The Greatest Movie Franchises of All Time

How does "Pirates of the Caribbean" stack up?

The fourth installment in Disney's blockbuster Pirates of the Caribbean franchise hits theaters this weekend. Even before On Stranger Tides, Pirates was the fifth-highest grossing film series of all time. But its critical reception across the three previous films has been mixed. Taking both box office and critical score into account, how does Pirates of the Caribbean compare to the Greatest Movie Franchises Ever?

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Even adjusted for inflation, the average box office across the Pirates series is higher then Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter. But its critical reception has been less impressive. While the first film was largely praised by the critics, the subsequent ones were panned. After the third film, Newsweek's Dave Ansen proclaimed, "More is not merrier." The Atlantic's Christopher Orr wrote in his review that On Stranger Tides "has the feel of a TV drama renewed for one season too many." Since our methodology weighs box office success and critical reception equally, how do Pirates' mixed reviews affect its standing on the list?

Back in September, for the seventh Harry Potter film's release, we used a formula that took both box office and critics score into account to rank the 50 Greatest Movie Franchises of All Time. Here's an abbreviated explanation of the process we used to come up with those rankings:

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.

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


Considering how much money the Pirates movies have made, it's no surprise Disney ordered a fourth installment. But as we've already learned this year, releasing another sequel in a franchise is still a risk, one that can dramatically affect its ranking on the list of Greatest Movie Franchises list.

When Scream 4 was released, the series placed a respectable number 30 on our list. But the film's poor box office and mixed reviews caused Scream's ranking to drop seven spots to number 37. Comparatively, the surprise box office and critical success of Fast Five, by far the best-reviewed film in the Fast and the Furious series, helped the franchise leap seven spots from number 50, barely on the list, to number 43.

So how will On Stranger Tides affect the number 13 ranking of Pirates of the Caribbean? The film is set to open on a record number of screens this weekend, and is already doing gangbusters business internationally (we only consider domestic receipts for these rankings). Early reviews still haven't been particularly glowing--typical for the franchise--but they indicate that this fourth film is much better than the two previous sequels. We'll see how things change.

Read a fuller analysis, posted when the seventh Harry Potter film hit theaters: "The Greatest Movie Franchises of All Time." The gallery in the post has been updated to reflect current rankings.

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

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