“Despicable Me” came out while I was still in elementary school. Now, 14 years, two sequels and two spinoffs later, “Despicable Me 4″ is coming out.

I haven’t been part of the franchise’s target audience for the past four movies, but I’ve still seen every one of them — and I’m planning on seeing “Despicable Me 4,” too.

When I first saw “Despicable Me,” I was an instant fan. Like other kids with an appreciation for slapstick humor, toilet jokes and ridiculous accents, I was eager for sequels and, eventually, spinoff movies. As I grew, so did the “Despicable” franchise. Movies came out when I was in junior high, high school and college.

With each movie I saw, my investment in the franchise deepened. I’ve seen every other “Despicable Me” movie, so why stop now?

Franchise films also have a way of warmly welcoming audiences back by creating feelings of nostalgia.

“Nostalgia is the strongest sense,” said Fandom chief marketing officer Stephanie Fried, per Refinery 29. “It brings you back to a moment in your life that enables you to connect your past to your present in a very powerful way. That connection heightens your enjoyment when viewing content and brings more joy to the experience.”

As more “Despicable” movies come out, they attract a new generation of young fans while holding on to a committed group of grown-up fans — guaranteeing a lifetime of box office success.

‘Despicable Me’ — and other franchises — are thriving

“Despicable Me” was one of the highest box office successes of 2010, grossing more than $251 million domestically, per Box Office Mojo. Every “Despicable” installment since — including the “Minions” movies — has outdone the original.

As a whole, the franchise has raked in $4.6 billion — making it the highest-grossing animated film franchise of all time, per Collider.

Like the “Despicable” films that came before it, “Despicable Me 4,” is expected to be another box office hit. It is predicted to earn roughly $200 million globally during opening weekend, reports Deadline. If the movie does as well as it is expected to, it will make another franchise success at the box office.

It’s been been a sluggish year at the box office for original movies. Right now, the top eight highest-grossing movies of the year are all part of film franchises — a list which includes three animated movies (”Inside Out 2,” “Kung Fu Panda 4” and “The Garfield Movie”).

Audiences are more likely to pay to see a sequel than an original movie, which certifies box office success.

“Studios are inherently risk-averse, because they spend hundreds of millions of dollars on films with no guarantee that they’ll recoup their losses,” writes Forbes.

“It’s easy to see why sequels and reboots are so appealing — they come with a built-in ticket-buying fan base, and are proven to be profitable,” Forbes continues. “Moviegoers might grouse about the lack of original programming, but so long as they keep buying tickets, studios will keep making sequels.”

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Ranking ‘Despicable’ movies: How will ‘Despicable Me 4′ stack up?

Early reviews for “Despicable Me 4″ are in. How is it stacking up to the previous “Despicable” movies?

It’s getting a lot of mixed opinions from critics — but most say you can expect more of the same. Which, if you have enjoyed all the other “Despicable” movies, is probably a good sign.

“Sure it repeats everything it did the last three times, but thanks to Steve Carell’s lovable grump of a Gru and those wild and crazy Minions, the random lunacy remains hard to resist,” wrote ABC News.

“The ‘Despicable Me’ series has never taken itself very seriously, so the fourth film is hardly the obvious place to start,” said Variety. “The film’s pure entertainment value should count for something … and it does.”

But with so many “Despicable Me” movies, which one is the best? Here’s a ranking of the best movies in the franchise.

5. ‘Minions’ (2015)

“Minions” gives “Despicable” fans a glimpse at how these goofy, yellow, pill-shaped creatures came to be. As far as prequels go, it gives audiences a clever origin story. It gets tiring watching the minions bop from one evil leader to the next — we all know their true allegiance belongs only to Gru.

I love the minions as much as the next girl, but “Minions” might be a smidge too much of the minions. It’s undoubtedly funny, but the constant minion language and lack of dialogue gets old. I missed Gru in this movie.

4. ‘Despicable Me 3′ (2017)

Gru and Lucy are settled and enjoying work for the AVL (Anti-Villain League) when their peace is disrupted by Gru’s long-lost twin brother, Dru. This is the funniest part of the movie. Scheming between the two siblings is exactly what the franchise was missing.

Unfortunately, the villain of the movie, Balthazar Bratt, is really annoying. Bratt is a former ‘80s child star who still wears shoulder pads and cannot let go of his heyday. The ‘80s element is amusing, but Bratt’s personality is more irritating than it is funny.

3. ‘Despicable Me 2′ (2013)

Gru finally meets his match in Lucy Wilde, an agent with the AVL — who hopes to recruit Gru to the organization dedicated to fighting crime. Gru gets back in the game with sleek new gadgets, cool cars and funky weapons.

Watching him thrive as a villain-fighting father and fall in love with Lucy made for a worthy sequel.

2. ‘Minions: The Rise of Gru’ (2022)

I like kid Gru. He might be funnier that adult Gru.

Watching Gru and the minions learn what it takes to be the world’s most powerful supervillains makes for a lot of entertaining chaos.

1. ‘Despicable Me’ (2010)

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No matter how many sequels and spinoff the “Despicable” franchise makes, “Despicable Me” will not be topped.

We watch Gru steal the moon in a pink astronaut getup. We watch Vector and cookie robots. We see Gru adopting three girls for nefarious reason and then falling in love with being their father.

It’s kind of perfect.

Watch: Trailer for ‘Despicable Me 4′

“Despicable Me 4″ comes to theaters on Wednesday, July 3.

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