31 Best Movie Series of All Time – Film Franchises and Trilogies to Watch – Cosmopolitan

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Get a blanket and some wine, ’cause you’re about to live on your couch.
Do you have a bunch of free time and a couple of streaming services to divide it between? Or maybe a bunch of those classic movies you’re supposed to watch by the time you’re 30 to get through? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Even if you haven’t been miraculously gifted several days of free time to binge-watch, these movie series are the ones to start catching up as soon as possible. These are for the movie lovers who enjoy a good story told over the course of a few films—and TBH, the stories may not even be that good all the time, but the characters and set pieces are fun, k? I will defend my love of movie trilogies and franchises to the death, y’all.
Some of these movies are so tightly woven that they absolutely were made as one cohesive piece of art—think Lord of the Rings and the Before Sunrise movies. Others might have taken a bit of a…meandering path to get there, but we still love the destination—basically anything Marvel, but especially Thor, Iron Man, and Spider-Man. Some kinda figured their vibe out as they went along—lookin’ at you, Fast and Furious movies! But no matter the road we took to get there, sometimes it’s just fun to witness the evolution of an epic idea or character (and spend a lil time with some actors you love). So check out these 31 movie series and be prepared to waste your whole weekend.
These films are packed with A-list actors and give us a smart, thieves-stealing-stuff mystery every single time. It’s also constantly, consistently one-upping itself. (The Sandra Bullock-Rihanna movie Ocean’s 8 is also very good but takes the series in a new direction, once you finish with these three.)
Watch Ocean’s Eleven
Watch Ocean’s Twelve
Watch Ocean’s Thirteen
I mean, you could technically list all the Marvel films on this list, but there’s simply too many to consider them a “series” at this point. If you wanna isolate some films you might like (or want to dip a toe in the huge franchise), consider the hilarious but surprisingly moving Tom Holland-Zendaya Spider-Man movies. Don’t worry, more Marvel recs are coming.
Watch Spider-Man: Homecoming
Watch Spider-man: far from home
watch spider-man: no way home
Watch Tom Cruise go from an up-and-coming star to the mega-mega-A-lister he is now (and these movies are basically a huge part of the reason why). The fact that he does his own stunts, still, is a big part of the draw—these movies are never not fun to watch, even though some of them are better than others.
watch mission: impossible
watch mission: impossible II
watch mission: impossible III
watch mission: impossible—Ghost Protocol
watch mission: impossible—rogue nation
watch mission: impossible—fallout
If you’re not familiar: In the early 2000s, Bridget Jones basically stood in for every miserable single person who just wanted their crush to notice them. She’s incredibly flawed and funny, constantly trying to un-f*ck up her life, and that’s honestly relatable 24/7.
watch bridget jones’s diary
watch bridget jones: the edge of reason
watch bridget jones’s baby
Fair warning (and I’ll prob say this a lot throughout this list): The early movies are better than the later ones. In fact, I would argue the first and third are the ones you should really prioritize, but maybe do the first three and watch 4 and 5 if you’re bored. Bruce Willis as a frustrated, hilarious cop just trying to save a bunch of people is a fun time.
watch die hard
watch die hard 2
watch die hard: with a vengeance
The first one (aka the one where Channing Tatum met his ex Jenna Dewan and they have off-the-charts chemistry) is probably the best. But honestly, if you don’t mind kinda silly, mostly mediocre plots and you love watching people dance, this is the series for you.
watch Step Up
watch step up 2: the streets
watch step up 3
watch step up revolution
watch step up: all in
watch step up: year of the dance
Speaking of silly! If you never managed to watch this the first time round (which prob means you’re younger than me, congrats), it’s worth seeing why this was such a phenomenon. All the actors involve agree it’s a weird, kinda creepy premise that an old vampire is stalking a teenager, but you can’t deny that RPattz and KStew are doing their very best.
watch twilight
Watch the twilight saga: new moon
watch the twilight saga: eclipse
watch the twilight saga: breaking dawn part 1
watch the twilight saga: breaking dawn part 2
These movies go from scary ’80s slasher to OTT campy fun real fast, but if you love horror, you can’t really miss the series that helped define the genre (the remake is fine, not great). Plus, Nancy is the ass-kicking final girl and curly haired queen we all need rn, so I’m only including the first three, plus the other film she appears in.
watch a nightmare on elm street
watch a nightmare on elm street 2: freddy’s revenge
watch a nightmare on elm street 3: dream warriors
watch wes craven’s new nightmare
The films in this “trilogy” don’t have a ton in common except for the people involved (Edgar Wright, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost) and the fact that each ones takes a genre (zombie, cop, sci-fi, in that order), makes fun of it, and also becomes a really solid film within that genre. All three are worth the watch.
I mean, you’ve probably already watched at least some of these. But if you’re missing a couple of the films or just getting into the series for the first time, know that each movie is kind of its own thing. The tone, visual style, and pace vary, and it took a while to figure out the vibe you see in the last few movies, but the path to getting there is fun.
watch harry potter and the sorcerer’s stone
watch harry potter and the chamber of secrets
watch harry potter and the prisoner of azkaban
watch harry potter and the goblet of fire
watch harry potter and the order of the phoenix
watch harry potter and the half blood prince
watch harry potter and the deathly hallows, part 1
watch harry potter and the deathly hallows, part 2
The found footage horror film got a makeover with Paranormal Activity. And it was so successful it spawned a bunch of others with similar-ish premises, but nothing beats the “couple sets up home video in their bedroom, then sh*t starts to go sideways” of the first.
watch paranormal activity
watch paranormal activity 2
watch paranormal activity 3
watch paranormal activity 4
watch paranormal activity: the marked ones
watch paranormal activity: the ghost dimension
watch paranormal activity: next of kin
Ok, so fair warning that it does take some context to be able to watch these films (like, at least reading the Wikipedia summary on some of the characters). But bringing a bunch of superheroes together and letting them fight, collaborate, and save the world is just an incredible watch—especially Infinity War and Endgame.
Watch The Avengers
watch avengers: age of ultron
watch avengers: infinity war
watch avengers: endgame
Keanu Reeves got his reputation as a badass thanks to this first film (which basically changed how we look at sci-fi, NBD). The Wachowski sisters have collaborated on every film except the last one, and even though the quality is up and down, you can’t disagree that their vision is ~amazing~.
watch the matrix
watch the matrix reloaded
watch the matrix revolutions
watch the matrix resurrections
Oh hey, bursting into tears, nice to see ya! Like a lot of Pixar films, this series is designed for maximum ~emotional damage~ (and the third one is the best, there is no debate). But they’re also just incredibly rewatchable—even the quirky fourth film, which you probably haven’t seen yet.
watch toy story
watch toy story 2
watch toy story 3
watch toy story 4
If you maybe missed these in your classic movie watching, take a couple hours and catch yourself up. FYI, the second one is…particularly dated, and you should stop after the third one. But a young Harrison Ford is never not welcome on my screen anytime.
watch indiana jones and the raiders of the lost ark
watch indiana jones and the temple of doom
watch indiana jones and the last crusade
If you watched The Hobbit movies and wondered why there were three of them, this is why. These films took three huuuuuuge books and made them into interesting, action-packed, faithful-to-the-source-material hits. Plus, everyone in the series is hot and giving it 100 percent, so.
watch the lord of the rings: the fellowship of the ring
watch the lord of the rings: the two towers
watch the lord of the rings: the return of the king
The first movie, which you probably already saw, is an epic time travel saga. But the second and third films are fun, meta riffs on the first film, going to increasing lengths to top its original idea. Do they always succeed? No, but watching them try is rlly enjoyable.
watch back to the future
watch back to the future part II
watch back to the future part III
Epic romance fans, stream this immediately. Looked at as a whole, this trilogy goes through the entirety of a flawed, but strong relationship: The hot and sexy crush phase. The reconnecting and “Will this work long-term?” debate. The “We’ve been together for a long time but still wanna make it work” stage. It’s more realistic than you think.
watch before sunrise
watch before sunset
watch before midnight
The ripoff of Point Break with the thieves stealing DVDs has morphed into maybe one of the most OTT franchises ever made. Not all of them are good, and you can probably skip 2 and 3 if you’re short on time. But the evolution to “there’s a car that literally goes to space” is a fun one.
watch the fast and the furious
watch 2 fast 2 furious
watch the fast and the furious: tokyo drift
watch fast & furious
watch fast five
watch furious 6
watch furious 7
watch the fate of the furious
watch f9
Okay, so, the first one is fine and the second one just sucks. But your patience will be rewarded because the third one is probably the funniest in the whole Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). And there’s a fourth one coming out this summer, so get caught up now!
Watch thor
watch thor: the dark world
watch thor: ragnarok
The first is a body horror space classic, and the second one is a balls-to-the-wall action adventure. But the others—even though they’re not quite as good—are really playing around with ideas and movie genres, so if aliens-on-a-spaceship are your thing, give the other ones a try.
watch alien
watch aliens
watch alien 3
watch alien: resurrection
watch prometheus
watch alien: covenant
Listen, there are a lot of Batman films out there, and some of them are terrible. (Who’s gonna watch all those films unless they love the character?) So stick to the ones by director Christopher Nolan, who tends to make action films watchable and compelling even when they’re weird.
watch batman begins
watch the dark knight
watch the dark knight rises
I couldn’t leave these movies off, it’s against movie-lover rules! I fully realize that watching films about the mafia sounds like a slog (and, admittedly, the third one is rlly flawed), but the reason these films are so beloved is because the stories are really, really good. Promise.
watch the godfather
watch the godfather: part II
watch the godfather: part III
Again, you could just put the whole franchise and its various spinoffs on here, but if you wanna prioritize, start with the three movies that started it all (Carrie Fisher, I will forever and always love you). If you like these, then feel free to pick and choose some of the others that look interesting to you.
watch star wars: a new hope
watch star wars: the empire strikes back
watch star wars: return of the jedi
Robert Downey Jr. is a big part of the reason that the MCU franchise is so successful. His snarky but sentimental Iron Man is essentially a blueprint for a lot of the characters to follow—and the first two films are a nice setup for the best movie of the bunch, Iron Man 3.
watch iron man
watch iron man 2
watch iron man 3
Considering that a Scream movie literally just came out, and there’s already another one planned, this is the horror series that just keeps going. I’d argue that even though the third is probably the weakest of all the movies, it’s worth catching up on all of them if you enjoy the original. (And if you’re still wanting more, there’s a tv show!)
Watch scream
watch scream 2
watch scream 3
watch scream 4
watch scream
Wow, I forgot how many sit-ups Matt Damon (and, in one film, Jeremy Renner) had to do for these buff action roles. Jason Bourne’s a spy with amnesia, and the first film has a surprisingly underrated romance! Oh, but if you suffer from motion sickness, give this one a pass, because it is shaky cam central over here.
watch the bourne identity
watch the bourne supremacy
watch the bourne ultimatum
watch the bourne legacy
watch jason bourne
If you’re only familiar with Jamie Lee Curtis as a middle-aged badass in the new films, please do yourself a favor and watch these original films. There, she’s a teenager final girl badass, and the transformation is deeply enjoyable. (Note: there are a lot more movies in this series, but I’m only including the two classics and two recents with JLC because they’re the best ones.)
watch halloween
watch halloween II
watch halloween
watch halloween kills
Again, I could list the many, many Bond films here, but some of them are bad and a lot of them are sexist. Daniel Craig’s take on the besuited, martini-drinking antihero is at least a needed step forward for the spy who was notorious for sleeping with women and getting them killed.
watch casino royale
watch quantum of solace
watch skyfall
watch spectre
watch no time to die
This series is not for the faint of heart, since it prides itself on coming up with increasingly gross ways for characters to die. No joke, the closest I’ve come to barfing during a movie is Final Destination 5. But if you enjoy gory horror, wow, how have you not watched these yet?
watch final destination
watch final destination 2
watch final destination 3
watch the final destination
watch final destination 5
At the peak of the YA craze, there was this book and movie series about teenage badass Katniss. Watch it again to relive the endless debate of the guy she should have chosen (I am surprisingly Team Peeta) and the hotness of Sam Claflin—or just watch it for the first time to understand why we loved it so much.
Watch the hunger games
Watch the hunger games: catching fire
watch the hunger games: mockingjay part 1
watch the hunger games: mockingjay part 2


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