The 15 longest movie franchises, from Godzilla to James Bond and the MCU

As the Fast & Furious franchise reaches its ninth instalment with ‘F9’, Clémence Michallon rounds up our most enduring film series

Saturday 26 June 2021 09:47
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<p>Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey Jr, and Mark Ruffalo in ‘The Avengers'</p>

Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey Jr, and Mark Ruffalo in ‘The Avengers'

Guess who’s back, back again? That would be the Fast & Furious franchise. F9, the latest instalment in the film series, is officially out. The release marks the ninth (or 10th, depending on whether you count the Hobbs & Shaw spin-off) instalment in the film series, and the 20th anniversary of the franchise itself.

Over the years, the main ingredients in the Fast & Furious brew have largely remained the same – action scenes, fast cars – while the franchise has shifted from its initial focus on illegal street racing to play with bigger threats.

There is something delightfully mind-bending about large movie franchises. Some have endured for decades at a reasonable pace; others have grown exponentially in recent years. The Marvel Cinematic Universe, for example, has generated almost as many films in 13 years as the James Bond franchise in 59 years.

For this reason, the round-up below prioritises the number of movies in a given franchise, rather than years of existence. But credit will be given for lasting power, too, because endurance matters.

1. Godzilla

Godzilla’s story began in 1954 in Japan, stretching all the way to the present day. The fictional monster has been immortalised in a whopping 36 films – 32 of them produced in Japan, and four made in Hollywood. The latest, Godzilla vs Kong, came out earlier this year and proved a streaming hit for HBO Max.

‘Godzilla: King of the Monsters’ added to the Godzilla franchise in 2019

2. James Bond

In the land of massive movie franchises, 007 still reigns supreme. No Time to Die will be the 25th film to be released involving the suave super spy in 59 years, with the franchise beginning in 1962 with Dr No and Sean Connery. While Daniel Craig has said No Time to Die will be his final turn as Bond, the spy himself doesn’t appear ready to retire any time soon.

Naomie Harris and Daniel Craig in ‘Skyfall'

3. The Marvel Cinematic Universe

Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr and Tom Hiddleston in ‘The Avengers'

With 23 films (and counting), the MCU is giving James Bond a run for his money, in a comparatively lean 13 years. It all began in 2008 with Robert Downey Jr in Iron Man – 11 more films are expected to be released over the next few years. In the interim, Avengers: Endgame overtook Avatar as the highest-grossing film of all time, although Avatar has since pulled ahead again thanks to a re-release.

4. Star Trek

Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris Pine in ‘Star Trek Into Darkness'

Fittingly, the Star Trek franchise has both lived long and prospered. Beginning in 1979, it has spawned 13 films in the span of 37 years, with a possible new movie currently in development.

5. X-Men

Yes, the X-Men belong to Marvel, but they’re not technically part of the MCU and can thus be counted as their own entity. The running total, including the main X-Men films as well as the Wolverine trilogy, comes to 10 movies – 13 including the two Deadpool films and the 2020 spin-off The New Mutants, all in the span of 20 years.

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Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellen in ‘X-Men'

6. Spider-Man

Maybe it’s not entirely fair to give Spider-Man his own category, given his recent forays into the MCU, but for years, the character was very much a separate entity. It all began in 1977, with the made-for-television Spider-Man. Two more TV movies followed, as well as a Japanese film in 1978. Then came Sam Raimi’s three films starring Tobey Maguire as Spidey in the 2000s, followed by Marc Webb’s two movies starring Andrew Garfield. Tom Holland has since picked up the mantle in Spider-Man: Homecoming and Far From Home, for a running total of 11 films. A 12th release, Spider-Man: No Way Home, will follow in December 2021.

Andrew Garfield in ‘The Amazing Spider-Man 2'

7. Star Wars

Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, and Harrison Ford in ‘A New Hope'

This one should be relatively easily to tally up: three trilogies equal nine films, to which Rogue One and Solo can be added, for a total of 11. A New Hope came out in 1977, while the most recent instalment, The Rise of Skywalker, was unveiled in 2019. That’s a good 42 years in a galaxy far, far away.

8. Batman

Whether Batman movies are included in the DC Extended Universe or not is a hotly debated issue. For the sake of this ranking, let’s say Batman films can be counted as their own categories. This brings us to a total of 11 films, beginning as early as 1943 with Batman, and ending (so far) with The Dark Knight Rises in 2012. Of course, The Batman, starring Robert Pattinson as the superhero, will change things when it’s released in 2022.

Christian Bale and Heath Ledger in ‘The Dark Knight'

9. DC Extended Universe

Gal Gadot in ‘Wonder Woman'

Speaking of the DCEU… it amounts to nine films so far, released in the span of seven years. It all began in 2014 with Man of Steel, with the 2020 Wonder Woman 1984 as the DCEU’s most recent release. Many more projects are in the works, beginning with The Suicide Squad (coming to the US and the UK this summer).

10. Planet of the Apes

Based on a French novel (the 1963 La Planète des singes by Pierre Boulle), the Planet of the Apes franchise has so far spawned nine films: the original five in the 1960s and 1970s, Tim Burton’s 2001 remake Planet of the Apes, and the reboot series consisting of three movies so far. The most recent one came out in 2017, while the inaugural film dates back to 1968. That’s a good 49 years spent revisiting and expanding on Boulle’s original story.

Andy Serkis in ‘War for the Planet of the Apes'

11. Fast & Furious

Dwayne Johnson in ‘The Fate of the Furious'

We’ve been over this, but the Fast & Furious franchise has brought us a solid total of nine films over 20 years. Apparently, we have just two more to look forward to: Vin Diesel has recently suggested that the saga will end after a couple more instalments, with potential release dates in 2023 and 2024. Of course, there’s always spin-offs.

12. Maeda

Tyler Perry’s Madea has starred in nine films (with cameos in two others) since 2005. Perry initially announced in 2019 he would be retiring the character, but he will bring her back in 2022 in a Netflix film titled A Madea Homecoming.

Tyler Perry at the premiere of ‘Madea’s Big Happy Family’ in 2011

13. Harry Potter

Students enrolled for seven years at the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, but the seventh and final chapter of the Harry Potter story was split into two movies, bringing the total to eight films over 10 years. The Fantastic Beasts spin-off series has so far generated two films, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) and Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald (2018), with three more movies planned.

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, and Rupert Grint at the 2005 premiere of ‘Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire’ in New York City

14. The Conjuring

Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson in ‘The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It'

In case horror fans are keeping track, theConjuring franchise has been with us for eight years and as many films beginning in 2013. The most recent instalment, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, was released recently in the US and in the UK. At least two more films are in the works, so get ready for more paranormal happenings.

15. Rocky

Sylvester Stallone in ‘Rocky'

Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa has been the star of six films released in a 30-year period between 1976 and 2006. Add to these the two Creed films, in which Stallone stars alongside Michael B Jordan, and this brings Rocky’s running total to eight. A third Creed film directed by Jordan is planned for 2022.

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