While a few good films might become lost with time, some franchises have completely taken over the world and it’ll be a miracle if they’re ever totally forgotten. From Toy Story and Harry Potter to the complete Marvel Cinematic Universe and James Bond, media franchises start as nothing more than a simple idea that takes off.
From there, they grow into something huge, grossing millions, and sometimes billions, of dollars at the box office while selling merchandise on the side. As of early 2020, here are what some of the world’s top film franchises have grossed in total worldwide box office revenue.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe: $22.55 Billion
Considering the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a total of 23 films, it might not come as a surprise that the franchise has grossed such a large amount of money. As of April 2020, the Marvel franchise has grossed $22.55 billion in worldwide box office revenue!
A nice portion of that revenue is in thanks to the final film of the franchise, Avengers: Endgame. The final film is the highest-grossing movie in box office history, making a total of $2.8 billion. And if that’s not impressive enough, the average revenue of each film is estimated to be around $980.5 million.
Star Wars: $10.32 Billion
When George Lucas thought up the space opera Star Wars, we wonder if he knew that it would expand into one of the leading media franchises in the world. Not only does the franchise include the three separate trilogies, aka the “Skywalker Saga,” it’s expanded into television cartoons and live-action series, not to mention Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge in Disneyland!
As of April 2020, the Star Wars franchise has grossed $10.3 billion in worldwide box office revenue, with its highest-grossing film, The Force Awakens, making $2.07 billion. And although that sounds like a lot, Star Wars’ worldwide revenue is half of the MCU!
Harry Potter: $9.19 Billion
Once upon a time, kids worldwide would wait in blocks-long lines to buy the next Harry Potter book. Then, Warner Bros. decided it was time to make the Boy Who Lived into a live-action movie. So, seven books and eight films later, Harry Potter became one of the leading media franchises in the world.
The story is so popular that Universal even built a theme park based on Hogwarts and Diagon Alley. As of April 2020, the Harry Potter franchise has grossed $9.19 billion in worldwide box office revenue, with the highest-grossing film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part II, making $1.34 billion.
Avengers: $7.76 Billion
If we take the other 19 MCU movies out of the equation, we’re left with the four Avengers films. Now, these include the original Avengers, Age of Ultron, Infinity Stones, and Endgame. Ironically, people tend to forget that these films are a franchise in their own right and a very profitable one at that!
While the Avengers franchise didn’t make as much money as the complete MCU, as of April 2020, it’s made $7.76 billion in worldwide revenue. It’s amazing that $2.8 billion of that total revenue came from the last film!
Spider-Man: $7.22 Billion
As of 2020, the Spider-Man films have gone through three different actors, Toby Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland, all of whom helped with the overall profit of the franchise. Aside from all of the films, think about the action figures, each of which has separate actors’ faces, depending on the year.
But solely in terms of movie profits, the Spider-Man franchise comes in at the fifth-highest globally, making $7.22 billion in worldwide revenue. The highest-grossing film out of the franchise, Spider-Man: Far From Home, made $1.28 billion alone!
James Bond: $7.12 Billion
Releasing the first film of the franchise in 1963, Dr. No was the start to one of the biggest franchises in the world. Now, a few decades and 26 movies later, the franchise is going on its eighth Bond actor, something that will increase its already high revenue.
Since the release of the 2015 Bond movie Spectre, the worldwide revenue for the franchise reached $7.12 billion, with Skyfall bringing in $1.11 billion. And those numbers aren’t even factoring in the latest addition, the 2020 film No Time to Die.
X-Men: $6.05 Billion
Starting in 2000, the X-Men franchise has grown into 13 blockbuster films. With an original cast of actors, including Sir Patrick Stewart and Hugh Jackman, the franchise has grown to include the likes of Sophie Turner and James McAvoy. But it took both casts and all the films to earn so much at the box office.
As of April 2020, the X-Men franchise has earned $6.05 billion at the global box office, with almost $800 million being from its highest-grossing film, Deadpool 2. Now that Disney has acquired Fox, we’re excited to see how much more money the franchise earns!
Batman: $6.05 Billion
From 1943 through to 2021, the Batman franchise has been at the pinnacle of DC. The masked vigilante of Gotham City is arguably the most-loved of the DC heroes, making it not all too surprising that the franchise has come away with quite a lovely payout through the years.
Including Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, the Batman Franchise has made $6.05 billion worldwide at the box office. That number includes $1.08 billion from The Dark Knight Rises, the highest-grossing film in the franchise, as of April 2020. Who knows how much the global revenue will skyrocket after the series’ latest installment, The Batman.
The Fast And The Furious: $5.9 Billion
Since the first film aired in theaters back in 2001, The Fast and the Furious has grown into a franchise of nine movies, not including films in the works. While the series had more of a cult following for the first few years, everything changed when Fast Five hit theaters.
The fifth installment turned things around for the series, securing it the number nine spot in the world’s leading media franchises over time. As of April 2020, The Fast and the Furious franchise has grossed $5.9 billion worldwide, with Furious 7 coming in as the highest-grossing film of the series thus far, earning $1.51 billion in revenue.
The Lord Of The Rings: $5.86 Billion
Peter Jackson stunned the world when he made J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy come to life on the silver screen. Then he did it again with The Hobbit, securing a lot of revenue for the franchise set in the fictional world of Middle Earth.
The Academy Award-winning series wound up making $5.86 billion at the global box office, with the highest-grossing of the series, Return of the King, earning $1.1 billion. Interestingly, the total global revenue of the series pretty much equates that of the Fast and the Furious franchise, which has seven more movies than Peter Jackson’s six in the franchise.
DC Extended Universe: $5.47 Billion
It’s no secret that the DC extended universe is not nearly as profitable as the MCU, but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t made its fair share of money. With a total of eight feature films, as of 2020, the DCEU falls to the number 11 spot of highest-grossing media franchises in the world.
With its eight films, the DCEU has grossed $5.47 billion in the global box office, a sum which includes the $1.15 billion from its highest-grossing film, Aquaman. The DCEU has a chance to catch up to its rival, the MCU, with the eight films it has in the works!
Jurassic Park: $5.1 Billion
Starting in 1993 with the original Jurassic Park, the prehistoric franchise has since grown into a series of five films. In recent years, the franchise has become wildly popular with the newer additions to the series, Jurassic World, starring none other than Chris Pratt.
It’s actually the first movie in the newer set that won over the box office, grossing $1.67 billion globally. Obviously, that number is also included in the franchise’s global box office total of $5.1 billion. It’s going to be interesting to see what the newest installment does to the franchise!
Transformers: $4.85 Billion
The Michael Bay-directed Transformers franchise hit the ground running in 2007 with the release of the first film in the series, Transformers, starring Shia LaBeouf. From there, the series grew into six feature films, including a solo movie for the one and only Bumblebee.
So, coming in at number 13 of the world’s highest-grossing media franchises is the Transformers, which has earned $4.85 billion at the global box office. The franchise’s highest-grossing film is Dark Side of the Moon, earning $1.12 billion by itself. We’re excited to see what the newest installment to the series will bring to the table in a few years.
Pirates Of The Caribbean: $4.5 Billion
Starting in 2003 with The Curse of the Black Pearl and the OG cast of Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom, and Keira Knightley, it didn’t take long for the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise to become wildly popular. As of 2020, the film has five films, with a sixth rumored to be in the works.
As of April 2020, the series has grossed $4.5 billion at the global box office, making it the 14th highest-grossing franchise of all time. As a fun fact, the Pirates franchise is the first to have more than one film exceed one billion dollars at the box office: Dead Man’s Chest and On Stranger Tides.
Despicable Me: $3.71 Billion
Considering all of the very popular franchises on this list, it’s interesting to note that Despicable Me goes beyond film. This particular series also dabbles in shorts, bringing its movie total to 20, right behind the number one seed, the MCU. Even so, Gru and the minions aren’t nearly as popular as the Avengers.
As of 2020, this particular children’s franchise has grossed $3.71 billion, with its most profitable film, the prequel movie Minions, making $1.15 billion worldwide. The Despicable Me franchise has the honor of calling itself the most profitable animated film franchise in box office history.
Mission: Impossible: $3.58 Billion
The Tom Cruise-led franchise Mission: Impossible is one of the highest-grossing media franchises, beginning its reign in 1996 with the original film. From there, main character Ethan Hunt went on to “star” in six more films, with two more on the way, according to an announcement made in 2019.
But before those two films come into play, let’s take a look at the franchise’s global box office numbers since April 2020. In total, the series has made a whopping $3.58 billion on the global scale, with its highest-grossing film, the 2018 film Mission: Impossible – Fallout, bringing in $791 million of the total revenue.
Shrek: $3.55 Billion
The giant green ogre known as Shrek became so popular upon the release of the first movie that Dreamworks made three more plus a spin-off and multiple shorts! Well, they probably had a few of those films in mind before releasing Shrek, but we doubt they’d expect each would be so popular.
As it turns out, the Shrek franchise is the 17th highest-grossing series in film history, making $3.55 billion at the global box office, as of April 2020. That sum includes the franchise’s highest-grossing film, Shrek 2, which earned a little over $900 at the box office.
The Twilight Saga: $3.32 Billion
In 2008, the heartbeats of teenage girls soared when Edward Cullen was made real in the first installment of the Twilight franchise, based on the books by Stephenie Meyer. From there, Summit Entertainment made one movie per book, totaling five films (the last was split into two parts).
Even though the final movie was released back in 2012, the franchise is still in the top 20 highest-grossing of all time. As of April 2020, the Twilight saga has grossed $3.32 billion at the global box office, with its highest-grossing film, Breaking Dawn – Part 2, earning a little over $830 million.
Ice Age: $3.18 Billion
Animation lovers were first introduced to the unlikely friendship of Sid, Diego, and Manny in 2002, with the release of the first film in the series, Ice Age. From there, the franchise grew in both the number of movies and the main gang. By 2016, the franchise had six full-length flicks and brought in new Ice Age crew members Ellie, Crash, and Eddie.
With the six full-length films and the multiple shorts featuring Scrat, the squirrel, the Ice Age franchise has grossed $3.18 billion at the global box office. The highest-grossing movie, Dawn of the Dinosaurs, brought in $877 million to that total sum.
Toy Story: $3.04 Billion
The Disney and Pixar animated film franchise Toy Story got its start back in 1995, with the release of the first film. From there, the folks at the studio decided viewers needed to cry some more, so they made plans to produce three more films for a total of four in the franchise thus far.
According to Rotten Tomatoes, Toy Story is the most critically-acclaimed franchise of all time. Even though the series is coming in at number 20, grossing $3.04 billion at the global box office, we can’t say we disagree. The highest-grossing film in the series is actually the most recent, Toy Story 4, earning $1.07 billion.