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From 'Toy Story' to 'Spider-Man': The 10 Most Successful Movie Franchises of All Time

Ellen Gutoskey
Actual toy versions of the most memorable characters from 'Toy Story,' photographed in 1995.
Actual toy versions of the most memorable characters from 'Toy Story,' photographed in 1995. / Yvonne Hemsey/GettyImages
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While some standalone films still manage to fill movie theater seats—Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis has done quite well for itself in recent weeks—franchises are the real rulers of the box office these days.

But when it comes to defining success, box office stats are just one piece of the puzzle. It’s also worth considering how those earnings compare to how much it cost to make and market the movie in the first place—not to mention critic and audience reviews. To determine which popular film franchises are truly top-notch, UK-based price comparison platform Uswitch analyzed their box office revenue, profitability performance (box office earnings divided by budget), and scores from IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, and Metacritic. Each franchise was then assigned an average score based on their installments’ individual scores.

The Toy Story series came out on top with a score of 7.79. Close behind were two other offerings from Pixar: Finding Nemo and The Incredibles, with scores of 7.70 and 7.57, respectively. The fact that they each have only one (extremely successful) sequel in their franchises clearly worked to their advantage. 

Things didn’t go so swimmingly for some of the larger franchises. Had only the original Lord of the Rings trilogy been included, it would have easily bypassed Toy Story with a whopping 8.63 overall rating. But because the study accounted for the Hobbit trilogy as well, the cumulative score came out to 6.81. It was a similar story over in a galaxy far, far away, where a few much-maligned prequels and sequels (looking at you, Attack of the Clones) dragged down Star Wars score to 6.03.

The four Avengers films, stalwart as always, came in fourth with a 7.28. The one other Marvel series to make the list was Spider-Man, though the films included are typically considered three separate franchises: Sam Raimi’s trilogy starring Tobey Maguire, 2012’s The Amazing Spider-Man and its sequel with Andrew Garfield in the suit, and Tom Holland’s three MCU blockbusters. (2021’s Spider-Man: No Way Home did admittedly feature all three Spideys, which probably explains why Uswitch chose to lump them together. The 2018 animated Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, still considered separate from the MCU, was left off the list.)

Find out what else made the top 10 below, and explore more takeaways from Uswitch’s study here.

  1. Toy Story // 7.79
  2. Finding Nemo // 7.70
  3. The Incredibles // 7.57
  4. Avengers // 7.28
  5. The Lord of the Rings // 6.81
  6. Frozen // 6.79
  7. Harry Potter // 6.70
  8. Star Wars // 6.03
  9. Despicable Me // 5.52
  10. Spider-Man // 5.50
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