5. Planet of The Apes
This series has only one bad movie, and it was the one made by Tim Burton (shocker). The series started off with an iconic asskicker of a sci-fi parable that set the template for a series that would tackle the horrible nature of humanity and society through its ape-based narratives. These movies were always downers and really never shied away from how dark the hearts of the inhabitants of our world are.
Burton’s film failed for many reasons, but that may be the biggest. It didn’t have anything new to add to the series and just tried to be a bland blockbuster husk of the original series. While none of the sequels ever topped the original, they each made their own way and did some truly bold and original things that made it probably the best sci-fi movie series of its day.
When word came down they’d be rebooting the series with “cutting edge” CGI, we were wary. But the effects work really came out in a killer way. They were able to do with CGI what the originals did with makeup effects. It was perhaps even more successful, as they were able to truly get emotional resonance across. Andy Serkis proved to be the best thing to happen to this series and take the reins over from Roddy McDowall as franchise mascot.
“Rise” was a real solid starter, but there was no way to see how high this franchise would grow once Matt Reeves took over. The most somber and thought-provoking blockbusters today that go back to the feeling of the original series, showing the horrid horrors held in the hearts of man.
“War for the Planet of the Apes” managed to buck all preconceived notions of what it would be, going smaller and making what could essentially be called “Ape Moses On The River Kwai.” It went out on a high note, telling the story of Caesar with utter care and leaving it in the most bittersweet and melancholic way. This series has pretty much always been great, and it’s become something even more special.
4. James Bond
James Bond has been around forever. The series has highs and lows and you can never guarantee which way it’ll go. It can hit it out of the park and then immediately follow it up with a horrid mistake. They can also be counted on to follow the trends of the times and morph the franchise to fit its needs.
It’s kind of hard to argue that Daniel Craig’s tenure in the franchise hasn’t been a real high point in the series, even if “Quantum of Solace” and “Spectre” get people’s hackles up (unjustly for the most part). So even if “Spectre” wasn’t the home run we all wish it was, it was something more interesting than the majority of Brosnan’s or Moore’s entries.
So now that we are marching towards the final Craig Bond movie, we gotta be excited, because we may get another “Spectre,” but we also may get a “Casino Royale” or “Skyfall.” He’s never made an embarrassment like the other Bonds. We can expect great visuals in exotic locales and some tip-top practical action. Bond will last as long as cinema exists, and it will always be an exciting game to see if it’s good or not.
3. John Wick
John Wick exploded onto the scene and immediately became a classic. The Keanu action flick made waves with it’s expertly executed shootouts and rich mythology. The sequel came out and built upon its mythology in interesting ways; it kept up the rich visual style and kept the masterful action going in bigger and better ways. All of these elements set it apart from other action movies; if it wasn’t for the care that they put into every element, they’d be easily digested and forgotten.
There’s definitely gonna be another entry into this amazing series, as well as a TV series that further builds upon the world. Watching these movies is truly exhilarating. Watching such craft on display is wild. All the practical effects and comically abundant headshots make it such a singular experience, and there’s a narrative and a thematic resonance to these movies that elevate it all. Following a man deal with his grief through the genre lens of his past coming back to haunt him is really interesting stuff that doesn’t exist in lesser movies. These are truly great movies and one hopes they don’t go away soon.
2. Star Wars
Star Wars is the grand poobah of franchise filmmaking. Blockbusters started with “A New Hope” and it only makes sense that they stand as events today. Now that Disney has bought the franchise, it’s looking to fulfill the potential it has to be an all encompassing franchise.
The original trilogy was the biggest business in town and the prequel trilogy helped to break Hollywood and film fandom. We could have been without Star Wars on the big screens thanks to those truly awful prequels, which go to show that there is a downside to one-man decision making and that Lucas wasn’t the only creative mind on the original trilogy.
Especially now that Disney is giving the franchise a team of creatives to work with filmmakers to make movies that stand as their own while fitting into the grander universe. “The Force Awakens” was a jolt to the heart, the first time since 1984 that we can say true Star Wars was on big screens. It rejuvenated interest in the series and forged a fresh path forward. “Rogue One” was a tentative step in a one-off direction, doing its own thing within the path of prior narrative knowledge of the original Death Star’s destruction.
With “The Last Jedi” and “Solo” coming down the pike, there’s some interesting paths coming our way that can really set this franchise up for a long time. They’re still figuring things out with the grand world building thing, but there’s so much potential that there’s no way that it won’t be met soon enough.
1. The Marvel Cinematic Universe
This is the most well-oiled machine in Hollywood. The world building and the singular filmmaking combine to make some really interesting blockbusters that stand out from the bland work going on in lesser corners of Hollywood.
Even if one isn’t an instant classic, there’s always the chance that the next one will do so. If “Doctor Strange” is a really good movie that doesn’t change the game? Well, “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” will come out and deliver a knockout blow. There may be some rickety moments within, some narrative repetitions and a rough time with the villains. A tendency to substitute narrative acuity with cutesiness. But that all gets easily pushed to the side when we can see the supremely nerdy stuff being put on screen with ease.
Seeing how weird they can get in “Doctor Strange” or “Guardians” with comfort. How they can get down in the dirt with Captain America or Iron Man. How all these disparate tones and narratives can exist in one universe is a massively delicate balancing act. Building up to the Thanos stuff has been a real thrill, the anticipation of it reaching a fever pitch now. No one does franchise filmmaking as well as Marvel these days and they’ve done something that’s one of a kind with this stuff.