Mount Rushmore – Movie Franchise Edition

[Mount Rushmore is a new weekly series wherein I propose a category and then nominate four items from that category to stand atop a hypothetical Mount Rushmore.  The goal here is to foster some good-natured debate in seeking to answer an unanswerable question.  Feel free to use the comments to propose your own  quartet, discuss the merits of my own choices, and tell others just how wrong they are.  I often no guidance on what criteria ought to be applied in answer the question other than that which I choose for myself.  Half the fun is in debating the methodology itself.  So without further adieu, let’s get it on!]

I’m not the biggest film buff.  So why the hell shouldn’t I weigh in on the industries greatest, most important, and/or most enjoyable film franchises?  For my sake, I’m only counting something as a franchise if it has at least three installations.  Also, I’m counting reboots as separate franchises.  So the Nolan Batman franchise includes only the films directed by Mr. Nolan (which probably helps him).  Star Wars, for better or for worse, includes the prequels.  Star Trek?  Fuck Star Trek.  I don’t know shit about Star Trek.  Disagree with my definition of a franchise?  Go pound sand.  Or take it up in the comments section.

The Godfather:  The standard bearer.  Phenomenal acting, writing, directing… the whole package.  Yes, Part III left something to be desired, but that is in part because of the high bar set by the first two.  And Part II is in the discussion of the greatest movie ever.  This is a no-brainer.

Star Wars:  The prequels make this less of a slam dunk than it would have been otherwise.  God, were they shitty.  At least, the parts I saw.  I found them largely unwatchable.  Then again, I’m not huge into Sci-Fi or fantasy.  So what do I know?  But I do know that the legacy of the original trilogy is undeniable.  They were technical marvels for their time and remain culturally relevant even today.

Nightmare on Elm Street:  A Mount Rushmore of movie franchises wouldn’t be complete with a horror franchise.  So why did I pick Freddy Krueger over Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers?  Well, Halloween was a little before my time, so it’s out.  And while I did go to sleep every night, I never went to sleep away camp.  So a monster who haunts dreams is scarier than one who haunts campsites in the woods.  If you really wanted Jason’s hockey-masked face up there over Krueger’s burn scars, I wouldn’t really argue with you.  And if you want Shatner’s face up there… well, to each their own.

The Fast and the Furious:  Yes.  YES!  FUCK YOU, YESSSSSSSS!!!  The second and third installments are forgettable (though they did introduce key characters for later in the series), but the first, fourth, fifth, and sixth are all highly enjoyable.  They figured out a repeatable formula and added just enough newness to each film that it never felt stale.  Fast Five is a borderline decent caper movie with it’s own Ocean’s 11-style twist at the end.  They’ve got a seventh one coming out and they’re still doing gangbusters at the box office.  They’re doing something right.  I did consider Die Hard here, but the second one really doesn’t hold up well, four was eh, and fifth was unwatchable.  If your batting average is under .500, you ain’t cracking Mount Rushmore.

What ya got?

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155 thoughts on “Mount Rushmore – Movie Franchise Edition

  1. The Godfather: I don’t necessarily consider it a franchise but the first two are classics. To me a franchise in theory means unlimited numbers of movies and reboots. Superhero comics are ripe for being franchises. Same with SF and Fantasy stuff.

    1. X-Men: The first two were great, the third one sucked, First Class had ups and downs, Days of Future Past looks promising.

    2. Star Trek.

    3. Superman. Only with Christopher Reeve in the title role though.

    4. Star Wars.

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    • I’m a huge fan of some of the X-Men films, but I think the absolute dreck that is X3 and the more entertainingly bad Wolverine: Origins keeps them from making the list. Similarly, the badness of Superman 3 and 4 makes their inclusion questionable.

      Star Wars definitely goes on ‘Mount Rushmore’. If the next two movies maintain the quality of the first two (first was good, second was great), I’d put The Hunger Games there as well. I’ve only seen the first Godfather (I know, I know, my family even owns Godfather II and I haven’t watched it, bad me), but it was a good movie and the franchise is a good pick.

      For the fourth one: Toy Story, hands down. All three of the franchise’s movies are fantastic. And we should recognize animation on our Mount Rushmore, when we’ve got such a good example of the art form.

      If I’m not allowed to choose Hunger Games for the reason of only two movies being released so far, the four franchise should be the James Bond films.

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      • OK, well Raiders is pretty much a perfect film, so it can make up for Crystal Skull. I’ll go ahead and add the Terminator franchise (thank you, zic), the Connery Bond, and the Craig Bond (two Bonds!).

        Star Wars suffers from having only one actually good movie (Empire Strikes Back). I’d go with a Batman, but I’m not sure which (Keaton or Bale). I loved the Reeves Superman movies when I was a kid, but I haven’t watched them in years so I’m not sure how well they hold up.

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      • My irrational love for F&F is clouding my judgement. Terminator is another glaring omission. I might be giving too much value to horror movies in general (though I am generally dismayed by how they are almost completely ignored by the awards circuit).

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      • If you want to get a horror franchise on there, I’d go with Romero’s Dead movies. Not that they are in and of themselves all that great, but because they have spawned such a robust population of descendants. Most ZA movies are basically taking place in Romero’s extended universe, one way or another.

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      • The second one is the second worst, edged out by Tokyo Drift because it wasn’t even really part of the franchise. You missed out on Diesel and Walkers remarkably wooden yet remarkably effective on-screen chemistry.

        The movies also take them seriously enough that they aren’t completely stupid but not-so-seriously that they seem like failures. They really thread that needle well.

        And I’m not even a gear head!

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    • Oy! An oversight on my part. When I initially conceived this list, Bond was one of the first thoughts. Then again, the only movies I’ve ever seen in their entirety were the Daniel Craig ones. Bond should probably be on there ahead of both Krueger and F&F.

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  2. Revised Version

    1. Francois Truffaut’s Antoine Doniel films: The 400 Blows, Antonine e Collete, Stolen Kisses, Bed and Board, and Love on the Run. All are classics of French New Wave cinema and the series shows the full potential of film. We follow Antoine Doniel from a troubled 12 year old adolescent who gets sent to juvie to a 35 year old divorced father and first-time novelist. Antoine Doniel is played by Jean-Pierre Leaud in all films.

    2. The Man With No Name Trilogy (A Fistful of Dollars, A Few Dollars More, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly).

    3. Johnnie To’s Triad Election. There are only two but a third one is in planning.

    4. Richard Linklatter’s Midnight movies.

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  3. Dr. Who. And I don’t care that it’s not a movie franchise.

    Terminator/Conan, Arnold at his finest. We could have done without the rest of his life, particularly his shabby treatment of his wife. But people are complicated, they can do things I like, like make some of my favorite movies, and things I don’t like. And I always wanted to see Arnold play Nhi Vanye i Chya in CJ Cherryh’s Gate of Ivrel, he evoked my mind’s eye vision from reading the book.

    Star Wars. These were my brother’s childhood toys. He died of aids just before the fourth movie came out, and I gave his eulogy based on the series. As a boy, he’d imagined being Luke Skywalker, but he was really Obi Wan, and AIDS his battle.

    Presuming Mt. Rushmore won’t be carved for at least 50 years, a prediction on Veronica Mars. Awesome detective series potential.

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  4. Revised Hollywood franchise list:

    1. James Bond. I suspect they will be making James Bond movies for a long long time. He might disappear for a few years but will always come back

    2. Star Wars

    3. Star Trek

    4. X-Men

    My criteria are that you can go on for infinity with a franchise and not artistic merit. Indiana Jones is too associated with Harrison Ford. I can’t conceive of anyone but Harrison Ford playing Indiana Jones. He is simply too iconic in the role. We have had numerous Bonds though and there are numerous ways to expand the Star Wars and Star Trek empires.

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    • I’d guess people said similar things about Bond being inconceivable without Sean Connery at the time and that those people felt vindicated when George Lazenby had only one go of it before they went back to Sean. The franchise survived Roger Moore for heaven’s sake.

      I believe Indiana Jones will be revived with a different actor – they hint at that with the end of Crystal Skulls, but please don’t let that different actor be Shia LeBoeuf.

      As for me, I think Bond has to go on Mount Rushmore, along with Batman, the Man with No Name and Harry Potter.

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      • Every generation gets the Bond it deserves. Connery was the perfect Bond for the 1960s and the best thing about his Bond movies is that they did not take the Cold War very seriously. He also really bridged the loosing of ties but before the hair went really down. A Playboy Magazine kind of Bond.

        Craig is the Bond we deserve.

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      • Saul –

        I agree on both counts. I prefer Craig over Connery now and I’m sure that is due to how his portrayal of Bond fits in this time, while the Bond of the 60s strikes me a quaint.

        By the way, I loved Roger Moore as Bond when I was a prepubescent boy, but now I find all his Bond movies hard to bear.

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      • Daniel Craig’s easily my favourite Bond (and Casino Royale is the best Bond movie, no contest).

        I can’t enjoy the Connery movies. The sexism quotient is simply too high. I recognize they were made in the ’60s, but I can’t get a work of fiction that displays such an obvious contempt for me.

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  5. Star Wars–basically defined the summer blockbuster, 40 years of cultural relevance, massive impact on movies as an industry and American culture. Can’t leave this one out.

    Rocky–I really wanted to put Indiana Jones here, but I can’t justify two Lucas-helmed summer blockbusters. You have to cover a broad range on Mount Rushmore, and this is a different beast than Indy/Star Wars, set closer to the real world and aimed at a slightly older age range.

    7-Up–Gets a lot of points for sheer persistence and stick-to-iveness. And proved that art movies need franchises just as much as blockbusters.

    Godzilla–You need a horror movie for sure, and this one is important. One of the biggest (pun intended) cultural exports from Japan; a prototypical “giant disaster/monster destroys city” movie that had a ton of influence on people like Roland Emmerich et al; and still an instantly recognizable figure decades later.

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  6. Gotta agree the Conan/Terminator movies were all pretty good.
    The prequels for SW? No reason to watch except for Natalie Portman.
    I will take issue with Tokyo Drift. I enjoyed that movie..if only for the “hot asian car chicks” :)
    Farscape. Hey, they made a movie!
    LOTR movies were very good too.

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  7. Vin Deisel? Seriously? Man, you and Michael Bay.

    Here are the correct answers:

    1. The Kieslowski Three Colors trilogy

    2. The Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy

    3. The Indiana Jone trilogy BECAUSE IT’S A TRILOGY AND THERE ARE ONLY THREE MOVIES!!!

    4. The Sergio Leone “Man With No Name” trilogy, which I believe should also include 1985’s Pale Rider (but doesn’t have to).

    Honorable mentions, were such allowed on Mt. Rushmore, would be given to Manon/Jean de Florette, the original Star Wars trilogy, Harry Potter, and the Thin Man series.

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      • I know that Spielberg’s a genius because everyone says that Spielberg’s a genius, but when the pre-film publicity has him saying “We finally found a script worthy of the franchise” and then you see how awful the script in particular was, well, maybe he’s a genius at something different, like lawn bowling.

        Really, the first movie was fun because it was fresh and different, and the third was fun because it added Sean Fishing Connery. The even-numbered ones were just uninspired attempts at more of the same. Star Wars too: if Lucas had stopped after the first one, no one would be saying “But there was so much story left to tell.”

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      • 1.). I haven’t seen Temple of Doom since I was a kid, but I saw it multiple times then and thought it just fine.

        2.). It’s cool to hate on Spielberg now? He’s not without his problems (a weakness for schmaltz among them) but he’s one of the more skilled, prolific and varied craftsmen of quality popular American film we’ve ever had, up there with Capra. Seriously, he’s rarely less than good, and has often reached great.

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      • Schindler’s List is awesome. The first scene of Saving Private Ryan is one of the most powerful things ever filmed. Empire of the Sun is kind of a mess, but a brilliant mess.

        The Indiana Jones films are light entertainment, period, and half of them are successful at that.

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      • Alright, Spielberg good-to-great time.

        Just the ones I’ve seen, and that he directed:

        Minority Report, War of Worlds: not great, but not awful

        Duel, Doom, Crusade, Lost World, Catch, Munich: good

        Jaws, Close Encounters, Raiders, ET, A.I. (yep, I said it), Schindler’s (aside from a near-fatal misstep near the end), Jurassic (Jaws, but better), Ryan: great

        Poltergeist: also great (but only half-credit, with Tobe Hooper)

        And that leaves out a lot of good stuff he’s been involved with as producer.

        If that’s not enough to say ‘genius’, it’s pretty close.

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      • “It’s cool to hate on Spielberg now?” I don’t much care if it’s cool, but I’ve never been a fan. Admittedly, I haven’t seen a lot, because I don’t enjoy him. He’s unsubtle emotionally. Looking over your list, I can’t think of one character in those which I’ve seen who goes through an internal change. And I can’t think of any nuanced bad guys.

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      • – agreed he’s often not subtle emotionally (that misstep I refer to in Schindler’s being a prime example) but his bad guys are sometimes nuanced: There’s the moment in Schindler’s when Ralph Fiennes’ Nazi death camp commandant…almost…tries to do the right thing; only to realize, no, it’s too late for him, he’s already damned, so full-speed ahead.

        And his version of Jurassic takes John Hammond from an evil mustache-twirler (in the book) to a genuinely intellectually-curious ambitious dreamer who wants to bring wonder back into the world, only to see that hubris go catastrophically, heart-breakingly wrong.

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      • Jaws and Raiders are basically flawless. Every scene furthers the story, every character is relevant to the story, the pacing is perfect, etc., etc. If you wanted to teach teenagers who were thinking of film school how to put a movie together, you couldn’t find two better examples.

        Saving Private Ryan is a perfect example of Spielberg’s strengths and his weaknesses. It is two great action films (one at the beginning, one at the end), surrounded by schmaltz and a poor attempt at dealing with some difficult moral issues. And it’s all ruined by the “earn this” moment, of course.

        It also has one of the few scenes in film that I simply cannot watch.

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      • Oh yeah, I forgot about the “earn this”, the unnecessary flash-forward crying stuff in Ryan. Yeah. That was another perfect example of his weakness for unsubtle schmaltz. The Schindler’s bit is awful too (it’s basically a “NOOOOOOOOOOO!” moment), and just doesn’t belong in an otherwise very powerful film.

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      • Not exactly what you are looking for but there was an HBO movie in the 80’s called Citizen X starting Stephen Rea. It was set in commie era soviet union. He played a police detective searching for a Russian serial killer. Based on a true story fwiw. Good flick. As i remember the bureaucracy and incompetence thing was more prominent then the violent authoritarianism thing.

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      • Spade may impact the plot some, but he doesn’t get the girl or the priceless ancient MacGuffin at the end. He spends a lot of his time getting beat up and knocked out in his one-step-behind dogged pursuit. They explicitly cast Toht in Raiders because the actor reminded them of Peter Lorre (and if you really want to go down the rabbit hole, Lorre’s character in Falcon is named “Cairo”, and “M. Falcon”: Harrison Ford, and IT’S ALL CONNECTED MAN)

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      • By the way, doesn’t Indiana Jones actually find the location of the arc? The Nazis had a staff that was too short, right? Isn’t that an impact? Or would the Nazis have found it anyway?

        What he doesn’t have an impact on is the ending, which was inevitable once the Nazis got ahold of the thing.

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      • Yes, Jones actual only impact is to help the Nazi’s find the arc or at least find it sooner. They were looking in the wrong place so they may have never found it. One of the major parts of most film noirs, of which MF is considered one of the first, is that the protagonists often have little clue about what is going on, no control and are led to their inevitable ends based on fate and their own flaws. Jones is a Hero not a fatally flawed Noir character but there is a similarity there.

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  8. I feel like we need a more precise definition of “franchise” (though admittedly, I am not sure exactly where the lines should be drawn). To me, a multi-movie run in a a self-contained universe, by the same director, is not really a “franchise”, which implies, as Saul notes up-top, the ability of near-infinite expansion of its universe and multiple franchise “owners” (in this case, directors).

    So Godfather is not a franchise, it’s a self-contained trilogy (at least until DC Comics decides to make Before Godfather, with Zack Snyder directing in lots of slo-mo). It’s just a movie in three parts, or a triptych of movies, or whatever.

    But Star Wars and Star Trek and superhero movies are franchises, by dint of infinite sandbox universes and multiple directors.

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      • See, Indiana Jones is a weird case – because even though there’s only been one director thus far, it certainly SEEMS like it was designed for infinite expansion. So it seems like a franchise.

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      • Nope. Like was said above, you don’t get to drop the mediocre entries and keep the best, otherwise we’d have to give a lot more attention to a bunch of series with two strong titles and one or more weak ones:
        – Terminator
        – Alien
        – Beverly Hills Cop (although if I can drag in “Fletch” due to the thematic similarities and Harold Faltermeyer connection, I could see it on the shortlist for the OP)
        – Lethal Weapon
        – Pirates of the Caribbean (arguably, like “Lord of the Rings”, an episodic story rather than a franchise)

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    • I chose the word “franchise” because I didn’t want to limit ourselves to trilogies. I didn’t think about the term quite as specifically as others are, though the feedback is warranted. What I was going for was movies that would come together in a box set. A Bond box set might include ALL the Bond movies or maybe just the Connery ones, so either set could be submitted. The Godfather box set will have all three. At this point, a Rocky box set is probably going to have all 6 (or is it 7? Ugh). Batman has multiple box sets; no one is going to package Bale and Keaton together. Star Wars? I’d venture to guess you can get various configurations: original three, new three, all six.

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  9. We might need to include the ur-franchise, the Thin Man Series. It had all the ingredients, a popular source, recurring characters and plot devices, and infinite possibilities.

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  10. I think Charlie Chaplin’s “Tramp” films would probably count as a franchise – they follow essentially the same character through a consistent world, and there was no theoretical endpoint where the story was all told.

    Also, I think they’re both good, and influential, enough to go up on Mount Rushmovie.

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  11. Marvel Cinematic Universe – Kinda cheating, but I’m throwing it in anyway. They keep continuity and fit together through the Avengers movies (and usually the after credits scenes.)

    Toy Story – Touching stories, very well done.

    The Matrix – I know some people hated the 2nd and 3rd, but I found them enjoyable and spent many hours discussing the movies with coworkers.

    Lethal Weapon – The epitome of the buddy cop movie, back when you could still like Mel Gibson.

    I had also considered Mad Max, Shrek, and Lord of the Rings, but they lost out.

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  12. Man, this was a tough one…

    Star Wars (I will include all 6 movies because honestly, 2 wasn’t that bad and 3 was actually quite good)

    Lord of the Rings (I never read the books and I thought the movies were beautifully done)

    Indiana Jones (the reason I became an archaeologist)

    Harry Potter (the series got weaker as it progressed but my memories of seeing all 8 movies with my daughter are one of my favorite parenting experiences)

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  13. 1. Bond. This was a heinous oversight in the OP. Fast and Furious????
    2. Star Wars
    3. Die Hard
    4. Terminator

    I think the thread binding these series is that each has created its own universe, and has explored it for better or for worse.

    For me, trilogies don’t count as franchises since the story is self-contained. I would have loved to have included The Matrix, but the story was over with Revolutions. Likewise, with The Lord of the Rings. A masterful piece of filmmaking (even the extended box set version doesn’t seem padded), but it’s all over when Frodo, et al., set sail. And don’t even get me started on what a god-awful film Hobbit 1 was. Blech.

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  14. If you watch all the Friday the 13th movies back to back, you will die. (Sort of like The Ring) This is not a myth. It is proven scienceology.

    In that way, it becaeme the scariest movie franchise of all.

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  15. I will second The Thin Man Movies, and Bond. Bond has some weak ones, but it’s the gold standard for a series of movies, c’mon.

    Raiders is one of the best movies ever made, but as a series, there are four, and the last one is a boat anchor. Clint’s man with no name movies… tough contender.

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