Hey there readers! After a long hiatus due to the the dearth of interesting films in March, we are back! With the recent release of Furious 7 (tune in next week for our review of that) and the highly anticipated Avengers 2: Age of Ultron right around the corner, we decided to look at our top five favorite movie franchises of all time.
James Bond is by far the longest running series on this list, with 23 feature films already released and a 24th in the latter stages of development. Like most franchises, it has had its ups (Goldfinger) and its downs (Quantum of Solace), but the series has somehow maintained its vitality across multiple generations and even multiple iterations of the titular character by Sean Connery, David Niven, Sean Connery again, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and now Daniel Craig. Sure, maybe the Bond films have morphed into popcorn action movies rather than slick sleuth movies in recent years, but with the throwback at the end of Skyfall and the history of the titular criminal organization in Spectre, we could very well be returning to the golden age of Bond with this next installment.
Lord of the Rings
Few trilogies can claim they get better as they go along: Peter Jackson’s series of epics definitely can.
In fact, it’s actively hard not to admire three massive movies that were produced concurrently, stayed true to their source material and also managed to swipe more than a few Oscars along the way. Put simply, Lord of the Rings, if I was writing this based off of sheer gravity and mass, would probably sweep this list. With all the heavy hitters out there in this sequel-obsessed age, that’s pretty darn impressive.
Lord of the Rings
Lord of the Rings is a remarkable franchise for a number of reasons. For one, it enticed mass numbers of movie goers (all three original films grossed over $300 million) to sit through three and a half hour epics, that, frankly, did have a tendency to drag. It is also remarkable because it is perhaps the only big-budget sci-fi fantasy film to ever win Best Picture (it won 11 Oscars in total, by the way). Even Star Wars couldn’t win Best Picture. Visually, LORT is stunning. The locations and set pieces in LOTR are so vividly imagined and shot, and the special effects (with the exception of Legolas jumping those few times) are top notch. It features incredible motion capture performances from Andy Serkis as Gollum, and a well-acted cast of supporting characters. The only reason it isn’t higher on this list is that, well, the movies are way too long, even for a LOTR fan. The pacing is usually poor and at times abysmal. Sure, the pay-off is some epic battles, but I think we could all do without all of that walking.
If I hadn’t been for a few infamous prequels, this one could have been a little higher on this list but that’s ok. Four isn’t half bad. I’m still convinced, in fact, that with a few modifications the prequels could’ve stood equal to their parent trilogy.
Alas, they didn’t. But Star Wars still stands as a prime example of sci-fi (or fantasy, depending on who you ask) on the silver screen. I honestly can’t think of any film that preceded it that was quite like it. Maybe a few good decisions on Mr. J.J. Abrams’s over the next few years can undo some bad ones from the last few decades.
Harry Potter is perhaps my personal favorite on this list, not necessarily because it’s the highest quality, but because it’s the only one where I watched the individual installments as they came out. I’ve watched only the last three Bonds in theater, and haven’t even seen all of them. I saw all of the Lord of the Rings movies within the past year. I didn’t watch Batman Begins until I had already watched The Dark Knight. And Star Wars came out in the 70s. But Harry Potter was something I grew up with. I read the books and watched the movies, and I watched the last few all in theaters, anxiously awaiting their arrivals. Even based on pure quality, it’s a winner. It has an epic story, top-notch special effects, and iconic roles from the likes of Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, and of course from the young trio of wizards. I think all of us at one point or another have wished that we could go to school at Hogwarts.
Star Trek isn’t quite as popular as it used to be but I felt as though it’d be a crime against humanity to leave it out. Over three solid T.V. shows, over five good films and one concrete, loyal fanbase? I’m no mathematician like the reviewer next to me but that adds up to a very, very memorable franchise.
Star Trek’s universe spelled out that it was expand-able since episode one. What with all the great different universes, species and races, there were about a billion opportunities to to make stories ranging from campy or downright comedic to dramatic and resonant. Either way, usually, Star Trek conquers.
This series is carried by perhaps my favorite movie of all time, The Dark Knight. Sure, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight Rises have their individual merits, and both are still exceptionally entertaining and star-studded films, but The Dark Knight is heads and shoulders above the other two movies. It features a chilling performance from Heath Ledger as the Joker, for which he won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Not enough can be said about his portrayal as a man spiraling into madness and dragging down the rest of Gotham with him (Plus, that scene with him and Batman in the interrogation room is pretty killer). But even beyond Ledger, The Dark Knight is perhaps the only superhero movie to have merits outside the superhero genre. It is as much a superhero flick as The Avengers but as much a thrilling crime drama as The Departed.
There’s certainly a reason why this happens: they’re all just great adaptations. Good at condensing the material and capturing the universe. Even better at tuning the visuals, music and acting to what the story needs. All of the choices were pretty much perfect and, as a result, my answer always changes every time you ask me what my exact favorite Potter installment is.
Star Wars is the quintessential epic. It is a space opera on a massive scale, with a scope not replicated since its release. It feautres perhaps some of the most iconic characters in all of film, with Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia, Yoda, and Chewy. It’s special effects were far ahead of its time and even hold up relatively well in the modern era. It’s score, composed by John Williams, is immediately recognizable, with such classics as the Imperial March and the Star Wars theme. It spawned a number of television shows, my favorite videogame of all time (Battlefront) and an endless supply of Legos. Even an entirely lackluster trilogy of prequels could not tarnish the sterling reputation of the original three masterpieces. Here’s to hoping that Star Wars can reclaim even a shadow of its former glory with the upcoming The Force Awakens.
Marvel Cinematic Universe
Maybe it’s because I’m currently mobilizing for Avengers 2 or maybe it’s because Winter Soldier was on Starz last night or maybe it’s because Guardians of the Galaxy is still in memory but I’m just currently enamored with the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The MCU is everything a franchise should be: it’s loyal to its fans, it’s incredibly well-planned and coordinated and it’s incredibly aware of its own mistakes and is always eager to correct them. Until either D.C. or Sony gets this, the MCU will remain unmatched.
Are we being suffocated with superhero movies too much? Eh, probably but I won’t get tired until the Marvel Universe does.