14 1980s Sci-Fi Franchises and Where They Are Today

Saturday, 05 September 2015 - 5:28PM
Sci-Fi Movies
Saturday, 05 September 2015 - 5:28PM
14 1980s Sci-Fi Franchises and Where They Are Today
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The 1980s were a good time to be a kid if you liked science fiction. The decade was overflowing with techy franchises in TV, movies, toys... basically every form of entertainment available to children at the time. And if you're a child of the '80s, good times are here again. Virtually all of the biggest sci-fi franchises of the decade are undergoing some form of reboot, though some are better than others, so here's a little trip down memory lane complete with what's going on with these franchises today. 

Star Wars

Star Wars obviously got its start in the '70s, but the 80s were its bread and butter. The latter two movies of the original trilogy premiered in the 80's, a decade that saw countless comic books, holiday specials and toy lines released. Put simply, Star Wars inspired a whole generation to dream about a galaxy far far away, and that generation is getting ready to drop some serious dollar on a new era of Star Wars storytelling.

Reboot status: As if you didn't already know, Disney has come down with Star Wars fever since purchasing the property a few years ago. The next movie in the franchise, Episode VII: The Force Awakens, hits theaters in a few months, and the coming years will see lots more movies and Star Wars Lands added to Disneyland and Walt Disney World. We could be on the cusp of a new Star Wars golden age. 


Perhaps the most popular toys of the decade, Hasbro's alien robot vehicles spun off into cartoons, comic books, and an animated movie. Then Michael Bay got his grubby little mits on it.... 

Reboot status: After the promise of the fairly fun 2007 Transformers movie, the studio has squandered the property with three terrible sequels. Even though the movies are generally ranked among the worst films ever made, they make a ton of money, and there are currently plans in place to make a dozen of them. Oh joy. 

G.I. Joe

Another toy line from Hasbro that spun off into successful cartoons and comics, G.I. Joe got its start in the '60s before its '80s reinvention skyrocketed its popularity. And for anyone who doesn't think a bunch of soldiers and snake-themed ninjas qualify as science fiction, the character Sci-Fi and his laser guns would like a word with you. 

Reboot status: Just like Transformers, G.I. Joe has its own questionable-in-quality movie franchise. Though they aren't nearly as profitable as the Transformers franchise, 2009's G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra and its semi-reboot sequel, 2013's G.I. Joe: Retaliation, still made enough money to warrant a third installment, which is moving forward after finding its director and writer this past April. 


One of the funniest movies ever made, Ghostbusters spawned one movie sequel, a great cartoon called The Real Ghostbusters, and some seriously awesome toys. Then in the mid-'90s the franchise mostly died out, save for a few video games here and there over the years. 

Reboot status: A new Ghostbusters movie is due out next year from Sony, and it's believed to be a reboot and not a sequel. It features all-new characters and great comedic talent like Kristen Wiig and SNL's Kate McKinnon, and is expected to feature cameos by original stars Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd. There is also another Ghostbusters movie in development possibly involving Channing Tatum and Chris Pratt, as Sony wants to make an entire Ghostbusters universe to compete with Disney's Marvel and Star Wars properties. Good luck with that. 

Masters of the Universe

Mattel's line of space-faring barbarian action figures were absurdly popular, and were the first toy line to inspire a TV show (pre-dating Transformers and G.I. Joe's shows). He-Man, Skeletor, and company were also featured in comics and even had a live action film version starring Dolph Lundgren and Courtney Cox in 1987 that flopped terribly and began the series' decline. 

Reboot status: A new live action Masters of the Universe movie has been in development hell for nearly a decade, and just this month Thor: Ragnarok screenwriter Christopher Yost was hired for a third rewrite of the film. Here's hoping the third time's a charge and He-Man makes it into theaters sometime this decade. 

Back to the Future

The time-traveling comedy trilogy remains a beloved series, and inspired a short lived cartoon in the early '90s and a now-defunct ride at Universal Studios theme park, but not much else in the past two decades. 

Reboot status: Director Robert Zemeckis said earlier this year that a reboot or sequel of Back to the Future would happen over his dead body. But the original movie is returning to theaters in October to celebrate its thirtieth anniversary, and Zemeckis and co-writer Bob Gale are working on a musical live theater adaptation, so there's that. Plus, the franchise does have everyone scrambling to invent a working hoverboard, so its effects are still being felt. 

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

THE cartoon of the late '80s and early '90s, the franchise began as a satirical '80s comic book. The show was the real phenom though, inspiring a massive toy line and three live action movies in the '90s. 

Reboot status: Sigh. Sadly, Transformers maestro Michael Bay got his hands on the property and made it into a big, gross, special effects extravaganza in 2014's live action (but mostly CGI) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The movie was a hit at the box office, if not with critics and fans, and a sequel, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Half Shell, is due out in June of next year. 


While it began as a kind of He-Man rip off, this animated series quickly found its own identity and cult following devoted to the big cat-powered alien humanoids. 

Reboot status: There was a new cartoon series in 2011, and production began in earnest on a CGI-animated film from Warner Brothers in 2007. The film was shelved in 2010, and since then there hasn't been any news on any additional Thundercats productions. 


The original 1984 film was a genre-blending masterpiece, while its 1990 sequel was ludicrously over-the-top (just ask Key and Peele). The franchise expanded to toys, a breakfast cereal, video games, and inspired several knock off films. 

Reboot status: It's coming. Writer Chris Columbus and executive producer Steven Spielberg are both returning to produce, and Carl Ellsworth (who penned the new Goosebumps movie) has signed on to write the script. The movie is said to be a reboot in the same world and not a remake of the original, and Columbus cites the emotional tug of the Star Wars: The Force Awakens trailer as an inspiration. Fingers crossed. 


This re-edited Japanese export was somehow one of the '80s best cartoons, was the top-rated children's show in syndication during the two years that it aired. Despite this, Voltron has never matched the glory it attained in the '80s. 

Reboot status: A bidding war took place in 2011 for the rights to produce a live action Voltron movie, with Relativity Media coming away the winner. But unfortunately, that's the last we've heard of it. Fans will have to make do with the occasional comic book and classic toy release for now. 


1987's RoboCop was a super violent R-rated movie, but it still spawned a ton of toys for the wee ones and a sweet '80s cartoon, because what kid doesn't think a robot cop is cool? 

Reboot status: A new RoboCop premiered in 2014, and it earned more money than any of the three movies in the franchise (which isn't surprising since it came out twenty years later). Even though the movie was profitable, and wasn't a total disaster with critics, a sequel has not yet been announced. 


Admittedly, this franchise, which began in 1984, didn't really take off as a toy and videogame marketing bonanza until 1991's sequel, T2: Judgement Day, but the franchise still got its start in the '80s. 

Reboot Status: Earlier this year, Arnold Schwarzenegger made his highly-anticipated return to the franchise in the fifth installment, Terminator: Genisys. The movie was torn apart by critics and flopped at the U.S. box office, but it has done well overseas. Some believe it may have marked the end of the franchise, but depending on its overall foreign take it may earn a sequel. 


Our third R-Rated franchise that ended up inspiring some killer toys (no pun intended) in the early '90s got its start in the '70s with Alien, but that movie's 1986 sequel Aliens is considered by many to be the best of the franchise, which solidifies its status as an '80s cultural touchstone. 

Reboot status: A fifth Alien film is on the way, but not for a few of years. It's being produced by original Alien helmer Ridley Scott, but not before he directs a sequel to the sort-of-connected Prometheus. The next Alien film will be directed by Neill Blomkamp, who has one great sci-fi credit with District 9, and two not-so-great ones in Elysium and Chappie. Let's hope he returns to form with his next project.


The least known of all of these franchises, Dino-Riders was simply awesome. Take dinosaurs, fit them with futuristic weaponry, and put them to use in a war between animal hybrid aliens and humans from the future and you've got a recipe for entertainment. A cartoon debuted in 1988 but lasted just 14 episodes since it was essentially made to promote the launch of Tyco's Dino-Riders toy line. The toys were very successful, and even spawned a spinoff comic from Marvel and other merchandise before fading away. 

Reboot status: This one is admittedly a long shot. While we don't doubt Dino-Riders would make an amazing movie, there has been no talk of one ever happening (other than online pleas from hopeful fans). But who knows, dinosaurs are having a moment again with Jurassic World rampaging through the box office this summer and Pixar's The Good Dinosaur arriving this Thanksgiving, so we might just see a Dino-Riders movie yet.
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