Design by John Gara.
1. James Bond (1962–2012)
Daniel Craig’s Skyfall ($1.1 billion grossed globally, adjusted for inflation) is the Bond saga’s best, but Connery’s Thunderball ($1 billion) is a close second.
Going Deeper: The left gray sliver is the original Casino Royale from 1967 with David Niven as 007. The right one is 1983’s Never Say Never Again, which did actually feature Sean Connery, but was not produced by Eon Productions and consequently is considered as a stand alone film based on Thunderball, the Ian Fleming novel.
2. Star Wars (1977–2008)
The top Star Wars movie is oldest but the fourth chronologically in Lucas’ universe. A New Hope ($3 billion) is not only the top earner in this franchise, but the biggest of the whole data set to boot. There are also plans for Episodes VII through IX and spin-off movies beginning in 2015!
Going Deeper: The small sliver on the right is The Clone Wars, a 2008 theatrical release for the pilot of the ongoing animated series of the same name.
3. Harry Potter (2001–2011)
Hogwarts’ valedictorian is the final installment, The Deathly Hallows Part II ($1.4 billion). All but the third film cracked $1 billion, but having only seven hit that mark seems to fit within J.K. Rowling’s universe.
4. Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008–2013)
Marvel’s hodgepodge of superheroes knows how to draw a crowd. They’ve done best together in 2012’s Avengers ($1.5 billion). If you can’t wait for the sequel in 2015, you’re in luck — you don’t have to. Three more features are hitting screens first: Thor: The Dark World, Captian America: The Winter Soldier, and Guardians of the Galaxy.
5. Tolkien Saga (1978–2012)
The most successful adaptation of Tolkien’s epics is The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King ($1.4 billion). There are two more Hobbit movies to go, including The Desolation of Smaug this December.
Going Deeper: The small sliver on the left is the 1978 animated Lord of the Rings.
6. Batman (1989-2012)
The Dark Knight Rises ($1.1 billion) is the Caped Crusader’s best showing. It narrowly beat The Dark Knight ($1.1 billion), even with four years of hype.
7. Pirates of the Caribbean (2003–2011)
The second film in the franchise, Dead Man’s Chest ($1.2 billion), is the best of the fleet. A fifth voyage for Captain Jack Sparrow is in the works as well.
8. Spider-Man (2002–2012)
The first Spider-Man ($1 billion) with Tobey Maguire is the best so far. Andrew Garfield’s sequel to The Amazing Spider-Man will have its chance at the top next year.
9. Indiana Jones (1981–2008)
Harrison Ford’s biggest find was in his first adventure, Raiders of the Lost Ark ($1 billion).
10. Twilight (2008–2012)
The best part of the vampire-werewolf-girl love triangle was the end. No, really, Breaking Dawn - Part 2 ($840 million) is the highest grossing film in this franchise.
11. Jaws (1975–1987)
The original Jaws ($2 billion) from 1975 is the second best of the entire data set.
Going Deeper: Jaws 3-D was quite a drop-off, and Jaws IV: The Revenge was even worse — it can hardly even be seen in the graphic above.
12. Rocky (1976–2006)
The first Rocky ($930 million) is the best. It can’t be much of a surprise that Sylvester Stallone’s success in the ring did not get better with age.
13. Star Trek (1979–2013)
Star Trek The Motion Picture ($470 million) from 1979 is still the pride of Starfleet, but the new Alternate Reality Series shows promise. Into Darkness already passed $400 million and is still in theaters. Also, a third installment is already planned for 2016.
14. Jurassic Park (1993–2001)
Based on Michael Crichton’s novel of the same name, Jurassic Park ($1.6 billion) from 1993 is the best of the whole franchise. A fourth is currently in the works.
15. Transformers (2007–2011)
The most recent film in the franchise, Dark of the Moon ($1.2 billion), is the best. A fourth Michael Bay visual spectacular is under works with Mark Wahlberg in the cast — no Shia LeBeouf or Megan Fox. Hard to believe this franchise started off as toys.
Going deeper: The above picture is actually Bumblebee’s new look in the upcoming installment.
16. Alien/Predator (1979–2012)
Ridley Scott’s first, Alien ($690 million), from back in 1979 is still the best. The second best is the Alien saga’s 2012 prequel, Prometheus ($410 million).
17. Mission Impossible (1996–2011)
Originally a late ’60s TV series, the MI franchise took off fast and hasn’t missed a beat. The single best is Mission Impossible II ($750 million) from 2000, but 2011’s Ghost Protocol ($730 million) isn’t far behind. A fifth film is already in the writing process.
18. The Fast and the Furious (2001–2013)
Fast Five ($660 million) from 2011 is the most successful for now, but Fast & Furious 6 ($630 million) is close and still in theaters. Filming for No. 7 is set to begin in August.
19. Superman (1978–2013)
The first film with Christopher Reeve, Superman ($1.1 billion) from 1978, is the franchise’s biggest hit. Man of Steel is still in theaters, but the sequel is apparently green-lit already.
20. X-Men (2000–2011)
The second two of the primary trilogy are the most succesful: The Last Stand ($530 million) from 2006 and X2 ($520 million) from 2003. The Origins backstories have done swell too, and there’s still more to come with The Wolverine due on the big screen on July 26.
21. The Matrix (1999–2003)
The first of the two sequels, The Matrix Reloaded ($940 million) from 2003, got the most ones and zeros.
22. Men in Black (1997–2012)
The original Men in Black ($850 million) from 1997 is the top dog. The future of the MIB is in question with rumors about everything from a fourth movie to a reboot to putting the suits to rest.
23. Terminator (1984–2009)
The battle against Skynet hit peak operating levels with Terminator 2: Judgment Day ($880 million) from 1991. While rumors swirl about a fifth film, it looks like the franchise “will be back,” but that’s still up in the air for the Governator.
24. Die Hard (1988–2013)
Die Hard with a Vengeance ($560 million) from 1995 is the best so far. While there is no official word on the matter, Bruce Willis would like to send McClane off with one last hurrah in Die Hardest.
25. Back to the Future (1985–1990)
The first trip for Doc Brown and Marty McFly, Back to the Future ($840 million) from 1985, was the most successful.
26. Godfather (1972–1990)
Francis Coppola’s masterpiece Part I ($1.5 billion) from 1972 is the most successful of the franchise and arguably one of the greatest films of all time. It was based on Mario Puzo’s book of the same name.
27. The Mummy (1999–2008)
The franchise actually started in the ’30s, and the Brendan Frazier saga is a reboot. The best of them was The Mummy ($580 million) in 1999, but The Mummy Returns ($570 million) in 2001 was close. There will apparently be another reboot coming out next year.
Going deeper: The third movie and smallest sliver is The Scorpion King starring the Rock in 2002.
28. The Chronicles of Narnia (2005–2010)
Based the first published novel of CS Lewis’ series, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe ($900 million) from 2005 was the best of the first three book adaptations. It might be a while, but there’s a good chance we’ll see more Narnia in half a decade.
29. Lethal Weapon (1987–1998)
Mel Gibson and Danny Glover proved that the third time’s the charm with Lethal Weapon 3 ($530 million) from 1992. No positive news for a fifth yet.
30. Planet of the Apes (1968–2011)
The most recent addition with James Franco, Rise of the Planet of the Apes ($500 million) from 2011, is the best. Second is the 2001 Tim Burton version with Mark Wahlberg, Planet of the Apes ($480 million). Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is on track to release next year.
31. Rambo (1982–2008)
Based on David Morell’s novel of the same name, First Blood Part II ($660 million) from 1985 was the second of the franchise but No. 1 at the box office. At this point, don’t hold your breath for a fifth film.
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