With Star Trek Into Darkness bringing the newly outfitted Enterprise crew back together in J.J. Abrams continued rebooting of the ultimate geek fantasy voyage, yours truly recalled just how impeccable the casting was for 2009’s initial launch. That thought then led to an investigation of sorts into the most memorable rosters assembled in a blockbuster franchise. Now although standalone flicks such as Inception, The Sound of Music, The Goonies, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and any Quentin Tarantino product is tough to ignore, the key criteria to grace this compilation is having multiple entries with great performances.
Honorable Awesome: Ocean's Eleven (2004-2007)
It’s tough to make an argument that the original pack from the initial 1960 heist (Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, Angie Dickinson, and Cesar Romero) were inferior to the George Clooney and Brad Pitt led party. But let’s face it, with the benefit of three movies and sharper acting across the board, the next generation cleans house. Plus, that franchise stole $1.1 billion around the globe for the better part of a decade.
10. Back to the Future (1985-1990)
Marty (Michael J. Fox), Doc (Christopher Lloyd), Lorraine/Mom (Lea Thompson), and Biff (Thomas F. Wilson) were the nucleus that spring boarded the crafty time-travel adventure to box office prosperity in the latter half of the ‘80s. And those four, along with other supporting additions (Billy Zane, Elisabeth Shue, and Mary Steenburgen) elevated this to a trilogy that snagged just under $1 billion worldwide.
9. The Avengers (2012-???)
Look, the first thirteen credits listed on the IMDb.com page are all A-listers. It goes from Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson to Chris Hemsworth and Jeremy Renner. Even the supporting roles feature people such as Stellan Skarsgard, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Samuel L. Jackson. You could even argue that Agent Coulson (Clark Gregg) steals scenes from these larger-than-life figures. Either way, a well-acted comic book movie is a rare find, yet we unearthed another in 2012.
8. Ghostbusters (1984-1989)
Aside from the four charismatic poster boys (Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson), some of the best scenes featured Louis (Rick Moranis), Dana (Sigourney Weaver), Mayor Lenny (David Marguiles), and Janine (Annie Potts). Factoring in the sidekick antagonists from each respective installment – Part I’s Walter Peck (William Atherton) and Part II’s Dr. Janosz (Peter MacNicol) – there was never a lull in the onscreen entertainment; hence why both were considered box office juggernauts in the ‘80s (over $500 million worldwide).
7. Harry Potter (2001-2011)
Despite all the wonderment brought forth by the story and modern day technology to create the vast world, to have eight successful entries the acting has to be the foundation. Even though there were hit-n-misses in certain parts, the central young trio (Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, and Emma Watson) meshed with some of the best British acting talent alive today. And this magical fusion saw the franchise average nearly a billion dollars per flick at the global box office.
6. The Star Wars Trilogy (1977-1983)
Take a breath… it’s not the prequels. The original creations from George Lucas back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s is one of the first true ensemble casted blockbusters of our time. Each now iconic role, and therefore performer, was able to hold up their part of the saga all while showing timely chemistry when they would all rendezvous together. And that includes R2 and 3PO. In other news, Harrison Ford wins the award for not aging miserably like his co-stars.
5. The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)
When’s the last time you watched an epic that ran nearly ten hours in length and you were actually craving (pardon the pun) more? For some that feeling came from the CGI landscape created by Peter Jackson but every performer in this mythical war drama breathed life into the artificial backdrop. Plus, the ability to never lose momentum when a character met their demise shows just how solid this acting regime was (even though I think Elijah Wood has an annoying girly scream).
4. Star Trek (2009-???)
Abrams took a chance on some up-n-coming talent and reinvigorated a franchise that is now soaring to unprecedented heights. And guess what folks… He and the entire returning cast – who actually improved on their excellence from the first go-around – did it again in the sequel. By all accounts, everyone (cast) is in it for the long haul (sequels galore).
3. Star Trek (1979-1994)
Why is the original gang ranked one notch higher than the present team you ask? Quite simply: The crew we see today emulates the greatness that William Shatner (Captain Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Dr. Spock), DeForest Kelly (Bones), James Doohan (Scotty), George Takei (Sulu), Walter Koenig (Chekov), and Nichelle Nichols (Uhura) gave birth to in their individual roles. So if imitation is the sincere form of flattery, all credit goes to the pioneers who rocked the first cinematic voyages for over 15 years to financial success starting in 1979.
2. The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005-2012)
Let’s begin by stating that Christian Bale’s performance as the titular character throughout Christopher Nolan’s game-changing Batman trilogy is vastly underrated. Granted he is surrounded by incomparable talent in each story (Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, and Gary Oldman), and the villains (Heath Ledger’s Joker, Liam Neeson’s “Ra’s Al Ghul,” Tom Hardy’s “Bane,” Aaron Eckhart’s “Two-Face,” Anne Hathaway’s “Catwoman,” and Cillian Murphy’s “Scarecrow”) may have overshadowed his presence from time-to-time. But all that really equates to is a stockpile of stellar acting which made a comic book movie thoroughly engrossing, substantial, and mentally stimulating.
1. The Godfather Trilogy (1972-1990)
The only thing that really needs to be written here is a list of the multi-award winning onscreen talents that blessed us with their presence in this three-part crime saga: Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, Marlon Brando, James Caan, John Cazale. Um, you get the classic picture. And yes, it was a monetary triumph at theaters, for it made $954.1 million when adjusting for ticket price inflation.