47 Movie Blogs #26 – Long-Running Film Series that are Worth Watching

It’s harder to define a film series than it used to be.  Is Lord of the Rings three films long or six?  What’s the longest running Spider-Man series – five movies, or three?  Is the X-Men one big series, or three or four different ones?

(Incidentally, this is #26 in a series of 47 posts about movies, with topics selected by my friend, each given to me after the previous one is written. For more information, check out #1 here.)

Well, for the most part I’m going to say that Same Continuity = Same Series, so X-Men, Marvel, Lord of the Rings, and even James Bond are each just one series in spite of how messed up some of the continuity is.  As always, I’m only going to talk about movie franchises that I’ve actually seen, or at least that I’ve seen over 50% of the films of.

So here’s a quick look, in a bit of a random order:

Marvel Cinematic Universe

• Number of movies:  15 & counting
• How many have I seen:  14 (everything but Dr. Strange)
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  13 (all of the above except for Thor)
• How many were worth watching:  The vast majority.  Though some are better than others, I’d say they all were except for maybe Iron Man 2
• Best entry:  The Avengers
• Worst Entry:  Like I said, as far as I remember, Iron Man 2

This is the franchise that has redefined the whole concept for the modern age.  Thanks to Marvel’s success, everybody is now talking “franchise” and “cinematic universe”, even for concepts that clearly don’t warrant it.  But still, Marvel has done a good and enjoyable job, even with concepts as obscure as Guardians of the Galaxy and Ant-Man, so really, I guess anything is possible.

Once Wonder Woman comes out, we can be talking about the DC Cinematic Universe as well!  What will we have to say about that?

Verdict:  Worth Watching!

Lord of the Rings

• Number of movies:  6
• How many have I seen:  6
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  3
• How many were worth watching:  Certainly the three Lord of the Rings movies.  I didn’t mind the first two Hobbit movies, but I found the third one to be a bit of a drag.
• Best entry:  Lord of the Rings:  The Fellowship of the Ring
• Worst Entry:  The Hobbit:  The Battle of Five Armies

The Lord of the Rings is not my favorite thing ever, but I enjoyed those films as much as anyone, and am really looking forward to someday sharing them with my children.  The Hobbit was overblown and overcooked, but mostly watchable, and didn’t sully the memory of the better “original trilogy” too badly.

Verdict:  Worth Watching!

Jurassic Park

• Number of movies:  4 (with more on the way)
• How many have I seen:  4
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  3 (All but Jurassic Park 3)
• How many were worth watching:  All entertaining on some level.  None actually good, including Jurassic Park.  There, I said it.
• Best entry:  Ummm….
• Worst Entry:  Well, Jurassic Park 3 is the most boring

The movie with the best dinosaurs that we’ve ever seen, but kind of nothing else of interest.  Jurassic World seems to finally realize that actually nobody cares, and genuinely embraces the stupidity, while still managing to be entertaining.  The whole thing is secretly a superhero franchise, which is why every movie includes some kid with some sort of enhanced ability

Verdict:  Not really worth watching, but what’s the point, you will anyway

Jason Bourne

• Number of movies:  5
• How many have I seen:  4 (not Jason Bourne)
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  2
• How many were worth watching:  All the ones I saw were at least okay
• Best entry:  I can’t remember, they all blend in together
• Worst Entry:  The Bourne Legacy felt like only 2/3 of a movie, so that was a bit annoying

Matt Damon is super-tough in a world of intrigue and political maneuvering.  People love these films, but I find them to be fine but absolutely forgettable.   In The Bourne Legacy, Aaron Cross does absolutely unrealistic things with a motorcycle he just picks up off the street in Manila.  As if.

Verdict:  Not interesting for me, but go for your life

Star Trek

• Number of movies:  13
• How many have I seen:  13
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  13!
• How many were worth watching:  I’d say 9 or 10 were at least good enough to watch
• Best entry:  Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  This is an opinion that is so widely held that it may as well be fact.
• Worst Entry:  Star Trek:  Generations

I already did a whole post on these, but look–I have seen all 13 of these movies in the theatres on their original release!  All 13 of them!  For the most part, the Star Trek films have been enjoyable and good without ever becoming exemplary.  The movie manages to remain one long franchise by my definitions, in spite of the hard reboot with Movie #11, by doing an in-story explanation of the reboot as an alternate universe.

Verdict:  Worth Watching!

X-Men

• Number of movies:  10, so far
• How many have I seen:  8 (all but Deadpool and Logan)
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  5
• How many were worth watching:  I’d say 4-5.  I can’t decide on First Class, which annoyed me though many like it.
• Best entry:  X2 (aka X-Men 2)
• Worst Entry:  My friend calls XMen Origins: Wolverine, XMen: Apocalypse, and XMen: The Last Stand the unholy trinity of bad XMen movies.  For my part, by far the worst (by virtue of being the most boring) was XMen Origins: Wolverine.

Far and away the most confusing of all the series listed here in terms of continuity and internal story consistency, and just as varied as far as quality is concerned.  XMen 2 is genuinely a good film, high on my list of favorite superhero films, but it’s the only one that gets anywhere on there for me.  Part of the problem is the challenge is how many of those films got fixated on 2 or 3 characters (Wolverine, Professor X, Magneto, and later Mystique) based largely on the star-power of the performances, even when that meant shoe-horning those characters into the leading roles of everything.

Verdict:  Sadly, not really worth watching in the end

Superman

• Number of movies:  5 – we’re talking about the Christopher Reeve Superman movies here, the more recent stuff is clearly a different continuity.  But maybe 6 if we count Superman Returns, which came out much later but was treated as a sequel of the second film
• How many have I seen:  5 (counting Supergirl),
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  5 (all but Supergirl)
• How many were worth watching:  2 at least (the first 2).  Superman III and Superman Returns both had some good stuff, and they were both supposed to be sequels to Superman II, so maybe we’ll count it as one good movie between them
• Best entry:  Superman, the Movie
• Worst Entry:  Superman IV:  The Quest for Peace

Richard Donner made us believe a man could fly.  This was back in the 1970’s, so we were a little less demanding back then, but that first movie still tells a good story.  Superman II is a good continuation, even if now we know we lost a lot of what Donner was going for.  Superman III has some good stuff but is not a very good movie.  Supergirl is wasted potential, and Superman IV is worth watching for just how absolutely bad it is.  Superman Returns has some great moments of majestic visual action, but is a stupid story.  And Superman fans such as myself have been sadly waiting for something better for years.

Verdict:  A split decision, but maybe just barely worth watching

Batman

• Number of movies:  4 – the presence of Michael Gough as Alfred and Pat Hingle as Commissioner Gordon helps to tie the four 1980’s/1990’s Batman movies together as one story, as different in style they are
• How many have I seen:  4
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  3 (missed Batman Returns in the theatre)
• How many were worth watching:  Errr…are any of them?  The first three films all have some things that are worth watching, but they all have real problems as well.
• Best entry:  My personal favorite is probably Batman Returns, in spite of a very clunky story
• Worst Entry:  Batman and Robin, one of the worst superhero films of all time.

Director Tim Burton and actor Michael Keaton made the first two movies at least bearable, but the ones that followed just became increasingly silly.  These movies proved there was an audience for “serious” Batman movies, but failed to actually produce them.  We had to wait until Batman Begins years later to see what was really possible.

Verdict:  In spite of some interesting bits, ultimately, not worth it

The Hunger Games

• Number of movies:  4
• How many have I seen:  4
• How many have I seen in the cinema: 1 (just the second one)
• How many were worth watching:  At least the first two, but they all had merit
• Best entry:  Hunger Games:  Catching Fire
• Worst Entry:  Hunger Games:  Mockingjay part 2 – it’s just hard to care when you get to the last one

Overall, I like The Hunger Games.  I was intrigued by the world presented in the first one, and really looked forward to the sequels where I expected to see Katniss Everdeen tear this horrible unjust world down to its knees.  For the most part, I wasn’t disappointed, though the last two movies (based on one book) definitely dragged on.

Verdict:  Does not completely stick the landing, but still worth it

The Terminator

• Number of movies:  5
• How many have I seen:  4
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  1 (just the first)
• How many were worth watching:  2, maybe
• Best entry:  The second film is a lot more hyped, but if I had to choose I’d prefer the original
• Worst Entry:  Terminator 3 is stupid but entertaining, Terminator Salvation is less stupid but boring

I’m not the biggest fan of this movie about an unstoppable killing machine, and I thought the massacre sequence in the police station in the first film was not cool, as many did, but incredibly tedious.  (I realize I feel this way about most “massacre” scenes, like Yondu with his arrow in Guardians of the Galaxy vol. 2 and that teleporting mutant in XMen First Class).  But I admit the concept is gripping, and Michael Biehn was cool as Kyle Reese.  T2: Judgement Day was a big big deal when it all came out, but I never thought it was very good and it introduced the special effect of “morphing” into every science fiction movie for the next five years or so.  I’ve never seen Terminator Genesys but it sounds like if I had, I’d hate it.

Verdict:  Not worth it

Alien

• Number of movies:  7, for the moment, counting the Alien v. Predator spin-offs
• How many have I seen:  4 (the original quadrilogy only)
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  4
• How many were worth watching:  2
• Best entry:  Both of the first ones are good, but ultimately I’ll have go to with the high-riding adventure of Aliens
• Worst Entry:  Alien3

Maybe an earlier version of me would still be interested in seeing more Alien movies, but not anymore.  I don’t even really want to go back to Alien anymore, though I acknowledge it’s a really well done film.  I could watch Aliens still, and enjoy it, especially Signourney Weaver’s iconic character.  But beyond that, I’m pretty done with this.

Verdict:  Alien and Aliens are great examples of what they are, but in my opinion, not ultimately worth watching

The Muppets

• Number of movies:  Tricky – I’m counting at least  5 – the original 3, plus the most recent 2.  Maybe also Muppets from Space.  (That would make 6).  The others use the Muppets as actors to tell a story (eg. Christmas Carol, Treasure Island) rather then telling a story about the Muppets
• How many have I seen:  6, if you count Muppets from Space
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  4
• How many were worth watching:  Out of those 6, I’d say 4 (not Muppets from Space or The Muppets Take Manhattan)
• Best entry:  The Muppet Movie, although I also enjoy The Great Muppet Caper
• Worst Entry:  Muppets from Space or maybe The Muppets Take Manhattan, which was a bit boring

I’m a big Muppets fan, especially the old TV series.  The first few films captured and expanded on that sense of fun, and the recent couple of movies have done a pretty good job offering a modernized version of the same vibe.  Good times.

Verdict:  Worth watching.

Die Hard

• Number of movies:  5
• How many have I seen:  5
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  1 (#3)
• How many were worth watching:  1 (guess which!)
• Best entry:  Die Hard
• Worst Entry:  A Good Day to Die Hard (#5)

Die Hard, is, potentially, the most important action film ever made.  But its sequels are generally lame and uninteresting, and in some cases tedious tiresome messes.

Verdict:  Not worth watching, beyond the first movie

The Transformers

• Number of movies:  4, so far
• How many have I seen:  3 (I haven’t caught the last one on the plane yet)
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  1 (just #2, in one of my stranger ever cinema experiences – see here or here)
• How many were worth watching:  Frankly, none
• Best entry:  Hard to say, I suppose the first one?
• Worst Entry:  Also hard to say, maybe the second one?

The Transformers is one of those franchises about which people often say that the sequels weren’t as good as the original, but to which I always think, the first one wasn’t any good either.  Really, the whole thing is just ridiculous.

Verdict:  Not worth watching

Mission Impossible

• Number of movies:  5, so far
• How many have I seen:  5
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  4, I think.  I can’t remember where I saw Mission Impossible III
• How many were worth watching:  At least 2.  Maybe with another couple of halves, it’d be about 3 movies worth all together.
• Best entry:  Mission Impossible III
• Worst Entry:  Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol

I’ve written about this franchise before in a long post, and there I talked about how inconsistent the first film is, how over the top the second one is, how great the third one is, how overrated the fourth one is, and how surprisingly enjoyable the fifth one is by the time you get to the end.  I enjoy the series overall, but I can see it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea.

Verdict:  Worth watching.

Ice Age

• Number of movies:  5
• How many have I seen:  4 (never saw #4)
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  2 (#3 & #5)
• How many were worth watching:  At least 2, being #1 & #3
• Best entry:  Ice Age
• Worst Entry:  Ice Age: Collision Course, maybe?

Ice Age is a “slighter” entry into the animated film franchise than things like Toy Story or even Madagascar, but some of the movies are good for a few laughs, although it comes in between other more tedious fare.

Verdict:  Not really worth watching, though it’s not very taxing if you decide to do so.

Indiana Jones

• Number of movies:  4
• How many have I seen:  4
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  4
• How many were worth watching:  At least 2.  Maybe 2.5
• Best entry:  Raiders of the Lost Ark, by a long shot
• Worst Entry:  Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

I really wanted to like Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, but the movie did not make it easy to do so.  Even though I’m not crazy about Temple of Doom, it still is not as challenging to get through.  But Last Crusade is a good time, and the original Raiders of the Lost Ark is so so so so good that it makes up for a multitude of cinematic sins.

Verdict:  Ultimately worth watching.

Frankenstein

• Number of movies:  It’s hard to say, but I guess 8?  I’m not sure if they are all really in the same continuity.  Is Abbot & Costello meet Frankenstein in the same continuity as Frankenstein?
• How many have I seen:  5, I believe
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  0!
• How many were worth watching:  I’d say 2, from my limited memory.  Maybe 2.5
• Best entry:  Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein are both good, I prefer the original but I think in general the second film is considered to be better
• Worst Entry:  House of Frankenstein (out of the movies I’ve seen)

This is another series where the first couple of films are worthwhile and everything else is just driving around the block again.  So, no recommendation from me, although I admit I don’t remember the films very well.

Verdict:  Not worth watching.

James Bond

• Number of movies:  24
• How many have I seen:  24!
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  I think only 6 (Octopussy, The Living Daylights, GoldenEye, Tomorrow Never Dies, Skyfall, and Spectre)
• How many were worth watching:  Wow, it’s hard to say as they really blend together, but roughly I’d say about 14 or 15
• Best entry:  Again, I don’t really remember details super well, but I’d say it has to be amongst From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, GoldenEye, or Casino Royale
• Worst Entry:  Maybe Diamonds are Forever?  Moonraker?  Die Another Day?  Quantum of Solace?

The longest running continuous story franchise that I have ever seen. Of course, it’s hard to know for sure if the last four films are really part of the same continuity, as it featured both a “reboot” back to the beginning of the character, but included one of the same supporting characters from the films immediately beforehand, and eventually brought things back around so that characters were positioned back like they were in the earliest entries.  I guess you could say that the series has had something of a “sliding scale continuity,” where movies are certainly related to the ones right around them, but not necessarily if you go back long enough.  Anyway, it’s never clear, but there’s enough style, action and charisma over the 24 films to make the series fun to watch overall.

Verdict:  Worth watching.

Star Wars

• Number of movies:  9
• How many have I seen:  8 (never saw the Clone Wars film)
• How many have I seen in the cinema:  8
• How many were worth watching:  5 for sure, and then some bits of the others, so maybe 6 all together
• Best entry:  I’m supposed to say The Empire Strikes Back, but really I’d rather rewatch Return of the Jedi, and I genuinely enjoyed The Force Awakens
• Worst Entry:  Episode 1 – not only kind of stupid, but sort of boring

Last but not least!  Star Wars of course is a cultural phenomenon, and so enjoyable that even the bad films are worth watching at least once just to know what’s going on with the characters and for the one or two cool action sequences that is sure to be part of things.

Verdict:  Worth watching.

So let’s see, that makes the series that are worth watching:

• Marvel Cinematic Universe
• Lord of the Rings
• Jason Bourne
• Star Trek
• Superman, featuring Christopher Reeve (just barely)
• The Hunger Games
• The Muppets
• Indiana Jones
• The Muppets
• James Bond
• Star Wars

No big surprises there.

Full Disclosure:  I have not seen enough of the following franchises to judge, according to my rules:  Fast and the Furious, Planet of the Apes, The Pink Panther, Dirty Harry, Death Wish, Rocky, Pirates of the Caribbean, Jaws, Police Academy, Harry Potter, a whole bunch of horror movie franchises, or Step Up.

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2 thoughts on “47 Movie Blogs #26 – Long-Running Film Series that are Worth Watching

  1. I’m one of those people that got hooked into the Fast and Furious series, but not convinced you would care for them, although more than the Transformers I should think. (Why do we keep watching those?)

  2. I have seen Fast and the Furious 1, 7 & 8, and actually reasonably enjoyed all three. I usually use “The Fast and the Furious” as my example of the lowest quality a movie should be reasonably expected to produce, eg. “It didn’t even have characterization to the level of ‘The Fast and the Furious'”. But according to my rules, I haven’t seen enough to comment on the whole franchise.

    And I’ve no idea why I watched any Transformers movies, but whenever I’m on a plane with the most recent one I’ll surely tune in.

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