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12 Best Sci-Fi Movie Franchises of All Time

February 11, 2018
11 min read

Science fiction has always been an intriguing and interesting topic in pop culture. People can take their imagination to the next level. Thinking of what could be if time travel was possible. What if earth was not the only planet with life? One can let their imagination run wild. With sci-fi all of this is possible. There have been numerous successful movies in this genre. Some movies have been standalone while some with the success of one have produced numerous sequels turning into money generating franchises. Here is the list of top sci-fi franchises ever based on how successful and popular the movies were (even if there were one or two movies in the series aren’t great).

12. Tron franchise (1982-2010)

Imaging being sucked into the game you are playing. You need to survive and then find a way to get out of it. The idea might not seem too far-fetched or new right now but at that time in 1982, it was something really new and the movie went on to become a cult classic. Starring Jeff Bridges as the programmer who gets sucked into his game, the film is sci-fi at its best. Even with limited visual technologies, the film was well received overall but it took 28 years and development of CGI to make a sequel. ‘Tron Legacy’ in 2010 was visually stunning with some really amazing action sequences. Jeff Bridges reprised his role as Kevin Flynn. The story revolves around his son trying to find him in the grid after receiving a cryptic message. The Tron franchise has a lot of other media in addition to the movies but the fans would really like to see a third film soon.

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11. Men in Black franchise (1997-2012)

Men in Black is a covert agency which polices over aliens living on earth and looks after alien threats on earth. We follow the journey of two MiB agents, Agent K and Agent J throughout the three films stretched across 14 years. The film is funny, quirky and with some crazy action scenes. The ‘Men in Black’ films have been loved by the audiences. With excellent actors like Tommy Lee Jones playing the always serious Agent K and snippy mouth Agent J played by Will Smith, it’s no surprise that Men in Black has been successful. The first movie released in 1997, followed by its sequel in 2002 and then a third after a 10 year gap in 2012. There are current talks about ‘Men in Black’ having a cross-over with the ‘Jump Street’ series!

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10. Robocop franchise (1987-2014)

In a near future, the world is on the verge of a financial collapse. Crime is at an all-time high. A Detroit police officer is shot down and is almost dead when he is made into a cyborg, Robocop who they think will be helpful to the public than the normal cops. The first film was an instant hit, gaining positive reviews. With Peter Weller playing the namesake ‘Robocop’, it was one of the better sci-fi movies. With themes and theories of Robocop being synonymous to Jesus drawing parallels with coming back from the dead and walking on water, the film became a success and we had two sequels completing the trilogy. The third one was unsuccessful. We had to wait till 2014 for a reboot with Joel Kinnaman taking the lead role. The reboot got mixed reviews but was financially successful.

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9. Planet of the Apes franchise (1968-2017)

Between 1968 and 2017, there have been 9 movies in the ‘Planet of the Apes’ franchise. It is one of the longest running and highly successful franchise. The title giving us an idea about what to expect. An Earth where instead of humans, the Apes are the most advanced species and rule the world. Tackling time travel to viral outbreak, the franchise gives us everything. The first movie starred Charlton Heston playing an astronaut who due to an anomaly lands on some unknown planet ruled by apes, only to find out its earth in the future. There were 4 sequels to the movie, the last being in 1973. Then came a stand-alone movie in 2001 directed by Tim Burton starring Mark Wahlberg, Tim Roth, Helena Bonham Carter and Michael Clarke Duncan. Recently, the series was rebooted with ‘Rise of the Planet of Apes’ in 2011 using modern CGI with James Franco and Andy Serkis. The third movie in this new series released in 2017. The rebooted series has been a major hit.

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8. Mad Max franchise (1979-2015)

‘Mad Max’ is a story set in the dystopian future in Australia where the world has largely become a wasteland and there is a crisis of basic requirements like water and food. The first movie ‘Mad Max’ sets this up with Mel Gibson playing the titular role. Weird costumes, crazy modified vehicles, this is one crazy franchise not to be missed. The success of ‘Mad Max’ led to 2 sequels ‘Mad Max 2’ (1981) and ‘Mad Max- Beyond Thunderdome’ (1985), completing the trilogy. All 3 movies directed by George Miller. Later, Miller himself returned in 2015 to reboot the franchise with ‘Mad Max-Fury Road’ with Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and Nicolas Hoult starring in the movie. It went on to become one of the most successful movie of that year. It was also nominated for various Academy awards and was considered one of the best Sci-Fi action movies of all time by some. As we await more of the same in the future, we can watch these movies again and exclaim, “What a day! What a lovely day!!”

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7. Jurassic Park franchise (1993- )

If one was born in the 80s and 90s and saw this movie as a teenager on the big screen, one would have been certainly left dumbstruck and awed. ‘Jurassic Park’ was based on a novel by Michael Crichton. The first 2 films were directed by the genius Steven Spielberg. The 1993 film was magnanimous in scale. It was a sheer joy to see dinosaurs on the big screen and this coming at a time when there was very less CGI. The sheer cast of the 1993 movie was extraordinary with Jeff Goldblum, Laura Dern, the legendary Richard Attenborough, Sam Neill, Samuel L. Jackson and many more. It was the perfect thrill ride. The first trilogy ended in 2001. It created a franchise that is still going strong with a reboot and an expected sequel to the reboot. It was rebooted in 2015 with the title ‘Jurassic World’ with Chris Pratt in the leading role. The films were a humongous commercial success with critical acclaim along the way for most.  A sequel to ‘Jurassic World’, ‘Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom’ is expected in 2018.

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6. The Matrix franchise (1999-2003)

The Matrix is considered one of the greatest original and confusing sci-fi movies. It was created by the Wachowskis, who wrote and directed all 3 movies. It is a story set in the future where of a group of rebels fight a war against sentinel machines, who have created a enslaving virtual reality system for the humans. ‘The Matrix’ (1999) was a path breaking film winning 4 Academy awards and kick starting the franchise. The series stars Keanu Reeves as Neo in his career defining role and also stars various exceptional stars such as Laurence Fishburn, Carrie-Ann Moss, Hugo Weaving etc. It has been praised for its complexity and also brining in iconic action sequences in movie history. The two sequels, though, nearly ruined the experience.

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5. Alien franchise (1979-2017)

The Alien franchise has had some extraordinary directors as helm like Ridley Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher. It all began with Ridley Scott and ‘Alien’ in 1979 with Sigourney Weaver in her iconic role of Ellen Ripley. The entire franchise is sci-fi horror, having its own ethos and philosophy regarding aliens. ‘Aliens’ (1986), directed by Cameron was a rare sequel that was on par with the original movie if not better. Ellen Ripley’s character and the movies were critically acclaimed and had financial success. The franchise quality went low with the third and fourth movie but pulled itself back with the prequel movie ‘Prometheus’ directed by Scott in 2012. It was followed by ‘Alien: Covenant’ in 2017. In between the prequels and the original quadrology, there was a time when the Alien franchise crossed over with the Predator franchise churning out 4 movies. Overall, even with minor blimps, it has been easily one of the best sci-fi franchises.

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4. Terminator franchise (1984- )

By now James Cameron has established himself as a sci-fi directing guru with some superb movies such as ‘Aliens’, ‘The Terminator’, ‘Terminator 2: Judgement Day’ and ‘Avatar’. Cameron co-created ‘The Terminator’ in 1984 with Gale Anne Hurd. He directed the first movie which was universally acclaimed and also directed the sequel which was considered even better than the original. ‘Terminator: Judgement Day’ in 1991 was released 7 years after the first movie. A story of AI machines taking over humanity and its fate lying on none other than a boy, John Connor. It gave Arnold Schwarzenegger massive fan following for the role he was born to play. The Terminator franchise is sci-fi royalty. The 2 movies were followed by 3 more movies, out of which ‘T3: Rise of the Machines’ (2003) and ‘Salvation’ (2009) were average, but the ‘Terminator: Genisys’ (2015) was quite a forgettable one. A new Terminator film is expected in 2019 but if it’s anything like ‘Genisys’ it would be rather easy to say “Hasta la vista, baby” to it!

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3. Back to the Future (1985-1990)

The time traveling adventures of a weird scientist Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is another way to describe the ‘Back to the Future’ trilogy. They travel to different time periods in one of the coolest time machine, DeLorean (Sorry, Tardis). It was created by Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale. All 3 movies were directed by Zemeckis. The movie is funny, always on a lighter tone and excellent overall. Feel good sci-fi time traveling. A fan favorite in all its right.

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2. Star Trek (1979-2016)

Star Trek series has its roots dated way back to 1966, when it aired as a TV series. It went on till 1969. After that, it was 10 years later in 1979 when the entire original cast returned for the first Star Trek movie, ‘Star Trek- The Motion Picture’. William Shatner as James T. Kirk, Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock, DeForest Kelley as Leonard McCoy, James Doohan as Montgomery Scott, Walter Koenig as Pavel Chekov, George Takei as Hikaru Sulu, Nichelle Nichols as Uhura reprising their roles from the TV series. This film series called the Original series came out with 6 movies in which ‘Star Trek- The Wrath of Khan’ (1982) remains a fan favorite. This Original series ended in 1991. Then came the spin-off series called The Next Generation films. It had Sir Patrick Stewert in the lead role and there were 4 films in the series. Star Trek was then rebooted by JJ Abrams in 2009 who also directed 2 of the 3 movies in the rebooted trilogy. With 13 feature films in total till now, with minor ups and downs, Star Trek has a massive fan following and a rightful place in pop culture. May there be more good Star Trek films and may it live long and prosper.

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1. Star Wars (1977- )

The fans of Star Wars and Star Trek will keep arguing as to which is the better but there is no doubt that Star Wars is by far the best Sci-Fi franchise. The sheer magnitude and humongous scale at which Star Wars has crept into our lives is impressive. The Epic space magnum opus created by George Lucas still goes strong. Its dialogues remembered and used in day to day life. No other movie franchise has affected lives in a way Star Wars has. The Original Trilogy consisting of Episode IV – A New Hope (1977), Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983) is one of the best movie trilogy in the history of cinema. An epic space saga. Star Wars hit a rough patch with the prequel trilogy between 1999-2005 but with ‘The Force Awakens’ (2015) and the anthology film, ‘Rogue One’ (2016) it’s back to its best. With more films to come and a fandom that will never die. The characters will remain immortal. The dialogues will be repeated generation after generation. Star Wars is and will be the greatest sci-fi franchise.

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