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7 best fantasy movie franchises, ranked

Neville, Hermione, Ron, and Harry inside a dark tunnel in HP and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
Warner Bros. Pictures

Modern filmmaking techniques have greatly benefitted the fantasy genre, with many movie franchises that have shaped entire generations coming from this category. Weaving magical worlds full of epic adventure, these film series were designed to amaze and captivate over a long period of time, with loyal fans flocking to cinemas with each new installment.

The best fantasy movie franchises are also often blockbusters with big budgets and high production values, which make the spectacular viewing experience they offer possible. From the wizarding world of Harry Potter to the legendary saga in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, these film series depict iconic heroes’ extraordinary journeys across fantastical worlds, inviting audiences along for the ride.

7. Pirates of the Caribbean (2003 – )

Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean, looking off to the side suspiciously.
Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

The most popular swashbuckling film series that brought exhilarating adventures on the high seas to big screens around the world, The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has thrilled countless fans. Led by the charismatic and humorous Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), the franchise chronicles pirates’ and sailors’ experiences on the ocean where they encounter mythical creatures and cursed treasures.

The first entry in the franchise, 2003’s The Curse of the Black Pearl, is still the best out of its five movies. The Pirates of the Caribbean has had its highs and lows, with the franchise being among those that should have ended after their initial success. However viewers and critics may view it now, there’s no denying it’s successful enough to have amassed a worldwide following that eagerly flock to cinemas with each new installment. Only time will tell if its sixth untitled movie will have the same effect.

6. Avatar (2009 – )

A smiling Na'vi looks at the camera in Avatar: The Way of Water.
20th Century Studios

When director James Cameron created 2009’s Avatar, it took the world by storm for its groundbreaking use of 3D and motion capture technology to tell its epic sci-fi story. Set on the lush and otherworldly alien planet of Pandora, it chronicles the conflict between the indigenous Na’vi and the human colonizers who want to exploit their home’s resources. The continuation of this battle is shown in 2022’s Avatar: The Way of Water, the second installment in the franchise.

2009’s Avatar remains the highest-grossing movie of all time, with its box office earnings of $2.9 billion closely followed by the 2022 sequel’s $2.3 billion earnings. While its latest film is far from a cutting-edge masterpiece storywise, that hasn’t stopped fans from enjoying the visual spectacle. This has also secured the future of the film series, with its expected sequels spanning decades and made up of Avatar 3 (2025), Avatar 4 (2029), and Avatar 5 (2031).

5. How to Train Your Dragon (2010 – )

Hiccup rides Toothless in How To Train Your Dragon.
DreamWorks Animation

Based on the book series by Cressida Cowell, How to Train Your Dragon (HTTYD) is an incredible animated saga that follows the story of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), who is introduced as a misfit in the world of Berk. The Viking soon proves himself talented when he befriends an elusive and powerful Night Fury, whom he names Toothless. The rest of the movies in the franchise depict the strength of their bond and how they help manage the complicated relationship between Vikings and dragons.

The franchise has three feature films so far, How to Train Your Dragon (2010), How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014), and How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019). Each of these movies expands on the lore of HTTYD, with its world now teeming with mythical creatures with all kinds of abilities. This rich setting, along with Hiccup’s inspiring coming-of-age story, has kept fans coming back for more. The beloved protagonist’s story is about to hit the big screens again on June 13, 2025, this time as a live-action reboot from Universal Pictures.

4. The Chronicles of Narnia (2005 – 2010)

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
Buena Vista Pictures Distribution

The Chronicles of Narnia brought the classic fantasy novels by C.S. Lewis to life through three nostalgic movies, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), Prince Caspian (2008), and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010). These tell the tale of seemingly ordinary children who discover a secret portal to a magical world called Narnia, where they’re caught in a raging battle between the forces of good and evil.

There were enchanting stories of friendship, betrayal, and heroism to entertain audiences as they rooted for the sweet siblings who would be forced to grow up too soon. The Pevensie siblings, Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), and Lucy (Georgie Henley), are severely underrated compared to other fantasy heroes. Their arcs will get another shot with the upcoming adaptation by Netflix, with at least two movies set to be written and directed by Barbie‘s Greta Gerwig.

3. The Dune Saga (2021 – )

Gurney looking at Paul in Dune: Part Two.
Warner Bros. Pictures

Already hailed as a modern masterpiece, director Denis Villeneuve’s take on the Dune saga translates the complex source material into a visually stunning sweeping epic. Based on the infamously unadaptable novels by Frank Herbert, 2021’s Dune and 2024’s Dune: Part Two are centered on the reluctant hero’s journey that Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides goes through following his family’s tumultuous move to the unforgiving desert planet Arrakis.

The first two films in the franchise greatly benefit from Villeneuve’s trademarks, with his meticulous attention to detail and talent for crafting gorgeous set pieces resulting in an immersive and mesmerizing viewing experience. The film series balances intricate story arcs and expansive world-building while featuring an impeccably cast ensemble. Hans Zimmer’s musical score for both movies is the perfect cherry on top. Of course, fans and critics are waiting to see if the director can stick the landing with a highly anticipated yet unconfirmed final entry in the franchise.

2. Harry Potter and the Wizarding World (2001 – 2011)

Harry holding his wand for the first time in Harry Potter and the Sorcerers Stone.
Warner Bros. Pictures

The Harry Potter franchise is a cultural touchstone that’s still massively popular despite first premiering over 20 years ago with 2001’s Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Based on the works of British author J. K. Rowling, the eight movies whisked fans away to the magical wizarding world, where the young Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) learns important new skills and makes friends and enemies at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Harry Potter became a global phenomenon, with the franchise, including its recent Fantastic Beasts entries, grossing a whopping $9.5 billion worldwide. Aside from its fantastical world and compelling narratives, it also introduced legendary characters like Harry, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), and more, many of whom would define the careers of their actors. With The Wizarding World setting up more spin-offs, video games, and even a Harry Potter TV series on Max, fans have no shortage of media to look forward to in the future.

1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001 – 2003)

Elijah Wood as Frodo Baggins reaching out for the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings- The Fellowship of the Ring
New Line Cinema

Director Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy is still the best fantasy movie franchise ever made. The sprawling fantasy epic does justice to J. R. R. Tolkien’s legendary novels, portraying a visually striking and lush Middle-earth where a perilous journey to destroy the One Ring unfolds. The three movies primarily focus on the hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) as he inherits the One Ring and sets out on a quest to Mount Doom to destroy it, with some help from the newly formed Fellowship.

With well-written wizards, dwarves, men, and more facing moral dilemmas as they embark on dangerous missions across beautiful yet treacherous lands, The Lord of the Rings is every fantasy fan’s dream come true. The trilogy is still among the highest-grossing film series of all time thanks to its global box office earnings of $2.9 billion. It would even spawn a less acclaimed prequel trilogy, The Hobbit, and an ongoing big-budget TV series from Amazon Prime Video, The Rings of Power. Nothing has managed to beat the high standard set by the original trilogy, however, with it serving as a landmark not just in the fantasy genre but in cinematic history as a whole.

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Saab Hannah
Saab whips up SEO-optimized articles as a writer for Digital Trends and updates top-performing articles on Collider.
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