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Top Ten Greatest Movie Franchises

Updated on October 25, 2015

Top Ten Greatest Movie Franchises

Hello and welcome to my top 10 greatest film franchises list! While everyone has their own opinion on what movies are the best, I believe this list contains some of the most popular, commercially successful, and critically acclaimed film franchises of all time.

Star Wars (1977-?)

Perhaps the greatest movie franchise of all time, the original Star Wars trilogy is a classic which created the biggest cult following of any film ever. Star Wars is the perfect blend of sci-fi, adventure, comedy, romance and drama; it is by no means a strictly sci-fi realm. Bringing in almost 3 billion dollars worldwide, Star Wars has captivated viewers all over the world, and remains as relevant today as it was 30 years ago. And that is not even considering the second trilogy, and the 7th Star Wars film set to out in December of 2015.

Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008-?)

I'm kind of cheating with this one as there are a lot of different films within the Marvel Universe and they follow many different characters, but in the end they are all still connected, especially when you look at the two "Avengers" films. This franchise is the only one that can challenge Star Wars for the absolute number 1 spot. The Marvel films have been hugely successful both with fans and with record-breaking box-office numbers, because it seems that we just can't get enough of superheroes.

Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)

This is personally my favorite on the list. Peter Jackson’s recreation of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy masterpiece is in a league of its own when it comes to fantasy films. All 3 movies have incredibly high critic and fan ratings on all major film websites like IMDB, Rotten Tomatoes, and Metacritic. The story is epic and moving; the characters unique and greatly-acted; and the beautiful CGI and on-location sets in New Zealand make Lord of the Rings an unforgettable experience.

Indiana Jones (1981-2008)

Indiana Jones is arguably the greatest adventure franchise of all time. Bolstered by a fun, witty and exciting titular character played by the exceptional Harrison Ford, the Indiana Jones films will take you on 4 different journeys which delve into religion, magic, and science-fiction, and showcase some of the best villains of all time.

Batman Trilogy (2005-2012)

Although this franchise actually extends far back, most people tend to exclude the garbage that was produced prior to Christopher Nolan's take on the caped crusader. With amazing performances from star-studded casts, and complex, dark, and compelling plot lines, the newly re-imagined Batman series has earned itself a spot on the list.

James Bond (1962-?)

One the longest running franchises in history, James Bond has captivated audiences for more than 50 years. While this great franchise has seen a lot of weak points (I’m sorry Pierce Brosnan!), Sean Connery and Daniel Craig make it shine. Combine the witty, fearless, troubled and badass character of James Bond, with beautiful women, cool gadgets, and larger-than-life villains, and you have the perfect formula for real movie fun.

Back to the Future Trilogy (1985-1990)

While its 2 sequels were less than perfect, Back to the Future remains one of the most popular movie franchises in history, and has a huge cult following. Fun, imaginative, and romantic, Back to the Future will take you on a wild ride through time, visiting both the past, and the future.

The Godfather Trilogy (1972-1990)

The Godfather is a household name, with its opening film considered one the best of all time, along with other greats like "Citizen Kane" and "Casablanca". This is not a film for the weak or the squeamish; this is the story of powerful crime family, and its consolidation of power in 20th century New York. Raw, violent, complex and highly influential, the Godfather trilogy has established itself as the greatest gangster movie franchise.

Bourne Trilogy (2002-2007)

With an Oscar-worthy performance by Matt Damon in the lead role, the Bourne trilogy undoubtedly reignited the super agent/spy film genre. Recounting the story of secret agent Jason Bourne, the trilogy follows his attempts to figure out who he really is, after suffering amnesia, and why he is being hunted by the government. Intelligent, full of action, thrills, and effective villains, the Bourne Trilogy brings the spy genre back to its roots with realistic action and a compelling hero.

Star Trek (1979-?)

Perhaps the most genre-grounded franchise on this list, Star Trek deservingly keeps its position as one of the most successful and long-running sci-fi stories of all time. While at first it seems to only inspire a small group of fans, its newest 2009 reboot has proven that Star Trek can be enjoyed by anyone; its’ fun characters, powerful action, beautiful visuals and universal humor state for the millionth time that sci-fi is not just the land of geeks and nerds.

Missing one of your favorite franchises? That’s probably because they declined heavily in quality through their sequels. But don’t worry! That’s what we have the honorable mentions for.

Honorable Mentions:

The Mummy - relatively fun and commercially successful but not as popular.

Terminator - great first 2 films, but the 3rd and 4th are nowhere near their quality.

Matrix – the first movie was phenomenal, but the 2 sequels leave much to be desired.

Pirates of the Caribbean – although a very fun franchise, PotC suffered from a muddled, poor and overblown plot in its later installments.

Shrek – started out great, imaginative and fun, but Hollywood decided to milk everything they could out if it and as a result killed it.

Harry Potter – While it has remained high quality through its entire run, I just don’t think the Harry Potter franchise is universal enough to make it into the top 10.

X-men – actually had a great run with pretty much all 3 films (if you exclude X-men: Origins), but much like Harry Potter, is too grounded in its genre to be appreciated universally.

Toy Story Trilogy - probably the highest rated Rotten Tomatoes franchise on the list, the Toy Story is nonetheless way too restricted to its "family movie" genre.

Rocky - while Rocky is very popular with the audience, and was a commercial success, its sequels are way too uneven to complete with higher quality franchises.

Spider-Man - 2 strong films, but the last one kind of killed off the entire trilogy. And let's not even discuss the new trilogy...

Think I’m missing something? Let me know in the comments!


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    • celebassistant profile image

      Brian Daniel 3 years ago from Los Angeles

      There are a lot of good ones listed here, so it's hard to pick favorites -- but I have to say Indiana Jones for me, and Star Wars is a close second.

    • profile image

      Lyle Gentleman 3 years ago

      What about Godzilla? That spawned 28 movies and has a huge fan base! Not to mention the latest Godzilla release by Gareth Edwards.

    • profile image

      dgi 5 years ago

      Yeah, Bond should be higher on the list and even though I'd hate to say it, Harry Potter should be on the list as well.

      As much as I love Die Hard, it should not be on the Top Ten of all time list in terms of franchises and neither should Bourne.

      In my opinion, the only movies that should be on the list are movies so incredible and genre defining that the movie/franchise itself has become part of the West Culture Lexicon. That people regularly speak lines from the movie in actual conversation. That people who haven't even seen the movie still speak the movies lines without knowing because that is how impressionable the movie has been to our culture. And if the movie/franchise is new, it has the potential to be culture defining which is something you don't quite know until a few years have passed.

      So based on that definition, the only movies/Franchise you have that should in Your Top Ten are (in no particular order):

      Star Wars

      Star Trek

      Indiana Jones

      Harry Potter


      Back to the Future

      Lord of the Rings

      Toy Story



    • profile image

      dddg 5 years ago

      jurasttic park

    • profile image

      Jomic 5 years ago

      Is this list only open to American franchises? ( If so, then James Bond probably does not belong on the list. ) There have been many amazing foreign film franchises. From Japan you have Zatoichi and Godzilla. Hong Kong's Wong Fei Hung series ran from the 1940s to the 1970s, and then the same character showed up in two other notable franchises, Jackie Chan's "Drunken Master" ( 2 official films and at least four unofficial sequels ) and Jet Li's "Once Upon a Time in China" ( 6 films ). Back to the UK there was the long running "Carry On" series as well as the five film Monty Python franchise. France had the Mr Hulot franchise, four films, but one won the Academy Award for best foreign film.

    • profile image

      MATTHIUS99 5 years ago

      You should add superman 1, 2 and returns

    • Jason Oleinik profile image

      Gleb Oleinik 6 years ago from Richmond, BC, Canada

      Good point on Batman series, 2 great films and another one coming out soon.

    • Veneficus333 profile image

      Veneficus333 6 years ago from United States

      Great list. I would replace the Spiderman series with Rocky, and Back to the Future with Batman. The two new Batman movies... not the older ones. Personally, I loved the Bourne trilogy and don't feel that it gets enough credit.

    • profile image

      Bakha 7 years ago

      What about Batman franchise????

    • profile image

      JamesmMarkham 7 years ago

      Yes defiantly Bourne and Toy Story should make the list. However in terms of earnings, endurance and number of pictures James Bond is the number 1 movie franchise of all time. Look at the facts 22 movies and counting, 48 years of them being released 1962-2010 and inflation adjusted it's by a mile the most successful movie franchise of all time with Star Wars number 2. However Potter will soon overtake Star Wars as number 2 even adjusted for inflation. You can't compare Potter in 2010 to a Bond picture from the early 60s in earnings without adjusting to modern inflation. By any standard Bond is still number 1 at the movies. I'm not just saying that because I'm English.

    • Jason Oleinik profile image

      Gleb Oleinik 7 years ago from Richmond, BC, Canada

      Hey Winter. I do agree with both the Matrix and Iron Man; the sequels are not as good as the original. They are indeed planning on a third one in 2012. Thanks for your comments as usual :)

    • Winterfate profile image

      Darrin Perez 7 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Great hub! I pretty much agree with your picks, and I particularly like the part where you make some honorable mentions as well. Ironically, the Matrix would've been more memorable if it had stopped at the end of the first one.

      Picking at your mentions list, there's another problem with the Iron Man franchise. In my opinion, the second movie was pretty lackluster. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't a must-see either. If they make a third one, I hope it's more on par with the first title.

    • Jason Oleinik profile image

      Gleb Oleinik 7 years ago from Richmond, BC, Canada

      Wow I can't believe I missed Toy Story and the Bourne Trilogy. Going to update now. Thanks!

    • Andy Webb profile image

      Andy Webb 7 years ago

      Other honourable mentions could include the Toy Story Movies, The Bourne Movies and possibly the Police Accademy movies, mainly because they started so well.