- Movie franchises with complicated timelines can confuse audiences by jumping around eras and retconning events.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe and
franchises have convoluted timelines, with movies set in different eras and divergent timelines.
Fast & Furious
Friday the 13th
have timelines that are difficult to follow, with sequels, remakes, and reboots complicating their chronology.
Some movie franchises make their timelines more complicated than they need to be, confusing audiences by jumping around different eras and retconning significant events. Installments of these franchises get released out of chronological order, prequels and sequels get conflated, and the whole thing becomes a twisted mess of dates and events that don’t make any sense to anyone. It’s a wonder some of them continue to be so successful.
Audiences typically prefer it when a series of movies makes perfect sense in terms of the times in which they take place. Take The Dark Knight Trilogy, Jurassic Park, and Rocky, as perfect examples of immersive film franchises that are easy to follow. Nobody ever complains about those movies’ timelines being difficult to understand — with good reason because all their installments are released chronologically. If only every movie franchise could be so simple.
9 The Marvel Cinematic Universe
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has been going since 2008 and when all the movies, the spinoff TV shows, the shorts, and the specials are considered, there are well over 50 MCU titles. That makes the timeline incredibly difficult to follow, especially considering that films like Captain America: The First Avenger and Captain Marvel take place in the past, Avengers: Endgame skipped forward five years, and the franchise has now diverged into different timelines. In-universe mistakes have already been made regarding dates, such as the “eight years later” time jump error in Spider-Man: Homecoming. It really is incredibly convoluted.
Beginning in 2000, the X-Men franchise consists of 13 movies. The first three were easy to follow. After that, the X-Men movie timeline went crazy, starting with X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which took the franchise into the past to explore how Wolverine got his adamantium-laced skeleton. Since then, four prequel movies have been released, and the franchise jumped years into the future with Logan. The two Deadpool films and The New Mutants further confuse matters. Moreover, Dark Phoenix takes place in 1992 but has much younger actors playing the same characters as in X-Men, which is set just eight years later.
The Saw series is one of cinema’s most successful horror franchises, and there have been 10 installments since it began in 2004. For the most part, it’s relatively easy to follow regarding its chronology, but there are a couple of movies that complicate things. For example, the 10th installment is actually the second film chronologically, as Saw X takes place between the events of Saw and Saw II. Also, the franchise is obsessed with flashbacks. Although every installment has a primary place in the Saw timeline, they all jump back and forth between different periods.
6 Fast & Furious
As popular as it is, the Fast & Furious franchise timeline is all over the place, chronologically. Consisting of 11 feature films and two shorts, the franchise doesn’t seem to have any logic behind its release order. The good thing is that the original movie, 2001’s The Fast and the Furious, is the first chronologically, and the most recent, Fast X, is the last, but that’s where the coherence ends. For example, the third movie, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, is chronologically sixth, and the three films released afterward, Fast & Furious, Fast Five, and Fast & Furious 6, all occur beforehand.
5 Friday The 13th
The chronology of the Friday the 13th movies isn’t overly challenging to follow. However, several intricacies in the horror franchise mean that doing so could ideally be easier. For starters, Jason “dies” several times, has a brief hiatus while a copycat killer takes over, gets resurrected, and then dies multiple times again, which generally confuses matters. Then there’s the fact that while the movies tend to take place on the eponymous date, the years aren’t specified, so it’s merely assumed they’re chronological for the most part. There’s also the anomaly that is Jason X, which primarily takes place in 2463, despite being released before the present-day crossover Freddy vs. Jason.
There is no polite way of putting it: the Halloween franchise timeline is a disaster. It’s a twisted mess of sequels, remakes, reboots, retcons, and one standalone film. In a nutshell, the first six movies were in chronological order, save for the third one, Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which was unrelated to them all. Then the seventh, Halloween H20: 20 Years Later, started a new timeline directly following 1981’s Halloween II, which was followed by a direct sequel in Halloween: Resurrection. A reboot followed with two films, and most recently, a sequel trilogy directly following on from the original 1978 film was made.
The very nature of the original plot in 1984’s The Terminator meant a franchise would always be complicated regarding chronology — and it is. While the films predominantly occur chronologically, the fifth of the six movies in terms of release order, Terminator Genisys, partially takes place in the same year as the opening installment. Moreover, it creates an alternate timeline that changes the fate of John and Sarah Connor, Kyle Reese, and the machines. To complicate matters more, a television series, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, ran for two seasons and ignored Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, making the Terminator timeline even more complex than expected.
The Alien vs. Predator movies marked a crossover between the Alien and Predator franchises, which began as eponymous standalone movies in 1979 and 1987, respectively. Separately, the Alien franchise consists of six movies, the two most recent of which were prequels, Prometheus and Alien: Covenant. The Predator franchise consists of five, the most recent of which was also a prequel, Prey. The two films in which the franchises directly crossed over, Alien vs. Predator and Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, complicate matters further by being set in the middle of the franchise timeline.
1 Star Wars
One of the world’s most prominent media franchises, Star Wars now boasts 11 live-action movies, and the order in which they were released makes it anything but easy to follow chronologically. There’s an original trilogy, which starts with A New Hope, a prequel trilogy that followed it, and a sequel trilogy that followed that. While the sequel trilogy films were being released, two spinoff movies were slotted in between them, and they chronologically fall between the third prequel and the first film in the original trilogy. To complicate things further, five live-action series and many animated works now exist as well.