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Eric Eisenberg

I Picked The Best Movie From Famous Franchises

Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road

We here at CinemaBlend regularly rank the individual installments of a wide variety of film series, but this feature is a bit different than all of those. Instead of going from worst to best with pop culture staples, I've opted to go straight at naming all of the #1 titles in 35 different franchises. Tackling them in alphabetical order and jumping around genres, let's start with...

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Alien/Predator: Aliens

Ridley Scott made a claustrophobic classic in Alien that remains one of the best sci-fi horror movies of all time, and Predator is one of the greatest Arnold Schwarzenegger films, but James Cameron gets the credit for making the top title in this particular franchise with Aliens – the epic battle between the Alien Queen and Ripley in the Power Loader sealing the deal.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Back To The Future: Back To The Future

All three films in the Back To The Future trilogy are wonderful in their own way – with Part II providing a glimpse at a fun future and Part III being a blast in the Old West – but nothing beats the classic in this case. Robert Zemeckis’ Back To The Future is one of the quintessential time travel movies, introducing and instantly endearing us to one of cinema’s most beloved duos: Michael J. Fox’s Marty McFly and Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Batman: The Dark Knight

Explaining this is simple: Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is the best standalone big screen iteration of Batman, and The Dark Knight is the best film in that series. The brilliant and effective grounded approach to Christopher Nolan’s Batman and the world of Gotham is carried over from the excellent Batman Begins, but the X-factor is Heath Ledger’s Joker – a legendary interpretation of a legendary character.

(Image credit: Orion Pictures/MGM)

Bill And Ted: Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure

The fun antics are non-stop in the Bill & Ted trilogy, but neither of the sequels can hit the heights of the original: a totally unserious trip around time in a special phone booth visiting famous historical figures along with a pair of righteous dudes. “Party on, dudes,” indeed!

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Chucky: Child's Play 2

The original Child’s Play made us legitimately fear a possessed doll, and the most recent sequels – The Curse Of Chucky and The Cult Of Chucky – revived the series in horrific fashion prior to the 2021 pivot to television, but Child’s Play 2 remains the big screen high point for the Chucky franchise. Of all the movies, it’s the one that finds the best blend of terror and comedy, from the violent lab accident that kicks off the plot, to the final showdown in the toy factory.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Conjuring Universe: The Conjuring 2

The Conjuring Universe has proven to be one of the most ambitious horror franchises of the 21st century, with multiple successful spin-offs branching from the core series, but to date the best title of the lot is The Conjuring 2. It deepens the terrific bond between leads Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga) and delivers a terrifying based-on-a-true-story tale of demonic possession.

Evil Dead: Evil Dead II

Evil Dead II has what can be called a confused legacy in the Evil Dead franchise – being part remake and part sequel – but what’s most important is that it’s a phenomenal cinematic experience. No title in the series so perfectly blends comedy and horror, and it’s the performance that has made Bruce Campbell a genre legend.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Fast & Furious: Fast Five

The Fast & Furious franchise didn’t have much of an identity in its early years, but everything changed with the arrival of Dwayne Johnson’s Luke Hobbs and the action insanity of Fast Five. The movies pivoted from being about street racing to high stakes heists/globe-trotting crime, and director Justin Lin assured us it was the right choice by executing what remains the high point of the run.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Final Destination: Final Destination 2

Final Destination 2 starts with what is the greatest opening sequence in the entire run thus far of the Final Destination franchise, and then in proceeds to deliver the most satisfying story in the run. It’s a sequel that avoids the trap of repeating the previous movie, features many of the series’ best Rube Goldberg-esque kills, and employs an exciting twist on the rules of death.

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Friday The 13th: Jason X

The biggest problem with most of the Friday The 13th movies is that they all tend to blend together: a bunch of random characters get cut up by Jason Voorhees – the murders more often than not being executed in and around the notorious Camp Crystal Lake. Jason X is the major exception, as taking the slasher action to space allows the film to both have personality and exhibit some real creativity.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

DCEU: The Suicide Squad

One sign that Warner Bros. Discovery made the right choice appointing James Gunn as the co-CEO of DC Studios is the fact that he wrote and directed what will be remembered as the best chapter of the DC Extended Universe. Borrowing fun details from the canon, putting together an outstanding ensemble of misfit characters, and executing a bonkers plot that crescendos with the reveal of Starro, it’s a delight that repeatedly rewards on rewatch.

(Image credit: Archive Photos / Stringer)

Die Hard: Die Hard

In a conversation about the Die Hard franchise, the question isn’t “What’s the best Die Hard movie?” The question is “What’s the best Die Hard sequel, because obviously the first is forever #1?” Bruce Willis became a cinematic icon with his seminal turn as John McClane, and the character’s fly-in-the-ointment tactics against the villainous Hans Gruber has basically become its own action subgenre (“Die Hard in a…”)

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

Ghostbusters: Ghostbusters

Every Ghostbusters sequel has made strenuous efforts to recapture the magic of the original, and all of them have come up short. The 1984 classic is a weird and wild ride with a collection of memorable characters and a script full of endlessly quotable lines.

(Image credit: Paramount)

The Godfather: The Godfather Part II

The Godfather and The Godfather: Part II are equally perfect pinnacles of cinema so great that they should defy comparison to one another, and it’s really just for the sake of this list that I’ll pick The Godfather: Part II. The thrilling and tragic saga of Michael Corleone is beautifully balanced with the origins of Vito Corleone, sewn together as a treasured gangster epic.

(Image credit: Compass International Pictures)

Halloween: Halloween (1977)

Halloween got a terrific modern rejuvenation thanks to director David Gordon Green, and I’ll forever stand up for Halloween III: Season Of The Witch, but the reality is that nothing touches John Carpenter’s franchise-starter. It’s a movie that has an important role in cinematic history as one of the key titles that kick-started the slasher movement in horror, and the impact of Michael Myers and Jamie Lee Curtis’ Laurie Strode on pop culture is incalculable.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Indiana Jones: Raiders Of The Lost Ark

The rolling boulder. The Staff of Ra casting a beam of light. The chamber filled with snakes. The opening of the Ark of the Covenant. These are just four memorable scenes from Raiders Of The Lost Ark, and it barely scratches the full list. Indiana Jones is one of blockbuster cinema’s greatest creations, and his greatest story is still his first.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Jackass: Jackass 3D

All of the Jackass movies are filled with stunts and gags that are uproariously funny, but Jackass 3D stands out not only for featuring some incredible invention, but also because of its phenomenal use of 3D. Because not every “bit” is in 3D, the ones that are end up being made more special, and it’s an extremely gross but unique cinematic experience.

(Image credit: Danjaq, LLC and MGM)

James Bond: Goldfinger

Everyone has their favorite James Bond, and with mine still being Sean Connery, that narrows selection down to the best of that era: Goldfinger. Great as Dr. No and From Russia With Love are, Goldfinger is the film that in many ways became the model for the sequels that followed it – from the exploration of gadgets to memorable henchmen.

(Image credit: Universal)

Jason Bourne: The Bourne Ultimatum

The original Jason Bourne trilogy is the rare series that gets better and better with each installment… and it’s a shame that the movies didn’t stop once they hit their peak. The Bourne Legacy and Jason Bourne are both forgettable, ancillary chapters, but thankfully The Bourne Ultimatum still stands up as the perfect climax for the trilogy. Big answers are delivered, the action is crazy, and supporting cast opposite Matt Damon including Julia Stiles, David Strathairn, Joan Allen, Paddy Considine, Albert Finney, and Édgar Ramirez is brilliant.

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

John Wick: John Wick

John Wick: Chapter 4 serves as an epic conclusion to the John Wick series and features some of the most spellbinding action anyone will ever put on a big screen… but it’s still only the best of the sequels. Made with no big ambitions to launch a franchise, the original John Wick is genius in its simplicity, and Keanu Reeves’ turn as the titular hero has proven to be game-changing in the industry.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Jurassic Park: Jurassic Park

What is it like to see a dinosaur? Steven Spielberg answered that question for movie-goers worldwide in magnificent fashion in 1993 with his adaptation of Jurassic Park, and the vision on screen remains unparalleled decades later. The introduction of the Tyrannosaurus Rex is inarguably one of the greatest creature feature moments of all time, and few straight horror movies inspire the terror of the velociraptors.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Mad Max: Mad Max: Fury Road

The Road Warrior is a great film, but nothing in the Mad Max franchise to date touches the experience that is Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s a movie-long chase sequence that features both compelling characters (special shout-out to Charlize Theron’s Furiosa) and set pieces that melt your brain and are unlike anything else we’ve seen from this action series… or any other.

(Image credit: Produzioni Europee Associate)

The Man With No Name: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

Director Sergio Leone and Clint Eastwood made one hell of a team, and the peak of their collaboration is The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly – starring Eastwood opposite Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach. It’s properly remembered as one of the best westerns of all time, from its universally recognized score by Ennio Morricone to the stunning third act showdown.

(Image credit: Marvel)

Marvel Cinematic Universe: Avengers: Endgame

The Marvel Cinematic Universe was born with an ambitious vision of seeing a diverse array of heroes go toe-to-toe with the Infinity Gauntlet-powered Thanos, and while dreams don’t always work out properly in reality, that is not the case with Avengers: Endgame. The big screen crossover event balances high stakes and a wild plot with a balanced character roster and spectacular action, and it’s everything a Marvel fan could want.

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Middle-earth: The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring

Return Of The King may have won all of the Oscars, but one could argue those awards were really given to the grand achievement that is the Lord of the Rings trilogy as a whole – and that includes the phenomenal opening chapter that began the epic, The Fellowship of the Ring, which is the best movie in the whole of the big screen franchise. The introduction to Middle-earth is an unforgettable experience that perfectly sets up the peril and stakes of the incredible journey that unfolds in the sequels.

(Image credit: Paramount)

Mission: Impossible: Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol

Everything changed for the Mission: Impossible franchise the day that Tom Cruise agreed to personally scale the world’s tallest building as part of a stunt for Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Death defying stunts have now become the norm for these movies, but still the fourth installment of the series remains the high point – with the Burj Khalifa sequence just one of many eye-popping parts of the hit blockbuster.

(Image credit: United Film Distribution Company)

Of The Dead: Dawn Of The Dead (1978)

George A. Romero saw tremendous potential in the symbolism of zombies, and nowhere is his commentary better than in the second chapter of his undead series: 1978’s Dawn Of The Dead. Even after nearly half a century, the struggle for a group of survivors trapped inside a shopping mall is as scary as ever thanks to Romero’s genius, and its influence can be seen in pretty much every zombie movie released since.

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Planet Of The Apes: Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes

The original Planet Of The Apes hits us with the twist that the titular world is actually a futuristic Earth, but Conquest Of The Planet Of The Apes is the movie where we actually get to see them take over, and it’s remarkable. It’s thrilling and shockingly dark, and the best of both eras of the brilliant sci-fi franchise.

(Image credit: Lionsgate)

Saw: Saw

The Saw franchise is overloaded with horrifyingly clever traps for audiences to have nightmares about, but as far as individual chapters of the series is concerned, director James Wan’s Saw remains at the top of the top tier. The claustrophobic and simple terror of the test between two men chained up in a bathroom is a genuine nightmare, and the twist ending is one of the most memorable of ’00 horror.

(Image credit: Miramax)

Scream: Scream (1994)

Any movie is going to get special consideration if it successfully manages to save a genre, and that certainly includes Scream. Horror was in a bad place in the early 1990s as burnout on slasher sequels was pervasive, but the introduction of Ghostface was a brand new flavor of scary for movie fans to sink their teeth into, and it was an instant hit with audiences. Its satire is wicked sharp, but never undercuts the savage terror of the killer’s rampage.

(Image credit: Sony/Marvel)

Spider-Man: Spider-Man 2

“With great power comes great responsibility” is recognized worldwide as the credo of Spider-Man, and Spider-Man 2 is, to date, the most fascinating dive into the immense complications of the idea – with Peter Parker’s desire for a normal life causing his powers to fade. Combined with the awesome presence of Alfred Molina as Dr. Octopus, it’s easily the best of the non-MCU Spider-Man movies.

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures )

Star Trek: Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan

Not including Star Trek: Insurrection or Star Trek Into Darkness, all of the even-number Star Trek movies are quality, but never have we seen a big screen adventure on the U.S.S. Enterprise better than Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan. Ricardo Montalbán’s Khan is the best antagonist in the franchise’s history, and after a thrilling back and forth battle between the heroes and villains, the end delivers a powerful emotional blow with the sacrifice of Leonard Nimoy’s Spock.

(Image credit: Disney / Lucasfilm)

Star Wars: Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

People ding The Empire Strikes Back for being narratively dependent on both Star Wars and Return Of The Jedi, but those dings are far from enough to strip it of its position as the best Star Wars movie ever made. It’s the movie where all of the main characters really become full formed – from Luke’s Jedi training on Dagobah to the development of Han and Leia’s romance – and while it doesn’t offer conclusions, it has one of cinema’s best cliffhangers.

(Image credit: Tri-Star Pictures)

Terminator: Terminator 2: Judgment Day

The choice between The Terminator and Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a tough one (the rest of the Terminator movies are… fine), but if I’m going to make a final pick, it’s going to be the latter. The liquid metal design of the T-1000 can still be recognized as an extraordinary feat of filmmaking for its time, and the dynamic between the reprogrammed T-800, the enthusiastic John Connor, and the paranoid Sarah Connor alone makes for a compelling and fascinating story.

(Image credit: Rogue Pictures)

Three Colors Cornetto: Hot Fuzz

It’s hard to judge the individual chapters of the Three Colors Cornetto trilogy against each other given that Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and The World’s End were all specifically designed to be wholly different, but if we’re talking about the best movie of the three, the edge goes to Hot Fuzz. It’s the title that best utilizes the tropes of its genre to humorous and loving effect, and it delivers a wild mystery that succeeds in being thrilling and funny in equal measure.

Stay tuned for our coverage of all these franchises and many more here on CinemaBlend.

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