The series star Shailene Woodley and Theo James as lead characters Beatrice Prior (Tris) and Tobias Eaton (Four), respectively. The supporting cast includes Ansel Elgort, Zoë Kravitz, and Miles Teller. Kate Winslet played the main antagonist in the first two films. The first film in the series was directed by Neil Burger, while the second and third films were directed by Robert Schwentke.
The Veronica Roth novels consist primarily of the trilogy ('Divergent', 'Insurgent', 'Allegiant'). Development began in 2011 following Summit's acquisition of the film rights to the Divergent novel in partnership with production company Red Wagon Entertainment. The studios announced production on the sequel following the first film's strong performance in Thursday late-night screenings, where it grossed $4.9 million. They acquired film rights to the Allegiant novel in December 2013, deciding in April 2014 to split the third novel into a two-part film adaptation.
The first installment, Divergent (2014), grossed over $288 million worldwide, while the second installment, The Divergent Series: Insurgent (2015), grossed over $297 million worldwide. Insurgent was also the first Divergent film to be released in IMAX 3D. The third installment, The Divergent Series: Allegiant (2016), grossed $179 million. Thus, the first three films of the series have grossed over $765 million worldwide. A fourth film, The Divergent Series: Ascendant was to be released theatrically, but due to Allegiant's poor showing at the box office, it was announced it would be released as a television film that could lead into a potential episodic spin-off series on Starz. However, Woodley, along with other cast members, expressed no interest in returning.
In March 2011, Summit Entertainment picked up the rights for Divergent with Douglas Wick and Lucy Fisher's production company Red Wagon Entertainment, while Lionsgate distributes the franchise. Neil Burger was announced as the director on August 23, 2012. Evan Daugherty, who co-wrote the screenplay with Vanessa Taylor, said, "I get hung up on the toughness of the movie but of equal importance is the love story between Tris and Four. It's inherently and inextricably linked to Tris' character journey. There will be plenty of sexual tension and chemistry, but it's important that all of that stuff doesn't just feel like it's thrown in, but that it all helps Tris grow as a character." Daugherty further added, "It's tricky because the book is a very packed read with a lot of big ideas. So, distilling that into a cool, faithful two-hour movie is challenging. Not only do you have to establish five factions, but you have to acknowledge that there's a sixth entity, which is the divergent, and you also have the factionless. So there's a world that really has to be built out for the big screen… the movie is going to do it a little more efficiently." Author Veronica Roth said about the script of the film: "Reading a script is a really interesting experience. I'd never read a script before. I was really impressed by how closely it stuck to the general plot line of the book."
Initially, the budget of the film was $40 million but later Lionsgate increased it to $80 million (which finally changed to $85 million) due to the success of The Hunger Games. Analyst Ben Mogil said, "Divergent is more similar to Hunger Games in that the company owns the underlying economics (i.e. production) and the budget (at $80) is more manageable."
In December 2013, Summit Entertainment announced that a film adaptation of Insurgent, the second novel in the Divergent trilogy, would be released as The Divergent Series: Insurgent on March 20, 2015, as a sequel to the film adaptation of Divergent with Brian Duffield originally chosen to write the script for the film. On December 16, 2013, it was announced that Neil Burger, director of Divergent, would not return to direct Insurgent as he was still working on the first film. On February 13, 2014, it was announced that Robert Schwentke was offered the director position for the film and that Akiva Goldsman had been hired to re-write Duffield's script.
Also in December 2013, Summit Entertainment announced that the film adaptation of Allegiant, the third and final novel in the Divergent trilogy, would be released in March 2016, serving as the finale of the series, which at the time was planned as a trilogy, but on April 11, 2014, the studio decided to split the novel into a two-part film, much the like the Harry Potter, Twilight, and Hunger Games franchises did with the finales of their series. Lionsgate Motion Picture Group co-chairmen Rob Friedman and Patrick Wachsberger said in a statement that, "Veronica Roth brings her captivating story to a masterful conclusion in 'Allegiant,' a rich, action-packed book with material that is ideally suited to two strong and fulfilling movies. The storytelling arc and world of the characters lend themselves perfectly to two films, a storytelling strategy that has worked very well for us on the two Twilight Breaking Dawn films and about which we're tremendously enthusiastic for the two upcoming Mockingjay films of The Hunger Games franchise". Noah Oppenheim was announced as the screenwriter for the first part of the Allegiant adaptation on July 9, 2014. On December 5, 2014, it was announced that Robert Schwentke will return to direct Part 1. On September 10, 2015, it was announced that the two films would be re-titled, with Part 1 being renamed as The Divergent Series: Allegiant and Part 2 as The Divergent Series: Ascendant.