Franchises are Hollywood’s main business these days. It’s been like that for a while now, but it’s gotten even more ingrained over the years now that comic book movies have taken over. So everyone needs a franchise these days to keep the lights on, forgoing the mid-range adult dramas that keep TNT’s late night schedule filled for either big-budgeted action extravaganzas or micro-budgeted horror movies that make a big profit.
And now that we’re entering a secondary rush of big blockbusters to end off the year, it seems like a pretty good time to take stock on the good ones we’ve got. The ones that deserve to be kept alive and not the ones being kept on life support because a studio doesn’t know when to quit (*cough* Universal Monsters *cough*).
10. The Purge
This is a really interesting series, and one that didn’t seem like it would be on a list like this at the time of its inception. The first film introduced an interesting hook to the world but failed to deliver on it, giving us a bland home invasion movie in the process. But it made a crap ton of money and immediately entered the pop culture lexicon thanks to its great hook. So when it was time for a sequel to come along, mastermind James DeMonaco got the juice needed to go bigger and delve into the premise he wasn’t budgetarily allowed to explore the first time out.
Now that we are two sequels in with the promise of another entry into the series, as well as a TV show that will better explore the world it has built, the series has become one of the most prime properties right now. Mainly because it lucked into being eerily prescient with the way the world was turning, toward a more fascistic bent where the haves convince some of the have nots to go after the rest of the have nots.
The political reality of the series has become more true to life and it is leaning into it. “The Purge: Election Year” smelled blood in the water and it really nailed the way life is in its fantasy form. Knowing they will be able to go even further is really exciting and life doesn’t stop giving them material to mine.
9. Star Trek
Star Trek hasn’t gone away. There may have been a fallow time, after “Star Trek: Nemesis” and “Star Trek: Enterprise” helped to solidify an apathy toward the series for a bit. But J.J. Abrams helped explode the series back into the pop consciousness, and we have a new show in the world that follows the typical “Star Trek” show routine of being immediately disliked for not being Trek enough, and is now being embraced for being Trek enough while doing its own thing.
Not to mention the movies, which had a brief dip with “Into Darkness” but then soared to real heights with “Beyond.” Trek is in a real good place. Its brand of futuristic sci-fi tinged with optimism is something we need these days, even if they embrace a more action film mold now. The property seems to be in good hands and it really feels good to be able to be excited for the series again. The world has become so nerd friendly these days, even more so than in its heyday of the 90s. It’s good to see that Trek has a place in the world.
8. Mad Max
This series would not have been on this list three years ago, as the franchise was essentially dead for decades. But George Miller managed to get Warner Bros. to bankroll a sequel with a massive budget that recast Mel Gibson in a feature length car chase where the majority of the characters are females in the most feminist blockbuster pre-“Wonder Woman.”
“Fury Road” is the best movie in the last 10 years, a truly forward-thinking and masterfully executed pop blockbuster that succeeds on every level. It can work on just a base level, as it’s one of the most exciting movies ever made. But it can also work on a deeper level, as it is a good treatise on trauma and feminism and the destructive ends of misogyny.
Every single element is great. Tom Hardy is an amazing replacement for Gibson, really getting into the broken soul of the man and showing that he has a good heart underneath all the gruff. Charlize Theron is truly iconic as Furiosa, the real main character of this movie. A woman trying to keep hope alive in a horrible future where men keep women under heel, and being forced to confront the harsh realities of the world and still keeping the fight going. The rest of the ladies are great and give real life to these women, all feeling different from one another.
Immortan Joe is a great villain, another element of this list that has become timely in its view on how awful men brutalize women for their own mediocre ends. It’s been a few years since the movie was released and there’s always talk about a new one. One can only hope that this becomes a viable franchise again. As of now, it’s still fresh. Let’s keep it that way.
7. Fast and the Furious
Somehow, this franchise stayed alive and became the biggest thing in town. A series that started as a ripoff of “Point Break” (but better) and then immediately went down the tubes with an airhead sequel and a bland near direct-to-video entry where it had almost no ties to the rest. But that DTV sequel was helmed by Justin Lin, who would become the man who would rocket this series to the massive heights in “Fast Five.”
By forgoing the street racing angle and turning it into “Ocean’s Eleven” with cars was a real stroke of genius. Enhancing the family element and roping characters in from the previously disparate sequels to make the most joyous and diverse cast of characters getting into physics defying stunts was the medicine we all needed.
These movies are just fun now. No more self serious nonsense. Just fun, super spy stuff that feeds the need for speed. We all care about these goofballs, and with each new sequel, they manage to up the ante and keep it all feeling part of a whole. They get bigger and sillier but never lose sight of what makes them succeed. They can add new family members and lose one (RIP Paul Walker), but they never lose a step. Despite what comically insane sidekick Tyrese thinks, the center of this franchise isn’t him or Vin. It’s The Rock. No one in this series understands the tone of these movies like him.
It’s a sight to behold and there’s no surprise that these movies are now a billion dollar industry. It’s the guy who can succeed outside of this series, not the guys who failed within it before his entrance. There may be tons of drama behind the scenes now, but there’s no reason to think they can’t rope it all together to make the next one even crazier. Not to mention the spinoff with The Rock and Jason Statham. I mean, that alone is enough to justify its placement on this list.
This franchise would have been on this list in the 80s, but would have been gone in the 90s and half of the 2000s. But “Rocky Balboa” was great and thrust this franchise back into the light. Sylvester Stallone delivered the second best entry in the series, which was honestly no small feat. He got that feeling the original delivered to make another heart-filled entry into this series that plays like semi-autobiographies for him.
Yet the series went away for a bit until the surprise resurrection by Ryan Coogler to make a sequel/spinoff about Apollo Creed’s son. There was room for both excitement and for worry. Excitement because “Fruitvale Station” was superb and showed serious talent. But worry because a spinoff of a franchise that was previously tied to one man was a big bet.
Fortunately, it paid off immensely and “Creed” has now taken the second place spot, making an argument for it to be the number one spot for many people. It’s a true achievement on all levels. Coogler came in and made boxing scenes feel fresh. His story was filled with as much heart and genuine emotions as the original “Rocky.” The weight of time is heavy in this story, as Rocky as edging toward his end and Adonis is shadowboxing with his father’s legacy.
This is a marvel and a worthy extension of what came before and an exciting starting point for a whole new journey. Coogler proved he is the real deal here and solidified why he is the next big thing. The ultimate series about underdogs and the fight to prove we are worthy has been rejuvenated, and the sequel is poised to be an interesting journey.