Ever since franchises caught on in the '70s and '80s—Star Wars, Indiana Jones, The Terminator, Lethal Weapon—audiences have craved more installments from their favorite stars and characters. And, of course, bigger and better special effects.
E! has been there every step of the way, so as we celebrate our network's 20th birthday, let's take a look back at the best of the big movie franchises during our time on air.
Here are my 20 favorites, unranked except for the clear No. 1:
1. Harry Potter. We've seen Harry and his Hogwarts crew grow up right in front of our eyes, as talented filmmakers such as Chris Columbus, Alfonso Cuarón and David Yates have adapted the insanely popular books into films that inspire and amaze.
And while Potter easily tops this list, the rest are in no particular order:
Iron Man. Sure, RDJ was the perfect choice to play billionaire arms dealer turned flawed superhero Tony Stark, but the franchise's true star is director (and Stark's onscreen bodyguard) Jon Favreau. He gracefully met the lofty expectations of loyal comic book fans and the moviegoing masses.
Pirates of the Caribbean. Before Johnny Depp helped create one of Disney's now most iconic characters, the old adage in big movies was "Stay out of the water!" (I'm talking to you, Kevin Costner). Now, three films later and with a fourth on the horizon, we can't get enough of the high seas. Arrrrrrggggh!
Star Trek. A few duds in the fleet were quickly forgotten when J.J. Abrams and his team relaunched Trek last year for, uh, "the next generation."
Star Wars. While Episodes 4,5,6 essentially invented the concept of a blockbuster franchise, it was Episodes 1, 2, 3 over the last 20 years that put (and kept) this series fresh. Even with Jar Jar Binks in the mix.
The Lord of The Rings. Director Peter Jackson put all his chips on table and hit the jackpot with this trilogy. The rare combo of Oscar and box office gold solidified Jackson as one of the true visionaries of our time.
The Twilight Saga. In my opinion, the films have underwhelmed, but what I love about Twilight is the infectious passion shared by the fans. What team are you on—Edward or Jacob? (I'm Team Ashley Greene, by the way.)
Jurassic Park. I don't think I can remember as "magical" an experience in a movie theater as the time I first saw Jurassic Park. Everything about it felt bigger than life, from the beautiful score to the terrifying T. rex.
Shrek. Shrek. Fiona. Donkey. Puss-N-Boots. We love these animated characters and know them well, thanks to four hilarious and heartfelt fairy tales.
Spider-Man. Queens native Peter Parker learned that with great power comes great responsibility. Director Sam Raimi carried the responsibility of bringing one of Marvel's most beloved characters to the screen in a way that was family-friendly and kept the fanboys happy. (Minus that dance scene in Spidey 3).
Toy Story. Buzz Lightyear and his pal Woody changed the look of animation forever, ushering in the Pixar age in style. Movies haven't looked the same since.
Jason Bourne. In three thrilling stories of global espionage and betrayal, Matt Damon became a true action hero. First Doug Liman, then director Paul Greengrass helped Bourne achieve a look and feel uniquely its own, with signature shaky-camera work that added to the tension and suspense.
Harold & Kumar. Got to include something for the stoners out there, right? Plus, H&K gets much love for helping relaunch the career of Neil Patrick Harris.
The Matrix. While the second and third ones seemed to make increasingly less sense, the first is an all-time classic and a game-changer. Keanu will forever be The One.
Rush Hour. The ultimate buddy comedy cultural clash. Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan globetrotted and entertained with big stunts and big laughs.
X-Men. Professor X and his students battled Magneto and his evil disciples on the grandest of Marvel stages.
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