- Number of movies: 6
- Domestic total: $2,481,740,422
- Franchise Total: $5,884,488,087
- Per Film Average: $840,641,155
- Highest Grossing Film: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($1,120,237,002)
When a little-known New Zealand filmmaker whose last Hollywood effort flopped was announced as the director of the long-awaited adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, many predicted that the series would be dead on arrival. The books were too epic, the scale too vast, the cast too large, and the story too fantastical to translate to cinema. Those fears were soon alleviated when Peter Jackson’s trilogy swept the Oscars and made New Line Cinema billions of dollars. It was inevitable from that moment on that an adaptation of The Hobbit would be produced. Regardless of what audiences think about the quality of the three Hobbit films, the box office grosses speak for themselves.
4. James Bond
- Number of movies: 24
- Domestic total: $5,669,971,185
- Franchise Total: $7,040,275,645
- Per Film Average: $270,779,833
- Highest Grossing Film: Skyfall ($1,108,561,013)
The exploits of 007 make for easily the longest-running franchise on this list, having kicked off in 1962 with Dr. No. Over the decades, James Bond has changed actors, fought new threats, deviated from the original books by Ian Fleming, and even modernized to a degree. The new era of Bond brought on by Daniel Craig rejuvenated the franchise for the blockbuster age and gave it its greatest success with Skyfall. Now, as fans wait for Cary Fukunaga to take over directorial duties and for Craig to hang up his tuxedo for the last time in Bond 25, it seems that Bond will be around for a very long time.
3. The Wizarding World/Harry Potter
- Number of movies: 10
- Domestic total: $3,560,023,014
- Franchise Total: $9,058,895,110
- Per Film Average: $905,889,511
- Highest Grossing Film: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 ($1,341,511,219)
J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter saga remains one of the biggest selling literary series of all time, as well as an indomitable pop culture juggernaut. That success carried over to the films with absolute ease, thanks to savvy marketing and an endlessly devoted fan base. Of the 10 films that have been made in what is known as the Wizarding World (eight Harry Potter films and two Fantastic Beasts films), nine of them have been in the top 10 highest grossing films of their year of release. However, while a further three Fantastic Beasts films have been planned, with the most recent one, Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, under-performing at the box office, it remains to be seen if the franchise will reach 13 entries.
2. Star Wars
- Number of movies: 11
- Domestic total: $7,413,826,232
- Franchise Total: $9,299,479,675
- Per Film Average: $840,154,491
- Highest Grossing Film: Star Wars: The Force Awakens ($2,068,223,624)
George Lucas’ Star Wars, a sci-fi homage to the retro adventure serials of the Golden Age of Hollywood, heralded a new age of blockbuster cinema that has defined the industry’s onus for over 40 years. Even when the films were critical disasters and borderline jokes within the fandom, they made massive amounts of money. Now, under the ownership of Disney, Star Wars has seen a new rebirth as both a critically celebrated saga and an internationally popular franchise, at a time when such films dominate the landscape. Given how responsible Star Wars is for much of the current state of blockbuster cinema, it’s only right that the franchise remains one of the biggest features in that landscape. And that includes divisive installments like Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
1. Marvel Cinematic Universe
- Number of movies: 20
- Domestic total: $7,337,561,713
- Franchise Total: $17,455,564,691
- Per Film Average: $876,414,385
- Highest Grossing Film: Avengers: Infinity War ($2,046,909,636)
The might of Marvel over the past decade cannot be underestimated. In a relatively short amount of time, the studio have reinvented the franchise game, made the expanded universe model the most coveted storytelling mold in entertainment, and caused a seismic shift in how Hollywood does business - both domestically and internationally. Twenty movies in half as many years is a feat unto itself, but for each of them to now be guaranteed to make at least half a billion dollars, with Ant-Man and the Wasp considered an “under-performing” title because it only made $622 million is a whole new level of power. In a financially tempestuous time where the international box office has seen its grosses dip, the MCU may be the one true guaranteed money maker of the bunch. It’s no wonder Avengers: Infinity War immediately became the fourth highest grossing movie of all time.