Think of these never-ending tales as proof that the people, plots, and action are all fantastic. It’s giving people what they want, in one of its most basic forms, and the results are often spectacular. The incredible longevity of these priceless IPs has led to some of the finest box office runs in cinematic history. From apes who rule the world to spies who save it, from great teenagers to terrible preteens, these are the cinematic series that have lasted the longest.
The Film Series That Have Last The Longest
Now that a new James Bond is being sought, it’s important to reflect on the series’ long history of action and adventure. Based on the novels by British novelist Ian Fleming, the James Bond film series debuted with 1962’s Dr. No. Daniel Craig’s tenure as 007 gave us a reboot and a thoroughly serialised Bond (with a closed finale), after portrayals of the character by Sean Connery, George Lazenby, Roger Moore, Timothy Dalton, Pierce Brosnan, and others. With the exception of 1967’s Casino Royale and 1983’s Never Say Never Again, there have been a total of 25 major films.
See our guide to the James Bond films in order
World of the Apes
With the release of Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes in May 2024, the series will have officially been operating since the classic 1968 film adaptation of Pierre Boulle’s 1963 book. There have been four sequels to the original Planet of the Apes film, two TV series, and a Tim Burton remake from 2001. Beginning with 2011’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes, the Reboot Trilogy has been running strong ever since, establishing an alternate timeline prequel plot. The premise, that humans have evolved into super-intelligent apes, makes for an unusually seamless tale that is unlikely to age well. And thus, we’ve arrived. affect our quest for commercial success at the box office.
See our guide to the World of the Apes films in order
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s iconic, eccentric consulting detective Sherlock Holmes first appeared in the author’s works during the last quarter of the nineteenth century, well before the advent of motion movies. Superman is the most often shown fictional human figure in film and television history, with over 250 cinematic appearances (not including phase and radio) throughout the past century. Seventy-five actors, including Peter Cushing, Christopher Lee, Ian McKellen, Robert Downey Jr., and maybe most infamously Basil Rathbone, who portrayed Holmes in more than a score films, have really played the arrogant button-pusher. Despite the on-again, off-again speculation of a third Downey Jr. film, the character has been kept alive by Netflix’s Enola Holmes series, which stars Henry Cavill.
In the summer’s The Flash film, Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton will play Batman from different eras, proving once again that DC’s most popular superhero is one of the most bankable screen personalities of all time. There have been four film adaptations of Bruce Wayne’s broken, vengeance-driven Batman, proving the character’s enduring popularity. Ben Affleck and Michael Keaton in The Flash, Robert Pattinson in The Batman 2, and a new actor in The Brave and the Bold. What began as a comic character created by Bill Finger (with Bob Kane) in 1939 grew to encompass serials in the 1940s, a television series (and film) in the 1960s, a blockbuster run at multiplex theatres in the late 1980s and early 1990s (including animation), and so on. From Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy to an entire Fox television series set in Batman’s hometown of Gotham, we live in a Batman universe.
See our ranking of the best Batman films
Dracula and the Universal Monsters
A lot of the Universal Monsters could each have their own article, but it’s simpler to just group them all together under the heading “Dracula and his kooky friends.” There is never a shortage of Dracula, what with Renfield now playing in theatres and The Last Voyage of the Demeter coming out in August. Our infatuation with Bram Stoker’s groundbreaking 1897 book is nearly unique in popular culture, beginning with 1931’s Dracula (and before that, 1922’s silent Nosferatu). The fact that Universal’s Dark Universe never progressed past its initial film is somewhat irrelevant in light of the success of their other monster franchises like the Mummy, the Wolf Man, Dr. Frankenstein and the Monster, the Invisible Man, and others. These symbols of the macabre will continue to be a staple of American cinema (and society more generally) for at least the next century. It was, however, Dracula’s time at Universal and Hammer Films, starring Bela Lugosi and Christopher Lee, that truly changed the game.
Godzilla, a giant ancient beast, was reawakened by nuclear radiation in Toho’s 1954 self-titled film, and he has been a popular and effective killer kaiju ever since. This is one of the most consistently successful worldwide film series in history, with over 30 Japanese films and a few American additions, including the still-going Legendary MonsterVerse, which began with 2014’s Godzilla. Godzilla is often contrasted with Universal’s King Kong, although the giant lizard has plenty of kaiju foes of his own, including as Mothra, Rodan, and Megalon.
See our guide to the Godzilla films in order
Even though the movie series, which ran for a year (from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone in 2001 to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 in 2011), is still profoundly popular, HBO Max has just green-lit a new Harry Potter television series based on author J.K. Rowling’s books. Despite Rowling’s recent regrettable transphobic comments, the Harry Potter-verse remains a worldwide phenomenon, including theme park and video game attractions. Hogwarts Legacy sold 12 million systems in its first two weeks, proving that there is still life in these wizards despite the failure of the Fantastic Beasts prequel films. It’s strange to say that a 10-season streaming series will be the greatest challenge this book series, which began in 1997 and has already plummeted the adjustment mountain, has faced so far, but it’s true.
See our guide to the Harry Potter motion pictures in order
Despite the fact that Freddy Krueger is dormant and Jason Voorhees has a tenuous hold on reality (the afterlife? – more on this in a minute), Michael Myers is still the most recognisable name in the slasher genre. Halloween, complete with Michael’s signature mask and the catchy, chilly John Carpenter score, is a terrifying cornerstone that just concluded a successful Reboot Trilogy, the second reboot timeline following Halloween H20 to reinstate original star Jamie Lee Curtis as Laurie Strode. This foreboding mythology has been immortalised in film ever since its inauspicious beginnings in 1978, from the original to subsequent sequels and remakes (including those by Rob Zombie). Halloween Ends may have been the end of “The Shape,” but in this version of the history, Michael Myers’ brand of evil is immortal.
See our guide to the Halloween films in order
Rocky Balboa (and Adonis Creed)
Sylvester Stallone wrote the scores for and performed in (as well as directed) two of the most successful film series of the 1980s: the Rocky and Rambo films. Stallone’s decision to revive the characters and promote both the decades-later sequel and the “tradition sequel” ensured the continuation of both franchises. Rocky, winner of the Best Picture Oscar in 1976, however, is still going strong under the Creed brand, having just earned a box office K.O. with Creed III. Though Rocky Balboa (2006) was a suitable conclusion to Stallone’s portrayal of the character, his last journey as Rocky in the Creed films was even better, and he was able to transfer the torch to a worthy successor in the process.
See our guide to the Rocky and Creed films in order
The Exorcist, released in 1973, is widely regarded as the scariest film of all time (helping it become the only scary film to win Best Picture), and it spawned two direct sequels, the forgettable Exorcist II: The Heretic in 1977 and the better-than-you-d-expect The Exorcist III in 1990. Then the series died (for nearly as long as the gap between II and III), only to be resurrected by several blockbuster prequel films in the ’80s and a straight sequel Fox series in recent years. Although The Exorcist is not as prolific as some of the other properties on our list, it has been revived thanks to David Gordon Green and Blumhouse’s Halloween Reboot Trilogy. The Exorcist: Believer, the first installment of Green’s terrifying Reboot Trilogy, is scheduled for release on October 13 of this year.
A massive science fiction fantasy adventure film released in 1977, Star Wars is the catalyst for one of the largest multimedia franchises in history. Three separate trilogies released over the course of four years (along with some exceptional animated programmes) have attracted new audiences from across several generations, and the franchise is just gaining steam. This summer, Disney+ will debut the first season of Ahsoka, and the streaming service also promises new episodes of Skeleton Crew, The Acolyte, Andor: Season 2, and a number of films. As the first shared film world before Marvel Studios, Star Wars has lasted longer than almost any other serialised story.
See our guide to the Star Wars films in order
Although there were films based on Marvel characters before 2008 (with Iron Man as the pilot), Marvel Studios’ MCU has been nothing short of a blockbuster. While its 15-year lifespan may appear short compared to some of the other brands on our list, the legend’s breadth and production volume more than make up for its shorter time frame. We’re now 32 films in, and there are eight Disney+ programmes to consider. And it doesn’t even account for the TV/streaming exposes of the past several years, such Agents of SHIELD, Daredevil, and so on, that were once considered part of the MCU. Imagine them as innocent bystanders of Thanos’s wind.
See our guide to all of the upcoming Marvel films and reveals
The Indiana Jones film canon now stands at 5 films (almost 40 years), with Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny still to come. However, as the whip-cracking hero once said, “it’s not the years, it’s the mileage.” Especially considering that Harrison Ford, at 80 years old, is the only actor to ever play Jones on the big screen. Fan outrage has met any and all talk of actually restarting everything with a new star, even though a couple of stars have actually been cast as a younger Indiana (River Phoenix for a lengthy flashback, and Sean Patrick Flanery for the George Lucas-produced ’90s series The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles).
See our guide to the Indianna Jones films in order
As a film series, Mission: Impossible has been going strong since 1996, even if that’s all we’re talking about here. Even though the next two films in the series, Dead Reckoning Parts 1 and 2, are scheduled for release within the next few of years, this is still an impressively long series that gets better and bigger with each new film. When you add the films to the TV show (which premiered in 1966 and ran for seven seasons), and especially the role of IMF representative Jim Phelps (played by Peter Graves on the show and Jon Voight in the first film), you’ve got a pretty hefty canon.
Star Trek is a mega franchise that has actually effectively integrated, and interwoven, Television and films like few other residential or commercial properties, despite the fact that its purer, headier sci-fi elements prevent its pop culture effect throughout its regular contrasts to the more accessible Star Wars. After a long run on TV that began in the ’60s, a successful run in the theatres in the ’80s, and an even more successful run on TV in the ’90s, Trek is currently experiencing one of its most prolific periods of popularity in recent history, with more Trek shows airing simultaneously on TV than at any point in the franchise’s history. Since Star Trek thrives when many storylines are playing at once, this is the optimal viewing experience. Fans are bravely going insane with the conclusion of the renowned last season of Picard and the impending release of Strange New Worlds: Season 2.
A horror film series is practically guaranteed, but it’s uncommon for one to last for nearly 35 years. It’s also unusual for a series to have the same writer/creator (Don Mancini) and star (Brad Dourif, the voice of Chucky) for that long. The Child’s Play saga, which began in 1988 and has 7 film sequels, has actually been one continuous flight under the watchful eye of Mancini, who is also responsible for the hit television show, which is currently planning its third season. Chucky is scary, funny, and meta; in a word, it’s awesome.
See our guide to the Chucky motion pictures in order
Quick and Furious
Starting with Point Break with its focus on street racing and progressing to worldwide James Bond/A-Team encounters with cars and trucks, the Fast and the Furious franchise has been with us for the entirety of this century. Over the course of 10 films (including the spinoff Hobbs & Shaw), the Fast family has played a wide variety of criminals, from car thieves and drug traffickers to hackers seeking global dominion. Now that Fast X has been released, the total number of films in the Fast mythology has reached eleven. Nothing, not even an off-screen disaster and some backstage drama, could derail this train of unadulterated popcorn pleasure.
See our guide to The Fast and Furious motion pictures in order
Although the 2004 release date marks a significant milestone, especially compared to other terrifying properties, the relatively short lifespan of the Saw films is really rather understandable. No other series has done more with a main villain who has been dead since the third freaking film, and this one is going to hit its tenth installment when (tentatively named) Saw X arrives in October. Saw has proven to be a “abuse pornography” holdout with its extensive retconning and long, detailed memory (both of which the Fast and Furious films lack).
See our guide to the Saw films in order
Friday the 13th
Since the 2009 remake, evil Jason Voorhees has been locked up in a vault due to prohibitive rights issues. Bryan Fuller, creator of Hannibal, is producing a Crystal Lake prequel series for Peacock, despite the fact that his franchise is now inactive because of Fuller’s love of all things spooky and, in particular, Friday the 13th. In collaboration with A24, this show has the potential to be a dangerous mash-up of the Friday the 13th franchise, complete with the appearance of a youthful, pre-laked Jason (you can bet Mrs. Voorhees will be a role). Regardless, considering that the original picture was released in 1980, this postponement undoubtedly aids Jason’s ch-ch-ch-chart.