It’s always difficult, when talking about movies with people, to have an exact bead on what people have seen and what they haven’t. No matter how universal a film is, there’s always somebody who hasn’t seen it. And conversely, sometimes two people will have coincidentally seen the same super-obscure independent film. But with film franchises, it’s often easier to be on surer footing. It’s a popular brand, or there wouldn’t be so many, and therefore more people have seen at least one of the films, by definition. But it’s still possible to be the odd man out.
I’m used to being the odd man out on a lot of films, but I have to admit I’ve seen more eyebrows raised at certain franchises that have passed me by than on individual films. If one film is a big hit, it’s odd enough if I haven’t seen it; but if I haven’t seen any of a five film franchise, that strikes people as even stranger. And while I can talk Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Jason Bourne and several other franchises with the best of them, there are some definite gaps in my knowledge. So in the interest of just getting it out there, here’s a personal Top X list, with 15 franchises where I’ve either seen no films at all (with each franchise being at least a trilogy), or where I’ve seen just one film out of a franchise that spans five or more films. This way, if I’m quiet on discussion on a particular franchise, you now have an idea why.
Shocker of shockers, I’ve never seen a Twilight movie. IMDb tells me they’re up to five now, and that this is supposed to be the end of it. Well, OK. These teen-oriented vampire romance movies have been highly popular among their target audience, just as the books were, and are enough of a blockbuster success that Hollywood’s already trying to dig up the next equivalent.
This is one franchise where I’m pretty unlikely to “remedy” overlooking it. Vampire romances don’t appeal to me. To me, a vampire isn’t some lonely misunderstood beautiful creature, it’s a bloodsucking monster that wants to eat you. I’m not even knocking the franchise when I say that I have no interest in seeing it, not really; I’ll be fair, since I haven’t seen them. Maybe these are the greatest teen-oriented vampire-human-werewolf love triangle stories in the history of fiction. I don’t know. But I do know they’re not for me. They’re meant, almost exclusively, for teenage girls. I’m in my 30s and have a Y chromosome. So I’m going to continue to overlook this franchise, and that’s why it’s only #15.
From vampires and werewolves making love, we go to vampires and werewolves making war. This series started in 2003, and has had a new film released every three years thereafter. This is a franchise where what little I’ve seen from promotional material hasn’t impressed me much; it’s stylish, for sure, but it didn’t sound like it had anything else going for it. Still, it might be worth checking out simply for the action; stylish but brainless can be all right for a popcorn flick. I prefer popcorn flicks like Die Hard, where there’s a bit of substance and it’s high quality, but the other can be fun from time to time. And of course, I could always be misjudging it.
#13: Hannibal Lecter
Nope, never seen a film with Hannibal Lecter in it. And I’m fully aware of how critically acclaimed Silence of the Lambs is. So why is this only coming it at #13 for me? Because I’m also fully aware of how acclaimed the other Hannibal films aren’t. It sounds very much like a franchise where only one film is really worth spending time with — ironically the one with the least screen time for the franchise character.
I’ll watch Silence of the Lambs at some point, but Red Dragon, Hannibal, and Hannibal Rising are probably going to remain on the shelf at the video store.
How many Saw films are there? I don’t know, I’ve honestly lost track at this point. And it rather seems like that’s the way of it even for fans of the series. It’s become the de facto franchise to joke about running too long — admittedly this is a condition that many horror film franchises fall prey to eventually. But even if people are questioning the need for a sixth Saw film, many of them still praise the original, which I haven’t seen yet. I can’t guarantee I’ll ever go seeking it out, but should it make itself available during my Halloween Haunters sessions some October, it’ll probably work its way in. (I have to admit I probably won’t be in the mood to watch it any other time of year, so it’ll be a while.)
#11: The Fast and the Furious
I’ll admit, I just brushed this franchise off initially. I figured it would probably be an OK action film, albeit one that’s pretty much all car chases instead of the more balanced blend other films in the genre provide. (And yes, I’m aware of the irony of calling an action film balanced, but everything’s relative.) I honestly would never have predicted it becoming a franchise, but here we are, with five films released in the series so far. Are they good? Is there a point to them beyond the first one? I honestly have no idea. I expect I’ll check out at least the first film eventually.
#10: Police Academy
Police Academy may be completely unremembered by younger generations, but it was big during the 1980s — six films came out during that decade, along with a seventh in 1994, and a cartoon series spin-off to boot. I saw bits and pieces of the first movie as a kid, but I never saw it in full, nor have I seen the other films. Reason being, I was a kid, and the first film was rated R (though the series gradually worked its way down to PG).
I’m fully aware of the fact that the films are probably stupid. But I can enjoy a stupid comedy once in a while (such as the Ernest movies).
#9: The Naked Gun
And from a bunch of dumb cops to a single dumb cop. The Naked Gun franchise, spinning out of the Police Squad! television series, is arguably the most successful television-to-film expansion next to Star Trek. It’s certainly a little hard to top getting a trilogy out of a series that only lasted six episodes. But I’ve never seen Lt. Frank Drebin in action, not on TV and not on film. My Leslie Nielsen experience, in fact, is limited to Airplane!. Obviously I’m not going to let that slide, and some time or another will be checking out the franchise, hopefully starting with the TV show even though I know it’s not essential.
#8: Jack Ryan
Jack Ryan’s had a lot of changes to his face over the years. He’s been played by Alec Baldwin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck, and next year he’s being played by Chris Pine. All pretty familiar faces, it must be said. But I haven’t seen any of the four current films (I think I can be forgiven for not having seen the fifth.) This action-genre CIA spy is still pretty popular, at least according to what Hollywood thinks, so I’m going to have to hunt down The Hunt For Red October one day soon.
Besides, I really want to see Sean Connery play a Russian. There’s no way that’s not hilarious.
#7: Planet of the Apes
This franchise almost verges on being three franchises. Several movies in the late 60s and 70s. A remake in 2001. A reboot in 2011. There’s a whole lot of monkeying going on. Tallying them all up, I believe there are 7 films, with an 8th on the way. And, despite knowing the twist ending, like everybody else on the planet of the filmgoers, I haven’t seen any of the films. Given that the first and the most recent have both received fairly high praise, that will be changing eventually. Whether I check out the intermediate films is another question.
#6: American Pie
This is another franchise that I just didn’t see coming. If anything ever looked like a one-and-done film, American Pie was it. But it’s now on its fourth film, and they’ve even tried to leverage the brand into something akin to National Lampoon with the “American Pie Presents” label. (From what I gather, that’s been less than successful, but hey. They’re trying.) Now, I’ll admit that teen sex comedies never really appealed to me much, even when I was a teenager. But there’s clearly something here that appeals to a lot of people, and that makes it probably worth checking out at some point. If only to stop the surprise when people realize I’ve never seen it.
#5: Universal Monsters & Hammer Horror
I wavered on whether to include these or not. They’re not exactly franchises in the usual sense, so much as they’re umbrellas for several smaller franchises. But given that I wind up talking about horror movies for a month solid every October, it has to be noted that it’s more than a little odd that I’ve never managed to see a monster movie from either of the most acclaimed runs. I’ve seen Gary Oldman as Dracula, but not Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee. I’m not knocking Oldman’s performance, but there’s something a little wrong about that situation.
#4: Dirty Harry
I have actually seen Dirty Harry. I have not, however, seen Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact, or The Dead Pool. Considering I really enjoyed Dirty Harry, this raises the obvious question of why I’ve only seen the first of five. And the answer is that it’s curiously difficult to track down the others — or at least, to do so in order. I think I’ve seen The Dead Pool show up on television at least once a month since I’ve had satellite TV service, but I’ve yet to see Magnum Force turn up at all. It’s enough to make a punk feel unlucky.
I’ve been working my way through the Rocky films, which would have been on this list before I started blogging (well, other than the fact that this list wouldn’t exist back then. But you know what I mean.) And I’ve seen The Expendables, will be catching the second one eventually, and will probably watch the third when it comes out. But Stallone’s other big franchise is one I haven’t delved into yet. I know Rambo was a pretty big deal when the series first came out, spawning video games and even a cartoon, and I know the latest one was actually pretty well received. So there’s no question that I’ll be getting to these. The only question is whether I finish Rocky first or just view both series in parallel.
#2: James Bond
My lack of James Bond experience has been mentioned more than once in the past few weeks in discussions with other bloggers. In terms of sheer scope, it’s easily the biggest omission here. I’m not a complete novice when it comes to Bond, but it’s pretty close. I’ve seen GoldenEye, and I’ve seen the 1967 version of Casino Royale, which was a spoof with Peter Sellers and Woody Allen. Counting non-canonical films, I’ve seen two out of 25 films (26 if we include the “Casino Royale” episode of Climax!); that’s only 8%. Of course, if we just go by canonical films, it’s even worse, at one out of 23, or about 4%.
One of my hopes for next year is to remedy this lack completely. My intention is to track down and watch all of the James Bond films, in chronological order of release, and review them here (though not all in one big slew, mind you). This includes the films I’ve already seen, so I can properly see how they stack up for their time, and the non-canonical films as well. It’ll be a gradual thing, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it winds up taking more than one year, but hopefully I’ll get it started and finished before Bond #24 comes out.
#1: Harry Potter
It was a toss-up as to what order my top two would be in. In the end, I felt that this was arguably the more “surprising” of the two. I’ve seen the first Harry Potter movie, but I have missed the other seven. Considering it’s one of the biggest franchises in recent years, that would be bad enough… but what makes it really surprising to people is that I’m known for reading fantasy novels and enjoying fantasy films. I’ve read all of the Harry Potter novels. Started on them before the first movie ever came out. So it’s only to be expected that I would have seen all the movies as well. But I missed the second film for some reason, and kept not getting around to picking it up. Which of course meant that things just cascaded from there.
At some point, I’ll pick up the whole series, and then watch them. When, exactly, I’m not sure. But it’s something that I feel I ought to do, and it’s something I want to do.
And now, it’s your turn. I’ve shared my missed franchises, so fair’s fair. What movie series have you not seen, even though everybody thinks you should have? Let us know in the comments.