A film franchise is defined by many things – its box-office gross, its cast, and perhaps most importantly, its age and longevity. Even the biggest of them will fade away into obscurity someday, and the question is how long they can maintain their relevance until that happens. When speaking of revenue and popularity, the MCU might be at the top of the list right now, but in terms of years active, it is still in its infancy when compared to some.
It is no easy feat to run a movie series for decades and decades. Many, such as the Terminator franchise, have been suffering from a decline in quality for years now, while others have managed to maintain themselves better. Taking all of that into account, the following list looks at some movie franchises that have stood the test of time better than others.
Updated on January 25th, 2023 by Jordan Iacobucci: For better or for worse, pop culture is littered with endless sequels, spinoffs, and remakes, keeping certain franchises going for several decades. Films like Jurassic World: Dominion and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny serve to extend the tenure of already long-running franchises, and seem to dominate the box office each time. Audiences have grown accustomed to living within these fictional universes for long periods of time, but certain franchises have proven to be exceptionally long-lived.
Jurassic Park – 29 Years (1993 – Present)
The Jurassic Park franchise got its start nearly three decades ago with Steven Spielberg’s first groundbreaking film in 1993. The stellar special effects mixed with genuine emotion spawned an entire franchise surrounding the reanimation of dinosaurs, consisting of six films, several video games, and an animated spinoff series.
Although the sequel franchise, Jurassic World, seemed to come to an end earlier this year with Dominion, the smash success of this finale seems to imply that the franchise could continue on in some form, with many fans refusing to rule out another film in the near future. However, given the critical reception to the last several films, the studio may choose to quite while it is still ahead, though such things never seem likely in Hollywood.
Terminator – 35 Years (1984 – 2019)
James Cameron has directed a remarkable number of celebrated films, from classics like Titanic to modern hits like Avatar, and The Terminator was one of his earliest works as a director and writer. With Arnold Schwarzenegger in the most famous role of his career as an assassin cyborg, the films more or less centered around a post-apocalyptic future where humans have been driven to extinction by an AI system.
Although the franchise has been suffering from the ever-classic dilemma of not being able to live up to the originals, it is simply too well-known to be forgotten yet. However, after the failures of the last several films at the box office, it may be time for fans to bid “hasta la vista, baby” to this long-running franchise.
Predator – 35 Years (1987 – Present)
Predator blew audiences away in 1987 with its compelling action and terrifying monster, leading to a long tenure as a franchise, which includes several films and multiple crossovers with the Alien franchise. Even thirty-five years after its inception, the Predator series continues to churn out new content.
Although the franchise took a false step with its attempted reboot in 2018, 2022’s Prey seems to have reinvigorated interest in the series, earning rave reviews from critics and fans alike. Currently, a prequel to Prey is in development, promising to keep the franchise going for at least another few years.
Indiana Jones – 42 Years (1981 – 2023)
Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark was a standout hit in 1981, marking the beginning of a long and lucrative partnership between Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, and Harrison Ford. The original film was followed by Temple of Doom and The Last Crusade in 1984 and 1989, respectively, with a legacy sequel, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull debuting in 2008 to largely negative reviews.
Although the fourth film appeared to kill any hopes of a continuing franchise, a fifth film is nevertheless on the horizon, with the first trailer for Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destinyhitting the internet in late 2022. The film is believed to be the finale to the franchise, bringing the series to an end in 2023 after forty-two years.
The Muppets – 43 Years (1979 – Present)
Though the Muppets got their start on television, the cuddly crew of popular puppets has also had a long and successful history with their cinematic endeavors, which began with 1979’s The Muppet Movie. The muppets have appeared sporadically in film and television ever since, most recently appearing in the 2021 Disney+ special Muppets Haunted Mansion.
Although it appears as though the Muppets have been relegated to television and streaming specials for the time being, the characters remain popular, with yet another series following the beloved puppets, The Muppets Mayhem, set to debut on Disney+ in the near future.
Mad Max – 43 Years (1979 – Present)
Created by George Miller, the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Mad Max civilization has crumbled into chaos and all kinds of resources are scarce, over which crazily dressed psychotic people fight with each other. Mel Gibson played the titular role of Max Rockatansky in the first 3 films of the series from 1979 to 1985.
After a long 30-year gap Mad Max returned once again in its full glory in 2015’s Fury Road with Tom Hardy in the lead and claimed its place as one of the best action thrillers of the decade. The Mad Max franchise is far from finished, however, with a prequel spinoff Furiosa set to be released in 2024 in addition to a confirmed sequel film in the near future.
Alien – 43 Years (1979 – Present)
Ridley Scott set the bar for scary aliens too high with his 1979 film Alien. CGI may be a fantastic tool for breathing life into a particular scene or film, but there is something about the special effects and prosthetics used in the early Alien films that make them impressive even today.
The ensuing prequel films Prometheus and Alien: Covenant were met with lukewarm responses from fans and critics, bringing an early end to the planned trilogy. There are, however, projects that are still in the works for the long-running franchise, keeping the world of Alien alive for now.
Star Trek – 43 Years (1979 – Present)
The first Star Trek film came out in 1979, but the media franchise itself had existed long before that with the TV show Star Trek: The Original Series that was released in 1966. While many movie franchises produce spin-off shows after the initial success of the films, in the case of Star Trek the opposite happened.
Across multiple TV shows, film series, and reboots, the story follows the adventures of the starship USS Enterprise and its crew as they go to places where no man has gone before. The franchise adds new series to its ranks constantly, with endeavors like Lower Decks, Prodigy, and Picard keeping the IP alive while each film appears to be stuck in development for years.
Halloween – 44 Years (1978 – 2022)
The slasher sub-genre of horror rose to great prominence around the late 1900s, and 1978’s Halloween played no small part in its popularity. One of the oldest contemporary horror movie franchises, it introduced one of the most iconic horror villains of all time – Michael Myers.
The continuity of the film series is something of a mess, as anyone familiar with the films will know, but through this messy sequence of remakes and retcons, it has managed to persevere for over 40 years, presumably coming to an end earlier this year with the aptly titled Halloween Ends.
The Pink Panther – 45 Years (1963 – 2009)
The comedy mystery franchise The Pink Panther got its start in 1963, following the bumbling Inspector Clouseau, portrayed by Peter Sellers, as he attempted to solve his high-profile case. Sellers appeared in several films before retiring from the role, with several other legendary comedians taking his place over the years.
Most recently, Steve Martin stepped into the role of Inspector Jacques Clouseau in two films from a rebooted continuity. The 2009 sequel marks the final installment of the franchise to date, with forty-five years of content for fans to enjoy. However, another film is currently in development that, if it ever reaches the light of day, will add more than a decade to the franchise’s longevity.
Star Wars – 45 Years (1977 – Present)
Ambition is a director’s greatest weapon, and if Star Wars says anything about its creator, George Lucas, it is that the man is ambitious. Star Wars doesn’t always consist of the most original stories ever, but the perfection in its simplicity is what has made it a cornerstone of pop culture with one of the biggest and most critical fan bases on the planet.
Though every intended film following 2019’s Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalkerhas ended up trapped in the development stage, the sci-fi franchise has not been dormant, with Disney+ series like The Mandalorian, The Bad Batch, and Andor carrying the torch, with new content becoming a constant for Star Wars fans.
Rocky – 46 Years (1976 – Present)
Written by and starring Sylvester Stallone, the first Rocky film was produced with a small budget of around $1 million and grossed $225 million at the box office, making it a hugely profitable film. Thus began the saga of Rocky Balboa and one of the most iconic sports film franchises in the world.
After five sequels, the series has now shifted focus to a different character and is thriving under the name of Creedfeaturing Black Panther actor Michael B. Jordan. Currently, Creed IIIis slated for release in March of 2023, continuing the long-running sports franchise’s epic history.
Planet Of The Apes – 52 Years (1968 – Present)
Directed by Franklin J. Schaffner and based on the book by French author Pierre Boulle, the first Planet of the Apes film takes place in the year 3978 and revolves around a group of astronauts who crash land on a planet and discover a society run by apes with human-like intelligence.
The success of the first film spawned four sequels and a Tim Burton-directed remake, which was released in 2001. More recently, the series was rebooted in 2011 with a new trilogy that differs greatly from the previous films in terms of plot, but was widely well-received by critics. Another film, Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes has been revealed to be in development, looking at a 2024 release.
James Bond – 60 Years (1962 – Present)
The quintessential male action hero, James Bond is the world’s most famous spy, even if that title defeats the purpose of being a “secret” agent. A creation of writer Ian Fleming, the character first appeared in 1952’s Casino Royale and received a live-action film adaptation in 1962 with Dr. No, which would be the first of numerous to come. Several actors have played the role of James Bond over the years, resulting in a franchise consisting of twenty-five films.
While the franchise has remained dormant since Daniel Craig’s departure in No Time to Die, all eyes are currently on the studio as fans await the announcement of the next Bond, who will carry on a sixty year legacy.
Godzilla – 68 Years (1954 – Present)
The first Godzilla film (originally called Gojira), a Japanese production directed by Ishirō Honda, was created as a metaphor for nuclear power in post-World War II Japan. Since its westernization and widespread popularity, the films have moved away from what they once represented, but as the most popular monster in cinema history, the franchise is still going strong as never before. The character has gone through countless remakes and reboots over its 67-year-old tenure, and is currently a part of its very own cinematic universe referred to as the Monsterverse.
The Monsterverse has seen a renewed interest in the monster, whose battle with King Kong in 2021 proved that audiences are still interested in the epic battles between Titans. A sequel to Godzilla v. Kong, rumored to be titled Godzilla and Kong, is set to be released in 2024.
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