Resident Evil: The Final Chapter is hitting theaters this weekend, and you would think from its title that it will be the last time director Paul W.S. Anderson and star Milla Jovovich would return to the movies increasingly loosely based on the survival-horror video games. But we’ve been around long enough to know that just calling something the last one is no guarantee.
We’re usually sorry to see a beloved franchise go — or relieved/apathetic to see one we don’t like go away. But ends don’t always stick; several film, TV, and game series have released “final chapters” that eventually proved to be anything but, thanks in no small part to profit-loving Hollywood producers and studio heads. And like the sixth Resident Evil flick, a bunch of them have even used that otherwise declarative phrase as their subtitles. But they all continued beyond their “endings,” and some of them are still going today.
Here are 15 entries that wrapped everything up for their series before their creators just broke on through and kept running.
15. The Final Destination
We don’t know if 2009’s The Final Destination was intended to be the last entry in the horror series, but its title sure makes it sound that way.
The series is about pesky and surprisingly common psychics thwarting Death’s plans to kill a group of kids, and their attempts to stay alive while the ominous force of mortality sets up chain reactions to restore the natural order. It’s like Death is playing a bloody, large-scale version of the classic board game Mouse Trap, only instead of trapping its victims under a plastic net, it embeds their heads on pipes or shoots them repeatedly with nail guns. Series heroes had already escaped exploding planes, interstate pile-ups, and roller coasters before the fourth one made many of us even less likely to go to an auto race.
The Final Destination doesn’t do anything new with the series format other than filming in 3D, and its reviews reflect that. With a 29% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, it was the worst-received entry since the first (which has a 34%). But it was the highest grossing one, and money is what determines sequels. Final Destination 5 followed two years later, and not only was it nearly as successful at the box office, but it got the best reviews with an impressive (for a horror film) 61% RT rating.
14. Eastbound and Down: “Chapter 13”, “Chapter 21”
HBO’s comedy series centered around Kenny Powers (Danny McBride), a former Major League Baseball player whose ego and general unpleasantness hinder his attempts to recapture his former glory. It was supposed to end after its second season, but it turns out it was only half done by then.
The see-saw of endings and renewals sets up a weird, Sisyphean cycle for Powers. It means that every year, he had to choose between fame and family, and in order to make it satisfying, these episodes have to end with him making the right decision. But the following season premiere has to walk it back enough to stay true to the character, give him somewhere else to go, and not feel cheap. But considering it’s in the lead’s nature to self-sabotage and bring loved ones down with him, that wasn’t necessarily a tall order.
The fourth-season finale, “Chapter 29,” drew a lot of “Are you sure?” from fans when producers announced it would be the real, actual end of the movie. So far we’ve seen no sign of a fifth year, so we’ll assume it’s stuck this time. But we’re keeping our eyes on you, McBride.
13. Halloween H20: 20 Years Later
Like the rest of us, the seventh installment of the October-themed slasher series goes ahead and pretends the previous three movies never happened. And this means that killer Michael Myers is no longer a supernatural host for an ancient, Druidic curse. And that means that he can die just like anyone else. Which he totally does at the end of H20.
The film follows Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) as she finds herself once again running from her silent, stab-happy brother. No one is immune — not even Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose character gets an ice skate in his face just for living next door to one of Michael’s targets. And if Joseph Gordon-Levitt isn’t safe, nobody is.
As one of the original “Final Girls,” Laurie has never been a pushover when it comes to Michael. She’s attacked him with a knitting needle, poked him in the eye with a wire clothes hanger, stabbed him with his own knife (which is probably the biggest slight you can lend a slasher villain), and shot his eyes out. But that’s all prelude to what she does to him in this movie, which ends with her pinning him between an ambulance and a tree and then chopping his head off with an axe.
That seemed pretty definitive to us, and it was a neat way to round out a proper trilogy about Laurie and Michael, but remember what we said about movie producers who really want sequels. The suits at Miramax originally didn’t want to bring the killer back, but the failed (but fascinating) experiment that was Halloween III: Season of the Witch, which tells a completely unrelated story, made them put their retcon hats on for the sequel.
2002’s Halloween: Resurrection says that the person Laurie had decapitated was actually an ambulance worker whom Michael had switched clothes with, which frees him up to return and get his knife on once more. And at the end of that one, they don’t even pretend to kill him off, so he’s free to return in a reported, in-development project that will bring original director John Carpenter back on as a producer.
12. Shrek Forever After
Also known as “The Final Chapter,” Shrek Forever After is the fourth film in a series that started out eschewing Disney-style fairytale stories that explode into countless and diminishing sequels before ultimately becoming what it beheld. And despite both titles being synonymous with “this series is totally over,” plans for yet another entry are moving ahead.
Since the surprise success of the first two Shrek films, its studio, Dreamworks, has envisioned the series as having five parts. Reportedly, Shrek 5 will provide backstory for its big, green hero, telling how he ended up living alone in the swamp while incongruous Smash Mouth music plays. And we’re not sure those are questions that really need answering, but that’s one of several reasons we don’t work as screenwriters.
We were actually surprised to remember that Forever After happened; we’d stopped paying attention after the Puss in Boots spinoff. But we were less shocked to recall that this one was in 3D, since a lot of series like to go out that way.
11. Mad About You: “The Finale”
This NBC sitcom starred Paul Reiser and Helen Hunt as Paul and Jamie Buchman; it ran for seven years. But that wasn’t the original plan, apparently, because two of its seasons end with episodes called “The Finale.”
The first “The Finale” is a three-part story that has the main characters’ marriage on the verge of collapsing after they both commit minor indiscretions. But obviously they manage to pull it back together, because further seasons of the show would have had to air under the name of Cordial to You When We Bump into Each Other Every Once in a While, but We’re Still Going to See Other People, and By the Way, Have You Signed Those Divorce Papers Yet? And that just wouldn’t fit on a DVD box set. Well, it would, but it would have to be in a very small font.
In Season 6’s “The Finale,” Paul and Jamie look for a nanny for their daughter, Mabel. If that doesn’t sound like the kind of Earth-shattering occurrence that can put an entire series into perspective, it doesn’t feel like one, either. This episode does have some guest appearances from director James Cameron (as himself) and Ellen DeGeneres (as the new nanny), but we can probably just chalk those up to Sweeps.
10. Saw: The Final Chapter
The megahit Saw horror series was originally supposed to have eight entries, but lukewarm returns on the sixth film caused producers to combine the last two planned films into one.
When it released in 2010, the seventh installment was called Saw 3D because it was a Saw movie, and it was in 3D. But that name didn’t really work for the home video release, so the studio rebranded it as Saw: The Final Chapter. And we assume that it’ll have to go through another name change later this year, because a new film, Saw: Legacy, is due out in October.
The Final Chapter contains the long-awaited return of the original’s Lawrence Gordon (Cary Elwes) and reveals that not only did he survive cutting his foot off in the first movie, but he’s been working closely with Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) the entire series. This one ends with him locking baddie Mark Hoffman (Costas Mandylor) in the iconic — and corpse-crowded — bathroom and leaving him to die. We aren’t entirely sure where the story can go from here, but then again, this is a series that has already continued for four installments past the death of its original villain.
9. Millennium: “The Time Is Now”
The writers of this serial killer and demon-filled suspense series from The X-Files creator Chris Carter never expected to get a third season, so they went all out for the second year’s finale.
In “The Time Is Now,” hero Frank Black (Lance Henriksen) learns that a clandestine group that is obsessed with bringing about the Biblical apocalypse plans to release a horrifying virus that will wipe out humanity. And even worse, he’s powerless to stop it, and instead has to flee with his family to a cabin deep in the woods to escape the deadly pandemic. While the world ends outside, Black’s wife succumbs to the plague, and we leave him sitting catatonic in the cabin with his daughter giggling and playing with his newly grayed hair. This was a gutsy, downer ending for any series, even one that was more or less about how terrible and twisted the world can get. And then, to everyone’s surprise, the Fox Network renewed the show for a third season.
We don’t envy anyone who had to figure out how to walk back an episode that includes the actual end of civilization, but the solution creators went with was to minimize the outbreak’s range and blame the rest on Black hallucinating (although his wife stayed dead). And even though this could have felt really cheap, we were happy to have another season of Millennium before it ended for good … until Black returned for a seventh-season episode of The X-Files that really, truly brought his story to a close.
8. Jeepers Creepers
Jeepers Creepers, which is about a demon in physical form that emerges for about three weeks every 23 years to eat people and steal their various body parts to replace its own, was never meant to be a franchise. In fact, writer-director Victor Salva (Powder) designed the lore to prevent sequels.
His plan was that the nature of “The Creeper” and its hibernation cycle meant that any sequel to the 2001 original would have to take place in the future (i.e. 23 years later), and he was pretty sure that producers would want no part of that. But filmmakers, like nature and the prehistoric inhabitants of Jurassic Park, will always find a way if they really want to make a series, and producer Francis Ford Coppola managed to find a loophole.
When the studio decided it wanted a sequel, Coppola told Salva to set Jeepers Creepers 2 later within the same 23-day period as the original, thus preventing the series from immediately heeding the irresistible urge to set a sequel in space. And while we actually like the second film more than the first — casting Twin Peaks‘ Ray Wise as a farmer who converts a hydraulic post puncher into a truck-mounted harpoon gun that he uses to hunt The Creeper is just too awesome to resist — we can’t help but notice that Salva still tries to kill the franchise there. Not only do we see the monster go back to sleep for another two decades, but an epilogue shows that Ray Wise’s character has kept it in his barn that whole time, which means that absolutely nothing else can happen in the present time.
And yet, we keep hearing rumblings of a third movie, and we might even see it this year. We don’t know if it’s set in the future or during some present-day weekend in which The Creeper wakes up for a quick snack, but we’re interested in seeing what happens.
7. Omen III: The Final Conflict
The Omen series tells the life story of Damien Thorn, the literal Antichrist whose parents were Satan and, possibly, a jackal. We were never really clear on that part. We follow Damien as a really creepy kid in the first movie and his school years in the second before the third film, The Final Conflict, has him making his final bid to consolidate his power and prevent the Second Coming. This involves sending his creepy followers out to collect the set of seven daggers (the only weapons capable of killing him) and murder all of the children born on a particular day. And that second part is pretty dark, but we are talking about someone who is, by definition, the most evil person possible.
It doesn’t go according to plan, however, and Damien ends up on the business end of one of those knives. Jesus appears in the sky to make sure he dies as annoyed as possible, and the “final conflict” comes to an end… until 10 years later, when the TV movie Omen IV: The Awakening premiered on Fox.
The fourth entry is about Damien’s daughter, Delia, who hosts her father’s evil thanks to the fact that he was only killed with one of the seven blades instead of all of them. And she’s not even the real Antichrist; that’s her twin brother, who is also kind of her son because she carried his embryo before a Satanic doctor snuck it into Delia’s adopted mother.
6. Supernatural: “Swan Song”
Like Millennium, The CW’s long-running monster-hunting series Supernatural decided to end what should have been its last year with the actual apocalypse. The name of the fifth-season finale, “Swan Song,” is even synonymous with “ending,” but if you’ve seen it, it hardly feels apt.
The whole episode feels like the series is winding down; it starts with some voice-over about the Winchesters’ trusty car, which has been their lifelong vessel to tracking down evil and hitting it with sticks. It’s all about drawing a neat circle around the show and setting something up that pays off in the climactic scene. That moment has Lucifer and the archangel Michael inhabiting Sam (Jared Padalecki) and his long-lost brother Adam so that they can finally settle their differences with a fistfight in an empty field. It’s not the most epic version of Armageddon we’ve ever seen, but The CW doesn’t have a ton of money to throw around.
Anyway, Sam sees a plastic army man that’s been stuck in one of the car’s ashtrays since he was a kid, and it fills him with all the love and nostalgia he needs to take control back from the Devil and drag both him and Michael into the underworld. Dean (Jensen Ackles) takes this pretty hard, and he gives up his demon-slaying ways and settles into a new life of his own.
Once one of your characters is locked in hell forever and the other one is no longer fulfilling the premise, your show is probably over. But try telling that to the six seasons and counting of Supernatural that have aired since then. Sam escapes his imprisonment almost immediately, and the series is still going.
5. Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter
If we tried to explain the chronology of the Puppet Master series, which is about a gang of sentient, murderous dolls, we’d be here all day. Installments leapfrog back and forth in time; one takes in the modern day, and then two films later, we’re in World War II, and then we come back to the present, and then we go back to 1912, and it’s all crazy. But the main thing we need to focus on is that 1994’s Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter was supposed to be the last one.
It currently has eight sequels and counting, although only two of them take place after the fifth one because this series is all over the place. The Final Chapter doesn’t even feel that “final” because while the climax has all of the puppets taking a beating, it ends with the protagonist fixing them up and taking on the mantle of Puppet Master.
Recent installments take the series back to World War II and have that era’s dolls taking on Nazis, who have their own evil minions named Blitzkrieg, Bombshell, Weremacht, and Kamikaze because this series is not at all about subtlety. But it’s a fun enough franchise, and it’s been going on for almost 30 years now, so we’re inclined to just let it roll.
4. Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare
We’ve almost lost track of how many times A Nightmare on Elm Street villain Freddy Krueger has “died,” so we were immediately skeptical about this 1991 entry in the series and the marketing blitz that surrounded it, which included a “funeral” for the killer. But considering the guy has died from burning, the souls of murdered children ripping him apart from the inside, stabbing with his own bladed glove, religion, a ghostly future version of an unborn child puking on him, and ironically heterosexual love, we weren’t convinced that anything was ever going to stick.
And the “death” Freddy receives in The Final Nightmare isn’t even that complicated; the heroes just pull him into the real world and then blow him up with dynamite. It’s the most Wile E. Coyote of all of his defeats, and we never believed it for a second.
Sure enough, original writer/director Wes Craven returned to the series with Wes Craven’s New Nightmare in 1994. We can’t really count this as a continuation, however, because its events take place outside of the movies and feature the actual actors who worked on them contending with an evil entity that only coincidentally looks like Freddy. It’s even more meta than Scream, which receives credit as the first major postmodern horror film. But New Nightmare shows that the latter movie isn’t even the most self-aware film in Wes Craven’s body of work.
But we don’t have to worry about that gray area, luckily, because Freddy vs. Jason exists. The long-awaited crossover with the Friday the 13th series returns us to the movie universe and has Krueger not nearly as destroyed as Freddy’s Dead suggests.
3. Five Nights at Freddy’s 4
We’re getting a little tired of typing “The Final Chapter” all these times, but that was, in fact, the original subtitle of this Five Nights at Freddy’s game, which was the third sequel developer Scott Cawthon released in two years. The original came out in 2014, and in addition to its now four follow-ups, the series also includes two novels, a role-playing-game spinoff title, and an upcoming film adaptation.
The Five Nights games are horror-themed PC titles that are about haunted animatronics roaming the halls of various locations, including Chuck E. Cheese-style pizzerias and horror attractions. While earlier entries stuck players into various security offices and limited their movement, the fourth game takes place in a child’s bedroom and offers a bit more movement. And it also provides an infinite amount of power for the main character’s flashlight, which means that a kid is better equipped to succeed than several professional security guards.
It was improbable enough for Cawthon to churn out four games in two years, so the “final chapter” title seemed to be just that. Then again, the developer clearly had little difficulty making these things, so when Five Nights at Freddy’s: Sister Location arrived, it wasn’t super surprising. Plus, by 2015, we’d already seen “final chapters” from so many of these other series that the phrase had lost most of its meaning.
2. Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter/Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday
The fourth installment of the long-running Friday the 13th series, which promised to be “The Final Chapter,” ends with Tommy Jarvis (Corey Feldman) hacking a pre-zombie Jason to death with his own machete. After the second film retconned the killer’s initial death by drowning to make him a normal human villain, this should have been it because dead is dead. But two movies later, a bolt of lightning resurrects him into an unstoppable killing machine and carried him through four more massacres before filmmakers decided to put him to rest “for good” once again.
1993’s Jason Goes to Hell: The Final Friday combines the Halloween and Omen series by revealing that Jason’s evil can hop from person to person like the flu, and he can only truly die via stabbing with a mystical dagger. We aren’t sure where this artifact came from or why it has that power, but after nine movies, the series has asked audiences to suspend their disbelief like the Golden Gate Bridge, so what’s a magic knife at this point?
The heroes stab the monster, and he descends to his real, forever home in hell … or so it seems, until Freddy Krueger’s gloved hand emerges from the ground to retrieve Jason’s hockey mask. It was another decade before Freddy vs. Jason would pay that tease off, but in the meantime, we got Jason X, which takes the unstoppable slasher to space for no reason at all.
1. Final Fantasy
The blockbuster role-playing video game franchise from developer Square Enix (previously just Square) is currently sitting at 15 main series installments, dozens of spin-off titles, novels, manga, and a handful of movies. It’s a media juggernaut that made its genre popular outside of Japan for the first time, and it has millions of fans. And all of that is increasingly surprising when you hear the stories that it could have only been one game, and the creators were well aware of that.
We don’t blame you if you think that making 50 games called “Final Fantasy” seems a little, you know, not final. But the title originally reflected the fact that a lot was riding on its success. Series creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and composer Nobuo Uematsu provide different answers as to how big a deal it was, but either way, gaming history could have gone very differently.
According to Sakaguchi, he was prepared to quit game development and go back to school if his project hadn’t been a success; its original name had been “Fighting Fantasy,” but another game already had that one. He arrived at its now-famous wording based on it possibly being his ultimate work in the industry, which would have been simultaneously more appropriate and sadder if it had bombed.
Uematsu, however, claims that the stakes were even higher than that. According to him, the fate of Square as a company also rested on Final Fantasy turning a profit, and that would have had even wider ramifications for modern nerds. We don’t know if the corporate bankruptcy story is true, but it’s definitely crazy to think about.
What are your favorite “final chapters” that were anything but? Be sure to let us know in the comments.
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