Some movie franchises have enjoyed undeniable success and become part of the fabric of our popular culture, like ’em or not. The “Star Wars” and Marvel sagas show no signs of slowing down; neither does the “Fast and Furious” franchise, which, remarkably, has been churning out B-movie car mayhem since 2001.
Some franchises, however, enjoy enduring but quieter success. Sequels and spinoffs are made, but few people see them beyond the franchise’s most dedicated fans. Sequels can skip theaters altogether and still find enough success to justify more and more content.
Here’s a look at five movie franchises you’ll likely be surprised to know are still going strong.
1.) “Tremors.” The original “Tremors” was a goofy but lovable 1990 science fiction film that became a cult classic thanks to its seemingly endless showings on TV and as a popular video rental (before Netflix was even an idea).
The monster flick starred Kevin Bacon and followed two down-on-their-luck handymen (Bacon and Fred Ward) as they lead the charge in a small town against flesh-eating worms that travel underground and track prey based on sound.
Even those with a soft spot for the original film may be surprised to know there have been five sequels, the last of which was recently released. The first sequel dropped Bacon and had Fred Ward taking the lead, but after that it became the franchise of Michael Gross (“Family Ties”), who had a supporting role in the original film as a gun-loving survivalist named Burt Gummer.
The latest sequel, “Tremors: a Cold Day in Hell,” was released in May; Gross revealed there has already been talk of a seventh movie.
There was also a short-lived TV series in 2003 (led by Gross, of course), which lasted for one season.
Bacon was also set to reprise his role from the original film in a potential TV series continuation. It was recently revealed the show, alas, will not make it past the pilot stage, but a trailer was still released and it had fans quite excited to see the actor revisit one of his goofiest but beloved roles. (Check it out in the video below.)
2.) “Sniper.” This 1993 film gave Tom Berenger one of his most memorable roles. Though it failed to impress with its initial box office run, the film became a steady hit on home video, which eventually convinced producers to keep making these flicks.
Berenger plays tough-as-nails Marine sniper Thomas Becket. He doesn’t always follow orders, but he gets the job done. Berenger reprised his role in the 2003 and 2004 sequels; then the franchise took a rest. Eventually, someone had the idea of handing the saga’s story on to Becket’s son and there has been no turning back since.
Despite giving the franchise a younger makeover, Berenger has been back plenty of times for sequels. Since 2004’s “Sniper 3,” there have been four more sequels; the last was released in 2017.
Billy Zane, who starred in the original as a cocky apprentice to Berenger, has also been back for sequels. For anyone who loved the B-movie fun of the original, there’s plenty of good times to be had here.
3.) “Kickboxer.” This film from 1989 was one of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s signature hits as an action star, but it took him many years to jump back into the franchise. There were four lesser sequels released without Van Damme between 1991 and 1995, but the “Muscle from Brussels” would hop back in the saddle again by 2016.
Though the movies haven’t been as widely seen as the original film, the Van Damme sequels have won high praise from the fans who have seen them. There were sequels in 2016 and this year — and Mike Tyson even joined the franchise. There’s also another sequel headed our way next year, reportedly..
4.) “Mean Girls.” One of the most quoted modern comedies is “Mean Girls,” a Tina Fey-written examination of high school and all of its pratfalls.
The 2004 comedy followed a girl new to the high school experience (she’d previously grown up in Africa) who becomes entangled with the “plastics,” the most popular and vicious group of girls in her new school.
The film was a sleeper hit at the box office and has continued to be popular over the years.
There was a 2011 made-for-television sequel. It had little to do with the original but it did bring back the character of Principal Duvall (as well as actor Tim Meadows).
More importantly, Tina Fey herself continued the franchise by jumping behind a Broadway version of the story. The play’s even earned a handful of Tony Award nominations. This franchise is not ending anytime soon.
5.) “Bring It On.” This was a clever look at competitive high school cheering. It scored with audiences, became a runaway success in 2000, and the franchise has never looked back.
Though it often scraps its casts for entirely new stories, “Bring It On” has had a whopping five sequels, the last of which was released in 2017.
There was also a Broadway play, which ran in 2011 and 2012. It will reportedly tour the U.K. next year.