Are you trying to come up with Hollywood’s next great movie franchise? The movie business is more franchise focused than ever before and studios are always looking for the next big idea. Now, it looks like at least one key ingredient to the magic formula of box office success has been discovered. When crafting your hero, make sure to kill off his parents. The more violently the better.
It turns out, that if you make a cursory examination of the top film franchises in box office history you’ll discover that more than half of them contain heroes who are orphans. An eagle eye over at Reddit put the pieces together. In six of the top 10 grossing franchises, our hero either has no parents at all or, grows up without knowing them and believes that they are dead. In order of box office success, the franchises are:
Lord of the Rings
Pirates of the Caribbean
At the top of the list, we, of course, have one of the most famous orphans in all of literature and film. Harry Potter’s parents were brutally killed by Lord Voldemort. James Bond’s parents died in a mountain climbing accident in the French Alps, because James Bond is so debonair that even his parents’ death had to occur in the most upper-class way possible. In Lord of the Rings there's Frodo, who in the books is revealed to be an orphan since age 12. Technically Luke Skywalker isn’t an orphan as his father is still alive, but he doesn’t know that until he’s already an adult. Poor Spider-Man has his parents die, so he’s raised by an aunt and uncle. Then the uncle dies just to drive the whole "tragic hero" thing home. Orlando Bloom’s Will Turner believes his father is dead and grows up without him. Even Captain Jack Sparrow, who does have a father, grew up mostly without him. And honestly, when your dad is Keith Richards, that’s probably best. Finally, you have Batman. If there’s an orphan more famous in the world than Harry Potter it’s Bruce Wayne. His entire character exists because he’s an orphan.
There are some exceptions to the "orphan rule" of course. For example, Fast and Furious movies do not have any significant orphans, so it is possible to make a successful franchise without dead parents, but it does seem to be a good start. We assume the reason orphans are required is because if any of these characters had parents, they would have told their kids to stay home where it’s safe, so the big epic journey would never have happened.
So remember, the best heroes have dead parents. The earlier they die, and the more brutal the fashion, the stronger your hero will eventually be, and the more money he’ll make in movie theaters.