While the pandemic ravaged the world, theaters worldwide largely remained shut, leaving fans endlessly waiting in anticipation and in the hope that things will return to normalcy soon. Billion-dollar franchises with an already established fan base might be Hollywood’s best bet at drawing audiences to the cinemas in large numbers. They’re expected to revitalize ticket sales and restore Hollywood to the money-making machine it once was. So, here’s a look at some of the most biggest movie franchises in all of Hollywood. We’ll be looking at global ticket scales and the overall impact on popular culture to grade these franchises.
1. Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008 – present)
Global box-office: $22.5 billion
Number of films: 23
Created by Marvel Studios, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is currently the most powerful movie franchise in all of Hollywood. Avengers: Endgame that hit the theaters in 2019 was a fitting conclusion to the Infinity Saga that began all the way back in 2008 with Iron Man. It alone amassed a massive $2.8 billion dollars in the box-office, surpassing Avatar in ticket sales and gross revenue.
MCU recently unveiled its plans for Phase 4 which will see a mix of both beloved fan-favorites and relatively newer characters. The roster also included original TV shows that will tie in with the movies yet to release. Wandavision neatly set up Monica Rambeau’s inclusion in Captain Marvel 2 while the recently released ‘Loki’is said to tie in with Doctor Strange 2. It certainly looks like Marvel is playing the long game. Given its popularity, it should be almost impossible for any other franchise to overtake the intricately woven world of MCU.
2. Star Wars (1976 – present)
Global box-office: $10.2 billion
Number of films: 12
George Lucas’ epic space opera has over time become a part of mainstream popular culture. It may have been more than 40 years since the first film released, but Star Wars continues to pull in audiences of all ages back to the multiplexes. Out of the 12 films that have had a theatrical release so far, 9 of them were a part of the Skywalker Saga while the rest were spin-offs.
Disney buying Lucas film meant that the franchise was going to head in a different direction. They’ve shifted their focus to their new streaming service, Disney+ with recent releases like The Mandalorian (2019) and The Bad Batch (2021). These efforts have expanded the universe further presenting creators with unforeseen possibilities. Building on this, it looks like Patty Jenkins and Taika Waititi have been roped in to direct their own Star Wars films. Meanwhile, Rian Johnson’s trilogy has also been green-lit by Disney executives. It surely is an exciting time to be a Star Wars fan!
3. The Wizarding World (2001 – present)
Global box-office: $9.18 billion
Number of films: 10
With the Harry Potter series coming to an end, Warner Bros. decided to expand upon the world created by J.K. Rowling. This included a series of films that focused on the life of Newt Scamander, the author of the famed novel Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. While the first film set up the character and his surroundings, the second film saw Newt get involved in the battle between Albus Dumbledore and Gellert Grindelwald. In October 2016, it was revealed that the Fantastic Beasts series would comprise five films and that Eddie Redmayne would be reprising his role as the acclaimed Magizoologist.
The third film in the series and the immediate sequel to The Crimes of Grindelwald has resumed shooting and is slated for an early 2022 release. Not much is known about the plot at the moment, but it is rumored to revolve around the Wizarding World’s involvement in World War II.
4. James Bond (1962 – present)
Global box-office: $6.89 billion
Number of films: 26
Dr. No, the first film in the franchise was released back in 1962, making James Bond one of the longest-running film series of all time as well as the most number of movies in a franchise. Adjusted for inflation, the combined gross revenue might put this franchise somewhere close to the lifetime collections of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Over the decades, seven actors have had the distinction of playing the British super spy on screen — Sean Connery, David Niven, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and Daniel Craig, in one of the most successful movie franchises of all time. With Craig’s contract about to end, questions abound as to who will be the 8th 007. Robert Pattinson, Cillian Murphy, Richard Madden, and Daniel Kaluuya are some of the names in contention.
While there’s no definite answer to that question, what we do know is that the 27th film of the franchise, No Time to Die remains hugely awaited by Bond fans worldwide. Phoebe Waller-Bridge of Fleabag fame has been signed on as one of the writers. Rami Malek, Lashana Lynch, Ana de Armas, and Billy Magnussen will be joining the cast as new characters. No Time to Die hits the theaters September 30, 2021.
5. Spider-Man (2002 – present)
Global box-office: $6.35 billion
Number of films: 8
While Spider-Man is a part of the sprawling Marvel Cinematic Universe, the character is iconic enough to warrant a standalone franchise of his own. This franchise only included movies where Spider-Man is the sole protagonist. This includes Sam Raimi’s original trilogy where Tobey Maguire played Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man series that saw Andrew Garfield take up the role of the famed web-slinger, the two MCU films featuring Tom Holland in the lead, and finally the animated film Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse.
Kevin Fiege, the President of Marvel Studios recently unveiled the title of the next Spider-Man solo movie. Called No Way Home, it’s said to pick up from the shocking events of Far From Home which revealed Spider-Man’s secret identity. Jamie Foxx who was last seen as Electro in The Amazing Spider-Man 2 is set to return as one of the film’s antagonists. Meanwhile, Sony Pictures Animation has already started working on the sequel to Spiderverse, with an all-female spin-off said to supposedly be in the works.
6. X-Men (2000 – 2020)
Global box-office: $6.03 billion
Number of films: 13
Despite being Marvel comic characters, The X-Men has largely existed as a separate entity outside of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Other than Bryan Singer’s X-Man films, this franchise also includes James Mangold’s critically acclaimed Logan and Tim Miller’s incredibly zany Deadpool.
In 1994, producer Lauren Shuler Donner brought the intellectual rights to the X-Men characters for 20th Century Film Fox. This has prevented crossovers between Disney’s MCU and Fox’s X-Men films.
But, all of this changed thanks to a landmark deal between Disney and 20th Century Fox. As a part of the acquisition, Fox has had to re-transfer the X-Men film rights back to Marvel Studios. With all the X-Men films in development at Fox being canceled, ‘New Mutants’ was the last film of the franchise. It will be rebooted and become a part of the burgeoning MCU. A third Deadpool film is said to be currently under production and will be released under the Disney banner in a couple of years.
7. Fast and Furious (2001 – present)
Global box-office: $5.9 billion
Number of films: 10
The adrenaline-fueled Fast and Furious franchise introduced us to the exciting world of street car racing. With every new film that hits the screens, the franchise only seems to be growing in popularity. While the first film of the series collected a decent $200 million, Fate of the Furious that released in 2017 grossed almost six times that amount. Meanwhile, the spin-off Hobbs and Shaw ended with impressive box-office figures of $758 million. Featuring exotic locales and an ethnically diverse cast, Fast and Furious has cemented its position among the industry behemoths. It’s currently a global phenomenon with more than $4.2 billion of the global collection coming in from foreign markets.
So, It should come as no surprise if ‘F9’ does end up surpassing all expectations and ends up shattering box-office records. Having been delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, ‘F9’ is all set to release somewhere later this year.
8. Middle Earth (2001 – 2014)
Global box-office: $5.8 billion
Number of films: 6
The Middle Earth series includes six movies based on the writings of JRR Tolkein. The first three films are an adaptation of the Lord Of the Rings series while the next three cover the Hobbit series. Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy is widely considered to be one of the biggest projects ever undertaken. It was praised for its innovative special effects and the emotional depth of its characters. It eventually went on to win a record 17 out of its Oscar nominations. The Hobbit trilogy may not have received the critical acclaim of its predecessor, but was still one of the highest-grossing movie trilogies of all time with a mammoth $2.9 billion in worldwide ticket sales.
Though there are currently no plans for any more film adaptations, Amazon has expressed interest in a brand new LOTR television series. The show is said to set at least 3,000 years before the storyline of Tolkien’s main novels.
9. DC Extended Universe (2013 – present)
Global box-office: $5.6 billion
Number of films: 10
The DC Extended Universe also referred to as the Snyderverse was launched with Zack Snyder’s Man of Steel in 2013. DCEU was known for its gritter take on the superhero genre as opposed to the cheerful vibe of its direct competitors, MCU. It expanded outside major theatrical releases with the much-awaited Syndercut dropping on HBO Max. This will be followed by the release of Peacemaker, a new television series on the same platform.
DCEU has a lot of exciting projects lined up for release. This includes James Gunn’s The Suicide Squad which is said to be the reboot of the 2016 film. It features an eclectic cast comprising John Cena, Margot Robbie, Idris Elba, Sylvester Stallone, and Joel Kinnaman. Also slated for a 2022 release is the Dwayne Johnson-starrer Black Adam and James Wan’s sequel to the immensely popular Aquaman. Other movies in development include Wonder Woman 3 and Batgirl.
10. Jurassic Park (1993 – present)
Global box-office: $4.99 billion
Number of films: 5
Out of the top 10 highest-grossing film franchises, Jurassic Park has the fewest number of movies. The first three films in the series starred Sam Neill, Laura Dern, and Jeff Goldblum in the lead. Based on Michael Crichton’s best-seller, the franchise is centered around a disastrous experiment to create a theme park of cloned dinosaurs. Since the release of the 1993 film, numerous video games and comic books have been created as a part of the franchise.
In 2015, a new trilogy starring Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas-Howard was launched. Jurassic World was the first film to gross more than $500 million in its opening weekend. In the course of its theatrical run, it grossed over $1.6 billion, making it one of the highest-grossing films of that year. A fifth film Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom released in 2018 and, in no time, became the third Jurassic film to pass the billion-dollar mark. A sixth film named Jurassic World: Dominion is scheduled to be released on June 10, 2022.
There we are! That concludes our list of the most powerful franchises in all of movie history. Narrowly missing out on the list are the Batman franchise with a global box-office of $4.9 billion and Paramount Studios’ Transformers with a dazzling $4.86 billion. What fandom are you a part of? Which of these films have you excited?
A self-proclaimed movie buff who swears he's funnier on the Internet than he is in real life. He also constantly makes sitcom references to make sense of a life that is slowly succumbing to entropy.