15 Great Movies That Spawned Terrible Sequels


It’s often claimed that good things come in threes, but try telling that to anyone who sat through the Big Momma’s House trilogy. Film sequels, in essence, are nothing new in Hollywood—the very first sequel came back in 1916 with the silent film The Fall of a Nation, Thomas Dixon Jr.‘s follow-up to D. W. Griffith’s jaw-droppingly racist epic, Birth of a Nation.

However, the concept only became commonplace in the 1970s when a string of follow-ups to successful dramas made waves at the box office. The Godfather, Part II, Rocky II, and The French Connection II were among the first movies that helped usher in this new era of filmmaking. Today though, moviedom has expanded beyond even the sequel and into new territory where the word “franchise” is king. Buoyed in recent times by the dominance of comic book movies and an increasing appetite for nostalgia, the sequel now reigns supreme at the box office along with the prequel, the reboot, and the lesser spotted requel. 

But while the past 50-plus years have delivered several examples of great sequels, for every Aliens or Lethal Weapon 2, there’s a Prometheus or Lethal Weapon 4 waiting to spoil the party. The fact is that no franchise is immune to the arrival of at least one duff sequel—Spider-Man 3, anyone?—yet it’s worth sparing a thought for the franchises that, in hindsight, probably would have been better off remaining as classic standalone movies and may have even had their reputation damaged by the presence of multiple inferior follow-ups. Here are 15 prime examples.

The Matrix

The Matrix delivered an exciting mix of martial arts, cyberpunk sci-fi, and guns, lots of guns, when it arrived in the summer of 1999. But while the original focused on our heroes’ ability to bend “reality” while fighting agents in the Matrix, the sequels placed equal focus on life outside in the grim, gray reality of the real world where cave raves were the order of the day. 

That meant less bullet time, and the action that did feature simply couldn’t match the thrills of the original’s big office block shootout finale. Instead fans got two sequels bogged down in philosophy and mythology, as well as a modern “requel” that was unique in garnering dislike from both fans of the original Matrix and the two sequels. Its problems united a divided fanbase.


Jaws was the movie that made Steven Spielberg a household name and is credited as the film that ushered in the era of the summer blockbuster. A sequel may have been inevitable, but what fans got suggests everyone probably should have stayed out of the water, permanently. Jaws 2 was a largely pointless retread of the first movie, minus any memorable characters or tension while Jaws 3D took things into even choppier waters by going heavy on effects and light on everything else.

The less said about the eventual franchise killer, Jaws: The Revenge, the better, though the thoughts of its star Michael Caine sum it up best. “I’ve never seen it,” he remarked in one interview. “Somebody said, ‘Have you ever seen Jaws 4?’ I said, ‘No. But I’ve seen the house it bought for my mum.’”


No one expected this mid-budget Luc Besson-penned revenge thriller to do the kind of business it did in 2008. It’s sometimes forgotten that Taken ushered in a whole subgenre of aging leading men embarking on missions of revenge with the likes of Sean Penn, Kevin Costner, and John Travolta getting in on the act with decidedly mixed results.

Having seen how these pale imitators were received, Taken should have probably “taken” the hint and left it as a standalone film. Instead we got Taken 2, which largely fell back on the formula of the first movie, save for making the fatal errors of sidelining star man Liam Neeson for much of the movie’s runtime and dialing down the violence in hopes of attracting an even bigger audience. The third film found a way to dilute things even further prompting one review to proclaim, “Taken 3 makes Taken 2 look like Taken.” Ouch.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Though Seth Rogen’s upcoming effort might buck the trend, only the original Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie passes muster with fans and newcomers alike, having effectively walked the line between the character’s comic book origins and the more family friendly animated series. It was funny and colorful, but also had edge and action. It felt like a real movie made in that period between the end of the ‘80s and beginning of the ‘90s.

While Todd W. Langen and Bobby Herbeck’s script deserves credit, much of the praise should go to director Steve Barron, who used his background in working on music videos to create a vibrant adaptation of the heroes in the half shell. Replicating that felt like an impossible task, but producers made it that bit tougher when they opted against bringing Barron back. The decision to tone down the original movie’s violence and draft in Vanilla Ice for a painful cameo and soundtrack didn’t help. After a forgettable third film in which the Turtles traveled to 17th century Japan, the franchise was rebooted with a computer-animated effort and two Transformers-inspired Michael Bay monstrosities. 

Jurassic Park

You would have thought after witnessing the mauling Jaws 2 received from critics upon release that Spielberg would have avoided dipping his toe into the world of sequels with a follow-up to Jurassic Park. Creating a follow-up to one of the 1990s’ biggest and most iconic blockbusters was always going to be tricky, especially when it came to replicating the original’s unique blend of genuine horror, scares, and family friendly adventure. There was a lot of room for failure or disappointment.

And in 1997, that came to fruition. The Lost World: Jurassic Park is way too dark and brutal, with a Godzilla-esque ending tacked on that features a T-Rex rampaging through San Diego long after you’re ready to get up and leave. So after going too dark for this first sequel, attempts were made to lighten things up a few years later in Jurassic Park 3, a film memorable only for a dream sequence involving a talking dinosaur. That felt like a franchise low, but that was an innocent time, a bygone age before the era of Jurassic World and its trilogy of films that were light on plot, scares, and characterization, but heavy on “hey it’s that guy!” moments, super-duper dinosaurs with Predator powers, killer locusts, and Owen Grady’s raptor hand gestures working inexplicably on every dinosaur he meets.


Halloween might be about as close as it gets to the perfect horror movie. It’s also a film that essentially birthed the entire slasher genre and one that, perhaps, should have stayed as a one-off. John Carpenter may have gone on to co-write the sequel with co-creator Debra Hill, but the pair were famously hesitant to make a sequel, having decided that the shock disappearance of Myers in the final moments of the original was the perfect way to end the story.

But producers felt otherwise and pushed ahead with plans, forcing Carpenter and Hill’s hand, with the pair preferring to have a say in any follow-up rather than see their creation bastardized further. If only they knew what was to come. After the fun but flawed detour that was Halloween III: Season of the Witch, the franchise descended into identikit slasher sequel territory.

Attempts were made to modernize things with entries like the Scream-inspired Halloween H20 (still no idea what the connection to water was) while a recent reboot trilogy started steadily enough, but any goodwill fans had all but dried up by the third effort, a bizarre mostly Myers-less effort that might yet prove to have been a dagger to the heart of the franchise.


The original Ghostbusters always felt like the cinematic equivalent of lightning in a bottle; a group of filmmakers and actors coming together at the peak of their powers to deliver a true one-off that was somehow both terrifying and hilarious in almost equal turn. Bill Murray was always hesitant to return to the role of Peter Venkman and only did so after being sold on an idea for the sequel that then failed to actually materialize into a finished script. “It ended up not being the story they wrote,” he told People. “They got us in the sequel under false pretenses.”

The sense of dissatisfaction around the film was largely shared by fans and a third effort never properly got off the ground. Not while all the original actors were alive, in any case. In recent years, we’ve seen the arrival of a female-led reboot inspired by the success of movies like Bridesmaids and another effort emulating Stranger Things and the blatant fan service of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The former probably wasn’t as bad as some made out while the latter wasn’t as good as many tried to claim. Lightning just doesn’t strike twice.


Highlander was released with the tagline, “There can only be one.” It’s proven strangely prophetic. Only one movie could get away with sword-wielding immortals with a penchant for beheadings, Christopher Lambert playing a Scotsman, and Sean Connery playing an Egyptian while we all rocked out to that Queen soundtrack. Somehow director Russell Mulcahy made it work on that first-go. 

But while a TV series spin-off featuring MacLeod and company was enjoyable enough, fans gained little from the subsequent big screen outings. Highlander II: The Quickening contradicted the lore established in the first film with immortals repositioned as aliens fighting an evil corporation that has gained control of an artificial ozone layer. Connery also returned, despite being left decidedly headless after the first movie. Though Mulcahy later released a director’s cut, the damage had been done. Highlander III: The Sorcerer was a bigger budget retread of the first movie, and Highlander: Endgame failed to live up to its title. Afterward there were multiple sequels that went straight to video.

The Crow

That The Crow made it to multiplexes is nothing short of a miracle given the much-publicized death of its star Brandon Lee in a fatal shooting accident that occurred during filming. That director Alex Proyas was able to craft such a stylishly dark and atmospheric action movie in these circumstances was even more extraordinary.

But rather than leave The Crow as a true cult movie and heartbreaking tribute to Lee, within two years a sequel had arrived. The Crow: City of Angels may have featured a memorable supporting turn from Iggy Pop, but it lacked the pacing or the atmosphere of the original with star Vincent Perez a poor stand-in for Lee. Two direct-to-video sequels followed, with the death knell for the franchise coming in the form of 2005’s The Crow: Wicked Prayer, a violent, incoherent mess with a cast that reads like the latest installment of Sharknado. This time around Terminator 2’s Edward Furlong donned the black and white makeup in search of vengeance against David Boreanaz and Tara Reid.


For a certain generation of moviegoers with a certain set of tastes, RoboCop is nothing short of perfection. A sly slice of ultra-violent satirical science fiction that still manages to be horrifying, hilarious, and heartbreaking in equal measure. In the pantheon of ‘80s sci-fi, it simply cannot be topped. Yet somehow frequent attempts have been made to do exactly that.

RoboCop 2 came closest to replicating it and had some big talent behind it in the form of writer Frank Miller and director Irvin “The Empire Strikes Back” Kershner. But despite all of the necessary elements being present and correct from Tom Noonan’s memorable bad guy Kane to the same mix of bloodlust and satire that made the first so effective, everything felt blunter and a little less impactful this time around. By the time plans for a third film came around, RoboCop had somehow emerged as a favorite figure among kids, resulting in a dumbed down third film involving robot ninjas (this was the ‘90s). Yet somehow even that was more palatable than what they did with the more recent remake, a bloodless and largely forgettable affair that, thankfully, appears to have permanently put plans for more movies on ice.


The tenth installment in the ever-expanding Saw franchise is due to be released in 2023, but it’s worth remembering how it all began. James Wan’s original Saw was as much a thriller as it was a horror movie, boasting a nonlinear narrative that centered on the mystery of who exactly was the infamous “Jigsaw” killer. The series’ signature traps may still have featured along with the familiar bucketloads of gore, but, narratively speaking, the movie had more in common with Se7en, which was an obvious influence on the proceedings. Meanwhile the presence of Cary Elwes in the cast elevated the drama that bit further.

Of course sequels are something of an inevitability in the world of horror, but the Saw follow-ups quickly did away with any of the original’s intrigue, with each entry essentially presenting a set of random characters in a generically grimy setting before forcing them to go through a series of traps with predictably gruesome results. What makes the Saw sequels all the more egregious though was the way they ushered in the era of “torture porn” where gripping narrative largely done away with in favor of eye-popping special effects.


When cult horror comedy Tremors first arrived in 1990, few could have predicted the movie would spawn a whopping six direct-to-video sequels, including one prequel. But Tremors did arrive at a time when Blockbuster was king and VHS rentals represented big business in the movie making world.

Creators S.S. Wilson and Brent Maddock, as well as the original film’s director Ron Underwood, deserve huge credit for creating a horror comedy that was both hilarious and terrifying, and featured a fresh and impressively eclectic cast. However, it might be even more fondly remembered had its impact not been diluted by the decision to follow such dignitaries as Leprechaun in having a seemingly endless stream of sequels. The most recent, Tremors: Shrieker Island, starred Jon “Napoleon Dynamite” Heder. No offense, but he’s no Kevin Bacon.

The Hangover

The Hangover was something of a game changer in Hollywood. Without it, we may not have gotten Joker, Bradley Cooper might never have established himself as a leading man, and Zach Galifianakis would not be a household name. Not only did it inspire a new generation of men to go off in search of adventure in Vegas, but it reminded Hollywood that there was still an appetite for adult-orientated comedy movies. 

In depicting the ultimate night of debauchery, the film ended up becoming the highest-grossing R-rated comedy ever in the U.S. But, like any legendary night on the town, trying to replicate that magic was an impossible task. While The Hangover Part II was a blatant retread of the original movie, save changing the location from Vegas to Bangkok, the third film wasn’t really about hangovers at all, and instead became a heist movie that gave too much screen time to Ken Jeong’s Leslie Chow.

Dumb and Dumber

Dumb and Dumber was not a film that lent itself towards a sequel. Arriving at the apex of Jim Carrey’s comedy movie career, with rising stars the Farrelly Brothers delivering the first of what would prove to be a string of toilet humor-led, slapstick comedy classics, and Jeff Daniels playing against type to hilarious effect, it felt like a one-and-done operation, with the ending offering little scope for a sequel.

Yet, to quote Jurassic Park, life finds a way. In the first instance, it came courtesy of Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd, an early 2000s effort that sought to cash-in on our strange obsession with prequels at the time. Lacking the jokes, charm, or stars of the original, it’s only significant for featuring Shia Leboeuf in a supporting role he would probably rather forget. Then came 2014’s Dumb and Dumber To. Suddenly the Farrellys’ jokes felt out-of-date and overly crude while the sight of Carrey and Daniels attempting to recapture former glories was just sad. 


Anyone who skipped the original Rambo movie, First Blood, would have been utterly baffled to return to it having seen the violent, muscle-bound shoot-a-thons that followed. Yet First Blood remains far and away the best. As action movies go, it’s pretty complex, with Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo playing the role of antihero as the Vietnam vet who goes on a rampage after Brian Dennehy’s small town sheriff triggers his violent side. First Blood is first and foremost a drama showcasing how the torture of Vietnam continues for those who fought, and Rambo actually dies at the end of the book the first film is based on by David Morrell. 

Yet Stallone could not countenance that. So, instead, the sequel moved away from the anti-war message. Rambo II became an exercise in wish fulfillment with Rambo re-fighting and winning the war in Vietnam single-handedly, while the less said about Rambo III’s take on the conflict in Afghanistan the better. Twenty-first century efforts Rambo and Rambo: Last Blood thankfully moved away from real-life conflicts but that’s probably the only positive gleaned from either of these grossly violent entries. Maybe Rambo would have been better off dead.

The post 15 Great Movies That Spawned Terrible Sequels appeared first on Den of Geek.

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