The A.V. Club's franchise finder: Where to stream The Matrix, Indiana Jones, Fast & Furious, and more

Clockwise from top left: The Matrix (Screenshot); Back To The Future (Screenshot); The Hunger Games (Screenshot)
Clockwise from top left: The Matrix (Screenshot); Back To The Future (Screenshot); The Hunger Games (Screenshot)

Streaming libraries expand and contract. Algorithms are imperfect. Those damn thumbnail images are always changing. But you know what you can always rely on? The expert opinions and knowledgeable commentary of The A.V. Club. That’s why we’re scouring both the menus of the most popular services and our own archives to bring you these guides to the best viewing options. With this piece, we’re trying something different: As a wider array of movie studios move their libraries to platforms owned by their parent companies, the question of where certain films from certain franchises are streaming grows increasingly complicated. Why license a fan favorite when you can bring those fans in as new subscribers? Perhaps because you produced a popular fantasy series and you signed a nine-year exclusive agreement with a rival’s TV arm before HBO Max or Peacock were ever a glimmer in your eyes?

With that in mind, we’ve selected a handful of the biggest movie series of the past 40-odd years, and to the best of our ability, tracked down which subscriptions you’d need to watch them. We’ve also noted who owns each franchise, so you might know where to go looking when they inevitably leave their current streaming homes.

Managing editor, The A.V. Club

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Alien

Alien

In 1979, Ridley Scott sicced the “perfect organism” on the intergalactic long-haulers of the commercial towing vehicle Nostromo, and Alien’s fusion of science fiction and horror laid dozens of eggs across the pop culture landscape. Like the slimy, H.R. Geiger-designed predator (who would later fight the Predator) at its center, the Alien films have a habit of picking up some DNA from whatever lifeform they’ve made their latest host, resulting in the high-octane bug hunt of James Cameron’s Aliens; the arrestingly photographed space prison of David Fincher’s Alien³; and, eventually, Scott coming full circle to probe the ghosts in Alien’s machines in two prequels. 

Who owns it? The Walt Disney Company, following its acquisition of 20th Century Fox

Where is it streaming? HBO Max—you’re not going to see a chestburster on Disney+ unless it’s Itchy popping out of Scratchy in “Deep Space Homer.”

How much of it is there? The original “quadrilogy”—Alien, Aliens, Alien³, and Alien: Resurrection—plus both Alien Vs. Predator movies and the first of Scott’s prequels, Prometheus. Alien: Covenant is streaming on FX Now and is available for purchase or rental from the major digital platforms.

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Back To The Future

Back To The Future

35 years after Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) first ruptured the space-time continuum, we’ve all heard the jokes: The biggest film of 1985 is about a kid whose best friend is (apologies and gratitude to John Mulaney) a disgraced nuclear physicist, and that kid goes on the time-traveling adventure of a lifetime wherein he must secure his own future by successfully warding off the romantic advances of his own mother. It’s incredible that Back To The Future was made in the first place; it is an unrepeatable miracle that director Robert Zemeckis and his longtime screenwriting partner Bob Gale managed to make it so fleet and entertaining and engaging—and that they managed to do the same, with added mind-bending plots and genre homages—two more times.

Who owns it? NBCUniversal and Amblin Entertainment, whose contracts with the screenwriters stipulate that Zemeckis and Gale must be consulted before any new Back To The Future projects can even be scripted—virtually preserving the franchise’s cinematic footprint as the original trilogy. (Looking to spend more time with Marty and Doc? Look to comics, games, and animated series—but not, sadly, the grounds of Universal Studios theme parks.)

Where is it streaming? Netflix

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Batman (1989-1997)

Batman (1989-1997)

It’s been said that the series of films that began with Tim Burton’s 1989 take on the Caped Crusader now play like the blockbusters of an entirely different era, but the nocturnal Gotham City exploits of Michael Keaton, Val Kilmer, and George Clooney are all, in their own way, responsible for our ongoing age of heroes. Wherever there is a disproportionate reaction to superhero casting; an unexpected swerve into darkness (followed by an equal but opposite flying leap into camp); an onscreen murder of Thomas and Martha Wayne; or an actor earning untold riches and/or Oscar gold by playing the Crown Prince of Crime, the Bat-Signal of these wild, game-changing films still shines. 

Who owns it? WarnerMedia

Where is it streaming? HBO Max

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The Dark Knight Trilogy

The Dark Knight Trilogy

Christopher Nolan coaxed Batman and company out of cinematic retreat with three films set in a Gotham that was grounded in post-9/11 realities and anxieties, but no less primed for fisticuffs between outrageously costumed adversaries.

Who owns it? WarnerMedia

Where is it streaming? The first entry in the series, 2005’s globetrotting origin story Batman Begins, is currently available on HBO Max. For the month of November 2020, it’ll be joined by its superior sequel, The Dark Knight; the pretty decent trilogy-capper The Dark Knight Rises can be rented or purchased from the major digital platforms. In December, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight begin an exclusive run on Peacock.

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Fast & Furious

Fast & Furious

What began as a humble heist film built around turn-of-the-21st-century interests in street racing has had increasingly large tanks of NOS strapped to it in recent years, bringing the likes of Dwayne Johnson, Charlize Theron, and John Cena into the orbit of Dominic Toretto and his cherished family (biological and chosen) of gearheads-turned-international special ops agents. 

Who owns it? NBCUniversal

Where is it streaming? As of October 2020, you can watch The Fast & The Furious: Tokyo Drift (the no-longer-standalone threequel that once looked like the end of the road for a fading franchise) and Fast & Furious (the 2009 jumpstart that connected Tokyo Drift director Justin Lin with the original cast and reset the whole series’ chronology) for free on Peacock. Fast Five, which paved Dom and the gang’s path to international espionage, is now on HBO Max, along with the spin-off made possible by that shift in focus, Fast & Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw. The remaining films are available for rental or purchase from the major digital platforms.

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Harry Potter

Harry Potter

A warm, whimsical low-fantasy epic that, like its adolescent protagonists, grows incrementally mature and sophisticated over the course of eight films. Backed by engaging mysteries and immersive mythology, Harry Potter’s (Daniel Radcliffe) journey from orphan under the stairs to chosen conqueror of magical evil manages to espouse the virtues of compassion, tolerance, and doing the right thing in the face of insurmountable odds—qualities that all seem to have recently escaped its creator.

Who owns it? WarnerMedia

Where is it streaming? Nowhere, at the moment. As part of NBCUniversal’s ongoing deal with Warner—struck before either had an online platform to call their own—the Potter films will be bouncing around NBCU’s broadcast, cable, and streaming offerings until 2025. (Barring the type of wheeling and dealing that put all eight movies on HBO Max at launch.) As of November 2020, we’re in one of those periods where the Wizarding World belongs to E!, Syfy, and USA; according to Observer, the films will return to Peacock in 2021. 

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The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games

Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) finds herself at the center of a rebellion against the authoritarian government of the post-apocalyptic dystopia Panem, which for years has forced young men and women from its 12 Districts to fight to the death in an annual, televised event called The Hunger Games.

Who owns it? Lionsgate

Where is it streaming? All four films are streaming on Amazon Prime Video

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Indiana Jones

Indiana Jones

Dr. Henry Walton “Indiana” Jones, Jr. (Harrison Ford) is a professor of archaeology whose areas of expertise also allow him to be a roguish, Nazi-punching adventurer and explorer in the mold of the heroes George Lucas and Steven Spielberg grew up cheering on in the Republic Pictures serials of the 1940s.

Who owns it? Disney, which got Indy’s three rollicking ’80s features (and the 2008 one with Shia LaBeouf) in its 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm.

Where is it streaming? Netflix

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The Matrix

The Matrix

Pulling from philosophy texts, cyberpunk literature, and classics of anime and Hong Kong action cinema, Lana and Lilly Wachowski created the hot-shit science-fiction sensation of 1999: A hacker (Keanu Reeves) learns he’s living in a simulation and joins with the human resistance against the intelligent machines responsible for this virtual reality. Amid all the wire-fu and“bullet time” action sequences, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions took Neo, Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss), and Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) into headier territory—baffling to the audiences of 2003, but now viewed as worthy successors to the first film.

Who owns it? WarnerMedia

Where is it streaming? With a fourth film somewhere out there on the post-COVID horizon, HBO Max added The Matrix, Reloaded, and Revolutions in October 2020.

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Mission: Impossible

Mission: Impossible

Your mission, should you choose to accept it: Track Ethan Hunt (Tom Cruise) and the Impossible Missions Force across seven (and counting) movies—the first four of which went through a directorial revolving door (Brian De Palma, John Woo, J.J. Abrams, and Brad Bird) before Cruise’s zeal for death-defying stunt work found its ultimate match in Christopher McQuarrie.

Who owns it? Paramount

Where is it streaming? The one where Cruise leads an aerial chase through mountainous territory from behind the stick of a helicopter (Mission: Impossible—Fallout) and the one where he climbs up the side of the Burj Khalifa (Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol) are streaming on Hulu and Amazon. The remaining films are available for rental or purchase from the major digital platforms.

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The Muppets

The Muppets

A road movie. A gloriously self-aware heist flick. A tribute to The Great White Way. Eye-popping, toe-tapping adaptations of Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson. A science-fiction comedy steeped in the cosmic imagery of 1970s funk. A loving reboot from the generation that grew up with the first three movies. Another gloriously self-aware heist flick. Thanks to the lovers, the dreams, and you, The Muppets have been able to do all of the above—and then some.

Who owns it? If only things were as simples as that standard rich and famous contract Kermit The Frog and friends signed with World Wide Studio. When The Jim Henson Company sold the Muppets to Disney in 2004, the sale included some, but not all, of the character’s cinematic back catalog: The Muppet Movie, The Great Muppet Caper, The Muppet Christmas Carol, and Muppet Treasure Island (the last two of which were co-produced with Disney). The Muppets Take Manhattan (produced in association with TriStar Pictures) and Muppets From Space (part of a fizzled development deal with Sony) stayed at Sony.

Where is it streaming? To make matters more complicated, the two Muppet movies Disney made in-house following the acquisition, The Muppets and Muppets Most Wanted, are over on Netflix right now. The Disney-owned features from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s are on Disney+, while Showtime subscribers can stream The Muppets Take Manhattan and Muppets From Space.

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Star Trek

Star Trek

The voyages of the starship(s) Enterprise, from the Original Series crew’s Star Wars-abetted second life in cinemas to The Next Generation’s big screen face-off with The Borg (and adversaries who are not as interesting as The Borg) to the more action-oriented features of the Kelvin timeline.

Who owns it? Paramount

Where is it streaming? Like their televised source material, the Star Trek movies are available on a wide range of subscription services: Amazon has the most comprehensive collection, spanning the first eight in the main continuity, from Star Trek: The Motion Picture through Star Trek: First Contact. You can watch Insurrection on Hulu, which also has the six TOS movies minus The Voyage Home; if you’re craving that film’s whale-saving action, hop on over to CBS All Access, where you’ll also find the final Next Generation movie, Nemesis. J.J. Abrams’ first Kelvin timeline Star Trek is on HBO Max, and its two sequels can be rented or purchased on the major digital platforms.

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Twilight

Twilight

The romance between new-kid-in-town Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart) and curiously pale teen Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) is at the center of a supernatural tempest involving vampire-werewolf-human love triangles; clashing clans of blood suckers; and, of course, that most beloved and well known pastime of creatures of the night, super-powered baseball match-ups during thunderstorms. 

Who owns it? Lionsgate

Where is it streaming? Hulu has the complete saga.

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X-Men

X-Men

Mutants live among us, more or less aligned with one of two factions: Those who wish to harness their powers for good under the tutelage of telekinetic Charles “Professor X” Xavier (Patrick Stewart and James McAvoy) at his school for gifted youngsters, and those who follow Erik Magnus “Magneto” Lehnsherr (Ian McKellen and Michael Fassbender) in his quest for revenge against their less-evolved oppressors.

Who owns it? If Disney’s absorption of 20th Century Fox has any silver lining (and there’s really no silver lining in 21st century media consolidation), it’s that the characters from the Fox-produced X-Men films may finally get to meet their comic-book counterparts onscreen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Where is it streaming? X-Men, X2, The Wolverine, X-Men: Days Of Future Past, and X-Men: Apocalypse can be found on Disney+. X-Men: First Class and Dark Phoenix are on HBO Max. X-Men: The Last Stand and X-Men Origins: Wolverine are without a streaming home, and that’s probably for the best.

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Managing editor, The A.V. Club