The Top Ten Movie Franchises of All Time (Part Two)
Cue movie trailer voiceover guy: In a world where reboots know no boundaries and the level of movie mediocrity knows no limits they said it couldn’t be done. They said all (or most) films were unoriginal and only this year’s movies mattered. They…were…wrooooooong. Presenting the greatest movie franchises to ever face off in ultimate battle in parts one and two…And in the end there can be only one victorrrrr. Witness the greatest franchise war ever known to mankind since the dawning of the world. Or anything like that. Together they will change life as we know it…and nothing will ever be the same.
5. The Dark Knight Trilogy
Christopher Nolan is a miracle worker. He redeemed a character that had nearly been destroyed by Joel Schumacher. Cinematically speaking, Batman was a joke. Batman Begins, the first film in the Nolan trilogy, changed all of that for good. Suddenly, Batman mattered again. Not only that, but Nolan made it clear that superhero films were not just for kids. They were not just campy, happy, cheesy, family affairs. Super hero films could be real cinema. They could deal with real themes. If Batman Begins forced people to sit up and take notice, then The Dark Knight made it impossible to look away. As it stands, The Dark Knight is arguably the greatest superhero film of all time. It gave us one of the all-time great movie villains in The Joker, some terrific comic book iconography, and a musical score that is propulsive and game changing. While The Dark Knight Rises did not live up the otherworldly expectations placed on it, my guess is, time will be kind to it when people see all that it accomplished in completing the trilogy’s thematic storyline. Without Christopher Nolan’s contributions to the world of comic book films, we would still be talking about George Clooney and his nipple suit. – Phill Lytle
4. Back to the Future
I think the original Back to the Future is about as good a movie there is from a purely entertainment standpoint. Marty and Doc are an impeccably executed protagonist duo (no matter how weird their relationship is in hindsight). Biff is an all time antagonist on the “I hate that guy” scale and for quotability. Time travel is one of the absolute most fascinating fantasy plot elements. And the story…well that just ties all the elements into a perfect summer popcorn flick bow. I can think of few movies that had me on the edge of my seat for as long a period of time as from the moment when Biff shows up at the car instead of George until Marty hits the cable and the bolt of lightning to make it back. Few plot twists have ever brought me the emotional satisfaction as George punching Biff. Everything in the climatic scene, which is super long, is superbly done. Perfect writing. Perfect effects. Perfect music. And best of all, multiple viewings barely diminished all of this and made some of it better. The final two installments added twists and surprises galore, but fell off a step. But we still had Doc. We still had Marty. We still had Biff. And we still had time travel and tension-packed climaxes. So we still had timeless cinema. A worthy trilogy and hence highly ranked on our list. – Gowdy Cannon
3. Indiana Jones
I was either 13 or 14 when the bullwhip cracking archeologist Indiana Jones strode into my life. He came out of the mists of a strange jungle dodging a slew of booby traps, evading a giant boulder, fleeing from poison dart-blowing natives, and complaining about snakes. And that was only the beginning of his wild globe-trotting adventures. After his quest to discover and recover the lost ark, we would tag along with him on two other amazing films. I say two others because I would like to forget about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. While not a horrible film, it fails to live up to the Indy magic captured in Raiders of the Lost Ark, Temple of Doom, and The Last Crusade. In my view, the fourth movie brought down the franchise somewhat, but not nearly enough to remove the Indiana Jones franchise from this exalted position on our list. It was largely Harrison Ford, Stephen Spielberg, and John Williams who united to make a masterpiece adventure trilogy. There is little doubt in my mind that the seemingly indestructible, nazi-fighting, snake-hating, history buff/adventurer is one of the greatest icons of our youth.- Ben Plunkett
2. Star Wars
The Star Wars franchise1, specifically A New Hope, is without a doubt one of the most influential movies in the history of film. The reach and impact of Star Wars extends far beyond the boundaries of cinema spilling into culture and nearly every medium of entertainment. In 1977, audiences were initially attracted to Star Wars by its groundbreaking special FX which revolutionized film so dramatically that the FX have stood the test of time better than many movies released decades later. However, Star Wars proved to be much more than mere special FX. The film was truly special because of its rich world packed with detail and history. Very few films have captured and inspired the imaginations of so many like Star Wars. Though teeming with a life of it’s own the world of Star Wars never got “lost” or collapsed upon itself because it was made personal by the leading characters. The grand, epic saga of the films was often distilled into smaller, personal moments that were just as exciting and impacting as any action/adventure sequence. Superb portrayals by Mark Hammil, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher brought their characters off the screen and into the hearts of moviegoers. As endearing as the heroes of Star Wars were, they were balanced by the villain of the story, Darth Vader, who was equally engaging. Firmly cemented as one of the greatest villains in cinema, Vader was also among the first villains who were so cool that fans loved them despite their dastardly deeds. The characters of Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Leia Organa, Darth Vader, etc. and their character arcs managed to somehow be familiar and original at the same time. This was true of movie’s plot as well. Star Wars had a near universal appeal with its timeless tale of good versus evil. Yet the story was filled with new twists on classics formulas. John Williams soundtrack was a masterpiece which perfectly complimented the sense of wonder that Star Wars delivered. Followed up by arguably the best installment, The Empire Strikes Back, the franchise soared to even greater heights. Empire is still the standard for middle stories in a trilogy. And the movie featured a surprise twist so stunning that even the actors couldn’t believe it themselves! Return of the Jedi went as big and bold as film could at the time of it’s release. Jedi was a satisfying conclusion to the original trilogy. If not for the flaws of the prequels then Star Wars may have very well emerged as the champion in this debate. – Mark Sass
1. The Lord of the Rings
Let’s get the accolades out of the way: The trilogy won 17 Academy Awards. The final film in the trilogy, The Return of the King, won all 11 Oscars it was nominated for, including Best Picture. The films earned a collective 2.9 billion dollars. It is one of the most critically and financially successful films series of all time. Peter Jackson and company took a story that is long and epically complex, and lovingly and faithfully retained the spirit that made the book so powerful.
Now to the more personal: The Lord of the Rings is my favorite book of all time. When I heard that Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema were going to be making a film trilogy based on the book, I was beyond excited. I was also scared they would ruin it. I followed the production of the trilogy as closely as I could. I read every report. Watched every video. I nervously walked into the theater on that cold December night in 2001, hoping for the best but bracing myself for the worst. I walked out knowing I had seen something special. I went back 12 more times to see The Fellowship of the Ring in the theater. Nothing in the world of film has ever moved me like The Lord of the Rings. This story of Hobbits and men, Elves and Dwarves, wizards and orcs, good and evil is something that has become a part of me; indelibly etched on my heart and mind. – Phill Lytle
So there you have it. You can read Part One here. Let us know what you think in the comments below. We will never shy away from a spirited discussion.
- The Force Awakens had yet to be released when this list was originally compiled. ↩
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35 thoughts on “The Top Ten Movie Franchises of All Time (Part Two)”
No weekend at bernie’s?
I’m going to pretend you never said this just to save you the embarrassment.
Seriously the fact that rocky isn’t #1 or EVEN ON THE LIST makes me lose faith in all of your lists ever.
The Rocky series is extremely uneven. I know Gowdy fought for it though. If we would have done this after Creed was released, Rocky might have made the Top Ten.
I was happy that Creed was so well received. Excellent addition to that series.
Clever use of other move franchise images in the header to throw us off the scent. 🙂 With that in mind, how did the James Bond franchise, approaching 25 movies (!) not make the list, just on sheer quantity and duration? I know there have been peaks and valleys in its performance, but it’s hard to leave this one off the top 10, IMO.
Still, a fun list to read. Thanks for putting it together!
Frankly, outside of a few of the newer Daniel Craig installments, there aren’t many James Bond fans in our voting group. Some of us actually hate the series outside of those few films. In my view, it has had very few peaks and way too many valleys.
Admitedly, I am no film critic, and unable to analyze and critique like you guys do so well. I can’t argue at all with the top three, though I would say that people older than you would possibly have The Godfather, The James Bond movies, Rocky, and some of those up higher. It was interesting reading. I’m glad that Mark was chosen to write about Star Wars.
Mark does contribute a lot to many topics like Star Wars with his way of thinking.
“A day may come when the Lord of the Rings franchise is better than Star Wars, but it is not this day.”
See, even Aragorn disagrees with this list.
LOL! The REO contributors are definitely strong LOTR fans, so I don’t know that it can be beaten, but if the next two Star Wars movies do as well as 7 then we may have a new discussion.
Mesa think yousa be forgetin’ three less than okee-day movies…
Separating the Dark Knight trilogy from other lesser Batman movies seems unfair. If you want to count the bad movies in a franchise against it such as Star Wars, I just don’t know see how the entire Batman series could make this list ahead of say “Rocky”.
I think it is pretty clear that they are distinct franchises. Much like the Reeves’ Superman films are not connected to the new iteration of Superman films – Man of Steel and Batman V Superman. Star Wars is very much the same franchise. Same creative force behind all of the film – George Lucas/Lucasfilms.
I think it makes the most sense since they rebooted it – new everything, even starting the story over. The Batmans of the 80’s/90s are a different set of Batman movies. They don’t really connect outside of names in the movie.
Star Wars was also telling a new story with each film. I don’t have some great list of criteria for this but I think a good rule of thumb is that if you start the story over, it’s a new set of movies.
I have serious concerns about any movie franchise list that leaves “Rocky” and “Bourne” off the list completely and ranks “Lord of the Rings” #1. What a joke!!
We welcome those concerns. Rocky was hotly debated. Bourne…not so much. At that time, there were only four films in that series – three with Jason Bourne and one with Jeremy Renner. The Bourne films were just not loved enough by our group to make the cut. I don’t think any of us championed them. I know I didn’t. I like the first two quite a bit. The third is a chore. Never saw the fourth one.
As far as The Lord of the Rings is concerned, what are your issues with that franchise? Is it a dislike for fantasy? Something else?
LOTR is so well attested as far as money and awards and any other way of measuring success that anyone against it has to have some kind of bias.
Being a financial and critical success doesn’t make a franchise top ten worthy. There are a lot of movies out there that were successes in these ways that I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole. Personally, I didn’t vote for it because it was financially or critically successful. I voted for it because it is the greatest franchise I’ve ever watched. Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.
I would say though that if a movie series were a huge success for money, and with critics and in other ways that to say “That’s a joke” for a high ranking would have to have bias. That’s all I was trying to communicate. I don’t care for Godfather but I’m not going to say “That’s a joke!” when it’s ranked #1 on lists.
I’m not against LotR; it’s just not in my Top 5.
And ALL of us are biased.
But I don’t carry a bias against all things going in. I went into LOTR without much bias at all either way. I enjoyed the books and the movies, though I’m at the lower end of fan hood on REO.
I would have no qualms about “LotR” being #1 on a book series. But this is a movies list. IMO, there are several other series that are more enjoyable in their cinematic form. And of course, this is my bias, just as you have an obvious bias of using advanced-metric-statistics in every argument you make.
Even you really do not dislike the films then this whole side discussion is irrelevant. Bias of arguing style is different than bias for or against an actual person or film. I clearly have a bias against Tom Brady.
I love science fiction and fantasy. I’m a big “Star Wars” guy. So I actually like the LotR series. It would be in my top ten, but toward the bottom end. But the books are way better than the movies, IMO.
As for your comments on the “Bourne” series…the 3rd installment “Ultimatum” is by far the best of the original trilogy. I guess I find it amusing that someone who would willingly watch 10 straight hours of the “LotR” could call watching the “Bourne Ultimatum” a chore. And I don’t include Jeremy Renner’s movie as a part of the Bourne Trilogy. It’s like “Rocky V,” totally forgettable. The new “Jason Bourne” is great though.
10 hours? I only watch the Extended Editions which clock in at over 11 hours. 🙂
My chore comment had nothing to do with the length of the film, I just never really liked the third Bourne film all that much.
Ha! Yeah, I’ve seen the extended edition, too; a couple times. So I obviously like “LotR.” Overall, this list is pretty good. (with the exception of the “Bourne” omission, and “Rocky” being in the top 3.)
I want to go on record as saying this is a pretty good list. So I disagree with the #1 choice. It’s still a very good franchise that deserves to be on the list (just not the top spot). Again, it’s simply one man’s opinion. Good job guys. I am really glad “Back to the Future” made the top 5.
Thanks! I’m glad you enjoyed it.
I think the Bourne movies deserved better as well. I don’t know if I “championed” them when we voted, but I liked them more than others I guess. I even like the one without Matt Damon. I guess you could say I celebrate the entire Bourne Catalog.
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Reading back through this list, I think it is obvious now that Mission Impossible deserves to be on it. That is the best current film series. Each installment since the 3rd one has been very good. The only weak installment was number 2 – and it has its fans.
Star Wars got number two! In my opinion, it’s number one but I haven’t watched Lord of The Rings. The newer movies make up for the prequels.
What I was trying to say was that the newer Star Wars movies make up for the prequels, just to clarify, I wasn’t talking about LODR there.