Movie Franchise Fandom Ranked

By  · Published on November 11th, 2015

Paramount Classics

You love a movie series so much that you dress up like one of its characters, attend conventions and/or other events specifically geared to its fans and you have a room that looks like a shrine to its actual props, replica props and official merchandise. And you’re going to throw some money at the next documentary crowdfunding on Kickstarter or Indiegogo focused on you and the rest of the hardcore fans of that movie franchise. If that franchise is Ghostbusters, then you’re currently excited about Ghostheads, a doc presently raising money through its fanbase that’s not only being crowdfunded but also crowdsourced – that is, much of its footage is submitted by the fans themselves.

By the time the campaign for Ghostheads is done, we’ll get to see if fandom for Ghostbusters is greater than, say, the cult devoted to Back to the Future or Indiana Jones. How so? Well, it’s not scientific, but we can definitely judge the support for each franchise property based on how successful its doc’s crowdfunding efforts went. And for those fanbases that got docs before crowdfunding became a thing, based on how successful the doc’s theatrical run went. Obviously there’s a big gap in data for each given they’re probably being watched more on home video and by fans who wouldn’t or couldn’t help pay for them, but again this isn’t an academic study, just an observational report and ranking.

Below are 20 fandoms listed and ranked with info about their respective docs, how much was invested in them, how much they might have earned back and how popular they are according to DVD sales on Amazon and to the number of IMDb users who’ve rated them.

20. Frozen

Documentary: From Hans to Frozen: A Disney Inspired Documentary (2016?)
Money put in: $445 was tallied before the Kickstarter campaign closed, unfunded
Money earned: n/a
IMDb votes: n/a
Amazon DVD sales rank: n/a
Summary: Given the failure of its crowdfunding effort, it’s unknown if the one Frozen fan doc will ever even see the light of day.

19. The Poseidon Adventure

Documentary: Cult Culture: The Poseidon Adventure (2003)
Money put in: unknown
Money earned: unknown
IMDb votes: 20
Amazon DVD sales rank: n/a
Summary: Who knew there was a cult fanbase for The Poseidon Adventure?

18. Evil Dead

Documentary: Hail to the Deadites (2016)
Money put in: $4k (via Indiegogo)
Money earned: n/a
IMDb votes: n/a
Amazon DVD sales rank: n/a
Summary: That crowdfunding number for Hail to the Deadites is pretty disappointing, but we may know more on this one in the future seeing as it’s not done nor released yet.

17. Alien

Documentary: Alien Encounters: Superior Fan Power Since 1979 (2014)
Money put in: $15.2k
Money earned: unknown
IMDb votes: 27
Amazon DVD sales rank: n/a
Summary: I’d never even heard of Alien Encounters until doing a search of fandom docs, but that budget means someone sees the value in the Alien franchise’s fans. I wouldn’t be surprised if another doc pops up when the next Alien movie is set for release.

16. Rajnikanth Movies

Documentary: For the Love of a Man (2015)
Money put in: $18k (via Wishberry and Cinecrowd)
Money earned: unknown
IMDb votes: 16
Amazon DVD sales rank: n/a
Summary: After debuting at the Venice Film Festival, a doc about fans of Tamil cinema actor Rajnikanth is apparently doing well in Indian cinemas, but no reported numbers can be found.

15. Indiana Jones

Documentaries: Indyfans and the Quest for Fortune and Glory (2008) and Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made (2015)
Money put in: unknown
Money earned: unknown
IMDb votes (total): 151
Amazon DVD sales rank: #217,659 (Indyfans)
Summary: The first, low-budget doc arrived with the release of the disappointing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and so likely wasn’t itself received too well either. The second is more specifically about the fan remake of Raiders of the Lost Ark and has been popular on the festival circuit this year but apparently not enough for a theatrical release. We can expect a real fandom doc to crowdfund once the next sequel is finally locked down for production.

14. The Big Lebowski

Documentary: The Achievers: The Story of the Lebowski Fans (2009)
Money put in: unknown
Money earned: unknown
IMDb votes: 176
Amazon DVD sales rank: #96,417
Summary: The doc for this one doesn’t look popular from what little data is available, but it is distributed by Cinedigm, meaning it’s available all over the place and very likely seen by more than it seems.

13. The Lord of the Rings

Documentary: Ringers: Lord of the Fans (2005)
Money put in: unknown
Money earned: unknown
IMDb votes: 655
Amazon DVD sales rank: #65,008
Summary: This one definitely played theaters, but in the UK and other areas that aren’t showing up for box office results, and that was 10 years ago. It also played at Slamdance. It looks like very little money was spent on it.

12. Firefly/Serenity

Documentary: Done the Impossible: The Fans’ Tale of ‘Firefly’ and ‘Serenity’ (2006)
Money put in: unknown
Money earned: unknown
IMDb votes: 656
Amazon DVD sales rank: #62,918
Summary: I can only imagine that today a Firefly/Serenity fandom doc would raise a lot of money through crowdfunding, but it’s hard to find any financial info on Done the Impossible.

11. John Hughes Movies

Documentary: Don’t You Forget About Me (2009)
Money put in: unknown
Money earned: unknown
IMDb votes: 735
Amazon DVD sales rank: #45,085
Summary: Even if Hughes’ teen movies aren’t part of a shared cinematic universe, they’re almost like a franchise. There should be more Hughes movie cosplay. And a better doc about their fandom.

10. Ghostbusters

Documentary: Ghostheads (2016)
Money put in: $13k (via Indiegogo)
Money earned: n/a
IMDb votes: n/a
Amazon DVD sales rank: n/a
Summary: If the crowdfunding for Ghostheads continues as well as it’s doing by its halfway point, we can expect it will nearly reach its $30k goal. And I suspect this one will do pretty well when released simultaneously with the new Ghostbusters movie next year.

9. Harry Potter

Documentary: We Are Wizards (2008), The Wizard Rockumentary: A Movie About Rocking and Rowling (2008) and Tom Felton Meets the Superfans (2015)
Money put in: At least $10k (The Wizard Rockumentary)
Money earned: unknown
IMDb votes (total): 249
Amazon DVD sales rank: #185,237 (We Are Wizards)
Summary: Two of those docs are mainly about the phenomenon of Harry Potter fan bands, which is a pretty specific branch of fandom. The last one is a UK television special. It’s surprising there aren’t more, but at least We Are Wizards is a decent film.

8. Night of the Living Dead

Documentary: Doc of the Dead (2014)
Money put in: $29k was tallied before the Kickstarter campaign ended, unfunded
Money earned: unknown
IMDb votes: 933
Amazon DVD sales rank: #456,271 (Region 2 Blu-ray)
Summary: This is sort of a cheat since Doc of the Dead is more broadly about the zombie movie genre in general, but that would be nothing without the original George Romero classic. While Doc of the Dead wasn’t successful at crowdfunding, it did get made and released and has been seen by a good amount of people. And it’s not too bad.

7. Twin Peaks

Documentaries: Northwest Passage: A Doc About Growing Up in Twin Peaks (2016?)
Money put in: $62k (via Kickstarter)
Money earned: n/a
IMDb votes: n/a
Amazon DVD sales rank: n/a
Summary: The doc for this one isn’t quite focused on the show and movie’s fandom, but it’s relevant. We won’t know how well it’s received until it’s finished and released, but it overshot its crowdfunding goal by a couple grand so that’s a good sign.

6. Doctor Who

Doctor Who 50th Anniversary

Documentaries: Dalekmania (1995), Doctor Who in America (2012), Who’s Changing: An Adventure in Time With Friends (2014), Doctor Who: Celebrating 50 Years of Fandom (2014) and Whovians: A Documentary (2016?)
Money put in: At least $38k (Dalekmania and Whovians, the last via Indiegogo)
Money earned: unknown
IMDb votes (total): 103
Amazon DVD sales rank: #261,286 (Dalekmania)
Summary: I know it’s a TV show, but it has had movies in the past. Its representation here is decent with five docs and that first one having a budget equivalent to most of today’s fandom doc crowdfunding goals – though Whovians somehow only raised $95.

5. The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Documentary: The Rocky Horror Treatment (1981), A Regular Frankie Fan: Rocky Horror Lives On (2000) and Rocky Horror Saved My Life (2016)
Money put in: At least $67k (Rocky Horror Saved My Life, via Kickstarter)
Money earned: unknown
IMDb votes (total): 66
Amazon DVD sales rank: #155,858 (A Regular Frankie Fan)
Summary: The latest doc on Rocky Horror fandom won’t be out for another year, but it’s raised a good amount of money from its fanbase via crowdfunding.

4. Back to the Future

Documentaries: Back in Time: A Back to the Future Documentary (2015) and Back to the Future Again (2016?)
Money put in: $190k (reported budget for Back in Time, equal to the total of its two Kickstarter tallies)
Money earned: unknown
IMDb votes: 1,462
Amazon DVD sales rank: #3,931 (Back in Time Blu-ray)
Summary: I’ve excluded the DeLorean-focused doc Back to the DeLorean, which had a successful Kickstarter campaign a while back, and I thought about excluding Back to the Future Again since it’s unclear if it’s still happening. The recently released and well-hyped Back in Time is plenty successful and popular for Back to the Future fandom to place so high.

3. My Little Pony

My Little Pony and Sheep

Documentaries: Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony (2012), My Little Brony: Fandom is Magic (2013) and A Brony Tale (2014)
Money put in: At least $448k (Bronies, much of it via Kickstarter, and A Brony Tale)
Money earned: At least $62k (for Bronies, box office plus DVD sales)
IMDb votes (total): 1,808
Amazon DVD sales ranks: #52,555 (Bronies Blu-ray), #350,635 (My Little Brony), #117,250 (A Brony Tale)
Summary: Another franchise that’s more thought of for its TV series, but there have been a few My Little Pony: Equestria Girls movies and there’s a big theatrical feature planned for the future. Its fandom docs kind of seemed to blend together when released over a few years, and at least two have performed quite well. And A Brony Tale is actually very good.

2. Star Trek


Documentaries: Trekkies (1997), Trekkies 2 (2004), Trek Nation (2010), Back to Space-Con (2011) and Get a Life! (2012)
Money Spent: $387k (Trekkies and Back to Space-Con)
Money Earned: $617k (Trekkies)
IMDb votes (total): 5,899
Amazon DVD sales rank: #100,242 (Trekkies), #112,997 (Trekkies 2), #162,583 (Trek Nation), #205,039 (Back to Space-Con)
Summary: Trekkies remains the king of the fandom docs and Trekkies were the first real movie fan phenomenon, so Star Trek would place high even if there weren’t more films to come after. There are likely others that I’m unaware of. I didn’t include To Be Takei nor the upcoming For the Love of Spock because they’re more focused on the actors than their fans.

1. Star Wars

Documentaries: Millennium’s End: The Fandom Menace (2000), A Galaxy Far, Far Away (2001), Starwoids (2001), The PhanDom Menace (2002), Star Wait (2005), Galaxy’s End: Revenge of the Myth (2006), Heart of an Empire (2007), Jedi Junkies (2010), The People vs. George Lucas (2010), The People vs. George Lucas II (2015)
Money put in: At least $88k (The PhanDom Menace, Galaxy’s End and Heart of an Empire)
Money earned: unknown
IMDb votes (total): 4,281
Amazon DVD sales rank: #151,931 (A Galaxy Far, Far Away), #113,735 (Starwoids), #573,428 (The PhanDom Menace), #99,552 (Star Wait), #276,529 (Heart of an Empire), #23,139 (Jedi Junkies), #25,186 (The People vs. George Lucas)
Summary: Although the budgets and box office performance for Star Wars fandom docs is less, or at least harder to determine, than the Star Trek bunch, the number of them that are known to have been made since the anticipation of the prequels put this group ahead. We’ll probably be seeing even more of these kinds of films as the franchise continues outputting more installments, especially if they’re good again.

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Christopher Campbell began writing film criticism and covering film festivals for a zine called Read, back when a zine could actually get you Sundance press credentials. He's now a Senior Editor at FSR and the founding editor of our sister site Nonfics. He also regularly contributes to Fandango and Rotten Tomatoes and is the President of the Critics Choice Association's Documentary Branch.