The Top 5 Highest-Grossing Film Series and Franchises Of All Time

Get ready for a fact-fest! Movies are BIG business, despite the fears over piracy and file-sharing, the big film companies are still raking it in.

This list is based on figures that aren’t adjusted for inflation, so we will point out some discrepancies along the way.


1 Harry Potter – $7.7 Billion

Number of films: 8

Average earnings per film: $963,268,497

Highest grossing film in the series: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 ($1,328,111,219)

The youngest entry on this list and already number one. Then again it’s not any surprise that Rowling’s beloved magical universe would do so well at the box office.

The original film was released in 2001 and was directed by Christopher Columbus. Subsequent installments introduced new directors and takes on the universe before finding its stride with David Yates who joined the crew on movie number five (The Order of the Phoenix).

The final film in the series was its most successful and allowed fans a chance to see more of their favorite story come to life. Producers took note and adaptations of Twilight and The Hunger Games followed suit.


2 James Bond – $6.2 Billion

Number of films: 25

Average earnings per film: $246,372,954

Highest grossing film: Skyfall ($1,108,283,816)

From Connery to Craig, Bond has seen many incarnations and interpretations. And while everyone has their preferences, it certainly seems that audiences have responded well to the latest grittily realistic (and blond!) instalment.

And while Bond has always had genre appeal, it certainly helps that at this point, the series has enough history to draw in the best talent in film. The most recent instalment featured not only a stellar cast but also the directing talent of Academy Award winner Sam Mendes, acclaimed cinematographer Roger Deakins, and, of course, the golden voice of Adele.


3 Star Wars – $4.4 Billion

Number of films: 7 movies (if you count the animated Clone Wars)

Average earnings per film: $626,051,410

Highest grossing film: Star Wars Episode I – The Phantom Menace ($1,027,044,427)

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope burst onto the scene in 1977 and the movie landscape has never been the same since. Along with Jaws, George Lucas’s Star Wars introduced the world to the concept of a mass appeal summer blockbuster. Subsequently the Star Wars fan community enjoys one of the broadest expanded universes in entertainment. And it’s only going to get bigger.

Recently acquired by Disney, plans for new Star Wars films are taking shape and at the helm is JJ Abrams, the name behind the successful update of Star Trek. And he did it without any characters named “Jar Jar.”


4 Tolkien’s Middle-Earth $3.95 Billion

Number of films: 5 including (including The Hobbit and a 1978 animated adaptation)

Average gross per film: $789,876,224

Highest grossing film: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($1,119,929,521)

Some stories are ripe for cinematic adaptation. J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings books had the action, the epic scope, and the proven cultural impact.

At the hands of Peter Jackson, Tolkien’s universe came alive (in New Zealand) in the form of a commercially and critically acclaimed trilogy. The final and most successful film in the series was both its highest grossing and one of only three films ever to win 11 Academy Awards.

With his three-part version of Tolkien’s prequel The Hobbit Jackson is continuing to push new film frontiers by filming at 48 frames per second…and turning out three-hour plus films.


5 Marvel Cinematic Universe $3.8 Billion

Number of films:  6 (so far)

Average gross per film: $633,704,666

Highest grossing film: The Avengers ($1,511,757,910)

Thor. Iron Man. Captain America. The Hulk. These names make up not only one of the greatest superhero teams of all time but also one of the most successful string of film releases in recent history. OK, well, maybe not the Hulk.

But even he found his place in the Joss Whedon ensemble film that finally brought them all together. The Avengers alone accounts for almost a third of this six-film series box office intake. And it’s poised to just keep growing. With Iron Man 3 just opening and plans for films including Edgar Wright’s Ant Man and a number of possible spin-offs and sequels that extend (for now) until 2017.



About Kale Hills

Kale Hills lives and works in Los Angeles, California. When he is not narrowing down lists of five things, he enjoys performing improv comedy and consuming unhealthy amounts of film and television.
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