The Greatest Film Franchises of All Time, Part 1: Horror

Greatest Film Franchises of All Time 1

Rarely am I inspired to write a series of columns by a Blu-ray release.  This time, it’s different.  Tuesday saw the arrival to the platform of The Complete Sherlock Holmes Collection.  Though it previously hit DVD in 2006, this new version brings the HD and a boatload of other features.  The chiefly noticeable fact is that it features all fourteen films starring Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as Watson.

Say that again: FOURTEEN.  That got me thinking: what REALLY constitutes the list of great franchises?  Is it bank alone?  Sheer numbers?  The ability to reach across cultures?  Seismic impact?  Here then, we’ll attempt to codify an, at the very least, initial list of the Greatest Film Franchises of All Time.  (Let me clarify one point: though we might occasionally refer to a character’s representation on television, it’s primarily about the films.  Otherwise Zatoichi’s 112 episodes of TV would clobber half the list).  We will also not indulge in a ranking system.  We’re simply going to examine the biggest and the best.  As you might expect, we’re going to be heavy on the science fiction, super-heroes, and fantasy.  But this is me.  Horror first . . . 


Friday the 13th

Totals: 10 films in sequence plus 1 crossover; 1 reboot

Let’s be honest; on an aesthetic level, this isn’t a great series.  In fact, it’s probably the weakest entrant from any genre on the entire list.  But you have to give it points for being unkillable.  You can add bonus points for each film essentially picking up where the previous one left off (Jason taking an axe to the head in one, only to remove the axe at the outset of the next one, etc.). The initial run of the franchise had nine films in a row between 1980 and 1993; two more entries in the (more or less) original continuity arrived in 2002 and 2003, with 2003’s installment being Freddy vs. Jason.  A reboot landed in 2009.



Totals: 8 films (7 in sequence) plus 2 reboot

Not bad for a movie that was going to be called “The Babysitter Murders”, eh?  Director John Carpenter decided to call it “Halloween”, and the rest is history.  The sequence notation above is because, of course, “Halloween III: Season of the Witch” had nothing to do with the rest of the series.  We’ll always give the edge to Michael over Jason for a few reasons: that music, that creepy ass tilt of the head, and the Shatner mask.  Seriously, Jason wasn’t even the killer in the first Friday.


A Nightmare on Elm Street

Totals: 7 films in sequence; 1 crossover; 1 reboot 

What put Freddy over Michael and Jason?  Personality, kids.  Granted, Freddy was scarier in his early days and quippier on the later end, but that was part of his broad appeal.  Although the second film went in a different direction, most of the sequels stuck with the main points and descended/progressive characters.  Wes Craven also rolled the dice on the extremely meta “New Nightmare” in 1994, a picture that in many ways is the dry run for Scream.



Totals: 4 films in sequence; 2 crossovers; 1 prequel pending

Apart from totally redefining the role of the female action hero, the “Alien” films changed the way that we imagine both space AND horror.  Ridley Scott’s innovative direction of the first film added layers to the age of “Star Wars”, and James Cameron detonated the notion of what an action movie could be with “Aliens”.  While subsequent entries haven’t hit those heights again, despite the huge talents involved at various levels (David Fincher, Joss Whedon, etc.), “Alien” hangs on in pop culture, spawning the associated “AVP” films and generating the forthcoming Prometheus.

Hang on, readers, we’re just getting started. Next time, we go international (looking at Coffin Joe and HombreLobo/Waldemar Daninsky) and old school (Universal and Hammer). Down the road we go south (El Santo!), east (Zatoichi! Gundam!), and get drunk (The Thin Man).  Remember: this is the mere beginning.

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* Newsarama Note: GEOFF JOHNS, in his first full length interview about FLASHPOINT, exclusively Friday @Newsarama

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