2019 saw not only end of a decade, but of many of the current iterations of our most popular genre franchises. The Marvel Cinematic Universe as begun in Iron Man came to its rousing conclusion after 23 films with Avengers: Endgame. Then Game of Thrones ended after conquering the world and spending much of the decade as the most popular show on the planet. And after 42 years, the Skywalker Saga reached its conclusion as well.
But this is hardly the end of any of those series. Marvel, the world of Westeros, and the Star Wars galaxy aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. And most of your other favorites aren’t leaving the pop culture landscape soon either. This new decade will continue exploring those fictional worlds, just in ways we haven’t seen before. Here’s what the 2020s are going to bring to our most beloved stories. Also, there’s a little speculation on our parts for what the future might hold.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe
With Robert Downey Jr. and Chris Evans out of the picture, Marvel Studios is heading into the ‘20s without their two biggest anchors. But that’s certainly not slowing them down. They’ve got Phase 4 already announced, and Phase 5 already planned. Between the big screen and Disney+, we will have over twenty distinct MCU properties over the next three years. That’s more Marvel content than we’ll know what do with in this coming decade. And before this decade is over, we will certainly see the X-Men and the Fantastic Four as a part of the MCU.
Game of Thrones
When Game of Thrones premiered on HBO in 2011, who would have thought that this very complex series set in a high fantasy world would become a global phenomenon? Or that it would even be considered a franchise, seeing as there is only the one book series from George R.R. Martin to pull from. But coming soon is an all new series for HBO called Fire & Blood, set hundreds of years before the events we just saw, focusing on the Targaryen conquest of Westeros. Another announced spin-off even shot a pilot, but HBO decided to pass. But if Fire & Blood takes off, don’t be surprised if they revisit the other spin-off too some day. We are definitely going to be seeing a lot more of George Martin’s world than ever before in the next decade.
The Walking Dead
Game of Thrones wasn’t the only genre TV series that grabbed hold of the popular consciousness in the 2010s. The Walking Dead proved that even your parents could become totally invested in a George Romero-esque zombie TV series. With the addition of Fear the Walking Dead, the AMC series officially became a franchise. And despite no longer being at the peak of its popularity, the original show is still a winner for AMC.
The next decade will see a series of Rick Grimes-centric films starring Andrew Lincoln on AMC (and maybe movie theaters?), as well as another new spin-off currently in the works. And both the flagship show and Fear the Walking Dead aren’t going anywhere. AMC has no plans to kill this cash cow. And we’ll bet that somehow, come New Year’s Eve 2029, both Carol and Daryl will somehow still be alive and shooting walkers in the head.
At the beginning of the last decade, Star Wars was as dead as a door nail. Then in 2012, George Lucas sold Lucasfilm to Disney, and the rest is history. We finally got the Episodes VII-IX, and although they were divisive among fans, they were decidedly not divisive at the box office.
But where does Star Wars go now that the Skywalker Saga is done? Well, anywhere it wants to really. Yes, we won’t see another Star Wars movie for nearly three more years. But we are going to have plenty of content from the galaxy far, far away before then. There’s the return of Clone Wars, season two of The Mandalorian, and new Disney+ series for Obi-Wan Kenobi and Rogue One’s Cassian Andor. And rumors abound of a sequel series to Rebels, focusing on Ahsoka Tano and the search for Ezra Bridger.
Of course, in 2022, 2024, and 2026, we are getting new Star Wars films. These will take place in a whole new era, disconnected from the larger Skywalker timeline for the first time. Current rumors suggest we are getting a series of films set 400 years before The Phantom Menace, during the peak years of the Republic and the Jedi Knights. This remains totally unconfirmed, but it would be a fresh era previously unexplored even in the old Expanded Universe.
The Wizarding World
The films based on J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels came to end in 2011 with The Deathly Hallows Part II, and everyone thought that was the end of that. There were no more books to adapt after all. But Warner Brothers and Rowling found a way to expand on the Wizarding World with the Fantastic Beasts series. The first movie was very successful, with the second one less so. There is supposed to be five films in this series, so expect to see the other three play out over the decade.
Beyond that? Although Rowling has denied it, we would be genuinely shocked if Warner Brothers didn’t have an adaptation of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in theaters by the end of the decade. And it will very likely be more than just one movie. While it might be divisive among fans, the play is an undeniable hit. And it is official Harry Potter canon. With HBO Max being a thing, surely a TV series is in the works too. There is almost no way this isn’t happening at some point. The world has not yet taken its last trip to Hogwarts.
The Lord of the Rings
New Line Cinema
Peter Jackson’s adaptation of Tolkien’s classic trilogy from the early 2000s changed the game for fantasy films forever. This past decade saw The Hobbit prequels hit theaters, and although they made a ton of cash, they were not as beloved as the previous films. But when those films wrapped up, the assumption was that was the end of any more live-action Middle Earth adventures.
Not so fast. Turns out, it’s just the beginning. Amazon Prime has begun work on a sprawling prequel series to the Lord of the Rings, set to start filming soon. Set thousands of years before the events of the films, this new series will focus on the events of “the Second Age,” and presumably the rise of Sauron. Many elements will probably come from Tolkien’s epic, The Silmarillion. The second season of the Lord of the Rings has already been greenlit, and expect much more beyond that. We will be spending much of the ‘20s back in Middle Earth it seems.
Although never as massively popular as that other space franchise with the word “Star” in the title, Star Trek has nevertheless been the little starship that could for the better part of fifty years. CBS All Access brought Trek back to the small screen with Star Trek: Discovery, and soon Patrick Stewart will return with Star Trek: Picard. And There are also several animated series in the pipeline, like the comedic Lower Decks.
And after having been stalled for some time, a fourth Star Trek feature film is in the works with Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto returning as Kirk and Spock. It looks like the 2020s are going to be a repeat of the ‘90s, when we had multiple Trek shows on the air alongside with movies hitting theaters. The next decade has got a lot for Trekkers to get excited about.
The world of the DC Comics Universe might have taken a backseat to Marvel in the past decade, but it would be disingenuous to call it anything but a success. Sure, Batman V. Superman and Justice League seemingly derailed things. But no one can deny the box office power of Wonder Woman, Aquaman, Shazam!, and now Joker. Not to mention, the DC Comics-based Arrowverse practically carries the CW network, with six series based on DC characters airing at once.
Whether or not the DCEU carries on in its current form or not, the next decade has a metric ton of DC Comics content on the way. We’ve got Birds of Prey and Wonder Woman 1984 this year, and soon there will be The Suicide Squad, The Batman, Black Adam, Shazam! 2, and possibly even that long in development Flash movie. And maybe if we’re lucky, we’ll get a proper Justice League film in there somewhere too.
And while Arrow might be ending soon on the CW, a Green Arrow and the Canaries spin-off series is already in development. A Superman and Lois show is also headed to the CW. The DC Universe streaming service has already renewed Titans and Doom Patrol for further seasons, and HBO Max is bringing the Green Lantern to their new streaming service. The future is bright for fans of the vast DC Multiverse.
Sony / MGM
Of all the franchises mentioned here, good ol’ 007 is the grand daddy of them all when it comes to live-action versions. Dr. No hit theaters in 1962, which means that in a couple of years James Bond will be celebrating 60 years on the big screen. This year sees Bond’s 25th film released, with No Time to Die. This will be Daniel Craig’s swan song to the world’s most famous secret agent. But it’s only a matter of time before we meet his replacement. The Bond films have bigger breaks between chapters than most franchises, but we’d be shocked if we didn’t get at least two other Bond movies in the ‘20s. But who our new Bond will be remains the big mystery.
Other beloved nerd franchises will no doubt continue in some form, from the hugely popular like Aliens to the more obscure, like Netflix’s The Dark Crystal. Whatever your favorite series is, there is almost no doubt you haven’t seen the last of it yet.
Featured Image: Lucasfilm / Marvel Studios / Warner Brothers