star wars, marvel, movies

The best cinematic franchise of all time 

Words: Jason Wolf
Photo: Flickr/BagoGames

A breakdown of the greatest film series ever, and the one franchise that conquers them all

More than a dozen competing film franchises circulate across the release slates of Hollywood’s biggest studios, barely allowing us to go a month without a new spy movie or superhero flick. They vie for our attention, promising to be the most spectacular sights and sounds cinema has to offer, each trying to outdo the last.

But which movie franchise reigns supreme as the best of all-time? Have a gander at the scorecard, which is composed of a four-part rubric categorized by longevity, financial success, critical success, and cultural impact, with a little help from the Rotten Tomatoes ratings system.

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Longevity: James Bond

With more than 50 years and a whopping 26 films under its belt, the James Bond franchise is unique in its volume, as well as its transformative approach. The franchise reinvents itself every decade by sculpting a contemporary tone and casting a new lead to breathe fresh air into the character, which has proven to be a large part of the draw to keep audiences coming back for more Bond.

Runner-Up: Star Trek (40+ years and 13 films)

Box office success: Marvel Cinematic Universe 

At US $10bn and counting, the MCU is a money-making juggernaut. Its auspicious blend of commercial appeal and critical praise lends itself to a recipe for perpetual financial returns. With the release of Doctor Strange, the MCU has tallied 14 movies and has at least seven more on deck. Marvel executives will certainly continue swimming in pools of cash and flying in diamond-encrusted helicopters for years to come.

Runner-Up: Star Wars (US $7bn)

Best reviewed: Harry Potter

The minds behind adapting the Harry Potter book series harmoniously appeased the built-in audience and critics alike. Taking the aggregate scores of all nine movies, the Harry Potter franchise has an average score of 84 percent “fresh” according to Rotten Tomatoes. The films paired highly skilled filmmaking with a dense cultural world, possibly only second to Star Wars, which ultimately led to rave reviews from people of all ages.

Runner-Up: MCU (82 percent ‘fresh’)

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Greatest impact: Star Wars

Star Wars colonised new territory amid the film landscape, being both a source for broad entertainment and innovative filmmaking. It’s undoubtedly the largest cultural phenomenon to come out of the studio system, inspiring moviegoers and advertisers alike. Also, this franchise represents a key shift in cinema history by accelerating the advancement of film technology for visual effects, sound design, and made a huge impact on the way studio systems operate.

Runner-up: MCU

Winner: Marvel Cinematic Universe

It came down to Star Wars and the MCU. They both dominate the box office and have an enormous breadth of subsidiary income from streams like comics, toys, costumes and corporate tie-ins. Where the MCU tipped the scale was the fact that it doesn’t have any bad movies in the crop. Star Wars has some infamously lousy prequels whereas Thor: The Dark World has the lowest rating on Rotten Tomatoes at 66 percent for the MCU, and even that’s still considered ‘fresh’. A widespread critique of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is its milquetoast attitude toward directors bringing unique visions, but the MCU has combated accusations of being trite and formulaic by extending its grasp to multiple interconnected television and Netflix series that offer more stylistic diversity.

Although the original Star Wars saga under George Lucas was more influential in terms of filmic language, the MCU has already made an ink-drenched stamp on the film industry by setting the table for imitators to copy their shared universe blueprint. It’s even influenced the future of Star Wars by inspiring the franchise to become a shared universe itself. Movies like Rogue One and the upcoming Boba Fett, and Han Solo standalone features are emulating the MCU’s mould for an interconnected movie universe.

But seeing as none of these franchises are finished making movies, the debate will rage on for years to come, bobbing the scale in different directions with each new release. MCU wins, for now.

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