The summer’s biggest movie franchises — ranked

Woody and Bo Peep in “Toy Story 4" and Spider-Man in “Spider-Man: Far From Home.”
(Pixar / Columbia Pictures)

Traditionally, the summer movie season has become synonymous with Hollywood’s biggest franchises. But as big titles invade every month in the moviegoing calendar (Disney’s mother-of-all-tentpoles “Avengers: Endgame” is already in theaters, and “Captain Marvel” — like “Black Panther” before her — grossed $1 billion worldwide in the first quarter of the year), it’s harder to tell which summer movies are truly events.

We’ve collected eight of this season’s key franchise releases (defining a franchise as a series with at least three installments) and ranked them according to average box office. It’ll be up to audiences to separate the true blockbusters from the wannabes.

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Tom Holland in Columbia Pictures' "Spider-Man: Far From Home"
(Courtesy of Sony Pictures / Sony Pictures)

1. Spider-Man: Far From Home (July 5)

Number of (Spider-Man) films: 9

Average box office: $290 million

Average Rotten Tomatoes score: 74%

Since 2002’s “Spider-Man,” Sony Pictures has kept its sole comic book franchise humming through an ever more complex web of reboots, sequels and spinoffs. Following up on Spidey’s highly successful re-introduction with 2017’s “Homecoming,” which fully immersed the character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Far From Home” takes the web-slinger — now played by Tom Holland — on a school trip to Europe with his friends, where he comes up against Jake Gyllenhaal’s villain Mysterio. The goal is to make it past “The Amazing Spider-Man,” which stalled out after its sequel.

Bo Peep introduces Woody to her best friend Giggle McDimples in a scene from "Toy Story 4"
(Pixar / Pixar)

2. Toy Story 4 (June 21)

Number of films in series: 4


Average box office (domestic): $284 million

Average Rotten Tomatoes score: 99%

Injecting a simple premise — toys that come to life — with savvy humor and heartstring-tugging emotion, 1995’s “Toy Story” made history as the first fully computer-animated feature-length film and set the template for all of Pixar’s smashes to follow. But two decades on and nine years after the beloved best picture-nominated “Toy Story 3,” Pixar pushes the franchise to an unprecedented fourth installment — with Sheriff Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the rest of the gang on a fresh adventure involving a new arts-and-crafts toy named Forky. Could audiences start to tire of this plaything?

Sophie Turner stars as Jean Grey in "X-Men: Dark Phoenix"
(Twentieth Century Fox)

3. X-Men: Dark Phoenix (June 7)

Number of films in series: 12

Average box office: $215 million

Average Rotten Tomatoes score: 74%


Released two years before “Spider-Man” and five before “Batman Begins,” Bryan Singer’s 2000 hit “X-Men” helped kick-start the modern superhero craze, introducing Professor Xavier, Wolverine, Magneto and the rest of the Marvel mutants. But as the franchise has sprawled through sequels, prequels and spinoffs like “Deadpool” and “Logan,” the reception among critics and audiences has swung between wildly enthusiastic and meh, and it remains to be seen where this delayed continuation from the underwhelming “X-Men: Apocalypse” — with “Game of Thrones” star Sophie Turner returning as Jean Grey — falls along that spectrum.

Chris Hemsworth with Tessa Thompson in a scene from "Men in Black: International"
(Giles Keyte / Sony Pictures Entertainment)

4. Men in Black: International (June 14)

Number of films in series: 4


Average box office: $207 million

Average Rotten Tomatoes score: 66%

Sony Pictures captured box office lightning in a bottle in 1997 when it paired Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as secret agents charged with keeping Earth safe from rogue intergalactic aliens. Now, after two sequels produced steadily diminishing returns at the box office, the studio is hoping to give the sci-fi comedy franchise a new lease on life, with Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson and Liam Neeson stepping in to try to replicate the unlikely chemistry of Smith and Jones.

Godzilla in Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' action-adventure "Godzilla: King of the Monsters"
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

5. Godzilla: King of the Monsters (May 31)

Number of films: 3

Average box office: $185 million

Average Rotten Tomatoes score: 75%


Technically the 35th installment in the venerable rampaging-giant-lizard franchise, “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” marks the third outing in Warner Bros.’ more recently minted “MonsterVerse” after 2014’s “Godzilla” and 2017’s “Kong: Skull Island.” Teeing up “Godzilla vs. Kong,” due next year, “King of the Monsters” will provide the latest test of the remaining appetite for a series that already holds the Guinness World Record for the longest continuously running movie franchise.

Luke Hobbs (Dwayne Johnson), Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham), and Hattie Shaw (Vanessa Kirby) t"Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw."
(Daniel Smith / Universal Pictures)

6. Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw (Aug. 2)

Number of films: 9


Average box office: $117 million

Average Rotten Tomatoes score: 57%

Since roaring out of the gate with “The Fast and the Furious” in 2001, this series has adhered to a simple (some would argue simple-minded) formula of muscle cars, musclebound stars and high-octane smashy-smashy to increasingly robust worldwide box office. But with “Hobbs & Shaw,” the franchise takes a somewhat risky left turn, spinning off Dwayne Johnson’s federal agent Luke Hobbs and Jason Statham’s mercenary Deckard Shaw in their own buddy action-comedy. Vin Diesel is nowhere in sight.

The Annabelle doll in New Line Cinema's horror film "Annabelle Comes Home"
(Courtesy of Warner Bros. Picture / Warner Bros. Pictures)

7. Annabelle Comes Home (June 28)

Number of films: 6

Average box office: $91 million

Average Rotten Tomatoes score: 58%


Centered on real-life paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren, 2013’s supernatural horror film “The Conjuring” scared up $137 million in grosses and strong reviews, kicking off a string of sequels and spinoffs that have delivered wildly varying critical and box office results. A sequel to a prequel to “The Conjuring,” 2017’s “Annabelle: Creation” was seen as one of the stronger installments but — in a summer that will also see Chucky reborn in a “Child’s Play” remake just one week earlier — it’s unclear how much appetite there is for scary-doll movies.

John Wick (Keanu Reeves) blasts his way out of the Moroccan Foundry in "John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum"
(Mark Rodgers / Lionsgate Home Entertainment)

8. John Wick Chapter 3: Parabellum (May 17)

Number of films in series: 3


Average box office: $68 million

Average Rotten Tomatoes score: 88%

A slick, hyper-violent action thriller starring Keanu Reeves as a hard-bitten assassin with nothing left to lose, 2014’s “John Wick” proved a surprise sleeper, spawning a cult franchise with its own increasingly ornate mythology. Impressively, the follow-up took in more than double the first film’s $43 million haul. But the third installment – with the now 54-year-old Reeves returning for more “gun fu”-style action – will truly test whether the series can continue along that trajectory.


Twitter: @joshrottenberg