No one-hit wonders here! Only a select few film franchises have failed to wear out their welcome, including the action-thriller "Rambo" series, which dates back to 1982. The movies focus on John Rambo, a Vietnam veteran played by Sylvester Stallone who uses his military skills to take down corrupt cops, enemy troops and drug cartels. Sly co-wrote all five films in the franchise and is set to reprise his role in the fifth installment, "Rambo: Last Blood," which hits theaters on Sept. 20, 2019. In celebration of the movie's release, Wonderwall.com is taking a look at the longest running film franchises in Hollywood. Get clicking…
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Shaft franchise: Five films since 1971
"Shaft" debuted on our movie screens in the early 1970s. Over the course of nearly 50 years, the neo-noir crime series has followed three generations of black trenchcoat-wearing police detectives with Samuel L. Jackson most recently taking over as FBI agent John Shaft III in 2019's "Shaft." The original iconic character, John Shaft, was previously played by Richard Roundtree in 1971's "Shaft," 1972's "Shaft's Big Score" and 1973's "Shaft in Africa." All in all, the film franchise has grossed more than $152 million at the box office.
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The Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise: 24 films since 2008
In just over a decade, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has made nearly two dozen fantastical films based on the valiant tales of comic-book superheroes. The action-adventure franchise started out in 2008 with the stories of engineer-turned-superhero "Iron Man," played by Robert Downey Jr. (pictured), and transformative scientist "The Incredible Hulk," portrayed by Edward Norton. The sci-fi series has since continued to put more characters in the spotlight with movies like 2011's "Thor" featuring Chris Hemsworth and "Captain America" with Chris Pine, 2015's "Ant-Man" with Paul Rudd and 2019's "Captain Marvel" boasting strong female lead Brie Larson. The mega-franchise has also found ways to fuse its major players together in collaborative spinoff sagas like 2012's "The Avengers" while still introducing new stars in projects like 2014's "Guardians of the Galaxy" and 2018's "Black Panther." And the Marvel enterprise has no plans to slow down, as it's set to release its 24th film — "Black Widow" — in 2020.
"Star Trek" franchise: 13 films since 1979
The "Star Trek" franchise actually started in the '60s with a popular television series about the intergalactic adventures of those aboard the starship USS Enterprise. The original cast, including William Shatner as Captain Kirk and Leonard Nimoy as half-Vulcan officer Spock, were brought on to help turn the TV series into a big-time Hollywood production for "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" in 1979. Over the next 40 years, the franchise garnered a cult following (diehard fans are called "Trekkies") and generated 13 more movies — with another possibly in the works — divided up into three subsets to make room for new characters. There are six films in "The Original Series," another four in "The Next Generation" with the addition of Sir Patrick Stewart as Captain Jean-Luc Picard, and three more in the current "Reboot" era. Beginning with 2009's new version of "Star Trek," the Starship Enterprise crew members were updated with Chris Pine as Captain Kirk and Zachary Quinto as Spock (both pictured).
"The Fast and the Furious" franchise: nine films since 2001
"The Fast and the Furious" franchise has grown almost as quickly as its name implies following the release of the first action-packed street-racing film in 2001. The saga — which has, to date, seven sequels and another two in the works (plus a 2019 spinoff, "Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs and Shaw") — began with Paul Walker as undercover cop Brian O'Connor and Vin Diesel as Dominic Toretto, the ringleader of a crew of carjackers and professional street racers under investigation. The franchise has remained relevant in part by boasting a large ensemble cast that's included Michelle Rodriguez, Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Eva Mendes, Ludacris, Gal Gadot, Dwayne Johnson and Jason Statham, who are woven in and out of each new film's plot. Still, the franchise suffered a major loss when Paul was killed in a tragic car accident during a charity event in 2013. His brothers, Caleb and Cody Walker, stepped in to help film his unfinished scenes for 2015's "Furious 7," in which Brian takes his final ride. In Paul's absence, 2017's "The Fate of the Furious" refocused on Vin's character.
"Batman" franchise: 11 films since 1966
Batman first came to life on the pages of DC Comics in the 1940s and has since evolved into one of the most iconic superheroes to be portrayed on the big screen time and time again, starting with 1966's "Batman: The Movie." A slew of hot Hollywood hunks have taken on the role of billionaire Bruce Wayne, who turns into the mysterious crime-stopping hero by night, in 11 different feature films over 50 years (plus two more are in production). Michael Keaton stepped into the Batsuit for 1989's "Batman" and 1992's "Batman Returns" and was followed by Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Christian Bale and Ben Affleck. Robert Pattinson is the newest actor slated to play the Caped Crusader and will star in "The Batman," the franchise's 13th installment, which is set for release in 2021. But Batman hasn't taken all of the blockbuster glory for himself; he's shared the screen with the likes of Chris O'Donnell as his sidekick in 1997's "Batman & Robin" and the late Heath Ledger as the Joker (pictured) in 2008's "The Dark Knight" (Heath had become totally engrossed in his sinister character for the role just before passing away from an accidental overdose). Batman's also joined forces with other DC Comics action stars for collaborative superhero sagas like 2016's "Suicide Squad" and 2017's "Justice League."
"James Bond" franchise: 25 films since 1962
Sean Connery was the first smouldering star to tell the world, "My name is Bond, James Bond." He kicked things off as the sexy pistol-wielding spy in 1962's "Dr. No." The franchise has since become a Hollywood mainstay with 25 films in just over 50 years, all packed with thrilling action. Sean will always be the O.G. James Bond with six titles to his name, though a string of other actors have given him a run for his money, including George Lazenby, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton. Pierce Brosnan had a notable four-flick run as Bond starting with 1995's "Golden Eye" but passed the torch to current leading man Daniel Craig in the early 2000s. Despite publicly renouncing the franchise following 2015's "Spectre," Daniel will star in the 25th Bond movie, "No Time To Die" (his fifth installment), in 2020 alongside a returning love interest played by Léa Seydoux. Previous Bond Girls include Teri Hatcher, Michelle Yeoh, Denise Richards, Halle Berry, Eva Green and more.
"Planet of the Apes" franchise: nine films since 1968
The sci-fi tale of humans and highly intelligent apes fighting for control has been captivating audiences since its big-screen inception with 1968's "Planet of the Apes." Following five installments in the '70s, the movie was remade by famed director Tim Burton in 2001 with even more realistic costume, hair and makeup design. Helena Bonham-Carter underwent four hours of hair and makeup each day to transform into her character, ape Ari, for the film. The premise was then again remastered into a reboot trilogy that included 2011's "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," 2014's "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" and 2017's "War for the Planet of the Apes" (pictured). The franchise was believed to be finally over after 51 years and nine movies but a new installment dubbed "Reign of the Planet of the Apes" is rumored to be on the horizon.
"Halloween" franchise: 11 films since 1978
Without a rotating ensemble cast, it can be hard for a franchise to maintain one plotline long term, but not for slasher saga "Halloween." Jamie Lee Curtis actually made her big-screen debut in the first 1978 installment as babysitter Laurie Strode, who was violently hunted by masked serial killer Michael Myers. Jamie took a break after starring in the 1981 sequel "Halloween II," but the franchise continued to generate new horror flicks with a focus on Michael's other murder targets in her absence. She briefly returned for 1998's "Halloween H20: 20 Years Later" (pictured) and 2002's "Halloween: Resurrection." The original two installments were then remade without Jamie in the late 2000s, but her work wasn't done just yet. Forty years after the very first film was released, she came back for an epic showdown with Michael in 2018's "Halloween" (the 11th movie in the franchise to date) and is in talks for yet another sequel.
"Star Wars" franchise: 11 films since 1977
A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away filmmaker George Lucas came up with the intergalactic concept for the sci-fi "Star Wars" franchise. The now pop-culture cult phenomenon started out as an original trilogy of films with 1977's "Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope" and has since spurred 11 features under subsets of the prequel trilogy, sequel trilogy, anthology films and a still-untitled upcoming trilogy. While new cast members have been integrated over time, the O.G. roster of Rebel Alliance fighters remains iconic with Mark Hamill as Luke Skywalker, Harrison Ford as Han Solo and the late Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia. They all returned for 2015's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" (pictured) with new additions Daisy Ridley, Adam Driver, Oscar Isaac, John Boyega and Lupita Nyong'o and most continued to make appearances in subsequent installments. Other key figures like Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi, droids C-3PO and R2-D2, Wookie Chewbacca and evil Galactic Empire commander Darth Vader have also become mainstays in the franchise. Following 2018's "Solo: A Star Wars Story," three new movies were announced for release in 2022, 2024 and 2026.
"Godzilla" franchise: 40 films since 1954
The "Godzilla" franchise actually found its origins in Japan as part of the monster-movies genre in the early '50s. To date, 36 foreign films have been made about the radioactive beast since the first Japanese flick came out in 1954. The sci-fi concept didn't go mainstream Stateside until Hollywood decided to remake the monster flick with 1998's "Godzilla" starring Matthew Broderick as mutant investigator Dr. Niko Tatopoulos. With advancing animation technology, the monster classic was again rebooted in 2014 followed by an even bigger 2019 blockbuster sequel, "Godzilla: King of the Monsters." Next, Godzilla will join forces with another infamous mythical mutant, King Kong, for the 2020 spinoff "Godzilla vs. Kong." The mash-up boasts a star-studded cast that includes Alexander Skarsgard, Millie Bobby Brown and Eiza Gonzalez.
"Texas Chainsaw Massacre" franchise: eight films since 1974
The horrifying chronicles of serial killer Leatherface and his homicidal and cannibalistic family, who gruesomely murder visitors to their remote Texas town (typically by way of a chainsaw), has played out over the course of 45 years and eight slasher films to date. 1974's original "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" was followed up with two sequels before getting revamped with all-new Hollywood stars. Renée Zellweger played unsuspecting victim Jenny and Matthew McConaughey starred as Leatherface's equally sinister counterpart Vilmer Slaughter in 1994's "Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Next Generation." Jessica Biel (pictured) stepped in as Leatherface's fresh bait for 2003's reboot, while subsequent installments, like 2006's "The Beginning" and 2017's "Leatherface," focused more on the family's dark origins. The franchise has yet to run out of terrifying plot twists; not only are more "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" movies planned, but a TV series is also reportedly in the works.
"Rocky" franchise: eight films since 1976
The "Rocky" franchise proved it had potential for longevity right out of the gate when the first film won three Oscars in 1977. Sylvester Stallone starred as novice boxer Rocky Balboa, who trained to go up against heavyweight champion Apollo Creed. One scene in particular, in which he runs up the Philadelphia Museum of Art's steps in a tracksuit with the movie's original theme song, "Will Fly Away," playing in the background, has become an iconic piece of Hollywood history. Sly reprised his role in four sequels, ending with 1990's "Rocky V," then returned 16 years later for 2006's "Rocky Balboa." After a long hiatus, the franchise rebranded with a new take on the sports drama that included Michael B. Jordan as Apollo's boxer son Adonis (pictured) in 2015's "Creed" and 2018's "Creed II." Sylvester again appears as Rocky in the films, but in a different capacity (as Adonis's trainer). After more than 40 years and eight installments, he recently claimed that he'll be retiring his Rocky hat, writing on Instagram, "Though it breaks my heart, sadly all things must pass … and end." But the show must go on, and Michael has hinted that "Creed III" is still a possibility.
"Friday the 13th" franchise: 12 films since 1980
The "Friday the 13th" franchise has been at a standstill for an entire decade due to a behind-the-scenes legal battle over copyrights, but there's still hope for a new installment about summer-camp serial killer Jason Voorhees. In 2018, NBA star LeBron James's production company expressed interest in helming a reboot if and when the dust settles (fingers crossed). As of now, there have been 12 installments since the original was released in 1980. After years of sequels, "Friday the 13th" joined forces with another successful horror franchise for 2003's crossover "Freddy vs. Jason." The film features knife-handed villain Freddy Krueger from 1984's "A Nightmare on Elm Street," which itself has produced nine features to date but is likewise on hiatus following its most recent reboot in 2009.
"X-Men" franchise: 12 films since 2000
While the "X-Men" franchise arose from the same comic books as the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it deserves to stand alone after generating a whopping 12 sci-fi blockbusters in 20 years. 2000's "X-Men" introduced a large ensemble cast of mutant superheroes including Professor X, Wolverine, Magneto, Storm, Cyclops, Jean Grey and Mystique. The franchise continued with group sequels, like 2003's "X2" and 2006's "X-Men: The Last Stand," but also branched off to highlight characters on their own. Hugh Jackman, who played Wolverine, was at the center of a trilogy spin-off culminating with 2017's "Logan," while Ryan Reynolds has starred as Deadpool in two solo features to date. Sophie Turner's Jean Grey is the most recent character, among a younger group of actors to take on key character roles (including Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender, James McAvoy and Nicholas Hoult), to score a standalone film: She showcased her evil evolution in 2019's "X-Men: Dark Phoenix." There may not be another chapter for the "X-Men," but buzz is going around about a spinoff of sorts in the near future: "The New Mutants."
"Hellraiser" franchise: 10 films since 1987
The "Hellraiser" franchise seems to be endless! The first 1987 supernatural-horror film in the series introduced a hellish alternate universe (accessed only by a mysterious puzzle box on Earth) and creatures known as Cenobites who are led by the demonic Pinhead. In just over three decades, there have been 10 installments in the frightful saga, including more recent chapters like 2005's "Hellworld," 2011's "Revelations" and 2018's "Judgement." Just when we thought it might be over, a reboot was announced in May 2019. It will mark the franchise's 11th movie.