ByRyan Murphy, writer at
Ryan Murphy

If there’s one thing Hollywood knows these days, it’s that sequels make bank! And if a film has grossed a significant amount of money, you can bet a sequel is on the way! Yet one might be surprised at how many of the biggest movies of all time have actually gone without sequels! Take a look.

NOTE: This list takes into account all grosses, adjusted for inflation, for movies, including re-releases over the decades. A more accurate list might only reflect the initial theatrical gross, but such lists seem impossible to find. So for now, enjoy this one.

#1. Gone with the Wind (1939, equivalent of $3,861,000,000)

Franshise continuation: The book was the only one published by Mitchell in her lifetime. However, two sequels were later published, authorized by her estate. These were Scarlett by Alexandra Ripley in 1991, and Rhett Butler’s People by Donald McCaig in 2007.

Although the film never received a theatrical sequel, it must be noted that Scarlett was adapted into a television mini-series in 1994, starring Joanne Whally as Scarlett and Timothy Dalton as Rhett.

2. Titanic (1997, equiv. $2,805,000,000)

Franchise continuation: None.

3. Avatar (2009, equiv. 2,799,000,000)

Franchise continuation: Yes, yes, I know that sequels are planned. But after six years, we have yet to even see a release date for one. I don’t doubt the probability of an eventual Avatar sequel. But for now, I’m including this.

4. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937, equiv. $2,116,000,000)

Franchise continuation: The story being in the public domain, many adaptations of Snow White have come throughout the years, including the 1987 live-action feature from Cannon films, and the 1993 animated continuation of the tale (though not of the Disney version), Happily Ever After. The original film remains one of the few Disney animated classics not to get even a direct-to-video sequel. They did, however, bring the character back for their video game series Kingdom Hearts. The company also made a semi-remake of the film with 2012’s live-action Mirror, Mirror. This came out the same year as Universal’s more gritty take, Snow White and the Huntsman, both while Snow was also appearing on ABC’s Once Upon a Time (which is largely inspired by the Disney film), making 2012 the year of Snow White. (It was also the 75th anniversary year of the classic film).

5. The Sound of Music (1965, equiv. $1,955,000,000)

Franchise continuation: The only other popular media use of the property has been The Sound of Music Live!, a television adaptation of the original musical, which aired in 2013.

6. E.T. The Extra-Terresstrial (1982, equiv. $1,711,000,000)

Franchise continuation: Believe it or not, Spielberg and Mathison actually wrote a treatment for a sequel, dubbed “E.T. II: Nocturnal Fears,” featuring Elliot and his friends being kidnapped by evil aliens and contacting E.T. for help. Spielberg, of course, dropped the idea, stating that it “”would do nothing but rob the original of its virginity.”

As it stands, there is the famous ride at Universal Studios, which largely recreates the plot of the movie and offers a look at E.T.’s homeworld. And there was a largely-ridiculed video game based on the film. But nothing as far as an actual continuation exists.

7. Doctor Zhivago (1965, equiv. $1,551,000,000)

Franchise continuation: Other adaptations of the novel have since been made for various television channels, in both English and Russian.

8. Pinocchio (1940, equiv. 1,386,000,000)

Franchise continuation: With the character in the public domain, other film versions have been released over the years, including the live-action 1996 American film and the infamous 2002 Italian film from Roberto Benigni. The characters also has a place on ABC's Once Upon a Time.

Like Snow White, Pinocchio is one of the few Disney animated classics not to have a direct-to-video sequel, but the characters did return for the video game series Kingdom Hearts.

9. The Lion King (1994, equiv 1,323,000,000)

Franchise continuation: The film has had two direct-to-video sequels, The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998), and The Lion King 1 ½ (2004), as well as spinoff television series The Lion King’s Timon and Pumbaa (1995-1999). As with most Disney animated films, the characters also returned for the video game series Kingdom Hearts.

10. Ben-Hur (1959, equiv. $1,312,000,000)

Franchise continuation: Admittedly, this is not the first or the last film version of the novel, now in the public domain. Most famously, there was already a 1925 silent film before it, and a recent 2010 television mini-series. There was even a little-known direct-to-video animated film in 2003 with the voice of Heston himself. But most ill-advised, there is now an upcoming theatrical film from director Timur Bekmembatov. All that said, the story has never been followed up on.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the top 10 most profitable films that Hollywood has made without ruining them with sequels! See an extended version of this article, and more still to come, on my site,


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