The Top Ten Movie Franchises of All Time (Part One)

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.

Honorable Mention: The Marvel Cinematic Universe There is no logical reason this series of films should have worked, let alone be the financial and critical success that it is. Back in 2008, no one could have predicted what was going to happen in the next eight years. Since the release of Iron Man in 2008, there have been 13 films, seven unique franchises, and four BILLION dollars earned in the series.1 The MCU has given us iconic heroes in Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Black Widow, Ant Man, and the Guardians of the Galaxy. It has resurrected acting careers – Robert Downey Jr. It has catapulted others to instant stardom – Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, and Chris Pratt.2 It has changed the way every studio views franchise building. Marvel studio chief Kevin Feige has built the most successful and unprecedented film series of all time. And it shows virtually no signs of slowing.  There are another nine films planned for the next three years. Earth’s mightiest heroes indeed. – Phill Lytle


10. Oceans Series We don’t want to love a movie series about thieves, but we can’t help it. From a videography and editing standpoint these are three of the best movies ever made. While other movie franchises may have stronger stories and more endearing characters, Oceans 11, 12, and 13 are just plain cooler. The quick and clever dialogue, the soundtrack that takes you back to Elvis’ Las Vegas, Linus’ (Matt Damon) naiveté, and Rusty’s (Brad Pitt) unquenchable appetite, are only a few of the qualities that make this series so compelling. My favorites are director Steven Soderbergh’s willingness to blur the line between actor and character (he doesn’t just do it in the second movie!) and the constant bickering between the Malloy brothers. There is so much brilliant about this movie, but I’ll close with a bit of dialogue from Oceans 11.

Tess: “You’re a liar and a thief.”

Danny: “I only lied about being a thief.”                                                                                                                                                

– Dave Lytle


9. X-Men This is a flawed franchise. The continuity is, for the lack of a better word, non-existent. There have been incredibly strong installments in the franchise and there have been less-than-stellar episodes. One thing is likely though; without the first X-Men film, released in 2000, the modern superhero movie craze would look very different. Prior to that film, superhero films had become a joke. 3 There is really no reason X-Men should have worked. But it did. Director Bryan Singer made X-Men relatable. He made it about the outsider. The outcast. The confused and the lonely trying to find acceptance and their place in the world. The X-Men franchise introduced viewers to iconic characters like Professor Charles Xavier. Magneto. Jean Grey. And most notably, Wolverine and the unknown actor that portrayed him, Hugh Jackman, who has since become a Hollywood megastar. Singer and company grounded the films with a sense of realism that had been lost in the superhero film world. These films felt like they were part of our world. Real people dealing with real problems. It was revolutionary and set the standard well before Spider Man or Iron Man came to the big screen years later. Not all of the X-Men films have worked, and some have hurt the overall impact of the franchise, but taken as a whole, the X-Men film world is in an elite class. It has had a lasting power that would be an envy to most. (Eight films in sixteen years.) It has earned millions of dollars. And it has built a worldwide fan-base. Though the franchise has been hugely successful, it has been relegated to the outside somewhat, with the Marvel Cinematic Universe getting most of the attention. For a film series about mutants and outcasts, this all seems rather fitting.  – Phill Lytle


8. Harry Potter Turning a 7-book, 4000-page fantasy epic into eight movies was bound to have limitations. Yet, in this series the limitations were offset by two things in the movies that were even better than my imagination while reading and now enhance the reading experience in my mind when I reread. The first is most of the characters. With the exception of Dumbledore, the version of who in my head cannot be replicated it seems, the casting choices were so good across the board I now have a perfect image of them while reading. Alan Rickman really was Snape. Maggie Smith is McGonagall in my mind’s eye now. Radcliffe, Watson, Grint…the list goes on and on for how well the actors brought the personalities to life. Their contributions to the movies make the movies enjoyable and the books better to me. Secondly, in a magical world filled with things that do not actually exist, the movies enabled us to see them with advanced technology. I loved actually getting to see Quidditch in a realistic looking way. I loved the movie’s interpretation of apparition. I even loved the ride on the Knight Bus. For all the things I wish the movies would have brought to life from the books but simply could not, they did extremely well with what they could. Like the books, the movies get better as the series progresses and I am glad they made them.  – Gowdy Cannon


7. Toy Story Come in, Star Command. Star Command, come in. Do you read me? Oh, there you are. When I heard they were making sequel to Toy Story (1995), I was skeptical and actually very concerned. Toy Story is about as good as computer animation gets with its simple, honed, and incredibly heartfelt story. While Randy Newman’s musical scoring of the first Toy Story remains my favorite music in the franchise, what resulted were two more movies (1999 and 2010) that were just as good as the first—and better in some respects. The three movies churned out some unforgettable recurring main characters like Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Mr. Potato Head, Rex, Hamm, Slinky Dog, Andy, among many others. There were also very memorable recurring side characters like The Evil Emperor Zurg, The Pizza Planet Truck, and the aliens (“I have been chosen!). And characters specific to one or two movies like Sid, Jessie, Bullseye, Lotso, and Ken. In the end, I had absolutely nothing to worry about. All three movies are in my opinion better than almost every other CGI film ever made, all three packing a wallop of authentic heart and a vast library of keen emotional moments. Another movie in the franchise is coming out next year, but I have lost my original skepticism of Toy Story sequels. They have well proven that the story is in very good hands and that we can enjoy the ride with Woody, Buzz, and the vast host of other amazing characters to infinity and beyond or wherever they want to take us.  – Ben Plunkett


6. The Godfather The Godfather films are widely recognized as some of the best in the history of cinema. The three films were nominated for 29 Academy Awards, winning 9. The Godfather (1972) is ranked #2 in the American Film Institute’s Top 100 movies of all time. The Godfather Part II (1974) is also part of that prestigious list, as well as having the distinction of being possibly the best sequel AND best prequel ever. Even the much maligned (in some circles) Godfather Part III (1990) won the Academy Award for best picture the year it was eligible. The careers of several legendary actors were launched by these films. Beyond all of that these movies have given us multiple quotes that have become a part of pop culture and for better or for worse many people’s view of organized crime and even Italian Americans come from the Godfather. The story that is told and the way it is told is what truly make these films special. The events depicted in the Godfather trilogy span nearly a century as we witness the rise and fall of the Corleone family. Themes of loyalty, greed, and a desire for power are on full display. Most of all we see through the life of Michael Corleone how even a seemingly “good” person can make terrible choices, and once the descent into sin and evil begins, it is impossible to climb out on our own.  – Mike Lytle


Read Part 2 here.

  1. That is in the North American box office alone. You can add billions more in international sales.
  2. What’s the deal with all the Chris’s?
  3. The Burton/Schumaker Batman films had taken care of that.
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5 thoughts on “The Top Ten Movie Franchises of All Time (Part One)

  • August 5, 2016 at 7:58 am

    I don’t know about you all, but the intro really hit home for me. So far nothing has been the same. This list is dramatically revolutionizing the way I live and think.

    Seriously, though, this list was decided by a vote of several of us, but if I did it myself it would have all of these franchises on it, albeit with a few rearrangements here and there.

    • August 5, 2016 at 9:11 am

      Ben with an epic “pat himself of the back” move!

      The intro is great. Well done sir.

  • August 16, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    I would like to clear up something, in case it was not already clear: We decided to do the Marvel films as one entry because we felt they deserved some sort of acknowledgement. When we voted on these, only one of the series in the Universe had three films. (Iron Man) Not that three films was a requirement but it did seem to play out that way in the end. None of the individual MCU franchises made our top ten, but not including them felt like an oversight.

  • December 6, 2016 at 2:41 pm

    I’m still marveling at the intro. No pun.

  • April 26, 2019 at 10:39 am

    “Honorable Mention: The Marvel Cinematic Universe”

    I think we might need to revisit this now…


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