Top 20 Highest Grossing Movie Franchises that Maintained (Largely) the Same Cast Throughout

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Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Photo: Warner Bros.

Last night after seeing American Reunion myself and Laremy from Film.com were trying to think of movie franchises that could conceivably continue for the next 60 or so years with the same cast still intact, returning every ten years or so to do some sort of “reunion” installment. The American Pie franchise is one of those franchises and should there be a financial need, in 2022 there is nothing that says they shouldn’t make another one with the same cast of characters getting into some sort of hijinks and they could probably bank a little coin with very little effort.

This thought made me want to look at the current list of film franchises that managed to largely keep their original cast intact over the course of the franchise’s long history. As such, I had to remove a few franchises when looking at the list Box-Office Mojo presents.

I felt the Bond franchise didn’t really suffice, but for those interested over the course of 22 films the Bond franchise has brought in $1.6 billion domestically. Here’s the breakdown by lead actor:

  • Pierce Brosnan – $519.6 (4 movies with an avg. of $129.9m per movie)
  • Roger Moore – $346.5 (7 movies with an avg. of $49.5m per movie)
  • Daniel Craig – $335.8 (2 movies with an avg. of $167.9m per movie)
  • Sean Connery – $190.4 (6 movies with an avg. of $31.7m per movie)
  • Timothy Dalton – $85.8 (2 movies with an avg. of $42.9m per movie)
  • George Lazenby – $22.7 (1 movie)

I felt the Star Trek franchise shouldn’t be one franchise but three. While continuity was kept within the same world, the three different casts nixed it for this specific list. That said, here is the breakdown for the franchise which has brought in over $1 billion domestically:

  • Star Trek (Original Cast) – $474.4 (6 movies with an avg. of $79m per movie)
  • Star Trek (2009) – $257.7 (1 movie)
  • Star Trek (Next Generation Cast) – $205.4 (4 movies with an avg. of $51.3m per movie)

The Dark Knight posterAnd I broke up the Batman franchise considering Christopher Nolan‘s Batman Begins and The Dark Knight separate from what Tim Burton and Joel Schumacher did. That said, I also looked at Burton and Schumacher’s four films as separate entities as, much like Bond, they utilized three different lead actors including Michael Keaton, George Clooney and Val Kilmer. So Nolan’s films still make the top 20 while the latter falls short even though the four films together did make $705.3 million.

Considering I broke up the Star Trek franchise, I also broke up the Star Wars franchise between the prequels and the original trilogy seeing how the same cast wasn’t kept intact for the three. Granted, it would have been impossible, but such is life. After all, both trilogies still make the list and I added in numbers for the re-issues, which Box-Office Mojo originally removed.

The X-Men franchise does still include numbers from X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but I took out those for X-Men: First Class. And I cut out the numbers for The Incredible Hulk from the Avengers franchise numbers considering Edward Norton was replaced by Mark Ruffalo despite the fact Robert Downey Jr. did have a small cameo in the after credits sequence. If you feel Hulk should have been left in then add another $134.8 million to the total for The Avengers. It’s definitely a judgment call.

And finally, if you’re wondering why the Shrek franchise has five films, don’t forget Puss in Boots maintained Antonio Banderas as the title character, which I consider to fit within the guidelines I’ve set here.

The Avengers posterOther than that, no changes/exceptions were made. Of the franchises on the list, The Avengers will soon be adding to its total, as will Transformers, Twilight, Christopher Nolan’s Batman, The Fast and the Furious and Iron Man. I also think The Hobbit should be counted toward what should be referred to as Peter Jackson’s Tolkien franchise as he did his very best to maintain continuity with actors and considering it’s only one film for now, you better believe Avatar will soon be on this list soon enough as the first film alone made $760.5 million, which is enough for 15th place already.

Question is, when will a film franchise top Harry Potter? The Avengers franchise will surely get up there at some point with all the films they have planned. Should The Dark Knight Rises score the same box-office total as The Dark Knight, Nolan’s franchise will go to $1,271.9 domestically, but he’s done after this third one, which means it won’t ever have a shot at the top, but in terms of averages that is one movie that is definitely up there.

With all that said, here are the top twenty movie franchises that managed to largely keep the same cast throughout, listed by domestic box-office total (not adjusted for inflation). I have averaged out the films and of those averages Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy narrowly edges out the Star Wars prequels.

  1. Harry Potter – $2,390.1 (8 movies with an avg. of $298.8m per movie)
  2. Shrek – $1,419.6 (5 movies with an avg. of $283.9m per movie)
  3. Pirates of the Caribbean – $1,279.2 (4 movies with an avg. of $319.8m per movie)
  4. Spider-Man – $1,113.8 (3 movies with an avg. of $371.3m per movie)
  5. Star Wars (Prequels) – $1,113.5 (3 movies with an avg. of $371.1m per movie)
  6. Transformers – $1,073.7 (3 movies with an avg. of $357.9m per movie)
  7. Twilight – $1,071.2 (4 movies with an avg. of $267.8m per movie)
  8. Star Wars (Original Trilogy) – $1,060.5 (3 movies with an avg. of $353.5m per movie)
  9. The Lord of the Rings – $1,030.1 (3 movies with an avg. of $343.3m per movie)
  10. The Avengers – $988.5 (4 movies with an avg. of $247.1m per movie)
  11. Indiana Jones – $903.7 (4 movies with an avg. of $225.9m per movie)
  12. Toy Story – $883.4 (4 movies* with an avg. of $220.8m per movie)
  13. X-Men – $786.4 (4 movies with an avg. of $196.6m per movie)
  14. Jurassic Park – $767.3 (3 movies with an avg. of $255.8m per movie)
  15. Mission: Impossible – $739.7 (4 movies with an avg. of $184.9m per movie)
  16. Batman (Christopher Nolan) – $738.6 (2 movies with an avg. of $369.3m per movie)
  17. The Fast and the Furious – $699.1 (5 movies with an avg. of $139.8m per movie)
  18. Iron Man – $630.8 (2 movies with an avg. of $315.4m per movie)
  19. Meet the Fockers – $593.9 (3 movies with an avg. of $198m per movie)
  20. The Matrix – $592.4 (3 movies with an avg. of $197.5m per movie)

* The Toy Story franchise is listed as four movies as a result of 2009’s 3-D double-bill of Toy Story and Toy Story 2.

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Weekend: Oct. 24, 2019, Oct. 27, 2019

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