11 Sprawling Cinematic Universes That Aren't Marvel Or Star Wars (2023)

11 Sprawling Cinematic Universes That Aren't Marvel Or Star Wars (1)

Third party ideaAnt Man and the Waspdid you down Bored with the fourteenth offshoot of the thirdwar of starsMovie? I'm here to praise expansive multimedia universes rather than bury them, but Marvel, DC,war of stars, and (increasingly) evenStar Trektake up a lot of oxygen in space (and you know how much oxygen is in space).

Cinematic Universes are big business now, and everyone is trying to get a piece of what Marvel has built. Most weren't nearly as lucky (DC is rebooting; UniversalsAttempt at a modern monster versequickly fell apart; Sony's Plans for a Web of Spider-Man Related Moviesthen dissolvesDisease). And yet the studios keep trying: "John Wick Chapter 4" will be released soon, a spin-off and a TV series are already in the works. There's just too much money at stake to stop at a movie or even a quadrilogy.

If all of this doesn't sound particularly enticing but you still have some time, there are other sprawling TV/movie universes past and present that might suit your fancy.


2 / 13

The Conjuring Universe (2013 —)

The Conjuring Universe (2013 —)

You've almost certainly heard of it, but might not realize how extensive it is, with eight films (to date) and a DC Comics miniseries. A heavily fictionalized version of the case files by demonologists/bullshit artists Ed and Lorraine Warren (ofAmityville horrorfame), the firstsummonwas a highly effective haunted house film and a surprise hit, grossing approximately 15 times its production budget. This film featured a cameo from creepy puppet superstar Annabelle, who quickly earned her own (forgetful but money-making) spin-off. AsummonThe sequel was followed by another (much improved)Annabelleprequel, and it just keeps spinning from there. The films aren't all spectacular, but they're all competently made and entertaining enough when a little spooky is the order of the day. They're also impressively internally consistent, with characters (and demons) appearing in films; The series' internal timeline extends from Annabelle's creation in 1943 to 1981, the time frame of the thirdsummon.

Highlights:The incantationAndThe incantation 2, as well asAnnabelle: Creation. The series gets its ownAvengers: EndgameInAnnabelle comes home, in which the various demons imprisoned in the Warren family shit museum break loose and run wild for a while.

Stream Where:The films are scattered, howeversummon1 & 2 are both currently on Netflix.


3 / 13

Whoniversum(1963 —)

Whoniversum(1963 —)

It is up to Whovians to decide to what extent each new Doctor

is a new character; A


The show became a mini-franchise just three years after its premiere when First Doctor William Hartnell morphed into Second Doctor Patrick Troughton. Subsequent Doctors share traits with their predecessors, but the actors clearly never felt the pressure to play the same character. This willingness to change has brought an impressive amount of variety to the series

over the decades, like that

constantly changing cast of friends, companions and

memorable villains.

That was enough to keep the concept going through nearly 900 TV episodes (and a TV movie), but there's more to discover.



first turn

out of,K-9 and company, was short-lived but others have fared better: Four Seasons oftorch woodfollowed the Cardiff-based government agency tasked with defending Earth from invasion;The Sarah Jane Adventuresfollowed the title '

Follow the 70's era through five seasons as an investigative journalist with some brave young friends. The Doctor's adventures have expanded into endless novels and comics, but so have countless others

minor characters. Big Finish Productions, a UK-based publisher of high-end audio drama, has created stories that expand on every corner of the Whoniverse, usually featuring the original actors but sometimes by placing new characters in familiar settings. The point is, if you're at all interested in time-traveling sci-fi, you could spend the rest of your life researching and not run out of stories.

Highlights:There really is far too much choice. It's best to dive in everywhere and see where the TARDIS takes you.

Stream Where:ClassicWHOis on Brit Box while the newer series is on HBO Max (as istorch woodAndSarah Jane).


4 / 13

Law & Order-Vers(1990 —)

Law & Order-Vers(1990 —)

This is where it gets a little complicated: the originallaw & orderThe series has run for 20 seasons since 1990 (it has since been revived and is currently airing its 22nd season). This series is a spin offspecial unit,now in its 24th consecutive season with Mariska Hargitay and for a dozen years with Christopher Meloni.Organised crimeis a relative freshman in his third season whilecriminal intentran for a decade from 2001; A handful of less successful spin-offs each ran for one season. Characters such as Chris Noth's Mike Logan, Jerry Orbach's Lennie Brisco, and S. Epatha Merkerson's Anita Van Buren move (or rotated) freely between series, usually as guest stars, but occasionally rotate full-time. There's even a TV movie from 1998,Exile, which extends the format.

But there is more! Dick Wolf's other two major franchises are in the same universe and occasionally cross paths: these include the four shows of theChicagofranchise (three of which are running) and the three shows in theFBIFranchise.

But assuming you can make it through those few thousand hours of television (and heaven help you), there's another way to go with Richard Belzer's John Munch. TheSVUCharacter was originally a regular on the independentMurder: Street Life, retrospectively placing this (excellent) series within thelaw & orderOrbit. Belzer then claims the record for the number of appearances of the same character on different TV shows, some silly and some serious and technicalThe cableAndX-Filesto yourL&Ouniverse binge, as wellarrested developmentAnd30 rocksif you want to get really wild Idris ElbasLuthercredits Munch as his contact with the New York SVU contact, so throw that one in as well.

Highlights:I would sayMurder: Street Life, but it's not streaming anywhere at the moment. This is one of our most enduring franchises, with recurring character threads but mostly standalone episodes, so feel free to dive in wherever you go.

Stream Where: law & orderAndSVUare both on Peacock, as are the Chicago shows.


5 / 13

Rock (1976—)

Rock (1976—)

The original by Sylvester StalloneRockyThe film doesn't feel like the start of a long-running franchise; The film was nominated for a number of Oscars (including one for Stallone's screenplay) and won the Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director that year. Subsequent sequels never quite convince us that they have something to say that the first film didn't say better, and each feels a little more stalking than the one before, but they're still mostly entertaining underdog sports dramas. Until 1990Rocky v, which feels like an appropriate time to throw in the towel, despite the fact that the original film's director, John G. Avildsen, is at the helm. Then came 2006 andRocky Balboa, a soft reboot that leans heavily on nostalgia but still feels like a welcome iteration. It also made decent money and paved the way for the spin-offBelieve, starring Michael B. Jordan and directed by Ryan Coogler. With a solid script, sharp direction, and great performances from Stallone and Jordan, the film ushered in a new era in the franchise. One thirdBelieveFilm is on the way now and there is talk of a seventhRockyfilm (an epilogue, according to Stallone), as well as a prequel centered on Dolph Lundgren's Ivan DragoRocky IV.

Highlights:Either start at the beginning, with the 1976Rocky, or with 2015sBelieve. They're both excellent despite watchingBelieveAndCreed IINow you can move on to the third film coming out in March.

Stream Where:TheRockyMovies are scattered across Netflix, Prime Video, and Paramount+Believeis on Sling and streaming channels TNT and TBS.


6 / 13

The View Askewniverse (1994—)

The View Askewniverse (1994—)

Kevin Smith certainly couldn't have imagined being the father of a multimedia shared universe when he sold his comic book collection to fund salacious indie classicsEmployeeback in 1994. But here we are, almost three decades later, and the third film in the series has just been released. In between, we've mostly seen Jay and Silent Bob (Jason Mewes and Smith) drop in as the leading men of the View AskewniverseMallratten1995 alsoHunt for Amy, ThenDogmabefore he takes center stageJay and Silent Bob fight back. The Stoner Buddies have been the connective tissue in nine films so far, one animated series, a slew of comics and of course...scream 3;Feel free to add this series to your baked binge watch.

Highlights:Employeeis still great, andDogmais brilliant at times.

Stream Where:Some of the films includingEmployee(Andscream 3), streaming on Paramount+. Unfortunately due to rights issuesDogmayou need to look for an out of print DVD.


7 / 13

The Ring/The Grudge Multiverse (1995—)

The Ring/The Grudge Multiverse (1995—)

The worlds ofJu-OnAndRing, two Japanese horror mega-franchises that made it big in North America, were only linked in 2016, some two decades after they launched.Ju-up, also known asThe resentment, started out as a couple of shorts and expanded into the 2002 Takashi Shimizu film, which introduced the Tokyo home haunted by the (rightfully) vengeful ghost Kayako and her even scarier ghost child Toshio, both murder victims (hence the grudge ). This film spawned three direct sequels as well as several shorter works, novels, a video game and a television series.

Ring, based on a series of novels by Koji Suzuki, gave the world the slightly less likable Sadako, a serial killer who curses people with her doomed VHS tape before memorably popping off the TV screen. Hideo Nakata directed the first major adaptation (based on a previous TV movie), which has since spawned six sequels and numerous side projects (a TV series, a South Korean remake, manga, etc.).

BothresentmentAndRing, of course, spawned American remakes that spawned sequels themselves (and e.gThe resentment, a remake of the remake), although for our purposes these are in unrelated universes. In 2016, however, Japan saw the answerFreddy vs JasonInSadako vs. I can do it: Sadako, it seems, is back on her video bullshit, and the young woman doomed to death is helpfully informed that the only way to stop Sadako is to summon an equally vengeful demon and her to play against each otherPromi-Deathmatch-Style. Promotion for the film included a baseball show with Toshio and the two women, all of whom are very good at cursing and murder but not so good at sports.

Highlights:The original JapaneseresentmentMovie is pretty good, and the firstRingmovie is great. The AmericanThe ringfrom 2002 is excellent, andSadako vs. I can do itis wonderfully silly.

Stream Where:The first three Japanese Ring films run on Shudder and Tubi andSadako vs. I can do itis on Shudder. The firstJu-upis on Freevee.


8 / 13

Spy Kids/Machete(2001 —)

Spy Kids/Machete(2001 —)

Maybe you need more sonic diversity in your shared universe...or maybe you're looking for one to grow up with? Robert Rodriguez has you covered. There are four films in the appropriately kid-friendly Spy Kids series, which Rodriguez wrote and directed between 2001 and 2011 (there's also a two-part animated series and a fifth film, apparently a reboot, in the pipeline). They're generally a lot of fun! But then it gets interesting.

Schleifhaus, from 2007, which paired Rodriguez with Quentin Tarantino, included as a fake trailer for aspy kidsSpin-off starring Danny Trejo as Isador "Machete" Cortez, a character who appeared in each of those films. But then the writer/director went ahead and did it... creating a gleefully tasteless and violent film about Trejo's character that inspired a sequel of its own that added some sci-fi to this tough R-series.

Highlights:Start with the first fewspy kidsMovies when you're about 12, then skip to itMacheteas soon as you turn 18.

Stream Where:Thespy kidsMovies are everywhere but the first one is streaming on Pluto. The first of the twoMacheteMovies are on Sling.


9 / 13

The Universal Monsterverse (1931— 1948)

The Universal Monsterverse (1931— 1948)

I'm not talking about the largely failed attempts to create a modern monster universe with movies like Tom CruiseThe Mummy, but rather the original Universal Studios monster series that wrapped up with Dracula in 1931 and has spanned about 40 films depending on how you cut things. The early heavyweights were those mentioned aboveDracula, a blockbuster that practically spawned the horror film industry, andFrankenstein,which went far better. The early films weren't marketed as B-pictures or monster movies per se, but as serious literary adaptations by star directors. Then as now, however, horror fans were voracious and the temptation to churn out products quickly became overwhelming.

There was an impressive commitment to continuity from theFrankensteinseries, but the first film to start tying together the various mainline monster films came along in 1943Frankenstein meets the wolf man, Lon Chaney Jr. Wolf vs. Frank, now played byDracula's Bela Lugosi (these films switched actors long before their plots began to overlap - Chaney had played Frankenstein the year before and would play Dracula's son thereafter). it was the first of so-called "monster rallies"; 1944,Haus Frankensteinwould unite the Wolfman, Dracula, and Frankenstein (Boris Karloff even makes an appearance, playing a new, human character).House of Draculafrom 1945 would do something similar. These efforts to kickstart the ailing monster series feel a little dated, but it's still fun to see them all hanging around.

1948 is even more funAbbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, a clever, funny epilogue to the Universal years that sees Bela Lugosi again in his Dracula cloak alongside Chaney's Wolfman and Frankenstein (played here by Glenn Strange), and even includes a cameo by Vincent Price as the invisible man. It's comedy so don't look for continuity, look for a loving parody and no more silly than some of the later monster films. I stop the Universal Monsterverse there; Abbott and Costello's later monster films aren't nearly as entertaining and during late entryCreature from the Black Lagoonis worth seeing, there is no connection to the older series.

Highlights:Bride of Frankensteinis probably the best of the series and a great film in any genre. The aforementionedAbbott and Costello meet Frankensteinis great if you're looking for something lighter.

Stream Where:None of the major Universal monster films are currently streaming for free, but they are all available through digital distribution.


10 / 13

Drunk Master / Drunk Verse? (1978— 2010)

Drunk Master / Drunk Verse? (1978— 2010)

Well over 100 films dating back to the 1940s feature real-life martial artist, doctor, and folk hero Wong Fei-hung; these films are only sporadically connected and only sporadically available, so catching up on Wong's entire oeuvre will likely be far too big a hill. However, there's a way in that makes for a more cohesive experience and features some of the genre's finest examples. Jackie Chan played Wong inDrunk Master, 1978, in an action comedy directed by Yuen Woo-ping, who continues to direct in both Hong Kong and Hollywood and was responsible for fight choreography in films such asDie MatrixAndCrouching tiger, hidden dragon.Drunk Masterwas very influential and led to a sequel,The Drunken Master II(calledThe Legend of the Drunken Masterin some US releases) and a spin-off,Dance of the Drunken Praying Mantis, which follows the Beggar So character (also a real martial artist) from the Chan film, again played by Yuen Siu-Tin. This was itself followed by two sequels (Tale of the Drunken MasterAndWorld of the Drunken Master). In 2010, director Yuen returned to this worldtrue legend, a prequel dealing with the rise of Beggar So.

Highlights:Don't skipDrunk Master, a great martial arts movie of all time.

Stream Where: Drunk Masteris on Prime Video, Tubi and Crackle whileDance of the Drunken Praying Mantisand True Legend are on Tubi.


11 / 13

The full moon universe(1984 —)

The full moon universe(1984 —)

The biggest, most expansive cinematic universe of all is the one you've never heard of (yeah, yeah...I knowOfhave). The filmmakers at Full Moon Features (led by producer/director Charles Band) developed their own versionchild's playwith the direct-to-video hit of 1989Puppeteer, about a group of psychics who are attacked by the titular puppets, animated by an ancient Egyptian spell cast by the soon-to-be-recurring character Toulon. The 14th (!)PuppeteerThe film was released in 2022, counting spin-offs and prequels.

Even attitudePuppeteerOther than that, the company has been incredibly productive. In 1993 the publication ofDollman vs. demonic toy, which connected two previous films and inserted a character from a Full Moon film with the titlebad channelsfor good measure. 2004Puppet master vs. demonic toyconnected these franchises (though die-hard fans question their canonicity). Later entries linked films such assubspecies,Evil bong,Ginger Dead Manetc., bringing the number of movies in your full moon binge watch to over 40 (and counting). The connections date back to 1984 and retrospectively add earlier Charles Band films from before Full Moon.

Highlights:Trancer, a retroactive addition to the shared universe, is probably the best of band.subspeciesand the first and thirdPuppeteerMovies are absurd and quite entertaining. If you've seen the whole series, please let me know.

Stream Where: Puppeteeris widespread; Shudder and Tubi are your best bets for other films in the series.


12 / 13

The Shermer Verse (1983— 1998)

The Shermer Verse (1983— 1998)

Maybe you need something less intense and don't want to bother connecting canonical dots between different film and TV properties. No problem! Go back to the 1980s and delve into the occasionally troubled but mostly delightful world of the John Hughes films, many of which are set in the fictional Shermer, Illinois, based on teenage Hughes' hometown of Northbrook, Illinois. LookSixteen candles,The Breakfast Club,Strange Science,Ferris turns blue,Planes, trains and cars,National Lampoon’s Vacation,Home alone,or the less rememberedReach the rock(all written and/or directed by Hughes, and all staged or referenced by Shermer), you don't need to take notes or watch in any particular order to get the idea. It's easy to imagine that characters from different films run into each other every now and then.

Highlights:I'm more biasedFerris Boller, I myself.

Stream Where:They are scattered, but all (except e.gReach the rock) are at least available for digital lending.


Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Kieth Sipes

Last Updated: 04/04/2023

Views: 6152

Rating: 4.7 / 5 (47 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Kieth Sipes

Birthday: 2001-04-14

Address: Suite 492 62479 Champlin Loop, South Catrice, MS 57271

Phone: +9663362133320

Job: District Sales Analyst

Hobby: Digital arts, Dance, Ghost hunting, Worldbuilding, Kayaking, Table tennis, 3D printing

Introduction: My name is Kieth Sipes, I am a zany, rich, courageous, powerful, faithful, jolly, excited person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.