Since the dawn of cinema, movie-goers have been fascinated with science fiction. Perhaps no other genre is as perfect for the medium simply because movies allow us to visually craft out the wildest scenarios our imagination can conjure up. Over time, some of these sci-fi stories have evolved into what we call a franchise, developing deep universes with fascinating characters and complex histories, and we're breaking down the 10 Best Sci-Fi Franchises!
Now, for the record, as much as we love them, you won’t be seeing Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter on this list since those two particular franchises fall more under Fantasy umbrella than Sci-Fi. Any true nerd knows this.
What's your favorite Sci-Fi franchise? Click the video at the top of the article to see where it lands on our list!
Kicking off our list at No. 10 is Predator. On the surface, the original Predator is an absolute classic, but when it was made, it wasn’t intended to be anything more than an Arnold Schwarzenegger action vehicle. Thankfully, it turned out better than anyone could have hoped, spawning an entire series, which admittedly has had it’s ups and downs. But now that Shane Black is helming the next installment, expect Predator to hit another high note soon.
In the ninth spot is Jurassic Park. The original movie featured special effects that blew away movie audiences and pretty much made dinosaurs fascinating for a whole new generation. Part 2 and 3 couldn’t quite match up to the quality of the first one and it seemed as though the franchise was all but over. Then Jurassic World came out of nowhere like a T-Rex attack, and it looks like the Jurassic Park franchise won’t be going extinct anytime soon.
At No. 8 is The Terminator. The original is arguably one of the best sci-fi movies of all time, and then James Cameron did the impossible by making sequel that somehow topped the first one. Sadly, it was all downhill once James Cameron left, and while the Sarah Connor Chronicles is worth checking out, you’re better off pretending Terminator 3 through 5 don’t exist at all.
The original Planet of the Apes was a huge hit in 1968 and was so successful, it spawned four sequels, two TV shows, and a Tim Burton directed remake in 2001. None of them were as critically lauded as the original, but then a hugely successful reboot happened in 2001 with Rise of the Planet of the Apes. The following trilogy received critical acclaim and is likely far from over.
Mad Max is one of the few franchises where every installment has been helmed by the same director, in this case, George Miller. After the original trilogy with Mel Gibson ended in 1985 with Thunderdome, most assumed that Mad Max was finished, but that turned out to not be the case when George Miller returned to form 30 years later with the critically acclaimed Fury Road, this time featuring Tom Hardy in the title role.
At No. 5 is Alien. The Alien franchise reads like a who’s who of up-and-coming directors, first with Ridley Scott, then James Cameron, followed by David Fincher and Jean Pierre Jeunet. Ridley Scott has since returned to the franchise, beginning with the secret prequel Prometheus. If you exclude the crossover with Predator, though admittedly, even the first Alien vs Predator is a bit of a guilty pleasure, the Alien series has predominantly been very good, if not excellent.
If you don’t include the forgettable animated series, then you know that Back to the Future is one of the greatest sci-fi trilogies of all time. Each installment was directed by Robert Zemeckis, and Back to the Future did what most movies can never do - it transcended movies, managing to forever cement itself as a lasting piece of important pop culture from the 1980s.
Nothing on this list has produced more significant sci-fi content than Star Trek has. The sheer volume of Star Trek TV shows and movies could keep a Trekkie busy for months, but more doesn’t necessarily mean better either. While there have been some amazing classics in the Star Trek catalogue, like Wrath of Khan for example, there’s also been some stuff that’s not quite as good and you know what they are.
In the second spot is the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The MCU has done it all, carving out every possible sci-fi niche for itself - aliens, super soldiers, androids, and everything in-between. Plus, the MCU has revolutionized the way movie audiences view "shared universes." Everything that can be deemed science fiction seems to fit under the massive umbrella that is the MCU, and with over 20 planned movies in to date, it looks like Marvel won’t be slowing down anytime soon.
But the greatest sci-fi franchise of them all has to go to Star Wars. Yes, the prequels were big time misfires, but the original trilogy is nothing short of iconic and kick started a fandom that few things will ever match. If Star Wars had ended with the prequels, Star Trek would have have definitely been the victor between the two, but since Disney bought out the franchise, they’ve breathed new life into Star Wars that will no doubt lead to countless future installments spread all over the galaxy.