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. ↩