The 7 best fantasy film franchises, ranked

Warner Bros. Pictures

Modern filmmaking techniques have greatly benefited the fantasy genre, with many film franchises that have shaped entire generations originating from this category. Weaving a magical world full of epic adventures, the film series is designed to amaze and captivate for a long time, with loyal fans flocking to the cinema with each new film.

The best fantasy film franchises are also often blockbusters with big budgets and high production values, allowing for the spectacular viewing experiences they offer. From the magical world of Harry Potter to the legendary tales of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, this film series depicts the extraordinary journey of iconic heroes 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 suspiciously to the side.
Buena Vista Image Distribution

The most popular adventure film series that brings exciting adventures on the high seas to screens around the world, The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise has thrilled many fans. Led by the charismatic and hilarious Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), the franchise follows the experiences of pirates and sailors at sea where they encounter mythical creatures and cursed treasure.

The first entry in the franchise, 2003’s The Curse of the Black Pearl, is still the best of his five films. Pirates of the Caribbean had its ups and downs, with the franchise being one that should have ended after their initial success. No matter how viewers and critics view it today, it cannot be denied that this film was successful enough to garner audiences around the world who eagerly flocked to the cinema with each new film. Only time will tell if the as-yet-untitled sixth film will have the same effect.

6. Avatar (2009 – )

A smiling Na'vi looks at the camera in Avatar: Waterway.
20th Century Studios

When director James Cameron created 2009’s Avatars, the film took the world by storm for its groundbreaking use of 3D technology and motion capture in telling its epic sci-fi story. Set on the lush and alien planet Pandora, the film chronicles the conflict between the native Na’vi population and human invaders who wish to exploit their home’s resources. The continuation of this battle will be shown in 2022 Avatar: Waterwaythe second installment in the franchise.

2009’s Avatars remains the highest-grossing film of all time, with box office earnings of $2.9 billion followed by the sequel’s 2022 earnings of $2.3 billion. While his latest film is far from a cutting-edge masterpiece, that hasn’t stopped fans from enjoying the visual spectacle. This also secures the future of the film series, with sequels expected to last for decades Avatars 3 (2025), Avatars 4 (2029), and Avatars 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 a wonderfully animated story that follows the story of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), who is introduced as a misfit in the world of Berk. The Viking soon proves himself to be talented when he befriends an elusive and powerful Night Fury, whom he names Toothless. Other films 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 films expanded the lore of HTTYD, with its world now filled 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 will return to the big screen on June 13, 2025, this time as a live-action reboot from Universal Pictures.

4. Chronicles of Narnia (2005 – 2010)

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

The Chronicles of Narnia brings CS Lewis’s classic fantasy novels to life through three nostalgic films, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005), Prince Caspian (2008), and The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010). It tells the story of ordinary children who discover a secret portal to a magical world called Narnia, where they are caught in a fierce battle between the forces of good and evil.

There are compelling stories of friendship, betrayal, and heroism to entertain audiences as they support adorable siblings forced to grow up too fast. The Pevensie siblings, Peter (William Moseley), Susan (Anna Popplewell), Edmund (Skandar Keynes), and Lucy (Georgie Henley), are greatly underrated compared to other fantasy heroes. Their bow will get another chance with upcoming adaptation by Netflixwith at least two films to be written and directed by BarbieGreta Gerwig.

3. The Story of the Dunes (2021 – )

Gurney saw 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 epic. Based on the famous unadapted novel by Frank Herbert, 2021 Sand dunes and 2024 Dune: Part Two centers on Timothée Chalamet’s Paul Atreides’ reluctant hero’s journey following his family’s tumultuous move to the unforgiving desert planet of Arrakis.

The first two films in the franchise benefited greatly from Villeneuve’s trademark finesse, with his meticulous attention to detail and talent for crafting beautiful set pieces that make for an immersive and riveting viewing experience. The film series balances complex storylines and expansive world-building while featuring a perfect cast ensemble. Hans Zimmer’s musical scores for both films are top notch. Of course, fans and critics are waiting to see if the director can keep the highly anticipated but unconfirmed final entry in the franchise going.

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

Harry holds his wand for the first time in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone.
Warner Bros. Pictures

The Harry Potter franchise is a cultural touchstone that is still hugely popular even though it first premiered over 20 years ago in 2001. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. Based on the works of British author JK Rowling, the eight films take fans into the magical world of magic, where young Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) learns important new skills and makes friends and enemies at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Harry Potter has become a global phenomenon, with the franchise, including its most recent entry Fantastic Beasts, grossing profits $9.5 billion around the world. In addition to its fantastical world and compelling narrative, the film also introduced legendary characters such as Harry, Ron Weasley (Rupert Grint), Hermione Granger (Emma Watson), and many more, many of whom would define their actors’ careers. 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. Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001 – 2003)

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

The Lord of the Rings trilogy by director Peter Jackson is still the best the best fantasy film franchise ever made. This sprawling fantasy epic is faithful to JRR Tolkien’s legendary novels, depicting a visually striking and lush Middle-earth where a dangerous journey to destroy the One Ring unfolds. All three films primarily focus on the hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) as he inherits the One Ring and embarks on a mission to Mount Doom to destroy it, with help from the newly formed Fellowship.

With well-written wizards, dwarves, humans, and more facing moral dilemmas as they embark on a dangerous mission across a beautiful but dangerous land, The Lord of the Rings is every fantasy fan’s dream come true. This trilogy is still one of the highest-grossing film series of all time thanks to its global box office earnings of $2.9 billion. It would even spawn a lesser-known prequel trilogy, The Hobbitand ongoing big-budget TV series from Amazon Prime Video, Ring of Power. However, none managed to beat the high standards set by the original trilogy, and it became a milestone not only in the fantasy genre but in cinematic history as a whole.

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