Individual stocks can enjoy head-turning rallies over short periods of time. As of this writing, for example, the top stock in the S&P 500 has risen by just under 200% so far in 2018.

But the real life-changing returns occur over time frames that are measured in years or even decades. So, with that ultra-long-term focus in mind, we asked three Motley Fool contributors to highlight a few stocks with unusually strong outlooks. Here's why NVIDIA (NASDAQ:NVDA), Constellation Brands (NYSE:STZ), and Stanley Black & Decker (NYSE:SWK) made that list.

An electronics maker for the ages

Nicholas Rossolillo (NVIDIA): I've always been a fan of the semiconductor industry. I think semiconductors are building blocks of the future -- a modern-day commodity of sorts -- so one of my first individual stock purchases over a decade ago was a chipmaker. Unfortunately, it wasn't NVIDIA. The maker of graphics processing units (GPUs) didn't hit my buy-list radar until much later as I never saw a future for the company outside of the video game industry.

An engineer at work on a chip.

Image source: Getty Images.

I was obviously wrong. NVIDIA's stock has been up nearly 2,000% over the last 10 years as research and development into new applications for GPUs has begun to pay off. However, much of that return has come in just the last few years, so the company's run could be just beginning.

To be fair, the video gaming industry is still NVIDIA's bread and butter. The segment generated 58% of the $3.12 billion total revenue in the second quarter of 2018, a 52% year-over-year increase. However, the balance of sales is coming from other emerging and fast-growing segments that sell graphics chips to automakers, data center operators, engineering and architecture companies, graphic artists, and developers of artificial intelligence developers.

Collectively, those segments grew 26% in the last quarter compared with results a year ago. That number is even more impressive considering that NVIDIA just reported the sudden disappearance of its cryptocurrency mining sales, a segment that was providing a big boost to sales in the last year. That's OK, though, considering the GPU maker has successfully demonstrated the broad-based application of its product. More irons are in the fire, like video cards for the visual effects industry in support of show business, not to mention the ever-increasing popularity of video games around the globe.

The future looks bright for the chipmaking industry in general, but NVIDIA has demonstrated that it's one of the best in its class. The company looks to me like a great long-term, buy-and-forget-about-it stock.

Cheers to decades of growth

Demitri Kalogeropoulos (Constellation Brands): Beer has been a popular beverage for centuries, but it only took Constellation Brands a few years to build up its dominant, and highly profitable, position in that timeless consumer niche. Thanks mainly to its $4 billion purchase of Mexican imported beer franchises including Corona and Pacifico, the company's earnings have grown at a 20% or better clip in each of the last five fiscal years. Constellation Brands has done a great job of soaking up market share while enhancing the premium status of its brands since 2013. That success is evident in its operating margin, which has shot up to a record 30% of sales from 18% five years ago.

Constellation Brands has been plowing most of that excess cash into initiatives aimed at strengthening its business for the long term, for example by adding brewing capacity and upgrading its manufacturing plants. Meanwhile, management believes it has found its next potentially game-changing investment, this time in the medical and recreational cannabis space. Its $4 billion investment in the niche is risky given all the uncertainty around regulations.

But given Constellation Brands' strong track record of efficient capital allocation, there's a good chance the move will open up another new premium beverage category that the company can dominate with help from competitive strengths like marketing, branding, and low-cost manufacturing.

One Dividend King to rule them

Rich Duprey (Stanley Black & Decker): Few companies have the historical record that Stanley Black & Decker has achieved. During its 175 years in operation, the owner of brands like Porter-Cable, DeWalt, Milwaukee -- and, of course, Stanley and Black & Decker -- has paid a dividend to shareholders for 141 of them and has raised the payout for the last 51 years, making it one of two dozen or so Dividend Kings.

A customer tries out a power drill.

Image source: Getty Images.

Although its stock is up only 4% over the past year, Stanley's business remains rock-solid as it has built a foundation of growth on a mix between acquisitions and organic increases. It has gathered under its umbrella some of the most impressive names in the tool business, as noted above, but has also expanded its reach into engineered fastening products and corporate security and monitoring services. It sells over half a million products in 50 countries, generating some $13 billion in annual revenue.

Its dividend of $2.64 per share yields a modest but very healthy 1.8%, and analysts expect Stanley to grow earnings at an 11% compounded annual rate. Management has its own set of goals, where it's targeting 10% to 12% revenue and earnings-per-share growth, and conversion of 100% or more of its net income into free cash flow.

While old-line companies can and do fall by the wayside, Stanley Black & Decker is one you can confidently buy and expect to still be holding 50 years from now.