10 Highest-Grossing Movie Franchises of All Time
Avengers: Endgame—the final film in the Avengers series—doesn't even arrive in theaters until April 26, 2019, yet box office analysts are already predicting big things from the super-sized Marvel team-up. Especially considering how even the most enthusiastic prognosticators seemed to underestimate the earning potential of 2018's Avengers: Infinity War, which managed to smash all previous global opening weekend records with its massive $640.5 million global haul.
While Infinity War currently holds the Marvel Cinematic Universe's top spot for highest-grossing film with more than $2 billion worldwide, it's about to get some competition—not only from the next Avengers film, but also from Captain Marvel, which has already earned more than $760 million after just over one week in theaters. And with Spider-Man: Far From Home coming in July, the franchise's dominance over all other film series will stretch well into 2019 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: $18,263,221,776
Though it seems a bit unfair, the whole of the Marvel Cinematic Universe—including The Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America, and the Guardians of the Galaxy movies—is officially a single franchise in Hollywood's eyes. Which makes it a tough one to beat, with 28 films (and counting) in the past 12 years, led (financially-speaking) by Avengers: Infinity War ($2,048,797,682), The Avengers ($1,517,935,897), Avengers: Age of Ultron ($1,403,013,963), and Black Panther ($1,348,258,224).
2. Star Wars
Worldwide gross: $9,307,186,202
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 new trilogy 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. The still-untitled Star Wars: Episode IX arrives in theaters on December 20, 2019.
3. Harry Potter
Worldwide gross: $9,185,046,972
The big-screen incarnation of J. K. Rowling’s boy wizard has proven to be just as profitable as the book version. Since 2001, 12 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 $1,341,693,157. With another Fantastic Beasts movie on the way in 2020, this 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: $5,886,273,810
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.
Worldwide gross: $5,803,267,631
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 14 films will be have generated enough dough on their own to compete at the (sort of) same level as their cinematic parent. While 2014's X-Men: Days of Future past managed to make a $747,862,775-sized dent at the box office, it's Ryan Reynolds's two Deadpool movies that lead this series in ticket sales, with a worldwide gross of $801,025,593 for the original and $786,680,557 for its 2018 sequel. Given the excitement surrounding June's X-Men: Dark Phoenix, expect these totals to continue to rise—and quickly.
7. Fast and the Furious
Worldwide gross: $5,136,814,346
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 $1,234,846,267. So it should come as no surprise that two more films are already in the works, for 2020 and 2021.
8. Jurassic Park
Worldwide gross: $4,977,979,246
It's thanks to 2018's Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom—and the $1,305,772,799 it made worldwide—that Jurassic Park managed to crack the top 10 franchises. But given that the original film, which was released in 1993, made $1,038,812,584, it seems like an overdue honor. Of the 10 highest-grossing franchises, Jurassic Park has the fewest number of movies in its arsenal with just five (and another on the way).
9. DC Extended Universe
Worldwide gross: $4,902,327,466
Though it's got a long way to go if it ever plans to catch up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the DC Extended Universe seems to be finding its footing. After scoring a major box office success in 2017 with Wonder Woman, which earned $821,133,378, the studio saw its most profitable film ever in 2018 with the release of Aquaman, which netted $1,143,689,193 (and counting). The next two years will be prolific ones for the comic book movie studio, with Shazam!, Justice League vs. The Fatal Five, Joker, Birds of Prey (And the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn), and Wonder Woman 1984 all on the way. (An Aquaman sequel is also in the works.)
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).
All figures courtesy of The Numbers.