Dr. Mabuse (1922–1990): Novelist Nobert Jacques’ best-known creation is Dr. Mabuse, a mysterious criminal who eludes detection through his mastery of disguise and who, at his most powerful, seems to control all of society. Director Fritz Lang was particularly taken with him: Starting with 1922’s Dr. Mabuse the Gambler, he made three Mabuse films, even making him the focus of his swan song, 1960’s The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse. Several others have taken up the mantle, including Jess Franco and, most recently, the late Claude Chabrol.
Wong Fei-hung (1949– ): A martial artist, physician and revolutionary who died in 1924, this renaissance man’s lasting legacy is as a folk hero whose likeness has appeared in a record 89 (!!) films, starting in 1949 and continuing, with few gaps, into today.
Mothra (1961– ): Godzilla has appeared perpetually since the 1954 original. But don’t discount Mothra, his winged antagonist and sometime ally, who received her own vehicle in 1961 and often shared titles with her lizardlike costar. Her most recent appearance was also Godzilla’s, in 2004’s Godzilla: Final Wars.
James Bond (1962– ): A British series concerning a shape-shifting functioning alcoholic, recreational fucker and final, delusional symbol of world dominance from a shrunken empire.
Coffin Joe (1963– ): Speaking canonically, there are only three films in the series devoted to José Mojica Marins’ Coffin Joe, a Brazilian, philosophical psychopath with an all-black attire and endless fingernails. But they span five decades, starting with 1963’s At Midnight I’ll Take Your Soul and concluding with 2008’s absurdly OTT Embodiment of Evil. In between, Joe has been a constant presence in films, TV shows, even songs.
The Up Series (1964– ) In 1964, a British TV crew made Seven Up!, a short doc that visited 14 seven-year-olds, premised upon the idea that an Englishperson’s future is predicated upon background and class. Then Michael Apted, a researcher on the show, had an even more profound idea: He would visit the kids every seven years, not only to see if this argument was correct, but also to remark more cosmically on aging and life in general. With the new 56 Up, it appears the premise was more or less correct. But whether vocational success is an arbiter of happiness is another story.
2014 Films: The Year’s Most Likely