With the release of the last Harry Potter fast approaching (sob) we started thinking about our favourite movie franchises (or sagas, trilogies, quadrilogies… call them what you will). Whilst we enjoy original movies that give our brains something to chew on, we also love seeing our favourite characters return time and time again for increasingly deranged adventures. This week, therefore, we present you with our top ten movie franchises.
The pre-requisites? There just has to be three or more films in the franchise. We’ve included a rough estimate of the franchise’s global box office success but these have not, of course, been the only factors we’ve considered. Whilst money is important (hey, it makes the world go round, right?) it’s not totally indicative of a film’s popularity. Some films were released years ago when tickets prices were minimal (ah, the good ol’ days) whilst, much to the dismay of many a Star Wars fan, The Phantom Menace is, in fact, the highest grossing of the Star Wars franchise… so money doesn’t always reflect quality.
One final warning… due to the nature of top tens, there will of course be some significant omissions… if your favourites aren’t here head over to out Facebook or Twitter pages and let us know!
10. The Matrix
The Wachowski brothers wowed audiences all over the world with the release of The Matrix in 1999. Proposing that we’re all plugged into a giant computer that merely simulates reality they provided eye-popping effects that would be repeatedly recycled and furthered by films over the next decade. Although parts II and III (Reloaded and Revolutions) lost some of the impressive qualities of the first (as well as bombarding us with endless existential jargon that made the plot a little hard to follow) it nonetheless spawned a cult following.
Best movie: The Matrix – Unaccustomed as we were to slo-mo 360 shots, the fact that the film made heavy use of them made The Matrix stand out from the crowd.
Global gross: $1.6 billion
9. Back to the Future (Part I Review)
It was way back in 1985 that we were first introduced to Marty McFly and the Doc. Twenty six years on and their adventures are still as enjoyable as ever. The franchise made great use of repetitive ad campaigns that changed subtly to reflect the new adventures. 2015, the year the Doc and Marty visit in Part II, is fast approaching and we’re still waiting for all the cool advancements we’re set to make by then. A great trilogy, we hope they never make a fourth.
Best movie: Back to the Future – what a classic.
Global gross: $1 billion
Although Wolverine’s origins story may have been widely discredited by critics, there’s no denying the impact of the X Men franchise. Bringing their more famous comic book mutants to life, the X Men films have absorbed audiences since 2000. We’ve watched as Wolverine’s history has slowly been revealed, as Magneto’s attempt to mutate the world have been thwarted as well as watching, with some degree of horror, Professor X evaporate into thin air thanks to Jean’s alter ego. Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellan may have hung up their respective wheelchair and cape for now but their legacy lives on, with two prequels already having been released. Promising years of enjoyment, there’s a lot more X Men left to come.
Best movie: We’re going to go out on a limb here and say X Men: First Class.
Global gross: $1.7 billion
7. Pirates of the Caribbean
Pirates of the Caribbean, undoubtedly carried by the charm of Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow, is one of the biggest grossing film franchises ever. Not bad for a film based on a theme park ride based in Disneyland. With some substantial marketing power at its disposal, POTC maintains its box office success despite some waning critical reception. It may have lost Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley but the franchise continues with On Stranger Tides which came out earlier this year.
Best film: Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl – The film where we meet Captain Jack.
Global gross: $3.7 billion
6. Indiana Jones
When he’s not busy being the enigmatic Star Wars pilot or being a, remarkably less cool, grumpy news presenter on Morning Glory‘s Daybreak, Harrison Ford is Indiana Jones. Making archaeology cool for kids everywhere, the Indy franchise is impressive. Not only is it not based on a pre-existing story, but it provides hours of top notch adventure. Seeing Indy face his demons, namely snakes, it gave us infamous cinema scenes (including the much parodied boulder scene) as well as a much loved character. Revitalised after twenty years, the franchise was given new life in 2008 when the archaeologist returned to face an ancient alien race. Combining both new and old faces (Shia LaBeouf being the former), the film proved Indy can still pack a punch.
Best film: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – Sean Connery’s appearance is great.
Global gross: $2 billion
Nananananana BATMAN! Okay, we’re not talking about Adam West’s TV show, we’re talking Christopher Nolan BAM! Tim Burton POW! Morgan Freeman KABOOM! George Clooney in a nipply Batman suit… erm… Although it’s made some questionable moves (the decision to cast Arnie as Mr. Freeze being a whole can of worms we’re not going into right now) it’s lived to tell the tale. With a host of huge names attached, the Batman franchise has not only provided us with some of the most memorable characters in cinema history (albeit from the original comic books), it’s also managed to transform itself, with Nolan’s help, into becoming one of the most hyped sagas ever. Although there’s countless comic book / superhero franchises (Spiderman, Superman), Batman has the ability to rise, phoenix-like, from hisashes and power on. Roll on 2012 for the release of The Dark Knight Rises.
Best movie: It’s a toughy, the 90’s films were great for their ridiculous flamboyancy but Dark Knight could easily stand its ground.
Global gross: In excess of $2 billion.
4. Lord of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien’s much-loved literary saga was long thought unfilmable. Enter Peter Jackson and we have three whole films that prove that assumption wrong. Charting Frodo’s journey through Middle-Earth, accompanied by that pesky ring, the trilogy cost $285 million and took eight years to film. Talk about commitment to a project. Return of the King managed to win all 11 Oscars it was nominated for and the films received much critical acclaim. It may have varied slightly to its source material but the sheer enormity of the project means its success is extremely impressive and, with The Hobbit films already in production, the franchise is set to grow.
Best film: Return of the King thanks to its critical merit.
Global gross: $2.9 billion
3. James Bond
One spy, six actors and 23 films in and James Bond is the longest running franchise known to cinema. Adapted from Ian Fleming’s literary series charting the life of the infamous 007 spy, the films are known (and loved) for their stylishness. Oozing cool, James Bond has helped build a classic franchise with the help of classic baddies, countless Bond girls, ridiculous gadgets as well as some truly ridiculous titles. He may like his Martinis shaken, not stirred but there’s no shaking him off this list.
Best film: An area of much debate, we’re going to say Casino Royale for its re-imagining of the Bond world.
Global gross: $5 billion
2. Harry Potter (Harry Potter Feature)
A lot has changed since 2001; the recession hit, iPhones took over the mobile market, 3D took hold of cinemass… but the world’s love of Harry Potter and his world continues. With the final instalment set for release in a matter of weeks, the Harry Potter franchise has gone from strength to strength. Beginning with Chris Columbus’s Philosopher’s Stone, the saga has successfully adapted J.K. Rowling’s best selling children’s novels to screen. Getting gradually darker, the tone of the films have grown with its audience and have bought magic to countless millions. Capitalising on the marketing power of the franchise, Warner Bros. Have made a tidy profit from the boy wizard and are sure to continue to benefit from his adventures. With a host of British Thespians attached to the saga, Harry Potter was set to become a classic from the off. Audiences have watched as Daniel Radcliffe and co. have grown up and faced the evil Lord Voldemort. Only time will tell if the powers of good will overcome the evil plans of the Death Eaters.
Best film: Prisoner of Azkaban for its slick direction.
Global gross: $5.7 billion
1. Star Wars
The original franchise, Star Wars, is in a league of its own. A massive risk for George Lucas way back in the seventies, Star Wars has gone on to be one of the biggest movie franchises ever. With the original stars being offered a merchandise percentage they have grown to become household names whilst the merchandising power of the Star Wars saga itself is perhaps one of the strongest on the planet. With six films, countless toys, books and TV spin-offs and parodies, Star Wars has created a fan base like no other. Stars often attend conventions whilst fans relish in the Star Wars universe created by Lucas. Providing us with some of the best movie character names ever (Luke Skywalker? Hans Solo? They couldn’t make them that cool now if they tried), Star Wars is a legacy like no other.
Best film: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Global gross: $5.5 billion… not including merchandise sales
Other franchises you might just have heard of… Superman, Spiderman, Die Hard, Beverley Hills Cop, Terminator, Rocky, Rambo, Karate Kid, Evil Dead, Final Destination, Scream, Saw, Shrek, Alien, Fast and Furious, The Avengers, Godfather, Transformers, Toy Story…