Often shortened to sci-fi or simply SF, science fiction is a broad term used for a genre of fiction that typically deals with futuristic concepts and imaginative worlds. It is often labeled as the “literature of ideas” considering that it is based on concepts such as parallel universes, cybernetics, or even time travel. Most of the time, the movies are lingering with a sense of dystopia, and the causes of unpromising futures are oftentimes rapid changes in science and technology innovations.
Since sci-fi is closely related to fantasy, horror, and superhero fiction, it might not be surprising to see that this list is made up of some great movies you have probably already watched. Nevertheless, if you’re still wondering which franchises have made the list, then you have come to the right place. Keep on reading to see the 15 top-selling sci-fi franchises of all time!
15. Back To The Future (1985-present)
Back to the Future is an American sci-fi comedy franchise that was created by Bob Gale and Robert Zemeckis. The plot is following a high school student, Marty McFly, and an eccentric scientist, Dr. Emmett “Doc” Brown”, as they use a time machine to travel to different periods in a fictional town of Hill Valley, California.
The first movie was the highest-grossing film of 1985! It soon became an international phenomenon, which lead to the production of the second and third movies (in the year 1989, and then 1990). Even today, this trilogy remains extremely popular and has yielded many spin-offs, which doesn’t make it surprising that it made the list of top-selling sci-fi franchises of all time.
Total worldwide gross: $970,381,382
Number of movies: 3
14. Independence Day (1996-2016)
Also known as ID or ID4, Independence Day is another American sci-fi action hit. It was created by Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, with the first movie of the same name being produced in 1996. The franchise is based on the invasion of Earth by extraterrestrials, who are seeking to erase mankind. The remaining humans are fighting back whichever way they can, hoping to take the planet back.
The first movie was followed by a sequel, Independence Day: Resurgence a decade later, in 2016. Even though the first movie was the highest-grossing film of 1996, the sequel made fewer sales than expected, which is why the third movie is yet to be made. Overall, it is thought that this movie has made a significant turning point in Hollywood blockbuster history, which is why it made the top-selling list of sci-fi franchises.
Total worldwide gross: $1,207,082,826
Number of movies: 2
13. Resident Evil/Biohazard (1996-present)
This franchise is a decade old! Also known as Biohazard, Resident Evil is a Japanese media franchise and horror video game series created by Capcom. The first Resident Evil was created by Tokuro Fujiwara and Shinji Mikami, and it was released as a game for PlayStation in 1996. As far as the games go, they have helped in defining the survival horror genre and returning zombies to popular culture.
The first Resident Evil movie has been released in 2002, and it was followed by five sequels. The last one (so far!) was actually released just a year ago, in 2021 under the name of Welcome to Raccoon City. Although the films were mostly perceived negatively by the critics, they grossed more than $1 billion. Resident Evil is still Capcom’s best-selling franchise; as of March 2022, it has sold 125 million copies worldwide – which means it deserves to be on the top-selling sci-fi franchises list.
Total worldwide gross: $1,237,686,980
Number of films: 10
12. Alien (1979-present)
Produced by the 20th Century Studios, this sci-fi horror and action media franchise began with the first Alien (1979). The movie was then followed by three sequels: Aliens (1986), Alien 3 (1992), and Alien Resurrection (1997). The director of the first Alien, Ridley Scott, directed a prequel series which was composed of Prometheus (2012) and Alien: Covenant (2017).
The Alien series has led to numerous video games, comics, and novels, and has also inspired several spin-offs. Alien vs. Predator series is the most notable spin-off, and it consists of two films, as well as various video games and comics. Even those who dread horror movies know this classic – which is probably why it was such a success and made the top-selling sci-fi franchises list.
Total worldwide gross: $1,635,812,293
Number of films: 8
11. The Matrix (1999-present)
Since its release in 1999, The Matrix has become a staple in the cyberpunk subgenre of sci-fi. It is consisting of four films, and twice as many comics and video games. The first movie was followed by three sequels; The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions (both 2003). Although the first sequel has become the highest-grossing R-rated film in history (until it was surpassed by Deadpool in 2016), the last made movie The Matrix Resurrections (2021) received the lowest rating in the franchise so far.
Overall, this franchise is extremely important, as it introduced various symbols to popular culture (such as the red pill and blue pill), and sparked many critical debates related to choice and control in society. This movie is one of the rare movies that make you question your whole reality…which is exactly the reason why it became one of the highest-grossing movies and, made it to the top-selling sci-fi franchises list.
Total worldwide gross: $1,868,176,773
Number of films: 4
10. Men in Black (1997-present)
Also known as MIB, this series of American sci-fi action-comedy was directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. The series was actually based on the Malibu/Marvel comic book series The Men in Black. The comic was written by Lowell Cunningham, and it was based on a conspiracy theory.
The first movie, Men in Black, was released in 1997. The fourth and the last movie so far, Men in Black: International, was a spin-off, and it was released in 2019. Are there more movies yet to come? No one knows for sure, but we all secretly hope.
Total worldwide gross: $1,915,759,789
Number of films: 4
9. Terminator (1984-present)
Terminator is another American sci-fi media franchise composed of a number of action films, comics, novels, and even additional media. It was created by Gale Anne Hurd and James Cameron. The whole franchise is based on a war between Skynet, their self-aware military machine network, and John Connor’s Resistance forces. Basically, it’s a war between Skynet’s various terminator models (such as the most famous one -T-800, portrayed by Arnold Schwarzenegger).
Since its first movie release in 1984, the franchise became so well-known that in the year of 2008, The Terminator was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States National Film Registry. If this doesn’t make it worthy of making the 15 top-selling franchises of all time, then we’re not sure what would.
Total worldwide gross: $2,105,699,296
Number of films: 5
8. Planet Of The Apes (1968-present)
Planet of the Apes is one of the most interesting American sci-fi media franchises. It was based on Pierre Boulle’s 1963 novel La Planéte des singes, translated into English as Planet of the Apes or Monkey Planet. The first movie adaptation, which dates back to 1968, was a commercial hit! So it’s of no surprise that it initiated a series of sequels. So far, the last movie, War for the Planet of the Apes was made in 2017, but in 2019 Disney acquired the entertainment assets of 21st Century Fox – so, be prepared for more sequels!
This franchise has received particular attention among film critics because of its animal rights and Cold War themes, along with racial issues. Not only did the series influence the media, but it also made a huge impact on popular culture as a political discourse. We think this makes it worthy of being on the top-selling sci-fi franchises list, don’t you?
Total worldwide gross: $2,203,568,141
Number of films: 9
7. Star Trek (1966-present)
This American media franchise was based on the sci-fi television series by Gene Roddenberry. The first television series, Star Trek was made in 1966 and aired for three seasons on NBC. The series is now referred to as The Original Series.
Since then, the Star Trek franchise came to include the original series, seven spin-off television series, three animated series, and thirteen movies. A new movie is set to be released on December 22, 2023. Will the new release help in making a lower number on the top-selling sci-fi franchises list? We will find out soon!
Total worldwide gross: $2,266,723,196
Number of films: 13
6. Godzilla (1954-present)
Godzilla, also known as Gojira, is a Japanese media franchise created and owned by Toho Co., Ltd. This franchise is thought to be one of, if not the longest-running film franchise. After all, it has been in ongoing production since 1954! With 36 movies so far, it even passed Marvel Cinematic Universe, which released 28 movies.
Godzilla’s popularity isn’t surprising though; the popularity of the first movies led to expansion to other media, such as video games, television, and even music. Godzilla has become one of the most recognizable symbols in Japanese popular culture, and it remains an example of the tokusatsu subgenres in Japanese entertainment.
Total worldwide gross: $2,567,359,971
Number of films: 36
5. The Hunger Games (2012-2023)
Composed of sci-fi dystopian adventure films, The Hunger Games film series is based on the trilogy of novels by the same name, written by Suzanne Collins. The films are produced by Nina Jacobson and Jon Kilik and distributed by Lionsgate.
The first three films set various box office records, such as records for the opening day and the biggest opening weekend, so it shouldn’t be surprising that the movie made the 15 top-selling sci-fi franchises list.
Total worldwide gross: $2,968,191,442
Number of films: 4
4. Transformers (2007-present)
Transformers is a series of American sci-fi action films. The Transformers franchise began in the 1980s and it is present to this day. A seventh film, Rise of the Beasts is set to be released in 2023, as a sequel to Bumblebee.
While the original Transformers series have received mostly negative critics, Bumblebee received highly positive reviews. It is the 13th highest-grossing film series, with a total of $4.8 billion, which is exactly why the franchise made this top-selling sci-fi list.
Total worldwide gross: $4,853,126,073
Number of films: 7
3. Jurassic Park (1990-present)
Jurassic Park, also known as Jurassic World, is a sci-fi media franchise. It is another American hit that began in 1990 when Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment bought the rights to Michael Crichton’s unpublished novel of the same name.
The movie received a 3D re-release in 2013, and was selected for preservation in the United State National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant“. In 2015, the second trilogy began with the fourth film in the series. The movie grossed over $1.6 billion through the course of its theatrical run, which made it the third highest-grossing film at the time and the current top-selling sci-fi list of all time.
Total worldwide gross: $5,754,614,756
Number of films: 6
2. Star Wars (1977-present)
Star Wars is a multimedia franchise, created by George Lucas. It began with the first Star Wars movie made in 1977. Since then, the franchise became one of the most famous pop-culture phenomena. It expanded into various other films and media, including video games, novels, theme park attractions, and themed areas.
In 2020, its total value was estimated at around $70 billion, and it is currently the fifth highest-grossing media franchise of all time – which is exactly why it deserved a second place on the top-selling sci-fi franchises list.
Total worldwide gross: $10,315,843,646
Number of films: 12
1. Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008-present)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe is another American media franchise. It is based on a shared universe that’s centered on a series of superhero films produced by Marvel Studios. Since its beginning in 2008, the franchise even managed to surpass the Star Wars franchise with its commercial success.
Composed of various television series, short films, and literature, this franchise continues to inspire other film and television studios to create similar shared universes. The MCU has also inspired art exhibitions, two television specials, guidebooks for each film, and several themed attractions which made it the first franchise on the top-selling list.
Total worldwide gross: over $26,6 billion
Number of films: 28