2002 was probably the true birth of the modern franchise machine, with a number of them producing sequels, seven in the top ten that were already or would soon spawn their own.
1. Spider-Man ($403 mil)
Marvel superheroes really began to take over at the box office with the massive success of the Webslinger, who looks fantastic in the CGI era swinging through New York City, only a few months removed from 9/11.
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers ($339 mil)
Gollum helps make Peter Jackson's Tolkien films officially capture the popular imagination.
3. Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones ($302 mil)
Part of what happened to the prequels is that they ran smack into the new franchise era Star Wars helped create in the first place, blockbusters guaranteed to draw huge audiences. This is the only time George Lucas doesn't hit the top spot with one of them. Still, audiences did enjoy "Yoda fu."
4. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets ($261 mil)
After wide audiences discovered the books everyone was reading actually did feature kids, the movies took a hit in popularity, and had to build themselves back up.
5. My Big Fat Greek Wedding ($241 mil)
This was the kind of thing that people at the time just kept participating in (like Titanic) but after probably had a hard time figuring out why.
6. Signs ($227 mil)
M. Night Shyamalan somewhat inexplicably has another huge hit, because audiences had not yet committed to the backlash.
7. Austin Powers in Goldmember ($213 mil)
Mike Myers discovered that it was indeed Mini Me who helped make the second one so massively popular.
8. Men in Black II ($190 mil)
Big success for the sequel that came five years later, but audiences immediately asked themselves why they returned. But then the third one proved popular, too.
9. Ice Age ($176 mil)
This is a franchise that audiences trained to respect only Pixar movies can't figure out, but it's really not that hard to enjoy.
10. Chicago ($170 mil)
Most musicals don't do nearly this well at the box office. Most of them aren't nearly this good.
11. Catch Me If You Can ($164 mil)
Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, and Steven Spielberg score big making a movie about a dude who faked a lot of checks. Also arguably John Williams' last memorable score.
12. Die Another Day ($160 mil)
Final Pierce Brosnan turn as James Bond is totally stolen by Halle Berry.
13. Scooby-Doo ($153 mil)
In a meta twist, the Buffy generation becomes the new Scooby gang.
14. Lilo & Stitch ($145 mil)
Disney scores one of its last traditional animation hits.
15. XXX (142 mil)
Vin Diesel attempts to create the American James Bond.
16. The Santa Clause 2 ($139 mil)
Tim Allen continues to make these movies.
17. Minority Report ($132 mil)
Spielberg has another big hit, this time starring Tom Cruise and Philip K. Dick.
18. The Ring ($129 mil)
The debut of the new American horror genre of movies based on Japanese horror hits.
21. The Bourne Identity ($121 mil)
Let's face it: Matt Damon is still an unlikely action star. But he's also far closer to the American James Bond than Vin Diesel.
22. The Sum of All Fears ($118 mil)
Ben Affleck helps torpedo this phase of his career by attempting to take over the Jack Ryan franchise. Which means audiences prefer Matt Damon as an action star. (Although neither one should be.)
23. 8 Mile ($116 mil)
Confirmation about Eminem's cultural impact in that this movie based on and starring Eminem is a huge hit. Thankfully he does not continue making movies.
24. Road to Perdition ($104 mil)
Tom Hanks is a gangster. But with awesome co-stars: Paul Newman, Daniel Craig.
26. Maid in Manhattan ($94 mil)
Jennifer Lopez in a popular hit.
28. Red Dragon ($93 mil)
Remaking Manhunter, the film debut of Hannibal Lecter, with Anthony Hopkins.
29. The Scorpion King ($91 mil)
Dwayne Johnson makes a pretty successful debut as movie star.
31. Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams ($85 mil)
Robert Rodriguez continues to have a hit in this franchise. For now.
32. Blade II ($82 mil)
Guillermo del Toro launches his popular career and keeps Blade relevant.
35. Gangs of New York ($77 mil)
Daniel Day-Lewis gives a preview of There Will Be Blood and Martin Scorsese has for him a pretty huge hit.
41. Insomnia ($67 mil)
Christopher Nolan in his first wide success.
54. Star Trek: Nemesis ($43 mil)
This is how the previous incarnation of Star Trek as a movie franchise died. Bonus points, however, in the secret origin of Tom Hardy and pretty much everything about his Bane from The Dark Knight Rises.
55. Reign of Fire ($43 mil)
And hey! Here's Batman, Christian Bale!
56. The Hours ($41 mil)
Here's Nicole Kidman winning her Oscar!
64. Resident Evil ($40 mil)
Milla Jovovich at the start of an enduring franchise.
99. The Transporter ($25 mil)
Jason Statham at the start of an enduring franchise.
102. Adaptation ($22 mil)
Nicolas Cage plays opposite himself. It's completely awesome.
109. Hart's War ($19 mil)
Colin Farrell stars in a Bruce Willis movie.
113. Punch-Drunk Love ($17 mil)
One of Adam Sandler's best movies is pretty dark. Hence not huge popularity.
124. Solaris ($14 mil)
George Clooney does science fiction. But dark.
129. The Good Girl ($14 mil)
One of Jennifer Aniston's best.
137. 25th Hour ($13 mil)
One of the best for Edward Norton and Spike Lee.
146. Narc ($10 mil)
Critically successful wide debut for Joe Carnahan.
156. Big Trouble ($7 mil)
Hilarious ensemble comedy based on a book by Dave Barry.
177. The Adventures of Pluto Nash ($4 mil)
Infamous Eddie Murphy bomb.
224. Equilibrium ($1 mil)
Christian Bale again, this time in a movie that looks aesthetically very similar to The Matrix.
Source: Box Office Mojo