Fifty years is a long time. Yet there are a select few businesses that can not only survive, but also thrive for multiple decades -- and those that do can generate fortunes for their investors along the way.

The following three companies are part of this elite group of companies, and their stocks are likely to reward their shareholders with handsome profits for the next half-century and beyond.

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The entertainment colossus

Disney's (NYSE:DIS) timeless brands, characters, and storylines make up an irreplaceable collection of assets -- one that's fueled its growth for nearly a century, and that should continue to do so for decades to come.

Disney monetizes these assets via its movie studios, cable networks, theme parks, cruise ships, and merchandising. This global distribution system generates bountiful free cash flow, which Disney passes on to its shareholders via stock buybacks and a rising dividend income stream.

Disney's strong cash generation also allows it to acquire new intellectual property (IP) when opportunities arise. ESPN, Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm have all found their way into Disney's clutches. In the process, the company has acquired massively popular TV and movie franchises like SportsCenter, Toy Story, The Avengers, and Star Wars, among many others. Combined with its namesake Disney brand, these franchises form a vast IP portfolio that's simply unparalleled.

Moreover, Disney has a proven track record of adapting to new technologies. It successfully transitioned its movie business from VCR tapes to DVDs and now streaming video, following the blockbuster launch of Disney+. Disney's tech capabilities should allow it to continue to adapt to changing trends in the decades ahead, allowing its shareholders to profit for many years to come.

The trash titan

The world is almost certain to produce enormous amounts of garbage in 50 years. That may be an unfortunate outcome for the environment, but it represents a lucrative future for Waste Management (NYSE:WM).

The aptly named company is the leading provider of waste management solutions in North America. It offers collection, transfer, recycling, and landfill services that help individuals, businesses, and municipalities manage their trash. 

Like Disney, Waste Management has built an irreplaceable collection of assets. For the garbage king, this comes in the form of its unmatched landfill network. Strict regulations and homeowner opposition make it difficult to build new waste facilities, so Waste Management's landfills are essentially regional monopolies with corresponding pricing power. In turn, the trash giant generates enviable returns on capital and robust free cash flow, which it uses to reward shareholders with share repurchases and a steadily increasing dividend. 

Also like Disney, Waste Management allocates some of its cash flow toward acquisitions. Rather than attempt to build new waste facilities, Waste Management typically makes several small tuck-in acquisitions every year. By buying its smaller competitors, it's able to grow its market share and further strengthen its waste disposal network. Waste Management also makes larger acquisitions from time to time, such as its recent $4.9 billion bid to purchase of Advanced Disposal Services, to accelerate its growth.

Better still, the U.S. population is projected to rise in the coming decades, which should fuel steady increases in demand for Waste Management's services. That should lead to higher revenue and earnings, as well as profits for investors.

The defense giant

War will unfortunately also likely remain a part of our future in the coming decades. And even if we are lucky to enjoy peace, there will be a need for companies that help to preserve it. That's where Lockheed Martin (NYSE:LMT) comes in.

Lockheed Martin is the world's largest defense contractor. At the core of its formidable defense systems portfolio is the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. The stealth warplane will serve vital roles for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps, as well as about a dozen other nations' defense forces. 

The F-35 is projected to remain in service until at least 2070. Over the next five decades, the Joint Strike Fighter program is expected to generate well over $1 trillion in revenue for Lockheed.

Yet Lockheed is far more than just a one-trick pony. In addition to the F-35, the defense leader has promising businesses in helicopters, missile defense, and spacecraft. Together with the F-35, these businesses should continue to produce handsome profits for Lockheed and its shareholders in the decades ahead.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.