7 franchises where people always get the order of quality wrong

Luke Stevenson is a journalist at Community Care and an avid cinema-watcher. He is also one of the three hosts of The Popcorn Muncher Podcast.

Elijah Wood as Frodo in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers
Elijah Wood as Frodo in Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

In a world where the Transformers franchise can get five films and the Fast & Furious series is made up of eight movies, with two more at least on the way by 2021, the fact we have franchises featuring more than one good film at all is a blessing.

However, this doesn’t mean we can’t fight about them. It’s a running theme on The Popcorn Muncher Podcast that I am right and everyone else is wrong. This has never been more true than when it comes to which franchise movies I consider to be the best. From Star Wars to the Cornetto Trilogy and a rather tenuous approach to defining the word ‘franchise’, here are all the movies the majority of people are wrong about.

Note: The scientific basis for which movies everyone else considers ‘the best’ is a mixture of IMDb, popular thinking and whatever suits my point.


A New Hope is the best Star Wars film

This is not to diminish Empire Strikes Back, which everyone wrongly thinks is the best, but is there a more perfect blockbuster movie than A New Hope? As well as launching the greatest franchise in history – yes, including the prequels – this movie is the envy of every franchise that has ever followed it. It introduces perfect characters and a huge universe, but still works inside one contained narrative, meaning the pay-off isn’t reliant on the other movies in the franchise.

Empire Strikes Back is a great movie, but so much of it is about where the characters are going in the future, so it doesn’t work as independently as A New Hope. This movie also has that stunning shot of Luke looking out over the deserts of Tatooine, and there isn’t a better shot in cinema history.


The Winter Soldier is the best film in the MCU

You might say that this is my opinion because I got caught swearing a blood oath to slap everyone who says any Marvel movie featuring Iron Man is better than a 3/5, but The Winter Soldier is the most complete character and action story Marvel has told to date. Sure, people like the bigger group spectacle of The Avengers and Civil War, but those people are undoubtedly flawed in many ways.

Focusing in on Captain America, The Winter Soldier perfectly juxtaposes his origins with the new world he finds himself in and shows that physically in some of the best on-screen fight scenes in recent years against former friend Bucky. As well as being funny, but not overbearingly try-hard funny, this is the last stand-alone Marvel movie I remember making me care about anything other than slapping people who say films featuring Iron Man can ever be better than a 3/5.


Two Towers is the best Lord of the Rings film

You could say Return of the King is the most epic and Fellowship of the Ring has the most grey Gandalf, but The Two Towers is the most complete entry in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Not bogged down by copious exposition and made leaner by its ability to pick an ending, The Two Towers has the best battle scene in movie history and takes the characters to their most desperate places before the grand finale.

Moments in this movie far outstretch anything else the franchise achieves. Sam’s speech. Andy Serkis’ introduction as Gollum – a performance that should have won an Oscar. The march of the Ents. The battle of Helm’s Deep. The battle of Helm’s Deep. And the battle of Helm’s Deep a few more times.


Hot Fuzz is the best of the Cornetto trilogy

I know people I respect and tolerate who say that Shaun of the Dead is the best of Edgar Wright‘s genre homage trilogy. I once even knew a man who said The World’s End was the best, before government agents had him destroyed for his wrongness. For me, though, Hot Fuzz is most definitely the best Cornetto movie.

Supremely confident, hilarious at every turn and a perfect send-up of the genre it is pastiching, I’m not sure there has been a smarter or better British comedy movie in my lifetime. Shaun of the Dead may have launched Wright, Simon Pegg and Nick Frost as big screen stars, but Hot Fuzz saw them coast away into the sunlight in a perfect conclusion for this rocket metaphor I’m working slightly too hard.


High School Musical 2 is top of the trilogy

If anyone ever tells you with a straight face that High School Musical 2 is not the best High School Musical film, I implore you to remain calm, take three steps back and alert the local coastguard – or another convenient emergency service. Sure, the third one has the budget and Zac Efron’s arms, while the first has its folksy charm and Zac Efron’s mesmeringly peculiar singing voice, but number two’s superiority can be explained in three words: ‘Bet On It’.

Is there a better musical number in cinema? Yes. Is there a better musical number in the High School Musical trilogy? Well, I think ‘Everyday’ is overshadowed by ‘Breaking Free’ and ‘The Boys Are Back’ is an underrated gem. However, ‘Bet On It’ and the rest of the second film, is High School Musical at its most surreal and fun. Ashley Tisdale delivers a bonkers performance, ‘I Don’t Dance’ is iconic – with people now aged between 23 and 25, at least – and there are at least two laugh-out-loud moments. What a film. What a trilogy.


Wall-E is the best Pixar movie

“Pixar films aren’t a franchise,” I hear you say, wrongly.

Toy Story, Toy Story 3, Inside Out, Finding Nemo or Monsters Inc are the best,’ I hear you say, equally wrongly.

Pixar has a whole roster of exceptional movies – and the Cars franchise – but Wall-E is by far the standout. It’s the most inventive of their films and I think it really began animation’s sea change into the more mature movies we now see made for kids. Would Up, Inside Out or Zootropolis have been pursued if Wall-E’s experiment in giving you no speaking characters for the first part of the movie had been unsuccessful?

This is ambitious filmmaking by any standard and, for animation, it’s just marvellous. This film lives past its sombre, post-apocalyptic opening into a more standard adventure story, but still tackles heady themes about what life is and how you can really live it. Friendship, loss and love were all tackled by Pixar before this movie, but the scope, depth and ambition of this story makes it by far the most outstanding animation movie of recent years, if not ever.


There isn’t a good film in the Hobbit trilogy

Anyone, I repeat, anyone who argues that any of the Hobbit films are even a single rung above atrocious is kidding themselves or has deeper issues that you need to sit down and chat with them about for an extended period of time. Seriously.


What do you think about these franchise rankings? Are there any other franchises where you think people regularly rank them in the wrong order? Let me know in the comments section.

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