The 10 Greatest Fourth Films in Longstanding Franchises

by Bill Gibron

3 April 2012


5 - 1

#5: The Return of the Pink Panther

Let’s clarify things right up front - we are counting the crappy Alan Arkin entry as part of the number. After all, if it wasn’t for The Party (and a paltry script), Peter Sellers and Blake Edwards would have been part of the production. Instead, they waited until 1975 and then they reinvented the entire franchise as a return to the days of daunting physical comedy. With its sensational slapstick and hilarious characterizations, this is the film that many remember when they recall Inspector Clouseau and his clumsy exploits. A license for a ‘minkey’ indeed.

#4: Thunderball

He remains the ultimate spy, and with its Cold War nuclear implications this remains one of 007’s most potent narratives. Star Sean Connery would go on to star in You Only Live Twice and Diamonds are Forever before ditching the role completely (?), but here he is all swagger and sophistication. This would become one of the most popular entries in the 23 films (25 if you count the original Casino Royale and Connery’s return in Never Say Never Again) and growing cinematic dynasty of the British secret agent, and it’s not hard to see why. Our star is sensational…as is his action man counterpart.

#3: Mission Impossible - Ghost Protocol

Brad Bird is a genius. After The Iron Giant, The Incredibles, and Ratatouille, his leap into live action was not a given. Greatness in other mediums didn’t necessarily mean greatness with actual people. Well, he pulled it off and then some, redefining what big screen action should look and feel like. With the help of Tom Cruise (who demands to do his own stunts) and some elaborate set-pieces, what could have been another “eh” installment in the franchise instead became its benchmark. Whoever takes up the directing mantle after this has their work cut out for them.

#2: Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

We admit it. We are more or less cheating. If you take them chronologically, we are right on the money. If you consider them wholly based on when they were released, the rotten Phantom Menace prequel ends up at number four. We’ll take the original trip into a galaxy far, far away as our example, thank you, since it encapsulates everything that made the legend of Luke Skywalker and his interstellar pals so meaningful and memorable. Oh - and by the way, we don’t cotton to the Special Editions with all their digital tweaks. The only Wars is the ‘77 Wars, period.

#1: Star Trek 4: The Voyage Home

After the middling Motion Picture and the fantastic Wrath of Khan, the Star Trek series needed a shot in the arm - and sending Christopher Lloyd off to the Genesis Planet to try and retrieve Spock’s body before the crew of the Enterprise could was not going to work. So the creators sat down and devised a brilliant way of bringing the future back to the past. They concocted a time travel scenario involving extinct whales that saw Capt. Kirk and his crew intermingling with mid-‘80s Californians. The clash of cultures and the many jokes made at the expense of the series are what make this movie perhaps the best of all the Trek tales.

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