Hollywood blockbusters, with their enormous budgets and star-studded casts are guaranteed to have audiences lined up for an opening weekend. However, a movie’s chances of success are made infinitely better when it’s part of a hugely popular film franchise.
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. 2022’s box-office figures are well-ahead of 2020 and 2021. Yet, it’s still far from pre-pandemic figures. In fact, the billion-dollar movie franchises with an already established fan base was Hollywood’s best bet during this pandemic recovery phase to draw in audiences to the theaters 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 biggest and thriving film franchises in Hollywood. We’ve looked at global ticket scales and the overall impact on popular culture to grade these franchises.
1. Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008 – present)
Global box-office: $27.4 billion
Number of films: 30
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.
Later, MCU unveiled its plans for Phase 4 which saw 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. For instance, Wandavision neatly set up Monica Rambeau’s inclusion in The Marvels (Captain Marvel 2), while the ‘Loki’ series was tied up with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. 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.
Following the grand success of Spider Man: No Way Home in 2021 and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in 2022, MCU is gearing up for three more releases in 2023, which would also kickstart the phase V of MCU. Secret Invasion and Echo are the most-anticipated series coming up in 2023 that are tied to MCU.
2. Star Wars (1976 – present)
Global box-office: $10.3 billion
Number of films: 12
George Lucas’ epic space opera is the long-standing movie franchise. Though it has been more than 40 years since the first film released, 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 films meant that the franchise was going to head in a different direction. They’ve shifted their focus to their new streaming service, Disney+ with releases like The Mandalorian (2019–) and The Bad Batch (2021–). These efforts have expanded the universe further presenting creators with unforeseen possibilities. In 2022, two live-action Star Wars universe series made their debut: Obi-Wan Kenobi and Andor. Three more series are getting launched in Disney+ in 2023: Ashoka, Skeleton Crew, and The Acolyte.
The Star Wars fans are also eager for the upcoming untitled movie projects from Taika Waititi, Damon Lindelof, and Shawn Levy. The Last Jedi director Rian Johnson has pitched an idea for a new Star Wars trilogy with the Disney executives. But currently Rian Johnson is busy with his multiple Netflix projects, which he signed after the great success of Knives Out. Kevin Feige, the president of Marvel Studios, and Wonder Woman fame Patty Jenkins were also expected to direct their own Star Wars movies. But as of now there’s heavy uncertainty over their respective projects. Nevertheless, considering the amount of time we are going to spend in the Star Wars universe the next few years, it sure 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.
Crimes of Grindelwald (2018), the sequel to the first Fantastic Beasts movie, wasn’t well received critically. It was the first time a movie from the franchise got a rotten rating on Rotten Tomatoes. 2022’s The Secrets of Dumbledore was a critical as well as a commercial disappointment. The legal problems regarding its cast members Ezra Miller and Johnny Depp have also caused issues for the Fantastic Beasts series. Moreover, with the news that there are no active projects in development, there’s a big question over what the future holds for the Wizarding World. Let’s just hope this beloved and third most successful movie franchise will recover sometime soon.
4. James Bond (1962 – present)
Global box-office: $7.04 billion
Number of films: 27
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.
The very latest speculation is that Aaron-Taylor Johnson could be the next Bond. The official announcement is expected in March 2023. No Time to Die, Daniel Craig’s last outing as Bond, proved to be a critical and commercial success. Despite delays due to Covid, No Time to Die became 2021’s highest-grossing Hollywood film and fourth world-wide highest-grossing film.
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.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse will get a follow-up feature in 2023 titled Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse. Sony’s Spiderman universe is all set to expand with the introduction film of Spider Man’s archenemy: Kraven the Hunter. Aaron-Taylor Johnson is playing the title character and it’s directed by J.C. Chandor. Venom, the film that kicked off the new phase in Sony’s Spiderman Universe, will get a third film though the release hasn’t yet been announced. Kevin Feige has also confirmed that Sony and Disney are developing the story for the next Spider-Man movie.
And finally, Tom Holland’s Peter Parker will get an origin story in the form of an animated series which is expected to release on Disney+ on 2024.
6. DC Extended Universe (2013 – present)
Global box-office: $6.2 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 grittier 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 Snydercut dropping on HBO Max.
Matt Reeves’ Batman and Jaume-Collet Serra’s Black Adam were the DC movies that were released in 2022. While Batman was a critical and commercial success, Black Adam had an above average box-office run and received mixed reviews. In 2022, James Gunn launched his Suicide Squad spin-off series featuring the supervillain Peacemaker (John Cena). The series received much praise from critics.
More DC movies are hitting theaters in 2023, starting with the sequel to Shazam slated March 17, 2023 (titled Fury of the Gods). After running into a lot of troubles Andres Muschietti’s The Flash is releasing on June 16, 2023. Aquaman sequel, directed by James Wan is expected to hit the theaters in December 2023. Joaquin Phoenix and director Todd Philips will presumably return with a Joker sequel somewhere in 2024. But it’s still uncertain how it will tie into the DC universe. There are also multiple other DC projects in development including a sequel to Reeves’ The Batman, a Cyborg movie and a Green Lantern Movie.
7. X-Men (2000 – 2020)
Global box-office: $6.083 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 November 2024.
There was also a big announcement that the fan-favorite mutant Wolverine will appear in the 2024 films.
8. Fast and Furious (2001 – present)
Global box-office: $6 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.
The franchise’s latest movie F9 received mixed reviews from critics, but went on to become the fifth highest-grossing of 2021. Its sequel Fast X is all set to release on May 19, 2023. A sequel to spin-off movie Hobbs & Shaw is expected to go into production somewhere in 2023. Besides, an untitled female-led spin-off movie is planned.
9. Jurassic Park (1993 – 2022)
Global box-office: $6 billion
Number of films: 6
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.
The final film in the new trilogy Jurassic World: Dominion grossed $1 billion at the box office, although it didn’t even surpass the domestic box-office figures of the original Jurassic Park (1993). Moreover, Dominion was a big critical disaster. No new movies in the dino saga are greenlit as of now. But since it’s a massively profitable franchise for Universal Pictures, the studio might hopefully return with fresh ideas in the upcoming years.
10. Middle Earth (2001 – present)
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.
The much-anticipated return to Middle Earth happened in 2022, thanks to Amazon Prime Video series The Rings of Power. Though the reactions from general audiences and critics alike were mixed, five seasons are planned for this epic fantasy show, which is set thousands of years before The Hobbit. Middle Earth is coming back to the big-screen in 2024 in the form of the animated film The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim. The new movie is set 183 years before the events in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It is set to release in theaters April 12, 2024.
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. With the 2022 release and success of Minions: The Rise of Gru, Despicable Me franchise has now claimed the spot of 13th highest-grossing movie franchise of all time ($4.64 billion). Trailing it is Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean series, which has generated more than $4.52 billion worldwide. What fandom are you a part of? Which of these films have you excited?
Betway has produced an index of the most successful film franchises using IMDb data considering the following factors:
The highest-grossing film franchises
The highest-rated film franchises
The franchises that have won the most awards
The franchises that have the most returning cast members
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.