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by Jason F. Koenigsberg
So we are still stuck at home and it is May, what should have been the official kick off for the summer blockbuster movie season. But alas, there are no new movies coming out and movie theaters in the majority of states remain closed. This is usually the time of year when a lot of sequels to big hits would be released and try to capitalize on the American public, especially the youth, having more free time and money to spend on going to the movies. Well there are no sequels hitting the big screen so if you need to get your fix on watching movies and sequels to your favorite films, you are going to have to settle with watching them in the comfort of your own home. This article itself is a sequel to the Best Binge Worthy Movie Franchises. Here Pan and Slam is simply presenting ten more of the best movie franchises that you can watch at home if you are so inclined. If you have run out of ideas and want to check out a series of films you never saw or re-watch a movie saga you have not seen in a while here are some of the best ones you will find.
11. The Quentin Tarantino Movie Universe 1992-Present 9 Movies*
Nine movies he wrote and directed. 11 if you count his screenplays for True Romance (1993) and From Dusk Till Dawn (1996), 12 if you count Natural Born Killers (1994) which he denounced the final film and is only credited as ‘Story by”. This may seem like an odd franchise to binge watch, but Quentin Tarantino has stated that his entire filmography is connected and takes place in the same universe. Each film is wholly original and they all stand on their own other than the two Kill Bill movies which he considers one long epic. There are small clues of connective tissue between the films such as the Big Kahuna Burger’s they eat, the Red Apple cigarettes they smoke, and names they drop like Scagnetti, The Vega Brothers, and a call girl named Alabama are important characters from some Tarantino films and are mentioned in other films where those characters never appear. Even his revisionist historical films like Inglorious Basterds (2009) and Django Unchained (2012) are meant to take place in the same universe as Reservoir Dogs (1992) and Pulp Fiction (1994).
Must See: All of them. Reservoir Dogs is my personal favorite but every one of his films offers something valuable to the audience. Pulp Fiction is considered his masterpiece but everything he has directed could be categorized as a modern classic.
Can do without: Jackie Brown (1997) is the only one of his movies I cannot fully embrace. I have given it many chances over the years and I feel it is Tarantino overindulging in his own techniques without any regard for the audience. It is the only one of his films that feels long and at 154 minutes if they trimmed thirty minutes off I think it would have been a better movie. Despite that I cannot deny the strong performances across the board especially Pam Grier as the title character and late great Robert Forster in his Academy Award nominated role.
12. George A. Romero’s Zombie films 1968-2009 6 Movies
Ah, the master of zombie horror. The man who invented the modern zombie genre with Night of the Living Dead (1968) went on to make six films about the undead roaming the Earth over the next forty years. These films tell the stories of humans banding together to fight against flesh eating ghouls that rise from the dead. They all loosely connect and could be viewed as sequels but also work as their own films if you have not seen the previous entry. The lone exception to that is probably George Romero’s sole foray into the found footage sub-genre with Diary of the Dead (2007) where the zombie apocalypse seems to start in the twenty-first century and not tie in with the earlier films. That being said Romero’s zombies all follow the same rules and gradually evolve over time with each movie so they are consistent in that way.
Must See: His first four zombie movies are all outstanding and very different in their own way. My personal favorite is Dawn of the Dead (1978) but I cannot imagine what it would be like not seeing the other films that surround it and the different themes they explore.
Can do without: Diary of the Dead (2007) felt like Romero was jumping on a trend in horror and did not flow with the rest of his zombie epics but it still had its charms in the way only Romero could provide with humor and social commentary. His final film Survival of the Dead (2009) felt tired and had very little positive aspects to recall. Sadly, his last zombie film was his worst.
13. The Godfather Trilogy 1972-1990 3 Films
Sure we all know and love Mario Puzo’s epic The Godfather (1972). Plus The Godfather Part II (1974) did the impossible by not only living up to the classic that the first film was, but in some ways surpassed the original. The story of an Italian-American immigrant, his family and their rise to power in search of the American dream. Francis Ford Coppola’s masterworks can be viewed as two separate films the way they were released or as The Godfather Saga (1977) which takes the first two films and re-edits them in chronological order and also adds new scenes. A very different but equally rewarding experience. Depending on when you last saw these films will determine if you need to see them again.
Must See: Obviously from the description above you can tell how much I admire The Godfather’s I and II…
Can do without: The Godfather Part III (1990) came many years after the first two films and felt like Coppola, who’s career had stagnated throughout the 1980’s needed a hit so he went to the well one last time, and it was one time too many. I am not a fan of Part III and have given the film many chances. I feel that if I get started critiquing why I do not like this film it would end up being its own article. You can skip III and not miss anything.
14. The Lord of the Rings 2001-2003 3 Films
I chose to omit The Hobbit movies from this list. They are simply Lord of the Rings-Light and offer absolutely nothing new and simply milk the dormant franchise and the prequel novel into three separate and unnecessary three hour movies. Lord of the Rings should have been kept as a trilogy and as a trilogy it is one of the finest ever made. They tell the story of one ring that brings immense power and evil to whoever possesses it. A group of unlikely heroes are formed to bring the ring to the one place that it can be destroyed and form friendships along the way. These are classic fantasy adventure novels that became modern classics of cinema especially in terms of how to use computer special effects in ways that nobody had seen before and still hold up today nearly twenty years later.
Must See: Once again all of them. The extended editions especially. The first film The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) is probably my personal favorite.
Can do without: Even though it won the Academy Award for Best Picture and the extended edition is the definitive version, The Return of the King (2003) does slightly suffer on repeat viewings in the comfort of your own home, especially for the extra long coda that now feels excessive.
15. Kevin Smith’s View Askewniverse 1994-2019 8 Theatrical Films
Like Quentin Tarantino, a lot of Kevin Smith’s films take place in their own little world not just inside New Jersey, but in what he calls The View Askewniverse which is named after his production company. The difference is that not all of his films involve the cadre of rotating characters and feature his signature Silent Bob (played by Smith himself) and his stoner buddy Jay (played by Jason Mewes). Technically Kevin Smith has eight theatrical films as part of his cinematic universe starting with his feature debut Clerks (1994) along with several animated shorts, a plethora of comic books, and a short lived Clerks animated series. Most of Kevin Smith’s films involve underachievers relishing their slacker lifestyle and facing a conflict, often a romantic one, that takes them out of their comfort zone and forces them to grow as a person. Also unlike Tarantino, Kevin Smith is much more inconsistent with his output.
Must See: Clerks (1994), Mallrats (1995), Chasing Amy (1997) are his first three films and remain his best and are his only absolute Must Sees. He should have kept it as a trilogy. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (2001) is fun and worth seeing if you enjoy his previous efforts and Clerks 2 (2006) is happy comfort food for his fans after he tried to end his View Askewniverse with Jersey Girl (2004). Since then it has been hit or miss for Kevin Smith, but mostly misses.
Can do without: Dogma (1999) is right smack in the middle of his heyday as a significant voice of independent cinema but it also marked the beginning of his end. He was once on the same level of respectability as his peers Quentin Tarantino, Richard Linklater, and Hal Hartley. Last years Jay and Silent Bob Reboot (2019) showed how little Kevin Smith has grown as a writer and director and managed to maintain his celebrity status more as a talking head in geek culture.
16. The Jack Ryan Series 1990-Present 5 Movies
Jack Ryan is a character created by Tom Clancy in his novels and has inspired five theatrical action thrillers and one Amazon Prime series based on his adventures working for the CIA. There are also a bunch of novels and video games based on the character. This is the second consecutive series in this article that features Ben Affleck in a prominent role, sadly in this case it is not necessarily a good thing. Jack Ryan has been played by four actors in his five theatrical outings, sort of like an All American James Bond, albeit a family man and not a womanizer, or Batman without the cape, another role that a subpar Ben Affleck would inhabit. The movies range in quality from outstanding to forgettable.
Must See: The Hunt for Red October (1990), Alec Baldwin plays the first Jack Ryan opposite Sean Connery as a Ramius a Russian submarine captain and it is two of their finest performances of both of their careers. Baldwin got the role after Harrison Ford turned it down because he did not think a submarine movie could be a big hit. He was wrong and later repented that it was one of the biggest mistakes of his career. Alec Baldwin then made the biggest mistake of his career when he chose not to reprise his role as Jack Ryan for the next movie. Harrison Ford learned from his mistake and took over the action star duties as Jack Ryan in two consecutive and highly successful thrillers with Patriot Games (1992) followed by Clear and Present Danger (1994). Those are without a doubt absolutely thrilling must sees.
Can do without: Eight years after Harrison Ford’s final outing as Jack Ryan the producers wanted younger blood in the role and hired Ben Affleck for The Sum of All Fears (2002). It was pretty forgettable and despite making a lot of money Affleck never returned to the role so twelve years later they tapped the new Captain Kirk, Chris Pine to be the new Jack Ryan in the unoriginally titled Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit (2014). The result was the first Jack Ryan movie to flop at the box office and since then John Krasinski has taken over character on a critically acclaimed Amazon Prime series. Skip the Ben Affleck and Chris Pine movies, just see the first three films.
17. Star Trek Movies 1979-2016 13 Theatrical Movies
Chris Pine strikes again, but thankfully this time there is no need to mention Ben Affleck anymore in this article. The voyages of the Starship Enterprise have been documented on several television shows, two of the which, the original Star Trek series and Star Trek: The Next Generation were successful enough to crossover into feature length theatrical films. The Star Trek movies have been known for their inconsistency. There is a saying that only the even numbered movies are any good and that is true to a certain extent. Star Trek’s, II, IV, VI, and First Contact (the 8th film) are all undeniably some of the best ones in the series and Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989), the one directed by William Shatner, is often regarded as the worst. But the other odd numbered ones have their charms and in some cases are much better than their reputation precedes them to be.
Must See: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) is the best film in the entire series. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986) brings the action to 1980’s San Francisco and is the most crowd pleasing film in the series for non-Trekkies. Star Trek: First Contact (1996) is the best film with the Next Generation crew and is a definite must see. If you like those then you should check out all of the other feature films except…
Can do without: The J.J. Abrams films are barely worth mentioning. Despite their popularity, we do not see Kirk, Spock, McCoy on screen, but kids fresh out of acting school pretending to be these iconic characters. No offense Chris Pine, Shatner will always be Kirk, the late-great Leonard Nimoy is the only Spock there will ever be, and do not even get us started on what they did to Khan with Star Trek Into Darkness (2013). I would say skip those even though a lot of people like them and definitely do yourself a favor and pass on The Final Frontier unless you want to hear the original crew sing row row row your boat around a campfire and ask the all important question of, “Why does God need a starship?”
18. The Evil Dead 1981-2013 4 Theatrical Movies
There is an overabundance of horror movie franchises and most have sequels vastly inferior to the original film they are based on, but Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead franchise is a slightly different breed. The first film is a low budget gore fest and is the scariest film in the series about a group of friends who go to spend a weekend in a now cliched ‘cabin in the woods’ and encounter demons who take them out one by one. These are the films that introduced the world to cult movie icon Bruce Campbell in his signature role as Ash Williams. Evil Dead 2 (1987) is sort of a remake one the first film but instead knowingly veers into slapstick comedy territory. Then came the bigger budgeted Army of Darkness (1992), followed many years later by a darker more serious remake from splatter auteur Fede Alvarez in 2013 and the Ash vs. Evil Dead TV series which are all connected to this same franchise.
Must See: The Evil Dead (1981) and Evil Dead 2 are horror classics that need to be seen. Army of Darkness ends the original trilogy in a respectable manner, I slightly prefer the theatrical version to the more cynical ending of the directors cut. Ash vs. Evil Dead was a fine continuation and eventual conclusion to the series that fans will enjoy.
Can do without: The Fede Alvaraez Evil Dead felt mean spirited and from a different universe than the one Sam Raimi created. On the heels of the genre redefining Cabin in the Woods (2012) it just felt like more unnecessary fear inducing tropes with a prestige horror title and big name producers attached. It has its fans, I am just not one of them.
19. Rocky 1976-Present 8 Movies
Another great movie turned into a series marred by inconsistency. The original Rocky that won the Best Picture Academy Award in 1976 against some heavy competition, is not only the greatest boxing movie of all time and the greatest underdog story of all time, but it is also the best sports film ever made. It stands on its own in the pantheon of classic movies. The story loosely based on Chuck Wepner is about a boxer who gets his one big shot to go against the heavyweight champion Apollo Creed in the guise of Muhammad Ali. The sequels vary in quality from almost as great as the original like Creed (2015) to one of the worst movies Stallone ever made like Rocky V (1990) which is saying a lot considering the bombs this man starred in after Rocky.
Must See: Rocky (1976), Rocky III (1982) where he takes on Mr. T. as Clubber Lang, Rocky IV (1985) where he single handedly ends the Cold War and has Soviet Union fans cheering for him, and then the great revival of the character with Creed (2015), and Creed II (2018) where Rocky steps back into a mentor role like Obi Wan Kenobi in Star Wars.
Can do without: Rocky II (1979) is basically the same movie as the first one only not as impressive because we saw it all before, and it has the happy ending we were denied in the previous film with Rocky beating Apollo Creed and becoming the champion. As mediocre as that is it is light years better than Rocky V where he loses his fortune and has to fight Tommy Gunn in a street fight for the climax. Rocky Balboa (2006) was unnecessary comfort food with some great boxing scenes. Nobody would cry if that movie never existed.
20. Lethal Weapon 1987-1998 4 Movies
A wild and unpredictable cop with possible suicidal tendencies is teamed up with a more conservative, by the book family man who is days away from his retirement in one of the quintessential buddy cop movies of the 80’s which was filled to the brim with these kinds of pictures. Directed by Richard Donner, and written by Shane Black, Lethal Weapon is one of the best buddy cop movies of all time. Say what you want about Mel Gibson now, he owned this role and it is his best performance other than Braveheart (1995). The chemistry he had with Danny Glover is some of the best in any action movie. The additions of Joe Pesci and Rene Russo may have taken away from their on screen friendship which was at the center of the first few films but added an element of family bonding into this exciting action series.
Must See: Lethal Weapon (1987) is the best film of the series and one of the best action movies of its era. Lethal Weapon 2 (1989) is one of the best action sequels of all time. All four films have their merits but those two stand head and shoulders above many other action movies as landmarks in the buddy cop sub-genre.
Can do without: I like them all but Lethal Weapon 3 (1992) goes deeper into family dynamics and values and less on action which is admirable and Lethal Weapon 4 (1998) does the total opposite and focuses mostly on action with the characters turned into caricatures of what they once were. But it is still a very fun movie and worth watching if you enjoyed all of the earlier films. The Fox TV series that recently ended was a reboot and is not nearly on the same level as these blockbuster films. They keep teasing a fifth movie but we shall see if that ever actually comes to fruition.