ByJodi Novotny, writer at
I love horror, but I also love the sea, and everything in it!
Jodi Novotny

"Gah, not more sequels! What kind of gibbering idiot would actually want to spend more time with their favorite characters? What great, honking fool would willingly return to a much-loved landscape or join a cast of familiar faces for a fresh, and dependably exciting adventure?" "It's all money-grubbing nonsense", you cry! "They're running out of ideas and fast!".

Whatever the case, the simple fact remains that literally hordes of people turn out to see some movie franchises in action. Are they programmed for mediocrity or is there something else at work, something that all those fancy big city critics are missing out on? Either way, certain series make money, a whole lot of it. This list looks at 32 of the most successful franchises, and tries to explain just how and why they actually did it. Enjoy.

32. Rocky

Includes: Rocky, Rocky II, Rocky III, Rocky IV, Rocky V, Rocky Balboa

Current Earnings: $1,126,780,409

Secrets Of It's Success: Sylvester Stallone had written a rags-to-riches tale and he was damned if anyone else was going to star in it. Never mind that producers wanted Robert Redford, nor that unknown Stallone's first starring role had been in a soft-core porno, nor that his speaking voice was largely unintelligible, Rocky was his baby and, like his pugilistic protagonist, Sly wouldn't give up.

It's lucky he was stubborn -- everyone loves an underdog and the 'million-to-one shot' screenplay, aligned with Stallone's screen presence, helped the film gross over $225m from a $950,000 budget, win three Oscars including Best Picture and spark five stirring sequels, pitting Balboa against Apollo Creed (again), Mr. T as Clubber Lang, Soviet behemoth Ivan Drago, the hilariously named Tommy Gunn and the equally ridiculous Mason 'The Line' Dixon.

31. The Mummy

Includes: The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, The Scorpion King, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

Current Earnings: $1,257,186,108

Secrets Of Its Success: The first in the franchise, a desert adventure based on the 1932 Boris Karloff vehicle, felt like a film out of time upon its 1999 release. Aside from a Star Wars prequel and a Pixar sequel, originality dominated the multiplex that year, with unique visions like American Beauty, Fight Club, The Matrix and Being John Malkovich pulling in the crowds.

Yet Stephen Sommers' The Mummy, a decidedly old fashioned adventure with (at-the-time) B-List stars grossed over $400m from an $80m budget, inspiring two sequels and a Dwayne Johnson-starring spin-off. Why? Because it aspires to entertain and nothing more.

30. Terminator

Includes: The Terminator, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Terminator Salvation, Terminator Genisys

Current Earnings: $1,399,522,017

Secrets Of It's Success: There's been a unique flavor to every entry in the franchise. At first, we had a killing machine sent back from the future. In Judgment Day, Beefcake Villain became Sacrificial Hero while a silver baddie scared the bejesus out of us. In the third, there was the twist of a female Terminator and a downbeat denouement.

And, regardless of Salvation's flaws, Christian Bale's oddly-accented onset rant has won the film a place in history. Arnie's age means we probably don't want him to be back again, but we'll always have the thumbs-up and the vat of molten steel. Sob.

29. Alien/Predator

Includes: Alien, Aliens, Predator, Predator 2, Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection, AVP: Alien vs. Predator, Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, Predators, Prometheus

Current Earnings: $1,406,580,804

Secrets Of Its Success: It's hard to hide a sceptical smirk when the box office grosses of this apparent franchise are discussed because, really, it's not a genuine ten-film saga but rather two separate series tied together by a pair of cash-in collaboration films. The Alien films brought us terror, superbly crafted action and one of the greatest movie characters ever and the Predator films combined an action movie icon with a unique and lethal adversary.

Yet while these science-fiction thrillers certainly share some DNA, the Aliens vs. Predator films confirmed that remaining estranged would be a better idea. But don't be surprised if a Predator turns up in Prometheus 2...

Includes: The Hangover, The Hangover Part II, The Hangover Part III

Current Earnings: $1,418,017,848

Secrets Of Its Success: The first Hangover experience caught audiences hungover from bad mainstream comedies with an R-rated road trip whereby the humor came from the situation, rather than any wacky characters (although they're there, as well). When director Todd Phillips' formula - confused people wake up on a stag do wrong - proved successful, it was repeated almost identically for Part II. Despite a partially backlash, the series was still popular enough to justify Part III. They might have learned their lesson a few too many times for another installment, though.

Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis became breakout stars as a result, each forging comic personas based on a series of predicaments that are arguments to quit drinking (and being friends with troublesome people). But there's still an odd thrill from seeing Bradley Cooper, now a regular Oscar contender, making a fool of himself.

27. Die Hard

Includes: Die Hard, Die Hard 2, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Live Free or Die Hard, A Good Day to Die Hard

Current Earnings: $1,431,184,779'

Secrets Of Its Success: Bruce Willis might have recently favored a 'unique' style of promoting his new releases but for this 'ordinary man in an extraordinary situation' franchise, his authenticity is the trump card. Community creator Dan Harmon's spoken about how superbly constructed the first film's screenplay is but without a charismatic actor as John McClane, a convincing story arc wouldn't matter a jot.

The plotlines of the sequels have never matched the brilliance of the first (maybe the best action movie ever) but the series' continued success owes a little to nostalgia but a lot to Bruce's charm. And with inspiration for the films coming from two (non-McClane) novels, a potential Lethal Weapon film and an articlein Wired so far, you can bet your bottom dollar McClane will find himself in a jam for a sixth time.

26. Superman

Includes: Superman, Superman II, Superman III, Superman IV:The Quest for Peace, Superman Returns, Man of Steel

Current Earnings: $1,538,437,671

Secrets Of Its Success: Superman had (at-the-time) ground-breaking special effects, a blinder of a tagline from the guys in marketing, and a director with a knack for both blockbuster action and family drama. Then again, it could have been made on a shoestring by a hack and still pulled in the big bucks - when your lead's one of the most iconic characters ever created, then there's an open goal awaiting you. It's an inconsistent franchise in terms of quality but audience interest in an invulnerable, unfailingly good alien orphan has remained a constant.

25. The Hunger Games

Includes: The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay Part 1

Current Earnings: $1,542,178,739 (Not including The Hunger Games: Mocking Jay part 1)

Secrets Of Its Success: Considering the first book only came out in 2008, it's remarkable how quickly The Hunger Games became a worldwide smash film series. Or perhaps it's not so remarkable with such a bankable star in Jennifer Lawrence who brings to Katniss an already iconic portrayal of what it's like to be in a deadly dystopia (they're all deadly, but this one especially) that's also a poignant media of the satire.

Just as the fictional audiences love watching Katniss in terror, so too are real viewers. The demand is so popular that the final entry of the book trilogy, Mockingjay, has to be split into two parts.

24. The Chronicles of Narnia

Includes: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Prince Caspian, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

Current Earnings: $1,586,484,193

Secrets Of Its Success: Walden Media's three fantasy epics based on three of C.S. Lewis’ seven Narnia novels were never likely to repeat the Oscar-winning success of the Lord of the Rings films, adapted from the more sophisticated books of Lewis’ friend at Oxford University, J.R.R. Tolkien. But their box office success is no less deserved, with directors Andrew Adamson and Michael Apted bringing fun and wonderment to Lewis’ escapist stories, without overdoing the books’ fairly blatant Christian allegory.

Also, any series that cast James McAvoy as a faun, Eddie Izzard as a mouse and Ray Winstone as a friendly beaver gets a thumbs up.

23. The Matrix

Include: The Matrix, The Matrix Revolutions, The Matrix Reloaded

Current Earnings: $1,623,116,618

Secrets Of Its Success: A remake of a film you love doesn't negate the existence of the original. Similarly, the over-reaching, Zion rave muddle of both Matrix sequels doesn't make the first film any less of a game-changer. The Hero's Journey story was familiar but, combined with Baudrillardian philosophy and the subsequently oft-parodied 'bullet time', made The Matrix a mindblowing movie.

Neo always felt like the role Keanu Reeves was born to play and it says a great deal about the Wachowskis' technical skill that the much-imitates visuals of all three films still feel fresh and invigorating even now.

22. Planet of the Apes

Includes: Planet of the Apes, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Escape from the Planet of the Apes, Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, Battle for the Planet of the Apes, Planet of the Apes, Rise of the Planet of the Apes

Current Earnings: $1,630,247,201

Secrets Of Its Success: Amazingly, the simian series has grossed well over a billion dollars without a big-screen release for Stop the Planet of the Apes, I Want to Get Off, Troy McClure’s magnificent monkey musical. But aside from the originality and subtext of the first film, based on Pierre Boulle’s novel La Planete des Singes, this series has endured because, frankly, it won’t die. The first film’s brilliantly shocking ending--also beautifully referenced in The Simpsons – was followed by four so-so sequels in five years.

Tim Burton ripped the timeline apart with his underwhelming ‘re-imagining’. Then Rupert Wyatt started a new series with 2011’s excellent Rise. It would seem that not only do humans share 98% of our DNA with chimpanzees – we also really like watching films about them.

21. Men In Black

Includes: Men In Black, Men In Black II, Men In Black 3

Current Earnings: $1,654,379,496

Secrets Of Its Success: If lightning struck twice, the team behind R.I.P.D. would be clinking glasses of bubbly now and racing into development on a ghostly caper. But it followed in the footsteps of another series that combined a hot young star with a grizzled vet in a sci-fi comedy about the universe's secrets and based on a little-known comic. And Men in Black didn't just have Will Smith's charisma to rely on--it had that still-hummable theme song to linger long in enough in audience's brains for a sequel and later a reunion to be worth everyone's while.

20. Madagascar

Includes: Madagascar, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted

Current Earnings: $1,902,997,681

Secrets Of Its Success: A giraffe, hippo, lion and zebra wouldn't usually be friends. In a zoo, they tend to be kept separate. In the wild, they might meet up for dinner – and that usually ends the relationship. Madagascar has the animated foursome as pampered celebs who inadvertently find themselves on the coast of Africa, wondering how they'll get back to the zoo. The series expands on the story by introducing them to a world of wonder that's not the inside of a cage.

Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer and Jada Pinkett Smith certainly have recognizable voices and answer any burning desire to hear the cadence of a talking giraffe.

19. Star Trek

Includes: The Motion Picture, The Wrath of Khan, The Search for Spock, The Voyage Home, The Final Frontier, The Undiscovered Country, Generations, First Contact, Insurrection, Nemesis, Star Trek, Into Darkness

Current Earnings: $1,930,671,933

Secrets Of Its Success: Though JJ Abrams’ disproved the notion that every odd-numbered Star Trek movie is rubbish, it wouldn’t be churlish to suggest that the series’ immense box office haul is about quantity, rather than quality. There have been fantastic moments--‘Khan!’, Kirk and Picard meeting in Generations, the final farewell in The Undiscovered Country and the double Spock in Abrams’ effort – but the Gene Roddenberry-inspired space saga never had a cultural influence comparable to George Lucas’ intergalactic exploits.

Instead, this series’ accomplishments is about staying power and that boldly going where no man has gone before will always sound exciting, if even previous experience has sometimes disappointed.

18. Toy Story

Includes: Toy Story, Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3

Current Earnings: $1,975,515,949

Secrets Of Its Success: Woody and Buzz Lightyear took the world by storm in 1995, and much of that same world stuck by the gang for what many believe to be the finest trilogy of all time. While The Godfather 3 was a let-down, Toy Story 3 had grown adults weeping in cinemas. They're not just about toys.

Remarkably, Toy Story 2 was initially touted for a straight-to-DVD release. Now, the franchise is so popular, Toy Story 4 is rumoured to be on its way. It's the series that will delight for infinity... and beyond!

17. Indiana Jones

Includes: Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Temple of Doom, The Last Crusade, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

Current Earnings: $1,983,736,193

Secrets Of Its Success: Nuking the fridge aside, this franchise is pretty much a perfect storm of blockbuster triumph. There's the attractive and likable lead, playing a character fancied by women but also idolized by male audience members. Our protagonist is multi-dimensional--an adventurous archaeologist who's loved by his students, handy with a bullwhip, affected by daddy issues and terrified of snakes.

It's got stories set in a romantic, seemingly Depression-free 1930s, where our hero fights Nazis and goes in search of the Holy Grail. And in Steven Spielberg, the series has a director with an unparalleled understanding of how to create exciting and intelligent cinema that appeals to all ages.

16. Mission Impossible

Includes: Mission: Impossible, Mission: Impossible II, Mission: Impossible III, Mission: Impossible-Ghost Protocol

Current Earnings: $2,096,122,461

Secrets Of Its Success: Four directors with drastically different styles, changes to the legendary Lalo Schrifin theme and a second film that could have killed the series stone dead with its disastrous mix or masks, slo-mo and Limp Bizkit.

Yet the Mission: Impossible series is in rude health. And it's thanks to one man who, couch-jumping aside, remains one of the most bankable movie stars on the planet. Tom Cruise is perfect as IMF agent Ethan Hunt and with J. J. Abrams reinvigorating the franchise with a smart and slick third entry before Brad Bird brought lean, confident, audacious action with Ghost Protocol, Cruise's decision to quit The Man From UNCLE movie for a fifth Mission: Impossible outing makes perfect sense.

15. Jurassic Park

Includes: Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Jurassic Park III

Current Earnings: $2,188,233,656

Secrets Of Its Success: Probably my personal favorite on the list. Micheal Crichton's source novel was thrilling and intelligent and Steven Spielberg was the perfect director to meld the spectacle and sentiment of audiences' adventure on Isla Nublar. But what made this truly great blockbuster connect with the viewers worldwide and inspire not-as-good but still enjoyable sequels, was the shock of the new. (And in my personal opinion, the music had a big impact as well).

As Doctor Alan Grant gasped in wonderment as a Brachiosaurus rears up to pluck leaves from a tall tree and Hadrosaurus herd across the swamp, audiences did the same -- for the first time, we could see what dinosaurs might have looked like. And, even when it was nerve-wracking or frightening, it remained awe-inspiring and technically magnificent. And that's all without mention of the new installment of Jurassic World, which gets mention because it is so wonderful and they adapt so much from the first film into this one so, it deserves some recognition:

14. The Fast & The Furious

Includes: The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, Tokyo Drift, Fast &Furious, Fast Five, Fast 6, (Furious 7)

Current Earnings: $2,383,399,260

Secrets Of Its Success: Given that the series seemed to have skidded off the tracks after 2006’s Tokyo Drift (the third in the series, but the seventh in its rather muddled timeline), it’s remarkable that a seventh is now on the way and, judging by the whoops provoked by the sixth film’s coda, people are really looking forward to it.

While they’re clearly not the most thought-provoking of movies, what the Fast & Furious films do exceedingly well is entertain audiences. The homoeroticism of the later releases suggest those involved aren’t taking themselves too seriously, the cast has a commendable ethnic diversity and if Vin Diesel has seemingly mastered the power of flight, then dammit, audiences around the world need to see that.

13. Ice Age

Includes: Ice Age, Ice Age: The Meltdown, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, and Ice Age: Continental Drift

Current Earnings: $2,804,749,457

Secrets Of Its Success: The warm (but technically chilly) animated franchise takes a Life Of Pi approach by forming an unusual assortment of animals and sending them on a wild adventure. In sub-zero conditions, it's Sid the sloth and Manny the mammoth who form an unusual partnership – both under the shadow of Diego, the reason so many children can identify a Smilodon. The Ice Age series proved so popular that viewers withstood the cold and kept returning. The popularity of its voice cast – including Ray Romano and John Leguizamo – no doubt plays a part, and is on its way.

12. X-Men

Includes: X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days Of Future Past

Includes: X-Men, X2, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, X-Men: First Class, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days Of Future Past

Secrets Of Its Success: Bryan Singer’s first X-Men film introduced Wolverine and co to a mainstream audience while his action-packed and moving sequel confirmed that this was no ordinary comic book series but a franchise unafraid to discuss prejudice, discrimination and philosophy.

Brett Ratner’s entry in the franchise might have misfired and we’re still awaiting a genuinely excellent stand-alone adventure for Wolvie, but where this franchise has repeatedly resonated with the public is through combining charismatic eye candy, comic book bombast and, crucially, a cerebral approach to blockbuster filmmaking. Plus, you know, an invulnerable cigar-smoking mutant with retractable claws is just pretty cool.

11. The Twilight Saga

Includes: Twilight, New Moon, Eclipse, Breaking Dawn – Part 1, Breaking Dawn – Part 2

Current Earnings: $3,352,322,180

Secrets Of Its Success: Web comic writer Matthew Inman (The Oatmeal) suggested the success of the Twilight Saga can be boiled down to the simple equation ‘Mythical creature + Appeal to 13-year-old girls (or grown women who still think like 13-year-old girls) = $’. But while Stephenie Meyer’s books and Summit Entertainment’s hugely successful series of films certainly aren’t for everyone, what they illustrate is that young women had been crying out for a franchise aimed at them, rather than teenage boys.

The popularity of Meyer’s romantic plot about the love between a vampire and a human meant the films already had an inbuilt audience which, combined with the good looks of its leads, their real-life relationship and the enduring appeal of bloodsuckers, meant huge profitability.

10. Shrek

Includes: Shrek, Shrek 2, Shrek The Third, Shrek Forever After, Puss In Boots

Current Earnings: $3,547,384,012

Secrets Of Its Success: Initially, Shrek was the grumpy neighbour yelling at strangers to get off his lawn. Except he was a green ogre hassled by creatures appearing in his swamp. After setting off on an adventure with a talking donkey, Shrek's world expanded and inventively subverted fairytale traditions. There's bad-tempered Lord Farquaad, the Gingerbread Man, Princess Fiona, and, of course, Puss in Boots – beloved enough to earn his own solo outing.

Mike Myers' Scottish accent, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz are among the star-studded voices. Now, whenever you think of ogres and anthropomorphic donkeys, it's hard to imagine anyone else in the roles.

9. Pirates of the Caribbean

Includes: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Man’s Chest, The World’s End, On Stranger Tides

Current Earnings: $3,700,230,282

Secrets Of Its Success: It’s all about the pauper of the surf. The jester of Tortuga. A pirate so brave on the seven seas. No, not Orlando Bloom’s intensely forgettable Will Turner but Captain Jack Sparrow, a rum-soaked buccaneer heroic enough to inspire a Michael Bolton chorus. Though the franchise’s critical returns have diminished since the first exhilarating entry, the Pirates films could now comprise Johnny Depp sitting on a chair, reading the phone book while wearing a tattered tricorn hat and still audiences would flock to see it.

That a boring Disney ride has now inspired four summer blockbusters is all down to Depp and his Keith Richards-inspired, carefree performance as Captain Jack. (P.S. I love, love, LOVE these movies)

8. Batman

Includes: Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman &Robin, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises

Current Earnings: $3,714,171,639

Secrets Of Its Success: There's no ignoring the fact that the Caped Crusader's adventures in celluloid have had some pretty dramatic ups and downs. As fantastic and genre-defying as the The Dark Knight is, it'll never be able to wipe the traumatizing memory of Batman &Robin from the world's minds.

But what's kept the public stumping up the cash to see the Bat in action, through the oddities of Tim Burton's two efforts, the rubber-nippled kitsch of the Joel Schumacher era and the gravelly-voiced grit and realism of Christopher Nolan's trilogy, is that unlike so many superheroes, a crime-fighting hero dressed as a Bat really could exist. Sure, he'd need a few billion dollars and some childhood pain to spur him on, but heroes fighting injustice will always be popular.

7. Transformers

Includes: Transformers, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, Transformers: Age Of Extinction

Current Earnings: $3,755,575,090

Secrets Of Its Success: The Battleship movie didn’t hit the target and the prospects for the Lego movie remain to be seen but Michael Bay’s robotic franchise shows that, where once filmmakers might be inspired by great literature, now they can draw creative spark from children’s toys.

Cultural snootiness aside, there’s no denying the mass appeal of these movies, which combine a simple good vs evil narrative with aliens, nifty technology, cool cars and an attractive female co-star. And even the most high-minded of moviegoers of a certain age would have to concede that they felt a rush of glee when Peter Cullen, the voice of the 80s cartoon’s Autobot leader, intoned ‘I am Optimus Prime’ in 2007’s franchise opener.

6. Spider-Man

Includes: Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2

Current Earnings: $3,963,032,282

Secrets Of Its Success: Spidey sits on the winners' podium of comics' most famous characters yet, unlike traumatised billionaire Batman and Christ-like alien Superman, Peter Parker's relatable. But it's thanks to director Sam Raimi that Spider-Man swung into audiences’ hearts. Raimi's first two films, especially, showed a comic book movie could be iconic, thrilling, yet emotive and human – the sequence in which our hero saves a runaway train, is helped by its passengers and reveals that, despite his powers, he's just a boy, exemplified Raimi's grasp of what makes Spidey special.

Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone's chemistry drove Marc Webb's reboot and with A-list talent joining the skyscraper-scaling franchise, Spider-Man will be amazing audiences for a further three films.

5. Star Wars

Includes: Episode VI: A New Hope, Episode VI: The Empire Strikes Back, Episode VII: Return of the Jedi, Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

Current Earnings: $4,485,672,683

Secrets Of Its Success: It might be set a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away. It includes talking robots, swords powered by light and a bar band responsible for one of the most maddeningly catchy songs ever written. And its cultural impact was so profound that a disappointing prequel saw George Lucas accused of sexually assaulting the fanbase’s childhoods.

Yet while the saga transformed mainstream cinema, ushering in an era of effects-driven tentpole releases with sweeping narratives, what’s powered the franchise from A New Hope into the feverishly awaited seventh instalment is its universality. Lucas assembled a grand and exciting world, certainly, but the touchstones are about family, love, fear and hope. Even Jar Jar Binks can’t ruin such appealing and effective storytelling.

4. The Tolkien Saga

(The Lord of the Rings)

(The Hobbit)

Includes: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, The Return of the King, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hobbit: The Desolation Of Smaug

Current Earnings: $4,920,845,762

Secrets Of Its Success: A tale of good, evil, brotherhood and the belief that the smallest person can change the world. Oh, and walking. Lots of walking. Peter Jackson's films about the finding of The One Ring and the bid to destroy it involved a project as epic as JRR Tolkien's books, Bilbo's voyage or Frodo's quest from The Shire to Mount Doom.

Though based on one of the most successful novels ever, the films' triumph is about more than Tolkien's genius. Jackson assembled a fantastic cast, showed fidelity to the source, exploited New Zealand’s beauty and put years into the production's design. Middle Earth’s fantastical but the detail on the costumes, creatures and realms meant audiences believed in the world and wanted to spend hours within it.

3. James Bond

Includes: Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, Diamonds Are Forever, Live and Let Die, The Man with the Golden Gun, The Spy Who Loved Me, Moonraker, For Your Eyes Only, Octopussy, A View to a Kill, The Living Daylights, Licence to Kill, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, The World Is Not Enough, Die Another Day, Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace, Skyfall

Current Earnings: $6,198,420,185

Secrets Of Its Success: There have been gadgets, double entendres and mystifyingly kazoo-soundtracked set-pieces. Beautiful women, cat-stroking villains and, as The West Wing’s Jed Bartlett pointed out, an iconic cocktail that’s actually not as cool as it sounds. But, whether played by aloof Connery, smirking Moore or brooding Craig, the one constant in this staggeringly successful franchise, and its most important ingredient, is 007 himself. Ian Fleming’s creation epitomises style, class, heroism and masculinity.

Audiences don’t care whether 007’s clashing with Soviet counter-intelligence agencies, metal-mouthed giants or megalomaniacs – they want escapism in the company of a debonair hero who can punch the baddie and get the girl. The franchise may have been through six actors and adapted to each generation but Bond, and everything adventurous and sophisticated that he represents, endures.

2. Marvel Cinematic Universe

Includes: Iron Man, The Incredible Hulk, Iron Man 2, Thor, Captain America: The First Avenger, The Avengers, Iron Man 3, Thor: The Dark World, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Guardians Of The Galaxy

Current Earnings: $7,131,302,783

Secrets Of Its Success: Robert Downey Jr. – his reputed salary for The Avengers might have dwarfed that of his co-stars but without RDJ, we wouldn’t be living in a world where a title as weird as Guardians of the Galaxy is getting a film adaptation. Where Warner Brothers are scrabbling to get a Justice League movie into development just to compete.

Where superhero movies are no longer a preserve of Comic Book Guy-style stereotypes but the most bankable movies around. None of this would have happened without Downey Jr inhabiting the role of Tony Stark with such swagger and charisma that Iron Man, never a comic character with immense cultural relevance, became a big-screen hero and made the superpowered series a commercial viability.

1. Harry Potter

Includes: The Philosopher’s Stone, The Chamber of Secrets, The Prisoner of Azkaban, The Goblet of Fire, The Order of the Phoenix, The Half-Blood Prince, The Deathly Hallows – Part I, The Deathly Hallows – Part II

Current Earnings: $7,709,205,984

Secrets Of Its Success: Its magical world, Daniel Radcliffe’s steadily improved acting ability and the canny decision to cast almost every actor in Britain definitely helped Warner Brothers’ wizarding franchise smash box office records. But, really, it couldn’t miss. The reported £1 million fee to buy the film rights to JK Rowling’s first four Potter books in 1998 now seems a bargain when you remember these novels inspired such devotion that fans camped out prior to each new release. Children slept on the street just to read a book.

With a classic Hero’s Journey narrative, a loveable hero and a fantastical realm to explore, it’s no wonder the books became so popular. Adapting them for the screen was effectively a licence, albeit an incredibly enjoyable one, to print money.


So which of these movies do you think deserves the top spot? Do you think Harry Potter deserves to stay there?


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