Each new year brings new movies, but few films are anticipated more eagerly than the latest movies from the biggest franchises. From action series like “Fast and the Furious” to animated franchises like “Despicable Me,” installment films leave fans both nostalgic for past flicks and anxious for the next sequel at the same time. 2017 was a banner year for franchise films, with “Star Wars,” “Guardians of the Galaxy” and other globally successful brands releasing new movies with huge fanfare. Here’s a look at the biggest franchise movies of the past year.
‘Underworld: Blood Wars’
Release date: Jan. 6, 2017
Worldwide earnings: $81.1 million
The most successful film in the five-movie “Underworld” franchise, 2012’s “Underworld: Awakening,” earned $160.1 million — nearly twice as much as the least successful, which is the most recent installment. Even still, “Underworld: Blood Wars,” a vampire movie that stars Kate Beckinsale and Theo James, earned more than twice its $35 million production budget.
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Release date: May 29, 2017
Worldwide earnings: $240.75 million
The $1.5 billion “Alien” franchise has been going strong since the original shocked and thrilled audiences in 1979. The $102.9 million earned at the box office by the original makes it the least successful film of the franchise, but when adjusted for inflation, it earned $280.87 million in the U.S. alone, making it the most successful. 2017’s “Alien: Covenant,” which stars Michael Fassbender as part of a crew that encounters an alien menace while on a mission in space, earned more than all but one of the films on a production budget of $97 million.
‘The LEGO Batman Movie’
Release date: Feb. 10, 2017
Worldwide earnings: $312 million
The three-installment “LEGO Movie” franchise has earned $902.6 million at the global box office. “Batman,” which stars Will Arnett and Michael Cera, follows a new-and-improved Bruce Wayne through his adventures in Gotham City. The movie, which was produced on a budget of $80 million, was actually the first of two franchise films released in 2017. The other was “The LEGO Ninjago Movie,” which came out in September. It earned $122.5 million worldwide.
‘Resident Evil: The Final Chapter’
Release date: Jan. 27, 2017
Worldwide earnings: $312.2 million
The six-film “Resident Evil” franchise, which dates back to 2002, has earned nearly $1.24 billion at the worldwide box office. Its most successful movie is the most recent — “Resident Evil: The Final Chapter,” which stars Milla Jovovich as Alice, who returns to the Hive in Racoon City where the saga began. It was produced on a budget of $40 million, earning nearly eight times its budget at the global box office.
‘Fifty Shades Darker’
Release date: Feb. 10, 2017
Worldwide earnings: $381 million
2017’s “Fifty Shades Darker,” which stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson, deals with jealousy, anger and problems never resolved in the controversial original “Fifty Shades of Grey,” which debuted in 2015. The first earned $571 million worldwide, making it the more successful of the two films. Together, the films earned less than $1 billion — but not much less. That’s quite a feat, considering that “Fifty Shades Darker” was produced on a budget of just $50 million.
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Release date: June 16, 2017
Worldwide earnings: $382.8 million
Three “Cars” movies have graced the screen starting with the original, which debuted in 2006, and all have earned more than $380 million for a total of $1.41 billion. The least profitable was the most recent — “Cars 3,” which stars Owen Wilson and follows Lightning McQueen on his bid for a comeback. It’s unclear how much it cost to produce the movie, but “Cars” and “Cars 2” had budgets of $120 million and $200 million, respectively.
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‘War for the Planet of the Apes’
Release date: July 14, 2017
Worldwide earnings: $490.6 million
The “Planet of the Apes” series has earned nearly $2.08 billion at the worldwide box office. The most successful film in the franchise by far was 2014’s “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” which earned $710.6 million at the global box office. The second-highest grossing film in the series was the most recent: “War for the Planet of the Apes,” which stars Woody Harrelson and portrays a brutalized Caesar on a quest for revenge. It was produced on a budget of $150 million.
‘Transformers: The Last Knight’
Release date: June 21, 2017
Worldwide earnings: $605.4 million
In 1986, the original “Transformers: The Movie” pulled in a cool $5.8 million at the worldwide box office. Two decades later, a franchise was born with the release of five modern films between 2007-2017. The second lowest-grossing film was the most recent. “Transformers: The Last Knight,” which stars Mark Wahlberg and Anthony Hopkins as human spectators who witness a Transformer war. It pulled in roughly $600 million more than the 1986 original on a budget of $217 million. For a franchise with two films that grossed more than $1.1 billion, that’s hardly a record. In total, the six-installment series has earned nearly $4.39 billion at the global box office and holds the title of history’s No. 12 most successful franchise.
Release date: March 3, 2017
Worldwide earnings: $616.8 million
Hugh Jackman played Wolverine in nine movies over 17 years, and “Logan” was his final time. The last film in the stand-alone Wolverine trilogy, “Logan” was a gritty western-tinged take on the iconic superhero’s last days. It earned $226.28 million at the domestic box office and $616.8 million worldwide, landing it at the top spot in the “Wolverine” franchise and the No. 3 spot in the extended X-Men franchise. The film, starring Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart as aged and weathered versions of Wolverine and Professor X, was the second highest-grossing R-rated film of 2017 behind “It.”
‘Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales’
Release date: May 26, 2017
Worldwide earnings: $794.8 million
The No. 13 highest-grossing franchise in history is the five-film “Pirates of the Caribbean” series, which took in more than $4.52 billion at the worldwide box office. Three of those films performed better than the most recent — “Dead Men Tell No Tales,” which stars Johnny Depp and Javier Bardem in a story of a pirate fleeing an undead sea captain. Every single film grossed more than $650 million, and two broke the $1 billion mark. The movies aren’t cheap to make — the latest installment was produced on a budget of $230 million.
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Release date: June 2, 2017
Worldwide earnings: $821.8 million
“Wonder Woman” is the second highest-earning movie in the D.C. Extended Universe franchise, which also contains “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” which grossed more than any other franchise film with $873.3 million worldwide, “Suicide Squad,” which earned $745.6 million and “Man of Steel,” which grossed $668 million. When you include “Wonder Woman,” which features Gal Gadot as a superhero beckoned away from her homeland by a distant war, the franchise took in nearly $3.11 billion worldwide. “Wonder Woman” was produced on a budget of $149 million.
‘Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2’
Release date: May 5, 2017
Worldwide earnings: $863.6 million
Of all the highest grossing franchises in the world, none is bigger than Marvel Cinematic Universe, which claims more than $5.1 billion in box office receipts in the U.S. alone. Worldwide, that number jumps to an astonishing $13.32 billion. “The Avengers” comes in first at $1.52 billion worldwide. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” — which was produced on a budget of $200 million and stars Chris Pratt as Peter Quill — comes in sixth, followed closely by the first “Guardians of the Galaxy” at No. 7. In total, the franchise contains 17 films with movies dating back to 2008.
Release date: July 7, 2017
Worldwide earnings: $880.1 million
The six-installment “Spider-Man” series dates back to 2002 and is now the No. 9 highest-grossing movie franchise of all time. The films have grossed $4.84 billion at the worldwide box office. The most recent, which stars Michael Keaton and Tim Holland, pits Peter Parker against a new, airborne villain as the superhero struggles to balance his double life. “Homecoming,” which was produced on a budget of $175 million, came roughly $11 million away from taking the title of the franchise’s most successful film, but that honor is still held by 2007’s “Spider-Man” 3, which banked $890.9 million.
‘The Fate of the Furious’
Release date: April 14, 2017
Worldwide earnings: $1.24 billion
Only one movie in the eight-film “Fast and the Furious” franchise made more money than 2017’s “The Fate of the Furious” — the $1.5 billion-grossing “Furious 7,” which is the only other film in the series to break the 10-digit earnings mark. The No. 11 highest-earning franchise in history, the high-octane action films combined to earn more than $5.13 billion worldwide. In the latest installment, which was produced on a budget of $250 million, Dom — played by Vin Diesel — is seduced by a mysterious woman with terrorist ties.
‘Despicable Me 3’
Release date: June 30, 2017
Worldwide earnings: $1.03 billion
The “Despicable Me” film series ranks among the 20 highest-grossing film franchises of all time. The fourth installment, “Despicable Me 3” — 2015’s “Minions” was the third — is the second-highest-grossing movie in the franchise, which has been a box office juggernaut since the original “Despicable Me” was released in 2010. Each film grossed more than $500 million worldwide and two broke the $1 billion mark. The 2017 installment, which features the voices of Steve Carell and Kristen Wiig, chronicles the exploits of two oddball brothers who pair up to pull off a caper. It was produced on a budget of just $80 million.
‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’
Release date: Dec. 15, 2017
Worldwide earnings: Unknown
Only the Marvel Cinematic Universe has earned more money than the “Star Wars” franchise, whose legions of loyal fans are eagerly anticipating the release of “The Last Jedi,” which is due out in time for the holidays. Including special editions and re-releases, the franchise has earned a staggering $7.77 billion worldwide since the original classic premiered in 1977. “The Force Awakens” alone took in more than $2 billion at the worldwide box office. BoxOffice.com predicts that the newest installment will add $742 million to that heap just from domestic box office earnings, with $215 million expected to come in on opening weekend in the U.S. alone. Daisy Ridley returns as Rey, who joins Luke Skywalker as a full-fledged Jedi.
All box office figures via Box Office Mojo.
About the Author
Andrew Lisa has been writing professionally since 2001. An award-winning writer, Andrew was formerly one of the youngest nationally distributed columnists for the largest newspaper syndicate in the country, the Gannett News Service. He worked as the business section editor for amNewYork, the most widely distributed newspaper in Manhattan, and worked as a copy editor for TheStreet.com, a financial publication in the heart of Wall Street’s investment community in New York City.