The history of the Academy Awards often shows that most of the films that win them are standalone pictures. They’re typically “Oscar bait” films seemingly designed to be just what the Academy looks for. Meanwhile, most movie franchises are big-budget blockbusters meant to please the audience rather than those giving out awards.
Of course, there are some exceptions to that rule, with several franchises racking up the wins. Some iconic series never won any, while some, like Harry Potter, have a single Oscar. A few franchises won several despite them only coming from a single entry. Regardless, they all deserve praise for what they accomplished on Oscar night.
Updated on March 3rd, 2022 by Kevin Pantoja: With another Academy Awards ceremony on the horizon, now is the best time to look back at its history and see which franchises have been the most successful. Certain film series have managed to come away with several Oscar victories in a handful of categories. While winning Best Picture isn’t something that happens often with these franchises, you’ll be able to find plenty that took home prizes for music, makeup, cinematography, costume design, and more. These are some of the most popular and famous films in history and they’ve also been critically acclaimed, at least for some aspects.
Sony’s Spider-Man (2)
For as long as there have been live-action Spider-Man movies they have been made by Sony Pictures. Even the Tom Holland era that is part of the MCU is still in Sony’s hands. However, the studio actually won two Oscars for Spider-Man movies that have nothing to do with the MCU.
First, there was Spider-Man 2, which took home the Oscar for Best Visual Effects while also being nominated for Sound Editing and Sound Mixing. The bigger win came over a decade later when Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, arguably the best Spider-Man film ever, won Best Animated Feature.
The Dark Knight Trilogy (2)
As noted, there are some series where only one of the movies got multiple Oscar wins and The Dark Knight trilogy falls into that category. Christopher Nolan’s gritty take on DC Comics’ Caped Crusader started with Batman Begins, which was up for Best Cinematography.
It lost but the sequel proved to be a massive success. Not only did it surpass $1 billion at the box office but it took home two of the eight Oscars it was nominated for. Richard King won for Best Sound Editing, while the late Heath Ledger won Best Supporting Actor for his portrayal of The Joker.
Wallace & Gromit (3)
It will likely come as a surprise to learn that Wallace and Gromit is a franchise that won multiple Oscars. While it is a series that often received great reviews from critics, it’s certainly not among the most popular or one with a huge box office intake.
Despite that, it has actually earned an impressive three Academy Awards. It is a two-time Best Animated Short winner for A Grand Day Out and A Close Shave before winning Best Animated Feature for Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. For that win, it beat Corpse Bride and Howl’s Moving Castle.
Marvel Cinematic Universe (3)
Although the MCU has become a massive franchise, it hasn’t quite had the Oscars success to match it. Before 2019, it had received 10 total nominations, all in categories for Visual Effects, Sound Editing, and Makeup and Hairstyling. Black Panther changed that.
In 2019, Black Panther itself was up for seven Academy Awards and it took home three of them. It won for Best Production Design, Costume Design, and Original Score. These three victories remain the only ones the MCU has secured during its decade-plus history.
When Alien was released in 1979, it was truly something groundbreaking. Ridley Scott delivered an intense film unlike any other and it ended up spawning a pretty expansive franchise. The first three entries all scored nominations, as did Prometheus years later.
The original installment won for Best Visual Effects but lost in Art Direction. Aliens was nominated in seven categories, winning Best Visual Effects and for Best Sound Effects Editing. It was in that entry that Sigourney Weaver got a Best Actress nod, though she didn’t win.
The Matrix (4)
Although it has spawned multiple sequels, pretty much everyone agrees that 1999’s The Matrix remains the high point of the franchise. The film blew away audiences with the special effects and the vrtual reality story actually would’ve worked well as a standalone film instead of getting lesser sequels.
In fact, it’s the original movie that earned the franchise all four of its Oscars. It earned the trophy for Best Sound Editing, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, and of course, Best Visual Effects. It actually felt like nobody else really had a chance to win Visual Effects against it.
The Terminator (4)
Along the same lines as The Matrix, The Terminator is a franchise that has seen some major struggles with later installments. However, it actually had two entries that were well-received and still hold up as classics. As great as the original was, Terminator 2: Judgment Day won four Academy Awards.
The win for Best Visual Effects makes a ton of sense given that the film’s special effects still look great today against modern technology. It also left with wins for Best Sound, Best Makeup, and Best Sound Effects Editing.
Toy Story (4)
There’s a very good chance that Pixar’s Toy Story series would have more wins if the Best Animated Feature category was introduced earlier. That award didn’t debut until 2001, so Toy Story and Toy Story 2 couldn’t win it, which they very likely would have.
Alas, this franchise has still accomplished a lot. The original was later given a deserving Special Achievement Award. The third and fourth entries both won Best Animated Feature and Toy Story 3 was also nominated for Best Picture while winning Best Original Song.
This is another case of a franchise winning multiple Oscars and having all of them come from the same film. The Silence of the Lambs won all five Academy Awards, while sequels like Hannibal and Hannibal Rising were met with a mixed response.
1991’s The Silence of the Lambs is an all-time great horror movie. It also made Oscars history by becoming the only horror film (and third overall) to win the five major categories including Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
James Bond (5)
It’s fitting that James Bond has won some Academy Awards since it has so many installments. There have been over 20 movies starring the titular character, with some truly great actors portraying him over the years including Daniel Craig, Timothy Dalton, and Sean Connery.
The first win dates back to 1965 as Goldfinger won Best Sound Effects. Thunderball won for Best Special Visual Effects a year later but Bond didn’t get another victory until 2013. Then, Skyfall won for Best Original Song and Best Sound Editing, before Spectre got another Best Original Song win.
Mad Max (6)
If the Mad Max series had stopped after the original films, it wouldn’t have even sniffed this list. Although the Mel Gibson-led era featured movies that were well-received and that fans enjoyed, none of them were ever nominated for an Academy Award.
That all changed with the release of 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road, which scored a whopping 10 nominations, including for Best Picture and Best Director. Ultimately, it won six for Costume Design, Film Editing, Sound Mixing, Sound Editing, Production Design, and Makeup and Hairstyling.
Indiana Jones (7)
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more iconic movie character than Indiana Jones. His first adventure, Raiders of the Lost Ark, really put him on the map and scored eight Oscar nominations, which is double what the rest of the series received.
Most of its wins also come for that entry, as it took home the prizes for Best Art Direction, Best Sound, Best Visual Effects, and Best Film Editing. It also was given a Special Achievement Award for Sound Effects Editing. The Temple of Doom won for Visual Effects and The Last Crusade won for Sound Effects Editing.
The Godfather (9)
There are many people out there who consider The Godfather and its sequel to be the best duology of films ever made, though the third installment received a much cooler response from critics and audiences. So, it lines up that the nine Oscar wins for the franchise came from the first two movies.
Both entries won the coveted Best Picture award, which is a rare feat. The first entry also won Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. Meanwhile, the sequel took home Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Original Dramatic Score, Best Art Direction, and Best Supporting Actor.
Star Wars (10)
Not only did Star Wars change the face of cinema but it also became one of the most popular franchises in history. The 1977 original was the most accomplished, winning Oscars for Original Score, Film Editing, Costume Design, Art Direction, Sound, and Visual Effects.
The Empire Strikes Back also won for Best Sound, bringing the total to seven. However, none of the nine Star Wars films to come after won Oscars, though the franchise has 37 total nominations. The other three awards were Special Achievement ones given to each film in the original trilogy.
The Lord Of The Rings (17)
Where Star Wars has 11 films and James Bond and the MCU have over 20 each, there are only three The Lord of the Rings movies, yet they easily have the most Oscars. The Fellowship of the Ring won four for Makeup, Cinematography, Original Score, and Visual Effects while The Two Towers won two for Best Sound Editing and Best Visual Effects.
The best was saved for last, though as The Return of the King made history. It swept the Oscars, winning all 11 categories it was up for. Those included Visual Effects, Film Editing, Original Score, Original Song, Sound Mixing, Costume Design, Makeup, Art Direction, Adapted Screenplay, Director, and the coveted Best Picture prize.
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