Lately, our society has become obsessed with lists: the best rock videos of all time, the best cities to live in, the best stocks of the past decade. Well, as a 21-year veteran of "best" lists, we've done these listers one better.

Following is our list of the "best of the best" franchises. For those of you not content with our annual Franchise 500® listing, which ranks almost 700 franchises in our countdown to the No.1 franchise, we've skimmed the top of 13 categories. The result? The best of the best in industries ranging from automotive to children's products, from computers to training services. Turn the page, and you'll see McDonald's (our top franchise of 2000) doesn't have a corner on every market, even if it has a market on practically every corner.

Of course, if anyone wanted to rank franchise listings, we'd probably, of course, boast the best. Entrepreneur's Franchise 500® survey is not only the original, but also the world's most comprehensive listing of franchise companies. Still, even the best ranking and the best franchises won't add up to the best investment for you if you fail to do your due diligence. The following list is not intended to endorse any particular franchise, but should instead serve as a starting point in your independent research. Only after analyzing a company's literature, visiting existing franchisees and consulting with an attorney and accountant will you be able to make the very best decision for your future.

For the complete Franchise 500® listing, see the January issue of Entrepreneur or visit www.entrepreneur.com.