7 Film Franchises We Love
Sequels are nothing new in Hollywood. There used to be a law of diminishing returns with going back to the well numerous times. But in this age where “cinematic universes” are becoming the norm and plot-thin but effects-laden spectacles about giant, shapeshifting robots can gross a billion dollars, we feel it’s important to remember that, sometimes, sequels can work, are actually good, and transform our favorite films into our favorite franchises.
We asked our bloggers what franchises top their own lists. Here are the answers we got.
Connor: The Lord of the Rings (6 films)
Everyone said it couldn’t be done. No film would ever be able to capture the grandeur and scope of J.R.R. Tolkien’s fantasy epic. And in some people’s opinion, Peter Jackson didn’t quite reach that level. Regardless, Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films are expansive epics that capture a spirit and level of filmmaking that modern cinema rarely does anymore. These films truly capture the feel of a world on the edge of ruin with only the ultimate battle between good and evil left to protect it. The set design, costumes, and makeup work alone is worthy of recognition, not to mention an amazing cast that captures the spirit of their characters. Elijah Wood and Sean Astin are marvelous as Frodo and Sam, two Hobbits adventuring far beyond the comforts of their home to save the world. Not to mention the rest of the amazing ensemble, featuring the likes of Christopher Lee, Ian McKellen, Hugo Weaving, Viggo Mortensen, Orlando Bloom, Cate Blanchett, and many more.
Howard Shore’s score is near perfect, capturing the feel of the novels and every scene with a tact that matches the greatest scores of cinema. Though the Hobbit films never quite match the original trilogy, they are still mostly welcome additions to the film’s world with a wonderfully realized Smaug the Dragon. These films showed the world that fantasy was a genre that didn’t need to be cheesy drivel, but a genre worthy of award greatness. The Return of the King garnered Best Picture, as well as tying Ben-Hur and Titanic for the most Oscar wins in history. Jackson’s fantasy epics will forever stand as what can be achieved with a book tie-in when one truly loves the material. For that, The Lord of the Rings earns its place as the best film franchise of all time. – Connor Adamson
- Highest Global Rank: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (#55)
- Lowest Global Rank: The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (#2745)
- Average Global Rank: #961
Jeff: Mission: Impossible (5 films)
What started off as a big-screen adaptation of a 1960s-era television show has really taken on a life of its own that outshines its source material. The original adaptation, released in 1996 and directed by Brian De Palma, was a tense spy thriller. Then, in 2000, John Woo directed an over-the-top action sequel that, while the weakest of the group, has its moments. Woo just cannot make a movie without a dove flying around. J.J. Abrams took over in 2006 at peak Tom Cruise weirdness and provided us a wonderfully focused and fun follow-up. Since then, J.J. has taken over as producer and has guided the two strongest iterations, 2011’s Ghost Protocol and last year’s Rogue Nation. Say what you will about Tom Cruise – he certainly has an interesting personal life – but as an actor and a guiding force behind these sequels, I thoroughly respect his enthusiasm for working with new directors. After all, Ghost Protocol was directed by Brad Bird, who was most well-known for The Incredibles, and Rogue Nation was directed by Christopher McQuarrie, who wrote the screenplays for Cruise vehicles Jack Reacher, Edge of Tomorrow and Valkyrie before this and had only previously directed two films: Jack Reacher and 2000’s The Way of the Gun. Tom Cruise always finds ways to inject new life into these sequels, especially when it comes to finding new talent to help him out. Lastly, I love the chemistry that Cruise and costar Simon Pegg have through the last three outings; I can watch a hundred more sequels as long as Ethan and Benji get to play with masks. (Okay, well, Ethan. Everyone gets to wear a mask but Benji). – Jeff Lombardi
- Highest Global Rank: Mission: Impossible (#812)
- Lowest Global Rank: Mission: Impossible II (#3169)
- Average Global Rank: #1813
Ross: Fast & Furious (7 films)
Look, I’m not going to pretend like the Fast & Furious franchise is my all time favorite film franchise. Just off the top of my head, I probably like Toy Story, Clerks, Scream and a ton of others more, but Fast & Furious is the franchise that on the whole has impressed me the most in the last few years.
The first to fourth films in this franchise are for the most part mediocre at best, but always with hints of fun characters and decent car chases. When Fast Five came out in 2011 however, director Justin Lin basically took the best characters of the previous four and created the most fun heist film in the last decade. It’s almost as if Ocean’s Eleven had four shitty prequels that made the first great film in the franchise make all that garbage seem worthwhile.
In the last three films in this series – Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7 – the series has embraced the insanity that made Fast Five so wonderful, and in doing so has created one of the biggest film franchises of all time. Prior to seeing Furious 7, I marathoned all the previous films and in doing so, enjoyed the craziness, wild timeline and ridiculous story that has been created over the last decade and a half. After 15 years, Fast & Furious has found its niche, by going as fast and as furious as possible and embracing the series’ inherent wildness. – Ross Bonaime
- Highest Global Rank: Fast Five (#1973)
- Lowest Global Rank: 2 Fast 2 Furious (#7449)
- Average Global Rank: #4281
Naomi: The Thin Man (6 films)
Franchises and sequels didn’t use to be so prevalent. There certainly were some of them. The Andy Hardy series alone boasted 16 films. But a movie’s success did not automatically mean a sequel. That’s partly what makes The Thin Man series so unique. In a time when there were plenty of standalone movies, it got six installments. What also makes these movies unique, and what gives them their heart, is the crime solving duo who takes center stage: Nick and Nora Charles. Nick is a retired detective (who was extremely good at his job) and Nora his wealthy, socialite wife who finds nothing more exciting than watching (and helping!) her husband solve a murder. These two play off each other perfectly. Their humor, their teasing, and most of all their love, make them feel like a real couple, even as the plots get steadily more convoluted which each movie.
Each film features certain staples: there is always the Charles’ adorable Asta. There is always a scene in which Nick searches some seedy apartment. And near the end, the suspects are always summoned, so Nick can go through the crime step by step à la Hercule Poirot. These familiar steps, makes each movie feel like an old friend, a cozy fantasy nook, where you can just enjoy the ride. – Naomi Laeuchli
- Highest Global Rank: The Thin Man (#157)
- Lowest Global Rank: Song of the Thin Man (#6599)
- Average Global Rank: #2882
Nigel: Indiana Jones (4 films)
I suppose my real answer to this is The Lord of the Rings, which is represented at the very top of my chart by The Fellowship of the Ring. Yet, that was not even my gut answer to the question of “favorite franchise”, partly because I don’t think of Peter Jackson’s films as a franchise; they’re more like one big movie to me.
Thus, to really answer the question, I start looking at the franchises that sparked my interest in movies in the first place. There’s Star Wars, of course, though I’ve grown to just have fun with that series, more than really love it anymore. Back to the Future is #2 on my personal Flickchart, but ultimately, as a franchise, it takes a backseat to celluloid’s ultimate hero, Indiana Jones. Every bit as dashing as Han Solo or James Bond, Indy possesses a far more striking profile with his trademark whip and fedora. And whether he’s facing Nazis, Thuggee cultists or – heaven help us – extradimensional aliens, nobody’s cooler under pressure. Behind the camera, of course, there is nobody better at crafting pure popcorn escapism than Steven Spielberg when he’s firing on all cylinders, especially when his virtuoso filmmaking is coupled with one of the most iconic of John Williams’ litany of iconic musical scores. (You’re humming it now, aren’t you?)
I’ve previously written about why Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade is my favorite Indy film (see below), but the entire original trilogy has been a cherished part of my life for nearly as long as I can remember. And even The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull brought us the joy of seeing Harrison Ford brandish the whip just one more time. No, there really is no question that Indiana Jones is my go-to franchise hero. – Nigel Druitt
- Highest Global Rank: Raiders of the Lost Ark (#4)
- Lowest Global Rank: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (#4823)
- Average Global Rank: #1233
Jandy: Resident Evil (5 films)
I’m pretty sure I’ve already used Resident Evil in this here Blogger Q&A series, but I’ve got to go back to it here. Is it one of the best franchises ever? I mean, we’re up against LoTR, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, James Bond and more just in this very post. No, it’s not the greatest. But I can’t stop going to them, and I generally dislike zombie movies (and games; I’ve never really played the RE games, which makes no difference here). What is it about Resident Evil? Well, let’s get the major thing out of the way first. It’s Milla Jovovich. She’s a better actress than these movies suggest, but what these movies have that better Milla movies don’t is her KICKING ASS. And nobody kicks ass better while looking amazing than Milla. The first Resident Evil movie is actually quite good, with a solid story that’s already not really based on the video games – Milla wakes up with amnesia, finds herself in a nearly deserted research lab with a bunch of commandos, and has to fight her way out and figure out, like, WHY she can fight at all. (Spoilers: Umbrella Corp has a few secrets and she’s one of them.) Apocalypse is my least favorite of the series, as it’s basically a battle between two unstoppables – Milla’s organic enhancements and the Nemesis project’s robotic enhancements. Kinda boring. Extinction has one of the more coherent stories, and the bonus of hooking Milla up with Ali Larter as Claire Redfield, for a girl power duo that only got better in Afterlife (though the story isn’t as good in that one). Retribution took the meta approach of being set in an Umbrella simulation, forcing Milla to fight her way through all-too-deadly simulcra of the locations in previous films. Fan service? OKAY WITH ME. The thing is, I can’t defend this series as actually GOOD (except for the first one), but I appreciate that they know what they are and double down on it, and they appeal very strongly to the side of me that loves slick, unapologetically ridiculous action movies with women kicking butt. – Jandy Hardesty
- Highest Global Rank: Resident Evil (#3321)
- Lowest Global Rank: Resident Evil: Retribution (#11,329)
- Average Global Rank: #6842
David: James Bond (24 films)
Every few years a new Bond movie comes out, and I marathon the franchise. In the whole world of movies, there may be nothing I look forward to more. The good Bonds, the bad ones, the gritty ones, the silly ones, the politically-incorrect ones, the forward-looking reinventions…this is the one franchise for which neither quality nor content affect my enjoyment. If a bad Star Trek or Star Wars movie comes out, it drives me crazy because it’s canon. But canon in the Bond universe means introducing a new gun or a new car every once in a while. To the extent that there is a continuing story — an evolving relationship with M, a fateful marriage sometimes referenced, a battle of egos with Blofeld — making sense of occasional lapses in continuity is part of the fun.
Though I’ve watched virtually every Bond production, including the unofficial ones, many times over, explored every DVD special feature, and regularly listen to the title songs in my car, there are limits to my fandom: I don’t wear a tux, shoot people, or sleep around, but most importantly, I still believe that a proper martini is made with gin, not vodka. Lifestyle choices and uneven output notwithstanding, Bond is a character I don’t get tired of spending time with. – David Conrad
- Highest Global Rank: Goldfinger (#336)
- Lowest Global Rank: Die Another Day (#5108)
- Average Global Rank: #1710