Movie sequels are a tough thing to get right. A good sequel has to strike the right balance of keeping what audiences love while doing something new and different, and a lot of the time it doesn’t work. It’s even more impressive when the studio can pull out several installments – all of which are great in their own way. There’s really nothing better than a whole franchise consisting of great movie after great movie. And that’s what we’re here to celebrate today. If you’re looking for a great series to watch while you stay in bed all day, you’ve come to the right place.
We know that sometimes it can be hard to focus on one movie, let alone a series with three or more, but these ones are worth it. Just like some long AF movies are totally worth your time, these franchises deserve your attention. Whether you’re looking for comedy, fantasy, or action, this list has a little bit of everything.
20. The Twilight Saga
Okay, so the Twilight movies might not be the best films ever made. We accept that. But while they weren’t serious awards contenders, they were very popular and a lot of fun. Stars Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart have gone on to careers as indie film favorites, and Anna Kendrick’s career got a nice boost too. The success of Twilight also reignited the young adult industry, leading to countless movies and shows being made over the following decade. For its legacy alone, it made the list. However, for the less-than-stellar quality of the films, it’s in last place.
19. The Fast and the Furious
Even if you don’t love car movies, The Fast and the Furious is an undeniably successful franchise. The eight movies have grossed more than $5 billion, which puts it sixth all-time. There’s also a ninth movie coming in 2020 that’s sure to keep raking in the cash. The series hit a big bump with the tragic death of star Paul Walker in 2013, but they regrouped and are still going strong. These movies might not be for everyone, but they sure know how to make money.
18. DC Extended Universe
DC was a little late to the game with their superhero universe, and it hasn’t been smooth sailing. The first three movies (Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman, and Suicide Squad) made plenty of money, but they didn’t exactly inspire critics. That all changed last summer when Wonder Woman came along and took the world by storm. Gal Gadot was the absolute perfect fit, and director Patty Jenkins put all the pieces together to make a truly entertaining, groundbreaking movie. If they can keep that up, this might one day be a top 10 movie series. For now, it’s near the bottom of the list. Maybe a Ben Affleck recast would help? Just sayin’…
17. High School Musical
We’re not stupid. High School Musical won no Oscars, but it makes this list because of the pure nostalgia it brings. Nothing says 2006 more than Zac Efron in a basketball uniform, or Sharpay and Ryan doing an over-the-top dance number. From the moment Troy and Gabriella met at the ski resort, it was meant to be. The soundtrack album was the top-selling record of 2006, which makes sense because every song is a total BOP. Also, did we mention Zac Efron?
The first of two Pixar series on our list, Cars is just genuinely a good time. Over the course of three movies, they’ve built an entire world, and we’re just glad we get to hang out in it for a few hours. Owen Wilson is seriously charming as race car Lightning McQueen, and the supporting cast of each movie brings so much to the table. Disney has also done well with the spin-off Planes movies, though they can’t match the original. Cars is great, but at the end of the day it’s still B-string Pixar. Keep reading to get to some of their best work.
15. Pirates of the Caribbean
These epic movies are really Disney magic at its best. They’ve gone downhill a bit, but the original three films are truly delightful. Johnny Depp‘s Jack Sparrow is undeniably his best character, and Keira Knightley and Orlando Bloom still make our hearts so happy. These movies have more twists and turns than the theme park ride they’re inspired by, which keeps them entertaining even if you’ve seen them many times. This franchise would be a bit higher on the list if it weren’t for the abuse allegations surrounding Johnny Depp – because really you can’t separate the man from his art.
14. Despicable Me
What can we say? We love minions. These movies shouldn’t work as well as they do, but their fun-loving and top-notch voice casts are just great. Steve Carell is good in everything he does, but he’s absolute perfection as Gru, the gruff but lovable protagonist. The colorful animation brings this sort-of-fantasy world to life, and the hilarious writing even makes adults laugh out loud. These movies have lots going for them, but most important might be the army of yellow minions, who have become stars all on their own. Sometimes weird ideas just work. Pixar remains untouchable in the animated world, but this stuff comes close.
13. The Hunger Games
Much like Twilight, The Hunger Games was an eagerly-awaited screen adaptation of a hit young adult book series. These movies are better. Jennifer Lawrence is an unstoppable force as Katniss, and her presence elevates everything around her. The dystopian world of Panem is deeply unsettling, and the movies do a good job of bringing the world from the books to life. The supporting cast includes acclaimed names like Elizabeth Banks and Philip Seymour Hoffman, making these more than just trashy teen movies.
12. Star Trek
Star Trek has been a force in the entertainment industry since it debuted as a television show more than 50 years ago, and it’s not going anywhere. So far, there have been thirteen movies, in addition to several TV shows, making Star Trek one of the biggest franchises ever just by sheer amount of content. The movies were rebooted in 2009, starring Chris Pine, Zoe Saldana, and Zachary Quinto, and the three new movies have all received critical praise for their new takes on the established stories. There’s at least one more movie in the works, with Quentin Tarantino expected to write and direct. Captain Kirk isn’t done yet.
DreamWorks hit the jackpot with Shrek, the 2001 movie about a lovable ogre who just wants his swamp back. Mike Myers in this role is comedic genius, and Cameron Diaz is also great as Princess Fiona, but it’s Eddie Murphy who really steals the show as sidekick Donkey. There have been three sequels and a spin-off (Puss in Boots), with a fifth movie expected in 2019 or 2020. While the first few movies were really hilarious, we’re a little worried that they might be running out of steam. We love Shrek and all his friends, but sometimes enough is enough. We’ll stay tuned to see what happens.
10. Indiana Jones
Indiana Jones really hates snakes, and we have that in common. Steven Spielberg‘s 1981 film Raiders of the Lost Ark was a massive hit, leading to the Indiana Jones series we know and love today. Harrison Ford is very dreamy as the title professor-turned-adventurer, uncovering some of the world’s most sacred treasures (and fighting off some Nazis along the way). The series got another sequel in 2008, when they added Shia LaBeouf to the mix to investigate a mystery in the South American jungle. There’s a fifth installment in the works, but there have been multiple production delays and disputes, so it could be while.
Who ya gonna call? The original Ghostbusters movie, released in 1984, starred Bill Murray and Sigourney Weaver, and was huge hit. It even did better than the second Indiana Jones movie, its main box office competition. The original still holds up today, which is probably why a reboot seemed like a great idea. Much to our delight, the 2016 remake got the all-female treatment, with a hilarious cast including Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon. Talk about a room full of funny women. The reboot was just as funny as the original, and we’re truly so glad it exists. More all-female reboots, please!!
8. Marvel Cinematic Universe
When looking at movie franchises, you really can’t ignore the Marvel Cinematic Universe just because of its incredible size. Since Iron Man came out in 2008, Marvel has pumped out more than a dozen superhero movies, with Black Panther being the 18th entry. They’ve built up an impressive collection of iconic characters, and they freely crossover into each other’s movies, teaming up to take on evil in this world and lots of other worlds as well. The movies vary in quality, but mostly they’re really entertaining, if a bit formulaic. Audiences clearly don’t mind, because the Marvel films have made more than $13 billion at the box office, blowing every other franchise out of the water.
7. James Bond
Bond. James Bond. Over half a century, there have been 24 Bond movies, making the British spy a staple for every generation. It’s remarkable how these films have changed and adapted over the years, with new actors and storylines to keep things current. Our current Bond, Daniel Craig, has brought a new grittiness to the role in his four appearances, and he’ll do it at least one more time, in 2019. These movies are known for their incredible action sequences and gorgeous location spots. It’s an amazing combination, kind of like a perfectly shaken martini.
6. Jurassic Park
When the original Jurassic Park came out in 1993, it was a completely groundbreaking achievement. The special effects had never been seen before, and audiences were both terrified and thrilled. After two somewhat disappointing sequels, the franchise was rebooted in 2015 with Jurassic World, which again broke box office records and was completely terrifying. There’s a new sequel on the way this summer, with Chris Pratt and Bryce Dallas Howard set to reprise their roles. There’s nothing quite as intriguing as dinosaurs, and these movies really know how to get the heart beating fast.
5. The Dark Knight Trilogy
Batman was no stranger to the big screen, but Christopher Nolan brought a completely new idea with his dark, punishing look at Bruce Wayne and the world of Gotham. All three movies were strong, but The Dark Knight, the second, was out of this world. Heath Ledger won a posthumous Oscar for his completely deranged performance as The Joker, in a genre that rarely gets awards recognition outside of special effects categories. Christian Bale is often under-appreciated in his starring role, but his quiet strength holds the whole trilogy together. Ben Affleck‘s current take on Batman is… fine… but it’s nowhere close to this.
4. Toy Story
Toy Story was the first movie Pixar ever made, and they truly knocked it out of the park. The adventures of Woody and Buzz Lightyear make us laugh, cry, and get our heart racing, even if we’ve seen them 10 times before. The rest of the characters are the perfect assortment, with favorites like Rex, Slinky, and Mr. Potatohead always making us smile. It’s rare that sequels are as good as the first movie, but Pixar did it here. We have high hopes for Toy Story 4, which has seen several delays but is now slated for a 2019 release.
3. The Lord of the Rings
You know the phrase ‘go big or go home’? Well, director Peter Jackson went big with his adaptations of the beloved fantasy trilogy, and it paid off. The three movies in the Lord of the Rings trilogy are complete masterpieces, from the acting to the special effects, right on down to the music. They were shot back-to-back, culminating in The Return of the King, which won a record-tying 11 Academy Awards. Jackson later went back and did the same with The Hobbit, a trilogy which is also great, but not quite as masterful as The Lord of the Rings. Even if you don’t really like fantasy, you need to watch these once.
2. Star Wars
The best movie franchises are able to reinvent themselves for new generations, and none have done it as well as Star Wars. Your parents were probably amazed by the original movies back in the ’70s and ’80s, and here we are in 2018 with Star Wars still slaying the box office. While the ‘prequel trilogy’ from 1999-2005 definitely could have been better, these films do storytelling on an epic scale like no one else. New stars like Daisy Ridley and Adam Driver have made the movies exciting for a new generation, but your parents probably still love it just as much as they did when they were kids. That’s the mark of a true classic.
1. Harry Potter
How could we not? If you grew up any time in the 2000s, Harry Potter was probably a big part of your childhood. Everyone loves the books, and the movies are what kept us coming back. Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint were perfectly cast as the main trio, and they grew up right before our eyes. The gripping stories are brought to life so beautifully, with cutting-edge special effects and gorgeous scenery. The large supporting cast of British favorites makes these movies feel like a warm hug from an old friend, and we’ll never stop watching them. When is the next marathon?