For most things in life, less is more (see vampire tales, happy hour drink specials, or Peep flavors). However, in the case of movies, every so often a franchise comes along that proves more is actually more. These are the sequels we screen on opening night, eager to see what awaits our favorite (or least favorite) characters in the latest chapter of the saga.
In 2020, we researched the storyline order (not release date) of all the Marvel movies and we made our way through the list. Worth noting that Penn and I make a brief (very brief) appearance in Iron Man 3 and the kids were NOT impressed. Insert eyeroll emoji.
And since we’re all pros at binge-watching now (thanks, 2020), it seemed like a good time to share the fruits of our weekend labors on the couch. So put those PJs (or change into a fresh pair) and order some pizza, because these are the 10 movie franchises worth watching from start to finish:
- Star Wars (1977-Present)
Whether you’re a diehard fan of the original trilogy or recently joined The Mandalorian/Baby Yoda fan club, any list of franchises to watch has to include Star Wars. There are the original three films, a prequel trilogy, a sequel trilogy, an animated film, and three anthology films to date, with no sign of slowing down. Consult this blog on the best order to watch them in!
- The Godfather (1972-1990)
“Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” Were wiser words ever spoken? Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather trilogy is based on the 1969 novel by Mario Puzo and follows the Corleone crime family. There are betrayals, love stories, and too many murders to count (including an unfortunate incident with a horse). If you’re a mafia fanatic, it’s a must-see.
- The Hunger Games (2012-2015)
Set in a futuristic, dystopian America, this sci-fi YA franchise channels some pretty dark themes (hello, child sacrifice). But ultimately, it’s a story about unity over division and the right to a dignified, full life. Based on the novels by Suzanne Collins, the films are led by Jennifer Lawrence as sharp-shooting, far-too-wise-for-her-years Katniss Everdeen.
- Alien (1979-1997)
Watch Sigourney Weaver kick some serious extraterrestrial behind as warrant officer Ellen Ripley in the four Alien films. After you do, I can guarantee your next stomach ache will give you some serious anxiety (no spoilers). There are also two prequels you can add to the lineup — Prometheus (2012) and Alien: Covenant (2017) — as well as the Alien vs. Predator franchise.
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe (2008-Present)
Go big or go home, right? There are now 24(!) films in the MCU and their storylines have only gotten more intertwined throughout the years. From Iron Man to the Black Panther and Avengers, there’s a hero (or villain) for everyone. You’ll need several weekends to watch them all, and I bet a new flick will have dropped by the time you finish. PS: Don’t blink and you’ll see yours truly in Iron Man 3.
- Harry Potter (2001-2011)
I mean, does this one even need an introduction? Bringing to life the blockbuster series by J. K. Rowling, the eight Harry Potter films follow the evolution of “The Boy Who Lived” into a powerful wizard fighting the darker forces of the world alongside his best friends. If you haven’t read the books yet, no need, but you’ll probably want to once you’re done.
- The Dark Knight (2005-2012)
Casting my vote for Christian Bale in the Christopher Nolan trilogy as the best Batman is a hill I’ll die on any day of the week. This is also the franchise that turned out some epic performances, including the late Heath Ledger as The Joker and Tom Hardy as Bane. Not even a few cheesy jokes or oddball accents could derail all of the gritty action.
- The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)
Grab the kids and let’s head to Middle-earth, home to J. R. R. Tolkien’s cast of Hobbits, Elves, Orcs, and more. The three fantasy action films in this franchise (all directed by Peter Jackson) follow Hobbit Frodo Baggins (Elijah Wood) on his quest for the One Ring. Pro Tip: Start with The Hobbit prequel trilogy for more of the backstory.
- The Pirates of the Caribbean (2003-2017)
Who didn’t dream of being a pirate as a kid? This franchise is full of action, comedy, and a bit of romance (not to mention some killer Halloween costume inspo). Who would have thought a ride at Walt Disney theme parks could turn out five blockbuster films? A sixth film is also apparently in the works to reboot the series, so get caught up now.
- Toy Story (1995-2019)
Where would we be without Woody and Buzz? I shudder to think about it. Ever since we first met the contents of Andy’s playroom back in the (cool-again) ‘90s, we’ve loved this franchise for its delightful humor and message of friendship. A kids’ movie the parents won’t mind watching along with them? Yes please, we’ll take all four.
What is your favorite movie franchise? Let us know in the comments.