What are the Top 10 Movie Franchises of 2012?

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As franchises become more of the norm in Hollywood, 2012 proved to be a blockbuster year in terms of box office and quality for movie series. It seems like every other week a new sequel or series made its debut, most notably with The Twilight Saga closing with Breaking Dawn Part 2, and The Dark Knight Rises ending Christopher Nolan’s chapter of the Batman story. As we continue our look back at the best of the year, after yesterday's Top 10 Horror Movies of 2012, today we present the Top 10 Franchise Movies of 2012.

10. The Expendables 2
Sylvester Stallone did what franchises do best with each successive installment, increase the firepower, literally and figuratively with The Expendables 2. He expanded parts for Bruce Willis and Arnold Schwarzenegger and added action icons Chuck Norris and Jean-Claude Van Damme to the mix. The fact that the second film was better than the first didn't hurt prospects for this franchise to continue.

Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren in The Expendables 2
9. Breaking Dawn Part 2
The braintrust behind the close of The Twilight Saga scored points for sending its franchise out on a high note. As stated in our Breaking Dawn Part 2 review, it is by far the best of the series. That doesn't necessarily make a great movie series, but it does have the most passionate fan base in the movie business right now. And the fact that there is even discussion that the film series could continue should creator Stephenie Meyer want to... this is a franchise that in many ways could just be beginning to blossom.

8. Prometheus
Although leading up to the release of Prometheus filmmaker Ridley Scott swore that his latest work was not in the Alien universe, upon its release, audiences learned otherwise. Therefore, in terms of the Alien franchise, Scott has done the series a decent service by taking us back to the beginning to learn what led to the world we know that is ruled by Ripley in subsequent installments. Many felt it disappointed, but when expectations are so high for a beloved franchise, it is impossible to please everyone. Prometheus gets better with repeated viewings and shows why Scott is already planning another in the series.

7. Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted
Those Central Park Zoo zanies went at it again in Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted and scored on so many levels. The gang famously escaped their zoo in the first Madagascar and got comfortable in Africa in the second film, but it was in the third film that the series took on a more adventurous tone. They introduced a villain (who could easily be on our Top 10 Villains of 2012 list) with Frances McDormand's Captain Chantel DuBois, an animal control worker hot on the trail of our heroes. And believe it or not... they have the best chance of getting home in this latest installment. Think there will be a Madagascar 4? Bet on it. And we want more Madagascar 3 Afro Circus!

6. The Bourne Legacy
Continuing the Bourne series seemed like a risky idea, especially when star Matt Damon announced he would not return. But, filmmakers persevered and scored when they cast Jeremy Renner in the role of Aaron Cross, proving that Jason Bourne was merely one of a slew of chemically altered soldiers. Add Rachel Weisz as a whip-smart scientist who may or may not be a love interest for Cross, and filmmaker Tony Gilroy hit pay dirt with The Bourne Legacy. Look for this franchise to continue, and most likely see the return of Damon with Renner in the next installment.

Rachel Weisz Jeremy Renner The Bourne Legacy
5. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey
Returning to Middle Earth had to be a worry for director Peter Jackson. With his last installment of The Lord of the Rings series, he earned Oscar gold as Best Director and Best Picture. It's hard to compete with yourself! Yet, as we state in our The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey review, Jackson manages to make a familiar world seem strangely new. Old characters return and audiences are treated to the story of Bilbo Baggins (Frodo even makes an appearance!) and how he met Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and their effort to help a team of dwarves retake their mountain home. The second and third installments arrive in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

4. The Dark Knight Rises
Christopher Nolan said goodbye to the franchise he started with Batman Begins and sent the Caped Crusader off into the sunset (or is it Paris?) with a final foray in The Dark Knight Rises that is equal parts character study and traditional good-versus-evil fight, while possessing a twist at the end that fans of the series did not see coming. We'll miss you, Mr. Nolan... and you too, Christian Bale.

3. The Hunger Games
The only film on this list that is truly beginning a franchise, The Hunger Games landed in March and exploded onto the pop culture consciousness. Suzanne Collins' book came to life with impeccable detail by screenwriter and director Gary Ross. Jennifer Lawrence could not have been more perfect for the role of Katniss and through her, audiences that did not read the books, learned firsthand why fans of the series are so passionate about this futuristic world. We had to know a phenomenon was starting as soon as that first The Hunger Games trailer hit!

2. Skyfall
James Bond came back with a vengeance, as we stated in our Skyfall review. The flick was the best in decades and that largely had to do with star Daniel Craig feeling comfortable in his own tuxedo, Judi Dench's commanding presence and director Sam Mendes fulfilling a lifelong dream to direct Bond. It all added up to a 23rd edition of James Bond that has become the highest grossing in the entire series.

Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans in The Avengers

1. The Avengers
The Avengers had several things going for it. First and foremost, producers did well in choosing Joss Whedon to direct. Who else could have managed all those characters in one film? Also, it effortlessly bridged the slew of films that had come before it, such as Iron Man and Iron Man 2, Captain America and Thor. It was not so much of a sequel as a true definition of a franchise movie. All of Marvel's major players were present and the entire thing added up to not only the best franchise film of 2012, but one of the best of the year... period.

Honorable mentions: Step Up Revolution, Ice Age: Continental Drift, Men in Black 3, Resident Evil: Retribution, Taken 2, The Amazing Spider-Man, Dredd 3D

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