It can get overwhelming when trying to decide what to watch next during this time of uncertainty, so let us help you: Wonderwall.com is listing off the most entertaining film franchises you can watch while stuck at home. From extravagant car chases to superheroes coming together to save the world from total devastation, there's something for everyone… Starting off our list is the "Fast & Furious" movies series. It all started in 2001 with the release of the first film, "The Fast and the Furious" starring Paul Walker, Vin Diesel, Michelle Rodriguez and Jordana Brewster. Since then, seven more crime-action films (and one spinoff) have been released. What started as a series rooted in good ol' illegal street racing ("the street always wins") quickly turned into a juggernaut characterized by over-the-top heists, increasingly crazier stunts and riveting spy missions. One thing that's remained? The franchise, which has grossed more than $5.9 billion at the global box office, is all about family. Keep reading for more…
In 1976, a film about an underdog, working-class boxer from Philadelphia inspired audiences. At its core, "Rocky" was a movie about the American Dream. Behind the scenes, it featured an even more inspiring true story about how Sylvester Stallone turned an idea into a big picture phenomenon. In the early '70s, Sly was a struggling actor with just $106 in his bank account — he once sold his dog to help pay bills. During this time, he wrote the script for "Rocky" with the intention of playing the titular character. Producers liked the story and wanted to give him $360,000 — on the condition that he didn't play Rocky Balboa, a decision he momentarily contemplated before ultimately declining. Eventually, producers came around and gave Sylvester $1 million to make the film in which he starred — a small budget even for the '70s. Thankfully, the film was an absolute success — "Rocky" went on to earn nine nominations and three wins at the Academy Awards — including best picture — and grossed more than $200 million. The 1976 boxing drama then went on to spawn eight more films including the "Creed" spinoff movies starring Michael B. Jordan. To date, the "Rocky" franchise has grossed more than $1.7 billion at the box office.
A staple in every '90s kid's VHS or DVD collection, "Toy Story" is the Disney animated film that introduced the world to Andy's personable and lovable selection of toys. The first movie, which was released in 1995, saw Woody, Buzz Lightyear and their eclectic group of companions experience all sorts of shenanigans — including a harrowing escape from Andy's disturbed neighbor, Sid Phillips who threatened to play "mad doctor" with them. There have been three additional heartfelt, entertaining, and hilariously written film in the series including the latest, 2019's "Toy Story 4." The "Toy Story" franchise is considered to be the fourth-highest grossing animated franchise ever, having earned upwards of $3 billion globally.
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After "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" premiered in 2001, fans were hooked. The film series, which stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint, has eight total installments — the most recent of which, "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2," debuted in 2011. To date, the film adaptations of the popular J.K. Rowling novel series has grossed more than $9 billion, making it the second-highest grossing film franchise of all time. The franchise also spawned a spinoff prequel series that will eventually be comprised of five films — 2016's "Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" starring Eddie Redmayne, Katherine Waterston, Ezra Miller, Alison Sudol and Dan Fogler kicked things off.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe movies
The year was 2008 and "Iron Man" — otherwise known as the inaugural film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe — was a hit. To date, a whopping 23 films in the franchise have been released including "The Incredible Hulk" that same year, "Thor" in 2011, "Captain America: The First Avenger" in 2011, "Guardians of the Galaxy" in 2014, "Spider-Man: Homecoming" in 2017 and the beloved "Avengers" trilogy movies that came out in 2012, 2015 and 2019. The MCU films featuring characters from a slew of comic books are equal parts entertaining and nostalgic — watching them transports viewers to a world so disparate from our own, yet so inspiring. As of April 2020, the MCU — which includes an A-list roster of stars like Scarlett Johansson, Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Pratt and Michael B. Jordan — is the highest grossing film franchise worldwide, with total estimated box office revenue of $22.5 billion.
"The Lord of the Rings"
It wouldn't be right if we talked about entertaining film franchises without including this one. Based on the novel by author J. R. R. Tolkien, "The Lord of the Rings" series consists of three films: "The Fellowship of the Ring," "The Two Towers" and "The Return of the King." The Middle-earth-set films center on Frodo Baggins as he ventures on a mission to destroy the One Ring and its diabolical maker, Dark Lord Sauron. In addition to being one of the highest grossing series ever ("TLOTR" films have grossed $3 billion globally), it's been praised as being one of the most influential trilogies of all time. There have since been three additional films based on Tolkien's "The Hobbit" novel: "An Unexpected Journey," "The Desolation of Smaug" and "The Battle of the Five Armies." While this trilogy is widely viewed as inferior to its acclaimed predecessor, it is also one of the highest grossing film series ever created.
"The Hunger Games"
Based on the dystopian trilogy of YA novels written by Suzanne Collins, the four-movie "The Hunger Games" film franchise debuted in 2012. The films starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks and more set major records upon their theatrical debuts — 2012's "The Hunger Games" set a record for the biggest opening weekend for a non-sequel movie, while 2014's "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1" had the biggest opening day and weekend of the year. J-Law became a huge international star thanks to her starring role as District 12's resilient teenaged heroine Katniss Evergreen. As far as lucrative franchises go, "The Hunger Games" film series is the 21st-highest grossing film franchise of all time, having earned more than $2.97 billion globally.
It's hard to believe that it's been nearly a quarter of a century since Tom Cruise originated the role of Ethan Hunt in the "Mission: Impossible" franchise! The thrilling action-spy series centers on Ethan, a leader of the IMF's central field team. To date, there have been six films in the franchise, and with the seventh and eighth installments in the works. The critically acclaimed series is the 16th-highest grossing film franchise of all time, having earned more than $3.5 billion across the world.
Based on the 1990 novel of the same name, "Jurassic Park" debuted in 1993 and left a lasting impression on the film industry. Fans couldn't get enough of John Hammond, his charismatic team of scientists and their park of no-longer-extinct dinosaurs. The first film, which grossed more than $914 million globally and was the highest grossing movie of 1993, spawned four more: "The Lost World: Jurassic Park" in 1997, "Jurassic Park III" in 2001, "Jurassic World" in 2015 and "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom" in 2018. The latest installment in the sci-fi adventure series, "Jurassic World: Dominion" starring Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Sam Neill, Laura Dern and Jeff Goldblum," is set to be released in 2021. The franchise has so far grossed $5.1 billion worldwide.
"Pirates of the Caribbean"
It didn't take long for fans to fall in love with Jack Sparrow. When the first film of the series, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl," debuted in 2003, audiences were transported to a supernatural world where undead skeletons and cunning pirates ran wild. Thanks to star Johnny Depp and a box office haul of $654.3 million, it spawned four more films — "Dead Man's Chest" in 2006, "At World's End" in 2007, "On Stranger Tides" in 2011 and "Dead Men Tell No Tales" in 2017. To date, the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced franchise, which has also starred Geoffrey Rush, Orlando Bloom, Keira Knightley and Jonathan Pryce, has grossed a total of $4.5 billion at the box office.
Is there another franchise with as long-lasting a legacy as this one? When George Lucas released "Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope," the space saga's inaugural installment, in 1977, the world was given its first glimpse at the epic, generation-spanning series starring Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher and Mark Hamill. Two more films following to make up the original trilogy: "Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back" in 1980 and "Episode VI – Return of the Jedi" in 1983. Then in 1999, the first film of the prequel trilogy, "Episode I – The Phantom Menace," debuted starring Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor and Natalie Portman. Ten years after the third film of that prequel trilogy hit theaters, J.J. Abrams released the first film of a sequel trilogy, 2015's "Episode VII – The Force Awakens" starring Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac and Adam Driver. As of 2019, the George Lucas space opera franchise, which has been an absolute treat to watch time and time again, was the second-highest grossing series worldwide, with total revenue of $10.32 billion.
In 1979, the sci-fi horror film "Alien" was released. It followed warrant officer Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) as she battled an extraterrestrial entity known as "the Alien." As a result of the original film's success (which included a best actress Oscar nom for Sigourney), three sequels came to be: "Aliens" in 1986, "Alien 3" in 1992 and "Alien Resurrection" in 1997. In addition to the original series, there have also been two installments in a prequel series: 2012's "Prometheus" and 2017's "Alien: Covenant." Together, the critically acclaimed films have grossed around $1.3 billion at the box office!
The "The Terminator" franchise has been around for four decades, but that doesn't necessarily mean every installment was box office gold. While the latter three films ("Terminator Salvation," "Terminator Genisys" and "Terminator: Dark Fate") failed to capture the magic of the first three movies that starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, they still make for an entertaining watch — though if you're strictly looking for that '80s to early '00s nostalgia, we recommend stopping after the third installment. The "Terminator" franchise on the whole has done well financially, grossing more than $2 billion worldwide.
There's been a long history of "James Bond" films — and more to come. Since the inaugural movie in the series, "Dr. No," came out in 1962, there have been 24 more films, the most recent being 2020's "No Time to Die" starring Daniel Craig as Agent 007. Thanks to its thrilling, action-packed spy narratives, this series is not only one of the longest running but highest grossing of all time, having earned more than $19.9 billion worldwide.
When we think "iconic horror slasher films," this movie franchise is one that immediately comes to mind. "Halloween" and its sequels revolve around serial killer Michael Myers who — after escaping from a sanitarium — shows up in a small town in Illinois and begins killing its residents. His favorite day to strike? The spookiest day of the year, Oct. 31. The original film, which debuted in 1978 and starred Donald Pleasence, Jamie Lee Curtis, P. J. Soles and Nancy Loomis, spawned a legacy of acclaimed slasher movies including "Halloween II," "Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers," "Halloween: The Curse of Michael Myers" and "Halloween: Resurrection." Collectively, the "Halloween" films have grossed $620 million.
This is a much-debated one, but it's an entertaining film franchise nonetheless! While fans have long been conflicted about which Peter Parker is their favorite — Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield or Tom Holland — all three actors' portrayals of the young superhero are stellar. The third batch of "Spider-Man" films, which are part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe — "Homecoming" and "Far From Home" — grossed more than $2 billion worldwide, while the other "Spider-Man" films ("Spider-Man 2," "The Amazing Spider-Man" and more) have grossed more than $7.2 billion globally. Whether you love certain films in the franchise more than others, the cinematic experience of watching our friendly neighborhood superhero with the best of intentions and an awkward boyish charm has always been a delight to watch!