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The 25 most successful movie franchises of all time

10. Pirates of the Caribbean

Includes: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Dead Mans Chest, The Worlds End, On Stranger Tides, Dead Men Tell No Tales

Current Earnings: $4,505,013,091 

Secrets Of Its Success: Its all about the pauper of the surf. The jester of Tortuga. A pirate so brave on the seven seas. No, not Orlando Blooms intensely forgettable Will Turner but Captain Jack Sparrow, a rum-soaked buccaneer heroic enough to inspire a Michael Bolton chorus. Though the franchises 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.

9. Batman

Includes: Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

Current Earnings: $4,572,000,197

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

But whats kept the public stumping up the cash to see the Bat in action, through the oddities of Tim Burtons 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.

8. Spider-Man

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

Current Earnings: $4,858,222,659

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. Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone's chemistry drove Marc Webb's reboot and with A-list talent joining the skyscraper-scaling franchise. But's it's Spidey's introduction to the MCY with Homecoming that's the most exciting. Letting the Web-Head share the same space as the rest of Marvel's roster gave us a great relationship between Pete and Tony Stark and teases great things for the upcoming Infinity War team up and solo sequel. 

7. 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, Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse, Logan.

Current Earnings: $5,016,911,347

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 but with Logan the series has established a grown up level for super hero movies that no one bettered yet. However, 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.

6. The Fast & The Furious

Includes: The Fast and the Furious, 2 Fast 2 Furious, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, Fast & Furious, Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6, Furious 7, The Fate of the Furious

Current Earnings: $5,137,266,345

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

5. The Tolkien Saga

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, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies.

Current Earnings: $5,895,804,182

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 Zealands beauty and put years into the production's design. Middle Earths fantastical but the detail on the costumes, creatures and realms meant audiences believed in the world and wanted to spend hours within it.

4. James Bond

Includes: Dr. No, From Russia With Love, Goldfinger, Thunderball, You Only Live Twice, On Her Majestys 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 and Spectre.

Current Earnings: $7,077,929,291

Secrets Of Its Success: There have been gadgets, double entendres amazing set-pieces. beautiful women, and iconic villains. 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 Flemings creation is always changes to represent the times and Craig brutish Empire dinosaur is a great example of how the film can reinvent itself. Audiences don't care whether 007s 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.

3. Harry Potter

Includes: The Philosophers 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 and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.

Current Earnings: $8,532,684,345

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. And now, with Fantastic Beasts, the series is set to bewitch the world all over again and add even more gold to Gringotts. 

2. 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, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Wars: The Last Jedi

Current Earnings: $8,712,974,106

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 ruining the fanbases childhoods.

Yet while the saga transformed mainstream cinema, ushering in an era of effects-driven tentpole releases with sweeping narratives, whats powered the franchise from A New Hope to the The Force Awakens its universality. Lucas assembled a grand and exciting world and now Disney can only progress it. 

1. 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, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War, Doctor Strange, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok

Current Earnings: $13,507,520,710

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 happened. Now 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.

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.