What are the highest-grossing movie franchises?

Key points to remember

  • The highest-grossing movie franchise of all time is the Marvel Cinematic Universe
  • The two highest-grossing franchises, Marvel Cinematic Universe and Star Wars, are both owned by Disney
  • Four of the top five grossing franchises are based on either a comic book series or a novel series

just like sports franchises, film franchises are not only a cultural touchstone but also a lucrative financial opportunity. Film franchises routinely generate billions of dollars in box office revenue and billions more in merchandise sales. If a franchise can reach the pinnacle of financial success, it can benefit its owner for decades. The following five franchises, listed by gross world total, have certainly reached that point.

Marvel Cinematic Universe

Disney’s Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, is unquestionably the king of lucrative movie franchises. Based on Marvel comics and superheroes, the MCU is the highest-grossing film franchise in history – the 23 MCU films have grossed over $22.5 billion worldwide – and the franchise has grossed over $10 billion more than the next highest-grossing franchise. Much of that dominance is the result of the wildly popular Avengers films, which grossed $7.7 billion across four movies.In fact, if the Avengers were included as a separate franchise, the series’ gross total would rank fourth on this list. An Avengers movie, Avengers: Endgamealso holds the record for highest-grossing film of all time with $2.79 billion.

However, MCU’s financial success was not an obvious outcome when Disney first acquired Marvel Entertainment in 2009. At the time, the movie rights to many of Marvel’s most popular characters had already been sold and the Marvel Cinematic Universe was not the mainstream brand it is today. .Luckily for Disney, the deal paid off in terms of box office opportunities and merchandising, and Marvel has recently begun repurchasing many of the characters it previously sold.

star wars

Another Disney property, Star Wars, is the world’s second most valuable movie franchise by box office revenue. After 12 films, the franchise has grossed a total of $10.32 billion.Highest-grossing Star Wars film by nominal revenue, 2017 Star Wars: The Force Awakenshas grossed just over $2 billion worldwide and is the second highest-grossing film of all time.  However, despite being second in the world behind Avengers: Endgame, The Force Awakens narrowly beat Marvel Movie at the domestic box office with $937 million.

In 2012, Disney acquired LucasFilm, which owned the rights to the Star Wars franchise, for $4 billion.When merchandise and license sales are included in box office revenue, it’s clear that the investment has largely paid off.

Harry Potter

Third on the list of highest-grossing film franchises, the Harry Potter film franchise includes both the original eight Harry Potter films as well as a spin-off series, Fantastic Beasts. The two series form a film franchise and a shared universe known as Wizarding world. Based on the popular books by JK Rowling, the franchise steadily grew in popularity during the 2000s; for example, the latest Harry Potter movie, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2grossed over $1.3 billion worldwide after its release in 2011. With the two series combined, the franchise made a total worldwide gross of $9.2 billion.

Like the Marvel Cinematic Universe and the Star Wars franchise, the Harry Potter franchise has spawned a myriad of related business opportunities. In addition to a Broadway play, Harry Potter and the Cursed Childthe franchise is involved in theme parks at Universal Orlando Resort and video games via Electronic Arts.

Spider Man

The fourth highest-grossing movie franchise of all time is Spider-Man. While the last two live-action Spider-Man films are included in the Marvel Cinematic Universe gross total, the Spider-Man film franchise also includes two prior film series and one animated film. In total, the Spider-Man film franchise has grossed $7.2 billion worldwide.The most recent movie, Spider-Man: Far From Homeis the biggest hit – the film has grossed over $1 billion at the worldwide box office.

The Spider-Man film franchise is unique in that, unlike other Marvel properties, the films are not produced by Disney. Instead, Spider-Man movies are produced by Sony Pictures. The two companies managed to reach agreement on the hero’s inclusion in the MCU, but there are still unanswered questions about the future of the live-action Spider-Man movies.

james bond

Based on the novels by Ian Fleming, the James Bond film franchise is the fifth highest grossing of all time. While the first film in the series, Dr. Noonly made $59 million in 1962, the most recent Bond film, Spectrumgrossed nearly a billion dollars.In total, the franchise has made a total of $7.1 billion from 24 films. The franchise’s most successful film was that of 2012 Heavy rainwhich grossed $1.1 billion worldwide.

The Bond films are one of the oldest and most successful film franchises of all time. In nearly 60 years, nine actors have embodied the famous spy. While the next Bond with Daniel Craig, no time to diewas scheduled for release in 2020, the coronavirus pandemic forced Universal Pictures to delay its release.