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The 25 most successful movie franchises of all time

18. The Hunger Games

Includes: The Hunger Games, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Mockingjay - Part 1 and Mockingjay - Part 2

Current Earnings: $2,959,967,141

Secrets Of Its Success: Considering the first book only came out in 2008, it's remarkable how quickly The Hunger Games because 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 was so popular that the final entry of the book trilogy, Mockingjay, had to be split into two parts (making even more money in the process).

17. Ice Age

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

Current Earnings: $3,181,324,256

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.

16. The Twilight Saga

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

Current Earnings: $3,317,470,739

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 Meyers 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 Meyers 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.

15. 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.

14. Jurassic Park

Includes: Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Jurassic Park 3 and Jurassic World.

Current Earnings: $3,694,992,176

Secrets Of Its Success: Michael 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 viewers worldwide and inspire not-as-good but still enjoyable sequels, was the shock of the new.

As Doctor Alan Grant gasped in wonderment as a Brachiosaurus rears up to pluck leaves from a tall tree and Hadrosaurs herd across a 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.

13. Despicable Me

Includes: Despicable Me Despicable Me 2 Despicable Me 3 and Minions.

Current Earnings: $3,720,646,356

Secrets of its success: The easy answer to this is "Minions," though that does a bit of disservice to the movies themselves. It's certainly true that the yellow jellybean-shaped helpers provide some of the franchise's funniest moments - enough to earn them their very own film - but Gru's story is hilarious even without their help. Steve Carell's bizarrely-accented supervillain thankfully never does a full personality turnaround, instead just adding a bit of good guy to his bad guy persona as he learns to adore his three young adopted daughters. Also, come on, admit it: you've said "It's so FLUFFY!" more than once.
But, ok, yes, Minions. Their standalone movie did $1.15 billion (yep, that's a b) worldwide, because kids just love those guys. They tick pretty much all the boxes for things kids like: they're cute, easy to imitate, they make funny noises, do decent slapstick, and they're even pretty easy to draw, as long as you have blue and yellow crayons in your box. Sorry, adults, but these yellow goofballs are here to stay.  

12. The DC Extended Universe

Includes: Man of Steel, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, Suicide Squad, Wonder Woman and Justice League.

Current Earnings: $3,752,511,743

Secrets Of Its Success: DC has a long way to go before it can hold a light to Marvel’s movie domain but the foundations it’s building are off to a strong star. And there’s a huge slate on the way to bolster what’s been established with (deep breath) Justice League, Aquaman, The Flash, Shazam! Justice League: Part Two, Cyborg and Green Lantern planned between here and 2020. What could see DC win big over the next few years is the increasing box office takes of overseas markets like Asia. Suicide Squad hasn’t exactly been the best reviewed film of recent times but the worldwide take made it a very successful film indeed. 

11. Transformers

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

Current Earnings: $4,382,440,240

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 Bays 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, theres 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 cartoons Autobot leader, intoned I am Optimus Prime in 2007s franchise opener.

Leon Hurley
In former lives Leon's been a scientist, a musician and teacher, stints that included a shoe full of liquid nitrogen, a small tour of Germany and oh GOD so much marking.