No, not… I mean, MOVIE franchises.
Why make one good movie when you can make somewhere between three and a hundred movies of varying quality, right? Hollywood is ON BOARD with this notion. If a movie is released to more than 2000 theaters nationwide, you can almost bet someone behind it all envisions it becoming a sprawling film empire.
As someone who grew up reading comic books, I love the idea. In comics, the story never stops; it just continues onward in the next installment. So bringing that format to the movie screen is absolutely ideal. Sure James Bond saved the day NOW… but will he save the NEXT DAY? Stay turned in, like, two to three years!
At first, this seemed like a chore. TEN movie franchises? There was no way that I wasn’t basically saying “Well… this is KIND of okay…” for anything after the first four, right?
But, man… a quick Google search reminded me of how many series I hadn’t even initially considered. There are TONS of movie franchises. This was a breeze; I was going to legitimately love every entry on here.
(Well, almost, but you’ll get to #9 soon enough)
So what were the rules? Not much! There had to be at least three movies to be considered a “franchise”. From there, it was on each of us participating this week to self-impose whatever rules we want.
Is a director or studio a “franchise”? For me, it’s a no, but if someone wanted to bring up the idea that all Tarantino or Pixar movies exist in the same universes, I’d allow it. Do reboots “reset” a franchise? As you’ll eventually see, I decided no to that. Your standards might vary.
Before we get into the Top Ten, though…
“Hey, you idiot! What about ________?!”
So yeah, even cheating somewhat and including eleven in my top “ten”, and I can already imagine some of the backlash brewing. So let’s get right out in front of that and address some of the popular franchises–and even some that I love!–and why they didn’t make the cut.
James Bond – Probably the most glaring straight admission; the 007 franchise is one of the most noteworthy in history! And you know how many I have seen? One. Just Casino Royale with Daniel Craig. Hard to judge a franchise of, like, 50 movies when I have only been interested enough to check out one of them. I watched the first Austin Powers movie about a dozen times. Does that count for anything?
Mission: Impossible – Same! I have only seen Mission: Impossible 2–and I saw it in theaters, don’t laugh!–so I can’t gauge them. I have had Rogue Nation, Ghost Protocol, and Fallout on my Playlist for months, but I keep putting them off for shorter fare.
Friday the 13th – If you know me, you know I LOVE Friday the 13th. But that said… man, there are a lot of bad films there. I may love Jason as a character, but most of his flicks are just dumb fun at best. I’m sorry, Ms. Voorhees. I am for real.
The Cornetto Trilogy – Real talk? Hot Fuzz is my favorite movie ever. And Shaun of the Dead isn’t far behind it. But I don’t buy this as a franchise. The stories and characters are all different, and the worlds they inhabit can’t really be shared unless you REALLY exercise your imagination. Fantastic movies, all… but not a real “franchise”.
Back To The Future – It’s just been SO LONG since I’ve seen part 2 or 3; literally not since they came out on video in my childhood. Another of those “I keep wanting to [re]watch this but then not doing so”. I decided to go for series of which I have a more robust recollection.
10. The John Wick Saga
With a trilogy being the bare minimum of what we allowed as a “franchise”, John Wick squeaks onto the list at #10. That is more of an indictment on only three flicks being out than it is on their quality, though, as I have the Wick trilogy clocked in as a 4.5, a 3.5, and a 4.0 from beginning to end. It’s batting 1.000 in its releases, and if the fourth movie next year is of comparable quality, the Wick movies would legitimately jump as high as #5 on this very list. Maybe #4!
The Wick movies are an absolute blast, and I have reviewed them all during my Shelter-In-Place movie-thon. They are rewatchable despite not being amazingly deep, and Keanu absolutely commands in the role. Not much more I have to add to those thoughts; these are great and I want more so we can scoot this up the ladder.
9. The Star Wars Series / The Middle Earth Series (tie)
This is as close to pandering as I get.
Originally, I had neither of these franchises on the list. But I felt mighty uncomfortable about that. There were not TWO items I felt good about bumping, but I did chuck Jason out of the #10 spot to include these, which are probably some folks’ #1 and #2 in one order or another.
Let’s talk Star Wars first. I have seen five Star Wars flicks, and not necessarily the ones you’d recommend to someone first. In order, I have seen Return of the Jedi, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, Rogue One, and Solo. The last four I even saw in cinemas!
That is not to say I haven’t “seen” the original Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back; I have just never watched them sequentially or in their entirety. I have seen chunks! It was literally within the last year-plus that I found out there is a yeti in Empire! I had no idea that scene or any of the winter/snow stuff existed. So there are obviously gaps in what I’ve seen.
Even more so is the original film, where I can maybe recall 20 minutes’ worth of events. “You’re my only hope”. Getting stuck in a trash compactor. Vader cuts Obi-Wan in half. Luke shoots a hole in the Death Star. I have no idea what else happens. I doubt it’s true, but if you told me that immediately after Obi-wan dies, Luke goes out in his plane and blows up the Death Star, I’d be like “That makes sense; I can’t think of anything happening between those points”. Is that when he drinks blue milk or whatever?
Is… is that what happens? Star Wars might be a half-hour movie and I HAVE seen it.
That said… Jedi was fun enough and made me like Luke Skywalker as a character. Rogue One had moments, even if it was mostly forgettable. And I managed to completely miss the divisive recent trilogy AND Phantom Menace! So those seem like wins.
At this point, not having seen Star Wars and Empire Strikes Back is this weird quasi-badge-of-honor thing, so don’t expect me to. I’ve seen the Yoda training sequences; do I REALLY need to sit through all the snow stuff that apparently exists before it? Doesn’t seem likely.
Onto Lord of the Rings, and like Star Wars, I have seen 50% of them, but much more appropriately here. I saw the original trilogy, but none of the Hobbits. Lord of the Rings is weird in that I think the films are GORGEOUS and brilliantly shot and that the acting is absolutely top-shelf, but… something always feels “off” to me. Every single fight scene looks the same, and I grew increasingly bored with all the angry armies yelling and running into each other. Weird, right?
The Lord of the Rings trilogy is the height of “I respect this, but I don’t love it”. I thought it was impeccably made, and yet I also was not entertained.
So whereas I don’t dislike Star Wars or Middle-Earth, I’m just not a fan personally. But I do appreciate their cultural impact enough and the passion of their fans. And given the odd coincidence of having seen 50% of each series? That’s good enough for a ninth place tie. They’re both on the list; don’t come at me with a machete.
(Sorry again, Jason)
8. The Terminator Franchise
You know what helps with the Terminator movies? Never having seen Salvation or Genisys. I knew just the right time to duck out on these, and I popped back in for the acceptable Dark Fate.
I have heard tale of the fourth and fifth installments of this franchise being absolutely dreadful, and that’s a shame. The first two are both glorious. The dingy science fiction horror aesthetic of the original giving way to the brighter and more bombastic action-oriented sequel; what a juxtaposition. A great horror movie is followed up by what is only [likely] the single best action movie ever made.
Rise of the Machines is not up to the quality of its predecessors–and it often feels like it’s trying too hard–but it’s genuinely watchable. And the ending is exactly what it needed to be. Dark Fate rebooted back to the last unquestionably great movie and did its best to replay the hits but in a fresh tone. Of all of the Terminators I have seen, every one has been, at worst, enjoyable.
Apparently it’s a shame about those other two.
7. The X-Men Franchise
No franchise anywhere ever is as up-and-down as the Fox X-Men universe, though people more well-versed in Star Wars than I would possibly argue.
The X-Men movies are ALL OVER THE MAP in terms of quality! The first X-Men is adequate and fun. X2 is where everything hit a groove and came together with brilliant action sequences and moments where the characters felt wholly realized. And from there, the roller coaster took off. Last Stand, Origins: Wolverine, Apocalypse, and Dark Phoenix were all abysmally bad. Deadpool, its sequel, and Logan came in as the best flicks in the franchise. First Class, The Wolverine, and Days of Future Past were the fulcrum in quality.
Without the inclusion of Hugh Jackman and Ryan Reynolds’ solo vehicles, the X-chise would not have made the top ten. But man… Logan and Deadpool are both just so damn good. They are some of the highest quality comic book films of all time. They are worth a Last Stand or two, right?
It’s going to be weird when Disney starts playing with their new mutant toys. If it’s one thing about Fox’s tenure with this part of the Marvel Universe, it’s that you never knew what you were going to get.
6. The View Askew-niverse
So… what all counts here? Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back, Clerks 2… anything else? I mean, Jersey Girl? Is that part of this? Probably the J&SB reboot, but I never saw that, and I wasn’t even aware it existed until recently.
Let’s go with those first six definitively. Of all of those, only Clerks 2 was a miss for me. To varying degrees, I have loved all the rest. Mallrats may have aged the worst, but god damn if it doesn’t make me laugh. “That kid… is back… on the escalator again!”. That’s gold.
With Clerks 2 bringing up the rear, which one is my favorite? Honestly? Jay & Silent Bob Strike Back. I KNOW, I KNOW. It has the least to say and is all gags from start to finish, but damned if it isn’t one of the most quotable movies of all time. Dogma and Chasing Amy are probably tied right behind it. And then Mallrats or Clerks, depending on my mood.
These movies consistently make me laugh. There are memorable characters across the board. You can say what you want about Kevin Smith nowadays (I know there is a lot of kickback on him and he does shit like Tusk now), but I am a huge fan of this series.
5. Batman – all of them!
Do I… do I JUST include the Nolan trilogy? Is the Batman 1989 – Batman & Robin run its own franchise? Does that make Batman ’66 its own stand-alone flick?
Ah, screw it. We are just calling it “Batman” as a franchise and lumping them all in.
(Wait, what about Lego Batman? Yeah, why not? That’s here, too)
Is it any different than the 007 franchise? Those movies conflict constantly. Are they all one guy? Multiple people in one identity? Are SOME the same, but not others? What on Earth is the timeline of it all? Did the stuff Sean Connery did happen in the same universe as the stuff Pierce Brosnan did?
But no one is going to question that “James Bond” is a franchise, so to put up a fight against all the Batfilms seems pretty petty.
If you open everything up, you’ve got a smorgasbord of cinema–all based on one character and his city–that features some campy fun (Batman ’66 and Batman Forever), some serious and powerful pieces (Batman Begins and The Dark Knight), a bit of wildcard (Batman ’89 and Lego Batman), and a few somewhat underrated (if not totally solid) movies (Batman Returns and Dark Knight Rises).
(You also have Batman & Robin and Batman Vs Superman, but no one’s perfect!)
That’s a pretty slick variety of celluloid! And it proves that Batman is a marketable, engaging character, even as the times and actors change around him.
4. The Harry Potter Series
It’s nuts how much these movies were able to bring the books to life and make Harry’s world feel so vibrant and real.
I also think the last three films are a bit of a downer from the first five. There might be weird personal reasons for that (I watched the first five movies without having touched any of the books, then I read all the books between seeing the fifth movie and the last three), but damn… those first five flicks are powerful.
Half-Blood Prince and the divided Deathly Hallows are both good, too. They just felt a bit melodramatic for me.
All told, you’ve got a series of 8 movies (none of them BAD) that made fantastic and bizarre scenes from the written page feel attainable, with actors who really grew into and owned their roles, and a story that is standing the test of time.
3. The Rocky Balboa Series
This is high, right? High.
But the thing is, I have just watched the Creed movies within the last few months, and both of those knocked my socks off. Without Creed and its sequel, Rocky wouldn’t even be on the list. But with them? You have an eight-part series with three objectively stand-out films (the original and both Creeds), some borderline-campy fun for a sheer joy to watch (Rocky 3 and Rocky 4), and… some others of varying quality. Oh, and the one right before Creed. Rocky Balboa? Was that what it was called? I missed that one.
But that’s still three movies floating around at least a 4.0 rating AND Rocky 4 which is impossible to rate because it’s approximately a 12 out of 5 because Rocky could change AND the Soviets could change, so I knew I could change.
2. The Halloween Franchise
It is entirely likely that I have seen Halloween more than any other movie ever. And, what’s more, Halloweens 4 and 5 are also flicks I have seen way more than anyone has a right to. Like other people watch Rudolph whenever December comes around, I go back to Halloween 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 every October.
I have actually ranked the Halloweens before, so check up on that here. It is another series with ups and downs–and honestly, more Downs than Ups when it became a parody of itself with Busta Rhymes and then when Rob Zombie got his hands on it. But it started out as probably the best horror flick ever made and is STILL GOING, even after what feels like its fourth reboot and third reincarnation.
Maybe that’s all appropriate for Michael Myers. I mean, isn’t the point that evil never dies? It just… changes.
1. The Marvel Cinematic Universe
So here is how making this list went:
-I Googled for research.
-I made a preliminary list with about twenty franchises on it.
-I numbered this article ten to one.
-I put the MCU at number one.
-And then I stared at the rest of my nominees list for an hour because nothing else was certain.
The MCU is 20-some movies deep in just 11 years, and the vast majority of them are, at the very least, “great”. I mean, take out Incredible Hulk, the first two Thors, and both Iron Man sequels and everything you are left with is of a respectable quality. And hell, none of those five are abhorrent or anything; they’re just the weakest of a stellar bunch.
And then you’ve got a plethora of undoubtedly GREAT films. Infinity War, Endgame, Winter Soldier, Guardians of the Galaxy. If you are asking my personal opinion, throw in Ragnarok and the second Guardians flick to those, with both Spider-Mans and the first Avengers JUST outside.
The MCU just churns out hit after hit after hit. Now that the ambitious Phase Three has ended, will the magic live on? It’s hard to say. Phase Three is a hell of a thing to live up to. But looking at the MCU’s track record… who on Earth would bet against them? With 23 movies, all they have done is make the best and most consistent movie franchise in history.
Should I watch the Adam Driver Star Wars trilogy? I was really happy to have missed out on all of that, but now I feel like I should chime in with my irrelevant thoughts on it. Let’s kick the hornets’ nest: Tell me what you thought of those flicks in the comments!
Lord of the Rings, though… I do feel like that’s a boat I just missed. Maybe I needed to have seen them in theaters? I only ever caught them on DVD and TV. How can something be so definitively well made, and yet not really engage me? I’d watch them again, but I don’t have about 37 hours to kill.
Wait! Is Halloween WAY too high? How did that end up as #2? I don’t even remember doing that.
Ah well, that’s my list, and I’m… kind of sticking to it?. As usual, this is just a conversation starter, though! What are YOUR ten best franchises of all-time? Let us know in the comments.
Until next time… take care!