Top 10 Movies Ruined By Their Franchise

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We’ve seen it happen over and over again: a new movie comes along that is both entertaining and fresh, only to be followed by countless sequels and spinoffs that are not only terrible in their own right, but also somehow manage to damage the credibility and popularity of the original film. Here are ten of the worst examples of rampant franchising that spoiled an otherwise great cinematic property.

The top 10 movies ruined by their franchise (in chronological order):

10. Planet of the Apes (1968)

The Original

Franklin J. Schaffner’s original film is a low budget sci-fi masterpiece. It follows a group of astronauts who crash-land on a bizarre foreign planet populated by a race of highly evolved apes. The scientists discover that not only are the apes the masters of this planet, but humans are a hunted species and beasts of burden. Featuring groundbreaking special effects and makeup, Planet of the Apes is a crucial part of American cinematic history.

 

The Franchise

While the original film benefited from a great cast led by Charlton Heston and a magnificent twist ending, the next five films were unable to capture the same spark or magic. That’s not to say that they were universally hated. They maintained a sense of cheesy, B-movie sci-fi fun for most of the subsequent films. A strong cult following arose surrounding the franchise…at least until Tim Burton’s 2001 remake disgraced the series and singlehandedly stripped the property of any credibility. (Editor’s note: the video clip is not from a sequel, it’s a mashup of Simpsons and POTA footage.)

9. Jaws (1975)

The Original

More than 35 years after its release, Jaws remains one of the greatest horror films ever made. In the film that established director Steven Spielberg’s career as Hollywood’s favorite director, a massive great white shark terrorizes the residents of Amity Island. After eating several swimmers, a rag-tag team comprised of a scientist, a marine biologist, and a shark hunter set out to kill the infernal beast. Infamous both for its iconic score and its technique of rarely actually showing the shark, Jaws helped set the standard for not only modern horror films, but the Hollywood blockbuster.

 

The Franchise

The Jaws franchise marks a steady decline in both technological prowess and quality. The sequels were content with showing the shark as much as possible, stripping the films of any kind of suspense. While the second film had its merits, the franchise really began to sink with Jaws 3-D, a film with a laughable plot and some of the worst special effects ever seen. But nothing could reach the depths of Jaws: The Revenge, which was so bad and unwatchable that it was nominated for the 1987 Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Picture.

8. Halloween (1978)

The Original

Still considered horror pioneer John Carpenter’s masterpiece, Halloween inspired a new genre of film: the slasher. But unlike many of its imitators, Halloween has the unusual distinction of being genuinely terrifying. It follows teenager Laurie Strode as she tries to escape from the wrath of a homicidal mental patient named Michael Myers. While most slashers depend on gore and shock effects, Halloween relied primarily on tension, atmosphere, and the cryptic, unstoppable personal of Michael Myers. Not only did it establish the slasher genre, it created the horror trope of the unstoppable, inescapable killer- later realized in the characters of Jason Voorhees, Freddy Krueger, and Pinhead.

The Franchise:

The Halloween franchise suffered a schizophrenic set of sequels. Halloween III: Season of the Witch was literally completely unrelated to the first two films and didn’t even feature Michael Myers. The next several films completely ruined the character of Michael Myers, giving him a ridiculous origin story and making him seem supernatural instead of just psychotic. The franchise withered under the weight of seven sequels before being revived in 2007 with a remake by Rob Zombie. Reactions to the remakes are mixed, with some saying that they brilliantly revamped the mythos while others claimed that they were just excuses for Rob Zombie to shove as much gore on the screen as possible.

7. Superman (1978)

evil-superman-3

The Original

The 1978 film Superman single-handedly invented the modern superhero genre. Featuring the superb direction of Richard Donner, the film followed the origin of Superman as the last survivor of the planet Krypton. As the champion of planet Earth, he must save the United States from a plot by Lex Luthor to annihilate the entire western seaboard. With the impeccable Christopher Reeve as Superman, the film brought the character, and the idea of the superhero, to life like never before. Featuring ground-breaking effects, Superman was a blockbuster before the blockbuster even existed.

The Franchise

Few franchises swan-dived as quickly and viciously as the Superman series. The first is a brilliant classic. However, things went downhill when Richard Lester replaced the director of the first movie, Richard Donner. Instead of embracing the epic mythos of the Superman universe, Lester injected the sequel with pointless slapstick and comedic relief. Still, the sequel was also regarded as a classic. However, the next two films almost single-handedly killed the superhero film genre for decades. Superman III was essentially a Richard Pryor vehicle and Superman IV featured some of the most laughable villains, plot holes, scientific inaccuracies, and errors to ever hit the screen. The series was rebooted in 2006 with a lackluster remake Superman Returns. At the moment, the series is planned for a second reboot with Zack Snyder directing.

6. Alien (1979)

The Original

To this day, Ridley Scott’s Alien is one of the scariest films ever made. It follows the fates of the crew of a mining ship that receives a strange SOS signal from a distant planet. Upon arrival, they are attacked and picked off one by one by a monstrous creature that seemingly can’t be detected or stopped. Famed for its incredible production and monster design, the film established two of the cinema’s most famous personalities: everywoman survivor Ellen Ripley and the sinister Alien, the latter of which has become one of the most famous film antagonists in history.

 

The Franchise

Let me make one thing clear: this has nothing to do with the sequel Aliens by James Cameron. Many would argue that Aliens is not only as good as the original, but superior. No…this is referring to the abysmal sequels Alien 3 and Alien Resurrection. Both films represent giant steps down from the amazing special effects and visceral storytelling of the first two films. Not only that, but many would argue that they irredeemably damaged the first two films by heartlessly killing off many of its characters. As for the Alien vs. Predator films…the less said, the better.

5. Highlander (1986)

The Original

A fantastically entertaining film, the original Highlander was an old school sword and sorcery flick set, in all places, in New York City. The film follows Connor MacLeod, a member of a race of immortals that has existed since the dawn of time. We watch as MacLeod discovers the truth of his own immortality in the Scottish Highlands of the 16th century, his training, and eventual showdown with a fellow immortal who has been killing their fellows and draining their power. Highlander is a unique fantasy film that managed to create its own distinct, creative mythology and inspired a dedicated cult following.

The Franchise

The Highlander series has become the poster child for horrific franchising within the industry. Hot off the success of the first film, a sequel, Highlander II: The Quickening, was released. To this day, it is regarded as one of the worst films of all time, featuring a plot that completely revamped and ruined the characters and mythos of the first film, featured one of the worst screenplays of the decade, and some of the worst special effects imaginable. The worst part is, the sequel isn’t as bad as it gets. Hollywood seems like it has no intentions of letting this franchise die, as it has suffered through five sequels, each miraculously worse than the one before.

4. Batman (1989)

The Original

While the superhero genre had already been established long before its debut, Tim Burton’s Batman renewed the public’s interest in the genre and in its titular character. The film follows billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne who fights crime at night as the masked vigilante known as Batman. He must grapple with a new and powerful enemy who threatens to spread chaos and death throughout his beloved Gotham City: the psychotic Joker. With its amazing performances and stunning visuals, Batman remains to this day as one of the quintessential examples of the superhero genre.

The Franchise

Again, this is not a slam against its sequel. Batman Returns was a brilliant film that some argue was superior to the first. I’m referring to what happened after Joel Schumacher took over. Instead of continuing Tim Burton’s vision of a dark, hyper-stylized universe for Batman to brood in, Schumacher returned the franchise to its camp roots of the 1960s television show. The third film, Batman Forever, was tolerable, although it definitely had its weaknesses. The fourth film, Batman and Robin, has literally been crowned as one of the all time worst films ever made, ranking up there with the likes of Plan 9 from Outer Space. Schumacher killed the Batman franchise. Thankfully, Christopher Nolan successfully revived the franchise with the one-two punch of Batman Begins and The Dark Knight.

3. The Matrix (1999)

The Original

One of the most influential science fiction films of all time, The Matrix was a film that asked bold, daring questions about the nature of reality and free will. It concerns Neo, a computer programmer who learns that the world as we know it is a simulated reality created by sentient machines in order to harvest humanity’s body heat as a source of energy. He joins a group of rebels in an attempt to fight back against their mechanical overlords. Containing special effects that rewrote the rulebook and some of the greatest action sequences ever filmed, The Matrix changed the face of science fiction cinema.

The Franchise

The problem with most of these entries was that the original films that they were based on weren’t intended to have sequels. As a result, the ensuing films had to rewrite and expand upon the universe that the originals so carefully crafted; usually ruining them in the process (see Highlander). One of the worst victims of this trend is The Matrix series. The first film was entirely self-contained and ended in a way that was intended to end its story. Therefore, the two sequels were forced to invent pointless plot points, characters, and twists in order to keep audiences interested. While they did have great effects and fight scenes, the laughable dialogue and monstrous plots infuriated audiences the world over.

2. Shrek (2001)

The Original

The original Shrek was a high-energy farce of fairy tales that featured lovable characters, incredible animation, and a quotable, hilarious script. It was the story of a massive green ogre called Shrek who departs to save a princess from a castle guarded by a dragon all in a quest to save his swamp home. Along the way, he finds companionship with a loudmouth donkey that helps him rescue the fair damsel who has quite a secret of her own. The film helped establish DreamWorks as a major animation competitor to Pixar and won the first ever Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

 

The Franchise

This is another example of a franchise that should just be stopped. The first film was amazing. The sequel was decent. The third film was unnecessary. The fourth film was just painful to watch. Each film saw delineation from what made the first film so lovable and memorable towards random pop culture references and cameos. The franchise is now a pale shadow of what it once was. The creators have become so strained for ideas that they have devoted a new film, Puss in Boots, to a third-rate character from the second film.

1. Pirates of the Caribbean (2003)

The Original

The original Pirates of the Caribbean was an action packed throwback to the swashbuckling pirate films of old. Although the film was based on a Disneyland ride, it astonished audiences with breathtaking action, magnificent special effects, and memorable characters. At the heart of this film was Johnny Depp’s performance of Captain Jack Sparrow, who has become one of the most beloved and recognizable characters of the last decade.

The Franchise

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The Pirates of the Caribbean franchise suffered not necessarily from bad filmmaking, but from trying to do too much. The first film had a great balance between action and drama, giving the audience time to breathe and recover from each fight scene. The sequels tried to fill the screen with too many special effects, fighting, and explosions. As a result, both sequels were top heavy and were confusing to the audience members who tried to follow the actual story. The third film, At World’s End, was nearly three hours long and featured a plot that left audience members bored and puzzled. Maybe there is still hope for this franchise, as the fourth film, On Stranger Tides, is set to be released this year.


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44 Comments

  1. I think you were a little too hard on a few films here.

    The Tim Burton version of ‘Planet of the Apes’ was awesome. I actually started with Burton’s film first and because of that I watched the originals – *none* of which were that bad.

    The ‘Aliens’ franchise rocks in its’ entirety including Resurrection. Awesome series of films.

    The orginal Matrix was so good the sequel could only go down. The next two films (which is really just one long film) wasn’t bad at all except for the ending. The ending made no sense. A human telepathically (or empathically) communicating with machines. That, and only that, was the ‘jump the shark’ moment. They saved the worst of the “second” film for the last few minutes.

    Agree about Batman to the point that I thought (and still think) that all the pre-Nolan films sucked. Agree with your assesment of the Superman flms.

    Don’t really care enough about the other selections to comment on them. None of the others interested me enough to care whether they got better or worse.

    Hope my comment doesn’t come across as too obtuse. Appreciate the time it takes to put these lists together and love the site.

    Cheers!

    • I agree with you there pax, on every single point – which meant I obviously had to comment. Aside from your opinions, I also think that Pirates of the Caribbean 3 was actually good – when I decided to re watch it. When I first saw it in cinemas I was disappointed but I think that it fell victim to over-hype. When trailers and people hyping it up about how good they think it’s going to be get out of hand expectations go through the roof and anything short of a miracle will disappoint. I should note I found nothing wrong with potc 2, it was a light-hearted sequal that was fun to watch.

  2. How about Star Wars? Shouldn’t Star Wars be on this list? I think it should. The original movie was great. The second of the series was good. The third of the series was great. The first two of the three prequels were terrible. Only the last of the three prequels was watchable — barely. I definitely think Star Wars should be on this list.

  3. I’ll agree with Sam on Star Wars.

    As for your list, I would take off the Matrix (the sequels weren’t terrible, just not as good as the first) and Pirates of the Caribbean (ditto). Replace each with Star Wars and Friday the 13th (which wasn’t a great film, but which was utterly ruined by an endless menagerie of crap sequels.

    As for the Alien series, I’ll give you Resurrection (which I liked on its own, but as a part of the series, it’s an embarrassment), but Alien3 is, by far, my favorite of the series. The thing is: most Americans want action, which is why they tend to gravitate towards James “Dances With Smurfs” Cameron’s movie, which was a lot of fun. However, most Europeans preferred the David Fincher-helmed third because of its visceral, simple plot that was more about building the Ripley character than about who has the biggest guns.

  4. Agreed on Star Wars, I’d ditch Halloween & put Star Wars in there. Return of the Jedi was a big step down from the first two, and the prequels are mostly terrible!

    Other than that though, this list is perfectly spot on, love it, what a great read!

  5. In regards to the Planet of the Apes series:

    Sequels are generated by what the studio deems will draw profits. The original did well enough, drawing $32.5 M ($200M adjusted for inflation today) off a budget of roughly $6M and garnering 2 Oscar noms for best costume design and best original score, and an honorary Oscar for make-up artist John Chambers, that Fox Studios believed that it could profit from a sequel (a rare move for a 60’s sci-fi film).

    Unfortunately, two things doomed the sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes. One is that Charlston Heston didn’t want to do a sequel. He only agreed if he could die in it right off the bat (he ended up appearing in the opening scenes, disappearing for most of the movies, and appearing at the end). He ended up giving his pay to charity. So the ‘hero’ part went to James Franciscus, who played Brent, the astronaut who followed Taylor in the same trajectory on another space ship. And he was only hired because he sorta looked looked like Taylor.

    The other more important reason is that Fox only gave the producer half the budget of the original, $3M, so the make-up suffered, notably by the use of ‘pullover’ masks for the ape costumes instead of the latex appliances, which lent to an unfortunatelyfaked appearence in the crowd scenes.

    Ironically, despite these problems, ‘Beneath’ is the most profitable “Apes” film percentage-wise budget ($3m) to box office ($18m, or $100M today), exceeding BOTH the original AND the 2001 remake.

    After the initial run of the original film and the FOUR film sequels (not five), the studio decided to release all five films to theater’s again in 1974.

    But the biggest success was the phenomenom known as product merchandising boosting an additional $100M in sales profits of in the movie tie-ins, one of the first series to successfully do so.

    So I would hardly call the Planet of the Apes sequels as one of the worst series.

    • As much as I love the first 2 films in the series, I actually have to agree that the 3rd, 4th, and 5th films ruined the franchise in increasing ways. The third movie wasn’t too bad, but it definitely had the feel of a “let’s make a buck” on it. The fourth movie was sci-fi blacksploitation, and while I enjoy the menacing tone of the movie, it just doesn’t fit with the rest. The fifth doesn’t even register in my book.

      The remake… you know, a lot of people pan it, but I’ve got a soft spot for it. Not much of one, but a little. But, the whole fiasco over it (Burton’s total involvement is questionable) makes me nervous about the upcoming “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”.

  6. I have to differ on the subject of the Alien movies. Each movie was a different genre: The first was horror; the second was essentially a war movie; the third was hard scifi; and, the fourth was an action/escape/disaster movie. The only one that I’ve been disappointed with has been the third and only because Ripley “died”…

  7. I have never seen any Shreks or Halloweens–But you are right on target with the others. Totally ruined. Same with the Vacation movies-Walley World was a riot–The European trip was funny-Las Vegas stunk-up the joint.

  8. I must also agree that The Matrix wasn’t ruined by its own franchise. There’s also no mention of the Animatrix, which was an awesome, deeper look into the Matrix mythos. Star Wars should definitely be in its place, in my opinion.

  9. You didn’t do much research, did you? The Matrix was written as a trilogy, but the reason the last two (which don’t exist, IMHO) were so damned bad is because Larry Wachowski threw out the playbook in order to make the movies his “lover” Ilsa Strix wanted, instead of what they had originally conceived of.

    Basically the last two Matrix movies were a demonstration of devotion from one freak show to another.

  10. Have to disagree a little with Batman. The first is one undeniably great but the second was garbage. And The Dark Knight is one of the most overrated movies of all time. This guy’s column entitled “Why Everyone is Wrong About The Dark Knight” pretty much says it all: http://www.matchflick.com/column/1836.

  11. seriously?
    what about scream and transformers? why aren’t they ON this list?
    also have to agree with people who said saw should be too.

  12. I agree with most of the list, but echo the sentiments of others. Star Wars should be on here simply for Jar Jar Binks alone, that S.O.B. Also, let’s throw Dumb and Dumber on there, as the sequel (or is it prequel? Whatever. It still pisses me off) actually tried to make the original classic worse.

  13. Re Jaws: Who’s the scientist? An invisible, unheard character? The version I saw had a marine biologist, a shark hunter, and Amity’s chief of police.

    • Marine biology is a science.

      However, I don’t remember that the three humans ate any of the swimmers as the summary said.

    • i’m glad you brought this up, i was gonna say that the so-called ‘rag-tag’ team had a policeman in it, not two scientists

  14. Since universally all sequels are worse than originals (not countin movies like Lord of the rings that were made as series to begin with) you could have but almost all movies with sequels in this list. You seem to have just picked those witch are most popular becouse Pirates of the caribbean and Shrek sequels can hardly be worse than some movies out there and i dont think they have ruined the first movies.

  15. I have a couple. 1).The remake with Dennis Quaid and Hugh Laurie of “The Flight Of The Phoenix” was terrible. The original (1965) had Jimmy Stewart, Sir Richard Attenborough, Ernest Borgnine, George Kennedy, Sir Ian Bannen, Dan Duryea, Peter Finch and is a nail biter and had no women in it. It was a MAN’S type of movie where as one of the survivors of the remake was a woman. 2). The remake of “Psycho” with Anne Heche, Vince Vaughn and William Macy was another terrible remake. The original (1960) had Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, and Martin Balsam and is considered the horror movie that broke all the rules of that movie genre complete with a particular “shower scene”. And most of all, which I think is a disgrace to the movie industry, is the colorization of black & white films. Alfred Hitchcock made many colorized movies before “Psycho”, but he wanted to film “Psycho” in black & white to set the tone and mood for the movie to give it a more graphic feeling.

  16. Here’s another one, though not a horror movie. How about a sequel to “The Graduate” with Dustin Hoffmann and the late Anne Bancroft (Mrs. Robinson) and rehire Mike Nichols as director and hopefully try to find an actress who could fill Ms. Bancroft’s shoes (she was married to Mel Brooks, by the way). The original and only had a perfect set up for a sequel as Benjamin (Hoffmann) helps Elaine escape from her pre-planned marriage(Katherine Ross) and ride off on the Public Bus. Pick the story up from there and see how and what they would be doing with their lives today. I would pay the admission to see it, no doubt.

  17. Good list. I would add the “Terminator” to it. The initial movie was excellent, especially for science fiction on a low budget. T2 was excellent. Cameron lost the rights to the character in a series of divorces and lawsuits worthy of their own movie.

    Terminator 3 is a rehash/parody of the second Terminator movie. Awful in every regard.

    On the people mentioning Star Wars. I would submit that the series was excellent until after the rescue of Hans Solo in Return of the Jedi. After that, it fell to the ego of George Lucas.

    Lucas created byzantine plots no one could follow. His characters ceased to be unique, and the best of them were annoying. He demonstrated an inability to understand that you shouldn’t stick a comedy sequence in the middle of what should be the most dramatic part of the movie. Imagine the “I am your father” sequence with scenes of C3PO walking around trying to find his head. Kinda ruins the mood, huh?

  18. I like your list but don’t agree with Alien 3. That movie was great and differed from all other Alien films. The acting was superb and the ending was great & touching

  19. RorshachLives! on

    Great article, and I agree with just about everything on it, it’s about time an article like this was put together! That being said, I slightly disagree with the ‘Superman’ segment, in that ‘Superman II’ was NOT a sequel but rather the extended third act of a truly epic three-act modern mythology.

    I agree with other posters here that ‘Star Wars’ should have been been on that list, the prequels were not only terrible but completely unnecessary (the backstory didn’t need to be shown, you were already told what happened), but I would also add the ‘Terminator’, ‘Rocky’, ‘Mad Max’, and ‘Rambo’ series’ to the list as well, as all should have ended with their second installments, with the exception of ‘Rambo’ whose second and third installments were inferior cartoons but the 2008 film was the first and only worthy successor to ‘First Blood’.

    The ‘Matrix’ sequels are a little more perplexing, however, I agree that the first film ended properly and didn’t necessarily need a sequel(s), as such, but if the Wachowski siblings did have it planned out from the beginning (and I’ll take them at their word), maybe the problem is that they were stretched too thin in their making; they were wasting time and creative effort on the superfluous side projects of the ‘Animatrix’ shorts (with the exception of ‘Final Flight of the Osiris’ – a legitimate prologue), the ridiculous live-action elements of the video game (wasting valuable production time), and the comic books, if they had concentrated ALL their considerable talent on ‘…Reloaded’ and ‘…Revolutions’ alone, maybe they would have been better and more focused…

    • RorshachLives! on

      Just thought of one more franchise that should never have been, ‘RoboCop’ – one of the best movies of the 1980’s, full stop, followed by two horrendous and utterly gratuitous sequels, not to mention a simply terrible television series/cartoon show/mini-series… the upcoming remake, however pointless, remains to be seen…

  20. Agree with most of your assessments,but…”Hot off the success of the first film, a sequel, Highlander II: The Quickening.” Highlander II was made six years after the first movie, hardly “hot.” The sequel was made because of a slowly building cult following over the years (though can say I actually saw it in the theater in ’86). And, about Puss and Boots being third rate–you are crazy! Puss is the best character in the series, and his solo film was better, in my estimation, than Shrek, as it wasn’t chock full of instantly dated topical humor.

  21. I don’t get the defenders of Alien 3. Exactly what part of that piece of trash, which seemed to be made up as they went along, was good? How about the girl the Ripley worked so hard to save, who is dead, her beautiful character just thrown away; the scene with a close up of the little girl’s dead eye as they rip into her body to determine cause of death, with Ripley cooing “Sorry Baby”…..

    The inexplicable bad guys showing up, lead bad guy looking just like the robot. OK. The endless chases seemingly in big circles. Ripley sacrificing herself, arms outstretched like Jesus on a cross as she is incinerated, and moments before said incineration, the alien ripping out of her stomach.

    Then the bad guys just shrug, oh well, let;’s go home!

    NO suspense, everything the characters fought for in the previous film is just carelessly thrown away, cardboard supporting characters.

    Yeah, great movie. If it was so great, why do most people hate this and the forth film and love the first two? Because the first two had style, plot, a climax, skilled directors and visionaries.

    Note to lovers of Alien 3–it doesn’t make you cool or “edgy” to like a film just because it is morose. It just makes you appear weird.

  22. Alien 3 ruined the series, and then Alien Resurrection was crapped out to add insult to injury.
    I have a cousin who adores this series and we were greatly looking forward to Alien 3, not having read the reviews. Big mistake. She had this homicidal look in her eyes from the first few moments of that trash, and it only went downhill from there.
    Twenty years later, my cousin has conceded that while Twilight may be a worse story overall, nothing makes her feel quite so stabby as the way she felt when we watched Alien 3.
    Of course I argued with her. I mean, after all, when they killed off two of the surviving characters from Aliens, it was just like when they killed off Han and Luke at the beginning of The Return of the Jedi.
    Oh wait–that never happened. Because even George Lucas had enough sense not to do something that utterly stupid.

    • I think that by any reasonable yardstick, that the Matrix sequels can be said to have ruined the legacy of the first film. The second films contained so much verbal twaddle that they came over as being in contempt of the audience.

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