Dec. 14, 2012 -- intro: Though Harry Potter is the box office's highest grossing film franchise, according to Forbes, Lord of the Rings is a serious contender, with new films hitting screens.
The latest movie in the Lord of the Rings series, "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey," is out today. It is the first of three films to be drawn from J.R.R. Tolkien's book, "The Hobbit."
"This past summer the wise (some might say greedy) men at Warner Bros. decided to split "The Hobbit" into three separate movies," wrote Dorothy Pomerantz of Forbes. "The move left many scratching their heads. The Hobbit is the slimmest of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings novels at only one-quarter the length of the other three books combined. Can it work as three movies?"
They have a long way to go to beat the 8-film adaption of the 7-book Harry Potter series, which has earned $7.7 billion. The Lord of the Rings films have earned $2.91 billion in ticket sales so far, ranking the series ninth among franchises.
Forbes used data from Box Office Mojo to compile its list of global box office hits, not adjusting for price inflation.
Here are the top eight highest-grossing film franchises:
quicklist: media: 17966548 title: Harry Potter text:
All about "the boy who lived," the Harry Potter films, released between 2001 and 2011, also saw the growth of its three main child actors -- Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson -- over a decade, all while filling the coffers of the filmmakers and the woman behind it all, J.K. Rowling, who wrote the books that inspired the movies.
quicklist: media: 17966517 title: Star Wars text: The second-highest-grossing film series on the list is George Lucas' Star Wars. There have been seven films so far, including the animated film, "The Clone Wars," from 2008. But Disney, ABC News' parent company, has acquired Lucasfilm and announced it will release another film in 2015.
quicklist: media: 17966527 title: James Bond text: The third-highest-grossing series, the James Bond films, are also the longest-lasting, according to Forbes. In the span of 50 years, there have been 24 films starring seven different dashing action heroes. The latest acting Bond, Daniel Craig, starred in the most recent film "Skyfall." Earning $873 million, "Skyfall" is the highest-grossing film in the series, $270 million more than the second highest "Casino Royale," reported Forbes. In Photos: James Bond, Disney "Pop Culture" Items Auctioned
quicklist: media: 17966507 title: Pirates of the Caribbean text: With four films so far and one on the way, the Disney series has earned $3.73 billion. With Johnny Depp starring as a swaggering pirate, amazing special effects and a timeless legacy from an amusement park, the series may climb up the list further. Forbes pointed out that the most recent film, "On Stranger Tides," earned 77 percent of its $1 billion earnings outside the U.S.
quicklist: media: 17966412 title: Batman text: Though it didn't get a single nomination for the 2013 Golden Globes, "The Dark Knight Rises" can boast major box office success despite the tragic shooting in Colorado that cast a shadow over its opening weekend. The film series has earned $3.7 billion and the most recent film was the highest grossing.
quicklist: media: 17966401 title: Shrek text: In addition to the four Shrek films, there was "Puss in Boots," which earned a "respectable" $555 million, Forbes said. Altogether, the film series has earned $3.51 billion.
quicklist: media: 17966335 title: Spider-Man text: The four Spider-Man films, starring Tobey Maguire then Andrew Garfield in the most recent film, "The Amazing Spider-Man," have grossed $3.25 billion. "Only five years separate the third Spider-Man movie from the franchise's recent reboot," Forbes wrote. "This superhero will likely keep swinging for years to come."
quicklist: media: 17966285 title: Twilight text: The five films in the Twilight saga, based on the four-book series by Stephanie Meyer, have earned $3.22 billion. Despite fan frenzy over real-life romantic drama between its lead actors, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, the most recent film, "Breaking Dawn Part 2," has earned $707 million