Can you believe they’re releasing another “Fast and Furious” movie this weekend? And a spinoff no less! Some franchises just never seem to lose steam, do they? In a year where creativity seems lost on the film industry, the one thing we have learned is that fans will keep coming back for more if franchises somehow find the magic touch. You don’t make movies for tens and hundreds of millions of dollars every year featuring familiar characters and worlds without having confidence that they will continue to bring in the bucks. A lot of people have taken the time to examine these seemingly unstoppable film franchises and in honor of the newest release of a franchise that will likely be seen on this list I decided to take my crack at it and examine franchises that, for better or worse, are still going strong today and don’t seem to be anywhere near stopping anytime soon. These are my picks for the Top 10 Seemingly Unstoppable Film Franchises.
For this list I looked at any franchises with more than five films that feel unstoppable, meaning that time and time again they have managed to bring in the bucks at the box office and earn a following that never seems to die down. There are some specifics to consider here first though: I looked at franchises that are either all part of the same story or world, are all focused on the same property, or are all part of the same continuous story. So a franchise can constitute an extended universe or even just films revolving around a specific character even if the series has been rebooted
Movie trends like the Disney live-action remakes do not constitute franchises but are rather more part of a gimmick than a series of interconnected or related pictures. Also, I did, of course, consider box office numbers in this list but they weren’t the defining factor behind my placement. I also looked at the franchises’ longevity and ability to resonate across several years.
Finally when I say “unstoppable” that’s not to say these franchises will never end, but if and when they do it seems they will only end on their own accord not due to dwindling fan interest.
I know that’s a lot to take in but trust me there was a lot to work out for my version of this frankly overdone list. So, let’s get to it. What seemingly endless franchise is your favorite? Let me know in the comments below and look for my review of “Fast and Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” this weekend.
10. The Batman Movies
Batman’s legacy on the big screen is a storied one and somehow, despite mixed quality in his adaptations, the Bat always comes out on top. Batman has been the subject of 14 different films (plus a Catwoman spinoff we don’t speak of anymore), with some being major big-screen releases and some being more limited release animated features, but all adding up to $4.9 billion in global revenue over time. From his big-screen debut in the Adam West-led 1966 film to his appearance in Tim Burton’s legendary 1989 “Batman” movie, to his fall from grace at the hands of Joel Schumacher, his rebirth as a gritty realistic hero at the hands of Christopher Nolan, and finally his more recent representation in the DC Extended Universe Batman has proven to be one of the single most resilient properties in all of cinema and with the recent, albeit controversial, announcement that Robert Pattenson will play the caped crusader in another standalone movie it doesn’t look like interest in Batman movies will die out anytime soon.
9. The “Mission: Impossible” Franchise
It’s not often that a film based on a television show becomes a success, especially a multi-billion-dollar success. What makes the “Mission: Impossible” franchise so interesting is that it didn’t need reboots to continue to be successful. It’s simply evolved not only with the times and expectations of its viewers but also with the career of its perennial star Tom Cruise. What started as a shameless, pulse-pounding spy thriller has evolved into one of the coolest action franchises of all time filled with practical effects and well-choreographed fight scenes that keep the energy as high as possible. Audiences love it and since 1996 the series has come to include six movies with a combined gross hitting $3.5 billion globally. Perhaps a key to its success is that it’s one of the few franchises that keeps getting better. The critical score on Rotten Tomatoes has increased with every new entry and the latest film, 2018’s “Mission: Impossible – Fallout”, earned the highest rating to date with 86% approval. Whether it’s the great action, Tom Cruise’s resilient star power, or the continued increase in quality “Mission: Impossible” has seemingly done the impossible by earning undying support from three decades of moviegoers.
8. The “Transformers” Franchise
With six live-action “Transformers” movies from the 2000s and 2010s, this Michael Bay led series based on the popular toy line has earned a combined $4.84 billion in global ticket sales despite several of its films being considered among the worst of their respective years. Bay bled everything he could out of this franchise for a decade with the third and fourth movies becoming billion-dollar earners. Just when it looked like interest in the franchise finally died down though, a new, fresh take on the series was introduced with the critically celebrated “Bumblebee” late last year. A new director in Travis Knight, a shorter run time, and a more focused story and style brought fans exactly what they wanted from a “Transformers” movie reigniting interest in a franchise that seemed dead on its feet. Despite rumors that a direct sequel to “Transformers: The Last Knight” was in the works Paramount and Hasbro confirmed that their new approach will be character-centric movies. The Transformers have long been a celebrated property that fans can’t seem to let go of and the fact that viewers were willing to support lackluster quality sequels is a testament to its lasting appeal. But viewers also seem keen on embracing the new approach meaning this franchise is likely far from dead.
7. The Conjuring Universe
While it might be among the lowest-grossing franchises on this list, The Conjuring Universe makes up for it with the sheer variety of ideas being explored and its status as the second-highest-grossing horror franchise behind only “Godzilla”. Since 2013 this universe, the first truly successful extended universe of films following the birth of the MCU, has come to include seven movies including three “Annabelle” films, two “Conjuring” movies and two standalone features with a third “Conjuring” film on the way. As of this posting, the franchise has earned $1.9 billion worldwide with every chapter turning a profit in mere weeks due to the traditionally low-price tags of horror films. Whether it’s the intrigue of the “based on real-life” tag lines, the fact that the movies focus on actual cases of the famed Warrens, or the fact that several different horror concepts can be explored within this universe, something keeps bringing people back for more. This has led to 2019 being the first year featuring more than one release from this collection, “The Curse of La Llorona” and “Annabelle Comes Home”. With several more spinoffs on the way, including the recently announced Werewolf spinoff, The Conjuring Universe will only continue to expand as long as fans come back for the frights.
6. The “Fast & Furious” Franchise
The tenth highest-grossing film franchise of all time is next on the list and is a great example of how a franchise can survive by evolving with the times. With eight films released as of this posting and a ninth on the way, the “Fast & Furious” series has earned over $5 billion worldwide with its narratives shifting from car racing to more heist related material making it an action franchise staple and one of Universal’s most successful franchise if not its MOST successful. The “Fast & Furious” films are a staple of the 2000s and 2010s and while their quality might not always rise to the occasion somehow they keep drawing us in. This could be due to the memorable characters, the revolving door of stylish vehicles, quality escapism, or the many high-profile action stars that call the franchise home. The last two movies have each grossed well over a billion dollars with “Furious 7” becoming not only the highest grossing film in the series but the most critically acclaimed. There’s a reason a spinoff is on the way this weekend, because fans can’t ever seem to get enough of what this franchise has to offer. It seems like if it ever was to run out of gas it would be because of the infighting between cast members not a lack of interest among moviegoers.
5. The Wizarding World
Based on J.K. Rowling’s immensely popular “Harry Potter” books, The Wizarding World has become more than just a collection of adventures featuring the boy wizard. As the third highest grossing film franchise of all time, with all ten films to date earning over $9 billion worldwide collectively, The Wizarding World seems to be the gift that keeps on giving for its fan base. Every film in the core series earned over $790 million at the box office with the final film, released in 2011, earning $1.3 billion and all of them placed in the top three highest earning movies globally of their respective years of release. Even with the main series done this franchise has proven to be resilient as a new five-part prequel series launched in 2016. “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” was a notable drop in quality but still earned massive fan support while 2018’s “Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald”, became the worst reviewed film in the series at 37% on Rotten Tomatoes and yet was also successful at the box office showing that fans aren’t as concerned with quality as they are with returning to this world of wizards time and time again. With a reported three more movies on the way and potentially more spinoffs it doesn’t seem like the magic will fade any time in the near future.
4. The Spider-Man Movies
Spider-Man is by far Marvel’s most popular character. The eight “Spider-Man” films produced by Sony to date are among some of the most successful of their time earning over $6.2 billion over the last 18 years. The original trilogy is a 2000s staple and the reboot duology was successful in its own right and much more grounded than the original series. However, few characters can survive a THIRD reboot in two decades like Spider-Man did. In 2016 he joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe (more on that later) and has since appeared in two standalone films within that franchise with his most recent, “Spider-Man: Far from Home”, quickly becoming his most successful with $1.1 billion in global earnings. The character has also been featured in two separate successful franchises at the same time. In 2018 Sony Animation released “Spider-Man: Into the SpiderVerse”, an animated Spider-Man film unrelated to the MCU that wasn’t only financially successful but also won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. No matter what Spider-Man is in it seems fans are more than willing to turn out to buy a ticket and support the wall-crawler. Even his rogues’ gallery is getting love these days with the highly success “Venom” movie released in 2018 and a Morbius movie on the horizon.
3. The “Star Wars” Franchise
This might seem like a low spot for the second highest grossing film franchise in history but as said at the beginning this list is not about the money, it’s about resilience. While the “Star Wars” series has certainly proven its value and continues to be among the most popular franchises in history, a few chinks in the armor have sprung up the last few years from Disney’s attempts at spinoff stories. While “Star Wars” fans are among the more vocal and occasionally vile fanbases out there, you have to admire their dedication to the property. With eleven movies in the bank right now and a twelfth film (“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”) on the way this December the series has earned over $9.2 billion worldwide and has maintained its popularity from start to present quite effectively through other mediums including theme park rides, video games, television spinoffs, books and more. Even in spite of legendarily bad side projects like “The Star Wars Holiday Special” and the two “Ewok” movies as well as the incredibly divisive prequel trilogy “Stars Wars” has persevered and continues to be one of the most in-demand properties in all of cinema. Even when the quality isn’t quite there is seems fans just can’t get enough of this galaxy far far away.
2. The James Bond Franchise
Sure the James Bond movies may only be sixth on the all-time highest earning franchises list with over $7 billion in global earnings, but what gets it this high on the list is that it’s the biggest franchise on this countdown with 24 films to date and a 25th on the way and it’s the longest running franchise on this list dating back to 1962. Despite changing styles, actors, and stories for over fifty years fans still rush to the theater to see what James Bond’s next mission will be. One of the most recent films, “Skyfall”, became the series’ highest grossing movie earning $1.1 billion on its own. The character has also spawned numerous catchphrases, served as a selling point for many brands, and made the martini a manly drink. His adventures have also spawned numerous unforgettable villains and included many iconic gadgets that have all found their place in pop culture over the years. But most of all it’s a series unafraid of evolution and trying new things, always keeping the ideas fresh which is probably why is continues to be the quintessential spy franchise to this day. Every time it seems like this series slows down it just proves its longevity and, to use a poor pun, lives to die another day.
1. The Marvel Cinematic Universe
While Spider-Man got his own place on this list, the cinematic universe he joined in 2016 gets the top spot today. It’s hard to keep a self-contained franchise afloat or to keep a character popular. But it’s even harder to take multiple characters and use them all to create self-contained stories overlapping into a much larger narrative. Over the last 11 years Marvel has released 23 films focusing on numerous different heroes from the studio’s comic properties and every film has been a relative critical and box office success. Marvel managed to maintain multiple standalone series to create the most profitable and successful franchise in cinema history earning over $22 billion worldwide between its films and, most recently, claiming the highest grossing film of all time title with “Avengers: Endgame”. While that in itself is impressive, what really earns this franchise the top spot is Marvel’s ability to tackle so many different styles, genres, and stories without missing a beat. Every movie has been a success and fatigue has yet to set in even with the Infinity Saga done. Five more movies have been announced for the next two years and even more are in development. The MCU has embraced a winning formula that has earned a legion of devoted fans like no franchise before it. For now at least, it is the absolute definition of unstoppable.