Movie spinoffs tend to fall in three categories: The abysmal, the pretty darn solid and the absolutely legendary. In the first category, shameful cash-grabs like “Evan Almighty,” “Elektra” and “Son of the Mask” wallow at the bottom of both critical and financial barrels, while mid-tier spin-offs garner critical and fan acclaim paired with respectable box office results — think “Creed” or “Freddy vs. Jason” for example.
The cream of the spinoff crop, though, tend to be the popcorn-munching crowd-pleasers that give audiences more of what they wanted from the source material, amped up to 11. And when those audiences get that fix, they’re willing to pay for it. On March 3rd, Fox hopes to conjure up some of those box office returns and ride the Wolverine wave with “X-Men” spinoff “Logan” — we’ll see if Wolvie has what it takes to claw through the current champions.
Oscars So Rich: See How Much the 2017 Academy Award Winners Are Worth
The ‘Wolverine’ Series
With a trademark “snikt” of his claws, Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine seems to have his work cut out for him in “Logan.” Despite being ravaged by fans and critics, “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” — the first spin-off from Fox’s money-printing “X-Men” movie series — managed to make $373 million at the worldwide box office.
Its James Mangold-directed follow-up, “The Wolverine,” did even better, netting $414.8 million. The draw of Hugh Jackman’s last performance as Wolverine — paired with fellow fan-favorite Patrick Stewart as an ailing Professor Xavier in a story that sees the old friends protecting a young rogue mutant — looks to have plenty of pull, as “Logan” is currently projected to make $60 million on its opening weekend alone.
‘The LEGO Batman Movie’
As a movie about mute toys best known for ruining the underside of your foot, “The LEGO Movie” shouldn’t have worked. But thanks to a stellar Chris Pratt-led voice cast and quirky, fun-loving direction from Phil Lord and Chris Miller, it worked to the tune of more $469 million worldwide.
“The LEGO Batman Movie” should work even less. It’s a spinoff of a movie based on toys, starring a toy based on a comic book and movie character. Whew.
Despite its convoluted branding, “The LEGO Batman Movie” — which features an all-star cast of comedians like Will Arnett as Batman, Michael Cera as Robin and Zach Galifianakis as the Joker battling it out in a LEGO-ized Gotham City — this blocky “Batman” pulled down $53 million during its first weekend. Time will tell if the LEGO Bat Signal keeps shining, but that’s a pretty respectable number compared to the $69 million “The LEGO Movie” earned in its first weekend.
In the days before modernized reboots of “The A-Team” and “21 Jump Street” were netting hundreds of millions, 1979’s “Star Trek: The Motion Picture” was forging new territory. “Trek” was a spinoff in the truest sense: It took the same Enterprise crew we’d watched on low-budget TV and sent them on a grandiose, big-budget adventure on the big screen.
And when William Shatner’s Kirk and company went where no TV show had gone before, it paid off. From 1979 to 2002, TV-based “Star Trek” spinoffs — including a series of movies spun from “Star Trek: The Next Generation” — managed to earn $755.4 million at the domestic box office alone. More than that, they paved the way for a rebooted “Trek” trilogy to generate a cosmic $645.3 million in combined domestic returns over just seven years.
‘Puss in Boots’
Time to get into the heavy hitters — the spinoffs that crossed into half-billion territory with just one movie. And if a spinoff making that much dough sounds unlikely, let’s get even crazier and take a look at the one that stars Antonio Banderas as a walking, talking, sword-fighting cartoon cat: The “Shrek”-spawned “Puss in Boots.”
This swashbuckling “Shrek” prequel ended up putting $554.9 million in the bank — not quite the nearly $1 billion that “Shrek 2” made, but more than $70 million higher than the worldwide gross of the first “Shrek” in 2001. Out-grossing your source material is the ultimate badge of honor for a spinoff, but “Puss” isn’t alone in this distinction.
Usually, when cats fight fish, the cat wins. But when you compare “Finding Dory” with “Puss in Boots,” you end up with one wet cat. The Ellen DeGeneres-voiced “Dory” continued the tradition of out-earning its source movie — and when the original picture was one of the highest grossing animated films ever, earning $940.3 million worldwide — that is no small feat.
“Dory” might pull a full plot reversal on “Nemo,” tasking the title character with finding her parents rather than following a dad fish searching for his child, but it very closely mimics its predecessor’s financial trajectory. In terms of total lifetime gross, 2016’s “Dory” edges out the original clownfish with a staggering $1.03 billion.
When it comes to Hollywood’s odd habit of making silver-screen spinoffs of TV shows decades after the fact (seriously, if it’s not “The Brady Bunch Movie” in the ’90s, it’s “Get Smart” in 2008) nothing can topple the beast that is “Mission: Impossible.”
The 1996 Tom Cruise-led action film directed by the legendary Brian De Palma performed respectably enough, with a worldwide lifetime gross of $457.7 million. By the time its fourth sequel, “Rogue Nation,” rolled around in 2015, the series was making in excess of $680 million per movie.
Related: 15 Expensive Celebrity Breakdowns
‘Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’
From LEGOs to vintage TV shows, it seems like spinoff movies are a scrappy, unlikely lot — underdogs that, on their best day, manage to set the box office on fire. And the 2017 “Harry Potter” spinoff “Fantastic Beasts” continues that strange tradition in fine fashion.
Of all things, “Beasts” is based on a fictional textbook of magical creatures from the Potterverse. As you can imagine, textbooks are pretty light on story, which is why “Potter” creator J.K. Rowling herself crafted an all-new original screenplay for the fantasy flick.
In the movie, Eddie Redmayne’s Newt Scamander deals with a misplaced magical briefcase full of the fantastic beasts, and while his adventure didn’t quite match the domestic grosses of any of the eight original “Potter” movies, the “Beasts” cast still wrangled a staggering $811.4 million worldwide. Quite a feat for muggle, wizard or No-Maj.
Plenty of spinoffs follow breakout characters like Dory or fan favorites like Logan himself, but “Maleficent” put all its stock in one of cinema’s most respected villains. (Okay, maybe a little stock in Angelina Jolie’s iconic cheekbones, too.)
With worldwide lifetime earnings of $758.5 million, “Maleficent” illustrates just how much movies have grown up and globalized since the domestic-only “Sleeping Beauty” — a major hit in its time — made just $51.6 million in 1959. Turns out that sumptuous visuals, a story that adds new layers to an old tale and a leading lady with a net worth of $160 million make for a wicked cocktail.
‘Rogue One: A Star Wars Story’
Ready for the spinoff that made more money than any other spinoff in cinematic history? Too bad. “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story” barely jets past “Finding Dory” with a worldwide gross of $1.05 billion, but it’s not the spinoff record holder.
The dark story of diverse Rebel spies on a dangerous — and personal — mission to secure the Death Star plans, “Rogue One” might not wear the crown, but it is the second-highest grossing “Star Wars” movie of all time, beating out Episodes I through VI, though falling far short 2015’s soft reboot, “The Force Awakens.”
As a feature film that isn’t a numbered “Episode” and doesn’t follow the Skywalker clan, “Rogue” is often called the first “Star Wars” spinoff. But hardcore fans know better; two Ewok-based features – “Caravan of Courage” and “Battle for Endor” – never made it past TV in the mid-80s and were axed from the official “Star Wars” canon after the Disney takeover, while a spinoff movie of the spinoff TV show ,”Star Wars: The Clone Wars,” made a paltry $68.3 million at the worldwide box office in 2008.
It turns out that lightsabers are no match for tiny yellow servants wearing bug-eyed goggles, especially when those cuties are joined by the voices of Sandra Bullock, Jon Hamm and Michael Keaton.
That’s right: “Despicable Me” spinoff “Minions,” released in 2015, has generated a total lifetime gross of $1.16 billion across the globe. That not only makes it the biggest money-maker on this list, but — as of February 2017 — the 11th highest-grossing movie in history, falling just behind the likes of “Frozen” and “Iron Man 3.”
Congratulations to the single highest-grossing spinoff of all time; these movie minions might be on a journey to find their perfect master, but when it comes to making money, the minions serve no one.
Where Are They Now: TV Stars Who Now Have Big Screen Paychecks