The 14 Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Movie Franchises, Ranked From 'Star Wars' to 'Harry Potter'
Between big franchises like "Harry Potter," "Star Wars," and the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it seems like science fiction and fantasy are bigger than ever. People need their escapism these days. These are the best sci-fi and fantasy franchises of all time, including a couple that blur the line between the two.
14. 'Blade Runner'
The fact that "Blade Runner" qualifies as a franchise now rather than one really beloved sci-fi movie is a pretty neat development. To date, the franchise only consists of two films, a couple animated shorts and a tenuous connection to the "Alien" movies, but here's hoping it continues to grow.
The "Godzilla" series is both one of the most influential sci-fi franchises of all time and one of the most prolific. This is a series that spans dozens of sequels and all sorts of random spinoffs, with the tone varying between serious contemplation of nuclear age horror to rampant monster-on-monster zaniness. We wish American studios had better success translating that formula, but you can't argue with the sheer amount of Godzilla goodness on tap.
13. 'The Hunger Games'
You can pretty much trace the current YA dystopian fiction craze straight back to the "Hunger Games" series. And it's little wonder it turned out to be such a trend-setter. These four movies offer a captivating look at a world so deranged the wealthy elite make hungry teenagers fight to death for their amusement. The allegory is pretty obvious in this case.
The "X-Men" franchise has seen some pretty extreme highs and lows over the course of almost two decades of existence. Fortunately, those highs are enough to make up for everything else. These aren't just great superhero movies, but terrific sci-fi parables about outcasts banding together to make the world a better place. Here's hoping that things will only improve as the franchise makes it way to Marvel Studios.
1979's "Alien" and its 1986 sequel both rank among the greatest sci-fi movies of all time. One is a claustrophobic sci-fi horror mash-up, and the other is a delightfully enjoyable action romp. Sadly, none of the sequels, prequels, and spinoffs have quite lived up to that standard, but that doesn't mean we aren't always eager to spend more time in this universe.
9. 'Harry Potter'
It's rare to find a franchise that stays good for even two or three movies, much less eight. But for the most part, the "Harry Potter" series only got better with time. And now that series has spawned a whole new spinoff franchise in the form of "Fantastic Beasts." Between the two, you have one of the most consistently entertaining fantasy properties in Hollywood.
8. 'Mad Max'
The "Mad Max" movies remain the gold standard when it comes to post-apocalyptic action. And thanks to "Mad Max: Fury Road," the franchise has proven itself to be more relevant and daring than ever in the 21st Century. That belated sequel shows that this series doesn't need to rest on the shoulders of Mel Gibson, or even the Max Rockatansky character at all.
7. 'The Lord of the Rings'
For decades, many "Lord of the Rings" fanatics considered this franchise to be impossible to adapt to the big screen. But all it took was a crafty team led by director Peter Jackson to do justice to J.R.R. Tolkien's sweeping saga of men, elves, orcs and Hobbits. The original trilogy ushered in a whole new weave of fantasy and medieval epics. It's unfortunate that the "Hobbit" prequels were stretched beyond the breaking point, but we're still eager to see what other directions Hollywood can take this beloved fantasy series in the years to come.
6. The 'Planet of the Apes'
From the original series to the new, very photo-real reboot, "Apes" is the allegorical-heavy and emotionally-resonate franchise we need and deserve right now.
Much like the "Alien" franchise, the "Terminator" series is marked by two amazing movies followed by sequels and spinoffs of varying degrees of quality. But those first two movies are enough to cement this franchise as one of the greatest sci-fi properties of all time. The conflict between man and machine is still as resonant now as it was at the time, as is the central theme of fate vs. free will. We just hope we can get one more good sequel out of Arnold Schwarzenegger before he retires from the series for good.
4. 'Back to the Future'
There's a lot to be said for a franchise that knows when to call it quits. "Back to the Future" never overstayed its welcome. The 1985 original is a delightful fusion of science fiction and comedy. Its two sequels further enrich the whirlwind saga of Marty McFly and Doc Brown. And that's it. Other than an entertaining animated series and a video game continuation, this franchise has been allowed to rest in peace. No remakes or reboots to dilute the appeal of the originals.
3. 'Star Trek'
TV may be the medium in which "Star Trek" works best, but there have been some darned good Trek movies over the decades. Between "The Wrath of Khan," "The Voyage Home," "First Contact" and the recent reboot series, there's no shortage of sci-fi goodness to be found with this franchise. Even if these movies are notorious for alternating between good and bad sequels, "Star Trek" will always rank among the greats.
2. The Marvel Cinematic Universe
The MCU has truly changed the game when it comes to superhero movies. There had certainly been great superhero movies before the MCU came along, but never before had a studio attempted to craft a shared universe on this scale. Marvel Studios has managed to craft a franchsie where super-soldiers, armored billionaires, gods and aliens bump elbows. Most amazingly of all, almost all of the 20-something MCU movies to date have ranged from really good to downright terrific.
1. 'Star Wars'
In the end, could there be any other franchise topping this list? "Star Wars" blurs the lines between sci-fi and fantasy, tapping into our most fundamental myths and archetypes to tell the ultimate story of a heroic few overcoming a terrible evil. The original Trilogy shaped countless childhoods and gave us some of the greatest cinematic moments ever. And while the prequels and sequels have their detractors, they also prove that this is a franchise capable of constantly reshaping itself in order to appeal to new generations. This is a saga that apparently has no end, and we wouldn't have it any other way.