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by Jason Frank Koenigsberg
Alright so we’re all still stuck at home with this mandatory quarantine you might be running out of things to watch. There is no new content on the immediate horizon since all of film and television had to shut down production about a month ago as have practically all other industries around the world. So you may be looking for another television series to binge watch or a movie franchise to sink your teeth into. This is a great chance to rewatch an entire film series or discover a new movie franchise to the fullest that you never got around to see. To help you take advantage of this opportune time here are Pan and Slam’s list of the best movie franchises to binge watch while you are stuck at home.
1. James Bond 1962-Present
25 movies if you count Never Say Never Again (1983) plus another one coming this fall
The longest running movie franchise spanning nearly sixty years is also one of the best. Secret Agent James Bond 007 portrayed by six different actors spans the globe to stop supervillains bent on world domination and mass destruction. It has consistently provided more thrills and action than any other movie series. Not always the trendsetters they once were but 007 is often following in the progression of the times. This series has managed to not just survive but often thrive reinventing itself to sustain one of cinemas most beloved heroic icons.
Must See: Goldfinger (1965), Casino Royale (2006), Skyfall (2012), among many others.
Can do without: License to Kill (1989) is probably the worst Bond film despite a rousing score from Michael Kamen and a fierce performance from Timothy Dalton.
2. Star Wars 1977-2019
12 theatrical movies
The saga of Luke Skywalker as well as his ancestors and progeny made for one of the most profitable and longest running movie franchises of all time. Originally just a trilogy, followed two decades later by a prequel trilogy, it now has spawned an entire universe with films, television shows, and endless merchandising opportunities. This is the franchise that has come the closest to where a movie has created a mythology for the modern world.
Must See: The original trilogy, Star Wars-A New Hope (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and The Return of the Jedi (1983).
Can do without: Star Wars Episode IX: Rise of Skywalker (2019) is the only film in the entire series that feels as if it was directed by a committee or focus groups to appease the fans. It is a far cry from George Lucas’ singular vision that drove the franchise until Disney bought it.
3. Alien 1979-2017
6 movies not including the Alien vs. Predator films
Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) faces off against a seemingly indestructible monster deep in outer space where no-one can hear you scream. This franchise has some of the highest of highs and the lows are pretty bad but it manages to somehow feel different in almost every movie.
Must See: Alien (1979) and Aliens (1986) are two of the best action/sci-fi/horror hybrids of all time.
Can do without: Alien: Covenant (2017) is the only film in the series that felt like a retread of the original Alien.
4. Indiana Jones 1981-2008
The quintessential adventure movie series that combined the perfect amount of action with humor. Harrison Ford’s whip wielding fedora wearing icon is one of the greatest movie heroes of all time. Never before has archaeology seemed so exciting. This franchise is swashbuckling and rip-roaring entertainment of the highest quality… except for one entry.
Must See: Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) is the best and the rest of the originally trilogy are outstanding films on their own.
Can do without: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008) ruined an otherwise perfect franchise.
5. Christopher Nolan’s Batman Trilogy 2005-2012
The game changing series for comic book movies. The reason why studios are obsessed with origin stories and the first time superhero movies were as powerful as any crime drama from a master director. Christopher Nolan’s take on Batman elevated the subject matter to being legitimate high art and has suffered ever since he stepped away from directing DC’s biggest grossing superhero.
Must See: The Dark Knight (2008) is the best but all three films have value.
Can do without: The Dark Knight Rises (2012) is the weakest of the three but still has its virtues.
6. Planet of the Apes 1968-2017
The long running series going all the way back to 1968 has some huge high points and extremely low points in over the past 50 years. A smart social commentary on class, racism, animal rights, civil rights, nuclear warfare, and the dangers of technology. The Planet of the Apes films have exceeded all expectations and were groundbreaking science fiction with its complex make up design, unique Jerry Goldsmith score, and innovative ideas.
Must See: The Original Planet of the Apes (1968) remains an important classic of science fiction and still holds up today as great storytelling.
Can do without: Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970), Battle for the Planet of the Apes (1973), and especially Tim Burton’s “re-imagining” of Planet of the Apes (2001) can all pretty much be skipped and you can enjoy the rest of the series without missing much.
7. Mission: Impossible 1996-Present
6 films, a 7th on the way
The most underrated action movie series of all time. It gets lost in the shuffle between the James Bond and Jason Bourne movies, as well as Tom Cruise’s ego and scientology obsessed image. Most of these movies are pretty solid action vehicles with some of the best stunt work and computer effects from this century outside of a comic book movie. It is doubtful that anyone thought Tom Cruise or this franchise could have been this successful and would last as long as it has.
Must See: Mission: Impossible (1996), Mission: Impossible Ghost Protocol (2011) and Mission: Impossible Fallout (2018)
Can do without: Mission: Impossible III (2006) is the weakest entry of the series even though it ties in with all the much better films that follow it.
8. The Before Trilogy 1995-2013
The best trilogy of all time (since they decided to make a fourth Indiana Jones movie). They are all dialogue driven lighthearted dramas about the different stages of a relationship. Each film seems to grow stronger and we can only hope that a few years from now Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy, and Richard Linklater will all reunite to see where their relationship status is at and how they have evolved.
Must See: They are all outstanding but Before Midnight (2013) is the most mature and therefore the best.
Can do without: Before Sunrise (1995) is the weakest only because the characters are so young and idealistic but it is still a must see.
9. Die Hard 1988-2013
The best and most influential action movie of all time and its sequels that further the adventures of John McClane. The first film changed action cinema for the next decade. What Halloween did in 1978 redefining the slasher genre for horror movies throughout the 1980’s, Die Hard did the same for all 90’s action movies. Changing the action hero from a tough guy, larger than life archetype to a smaller everyman who talks too much. A sad fact the later sequels ignored.
Must See: The first is still the best and one of the best movies of all time for a myriad of reasons and has become a staple for many to watch at Christmastime.
Can do without: Another movie series that should have remained a trilogy. The fourth film Live Free or Die Hard (2007) turns John McClane into Superman, or Super-dad all of a sudden, and the fifth one A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) Bruce Willis basically sleepwalks through the role and the rest of the movie is as tired as he is.
10. The Back to the Future Trilogy 1985-1990
Marty McFly travels back in time to get his parents to fall in love and save his family otherwise he will cease to exist. One of the most fun, inventive, and exhilarating movie franchises of all time that has never gotten old. If anything its pristine reputation has aged well and it is more respected as a special part of cinema that cannot be touched with a remake, reboot, or sequel. This has something for audiences of all ages.
Must See: All of them, but once again, nothing can top the original.
Can do without: Back to the Future Part III (1990) is the one that is a western and is the weakest of the three films because it repeats everything that we saw twice, just in a different setting. That being said it is still recommended viewing.