On Friday, The Fate of the Furious hits theaters, becoming the eighth movie in the car-crazy franchise. With ambitious heists, paeans to the importance of family, and an inclusive, racially diverse ensemble amid a sea of lily-white blockbusters, the Fast and the Furious films started out as scrappy, B-movie action-thrillers but have gone on to become one of Hollywood’s most lucrative franchises, grossing almost $3.9 billion worldwide over the last two decades.
With two more installments scheduled for 2019 and 2021, the Fast and the Furious series is heading into rarefied air, that of those franchises that have managed to produce at least 10 films. That’s impressive, but not record-setting. In fact, several other series have even more movies to their name.
In honor of Fate, MEL decided to do a deep dive into five very different cinematic series that have 10 or more chapters. And before you ask, we decided not to include the so-called Marvel Cinematic Universe because, frankly, we always felt like it was a bit of a cheat, introducing a bunch of different characters in their own separate movies and then bringing them together for the Avengers films before breaking them up again for their own standalone films. As such, the five we chose began with a core group of characters — or one central figure — and evolved from there.
What many of these franchises have in common, however, is that eventually one generation of stars had to give way to a new one if the series was going to continue to thrive. Also, what’s clear is what a bizarre mixture of genres they are — everything from cheap-o slasher movies to the most famous super-spy ever.
Number of Movies: 10
The Connective Tissue for All the Movies in the Series: Mutant powers and an overriding theme about how those with them are a metaphor for society’s marginalized.
How Long the Original Star(s) Stuck Around: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen, James Marsden, Halle Berry and Hugh Jackman were part of the core team that made the first X-Men movies of the early 2000s so popular. Most of that initial group was swept aside after 2006’s X-Men: The Last Stand, as Fox pondered where to go next with the franchise. Ultimately, the studio kept pumping out Wolverine standalone movies to capitalize on Jackman’s popularity; the Australian actor also found his way into 2014’s X-Men: Days of Future Past, which also made room for Stewart and McKellen.
Worst Movie in the Series (according to Rotten Tomatoes): 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, the first of the Wolverine solo projects, at a measly 38 percent fresh. As Salon’s Stephanie Zacharek put it, “It’s so cluttered and action-packed that the action ceases to mean anything — virtually nothing the characters do or say results in consequences that stick.”
Best Movie in the Series (according to Rotten Tomatoes): Logan, sitting at 92 percent fresh. The Wall Street Journal’s Joe Morgenstern was among the most rapturous reviewers, proclaiming, “The R-rating does represent truth in advertising, and it has conferred a kind of liberation on what strikes me, a violence-averse moviegoer at heart, as the best superhero film to come out of the comic-book world, and I’m not forgetting Tim Burton’s Batman or Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.”
The Pink Panther
Number of Movies: 11
The Connective Tissue for All the Movies in the Series: Inspector Clouseau, the bumbling detective who eventually gets his man.
How Long the Original Star(s) Stuck Around: Where other franchises are centered on their stars, the Pink Panther movies were more closely connected to their director and co-writer, Blake Edwards, who had a hand in eight of the first nine installments. Still, the face of the series was Peter Sellers, who played Clouseau in six of the first seven films. Edwards tried to keep the franchise going after Sellers’ death in 1980, first making Curse of the Pink Panther, about a detective on the search for Clouseau, and then, in Son of the Pink Panther, casting Roberto Benigni as Clouseau’s bastard child.
Worst Movie in the Series: Speaking of that 1993 Benigni film, it was demolished by critics, its Tomatometer currently sitting at 6 percent fresh. “The way the film has been directed,” wrote Los Angeles Times critic Peter Rainer, “everything gets blended into the same unfunny clump of misfired gags and deadbeat timing. … [Edwards’] work here is so spiritless that the idea of his doing [another] sequel is positively harrowing. Either that or it’s the best joke in the movie.”
Best Movie in the Series: At 90 percent fresh, the 1963 original stands above the pack. It’s the template for what was fun about the franchise: the Henry Mancini theme, the screwball-comedy absurdity and Clouseau’s clumsiness, which was mastered by Sellers but inspired by Edwards’ own ineptness. “I, in my life, have broken just about every bone in my body,” the filmmaker once said. “Usually, if I relate those instances, I can get you laughing.”
Friday the 13th
Number of Movies: 12
The Connective Tissue for All the Movies in the Series: That dude in the hockey mask, the serial killer Jason Voorhees who loves carving up kids from Camp Crystal Lake. (Fun fact: It actually wasn’t until 1982’s Friday the 13th Part III that he started regularly sporting that headgear.)
How Long the Original Star(s) Stuck Around: The beauty of the slasher series, inspired by the success of Halloween, was that it wasn’t dependent on any actor. Several different men have played Jason over the years as sequels were churned out quickly to capitalize on the burgeoning horror-movie market. (There were eight Friday the 13th movies in the 1980s alone.)
Worst Movie in the Series: 1989’s Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan (8 percent fresh). That’s the one where Jason gets out of the woods and decides to start murdering teenagers in New York — though most of the film is set on a boat on the way to the Big Apple. Referencing the franchise’s comically escalating body count, critic Richard Harrington noted, “The most amazing conceit of Jason Takes Manhattan is that Crystal Lake High School even has a graduating class.”
Best Movie in the Series: The 1980 original — which, at 59 percent fresh, isn’t exactly an unqualified masterpiece. Still, The New York Times’ Janet Maslin saw the film as a kind of dark suburban commentary, saying at the time, “More interesting than the bloodshed, somehow, is the middle-class ordinariness with which [the director] invests the characters’ conversations; they seem to be inciting the killer’s fury by chatting about vitamins and playing Monopoly.”
Number of Movies: 13
The Connective Tissue for All the Movies in the Series: A future world dreamed up by creator Gene Roddenberry. The policeman-turned-TV writer once said of his original TV series, “Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms.”
How Long the Original Star(s) Stuck Around: The crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise stayed on board for the first six films. But for the seventh in the series, 1994’s Star Trek Generations, Paramount paired the original TV cast — including Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner and DeForest Kelley — with the cast of TV’s Star Trek: The Next Generation, bringing Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes and LeVar Burton to the big screen to do four new movies. Of that original cast, only Nimoy’s Spock returned for the three most recent reboot films.
Worst Movie in the Series: Not surprisingly, it’s 1989’s Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (23 percent). Generally considered the nadir of the Star Trek Cinematic Universe, this is the only film of the franchise directed by Shatner, who throws in a lot of crusty grumpy-old-men humor and lame special effects to tell the story of the Enterprise crew doing battle with a madman Vulcan (Laurence Luckinbill) who believes he knows where God resides in the universe. Shatner has since apologized to Trekkies, saying, “I got the chance to direct a several-million-dollar movie … and I did not get the help I needed in allocating my budget, so when it came to shooting the ending — needing a good villain and lots of computer graphics — I had run out of money.”
Best Movie in the Series: Somehow, it’s not Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, which everyone knows is the best Star Trek movie. Rotten Tomatoes has the 2009 reboot Star Trek higher at 95 percent. The site’s Critical Consensus guide explains why reviewers flipped for the reboot: “Star Trek reignites a classic franchise with action, humor, a strong story and brilliant visuals, and will please traditional Trekkies and new fans alike.” The film’s director, J.J. Abrams, would go on to do the same thing for another musty sci-fi property with 2015’s Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
Number of Movies: 26 (if we’re counting the Peter Sellers 1967 spoof Casino Royale and Sean Connery’s 1983 unofficial Bond movie Never Say Never Again)
The Connective Tissue for All the Movies in the Series: 007. The swaggering, well-dressed womanizing secret agent James Bond is the heart and soul of this franchise. Much has changed in the world since Dr. No came out in 1962, but Bond’s fundamental essence has remained largely intact.
How Long the Original Star(s) Stuck Around: In the 1960s, it seemed inconceivable that anyone other than Sean Connery could play 007. The first five films in the franchise, which include classics like From Russia With Love and Goldfinger, cemented the culture’s idea of who Bond is — how could any other actor live up to that? Turns out, audiences handled the transition just fine: From George Lazenby to Roger Moore to Timothy Dalton to Pierce Brosnan, the series has continued to enjoy success — particularly with Daniel Craig in recent years as a moodier, darker Bond.
Worst Movie in the Series: Technically, it’s 1967’s Casino Royale (29 percent fresh). But since that’s a spy parody never meant to be a “real” James Bond movie, let’s go with 1985’s A View to a Kill (36 percent fresh) instead. The end of the smirky Moore era, A View to a Kill very much felt like a film that couldn’t justify its own existence, trying to retain a swingin’ 1960s feel two decades after all that swingin’ ended. Variety was especially unkind to Moore, saying, “He still has the suave and cool for the part, but on occasion he looks a bit old and his womanizing seems dated.”
Best Movie in the Series: The first three Connery films are at 96 percent fresh, but 1964’s Goldfinger wins by a fraction. And with good reason: More than 50 years later, it still feels like the quintessential James Bond movie, complete with fun bad guys, beautiful women, cool gadgets and sleek cars.
Looking back on the film’s enduring legacy in the late 1990s, Roger Ebert declared, “James Bond is the most durable of this century’s movie heroes, and the one most likely to last well into the next.” Thanks to the success of the Daniel Craig films, particularly 2006’s Casino Royale and 2012’s Skyfall, Ebert’s prediction seems even truer now than when he made it. In a world where the Fast and the Furious films’ track record is impressive, Bond’s evergreen appeal is a reminder that Vin Diesel and his crew still have a long, long way to go to catch the king of Hollywood franchises.