The Oldest, Longest-Running Movie Franchises in America

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It’s one thing to establish a successful movie franchise – a series of films that share the same characters, plot devices, and/or fictional context – and build on its popularity with sequels and spinoffs. It’s quite another to create a franchise that holds its appeal across generations.

To identify the oldest, longest-running film franchises in America, 24/7 Tempo analyzed data from The Numbers, an online movie database owned by Nash Information Services. The ranking was based on the number of years the franchise has been active, starting with the release date of the first movie. (Domestic ticket sales data, accurate as of May 2023, was also sourced from The Numbers.) In cases where a further iteration has been announced for 2024, the length of the franchise’s life has been computed up to that year. We counted only films in the franchise, not TV shows, books or graphic novels, video games, or other common franchise extensions (or sources). It should also be noted that virtually any of these franchises could continue growing into the future in one form or another.  

The franchises on our list include reboots, sequels, and different iterations of a franchise that run the gamut of genres. Sometimes the franchises include both live-action and animated films based on the same intellectual property. And sometimes the gap between the original movie and its first offshoot is long: Last year, the Top Gun franchise was revived after 36 years, with Tom Cruise again at the throttle. (Here are some movie sequels that are better than the original.)

Two franchises on our list, Star Trek and James Bond, are among the highest-grossing of all time. The Batman and Bond franchises have the most movies represented on our list, at 28 and 27, respectively. (These are the most valuable movie franchises of all time.)

Sylvester Stallone has starred in two of the longest-running franchises on our list, Rocky (10 films over a 47-year span)  and Rambo (five films in 37 years). The longest-running of all the franchises on our list got their start in the 1930s: Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and King Kong.

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