of $894,860,230. Two reboots later, audiences don't seem to be tiring of the ever-changing web-slinger; 2017's Spider-Man: Homecoming took in a not-too-shabby $880,206,511 (and a sequel is already in production for 2019).
Worldwide Gross: $4,572,000,197
Though the final tally above represents more than a quarter-century of Batman movies—going back to Tim Burton and Michael Keaton’s 1989 original and spanning the less memorable Val Kilmer and George Clooney years—the real earnings in this franchise have come from Christopher Nolan’s reboots. In fact, 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises earned $1,084,439,099 on its own, accounting for nearly one-quarter of the franchise's entire haul. And in case you're wondering: yes, 2016's Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice is officially part of the franchise.
10. PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN
Worldwide Gross: $4,505,013,091
First it was a Disney theme park ride, then it was a box office smash success and one of the few times that Johnny Depp agreed to make a truly “commercial” film. But over the course of nearly 15 years, from 2003 to 2017, the swashbuckling series has managed to plunder more than $4.5 billion in ticket sales—even if its most recent entry, 2017's Dead Man Tell No Tales, was one of its least impressive earners with (a still-impressive) $794,758,876. At the time, no additional films are on the docket.
All figures courtesy of The Numbers.