Hey everyone! This is Ken M from the ODPH podcast, better known as the Ocho Duro Parlay Hour, and for this GotS top 10 challenge, we’re talking best movie franchises. In all of Hollywood’s history, to get 3 or more quality films out of an idea/concept/story can be more of a challenge that you think.
For my list, I broke down my criteria for what makes a great franchise:
- 3 or more films with majority of same cast that started franchise
- Originality of idea/concept/story & how do the films hold up years after
- Box Office Numbers
- Pop Culture Impact (spin-offs/TV/Comics/etc.)
That being said, lets jump in to see what made the cut:
10a. The Hangover Saga (First film: “The Hangover” – 2009, 3 films total)
4 friends go on a Vegas bachelor party where weird hijinks and trouble happens? From someone who’s been to Vegas many times, that isn’t anything new. Even the “American pie” saga did numbers at the box office but for all their films, they didn’t top Hangover numbers. 45 million opening weekend for #1, #2 was 85-135 million & at time highest R-rated Comedy debut at box office (over holiday weekend so take your pick on exacts). Even #3 was over $40 million on the debut. How many other R-Rated Comedies franchises can say that?
In comparison to Pie, Hangover stars were relatively new stars to Hollywood and their careers exploded after that. Bradley Cooper& Zach Galifianakis broke out big into movies. Ed Helms had a run on “The Office” which at the time was arguably TV’s biggest show. Even Ken Jeong broke out from a side role in the movie. Closest Pie got to those numbers was American Pie 2 at 45 million & they dropped HUGE after that, including the straight to DVD releases.
Guess not everything that happens in Vegas stayed there…
10b. The Bourne Franchise (First film: “The Bourne Identity” -2002, 5 films total*)
When this franchise was announced, did anyone think Matt Damon would make the perfect Jason Bourne? Remember at the time, he wasn’t exactly known as an Action Movie star. Did he ever prove people wrong with this?
Adapting the Robert Ludlum’s secret spy novels, Damon spun the easy concept of man without a past & on the run into a captivating saga of that imo, should have ended at 2007’s “The Bourne Ultimatum.” “Identity” gave you a solid intro into his character and motivations. It’s sequel “2005’s “The Bourne Supremacy” expanded on the idea enough that it did what it needed to: keep you engaged & build for the closing act. Plus, any movie that has Karl Urban in it makes for a great film (How soon till “The Boys” season 2”)? “Ultimatum” closed out this saga great. Non-stop action with little breaks. Kudos of director Paul Greengrass for picking up the momentum with excellent camerawork to capture the intensity of the moments. Great 3 films to start….
And then we get 2012’s ‘the Bourne legacy”. Exit Matt Damon, Enter Jeremy Renner.
This one missed the mark set by the original 3 movies. Trying to replace Damon with Renner was a lot like replacing Scott hall & Kevin Nash with fake Razor Ramon & Diesel in the WWE. The fans know those characters and don’t want to see the substitutes. They want the real thing. This movie couldn’t recapture the magic. Even when Damon, Greengrass & co. came back for 2016’s “Jason Bourne”, they couldn’t save the franchise. That film felt like they went thru the motions just to save what was built. I haven’t even tried watching the 2019 spinoff show “Treadstone.” This franchise ran its’ course. Let It rest.
9. The Fast & Furious Saga (First film: “The Fast & the Furious” – 2001, 11 films and counting)
The fact there was more than 2 movies made of the adventures of Dominic Teretto & where they are now is mind-blowing to me. Let’s (quickly) recap:
The original movie was an undercover cop (the late Paul Walker) “infiltrating” the world of street racing to investigate hijacking suspects. Re-read that sentence & let’s continue. The movie is very cliché & if not for Vin Diesel’s charisma, this franchise is forgotten. Look no further than the 2003 sequel “2 Fast, 2 Furious” when Diesel didn’t return. Hell, 2006’s “FF: Tokyo drift” is the 3rd movie made but not even in the timeline till later. Typo? Nope. Keep reading.
2009’s “Fast & Furious” brings Diesel & most of the original cast back for an actual story of cars, action & cheesy one liners. Two years later. Dwayne ‘The Rock” Johnson joins the franchise as Agent Hobbs, who’s chasing after the Fast team, who the cuts a deal for the team of STREET RACERS to help him hunt down a deadly crime organization with trained mercenaries, then plug in “Tokyo Drift” cause now it makes sense? 3 more movies and the STREET RACERS are now a secret ops team taking down bad guys? And now there’s spinoff franchises? John Cena joined?! My head hurts. How did this all happen?
Well, that’s simple to explain. These movies make BANK at the box office. The combined worldwide gross is over 5 BILLION DOLLARS?! Premieres are huge pop culture events & with more films coming, they’re not slowing down (except when fast 10 is in space…. mark the record now).
8. Terminator Saga (First Film: “The Terminator” 1984, 6 films currently)
Can a franchise live off 2 films alone? In this case, yes. James Cameron’s original film showcasing the fight of Man vs. Machine is a sci-fi classic. It arguably doesn’t work without the one and only Arnold playing the role of the T-800 soulless killing machine. While 1 welcomed everyone to this franchise, 1991’s “Terminator 2: Judgement Day” broke this saga into pop culture. It is truly a genre-defining film from its CGI, story & acting. Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor vs. Robert Patrick’s T-1000 with Arnold thrown into the mix. That movie still holds up today in my opinion.
The next few….eh, not so much. Christian Bale couldn’t save his movie & no matter how many Arnold cameos, it just wasn’t the same without Cameron at the helm. A lot of that is due to Cameron leaving the franchise, but 2019’s “Terminator: Dark fate” basically rec-con’ed all those films & served as a sequel to T2 with Cameron as a producer. Not the greatest ending but how was anyone topping T-2?
An argument could be made for another franchise for this number as well: Aliens (First film 1979: 8 films – Huge franchise combing horror & sci-fu, plus gives us one of the most bad ass female heroes of all time: Ellen Ripley). This one was a tough call to make but I went with Terminator because I think the franchise has an overall stronger body of work. Wasn’t a fan of the AvP series except for the arcade game.
7. Rocky/Creed saga (First movie – 1976, 8 films and counting)
Dare I say the ultimate sports movie franchise? From its’ initial story of an ultimate underdog who finally catches a break, its’ Hollywood cliché sequels for 2 (1979) and 3 (1982), & presumably ending the Cold War in 4 (1985), this franchise goes places that I don’t think it ever intended to land. If the franchise ended at 4, I’d be completely fine. What else was needed? Rocky got his shot, failed, got a rematch, won, lost, redeem, won, retired, forced to come back & avenge while giving the most epic of final speeches to close out Rocky 4. Factor in the wild workout montages and who else wasn’t running steps after watching?
After that though, there were some bad films. Rocky 5 (1990) & 6 (2005) never needed to happen. No reason other than a cash grab. Nothing nice to say about either. The franchise didn’t answer the bell & was done at this stage, but why this didn’t completely “Bourne” the franchise was the new story unfolding in the Creed series. Both Creed (2015) & Creed 2 (2018) have picked up where the Rocky movies left off and created their own legacy. Kudos to Director Ryan Coogler & Michael B. Jordan on breathing new life into this franchise.
If you are a sports fan, Rocky gives the underdog narrative to any event. The images from the movie are pop culture icons & the renewed interest in the franchise, thanks to the Creed movies, have proven that. To carry this story 44 years is truly a sign of a lasting movie franchise.
6. Friday the 13th (First film – 1980, 12 films and counting?)
This one was another toss -up between Halloween & F13 for me so I deferred to Rich from Horror Zone 607 on this. His response: “As a whole Friday the 13th, but Halloween has the better movies if you’re not including the shitty ones lol that’s why I said 13th on a whole, because out of all the movies there is only one unwatchable one. Whereas there is like 3 unwatchable Halloween movies. But there is like 3 Halloween movies that are cinematically excellent and maybe one of the Friday’s is like that.”
One of many thing Horror movies does right is franchises. Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween….list goes on and on. Friday has been a pretty basic concept with a few reaches (Looking at you, Jason X ). The character of Jason is pretty iconic with just a simple hockey mask. Plots are what they are but the image is well known in pop culture. They’ve made some very good box office bank & crossed over into TV and Video games.
For the current Horror renaissance, a lot is owed to Friday the 13th. I wouldn’t suspect a long wait to get a new installment in and running pending any studio dramas
5. Harry Potter (First Movie: HP & the Sorcerer’s Stone – 2001, 10 films and counting)
Trying to translate the magical world of one of the most popular book series in recent history was no easy feat, yet how many billions later & here we are. Debuting with relative unknowns in the lead roles, Warner Bros. unveiled J. K. Rowlings’ fantasy world in 2001, The Harry potter franchise hit the ground running with an impressive debut film, “Harry Potter & the Sorcerer’s Stone”. It had everything one could want in a debut: underdog hero goes thru growing pains learning his destiny
The film generated enough of a buzz that casual moviegoers were caught up in its’ charm and spell. Daniel Radcliffe told the story of a young boy destined for greatness with a wild world of magic. He literally grew up right before our eyes along with the rest of the cast. Like I mentioned in the intro, keeping a majority of your cast together for a film franchise is a major factor in its success. Recasting can seriously hurt a franchise. Luckily, that was avoided here. Radcliffe, along with Rupert Grint & Emma Watson, were almost too perfect for casting the young heroes. Factor in 8 films in 10 years & no drops in quality (even with a switch in directors (4), The Harry Potter series lived up to its’ hype.
One (almost) forgotten point of the franchise is their finale was a split 2-parter. “HP & the Deathly Hallows” made fans wait a year between closing films. Surprisingly, this didn’t deter fans away. It actually built up more hype. It’s a move other franchises are now copying.
Once the final film rolled, it’s looked back as a success for multiple reasons. Critics were very positive of the films. It made serious bank & its’ impact is forever etched into pop culture. The series has even spawned off the “Fantastic beasts” franchise in 2016 & that one is doing well. All the blueprints for a successful franchise.
4. James Bond 007 (First Movie: “Dr. No” – 1962, 25 films and counting)
“Bond, James Bond”
3 words that instantly define a character. Taking Ian Fleming’s super spy agent from book (1953) to film (1962), the character has literally grown into a pop culture icon. Let’s break this down:
6 actors have played the lead character. Over the top villains to balance out. Insane gadgets/tech to assist our hero. Wild action sequences. The cars. The locations. The theme songs. The lifestyle. Hell, they actually made martini’s cool…..shaken, not stirred though.
What other movie franchise has redefined the way we look at secret agents? You can see its’ Influence on comics (Nick Fury, Agent of SHIELD), TV (Mission Impossible, Marvel’s Agents of SHIELD, etc., etc., etc.,), Video games (Metal gear franchise). It all falls back to Bond.
Even more to put into Bond’s impact: a SPOOF series names “Austin Powers” became a successful franchise by making FUN of Bond. To have a movie studio make a parody franchise & still make HUGE bank at the Box office shows how many people are fans of this franchise.
No matter how you rank Bonds (personally it’ Sean Connery, Pierce Brosnan & Daniel Craig as my top 3), each portrayal stands out. As mentioned earlier, Actors staying in roles for an extended time helps but, in this case, each brought something different to the title character. Connery oozed charisma being the coolest man in the room in the early films. Roger Moore ran with the role for 7 films starting in 1973. George Lazenby & Timothy Dalton are quick stops in the franchise so I’m not spending too much time on them. Pierce Brosnan was perfect casting with so-so scripts starting with 1995’s “Goldeneye” (side note: one of the best videogames of all time – 4 player melee for days!!). Even as it dipped a touch with its’ popularity during those times, fans still stayed with it.
Daniel Craig took over the franchise in 2006’s “Casino Royale” & became a surprise hit with fans and critics. His film series has been a touch gritter & darker than previous films, but have proved to be commercially sound.
Next film is “No Time to Die” scheduled for 2020. After that, it is widely guessed that we will have a new James Bond. Whoever plays him has big shoes to fill to carry this franchise forward. In fact, the franchise is so big that it’s a career defining role for actors. For all these reasons, Bond places this high on the list.
3. Marvel Cinematic Universe aka MCU (Frist film: Iron Man – 2008, 23 films & counting)
When I first sat down to write this, I have Christopher Reeves “Superman” & Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale “Batman” franchises on this list. Both of those deserve mentions on this list for different reasons. Reeves gave us the perfect Superman for many years that so argue hasn’t been replaced. Nolan’s realistic world of the Dark Knight relit the fire that was dropped when Tim Burton & Michael Keaton left Gotham. Both franchises are great & worth watching…..
That being said, no major Hollywood franchise has been able to do what Marvel/Disney have done. Remember, when this franchise rolled out, Marvel was recovering from some bad business times in the late 90’s/early 2k’s. If “Iron Man” flops, they’re done imo. They risked it all on Robert Downey Jr, who fell from grace in Hollywood at the same time. What happened was one of the biggest surprises in Hollywood. The movie was a HUGE hit & Marvel planted a teaser scene in the post-credits to tease their next project. For the first time ever, we were getting a live action shared Universe.
Unfortunately, at this time, certain other character rights belonged to other film studios (Fantastic four/X-Men/Daredevil*). The “avengers” universe wasn’t exactly the cool kids on the comic racks at the time either. With the success of “Iron man”, Marvel (for better or worse) made the transition from being a comic company who made movies into a now movie company who made comics. The success of the movies changed their whole outlook. Throw in the fact Disney bought Marvel in 2009 & the whole MCU could have been wiped away. However, they have left Kevin Feige produce his vision without too much interference.
With each solo film of Thor (2011) & Captain America (2011), Marvel laid the groundwork for its’ big crossover 2012’s “The Avengers”. Directed by Joss Whedon, “The Avengers” showcased the heroes of Marvel together for the first time on the big screen. It was what fans have been clamoring for. Previously, the only time this had happened was in comics or cartoons (I’m not counting the “Incredible Hulk” tv movies). The film was a huge success and made everyone ask “Where does Marvel go from here.”
Where they went was series of films thru phases (4) where they introduced the next wave of heroes in their universe. If you need proof that this is a successful franchise: we now live in a world where Guardians of The Galaxy & Ant-Man are HUGE movie franchises. This would have been laughable in 2008 when this all started. Marvel took risks that paid off. They also had actors signed for multiple film (ranging from 6 to 10 films) deals which helped keep their stories moving without major recasting.
Phase 4 also closed up the “Infinity gauntlet” saga with the 2-part Avengers: Infinity War (2018) & Endgame (2019). Marvel followed Harry potter blueprint with splitting their ending films. The also wrapped up character runs for RDJ, Chris Evans and a few others. It has spawned multiple TV shows (which may or may not be apart of the MCU depending who you ask) & now looks to expanding programming thru Disney + with a stronger connection to the MCU than what we’ve previously had. Factor in multiple new properties from their re-acquisition of the Fox Marvel characters (Fantastic Four/X-Men) & the future is very bright.
No matter what you think of the films, the set the blueprint for how to do shared comic universes on film. They have made billions upon billions of dollars (considering the volume of their library). Quality wise is debatable, but it’s a telling sign when Warner Bros. tries (imo) to copy their formula and force a shared DC Comics universe without laying the proper groundwork down first.
Even look at their impact for movie announcements. How many times have Marvel shut down San Diego Comic Con’s Hall H in comparison to DC or any other content entity? How many times are their movie trailers debuting on prime late-night TV network programming (Jimmy Kimmel)? How many times do first day sales of their movie tickets crash websites?
All of these points add up to why the MCU ranks this high as a movie franchise.
2. Lord of The Rings (First Film: The Fellowship of The Ring – 2001, Six films)
“One ring to rule them all”
If we are talking epics & we are talking franchises, few ranks as high for quality, success and legacy more than Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” vision of the words of J. R. R. Tolkien. The quest of Sam & Frodo Baggins (yes, Sam gets top billing. He was the TRUE hero in this saga) to find and destroy Sauron’s Ring & free Middle-Earth. Simple concept? Maybe. Simple films? Not even close.
These are epics in every single way. From the elaborate sets, CGI and action sequences, Peter Jackson brought Middle-Earth to life in a way that few others could. Any time someone tries bringing fantasy worlds to the big screen, it’s either hit or epic fail. Luckily here, these were massive hits.
“Fellowship” was followed up by “The Two Towers” (2002). The LotR saga concluded with 2003’s “The Return of The King”. Epic fantasy storytelling carried this franchise thru some very long films. “Fellowship” was shy of 3 hours. “Towers” was the same. “King” was 3 hours and 20 mins. Those are the regular releases. The director cuts are even longer for each. Fans never complained about the times. In fact, this series was very well received by fans and critics. It also won 17 Academy awards throughout its’ run.
Peter Jackson came back to tell another story of the Baggins family in 2012. The “prequel” saga of “the Hobbit” returned with “An Unexpected Journey.” “The desolation of Smaug” (2013) & “The Battle of the Five Armies” (2014) finished out this trilogy. Overall, it was a great trilogy. It’s tough to follow up with what LotR set up, but it’s a worthy prequel.
Everything about this franchise is what you look for when talking about great franchises. Each movie followed the source material, which were great stories with fantastic characters. The movies did well at the box office. They won many awards. The legacy of the films still holds up almost 20 years later as a fantasy masterpiece. Few have done it better…
1. Star Wars Saga (First Film : Episode IV: A new Hope – 1977, 11 films and counting)
When you look at the criteria for making this list, Star Wars tops them all. George Lucas’ space odyssey made its’ debut in 1977. It starred Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, the late Carrie Fisher as Princess leia & Harrison Ford as Han Solo. The unlikely trio responsible for saving the galaxy from The Empire & it’s feared reign of terror. The film was a success for its’ time and over the years (as well as the other original films), it has grown its’ box office take tremendously. What followed has arguably been considered the greatest sequel of all time: The Empire strikes back (1980)
What didn’t this film have? Growth in character story, new characters such as Yoda, & a great story with one of the biggest surprises in film history to take it home. Imo, THIS is the film that put the franchise on the map. Huge success at the box office. This movie catapulted the franchise into pop culture. 1983 brought the 3rd movie “Return of The Jedi.” Following up Empire was a task that Jedi tried but didn’t hit the mark on. Random plot flips, completely trashing Boba Fett & Ewoks closed out the franchise.
However, the franchise became pop culture. From the toys, cartoons, & legacy, Star Wars didn’t end with Jedi. It only grew. We, as fans, knew they were called Episodes 4-6, but the question became “What about episode 1?”
The question was answered in 1999 with “the Phantom Menace”. This trilogy was based on the story of Anakin Skywalker and his eventual turn into Darth Vader. So almost 20 years later, we get the prequel. George Lucas was back at the helm for these three films, but, imo, they didn’t capture the magic from episodes 4-6. “Attack of the Clones” (2002) is widely considered the worst of all the Star Wars films. 2005’s “Revenge Of The Sith” finished the story of Vader but left mainstream fans with more questions than closure. Hardcore Star Wars fans have very strong opinions of this saga so I’ll leave that one to a google search.
After that, the franchise was still popular with comics, books, toys & still a major player in pop culture. There was peace in the galaxy until 2012. That’s the year Disney bought the franchise.
With this move, Disney bought 2 of the biggest content properties in all of pop culture: Marvel & Star Wars. It was also announced that 2015 would hail a new Star Wars film: “The Force Awakens”.
These were going to be the first films without Lucas at the helm & all new characters added to the universe. We still had Han, Luke & Leia, but for this go around, welcome Poe, Finn, Rey & Kylo Ren. JJ Abrams took over the helm & delivered a perfect homage to “A new Hope.” It bridged the gap between Jedi to present. Fans loved it and showed up in droves. Only other movie to generate this much buzz in recent memory was Avengers: endgame.
The franchise was back! The follow-up had some high expectations. 2017’s “The Last Jedi” had a new director in Rian Johnson at the helm. Th film is VERY polarizing with fans. It definitely didn’t have the “Empire” vibe for the sequel. It felt off from “Force” & fans let everyone know. 2019’s “Rise Of Skywalker” had Abrams return to the franchise & close the Skywalker saga out.
Since it’s beginnings, Star Wars created a saga like no other before it. It’s made BILLIONS at the box office; right be hind the MCU. Consider they made almost the same money with HALF the films (MCU is reported around 18 Billion, Star Wars is around 13-15 million per various sites).
From theme parks, TV shows (“The Mandalorian” on Disney plus), comics, cartoons, toys, video games, etc., this franchise has very little competition. What other franchise has grown its fandom after 40 years to this level? it’s only getting bigger with more films among other projects on the way. Star Wars influence is everywhere in pop culture, not just Hollywood.
After 40+ years, Star Wars shows no signs of slowing down. It has been THE franchise & looks to remain on top for many years to come.
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