Over lunch, I wondered aloud how many of the 100 top grossing movies were either sequels or the first film in a franchise.

Take a moment and think about it.

Of the top movies, what percentage are part of a larger franchise? And we’re only looking at theatrical. For this exercise, home video sequels don’t count.

Around the table, guesses ranged from 50 to 83 movies.

The answer is 86. Yes, 86 of the 100 all-time worldwide top-grossing movies are part of a franchise. (See Update 2 below.)

Here is the list:

Rank Title Type
1 Avatar Franchise Origin†
2 Titanic Single
3 Star Wars: The Force Awakens Franchise
4 Jurassic World Franchise
5 Marvel’s The Avengers Franchise
6 Furious 7 Franchise
7 Avengers: Age of Ultron Franchise
8 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 Franchise
9 Frozen Franchise Origin†
10 Iron Man 3 Franchise
11 Minions Franchise
12 Transformers: Dark of the Moon Franchise
13 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Franchise
14 Skyfall Franchise
15 Transformers: Age of Extinction Franchise
16 The Dark Knight Rises Franchise
17 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest Franchise
18 Toy Story 3 Franchise
19 Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides Franchise
20 Jurassic Park Franchise Origin
21 Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace Franchise
22 Alice in Wonderland (2010) Franchise Origin
23 The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Franchise
24 The Dark Knight Franchise
25 The Lion King Single
26 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Franchise Origin
27 Despicable Me 2 Franchise
28 Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End Franchise
29 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 Franchise
30 The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Franchise
31 The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies Franchise
32 Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Franchise
33 Finding Nemo Franchise Origin†
34 Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince Franchise
35 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Franchise
36 Shrek 2 Franchise
37 Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Franchise
38 Spider-Man 3 Franchise
39 Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs Franchise
40 Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Franchise
41 Spectre Franchise
42 Ice Age: Continental Drift Franchise
43 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring Franchise
44 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Franchise
45 Inside Out Single
46 Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith Franchise
47 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Franchise
48 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 2 Franchise
49 Inception Single
50 Spider-Man Franchise
51 Independence Day Franchise
52 Shrek the Third Franchise
53 Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Franchise
54 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial Single
55 Fast & Furious 6 Franchise
56 Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Franchise
57 Spider-Man 2 Franchise
58 Star Wars Franchise Origin
59 Guardians of the Galaxy Franchise Origin
60 2012 Single
61 Maleficent Franchise*
62 The Da Vinci Code Franchise Origin
63 The Amazing Spider-Man Franchise
64 The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 Franchise
65 Shrek Forever After Franchise
66 X-Men: Days of Future Past Franchise
67 Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted Franchise
68 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Franchise
69 Monsters University Franchise
70 The Matrix Reloaded Franchise
71 Up Single
72 Gravity Single
73 Captain America: The Winter Soldier Franchise
74 The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1 Franchise
75 Dawn of the Planet of the Apes Franchise
76 The Twilight Saga: New Moon Franchise
77 Transformers Franchise Origin
78 The Amazing Spider-Man 2 Franchise
79 The Twilight Saga: Eclipse Franchise
80 Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol Franchise
81 The Hunger Games Franchise Origin
82 Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation Franchise
83 Forrest Gump Single
84 Interstellar Single
85 The Sixth Sense Single
86 Man of Steel Franchise
87 Kung Fu Panda 2 Franchise
88 Ice Age: The Meltdown Franchise
89 Big Hero 6 Single
90 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl Franchise
91 The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 Franchise
92 Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones Franchise
93 Thor: The Dark World Franchise
94 Kung Fu Panda Franchise Origin
95 The Incredibles Franchise Origin
96 Fast Five Franchise
97 Hancock Single
98 MIB 3 Franchise
99 Iron Man 2 Franchise
100 Ratatouille Single

Films marked † have a sequel in production or very nearly so. Films marked * could be considered single or part of a franchise.

It’s worth taking a closer look at the 14 films that never got a big-screen sequel, and why:

Titanic, 2012, Interstellar, Gravity
You can’t sink the same boat twice. (Or blow up the same planet/shuttle.)

There was apparently talk of a sequel at some point.

Forrest Gump
Eric Roth actually wrote a sequel.

The Lion King, Ratatouille, Up, Inside Out, Big Hero 6
There are rumblings of a Big Hero 6 sequel, and it’s not impossible to imagine big-screen sequels to all of these.

Inception, The Sixth Sense
DiCaprio has never done a sequel. But could you do Inception 2 without him? Sure. And you could do a Sixth Sense sequel without Bruce Willis. I bet we’ll get one of these.

Not a hit, not a bomb, but not crying out for a sequel. Also, it’s low enough on the list that it will be knocked off soon.

Whenever you talk about the top-grossing movies, the first question is always, “What about adjusting for inflation?” (Also known as, “What about Gone with the Wind?”)

Fine. Let’s do that.

Here are the top 100 movies of all time, adjusted for inflation:

Rank Title Year Type
1 Gone with the Wind 1939^ Single
2 Star Wars 1977^ Franchise Origin
3 The Sound of Music 1965 Single
4 E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial 1982^ Single
5 Titanic 1997^ Single
6 The Ten Commandments 1956 Single
7 Jaws 1975 Franchise Origin
8 Doctor Zhivago 1965 Single
9 The Exorcist 1973^ Franchise Origin
10 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs 1937^ Single
11 Star Wars: The Force Awakens 2015 Franchise
12 101 Dalmatians 1961^ Franchise
13 The Empire Strikes Back 1980^ Franchise
14 Ben-Hur 1959 Single
15 Avatar 2009^ Franchise Origin
16 Return of the Jedi 1983^ Franchise
17 Jurassic Park 1993^ Franchise Origin
18 Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace 1999^ Franchise
19 The Lion King 1994^ Single
20 The Sting 1973 Franchise
21 Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981^ Franchise Origin
22 The Graduate 1967^ Single
23 Fantasia 1941^ Single
24 Jurassic World 2015 Franchise
25 The Godfather 1972^ Franchise Origin
26 Forrest Gump 1994^ Single
27 Mary Poppins 1964^ Single
28 Grease 1978^ Franchise Origin
29 Marvel’s The Avengers 2012 Franchise
30 Thunderball 1965 Franchise
31 The Dark Knight 2008^ Franchise
32 The Jungle Book 1967^ Single
33 Sleeping Beauty 1959^ Single
34 Ghostbusters 1984^ Franchise Origin
35 Shrek 2 2004 Franchise
36 Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid 1969 Single
37 Love Story 1970 Franchise
38 Spider-Man 2002 Franchise Origin
39 Independence Day 1996^ Franchise Origin
40 Home Alone 1990 Franchise Origin
41 Pinocchio 1940^ Single
42 Cleopatra (1963) 1963 Single
43 Beverly Hills Cop 1984 Franchise Origin
44 Goldfinger 1964 Franchise
45 Airport 1970 Franchise Origin
46 American Graffiti 1973 Franchise
47 The Robe 1953 Single
48 Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest 2006 Franchise
49 Around the World in 80 Days 1956 Single
50 Bambi 1942^ Single
51 Blazing Saddles 1974^ Single
52 Batman 1989 Franchise Origin
53 The Bells of St. Mary’s 1945 Single
54 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King 2003^ Franchise
55 Finding Nemo 2003^ Franchise Origin
56 The Towering Inferno 1974 Single
57 Spider-Man 2 2004 Franchise
58 My Fair Lady 1964 Single
59 The Greatest Show on Earth 1952 Single
60 National Lampoon’s Animal House 1978^ Single
61 The Passion of the Christ 2004^ Single
62 Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith 2005^ Franchise
63 Back to the Future 1985 Franchise Origin
64 The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers 2002^ Franchise
65 The Dark Knight Rises 2012 Franchise
66 The Sixth Sense 1999 Single
67 Superman 1978 Franchise Origin
68 Tootsie 1982 Single
69 Smokey and the Bandit 1977 Franchise Origin
70 West Side Story 1961 Single
71 Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone 2001 Franchise Origin
72 Lady and the Tramp 1955^ Single
73 Close Encounters of the Third Kind 1977^ Single
74 Lawrence of Arabia 1962^ Single
75 The Rocky Horror Picture Show 1975 Single
76 Rocky 1976 Franchise Origin
77 The Best Years of Our Lives 1946 Single
78 The Poseidon Adventure 1972 Franchise Origin
79 The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring 2001^ Franchise Origin
80 Twister 1996 Single
81 Men in Black 1997 Franchise Origin
82 The Bridge on the River Kwai 1957 Single
83 Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen 2009 Franchise
84 It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World 1963 Single
85 Swiss Family Robinson 1960 Single
86 One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest 1975 Single
87 M.A.S.H. 1970 Single
88 Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom 1984 Franchise
89 Avengers: Age of Ultron 2015 Franchise
90 Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones 2002^ Franchise
91 Mrs. Doubtfire 1993 Single
92 Aladdin 1992 Single
93 Toy Story 3 2010 Franchise
94 Ghost 1990 Single
95 The Hunger Games: Catching Fire 2013 Franchise
96 Duel in the Sun 1946 Single
97 The Hunger Games 2012 Franchise Origin
98 Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl 2003 Franchise
99 House of Wax 1953 Single
100 Rear Window 1954^ Single

The ^ indicates that a film has been re-released, which can raise its rank. When in doubt, I’ve labelled films as Single (e.g. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs).

What can we learn from looking at the inflation-adjusted list? Well, of the top 100 movies, 49 are neither a sequel nor the start of a franchise. That’s a huge difference from the non-adjusted list.

Hollywood didn’t always make sequels from every hit.


A few observations I’ve made from this exercise:

  1. Franchises are a huge part of how Hollywood makes money, not just now but historically.
  2. Franchises have to start somewhere. You don’t get Minions without Despicable Me (which isn’t in the top 100).
  3. Some franchises I’ve ignored (e.g. The Hobbit, Transformers) have made bank.
  4. James Bond is a good business to be in.
  5. There’s a reason studios don’t want you to kill the hero at the end of the movie.

Update #1 (1/29/16):

A reader asks what percentage of the top movies are sequels — that is, part of a franchise but not the origin.

On the non-inflation list, 73 of the top 100 are sequels.

Update #2 (1/30/16):

In the first list, I had mistakenly marked Gravity as a franchise. It’s a Single. So that knocks the total number of franchise movies down to 86.

In the second list, readers pointed out that several of the Single movies actually did have sequels: The Sting, Love Story and American Graffiti. I’ve adjusted the number of non-franchise movies down from 52 to 49, and fixed the graphic.

Finding Dory, the sequel to Finding Nemo, comes out June 17th. Here’s the trailer. It’s certainly going to exist, which means Finding Nemo counts as a Franchise Origin.

A person could reasonably argue that the Avatar and Frozen sequels won’t happen. But as someone who knows both the industry and the people involved, I very strongly suspect they will. I’m keeping them as Franchise Origins.