Top 10 Film Franchises That Stopped At One Movie


There are a lot of reasons why even a planned sequel will not get off the ground. The most likely reason is that the first movie did not make enough cash at the box office to warrant the higher price tag as well as diminishing return of a second go round. Sometimes, the star themselves will nix the idea of doing another movie. There are even rare instances when the culprit will be a conspiracy theory involving the Vatican. In case you were ever wondering, here are the top ten films planned to launch franchises… which… didn’t.

 10. V.I. Warshawski


V.I. Warshawski was a 1991 film starring Kathleen Turner. Yes, the intention was that you were supposed to see case after case cracked by Turner as V.I. Warshawski throughout the 1990s. V.I. Warshawski is actually based on a series of detective novels by Sara Peretsky. The novels are written in the first person, so there is kind of a Twilight effect there. The novels are completely serious but the movie was played as more of an action comedy. As a commercial and critical failure, the novel Deadlock was the only book that ended up being a movie.

 9. Van Helsing


2004’s Van Helsing was a pyrrhic victory of sorts for Universal. The film grossed 120 million domestically and made over 300 million worldwide. By all cinematic accounts, that is not exactly a box office failure for the Hugh Jackman vehicle. However, the 160 million price tag combined with ad promotion and the cut of the theater owners made the whole film a virtual wash in the account books. Despite a planned animated release, you did not get to see a live action sequel in which Van Helsing may have found other Universal monsters such as the Mummy or the Creature from the Black Lagoon. Still, apparently the project has not been given totally up on… yet. There was a recent deal signed in which Van Helsing might be resurrected as a reboot starring Tom Cruise. Weirder things have happened. The original idea for a movie was to be The Van Helsing Chronicles starring Anthony Hopkins as a spinoff from Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

 8. A-Team


At first, fans were full of trepidation about the possibility of an A-Team film based on the popular show from the 1980s. When they saw the movie, the reaction was not entirely negative. There was even buzz about possible sequels as well as excitement. However, the film did not make enough to actually warrant sequels so we were kind of left with a stand alone film. Apparently, that is just fine by director Joe Carnahan. Carnahan stated that if he had gotten dragged into the A-Team universe, it would have been harder to get pet projects like The Grey off of the floor. It almost makes you wonder if there are smaller more personal films that Michael Bay has in mind, but the Transformers universe keeps pulling him back in…. almost.

7. Cobra


1986’s Cobra was an absolute orgy of violence. Cobra starred Sylvester Stallone as a tough guy cop Marion Cobretti. Cobra was actually partially the original script for Beverly Hills Cop minus the jokes and twice the violence. In essence, all of the pieces were in place for Cobretti’s car and gun to crack heads and cases until at least the 1990s. Cobra could have joined Rambo and Rocky in the Stallone Pantheon. The film took number one in the box office on the critical Memorial Day weekend. In 1986, the film made 49 million dollars. In today’s ticket sales, that same take would be 104 million. What happened? Stallone rebuffed the requests to make a sequel. Given Stallone’s later career swoon, he might well have dropped the ball on that one.

6. Elf


All of the elements were there for a film franchise. Elf made 173 million dollars domestically in 2003. The film only costs 33 million to make and is on its way to becoming a beloved holiday classic. The actors involved are still hot ( Will Ferrell and Zoey Deschanel ) and director Jon Favreau went on to spark Iron Man and Marvel Films in general. The continuing gooey heart warming adventures of Buddy the Elf seemed like the ultimate no brainer. As a matter of fact, Will Ferrell was offered almost the whole budget of the first one to make a second one. What happened? The man who made Talladega Nights had a crisis of conscience. Ferrell felt that the movie would be ‘crap’ and refused to make it. We’re guessing Land of the Lost was just a better idea?

 5. Beetlejuice


When you make 73 million on a ghostly comedy, there is talk of a sequel. Tim Burton can still get almost any project made (see Dark Shodows) and everyone involved seemed hyped about a Beetlejuice sequel. Even the potential sequel itself seems to have a cult following. Apparently, Tim Burton actually wrote a script called Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian which may have been simply a joke to get the studio off his back about doing a sequel. Then again, after seeing Planet of the Apes, we are not so sure. Beetlejuice Goes Hawaiian gained a measure of fame when Kevin Smith ( in One Night With Kevin Smith ) talked about being offered the project. Part of us is incredibly intrigued, and part of us agree with Smith postulated that everything had already been said about the character.

4. The Nightmare Before Christmas


Jack Skellington visiting the rest of the holiday world seemed like a real natural series. Disney was even fully behind the idea of producing a sequel the cult and critical favorite Nightmare Before Christmas. The idea was eventually nixed by producer Tim Burton and director Henry Selick. The argument with Disney was over the form in which the sequel would take. Disney did not want to go with stop motion animation again. They were pushing for a computer generated imagery film ala the Pixar hits. Selick and Burton walked on the idea. We are left with a stand alone masterpiece. Hopefully, one day a sequel can be made consistent with the director and producer’s original vision.

3. Golden Compass


The big budget film adaptation of Phillip Pullman’s Dark Materials trilogy was a flashpoint for controversy at the time of its released. There actually much more controversy associated than films featuring armor plated polar bears typically find themselves in. The books feature an atheistic strain in which a dangerous amnesiac God must be destroyed. That element was not present in the Golden Compass movie but still stirred up controversial and boycotting of the film in the United States. Interestingly, the film did not stir controversy in non-U.S. markets and was a success. Reasons for the lack of sequels (which were planned) range from a poor domestic performance to actor Sam Elliott’s theory that the Catholic Church successfully lobbied Hollywood to not make them. Either way, the quest stopped at one.

2. Willow


In 1988, George Lucas produced the Ron Howard directed fantasy film Willow. Willow starred Warwick Davis and Val Kilmer on a quest to save a royal baby. Fans, to this day, are enthusiastic about the movie and are still hyped for a sequel. Unfortunately, a sequel never really developed. There was talk in 2005 that a television series (possibly starring Davis) would serve as a de facto sequel to the movie. The series never materialized either. One thing is certain about the idea of a Willow sequel. Warwick Davis would sign on and do it tomorrow. A few years ago, Davis wrote his autobiography and said he would do the film at every stop. Given the ridiculous success of the Lord of the Rings films (which lets face it was the core inspiration for Willow), there is always hope that the Shadow War could one day cinematically continue.

1. Dune


After the success of the Star Wars movies and given the fanatical fan base to Frank Herbert’s Dune novels, a sci fi franchise seemed like a no brainer to legendarily stingy producer Dino De Laurentiis. After pouring 40 million into the project and using auteur director David Lynch at the helm, the film was a critical and commercial bomb. This was in spite of an enthusiastic ad campaign which included a series of Star Wars like Dune toys. Lynch stated that he was about halfway through writing a script for Dune Messiah when the project was pulled. There have been rumors of a big screen cinematic sequel or re-boot ever since. There is even a possibility that a new Dune might be out in 2014. However, as it stands, the original film grossed more than 15 million less domestically than it cost to make.

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  1. Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension? Or Master & Commander the Far Side of the World? Two great flicks that never got their seq…….

  2. What about I am Number Four? Movie was cheesy, but thought the storyline was good. I’d see a sequel to Willow any day, just watched it a few weeks ago.

  3. Bubba Ho-Tep should be on this list. It was originally scripted to have a sequel, but it never came to fruition. Bruce Campbell has said that he wanted to do it.

    • Not so sure about Bubba Nosferatu. Joe R Lansdale, who wrote the original version the film is based on, never wrote another story about Elvis. The film was never intended to have another chapter. The “sequel” idea started as one last joke at the end of the film, then the reaction to it was so strong that Don Coscarelli started to think it might be worth doing. Bruce Campbell apparently exited the film in 2007, but Paul Giamatti seems to have been driving it ever since. He’s said that Ron Perlman was interested in the Elvis role and as late on as last year, has said he’s seen the final script.

      Will we ever see it? I hope so. I also hope Campbell reprises his role. Especially if he gets to do an in-character commentary on the DVD again…

  4. If you want a sequel to Willow, George Lucas and Chris Claremont wrote a sequel trilogy of novels about the Shadow War….check it out.

  5. FYI Cobra wasn’t the original Beverly Hills Cop script, it was Stallone’s rewrite to it after they sent him the script. The Studio didn’t like his rewrite but Stallone did so he asked another studio to make it into a movie and they did, thus creating Cobra.

  6. PretoriaRunningMan on

    There was talk of a sequel to District 9 after it was released and rumours still abound today, but nothing so far. Surprising, especially considering it ended with such a huge cliffhanger. Even the title seemed to be a done deal. District 10: Revenge of the Prawns was the most talked about possible title for a sequel. Still waiting.

  7. Regarding the bit on The Golden Compass:
    ‘The books feature an atheistic strain in which a dangerous amnesiac God must be destroyed.’
    How can it be atheistic if it features a God?

    • I don’t know Commando, but I doubt either Blade Runner or 5th Element were ever planned to have sequels

      • Commando did get a sequel – it was a little indie film called Die Hard.

        (True story – look it up on IMDb)

  8. Mine To Torment on

    “Given the ridiculous success of the Lord of the Rings films (which lets face it was the core inspiration for Willow), there is always hope that the Shadow War could one day cinematically continue.”

    Willows is made 10 years before the Lord Of The Rings films, so the latter can hardly have been an inspiration for Willow. If you mean that Tolkiens books inspired Willow, it could arguably be true.

    • Willow was made after they failed to secure the rights to the Tolkien books. It was a similiar situation to making Nosferatu after a deal to make Dracula fell through.

  9. Green Lantern
    The League Of Extraordinary Gentleman
    Battle LA
    Cutthroat Island
    The Long Kiss Goodnight
    Deep Blue Sea

  10. I for one am THRILLED that “Elf” stopped at only one movie. It was stupid and, like everything else Will Farrell does, not funny at all. In fact, Farrell is like Jerry Seinfeld: they wouldn’t know what funny is if it was shoved up their sphincters and into their brains.

  11. My theory on the Golden Compass is that they just noticed that they messed up the original storyline beyond repair and didn’t know how to continue. I mean, they stopped the movie right BEFORE the climax of the book, exchanged characters and watered down too many elements.

  12. Too kind of address Dune as far as the Sci Fi mini series were concerned, I did not really consider it to be the same franchise in the same way that Batman Triumphant would have been part of the Batman franchise started by Tim Burton in 1989 but Batman Begins was not. There was no real connection. The David Lynch start to a Dune franchise produced by Din Delaurentiis in my mind was not followed up on. in the same way that Oz_ The great and powerful is not a follow up to the Judy Garland classic. If Fred Ward made Remo Williams:The Adventure Continues next year, I would consider that to be part of the franchise. If a whole new company makes Remo Williams and stars Edward Norton, I would consider it based on the same source material but not the same franchise.

  13. I laugh because your title lead me to believe it was a holy crap, how dare they only make one.

    • I believe Buckaroo Banzai was the sequel[as in was meant to be] to Big Trouble in little China or vice versa.

    • I agree! I always loved Buckaroo Banzai-
      It is so 80’s though – a new interpretation would be cool, or a really tight Fanedit-

  14. Would’ve paid to see sequels to Beetlejuice, The Nightmare Before Christmas and Willow. Too bad.

    The more modern Dune installments, the ones shown on Sci-Fi channel i think, are a lot better. Isn’t that a franchise? I’m not sure.

  15. I noticed a little slip-up in the description of Cobra… His first name wasn’t Martin, it was Marion. That was a point that was brought up in the dialog, because a tough guy shouldn’t go by the name Marion. Also, IMDB lists the character’s name as Lieutenant Marion ‘Cobra’ Cobretti.

  16. The Sword and the Sorcerer (1982). Made 40 million and cost only 2 million to make. At the end the movie tells viewers to watch for the upcoming sequel.

  17. What about Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins…? I always thought that would end up with at least one sequel….after all, the first one had it right in the title, The Adventures BEGINS…anyone have any more info on this?

    • ?there was a TV pilot “remo Williams” that was made in 1988 but wasn’t picked up see on YouTube??

  18. I wish they had made more Remo Williams (The Destroyer) movies! They could have changed out lead actors (and interpretations) easily. There are like 200 pulp novels in the series to choose from!

    • I loved the Remo Williams movie the first time I saw it, but I was 17 and loved most movies. It doesn’t hold up nearly as well today, but I’m sure it would also be made much differently. I would definitely see a new Remo Williams movie if Hollywood produced it.

  19. Sahara. It was the first in what was planned to be a franchise, but the lawsuit from Cussler pretty much killed it.

    • I would give an honorable mention to Masters of the Universe. If I remember correctly, between Masters and Superman IV, a whole film company was very nearly done in.

  20. Leave Dune alone. The Sci-Fi Miniseries for Dune, Dune Messiah, and Children of Dune was pretty awesome and better explored the books than any 2-3 hour movie could.

      • You are right. The original movie was long. It was cut down by producersexecutives with out Mr. Lynch giving consent (and also with out any idea how to do it). It was further cut to make a TV version (that version had some scenes the VHS did not have) with the order of some scenes changed. There is also an extended cut with more new scenes and again order changes.

        There is a fan work-print edition that take all know footage and attempts to recreate the original vision as best it can.

        A few years ago i was looking in to this and at that time Mr. Lynch had washed his hands of the whole thing and does not plan to make a directors cut, the impression i got was that the whole affair has him incensed and to this day mention of it upsets him. Of course i don’t know any of this for certain, just wiki and such.