The Greatest Movie Franchises of All Time

We ranked 50 major film series based on their box office grosses and critical reviews—and came up with some surprising results

Yahoo declared earlier this year that the Harry Potter series is the most successful movie franchise of all time. The first six films grossed $1.7 billion in the United States, and the seventh installment has already earned more than $24 million earned another $125 million on opening weekend. So, yes, if you don't adjust for inflation, Harry Potter has made more money than any other franchise in the history of movies.

But is it The Greatest Franchise Ever?

To start off, calling the Harry Potter series the most financially successful franchise isn't entirely accurate; its cumulative gross was not adjusted for inflation. (When you do adjust, Star Wars comes out on top.) And money isn't everything---many would argue that a film's critical reception is equally important to its financial success. What are the best reviewed franchises in history? Toy Story and The Godfather; Potter came in fifth on that scale.

Clearly, determining The Greatest franchise of all time isn't as simple as it may first appear. So we decided to make a list that weighted a franchise's financial and critical success equally. Here's how we did it:

To determine the film's financial success, we adjusted the grosses for each film in every series for inflation using a ratio of today's average movie ticket price to the average cost the year the movie was released. We then averaged those results--can a franchise as a whole can be deemed a success if one, or more, of the films bombed? Those calculations dethroned Harry Potter as the most successful franchise. It actually came in 10th. Looking at box office gross after inflation, Star Wars, again, is actually number one. The Spider-Man, Jurassic Park, and even Shrek series all beat the Potter films as well.

To determine a film's critical success, we used Rotten Tomatoes' critics' scores. We then found the average for each franchise's films.

Then we ordered the series from highest to lowest average gross, then best to worst critics score, and averaged the two rankings.

So Woody and the gang are most critically successful and Luke Skywalker fronts the most financially successful series, but when you combine the two scores, what comes out on top? Surprisingly, neither. Indiana Jones is The Greatest Film Franchise of All Time.

That result and the extent to which Harry Potter fell in the rankings aren't the only surprises. The pop culture obsession of the moment, the Twilight series only ranks number 33, with the likes of Scream (29), Ice Age (24), and Mission: Impossible (19) finishing ahead of it. The boys of Jackass (44) make the list, but the iconic Friday the 13th series falls out of the Top 50.

Even though The Dark Knight grossed over $1 billion dollars, Batman (12) isn't the greatest superhero series--that distinction falls to Spider-man (3). And with three franchises in the Top 20--Jones (1), Star Wars (4), and the Jack Ryan series (15)--Harrison Ford is The Greatest Franchise Star of All-Time.

See the gallery above for the full list.

Presented by

Kevin Fallon is a reporter for the Daily Beast. He's a former entertainment editor at and former writer and producer for The Atlantic's entertainment channel.

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